This week we have some quiet and some secrets, Paris (whew! I was getting worried!), and Canada, a depressed town, an amnesiac and a cast of thousands.
Let us begin!
Barbara M., who is no one’s idea of a shrinking violet, is here this week with a Non-Fiction pick and a Fiction pick! “I’m rereading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain in preparation for the discussion Ann and I are leading on September 18th. It’s a validation of introversion and an explanation of how introverts function in schools, the workplace and in relationships. It’s an interesting book whether you’re an introvert, an extrovert or an ambivert. I’m also listening to The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale. I love books that have parallel stories and this one goes back and forth between Daniel Kennedy, who with his partner Nancy survives a plane crash in the Galápagos Islands, and Daniel’s great-grandfather Andrew in the midst of World War I. The story alludes to many secrets which I’m sure will be unraveled before the end. I can’t wait to see how Gustav Mahler fits into the story.”
Jeanne, who it must be noted just finished getting her MLS (way to go Jeanne!) now has time again to read for pleasure! “It sometimes happens that when a person sets out to use another person for their own pleasure or gain, it is difficult to tell who is using who. This seems the case in The Bay of Foxes by Sheila Kohler. The setting is 1978 Paris. A very wealthy and glamorous, but aging author, known only as “M.” takes note of the extraordinarily beautiful youth sitting across from her in a cafe. Dawit, a once privileged Ethiopian, is a refugee of the tragic Ethiopian-Somali war and has been watching and studying her too. He has read her books. M. is a popular, well-known celebrity and accustomed to getting what she wants. She invites him to her table and makes a proposition to be her personal secretary. He is not in a position to refuse as he is destitute and hungry. He soon discovers that M. wants much more than just secretarial services from him. Is it too much? Kohler tells of the tragic past, turbulent present and uncertain future of both characters with sensual imagery. I listened to the audiobook Canada by Richard Ford with Holter Graham as the narrator. I had never read a novel by Ford and at first I thought it seemed anticlimactic as the very start of the story promises bank robbers and multiple murders. Where can you go from there? Where's the suspense? Where's the mystery? But, as it turns out, Ford is a good storyteller. Dell Parsons and his twin sister, Berner, are only fifteen when these events occur and their parents and family friends are involved. Dell and Berner are now sixty-five years old and the story is told from Dell's point of view - what he thought, how he survived, why he is now a Canadian citizen when he was born in Great Falls, Montana. It's difficult to actually like or root for Ford's characters, but it is an interesting study of the difficulties of managing a family in 1960 when the Southern father has just left the Air Force, the mother is Jewish and the kids are just plain confused and ungrounded.”
Abby is doing some advance reading! “Elsewhere by Richard Russo is a wonderful memoir by one of the most talented authors writing today. Over the years, Russo has used fiction to re-visit his youth and has on occasion, been criticized for returning to that well one too many times. Elsewhere explains why. Russo's dad left the family early on, leaving his mom to raise him in the depressed town of Gloversville, NY. If you have read just about anything by him, you know depressed towns are a main character in his books. While surrounded by extended family, he was given the burden of caring for his emotionally fragile mother Jean. Keeping a tight grip on young Richard, Jean even follows him across country when he leaves for college. By examining his relationship with his mother, Russo begins to process both the past and the present, including his intense and painful feelings towards Gloversville. This very moving and insightful book is out in October. “
Stephanie visited an old friend this week. “I read A Sunless Sea by Anne Perry this week. I just can't resist her name on the cover of a book! This is the latest in her series featuring William Monk, amnesiac river policeman of the mid-nineteenth century, and his daring wife Hester. In the first chapter, on his regular patrol, Monk finds a woman brutally murdered, and before long, he finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy stretching back to the Opium Wars. Their friend Rathbone agrees to defend the woman falsely accused of the murder, so the book is split in equal parts between Monk's investigating and Rathbone's courtroom drama, both sides digging into the dirty secrets of Britain's richest families. It wasn't quite as enthralling as I usually find her books, but still very good and a solid entry in the Perry oeuvre.”
I am loving Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe. Wolfe is going to do to Miami what he did to New York in ’87 so look out! It has the usual Wolfe cast of thousands, including a Cuban Cop, a black police chief, the Yalie newspaperman, the Anglo sex therapist and his Latina nurse/lover, and the billionaire sex addict just to name a few. This being Wolfe you know that their worlds will all eventually collide and you can’t help but sit back and enjoy the show. This one comes out in October.