Sunday, September 23, 2012

Specimen Days

It's been a while since I've read a really interesting book. Entertaining, fun, informative, yes--but really different and interesting? Those types are harder to come by.

I first read Michael Cunningham in college. Many people are familiar with the movie The Hours, and I was able to study the novel version along with the book closely tied to it: Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. I was a huge fan of all three.

Specimen Days follows similar themes and styles as The Hours, most noticeably its strong tie to a great piece of literature, this time Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. The novel is split into three separate, yet intimately related, novella-type stories, each featuring a man, a woman, and a young boy. One takes place in Industrial Revolution New York, one in post-9/11 New York, and one in a dystopian future New York.

I enjoyed each story's deliberate tone and how they methodically came together to tell one sweeping tale of human connection spanning several centuries. It's not often you come across a historical fiction/cop drama/sci-fi novel all in one. Readers of Specimen Days should be prepared to shift their genre gears as they read, something I'm all too eager to do.

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