Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: "Talk Before Sleep"

Talk Before SleepTalk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Putting the basic premise of "Talk Before Sleep" in a nutshell--two friends in their early forties, one dying of breast cancer, the other helping her through it--makes it sound like a bad Lifetime movie melodrama, but it isn't like that at all. Elizabeth Berg has a keen ear (and heart) for the way women are with each other; the way we talk, the things we feel, and the way we know each other in a way that men can't understand.

The two main characters, passionate artist Ruth and dependable, careful Ann, might seem like a mismatch at first, but they balance each other. When Ruth becomes ill, Ann puts her own life with her husband and nine-year-old daughter on hold, and devotes herself to taking care of her dying friend. About half of the book is told in flashback, and the reader gets to see how these two women have bonded over time.

I've read any number of Berg's novels, and she has a wonderful sense for the simple scene that says a lot, in a marvelous way. For example, in one scene in this book, Ann is looking at a painting which hangs over Ruth's bed. It is a watercolor of a group of women laying languidly in a field on a sunny day. Ann finds it so evocative that she can feel the warm sun, and smell the grass. Then she thinks, how can they do that? Don't they have to go get groceries for dinner, or something?

There are several very well-drawn and interesting side characters in this book. Nothing seems cardboard, or paint by number. I ended up feeling like I knew all of these women, and I do. I have either known them or been them. Berg gets to the heart of things, with humor and with humanity.

On a personal note, the last two books I have read and reviewed were both novels by favorite authors I had not read in a while, and they were both hiding, forgotten and unread until now, on my bookshelf as if patiently waiting for me to find them again. I'm glad I did.

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Sioux said...

I don't think I've read anything by Elizabeth Bergh that I did not enjoy. You're right, Shay. She really has a deft touch when it comes to writing about women.

This book I have not read yet, but I'll put it on my (long) list of books to read.

Cloudia said...

the last paragraph is the post!

Aloha from Waikiki, my Friend
Comfort Spiral
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Marion said...

Oh, girl, this is in my top ten favorite books of all time and I re-read it every year. I read it the year it came out (1994) and became an instant fan of Elizabeth Berg. She's an amazing writer.

Have a Merry Christmas, dear Shay, and a wonderful New Year.

Hugs & Love,

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Shay, this book is one of the best books about women's friendships I have ever read. One of my faves too. Elizabeth Berg totally captures the way women think and feel. I give it five out of five stars too.

hedgewitch said...

There are obviously no hoop skirts in this, yet still, your review is tempting me to read it. I can tell you loved this book--thanks for sharing it.

Blue Bunny said...

i nevir reeded that, but my jannie mite liek she books by elizibeth berg.

i resintly reeded peeter rabit.

ho-ho-ho and sutch.


Mama Zen said...

I'm picking this one up!

HermanTurnip said...

This book actually sounds intriguing. Will most definitely place it on my "investigate" list. Trying to branch out on subject matter this coming year...

Lynn said...

I like Elizabeth Berg's books, too. I'll definitely read this one.

I haven't seen you around lately - hope you are OK and that you had a good holiday.