Friday, July 27, 2018

Bottling their History

The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah 


Kate knows that if she’s ever going to pass the Masters of Wine test, she’ll have to learn much more about French wines, particularly the ones from Burgundy. To do that, she’ll decides it’s time to go back to France, where her family’s ancient vineyards are nestled in that part of the country. While helping with the harvest, her cousin’s wife asks Kate to help her clean out the old “cave” in the hopes of maybe using the space for a part of a future B&B. That’s when they discover, behind an old armoire, a part of the cave that’s been hidden since WWII, and what it holds will surprise everyone. 

I first became familiar Mah’s writing four years ago, when I read her non-fiction work “Mastering the Art of French Eating.” So, when I saw this novel available on Edelweiss, I decided to give her fiction a try. Since I already knew of her love of France, I was certain that a novel set there would be interesting, and I wasn’t wrong. What Mah brings us is a story that brings the past and the present together with a big mystery and a touch of romance. But don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a romance novel, although the connection between Kate and Jean-Luc does play into the story. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Theatrical Turbulence

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood. 


It was Felix’s dream to mount his own version of Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” at the  (Canadian) Makeshiweg Theater festival, but before he could get started, he found himself ousted as their artistic director. That was the last blow, since came on the heels of a broken marriage, and even worse, the death of his adored three-year-old daughter Miranda. With this, Felix goes underground, only to emerge 12 years later as “Mr. Duke” who is running an educational program in theater at a local prison. When he finds out that the people who forced him out of Makeshiweg are coming to see what this course is about (with the obvious intention to shut the program down), Felix decides it is time to not only finally mount his “Tempest” but take his revenge at the same time.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Finding her Time

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler 


Willa’s life hasn’t been extraordinary, but it also hasn’t been uneventful either. When she was 11, her mother’s sudden, but thankfully temporary disappearance, was an experience marked Willa’s young life. When she was in college, she married her sweetheart and abandoned her education to raise a family. When she was only 41, her husband died in a tragic car accident. Now, 20 years later, one phone call from a total stranger is about to change Willa’s life once again. 
(Thanks for the free book, @PRHGlobal/@prhinternational)

Once again, Anne Tyler brings us a late-stage, coming-of-age story of a woman who you might have seen dozens of time on the street, but who you might never strike up a conversation with, and more the pity. Because if you did get to know her, maybe she might be very different than you might have thought. What Tyler likes to do in her novels is draw people who surprise us, and sometimes themselves along the way. In fact, although Willa is the center of attention here, almost all of Tyler’s characters in this novel start out to be seemingly one thing and then, turn towards being something else. Yes, there are some more predictable characters here, such as Willa’s second husband, who never seems to stray from being self-centered; but in general, most of Tyler’s characters have a tendency to do unlikely things, and at the most unexpected times. 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

An Eve or a Lilith?

Ecstasy: A Novel of Alma Mahler by Mary Sharratt 


Part of the blurb for this book on Goodreads says “Coming of age in the midst of a creative and cultural whirlwind, young, beautiful Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. A brand-new era of possibility for women is dawning and she is determined to make the most of it. But Alma loses her heart to the great composer Gustav Mahler, nearly twenty years her senior. He demands that she give up her music as a condition for their marriage. Torn by her love and in awe of his genius, how will she remain true to herself and her artistic passion?” 

This book sounds exactly like what I look for in historical fiction novels; a story about a lesser known (or unknown) woman in the life of a very famous man. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of Mahler’s music, but some of the other blurbs I read about this book mentioned one of my favorite artists, Gustav Klimt. Since I didn’t know anything about Alma, the idea of reading about someone who was being hyped as one of his muses, was intriguing. What I found with this book, however, wasn’t exactly that, but it did tick many of my boxes.