Monday, March 25, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  There are so many Easter and Passover celebrations all over Sea Cliff this week and one of my favorites is the Egg Hunt at Spooky Park on Dayton Street- always at 10:30am the Friday before Easter Sunday.  So many children, so many adults, so much fun!   After it's over, I am meeting with friends for lunch at Musu, the exciting new sushi restaurant,  where Once Upon a Moose had  long been located.  There we will be deciding on a novel for our April  book group discussion.  Any suggestions?  Eager Egg Hunter

Dear Eager,  Gwynne and Mike Lennon have organized this events for years and you are right: it is great fun!   The book I would recommend for your group is A THOUSAND PARDONS by Jonathan Dee. This is a tale of a marriage gone very bad.  Ben, a partner in a prestigious New York City law firm,  after a lifetime of circumspect behavior,  makes a very bad decision that ends his career, his marriage, his life as he knew it. .. Helen, his wife of eighteen years, sells the family home, and embarks on a strange odyssey during which she discovers a unique talent: she can make the most arrogant of men ask for pardon. Church officials, politicians, restaurateurs, Hollywood celebrities- all guilty of myriad sins, find public redemption by following Helen's dictate: ask for forgiveness.  Ben, Helen, and their daughter Sara are beautifully crafted characters and the book has many humorously touching moments. You will never again see a public figure apologizing for his misdeeds without thinking of this book.  A good read!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru, I was waiting with friends to hear the Sea Cliff Village election results, when I overheard a couple discussing a new book set in East Asia with an intriguing title. Well, there was such cheering and applause when the Kennedy/Vogt/Lieberman victory was announced, I couldn't catch the exact title. Any ideas?  Election Night Celebrant

Dear Election Night Celebrant, I was at the election lockdown too and what fun it was!  Although it was an uncontested election, the candidates ran a spirited campaign. The hero of the book you are interested in is also spirited and the book a great choice for the upcoming weekend: HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA by Mohsin Hamid. Written in the form (very loosely) of a self-help manual, the novel takes us through the life of our nameless hero from his early boyhood in a rural village through the decades to a spectacular conclusion. His lifelong companion also unnamed is referred to always as "the pretty girl." The politics, the violence, the vitality of this turbulent time and place is skillfully recorded but it is the author's description of the universal rise and fall of human vitality that is most memorable. Whether we see our hero as a young teenager selling DVDs or as a successful businessman creating an empire built on the need for clean water, or as an elderly man bereft of health and wealth, we find ourselves always empathizing with his plight. Highly recommended!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  Someone told me that this coming weekend is the North American Barbara Pym Society conference and , in addition to the normal festivities,  it is a celebration of her 100th birthday. I have never read a Barbara Pym novel but many of my friends are great fans of hers. Do you have a favorite Pym novel that I might begin with? Possible Pymian

Dear Possible Pymian,  The Pym Society  of Sea Cliff's members- the Hansmann-Kennedys and the DiPietros among others-will be attending the conference in full force this weekend. Every March during Harvard's spring break the Pym Society takes over the campus with lectures, dramatized readings, dinners, testimonials and general Pymian  good fun. This year's conference is sold out but do plan on attending next year. I would recommend any of her books, but a favorite of mine is one  of her earlier works: JANE AND PRUDENCE.  Set in both  1950's London and a small, unnamed village (strangely reminiscent of Sea Cliff?) , the novel tells the parallel stories of 42 year-old Jane, the kindhearted, brilliant but scattered wife of the clergyman Nicholas Cleveland , and Prudence, a  29 year-old  beautifully elegant single woman with a penchant for unfulfilling infatuations with married academicians.  As in all Pym's novels, the plot line is secondary to the character development and we soon become intimately involved in the lives of these two women. There is much humor and insight in this novel- highly recommended !

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  Last weekend I was at a party at the Sans Souci  to honor Jimmy O'Donnell, the much beloved head of the Sea Cliff Public Works Department.  What a great party !  Well over 100 people attended and everyone  seemed to have a story to tell of Jimmy and his  wife Alice and their many contributions to the Village.  I came away loving Sea Cliff even more and as an added bonus, I have a new author to follow.  While waiting for the speeches to begin, I overheard someone say that Brad Meltzer's books are great fun- suspenseful, historical, and filled with political intrigue.  Have you read any of his books and, if so, where shall I start?             An O'Donnell Groupie

Dear O'Donnell Groupie,   I share your enthusiasm for  both the O'Donnells and  the author  Brad Meltzer. I suggest you start with his THE INNER CIRCLE . Set in the National Archives Building in Washington D.C., the book illuminates a world few of us ever get to see. Beecher White,a twenty-eight year-old government archivist, meets up with childhood sweetheart Clementine Kaye- a woman as daring as he is meek.  Together they stumble upon a dictionary in the archives that belonged to George Washington and now appears to be the focus of a  murderous cover-up involving  the present President of the United States.  Meltzer's characters are colorful, the conspiracy believable, and the plot fast moving.  A good read!

Don't forget: Sea Cliff Civic Association's annual Meet the Candidates this Tuesday, March 12 at 8pm in Village Hall. Bring your questions for Mayor Bruce Kennedy, Trustee Carol Vogt, and Trustee Candidate Ed Lieberman.