Online Reading Challenge – February Wrap-Up

Hello Challenge Readers!

How did your February reading go? Did you enjoy your book of choice? Or did you pass on this month’s Book Flight?

Our main title for February was A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. This is one of my favorite books – I read it a few months ago and can’t say enough good things about it. The writing, the plot, the building of tension, the twist at the end, the characters, all work together to create something beautiful and intricate, heartbreaking yet hopeful.

In A Gentleman in Moscow,  Count Alexander Rostov is accused of writing subversive essays against the Bolshevik government and is sentenced to house arrest in 1922. Striped of his wealth and all but a few possessions, Rostov now lives in an attic room of the luxurious Metropol, a grand hotel situated across from the Kremlin. It is from here that Rostov witnesses some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history.

This brief overview makes the book seem dark and depressing but in fact, it is filled with humor, fascinating characters and people enjoying life no matter the challenges. I found that this was an optimistic and uplifting book and enjoyed it immensely.

Since I had already read the main selection, I read one of the alternatives, The Martian by Andy Weir. Set in the future, a group of astronauts are exploring the surface of Mars. An unexpected, violent storm forces the astronauts race to their ship.  In the midst of the chaos the crew believes that one of the astronauts, Mark Watney, has died. Barely escaping, they leave the planet and begin their return trip to Earth. However, Mark is very much alive. He now faces nearly impossible odds and must use ingenuity, skill and grim determination to keep himself fed, sheltered and safe while somehow figuring out how to let everyone back on Earth that he is here and he is alive.

I really enjoyed this book. Watching Mark figure out how to grow his own food, survive the harsh Martian climate and communicate with Earth was fascinating. I have read some comments that the science in this book isn’t always accurate, but I think that misses the point. What I saw was someone that didn’t give up, that was constantly thinking outside the box and making the best of a terrible situation. There’s quite a bit of humor too, and lots of tension that makes it difficult to put the book down! An excellent read.

February’s theme was of isolation and resilience. In all four of the books from the “flight”, the protagonist becomes isolated, either voluntarily or forced by circumstance. How did they react to their isolation? Each had to find new depths within themselves to survive – did they simply survive or were they able to thrive and grow? What, if any, pieces of their past do they have to confront? How are they different from the person at the beginning of each book, to the person they’ve become by the end of the book?

I was struck by the resilience and optimism of the main character in each of these books, how difficulties were turned into opportunities and how each learns both practical lessons and about themselves when problems arise, how isolation forces them to rely on themselves and creates clarity and empowerment.

How did you feel about this month’s reading? Let us know in the comments!