It has been a hard week for us. Lots of atrocious weather and equipment malfunctions. We are hopeful that the weekend will be sunny, warm and lovely. And speaking of this weekend, it is Father’s Day and we want to wish a very happy one to all who are fathers out there. We hope you know who you are.
This week we have a piece of shared cheese, lots cooking, a barren landscape that is both literal and figurative, drug induced criminal activities, Cape Cod, time travel, Nazis, more Chicks with Bricks (they’re back!), South Africans, Darwin and a whole new obsession.
Let us begin!
Welcome this week to first timer Thomas S. Thomas is going to be a sophomore at UConn this fall. He works in Materials Management and he is smart, kind and funny. And yes, he is my son. And yes, I made him do this. “The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti tells the account of a freelance food journalist on a journey to find the maker of what is considered to be the greatest piece of cheese in the world. The book is partly a memoir of the experience of finding the maker of the cheese while the other part is a telling of how the cheese maker in question lived his life. As one reads this they can't help but feel a connection to both the narrator and the cheese maker. The themes of entering adulthood and parenthood are discussed, and it adds to the overall humanity that is expressed in this wonderful book.”
Steph has also just finished The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti. "Though it is a good story about cheese and an even better travel memoir, this book shines most brightly as a meditation on storytelling. It took Paterniti many years to finish this book, and much of the book is dedicated to explaining why. He wanted so badly to tell the story that the book cover is trying to sell you; a noble Castilian rediscovers his family’s cheese and begins to make it in the traditional manner then is brutally robbed by a friend and above all by modern capitalism,and becomes a symbol of all that’s gone wrong in society and what we’ve lost in the quest for efficiency and profit. He couldn’t write that book though, because the story is more complex than that. So he wrote this one instead. He is just a great writer—funny and honest and compassionate, with a keen eye for important detail. The only strike against this book is that Paterniti has all too ably described a delicious cheese that I will never get to eat. That is a cruelty from which most books could not recover, but The Telling Room is not most books.”
Krishna is in a decidedly summer reading mode this week. “Firstly I read, The Girl's Guide to Love and Supper Clubs by Dana Bate. Hannah Sugarman hates her job in DC, is constantly reminded of her parents brilliant academic minds and a boyfriend that would be perfect if he wasn't so self-absorbed and maybe possibly in love with his best friend, our protagonist's catty co-worker. What she does love though is cooking but that's not a real job, well it's not one that is respected by her colleagues. When she finds herself, homeless boy- friendless and at her wits ends she starts running an underground supper club in her new landlord's townhouse. Hilarity, self-discovery and deliciousness ensue. I also enjoyed A Perfect Proposal by Kate Fforde because sometimes you want to read a book where you know what's going to happen. I call this The Hallmark syndrome. The sweet unassuming girl will get to marry the rich, handsome suitor and they will all live happily ever after. Kate Fforde has an ease to her writing that is rather reminiscent of Betty Neel's sweet romances. In this tale our sweet unassuming protagonist is Sophie, a girl living in the shadow of her highly academic family, and who loves sewing,cooking and her best friends.
John is proving that no man is an island. “This week, I'm reading a book that begins with a barren woman on a barren island in the middle of an ocean. I'm almost finished with M. L. Stedman's The Light Between Oceans and it's killing me. It's a beautiful novel about the aforementioned woman and her husband, a lighthouse-keeper, living alone on an island at the confluence of the Indian and Pacific oceans. After multiple miscarriages, Isabelle is about to give up on having a child, and life, when a boat containing a dead man and a living infant washes ashore. She convinces her husband to not report the incident and together they pretend the child is theirs. But blood is thicker than water and some secrets just cannot be kept...”
Barbara M. is still jet lagged so there is no Paris or Nazis this week. Wake up Barbara! “I am almost finished with Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende. Allende has done it again; written a beautifully constructed, lyrical story about a young woman’s personal journey both figuratively and literally. The story unfolds with two narratives; one about Maya’s drug-induced criminal activities in the United States and the other on a remote island in Chile where she goes to recover. Her writing is, as usual, exquisite. I will read anything Allende writes and this book is not disappointing.”
