Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was at a wonderful concert last week at the Bitter End in Manhattan: Antigone Rising with Sea Cliff’s own Kristen Henderson and  Nini Camps. Much of Sea Cliff was there to join in the fun and, sure enough, during a break in the music, a group next to me started discussing their book club’s latest pick- a collection of linked short stories that spanned eleven centuries. It sounded intriguing…any thoughts?                                  Fan of Antigone Rising

Dear Fan,   I too am a great fan of Antigone Rising and so enjoyed that sense of the moveable feast that is Sea Cliff.  IDEAS OF HEAVEN: A RING OF STORIES by Joan Silber is indeed a perfect choice for a book group.  Each story stands alone but minor characters in one emerge as major players in the next with many fascinating linkages and all told from a different character’s point of view.  We meet Alice in the opening story as a teenager and follow her over forty years to meet her again in the closing story which is her husband’s.  In between we read of a sadistic dance instructor, an Italian poet from the sixteenth century, an American missionary caught up in the Boxer Rebellion of 1906, and a French widower living through the tumultuous 1960’s. Each so different but all sharing  a common longing:  the longing to be complete- an idea of heaven.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  I had a great meal the other night at Still Partners-Chef John Doran prepared a delicious array of fish, chicken, and pasta dishes that we all enjoyed.  At a nearby table,  I heard someone mention a popular summer novel she had enjoyed. It was about a family and their friends renting a home together and the problems that arose.  Any thoughts? Enjoying the Summer

Dear Enjoying the Summer,  I agree- we  are really lucky in Sea Cliff with our great dining choices and I do especially love listening in on literary conversations.  My guess is your fellow diner was referring to the very popular New York Times bestseller THE VACATIONERS  by Emma Straub. Set in Majorca (seems like a popular spot this summer), the novel is told from the  viewpoints of its seven characters: Franny, matriarch and food critic; Jim, her husband who has been forced out of his job because of brief romance with the daughter of one of his bosses; Bobby, their 28 year-old son and his much older personal trainer girlfriend Carmen; Sylvia,their 18 year-old daughter who is looking ahead to college and her reinvention; and, finally, Charles and Lawrence, friends of Franny’s.  All these characters arrive at the vacation home with secrets and sorrows. Living in close proximity doesn’t make any of these go away and before the two weeks of vacation has ended, the reader is left wondering why anyone would want to leave home.  A quick, breezy read!

Some of my readers might be interested in another book I read this week: A GREAT AND HOLY WAR  by Philip Jenkins.  The author show how religion and spiritualism fueled the First World War and created our modern day world with its never-ending clashes of Christians, Jews, and Muslims.   Armageddon, Our Lady of Fatima, and the Armenian genocide are just a few of the topics this fascinating book discusses. From Africa to North America, Jenkins shows his readers how religion determined the outcome of World War I. Highly recommended!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru, Last weekend I had a fabulous time at Sea Cliff Beach’s Friday Night Music. Sue Giordano has been organizing these evenings for many years and this opening night was  spectacular with both the Roger Friedman Band and Joe Ciampa’s band RiDe performing- truly  double the pleasure! While there, I heard a group of fellow music lovers talking about a new book they had all recently read- a psychological thriller whose lead character was particularly loathsome. Any ideas?                                       Fan of Sand and Music

Dear Fan of Sand and Music, Listening to the amazing music at Sea Cliff Beach this weekend, I too vowed to return every Friday. Also, this weekend, I read the SUMMER HOUSE WITH SWIMMING POOL by Herman Koch who wrote the widely acclaimed: THE DINNER. The title SUMMER HOUSE … is a play on fatuous vacation real estate offerings, but there is little playful about this novel.  Marc Schlosser is a successful physician to a star filled roster of actors, producers, singers, and models.  His practice is based on keeping these celebrity patients happy by accepting- no, actively encouraging- their less than healthy lifestyles, in addition to offering a steady supply of drugs.  In the first chapter Marc is accused of murdering one of his well-known patients and for the rest of the book we travel back and forth over the previous year to learn how these charges came about.   He is a despicable character, but the story is compelling and cries out to be read in one sitting. Not as good as THE DINNER but recommended, nevertheless.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  This past weekend was such great fun that I did not want it to end. With Happy Birthday USA, Sunset Serenade,  the Fourth of July celebration on the Village Green, the Patriots’ Parade down Sea Cliff  Avenue, the dedication of Lincoln Plaza, the Beach Palooza, fireworks,  parties all over town…. there was little time for reading but now I see some lazy, hazy summer days lying ahead. Do you have something good to suggest?  Lover of Summer and Books

Dear Lover of Summer and Books,  I too wished this Sea Cliff week of wonders would not end. While I loved every minute of every event, I did find time to read a short, perfect vacation novel- THE LEMON GROVE by Helen Walsh.  The book details one week in the life of Greg, Jenn and their daughter Emma as they finish up their annual vacation in a lovely seaside villa in Majorca, an island off the coast of Spain. Sun filled days at the beach, local wines, delicious lunches and dinners in tiny romantic inns are all  lovingly described- truly an idyllic summer.  Everything changes with the arrival of Emma’s new boyfriend Nathan, and gradually we realize that change is indeed the theme of this book.  A career ends, a beloved restaurant is demolished,  parent-child relationships shift- all in the waning days of this most memorable of vacations. A truly thought-provoking book!