Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru, With the Labor Day weekend coming up and the Beach Committee's Family Day on Sunday, September 1, it is going to be a fun time here in Sea Cliff, but as usual I am looking for a good read. I would like a little suspense. Any suggestions?       Labor Day Enthusiast and  Reader

Dear Reader,  While I will be in England  this week, celebrating Barbara Pym's  centennial with the other members of the Pym Society of Sea Cliff, I will be thinking of all my friends  here in Sea Cliff on this glorious holiday weekend.  I just finished a book you might enjoy:  A PERSON OF INTEREST  by Susan Choi.  Choi's novel combines two high profile cases of the early 2000's- the Unabomber and Wen Ho Lee, a scientist falsely accused of espionage.  Choi's person of interest is not a particularly appealing character- Professor Lee is a rather elderly Asian -American who has a tenured position in the math department  of a third rate mid -western university. He is suspicious, jealous, and intractable. The novel opens with the violent death of a charismatic young math teacher whose office Lee shares. Why was this young man chosen- or was he chosen? Could Lee have been  the target or was Lee actually  the perpetrator?  As we watch with horror, we see Lee making mistake after mistake, cementing public opinion against him.  Lee  gradually reveals his shameful past  , but we continue to root for him as more and more damaging circumstantial evidence is unearthed. This  is a fascinating study of the power of fear, antipathy, prejudice and 'otherness'… and how all of us are complicit.  Recommended!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I plan to spend this last August weekend at Sea Cliff Beach under one of those beautiful blue stripped umbrellas. Of course, I am looking for something to read under that umbrella- a page turner, something seasonal, a culmination of sorts. Any suggestions? Loving the Last Days of August

Dear Loving the Last Days of August,  Last year Joan Neuhoff, a most discerning reader, suggested THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh but somehow I never got around to reading it. Then my dear friend Jackie Hudak, a reader extraordinaire, gave me a copy plus a glowing review of its contents. How right Joan and Jackie were!  The book is a tale of despair, damage, and ultimately redemption.  We meet Victoria Jones at age eighteen, alone and wary after years in the foster care system. Despite many missteps, she finds  her redemption through an old Victorian custom of expressing emotions through flowers- the language of flowers.  Alternating chapters record Victoria's present and past , and while we learn in painful detail of the events which determined her life's trajectory, we also see the restorative powers of nature.  A wonderful summer read!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,   Last weekend, I was in Martha's Vineyard  with  the Anzalones, DiPietros and Marcheses,  enjoying a day at the Edgartown beach when the conversation turned to favorite authors. One of the group enthusiastically proclaimed her newest favorite was Kate Atkinson.  Have you read any of her books and, if so, which one would you recommend I begin with?                                                Vacationing in MV but Missing Sea Cliff

Dear Vacationing,   How funny- Kate Atkinson's name came up just the other day.  Shelia Wenger and I were discussing  the  Good of the Village Antique Fair (which is scheduled for September 7 at the St.Boniface 's Field).   Having recently read  LIFE AFTER LIFE, Atkinson's latest novel,  I was  trying to describe to Shelia how much I enjoyed it,  but it is a very difficult book to explain.  We meet Ursula Todd on the day of her birth:  February 11, 1910- the night she dies- which is also the night she is saved from death, for  Ursula is to die and escape death many , many times throughout this  five hundred page saga  of  twentieth century England . The upper class family life of the Todds  is  beautifully described in Downton Abbey detail ,but the devastation of war torn London is even more vividly described.  Buddhism, chance, fate, déjà vu - all color this story and by the middle of the book we  begin to find an eerie comfort in  knowing that  despite terrible suffering and miraculous triumphs , nothing is final.  We mourn characters  who die tragically only to meet them  in subsequent chapters alive, happy and posed for new adventures.   This is a very unusual novel  and highly recommended!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  While at the  Sea Cliff Civic Association's Teen Serenade this week,  I met a friend who had just finished a novel she said was based on a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, but definitely meant for adult readers.  During these lazy, hazy days of August, I am captivated by  its title: SNOW CHILD. Have you read it?  Lover of Summer and Snow

Dear Lover of Summer and Snow,  I really enjoyed the Teen Serenade- what talented  young musicians we have here in Sea Cliff!  Yes, I have read  THE SNOW CHILD  by Eowyn Ivey - actually during the height of our recent heat wave and found it a refreshing and unusual novel.  Set in Alaska in the 1920's, the book opens with Mabel,  a transplanted Virginian trying unsuccessfully to  drown herself in the icy waters near her homestead.  Her husband Jack and she are despondent as they face another winter with little food, friendship,  or fuel. The death of an infant child years before continues to haunt them.  Into this grim story wanders a small sprite of a child who seems at first to be seen only by them but over time becomes a vital part of the small, struggling farm community. The harsh beauty of the land is as much a character in the book as Faina, their snow child.   What is magic, what is real - these are the questions that haunt the reader long after the story has ended.  A lovely, lovely book!

Readers, check out Tim and Cathy Madden's fabulous  online  news site:  northwordnews.com