This week we have multiple generations, a book club of two, a disclaimer, some Berlin, some London, a loser, another week with a geezer, and eight chicks who click.  Pictures that is!

Let us begin!

John is reading one of my favorites  of the year. “I just started The Undertow by Jo Baker and I was pulled into it right away.  It's a novel that follows the lives of one British family from the death of a father and husband during World War I through present day.  I'm always fascinated by stories that span multiple generations because they show us how forgotten events percolate down through time and shape our lives.  Baker crafts her prose carefully as she moves between different perspectives--a novel like this is a challenge because of the span of time it covers, but she is able to maintain a narrative that is easy to follow from the moment it captures your attention on the shores of Gallipoli.”

Barbara M. is reading a book I am totally passionate about.  “Taking Jen’s advice I started reading The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. As his mother undergoes treatment for pancreatic cancer Schwalbe discusses books with her. They’ve always exchanged and discussed books but this time they form a book club of two allowing them to talk about the difficult issues facing them. Schwalbe’s mother is an incredible person and their relationship is enviable. So far the only down side to this book is that it is adding to my absurdly long list of books I would like to read. “

And here is another vote from Stephanie! “Here is another RA vote for The End Of Your Life Book Club, after Jen forced me to read it!  This is the story of a woman and her son's impromptu book club, which developed as he sat with her during an early chemo treatment for pancreatic cancer. Mary Anne Schwalbe is a true inspiration and this book is a must-read for all book lovers (after it comes out in October). I am now starting on Crossing To Safety as a result of this book, since it's one of the first they discussed together. The one downside to this book is that it's dangerous to one's to-be-read list.”

Disclaimer: I just want to interject here that they are making me out to be more bossy and bullying than I really am.  I prefer the terms passionate and insistent.  Thank you.  Oh and this wonderful, wonderful book will be coming out in October.  And yes, I INSIST that you read it.

Pat S. is doing a little obsessive research this week by reading A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous.  “Following up on City of Women, this is a remarkable first person account of the fall of Berlin as told in an eight week diary written by a thirty year old single woman. It is a fascinatingly clear-eyed view of both the victors and the vanquished. By the end of the war Berlin had become a city populated by women and old men-completely vulnerable. The author describes the noise and fear and dislocation of bombs and bullets, mass rape by a never-ending parade of Russian soldiers. She writes of repeated daily humiliations by the victors. Yet above all these horrors, the author writes of the privation of food, water and electricity which defined their world and actually motivated them through each day as they sought food and water and wood-as they fought to survive. It is this blind drive to survive and to re-establish some manner of order that comes across to the reader as being primordial. This is an engrossing portrait of the human spirit.”

Pat T. is taking some friendly advice and no, it was not from me! ” Based on co-workers recommendations, I have just begun reading What the Nanny Saw by Fiona Neill and so far I must say I like it! Ali Sparrow has just taken on the job of nanny for the wealthy London Skinner Family. Her job description is to care for the four children-18 year old Jake, 15 year old Izzy and five year old twins, as well as to organize the Skinner's domestic life. The Skinner's privileged lifestyle is a whole new experience for Ali and she is a keen observer of the family dynamics, which will change dramatically over the course of her employment with the family.  “

Abby’s perseverance pays off!  ‘I've read all the novels by Jonathan Tropper and like most authors; some efforts produce a better outcome than others.  His latest, One Last Thing Before I Go, had me concerned for a solid 1/3 of the book that this was not going to be a read I enjoyed, but sure enough he pulled though. The main character is Drew Silver, always referred to by the Cher-like moniker "Silver." Having been the member of a one hit wonder band in the 80's and following his divorce, Silver is leading an empty life at a dreary efficiency motel occupied by other divorced men struggling to find their way. When Silver learns he may die at at any moment, he declines potentially lifesaving surgery.  A series of mini-strokes destroy his filter and he begins to express whatever thoughts pop into his head. At the same time, his daughter whom he has failed throughout her life seeks him out.  Silver is a bit of a loser, but Tropper's does a great job writing the unfiltered and frequently beautiful thoughts that pour from his unfiltered mouth. Redemption, humor, and some lovely prose made this a book worth finishing.”

Jeannie is still in Geezerville! “I am reading yet another book with a retired gentleman at its center. And Harold Fry is nothing if not gentlemanly, maybe too much so. But he is an Englishman and Englishmen are often too proper and correct for their own and others' good. In the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, Harold is walking and walking and walking toward a woman that he once worked with who now has cancer. But what about his wife at home? This is a brilliant, funny, tragic, warm tale of a journey where postcards are more precious than love letters. I want to start from the first page again!”

I am in the middle of Eight Girls Taking Pictures by Whitney Otto.  In eight different vignettes Whitney looks at the lives of eight different female photographers throughout the twentieth century.  While this is a work of fiction the questions that are raised are very real.  They deal with politics, motherhood, relationships and the idea of joyful work.  Can women ever truly merge all that with art?  And how is it that we are still looking at these issues one hundred years later?  I loved her first novel How to Make an American Quilt and I am equally in love with this one. It comes out in November.


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