Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Gilding of a Lady

A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler 


The wealth of the Vanderbilt family was astounding both in their day and by today’s standards, even if one never takes inflation into account. Back in the late 1800s, that should have meant something. However, all it meant was that they had mounds of money, because their family hadn’t lived in America enough generations for them to be accepted into New York’s high society. Alva Smith, on the other hand, had the appropriate lineage and standing, but her family’s fortune was ravaged by the Civil War and were on the brink of starvation. Although the subtitle of this book is “A Novel of the Vanderbilts” Fowler’s latest novel is really more Alva’s story than that of a whole family. 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Educating Harry

Man and Boy by Tony Parsons 


The blurb for this book on Goodreads says, “Harry Silver had it all: a beautiful wife, a wonderful son, a great job in the media. But in one night he throws it all away. Then Harry must start to learn what life and love are really all about.” So generally, I hate it when I read that a character “had it all” because we all know from this that something is going to go terribly wrong, and the book is going to be all about their struggle to recover from some tragedy that’s not really their fault. However, in this instance, we immediately see that he’s to blame for his own predicament, so I figured this one might be a little different. More importantly, I was looking for something that wouldn’t be as heavy as some of the other books I’d recently finished reading, and the blurbs on the cover did talk about this one being funny. That’s the main reason I decided to read this book. The question is, was it a good choice or not? 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Ghostly Blues

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton 


According to Goodreads, this book is “a story of murder, mystery, and thievery; of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river, is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold…” of course, the woman is refers to is the titular Clockmaker’s Daughter. However, her voice is hardly the only one we hear in this book, and the many other voices spread across time, beginning in the mid-1800s through the 21st century. 

This is actually the first Morton I’ve read, even though I know we have one or two of her novels on our shelves; I’ve simply never gotten around to reading any of them. This is obviously a hole in my literary education, because what I found here was quite unexpected on several levels. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Three Belles’ Secrets.

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White. 


The sinking of the Lusitania by Germany was the tragic event that brought America into the first World War. In this novel, the three co-authors, look at that event through the eyes of three women, two of whom survived the disaster, and one woman, Sarah Blake, who looking into the past to find inspiration for her next book by hopefully uncovering the truth about her great-grandfather, who was a purser on the ship. The two passengers are Tessa Fairweather and Caroline Telfair Hochstetter, whose paths end up crossing despite their sailing on separate classes. Goodreads says “As the Lusitania steams toward its fate, three women work against time to unravel a plot that will change the course of their own lives . . . and history itself.” 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Female Confidential

Vox: A Novel by Christina Dalcher. 


This novel is set in the not too distant future, where institutional misogyny has reached such heights that women are now totally out of the workforce and females are only allowed to speak 100 words a day (and no cheating with sign language, either). The new government has put wristbands that count every female’s words and if they go above their allotment, they get an electric shock that gets worse the more they speak. In this world we find Jean, a former scientist who was on the brink of curing aphasia, who is now relegated to her home, where she lives with her husband, three sons and her young daughter. However, when the president’s brother is in a skiing accident, with a brain injury that gives him the exact type of aphasia Jean had been trying to cure, the government calls on her to rejoin her old team and finish the job. But all is not what it seems in this dictatorial, woman hating world. (Thanks for the free book, @PRHGlobal/@prhinternational

Saturday, August 25, 2018

A Village Education

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald 


It is 1959, and Florence Green is in Hardborough, a small seaside town in England’s East Anglia region, that doesn’t have its own book shop. This is something that Florence wants to fix. The only problem is, there seems to be some opposition to where she’s chosen to open it, the Old House. Although the building has stood empty for quite some time, there are people in town who have other ideas for that property. 

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see the movie adaptation of this novella, which I found totally charming. Since the generalization is that the book is better than the film, I decided to hunt down a copy of this book and find out for myself if this one obeyed that rule, is one of the few exceptions, or something in between. I have to warn my readers that because of the close proximity between seeing the movie and reading the book, this may end up being a review of both, with some compare and contrast slipped in, for better or worse. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Diving in together

The Lido by Libby Page 


On Goodreads, the blurb for this novel says “Kate is a twenty-six-year-old riddled with anxiety and panic attacks who works for a local paper in Brixton, London, covering forgettably small stories. When she’s assigned to write about the closing of the local lido (an outdoor pool and recreation center), she meets Rosemary, an eighty-six-year-old widow who has swum at the lido daily since it opened its doors when she was a child. It was here Rosemary fell in love with her husband, George; here that she’s found communion during her marriage and since George’s death. The lido has been a cornerstone in nearly every part of Rosemary’s life.” This is a very good summary of this book, although it wasn’t evident to me that Rosemary had been swimming at the Lido “since it opened its doors” but that’s a minor point. 

Friday, August 3, 2018

Continuing to be

I am, I am, I am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell 


Goodreads calls this book a “memoire with a difference - the unputdownable story of an extraordinary woman's life in near-death experiences.” They also say it is “Shocking, electric, unforgettable,” and comment that “It is a book to make you question yourself. What would you do if your life was in danger, and what would you stand to lose?” Well, I couldn’t agree more with this summary, but to be honest, I think it is even more than that. 

My regular readers will know that I don’t usually read non-fiction, but this is Maggie O’Farrell, and well, I’ve been in love with her writing for years. Plus, the title indicated that this wasn’t an autobiography so much as a collection of experiences, which is far more to my taste. That is why the opportunity to get a glimpse into her life, even if it isn’t about the lighter side of her world, was irresistible to me, despite my worry that this might be heavy going. Thankfully, even though some (if not all) of these experiences were obviously traumatic in one way or another, somehow O’Farrell was able to portray them in a way that stuns us, yet never repulses us.