Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I am planning a trip to Italy in the next few weeks- of course, I will be back for all Sea Cliff's wonderful upcoming events: the Landmarks House Tour on May 19, the Memorial Day Parade, and the spectacular Village-wide Garage Sale on June 1- but meanwhile, I would like something to read to begin my Italian immersion .  We will be visiting the Amalfi  Coast region. Any suggestions?   An Amalfi Adventurer

Dear Amalfi Adventurer, We just came back from an amazing vacation planned by our friend Toni Montello, expert on all of Italy! One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to Pompeii and I'm sure you will want to go there too.  Robert Harris's POMPEII is a great mood-setter for this excursion. Set in Pompeii   69AD, two days before Vesuvius erupts, the novel gives a fascinating look into the culture, geography, and history of that ill-fated city. It is told from the perspective of a young engineer Attillius who has been sent from Rome to manage the vast aqueducts that provide water for the area. Something is terribly wrong- fish are dying, strange cracks are appearing, the water flow is slowing , and it is his job to find out why.  The lavish life style of the rich, the harsh existence of the poor and enslaved, and the political corruption that permeates the society are all recorded, but we alone know that it is all to end within hours.   A compelling read!

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was at the Doherty Family Rubber Ducky Hunt this weekend and as usual, it was great, great fun!  The conversation soon turned to books with Big Jim Doherty mentioning that he was looking for a new mystery to put on his Kindle. None of us could think of one off hand. What would you suggest?                 Duck Hunt Devotee

Dear Duck Hunt Devotee,  How appropriate for the Duck Hunt- Donna Leon's newest book THE GOLDEN EGG (think the goose that laid the golden egg!). .. Leon is a native  New Yorker who has lived in Italy for over thirty years . Her stories are set in Venice and the hero of her 22 books is Guido Brunetti, a sophisticated, classics scholar turned police commissioner who relishes in family dinners and word games with his academician wife and two teenage children.  There is little violence if any in this mystery and we are unsure if a crime has been committed, but we do know that there has been an injustice that must be addressed.  A young man appears to have committed suicide, his mother is acting strangely, and , oh yes, there is no record of his ever having existed. With many asides about  cyber loss of privacy, political corruption, and spurious piety,  Brunetti more or less solves the case but was there a case to begin with?  An excellent read for the weekend!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,   I was at the Sea Cliff Yacht Club over the weekend and I noticed a  large group of people gathering for what I assume was a book signing by a local author. The crowd seemed very enthusiastic- I was wondering who the author was and if you had read his book?   Book Signing Spectator

Dear Book Signing Spectator, What a shame you didn't come join us! The author was Dan Fagin, a Sea Cliff luminary and journalist/author extraordinaire. He gave a riveting reading and a summary of his much acclaimed TOMS RIVER, the story of a town in southern New Jersey, a town whose name  over the years came be synonymous with tainted water,  industrial  pollution, and childhood cancers. Dan's book is a fascinating amalgam of science, politics, history, and biography. He weaves a story of valor and cowardice, virtue and corruption, from Basel, Switzerland to a factory town in central China,  but  the heart of the story is always the parents and children of Toms River who suffered much  and fought to find out why and how this could  have happened in their town.  Highly recommended!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  Some of my friends attended a book discussion with members of libraries from all over Long Island's  North Shore community .  What a great idea- to have scores of people read the same book and then gather to discuss it and share insights. Were you there and what book was chosen for this year's event? Sorry to Have Missed It

Dear Sorry, Oh yes, I would not have missed the annual Long Island Reads event which once again took place at the Metropolitan in Glen Cove.  Readers from Locust Valley, Sea Cliff, Bayville, Glen Head, Roslyn, Glen Cove, the Brookvilles, Oyster Bay, East Norwich,  and Glenwood Landing were in attendance, and the book discussed was SUTTON  by Long Island author J.R.  Moehringer.  It was great fun and John Canning did a masterful job in moderating the discussion.  SUTTON  is a fictional recapturing  of the life and times of the infamous  bank robber Willie Sutton. Told from the perspective of Sutton himself, the novel takes place on Christmas Eve, the day Sutton is released from Attica Prison.  He and a young  idealistic reporter and  a world weary photographer revisit  fourteen sites that played pivotal roles in Sutton's life.  We travel through time and place from his childhood in the early 1900's in downtown Brooklyn to all the boroughs of New York City in 1969. The anger felt by so many (including Moehringer himself)  towards the banking industry  permeates this book .   Throughout time there  has been a fascination with the "good crook" - think Robin Hood-  and Willie Sutton certainly qualifies as such. A fascinating read!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was at a lovely Easter dinner party in Sea Cliff- delicious food and wonderful company- when the conversation turned to books. One of the guests mentioned having read an exciting novel that she said reminded her of the literary thriller bestseller GONE GIRL but it involved a gourmet meal.  Any thoughts?   Seeker of Literary Thrills

Dear Seeker,  We too had a great Easter and, in addition to delicious food and wonderful company, we enjoyed a spectacular production of "The Country Bunny and the Golden Shoes" in which Ethan, Lara, Jenna, Justin, Alexis, Daniel and Dan DiPietro starred. But back to the book you are asking about- THE DINNER  by Herman Koch. A bestseller in Europe, it was translated from the original Dutch and released here last month where it is already on everyone's must read list.  Set in a preciously pretentious Dutch restaurant, the novel opens with aperitifs and ends with digestives; in between we listen to two brothers and their wives discuss the holidays, real estate holdings,  their children.  The narrator is a  retired school teacher with serious sibling rivalry problems. His brother is a charismatic politician- think Bill Clinton- who is about to become prime minister if  only the two couples can find a way out of a horrific situation not of their making….or is it?  As we move from one course to the next,  our narrator reveals more and more about himself and his dinner companions until the final moment when we realize  that all evening we have been in the presence of pure evil.   Highly recommended !