Monday, June 28, 2010

Dear Great Book Guru, My children have just finished school and we are looking for some great books to read together through the lazy, hazy days of summer. Do you have any suggestions?
Book Loving Parent
Dear Book Loving, What a splendid idea! I remember with great fondness my family's summers spent reading the novels of Roald Dahl. Dahl is the cranky, sinister author of many wonderful books that appeal to both children and adults. MATILDA is the tale of a very young , very bright child who finds herself with the most boorish and boring of parents- parents who encourage her to watch TV all day and forbid her to read! Well, Matilda finds hilarious ways to circumvent her dear parents. My daughter Gillian particularly loved this book. My son Justin's favorite Dahl was THE WITCHES- this is a mildly terrifying book- just right for most 8 to 10 year-olds who still enjoy communal readings but crave some adventure and gore. The hero of WITCHES has been turned into a mouse by a coven of witches who are having their annual convention in the resort where he and his grandmother are vacationing. As with all Dahl novels, good triumphs in a bizarre but satisfying way. TWITS was probably my son Daniel's first choice, not because of its literary merit, but because the brutish, ill-kempt albeit lovable characters reminded him of friends and family. Not a family read aloud, but definitely a good choice for the adults in the crowd is THE IRREGULARS- ROALD DAHL AND THE WASHINGTON SPY RING by Jennet Conant. Dahl turns out to have been working for the British government as an undercover agent in Washington. His assignment was to undermine the American isolationist movement whose goal had been to keep the U.S. out of World War II. Definitely more James Bond than JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH- another family Dahl favorite!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dear Great Book Guru,
While I was having breakfast down at Sea Cliff Beach last Sunday, someone mentioned that next week is Bloomsday- June 16- the annual celebration of James Joyce's famous ULYSSES. I'm not up to reading that 800 page classic but do you have something to recommend that I might read to put me in the mood for Bloomsday while enjoying the beach? Beach Booklover

Dear Booklover,
Last week, I was talking to my friend Cec, who too loves both the beach and books, and she asked for just such a recommendation. The book I suggested was THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE by Brian Moore. This book originally came out in 1955 but remains fresh and pertinent in 2010. Set in Belfast, Ireland, the novel introduces us to a fortyish unmarried woman of limited financial means, but grand illusions. She has a small annuity inherited from an aunt whom she had cared for over many years ; she supplements this income with earnings from a few reluctant piano students. Judith is a woman who desperately wants to keep up appearances but finds her life spinning out of control as she moves into yet another shabby boarding house (her fifth move in two years). When she is courted by her landlady's brother, we sense impending disaster but Judith sees only romance and redemption. Alas, our fears are confirmed as we begin to realize the nature of Judith's problem- her real passion. A new edition of this novel is coming out June 15 with an afterword by Mary Gordon, one of my favorite writers. Enjoy the beach and yes, Happy Bloomsday!