Saturday, May 30, 2015

Less than Picture Perfect

Lessons in French by Hilary Reyl

What budding artist wouldn't grab the chance to work in Paris with the world-famous photojournalist Lydia Schell? For Katherine, who just finished Yale, it will also be like going home, having lived in Paris as a young girl when her father was dying from cancer. Back then, she stayed with cousins and their son in a poor part of the city. Remembering that time, including her cousin Etienne's cruelty to her, still hurt, but they aren't going to get in the way of making new ones. This time Kate will be renting a room in the Schell's house, located in one of Paris' most classy neighborhoods. So what if Kate doesn't know how difficult Lydia is, or what she'll be doing for her? How hard could it be for a Yale graduate with unaccented and fluent French in the city of every artist's dreams? Furthermore, the Berlin Wall is about to come down, so this is the perfect time to work with a photojournalist.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Socially Capital Laugh

Various Pets Alive & Dead by Marina Lewycka

Their twenty years of commune life didn't turn out as reaffirming as Marcus and Doro had hoped it would be, so maybe it is time to conform and get married. This isn't news their children ever expected to get, but neither Clara nor Serge are into their parent's radical lifestyle anymore. Clara is a teacher who is still idealistic, but quickly got used to the creature comforts living above the poverty line affords. Serge, on the other hand, is making lots of money applying his genius in math to the world of banking, but paranoid his parents will find out he's stopped working on his PhD. To top it off, Oolie-Anna's social worker wants to move her into a sheltered housing project for Down syndrome adults. Nothing is staying the same, but maybe that's not such a bad thing after all.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Literary Impressionism

The Sunken Cathedral by Kate Walbert

According to the publisher's website, this novel "follows a cast of characters as they negotiate one of Manhattan’s swiftly changing neighborhoods, extreme weather, and the unease of twenty-first-century life." The main characters are Marie and Simone, friends of many decades, survivors of World War II, now widowed and living in the neighborhood of Chelsea in New York. The publishers also said, "Walbert paints portraits of marriage, of friendship, and of love in its many facets, always limning the inner life, the place of deepest yearning and anxiety."

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Hollywood Secrets and Pasts

Melting the Snow on Hester Street by Daisy Waugh

Its 1929 and movie director Max Beecham and his actress wife Eleanor hobnob with Charlie Chaplain, Greta Garbo, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, John Barrymore, Gloria Swanson and more. To them, Max and Eleanor are the happiest, most loving couple in Hollywood. However, the Beechams are even better actors than those on the silver screen. They haven't been happy since they left their old lives behind in New York, together with their tiny daughter, Isha. While Max seems to have given up, Eleanor is still determined to find her, or at least find out what happened to her.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Out of the Ashes

An Unknown Woman by Jane Davis

When Anita and Ed's London home of nearly 15 years burns to the ground, taking everything they own with them, it ignites a brushfire through all of Anita's life, bringing everything she thought she was always so sure of into question for her. Suffering from what is probably PTSD, Anita goes off to stay with her parents in Liverpool, only to discover that even the familiar comfort of her parents and childhood aren't what she thought they were. More importantly, when she discovers the secret about her mother Patti, the destruction of her home seems suddenly almost inconsequential. In her latest novel, author Jane Davis brings us two masterful character studies of a mother and daughter, combined into one journey.