Jeanne however is staying true to form and doing two things at once. “I am reading Wise Men by Stuart Nadler, but this may have to end soon. I am about one third of the way through and while I find the promise of family secrets intriguing, the writing, and especially the conversation, is trite. Set mostly in a fictional Cape Cod town in the 1950s, the main character Hilton "Hilly" Wise is the teenage son of a successful, suddenly wealthy Jewish lawyer. But the book doesn't make it as a coming-of-age journey even though Hilly befriends Lem, a black man who is the Wise family's cottage "boy" and his niece, the nubile Savannah. There's not enough connection with characters, scenes or words. I want more dots connected. We'll see... In the car I am listening to Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and read by actress Fenella Woolgar, whose lovely voice and English, but unique, way of speaking captivates me as does the story. From the very beginning, the story drew me in with the mystery of Ursula Todd's birth and life(lives) early in the 20th century. The author paints a landscape of that time period that is romantic, yet unsettling, as Ursula lives her life again and again as she is reincarnated to change past events. Not knowing that I was reading this book, someone asked me if I would rather change something about the past or travel to the future. Between this book and that question, I am thinking about the possibilities. Who says you can't go back?"
Sweet Ann is as usual reading the darkest stuff she can get her hands on. I sometimes wonder if she has a secret life. “I am reading The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian. This is a historical fiction novel based in Tuscany in 1943. Italy was part of the Axis countries at this time and was occupied by the Germans who were looking to send Italian masterpieces back to Germany. The Rosati Family lived in a beautiful villa just south of Florence. The family became quite involved with the occupying forces. This caused some tension for the family. This novel also jumps ahead to 1955 where there is a serial killer who has the remaining Rosatti family members in his/her sights. This is good story that will keep you guessing until the end. Mr. Bohjalian has written many wonderful novels and he will give you many hours of reading pleasure.
Miss Elisabeth of the CL is also exploring some darkness “This week I read the first memoir I’ve enjoyed in a long time. She Left Me The Gun – My Mother’s Life Before Me chronicles journalist Emma Brockes’ attempts to discover what her mother’s life was like before she immigrated to England in the 60’s. Emma’s mother has always been very secretive about her past. Although she has 7 half siblings whom she speaks of fondly, she never takes the family back to her native South Africa to visit them and she has a strangely cold way of referring to her stepmother by her first name. When Emma’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, she reveals a tantalizing (and horrifying) piece of her story: When she was 22, she took her father to court. All 7 of her siblings testified against him, but he successfully defended himself and was found not guilty. After her mother’s death, this half-told story spurs Emma to undertake an emotionally taxing journey to her mother’s homeland to discover the horrifying truth of her mother’s life before her. “
Pat T. is not amused at all. And yes, she will judge you. “ While serving on jury duty this week I thought I would take along, Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham, an appropriate book to pass the time in the waiting room of a courthouse, right?! I made it through the whole crime scene and then decided I really didn't want to read any more about this case. I felt it was an evil and narcissistic act by two teenage girls, Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker, in order to satisfy their desire to stay together as friends. However, my co-worker, Marianne, has encouraged me to continue because she felt the novel gives the reader an unbiased account of the crime and the trial, as well as a good look at the psychological disorder of the teenage girls from the perspective of present day advances in mental health behavior. Stay tuned?!”
Patty McC. is digging into Free to Learn by Peter Gray. “I’ve only just started it but the first line of the prologue grabbed me with “GO TO HELL.” Peter Gray studies child development from a Darwinian perspective. The opening line of the prologue was forcefully said by his son to the principal of the school he attended at the time. This one line changed the course of Peter Gray’s professional and personal life. Out of concern for his son he redirected his professional career. He began studying self-directed education, children in general and the human biological underpinnings of education. This book is the culmination of years of research and his experience in raising his son who found school prison-like. This is a great book for any parent who has a child struggling with “doing school” and for those who might be seeking alternative education ideas. I can already tell you that after 7 pages in I am going to LOVE this book! Yet another must-read education book for my shelf of sweet tasty non-fiction goodness. “
I don’t think it's a secret that those of us here on staff have ‘interests’ which border on the unhealthy side of obsession. We are rather unapologetic about it and we love roping others into our fiery pit of speculation, and need for tawdry detail. These ‘interests’ in the past have included Grey Gardens and the Edies (Big and Little), Grizzly Man (we can quote dialogue from both just ask at the Welcome Desk), the book Never Enough about the murders of the Kissell brothers (you will never look at Precious Moments figurines the same ever again) and the aforementioned Chicks with Bricks. So imagine the squealing and excitement hearing that someone who we refer to as Our Girl Huguette was getting her very own book. For those unfamiliar with Our Girl, Huguette Clark was a 104 year old reclusive heiress who hid herself away from the world for decades. She owned fabulous properties in Manhattan, California and New Canaan which she never lived in and she chose to live out her final 20 years in a hospital room. In the book, Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr., Huguette’s world comes to life. Do I need to tell you that the woman collected antique dolls? You know the kind I mean. The kind with teeth. This one is due out on September 10th.