Gilead

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Fiction

by Marilynne Robinson Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2004 “Writing is nothing more than a guided dream.” Jorge Luis Borges “How do you review a book like Kafka on the Shore?” Chris asked. This is Chris, of the long list of recommended books. No problem, I told him. Wrong. Not easy. Nonetheless I’m going to give it a stab, because the book is a phenomenon and worth the read. I’m not saying everyone will take to this book the way Chris did. It took me awhile. I have this new rule I use, my friend Marge’s rule: Read as many pages you are old, but if...

read more

The Guernsey LIterary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Fiction

by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows Random Hosue, 2008 Try it.  You’ll like it!  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society needs no deep literary analysis.  It’s simply a good read, recommended by both my daughter (a Generation Xer) and a friend who teacher college level Creative Writing.   What stays with my daughter is the easy way it read and the love story.  What stays with my friend, and with me, is the information gleaned about life during World War II for those English citizens on the Channel Islands off the mainland. A...

read more

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Fiction

by Muriel Barbery Europa Editions, 2006 This is one of those rare books whose goal is to speak beautifully about beauty.  Sounds esoteric?  It is in a way.  But don’t let this put you off.  You will meet two fresh and intriguing characters that speak in brief, alternating chapters (and alternating fonts) of their disdain for bourgeoisie culture and the people who create it.  (Now you are really wondering if this is a book you need to read.  Trust – the ending will inspire.) The setting for this novel (translated from the French by Alison...

read more

Olive Kitteridge

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Fiction

by Elizabeth Strout Random House, 2008   I’m sad.  Not because Olive Kitteridge ended – as is sometimes the case when I read an acclaimed book.  (And Olive Kitteridge is acclaimed having won the Pulitzer Prize.) I’m sad because the lives of so many of the characters, “day after day unconsciously squander their lives.”   This is not a reason to avoid this novel.  Just fair warning. Truly there are all kinds of reasons to read it.  For one – the concept is fascinating.  The novel is a series of short story/chapters linked by the appearance of...

read more

Let the Great World Spin

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Fiction

by Colum McCann Random House, 2009   I heard Colum McCann interviewed about this marvelous “symphony of a novel” as Frank McCourt called it, before his death. His novel had won the National Book award (an award that always makes me look again). The novel is set in August of 1974 and the interconnected stories in each chapter are each related to an actual event: Phillipe Petit, walking a tight-rope strung between the still existent Twin Towers. It is a marvelously complex novel – full of surprise with the clever way the various...

read more

Firmin

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Fiction

by Sam Savage Delta Trade Paperbacks, 2009   I’m a reader. And I love to read a book that leads me to another book that leads me to another book that leads me to even another book. This petite novel, Firmin does this. Delightfully so. I’m not normally attracted to fantasy books where the protagonist other than human. There have been a few. The Narnia series (though I read this first when I was 11.) A couple of books written from a dog’s point of view. But usually – not. So I wasn’t sure about a novel where the main character is a rat (Firmin)...

read more

Edgar Sawtelle

Posted on Jul 10, 2015 in Fiction

by David Wroblewski HarperCollins, 2008 Edgar Sawtelle is mute – though he is not deaf.  We meet him in the first chapter – a young boy reading old documents that give him and us a history of how the Edgar’s parents came to dwell near the great red barn and how the Sawtelle dogs began to be bred.   We ease in to the story through Edgar’s eyes though we will hear bits and pieces told by other characters too.  Trudy his mother, Claude his father’s ex-con brother and even through the eyes of Almondine, Edgar’s “nurse-maid” dog.  (This latter not...

read more

City of Thieves by David Benioff

Posted on Jul 10, 2015 in Fiction

by David Benioff, Penguin, 2008 The siege of Leningrad. Who can bear to pick up a book on that subject? And yet – the book came highly recommended, so I picked up a copy on one of my too frequent visits at the bookstore. I’ve read. It is exquisitely written – and it is important. As is every single book that reminds us that war is hell on earth. David Benioff leads us in gently. The novel’s opening chapter has a screen writer (David) interviewing his grandfather (Lev Beniov) about the war years he never talks about. (The similarity in the...

read more

Zoli

Posted on Mar 2, 2012 in Fiction

by Colum McCann Random House, 2006 “If you keep quiet, you die. If you speak, you die. So speak and die”   – Tahar Djaout That is one of the three epigraphs that begin Colum McCann’s story of Zoli.  A story – about the Romani, or – as often called, often pejoratively called – Gypsies. A nomadic people they have resisted for centuries, even well meaning attempts to offer them four walls, permanent homes.  And so often they call themselves simply – travelers. Zoli and her grandfather are Romani travelers.  They had been...

read more

This Side of Brightness

Posted on Feb 19, 2012 in Fiction

by Colum McCann Picador/ Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1998 This Side of Brightness is not an easy read. Though it’s an important one. As are all the books I’ve read by Colum McCann. This is my third. The first one – Let the Great World Spin (a National Book Award winner) was sheer genius. Set in New York at the time of Phillipe Petit’s 1974 tightrope walk between the Twin Towers the novel tells of the interconnecting lives of those who all witnessed Petit’s feat. Evoking for the reader – stories of interconnecting lives in the...

read more