Why am I not surprised that the renewed interest in knitting over the past five years would spin off a rash of knitting novels? Did I think writers would ignore this opportunity to produce "cutting edge" yet entertaining fiction? I reviewed a few awhile back, but have two more to cover for you today...
I read The Knitting Club last month, inhaling it in a few days and leaving it with Margene when I visited in mid-March... the book follows the story of Mary, who has recently lost her five-year old daughter from a sudden case of meningitis and is finding it impossible to cope with her grief. Her mother is geographically distant from her, yet urges her to take up knitting as a way to channel that grief, and she ends up joining a regular knitting circle and learning that the other members don't have the perfect lives she originally imagines for them. Each has had their own relationship with grief, and the characters are well-drawn, and their stories accurately told. The pain is there, but so is the kindheartedness we have all come to know in our fellow knitters.
I was drawn in to the story, possibly because 2006 was a year when I dealt with much personal grief, making my heart go out to the various characters and their losses. However, one of the features that makes fiction 'work' for us readers is when the writer is able to connect us to the characters through the universality of the human condition, and Ann Hood has done a very good job of this.
I had thought about starting a reading 'KAL' for this book, so that other people would be encouraged to pass it around, read and share, however I didn't manage to find the time to set that up. I did pass along my copy and Margene has promised to hand it off when she is done as well, to another knitter. Let me know if you read this book and what your impressions were. It reminded me of the kindred spirits that many of my fellow fiberistas have become.
The second book, which I read almost as fast last week, is Knitting Under The Influence, by Claire LaZebnik. This novel about three California grrls was much more lighthearted, and far less about the knitting, though knitting is the thread that ties the three together, as they keep their commitment to each other to get together and knit each Sunday morning over the course of several months' worth of misadventures and romantic intrigues. It is a "chick book" that would make a great, funny "chick flick", that is, if knitting stays popular enough to rise above the old stereotypes the movie moguls probably still have about it.
There are others out there... there's the knitting mystery series by Maggie Sefton (I read Knit One, Kill Two, but decided that Earlene Fowler's Bennie Harper mysteries were ever so much better crafted - she is an Agatha Award winner, while Sefton has just gotten started; I have read a LOT of mysteries over the years and am pretty picky). Debbie Macomber's Blossom Street books (The Shop on Blossom Street, followed by A Good Yarn) are much better written (after all, she has written a few dozen novels previous to these two, and is an avid knitter herself), witty and chatty, though a little bit predictable... I'd start with the two above if you simply must go in a knit-reading binge.