Posted on Dec 26, 2011 in Fiction

by Paul Harding Bellevue Literary Press, 2009 Friend Mary Haab recommended Paul Harding’s debut novel – Tinkers, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Perhaps – and I’ve been saying this often lately – you need to be a person of a certain age to appreciate, or should I say deeply appreciate, Harding’s novel. Or at least you need to have sat at the bedside of a parent, or a loved one who is dying and to have wondered: What are they thinking, what are they feeling. My own mother died just this past March. It was a “long good-bye” as they...

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The Sense of an Ending

Posted on Dec 26, 2011 in Fiction

by Julian Barnes Alfred A. Knopf, 2011 Someone I know, whose taste in books I respect, opened Julian Barnes’ latest book,A Sense of an Endingand said, “Read this first page.” Here is what I read: …what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed. We live in time – it holds us and molds us – but I’ve never felt I understood it very well. And I’m not referring to theories about how it bends and doubles back, or may exist elsewhere in parallel versions. No, I mean ordinary everyday time, which clocks and watches...

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Unaccustomed Earth

Posted on Nov 9, 2009 in Fiction

by Jhumpa Lahiri Random House, 2008 Short stories.  I tend to shy away from them.  I prefer the leisurely pace of the novel, with its leisurely development of character and plot.  But I’ve always appreciated the world Lahiri opens for me, offering inside views of the issues and stresses that the children of immigrants encounter, one foot in their parents country of origin,  one foot in the American culture into which they are born.   And that’s what drew me to this collection, Unaccustomed Earth. You’ll find that the book is divided into two...

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Bridge of Sighs

Posted on Apr 16, 2009 in Fiction

by Richard Russo Alfred A. Knopf, 2007 Bridge of Sighs is not my favorite Richard Russo book.   That would be Empire Falls.  But this book might be worth your time just to meet the characters Russo fashions seemingly ex nihillo from the clay of his imagination. Louis Charles Lynch, known most of his life as Lucy (this nickname a consequence of an elementary school teacher making the grave mistake of reading his name from the class list as Lou C. Lynch) is writing the story of his life in Thomaston, “scanning his past” for shapes and...

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The Cave

Posted on Jun 26, 2008 in Fiction

by Jose Saramango Harcourt Inc./A Harvest Book, 2002 I”ll admit it.  I did not love Jose Saramago’s All the Names.  For me it seemed to meander, too often a bit pointlessly or at least at greater length than seemed necessary to me.  Personal opinion.  Others I know whose tastes I respect found it breathtaking.  And there were indeed certain sensational sentences I copied whole into the little notebook I keep for saving and savoring words and bits of writing.  But it irritated me at times. Not so The Cave.  This story structure I...

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Case Histories

Posted on May 3, 2008 in Fiction

by Kate Atkinson Back Bay Books, 2004 I like mysteries.  Not criminal novels per se – I don’t like egregious sex or violence – but I love intricate puzzles that need unraveling. And I also require good writing.  Which is why over the years I’ve liked Dorothy Sayers, P.D. James, and once in a while (but not always) Martha Grimes. I now add to this list, permanently, Kate Atkinson. I reviewed a more recent book, One Good Turn, and as I indicated there, Atkinson is a British author whose first novel, a decade ago, promptly won the Whitbread...

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The Gathering

Posted on Apr 30, 2008 in Fiction

by Anne Enright Black Cat, 2007 Ah, the Irish writers.  I gave my then boyfriend (now husband of thirty plus years) pause when we were dating,  because of what he feared was my penchant for melancholy of Irish writers.  I think I was reading D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love at the time, and he worried that I too often viewed him and our relationship through Irish eyes. Anne Enright is Irish and she writes a dark Irish novel.  Not quite as impressionable as I was in my early twenties, I was able to read Enright’s novel with a bit more...

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Out Stealling Horses

Posted on Feb 11, 2008 in Fiction

by Per Petterson Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota, 2005 ach year I take note of the New York Times selection of the top ten books of the year.  Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson was on that list.  Second or third if I’m remembering right. I had intended to give it to my daughter for Christmas – she loves new and excellent fiction.  But it arrived to late for gift giving so I decided to treat myself and stowed it away in the suitcase I was packing for a January vacation.  Glad I did. The language is sparse, but poetic.  The insights...

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Posted on Dec 7, 2007 in Fiction

by Thomas Wharton Nunatak Fiction, 1995 “I want to show you something extraordinary.” That’s the last line in this novel by Thomas Wharton and as one reviewer has said, the last line might could have been the first  because Wharton has shown us an extraordinary way  to tell a story. It’s form for one thing.  The novel is comprised of short fragments of story and memory.  Each one could stand alone as flash fiction.  And yet, in the end, they appear as though a satisfying whole. Friend Mary Haab recommended this one.  She was in intrigued with...

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The Maytrees

Posted on Aug 16, 2007 in Fiction

by Annie Dillard HarperCollins, 2007 I didn’t think I’d finish The Maytrees.  I consider myself an Annie Dillard fan.  Or rather a fan of her non-fiction work.  A fan of her Thoreau-ish musings on nature and life as it is, as it was, as it might be if only we took the time to look around us and savor.  Will I ever forget how in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, she sits, still, on the side of a riverbank waiting half an hour?  more?  for that muskrat to poke his nose above the surface?  Just reading of it made me feel as though I’d been there with...

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