Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, It is hard to believe this weekend is already Mini Mart Sunday! I'll be spending the day with the Friends of the Library- they are having spectacular book sale on the Village Green right in front of the Adult Library. Surrounded by all those books, I know I am going to crave something really good to read. Any thoughts? MiniMart Maven

Dear MiniMart Maven, Mini Mart Sunday ranks up there with Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween as a favorite holiday for me; our streets are filled with friends and strangers alike all enjoying our beautiful Village . But let me suggest a book I just finished and enjoyed tremendously: FAITH by Jennifer Haigh. Pat Guy who is a dear friend to all of Sea Cliff recommended this book to me a few weeks ago and I'm not sure why I resisted reading it. Perhaps I thought it would be a retelling of the play/movie DOUBT with its disturbing tale of clerical misconduct and bureaucratic cover-ups, but -no -this is a story of family: parents and children, in-laws and grandchildren, brothers and sisters. Whether it is Shelia, the younger sister who champions her brother Art, the priest with so many secrets, or their younger brother Mike who angrily tries to remove himself from the growing scandal, the pain and, yes, comfort offered by each of these relationships is captured in exquisite detail by the author. The characters' faith in religion, community, and friends is shown as slight when compared to the powerful influence family has had on their lives. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, I was at a great Autumnal Equinox barbecue in Sea Cliff this weekend and two of the partygoers- Justin DiPietro and Jenna Fendt- were discussing a book some of their friends had recommended - it was set in Rome and many of the city's artworks were spotlighted. It was a tricky title but I think the author was Mary Gordon. Do you know the book? Autumnal Celebrant

Dear Autumnal, Justin and Jenna's friends have excellent taste- LOVE OF MY YOUTH is a wonderful book written by one of my favorite authors: Mary Gordon. This is her latest and it is definitely a worthwhile read. Miranda and Adam meet accidentally in Rome after not having seen each other for almost forty years; both are happily married with spouses back in the States. When Adam offers to give Miranda a tour of his favorite Roman pieces of art, she reluctantly agrees. To add to our enjoyment and understanding, Gordon includes a map of their walking tour. As the couple goes from site to site, we learn more about their early lives and the more they reveal about each other, the more tantalizing is the question: what was it that caused their breakup? It is fascinating to look back in time and see how choices made long ago define and determine the present. As usual, Gordon uses art, global politics, feminism, family conflicts, and philosophical debates to make a simple story rich with meaning.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, Now that school year has begun, I feel the urge to learn, learn, and learn! I have always been interested in English history, especially the Tudors. While I was at the Sea Cliff Antiques Fair last week, someone mentioned a new take on Henry and his wives. Any thoughts? Youthful Antiquarian

Dear Youthful, The Antiques Fair was such fun! The Good of the Village Association did a fabulous job- I spent hours at the Kennedy-Biolsi-Marchese-DeMaio booth- their offerings were beautiful, well priced and artfully arranged- I can't wait for a reprise of this event. But let's get you started on your commendable pursuit of knowledge. WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel is just the book for you. Winner of a multitude of historical and literary awards, it offers a fascinating look at Henry VIII's life from the perspective of his brilliant commoner- assistant Thomas Cromwell. The intrigues of court life, the harshness of everyday existence- the deprivations, the illnesses , and, yes, the decadent luxuries enjoyed by the very few- are all captured here. The saints (Thomas More most strikingly) are toppled from their pedestals while history's villains (Cardinal Wolsey and yes, even Henry himself) are shown as flawed but appealing human beings. The book is long and the family trees are formidable, but you will quickly find yourself transported to a long ago time with strange echoes of the present.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, This is such a somber week with its many memorials and programs about 9/11. While I am planning on attending the service in front of the Children's Library this Sunday at 7pm, I would also like to read something that would help me understand what happened then and what is happening now. Do you have suggestions? A Concerned Citizen

Dear Concerned Citizen, Yes, an air of sadness permeates this week and while there are many, many books and documentaries to help us understand and remember, I was particularly moved by a novel that came out last month: THE SUBMISSION by Amy Waldman. Waldman tells a riveting tale: two years after the 9/11 attacks, New York City has commissioned a jury to choose a design for a memorial and from 5000 anonymous entries, the architect chosen is a young, urbane American whose name is Mohammad Khan, a Muslim. Islam, art, grief, politics, guilt, greed, and media all play roles in the unfolding story, but the author 's storytelling talent reaches its zenith in the development of her main characters: Mo, the architect, Claire, the widow panelist who represents the families of the victims, Geraldine Bitman, the first woman governor of New York who sees her political aspirations riding on this issue, Paul Rubin, a wealthy financier who wants to do the right thing as long as he is not inconvenienced, Asma, a young Bangladeshi woman whose husband was a 9/11 victim, illegally in this country, Laila, an attractive Pakistani lawyer who represents Mo, and Sean Gallagher, a young man filled with anger and guilt over his brother's death in the Twin Towers. The picture Waldman paints of the media frenzy and machinations of a multitude of special interest groups is not pretty but one senses it is very accurate. Highly recommended!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, I know you have been traveling in Europe this past week but do you have something good to recommend to your loyal readers to distract us from electric outages, falling trees, and flooded basements? Harassed by the Hurricane

Dear Harassed, Yes, while the Sea Cliff Chapter of the Barbara Pym Society weathered Hurricane Irene in cozy comfort at Oxford University, our thoughts were with our friends and family back home. Recognizing the furious force that weather can play in our lives, I suggest the 1997 classic - THE PERFECT STORM by Sebastian Junger. Based on a true story, this book tells of six men who go out on a fishing ship the Andrea Gail never to return. Each man's life is described in great detail as is the village they lived in, the bars they frequented, the families and friends they left behind. The author recreates the drama that worked its way out during the storm and the harrowing rescue attempts that only added to the tragic dimensions of this tale. While a short book (240 pages), it is an emotionally exhausting read but definitely worthwhile