Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  Last weekend was the perfect start of Summer 2015…. Sea Cliff Beach was beautiful, the Beach CafĂ©’s meals were delicious, and of, course, all Sea Cliff seemed filled with music and laughter!  While I was enjoying the beach with friends and family, a fellow beachgoer recommended a new psychological thriller about parenting, friendship, and betrayal. Any thoughts? Lover of Sea Cliff Summers

Dear Lover of Sea Cliff Summers, Yes,  Ann Koppel and her team do a great job keeping Sea Cliff Beach just about perfect, and yes- I have read that just about perfect book for a summer day: HER by Harriet Lane. Emma and Nina are two women in their mid forties at opposite ends of mothering.  Nina’s daughter is a teenager about to leave home while Emma’s children are infants .  Lane exquisitely  captures the tedium, the exhaustion, the drudgery of parenting young children, leaving the reader confused as to why Nina is so generously including   Emma in her glamorously sophisticated life .  As the two women describe the same events in alternating chapters, we come to realize there is much more going on here than the book’s attention to domestic details would indicate. With mounting horror, we await an explanation and the startling conclusion is well worth the wait.  Recommended!

 P.S.  A reminder- Saturday, May 30 at 1pm on the front lawn of the Children's Library,  there will be a celebration of Sea Cliff Library's Centennial . Stop by for refreshments and a tour of the newly renovated building!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  This weekend Sea Cliff Beach opens- what fun! And then on Monday, we have the annual Memorial Day Parade starting at 9am at Memorial Park and ending up at Clifton Park. As usual, Phil Como will organize and host this bittersweet event. Do you have something short for me to read since there will be little time with all that’s going on in the Village?   Parade Enthusiast

Dear Parade Enthusiast,  I just finished a lovely, very short book about a woman  we meet as a young girl in rural Ireland in 1944 and follow for sixty years: ACADEMY STREET by Mary Costello. We travel with Tess to America and watch as her life plays out in New York City. Throughout we hear her voice and it is singularly lyrical and haunting. Was it the early death of her mother, her father’s stoic harshness, her life as an outsider, an immigrant- what was it that made her so introspective, so detached, so seemingly unlucky in life? Her son at one point coldly asks “Do you ever think you might be beyond people?”   The Vietnam War, the Kennedy assassination, New York City’s changing landscape, 9/11- all serve as backdrop to Tess’s  story ;  we are touched by her noble spirit- a spirit that endures despite astonishing misfortune.  Tess is the person we pass on the street and never really see but whose life is incredibly rich in emotion and insight. A truly beautiful book- highly recommended!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was at the Beach Cleanup this week and met so many great new people. One of them mentioned a book which was about beautiful little animal figurines but was really the history of an extraordinary family. Sounds strange, I know, but she said it was fascinating… Any thoughts? Lover of Sea Cliff Beach

Dear Lover of Sea Cliff Beach,  The beach looks spectacular and thanks to all of those who came out on Saturday to take part in the cleanup! THE HARE WITH AMBER EYES by Edmund De Waal is a story of gains and losses, triumph and defeat, things large and small…   spread over many years and many countries. The book begins in Paris 1871.  Charles Ephrussi, the fabulously wealthy son of a fabulously wealthy family amasses a large collection of netsuke- tiny Japanese  animal carvings- none bigger than a matchbook. We travel across Europe into the lavish, art-filled homes of the Ephrussis with the book ending in Tokyo 2007 where one of the remaining family members has settled;  much has gone on in between.   The Ephrussis were Russian Jews who began a grain business in the early 1800’s and then branched out over Europe making fortunes in a myriad of fields. However, their wealth could not shield them from the virulent anti-Semitism of twentieth century Europe.   Eventually, the family is disbursed over three continents, possessions gone, and lives destroyed.  Throughout, we follow the netsuke collection as it comes to represent the Ephrussis’s strength and vulnerability.   Highly recommended!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was on a wonderful  family vacation in Spain last week- we visited Granada, Madrid, and Barcelona. Now I would like to read some fiction with a Barcelona setting so that I can prolong the experience.  Any suggestions?  Basking in Barcelona Glow

Dear Basking,  I read a fascinating book set in 1950’s  Barcelona- THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafron – this novel has been a bestseller in Spain for many years and was recently translated into English.  Some critics have compared it to works by Dickens, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Stephen King, and Jorge Luis Borges and it does indeed contain elements of all these. Young Daniel Sempere is the ten- year- old son of a widowed book seller. His father as a birthday treat brings him to the Cemetery of Dead Books – a used bookstore- where he instructs him to pick one book as a gift;  legend holds that book  will decide his destiny.  Daniel chooses “The Shadow of the Wind” by a little known author Julian Carax and indeed, this choice determines his life’s course.  We follow Daniel as he matures, falls in love, and meets a colorful array of characters, while his fortunes ebb and flow in a truly Dickensian manner. There is magic, there is bawdy humor, there is mystery- all spread over 500 pages, but so beautifully written that the reader yearns for more.  Recommended!