Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
I picked up Truth and Beauty and Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face around the same time after hearing that they were both fantastic books and should be read together. I read Autobiography of a Face in February (see this post), but only just got around to reading Truth and Beauty this month.
I've read Patchett before and enjoyed her writing. Truth and Beauty is compelling and Patchett seems to write honestly about Grealy and their relationship, but there is a strange edge to the book, most likely because it was written in response to Grealy's death. It's hard to take pleasure in a book when you know that it will end with the untimely demise of one of the main characters especially when that character is both sympathetic and a real person. That isn't to say that the book didn't make me laugh (the CDs on page 187, for example) and that it wasn't heartwarming in its way, it's just that the loss of Grealy tends to overwhelm everything else for me.
Also, I'm not sure that I liked the way that Patchett used Grealy's letters throughout the book. I almost wish that Patchett had omitted them and relied purely on her own words. It almost seemed that Patchett was using excerpts of Grealy's letters to prove things that didn't really need to be proven or in some way trying to create a memoir co-written by Grealy. While Patchett may have used the letters to increase the authenticity of the story, I found that their inclusion made me more likely to doubt her as a narrator (and to wonder about what Patchett chose not to include). Of course, my reading of Truth and Beauty has been clouded by my reading of Autobiography of a Face and the knowledge that Grealy's older sister was against the publication of Truth and Beauty. That may be one of the reasons why I feel the way I do about the use of Grealy's letters, with no prior knowledge I might not have even given the use of the letters much thought.
In any case, I'll be posting a little teaser review of Truth and Beauty on the student services blog on Friday.