Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru,   I am headed this weekend for the Sea Cliff Civic Association's Village-Wide Garage Sale and my first stop will be the Friends of the Library Book Sale right outside the library. Do you have a suggestion as to what I might keep an eye out for?             Book Browser/ Buyer

Dear Browser/Buyer,  What fun this weekend will be and I too will be right there with you at the Library sale. Carol Poll and her fabulous team have been gathering and sorting for weeks so I'm sure you will find some literary jewels . My recommendation to you is AFTERWARDS  by Rosamund Lupton. A mystery surely but much more, this novel is set in present day England at a very expensive private school- Sidley House. Eighteen year old Jenny , recently graduated from Sidley, is working there as a nurse's assistant for the summer. She and  her brother Adam, an eight-year old student at the school, are trapped in a terrible fire which turns out to have been deliberately set. Their mother Nancy races into the building to save them and eventually discovers that her children are not random victims but instead the chosen objects of this terrible crime. As the mystery unfolds we learn about class warfare, school  finances, overachieving teens and underachieving parents, all from the perspective of  comatose Nancy who tries to solve this mystery . While some readers might be put off by this device, it does offer an interesting way to get into the minds of so many characters.  Grace discovers that people are seldom who they appear to be and situations are never as simple as we would like. An exciting and worthwhile read!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru,  Memorial Day weekend in Sea Cliff with its  sweet parade and lovely ceremony at Clifton Park always fills me patriotic fervor. Also, of course, Sea Cliff Beach officially opens, so I would love to lie  on the sand with a good book about American history, but with a  somewhat different twist.Any thoughts?   Sunshine Patriot                                                                                                                                                 

Dear Sunshine,   I have just the book for you:  ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER  by Seth Grahame- Smith. My erudite friends Jim and Chris Schatz both recommended this book to me a few weeks ago. In fact, Jim specifically recommended it as a beach read, but I disagree: it is much more than that. The book, after you get past the title, is really a fascinating study of good and evil using the vampire myth as metaphor. Grahame-Smith traces the struggle between these Miltonic forces, beginning with the mysterious disappearance of the lost colony of Roanoke, through the French and Indian Wars, the American Revolution, the conflicts leading up to and including the Civil War, culminating in the Civil Rights marches of the 1960's. Using actual letters and newspaper accounts, the author traces the violence that permeated our culture to a longstanding clash between good and evil with Abraham Lincoln as the pivotal  player in this drama.  While farfetched at times, the novel is always entertaining and its treatment of  actual history illuminating . Lincoln emerges as an even more complex and admirable figure than our history books have portrayed him. A good read!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru,  I am so excited. .. my husband and I and two other couples have decided to start a monthly book club and we will be meeting this week to discuss what to read and some basic logistics. Do you have any suggestions to help us get started?         Eager to Discuss                                                                                   

Dear Eager,  What a great idea and interestingly, this weekend the DiPietros, the Marcheses, and the Hansmann-Kennedys  have formed just such a group. They met at Diane's in Roslyn for a delicious dinner followed by an even more delicious discussion of  the opening book of THE FORSYTE SAGA  by John Galsworthy- an excellent choice- one you and your friends might consider. Set in  the early twentieth century, the novel chronicles a time, a class, a world long over but shockingly contemporary in many ways.  Soames Forsyte is "a man of property" who values money, real estate, and power. He sees  all of life through this dark prism and is deeply frustrated when  his wife -the beautiful  Irene (arguably his most valued "property")- is repulsed by him and all he treasures. Her love affair with the architect Bosinnery  forms the dramatic heart of the novel but the larger story is that of the Forsyte family- a cast of over thirty; these people despise and distrust each other, covet one another's possessions and good fortunes, but are curiously drawn to the idea of family, spending countless hours together. Oh, yes- back to your group: I would suggest choosing a restaurant you all enjoy,  a time where you won't be rushed (Sundays are a good choice), and, of course,  when it comes to selecting a book- the Great Book Guru is always here for you!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru,  I just received a mailing from the Sea Cliff Civic Association and I am so excited about all the events that are coming up over the next few months. I am definitely planning on taking part in their  village-wide Garage Sale on June 2 and, yes, that very weekend will be my twenty-five year high school reunion. When will I find time to read? Help!!!   A Busy Bibliophile

Dear Busy Bibliophile,  How funny you should mention your class reunion because last night, I finished a novel that deals with just that subject.  THE RED BOOK by Deborah C. Kogan takes its title from the red book that Harvard publishes for its alumni every five years. Made up of autobiographical sketches each graduate submits, the red book is eagerly awaited and serves as an informative prelude to the reunion weekend. Kogan focusues on four alumni, contrasting the brief facts each writes with the real life each is living.  We follow the four across the country to a world they had inhabited twenty years ago. Good and bad decisions, illnesses, financial triumphs and disasters, 9/11, the  collapse of the newspaper industry -all play roles in this novel.  The characters are cleverly described in alternating chapters so we come to feel we really know them; then we are catapulted another five years to their twenty-fifth anniversary where much has changed once again. This book is easy to dismiss with its simple plot and chatty style, but the overall effect is quite moving.  I hope your reunion has less drama than this one but you never know….

PS  If you are in Sea Cliff this Friday, May 11 at 3pm, stop by the Children's Library for the annual Maypole Dance/ Founders' Day celebration. As in past years,  Walter and Petrice Kaider will graciously "plant" the Maypole for all of us to enjoy.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru, I would like to buy my mother a book next week for Mother's Day- something she would really enjoy. She loved the Woody Allen movie MIDNIGHT IN PARIS which detailed the 1920's in Paris with cameo appearances by Flapper Age luminaries.  Can you recommend a surefire winner?           Devoted Daughter

Dear Devoted, I just had this same conversation with my friend Deb Pierce; her mother, like Deb, is  a voracious reader so a good book is always the perfect gift for her. I suggested PARIS WIFE by Paula McLain and this would be a particularly fine choice for you too.  Set largely in 1920's Paris, the novel is told from the perspective of Ernest Hemingway's first wife Hadley Richardson. When we first meet Hadley, she is twenty-eight years-old, living unhappily with her sister and brother-in-law outside of Chicago. Her career as a pianist is going nowhere and her marriage prospects seem dim, when she meets the twenty- year-old Hemingway. Both have had strained relationships with powerful families and find themselves  instantly drawn to each other. Within weeks, they have married and are headed off for Paris where Hemingway hopes to launch his literary career. Once there,  the couple finds the dazzling lifestyle of the Lost Generation to be in stark contrast to the horrific devastation brought about by the Great War. Detailed  descriptions of  Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce , Ezra Pound , John Dos Passos and many other familiar names form a fascinating backdrop to the story of this most conventional of Hemingway's many marriages. A good read!