For every book we read during the book club, one of our book club members will write a review. This way anyone who couldn’t be there, can still join in with the fun! Our eight book is Tenth of December by George Saunders and the review is written by Eva Meijboom.
When Dave Eggers himself tells you to read this one particular book, you read it, no questions asked. This happened to our book club, and no better book could be found for a discussion than this one: ‘Tenth of December’ by George Saunders. It is an incredible witty book, tackling today’s societal problems. A must read for everyone and especially for Americans.
George Saunders has been a published and successful author for years. He has won multiple awards for creative writing, but since writing hardly ever provides enough money to live on, he is also the professor of Creative Writing at Syracuse University. His latest short story collection ‘Tenth of December’ has won the 2013 story prize for best short story collection and the inaugural Folio prize.
A short story author like Saunders is rare. He has the remarkable talent of capturing the essence of provocative themes and writes about them without passing judgment. He is clearly inspired by Raymond Carver, another widely successful short story who captured the American Dream and its’ flaws. Saunders seems to be Carver’s successor in the canon of short story writers.
The themes tackled by Saunders are the American Dream, veteran rehabilitation and modern science. He captures all of these themes in his stories, through creating almost sci-fi scenes but making them incredibly realistic. In every story there is something to relate as well and every story leaves the reader to make up his mind about the provocative themes.
A difficult thing with this novel is that it is formed for American conventions. All the stories are set and have a clear American background. This does make some of the themes difficult to relate to for us as European readers because the issue is not as much of a problem here. The clearest example of this is in ‘Home’ where a veteran comes home after the war and he is received in many different ways. For a reader who is not troubled by this issue, it is difficult to appreciate it as much as it deserves. Because although the issues are not as important , the writing is still extraordinary.
To write an honest and balanced review of this book is proving very hard for me. I’m already two weeks behind on the initial deadline. The problem is, how do you make a review sound honest while you have nothing negative about the book to say? In our book club’s discussion of this book there was only one who was not wild about it. The argument was that Saunders was predictable, and that if you read one you read them all. But I cannot agree with him at all. The stories are all unique, and not two stories tackle the same issue. He is rather like Carver who wrote all his stories about the American Dream. Maybe some of them fall under the theme ‘the failed American Dream’, but there are many different categories as well.
This book is essential to read, Saunders explains what is wrong with society and where its’ flaws lie. But he does not offer a solution, maybe because he does not have one, but it is not his job to have one. The book forces you to think about these societal problems and form an opinion about them. So I can do nothing but praise this book. It is funny, clever, and it pinpoints our flaws as society. Please read this book!
Written by Eva Meijboom