Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, I was at a Beat the Winter Blues party last week and the conversation turned (as so many do) to the latest books read and enjoyed. A few people mentioned a new novel that traces a couple's relationship over a twenty year period- from the late 80's to the present. It sounded interesting but no one could remember the title. Any thoughts, and if so, would you recommend it? Winter Reader

Dear Winter Reader, Those Beat the Winter Blues parties are cropping up all over Sea Cliff and seem to be very effective in accomplishing their goal. I attended one myself with Eda D'Amico, Carol Vogt, Jackie Warren, Kathy Calzonetti, Linda McCormack, and Nancy Gordon, and the sun began to shine almost immediately. But back to the book - I'm sure it was ONE DAY by David Nicholls- a fast, light read (although 445 pages)- but definitely worthwhile. Emma and Dexter meet in 1987 as they are graduating from the University of Edinburgh. She is earnest, smart, and hardworking; Dexter… well , Dexter is a golden boy who has everything : money, lovers, friends, an adoring family (take a guess where this will go…). They maintain a twenty-year friendship which see fortunes made and reversed, a myriad of triumphs and defeats, and long searches for careers and spouses. The technique- which is quite effective- is to have the couple talk or meet each year on July 21 at which point we learn what events took place during the year- some predictable, some shocking, always darkly humorous. Throughout, we feel an affection for the pair and wish them well- whatever that involves.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, What a dreary day,-rain, snow, winds- when will it end? Please recommend a good book to get me through the January blues- something cozy, something spirited, something I'll like! Desperate in Sea Cliff

Dear Desperate, January is my least favorite month and while my choice is never to leave Sea Cliff, I did spend the past weekend in Florida's South Beach. The sun and warm weather were fine, but the best part of the trip was the glorious, uninterrupted time to read. I was able to devour three great books: ROOM WITH A VIEW (for my Sunday Dinner book group), a wonderful Hazel Holt mystery (I'll save that for another column), and MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND by Helen Simonson, (my recommendation for you). This is a first novel by an Englishwoman who although having lived in Brooklyn for over twenty years has retained a keen appreciation for the nuances of British manners and mores. Major Pettigrew was born in India in the early 1940's, son of English colonel whose claim to fame lay in his mythic rescue of a maharishi's daughter during the disastrous partition of India. For this deed he received a dual set of rifles, each now owned by one of his sons The novel opens with the death of the Major's younger brother and immediately the question of the rifles' ownership arises. Dark humor permeates the book with a strong touch of sweet romance and virulent racism- all centered on the lovely Mrs. Ali, a Pakistani widow, who runs a local convenience store in the Major's village. We watch with great interest as Major Pettigrew "grows "beyond his "petty" class concerns and takes a stand

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru,
Have you noticed how Sea Cliff is abuzz with book talk? It seems every place I go, people are talking about books . With that in mind, do you have a quick read that will hold my attention and give me something to add to the community conversation? Interested in Book Talk

Dear Interested, Sea Cliff is indeed a village of readers! One local café- B Brown's- has become a veritable literary salon. This Sunday while eating delicious French toast covered with plums and dollops of honey and yogurt, I found myself in the midst of a heated discussion of favorite books. Jim and Chris Schatz, breakfasting with their children, offered up THE ENDER'S GAME, a novel that presciently foretold the cyber world we now inhabit, while their daughter Nicole suggested we all read THE MAZE RUNNER, part of a sci fi trilogy. At another table John Canning and Joan Accolla made numerous recommendations including a new biography of Marshall McLuhan. It was a spirited debate that the Gordons and DiPietros quickly joined into. What an intellectually stimulating morning! But back to your request for a quick read- I loved the latest John Grisham- THE CONFESSION. Many readers feel they have moved beyond Grisham claiming his books are too formulaic, too trite, but this latest novel is a great read on many levels. Capital punishment, especially in the state of Texas, is the focus with well-developed characters and a fast moving plot. Although we know the outcome early on, the suspense remains almost unbearable. Our sympathies are with the inmate and his family, with the minister who bravely tries to right a very wrong situation, and the frenetic lawyer who knows and cares too much.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, Sure I know the holidays are over but I can't seem to get into the spirit of the new year. I feel a bad case of the January blues coming on. Can you suggest something to keep those jingle bells jingling? Dreading 2011

Dear Dreading, I know what you mean- January can be a very rough month but I do have some ideas. First, and this might seem scandalous coming from the Book Guru- what about organizing a cinema club with some friends? There are so many great movies out just now- the week after Christmas, Eda D'Amico, Kathy Calzonetti, Nancy Gordon, Dan DiPietro and I formed a merry troupe and saw a movie a day: THE FIGHTER, THE BLACK SWAN, TRUE GRIT, THE RABBIT HOLE, and THE KING'S SPEECH. Each of these movies was great ,well worth seeing and discussing. But if you are really looking for a book to throw yourself into, I suggest giving THE CORRECTIONS by Jonathan Franzen another try. I say that because so many people have begun this book and put it down- possibly because of its length (600 pages) or perhaps because of its numerous story lines. After having read and enjoyed FREEDOM by Franzen, I decided to read this- his earlier work . Well, it was wonderful- far better actually than FREEDOM. The premise is that an elderly woman- Enid Lambert- loves Christmas for all its nostalgic rituals and desperately wants her three grown children to spend the holidays together with her and her ailing husband Alfred. These five characters each have their own stories and we go back and forth among all of them. In truth, the stories could be read as separate novellas- all with the same overriding theme: at any point we can correct or change our lives.