Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, We were at the Children's Library in Sea Cliff last week, waiting for our children to finish up with Chess Club when my friend Jen Sebetic told me about an author she had recently discovered- Barbara Pym. Well, I remember that Pym is a big favorite of yours also, so do you have a particular novel of hers that I might enjoy? Potential Pymite

Dear Potential , Your friend Jen has exquisite taste- Barbara Pym (1913-1980) wrote twelve books ,any of which I would heartily recommend . However, since this week is the annual Pym conference in Oxford, England (which of course myself and the entire Sea Cliff chapter of the Pym Society will be attending), I recommend you read CRAMPTON HODNET , this year's featured novel . Set in Oxford with its ancient colleges and medieval rituals and written decades ago, the novel has a surprisingly modern tone. It is a very funny take on village life, a village peopled by quirky characters including pretentious professors, young romantics, philandering spouses, and interfering relatives. There are three intersecting plot lines: the middle aged Cleveland's dalliances , the young Cleveland daughter's tryst with an insufferable future politician, and the lonely but very witty Jessie Morrow's passionless affair with a local clergyman (he forgets her name as he is proposing). Misread moments, tangled romances, and furtive escapades all make for a hilarious read.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, Last week I was at Sea Cliff Beach for Story Time . It was such fun- I loved the version of Red Riding Hood that was presented, especially when it turned out that the Wolf did not want to devour anyone- all he wanted was an invitation to the Anzalone/DiPietro wedding, which he received to cheers and great applause from the audience. Well, while we were all marveling at this unusual turn of events, someone mentioned a novel that also took liberties with a traditional story line. I think the title was DECEPTIONS but I'm not sure . Have you read it and if so would you recommend it? Fan of the Fractured Fairy Tale

Dear Fan of the Fractured Fairy Tale, That was a particularly clever retelling of Red Riding Hood and, yes, I have read DECEPTIONS by Rebecca Frayn, a celebrated British filmmaker and first time novelist. Set outside of London in the present time, the novel is narrated by Julian who is living with a young widow and her two children. Julian has just told the children that he and their mother are planning to marry in a few months. The twelve-year-old boy seems resentful but says little. The next day, he leaves for school and does not return; an extensive police search ensues. His whereabouts remain unknown until…… The title comes from the many truths about the boy, his friends, and his family that gradually unfold. Apparently, there have been multiple deceptions. The plot is riveting and the characters richly developed, especially Julian and Annie, the boy's mother. A real page turner!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, Wow- is Sea Cliff abuzz with excitement! This is the weekend of Gillian DiPietro and Joseph Anzalone's wedding ; myself and many of my friends will be attending so my time for reading will be somewhat limited , but do you have something wedding- related to recommend ? Wedding Well Wisher

Dear Wedding Well Wisher, Yes, I will be at the wedding too, and while I can barely contain my excitement, I think it is always wise at any time to do a little reading. With that in mind, I recommend THE SATURDAY BIG TENT WEDDING PARTY by Alexander McCall Smith. This is the latest installment in the very popular Ladies #1 Detective Agency series. Set in Botswana, these mysteries feature Precious Ramotswe as the founder and head of a detective agency whose cases involve the daily lives and transgressions of Precious's family and neighbors. While these novels are all sweetly satisfying, this one is a particular favorite of mine. Precious's assistant Ms. Makutsi is preparing to marry Mr. Radiphuti, the love of her life, and their wedding plans serve as the backdrop for three subplots: a cattle robbery, a runaway teenager, and an abusive employer. All works out in a clever and satisfying manner, and along the way we learn much about the culture of Botswana and the universal appeal of …weddings! Dearest wishes to Joe and Gillian on their special day!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, The streets of Sea Cliff always grow a little quieter in August with people going off on vacation, I guess. Where do they go when we all know Sea Cliff is the perfect vacation spot? Oh well, do you have a good novel for me to read during these hazy, lazy August days and nights? Summer Sea Cliff Sojourner

Dear SC Sojourner, Yes, it would be interesting to do a survey of our fellow citizens' whereabouts, but first I have an interesting book to recommend to you :THE BORROWER by Rebecca Makkai. It is a light but clever novel that delves into gender identity, religious fundamentalism, kid lit, anorexia, kidnapping, extortion, and Russian revolutionaries -with a children's librarian as its protagonist. Lucy Hull, a twenty-six year-old recent grad, finds herself as head of Hannibal Children's Library. Newly immersed in the books of her childhood, she finds herself empathizing with ten-year old Ian Hatch whose reading choices are severely limited by his dogmatic parents: no wizardry, no weaponry, no magic, no Roald Dahl and definitely no Harry Potter. Becoming fugitives of sorts, Ian and Lucy motor across the country from Missouri to Vermont with interesting stops and insights along the way. This is a sweet book that has a surprise ending.