Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  I am headed off with my family on a tour of Ireland and I am bringing along books by Colm Toibin,  Mary Costello, and  Deirdre Madden- Irish novelists you have recommended in the past.  I would also love to read something about Irish history- any suggestions?  Emerald Isle Enthusiast

Dear Emerald Isle Enthusiast, I have two books to recommend: MODERN IRELAND: A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION by Senia Paseta and THE FAMINE PLOT by Tim Pat Coogan- both I think you will find useful during your visit. The first is part of a series of over 100 books with topics ranging from Astronomy to Zen Buddhism- all are about 150 pages, concise and easy to understand. MODERN IRELAND gives you a great overview of the characters, events, and locations that will make  your journey all the more enjoyable. THE FAMINE PLOT is an in- depth, fascinating, and horrifying look at a piece of history many of us know superficially. Coogan lays out in meticulous detail the suffering the Irish endured in the 1840's when the potato crop failed catastrophically. He strongly believes that this was a plot on the part of British politicians to reduce the population of rural Ireland- in fact, he stops just short of accusing England of genocide.  While the Ireland he describes is far different from the Ireland of today, much of its politics, customs, and world-view have their origins in that horrific time.  Recommended!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  I am one excited music lover- two of my absolute favorite groups will be performing over the next week: The Roger Street Friedman Band on Friday, July 24at 7pm at Sea Cliff Beach and then Hunt and Hughes (Heidi Hunt and Joe Hughes) on Thursday, July 30 at  Sunset Serenade at Memorial Park-  also at 7pm. What an exciting lineup of musical talent! I would like to have a good book to read between these two performances… any suggestions?  Lover of Great Music

Dear Lover of Great Music,  How lucky are we to have such a week of musical delights, and yes- I have a very fine book for you to read: I SAW A MAN  by Owen Sheers- a Welsh author, poet, and playwright.   The novel opens with the recently widowed Michael Turner entering his neighbors’ home- curious as to why the back door is open.  As he walks from room to room, deeper and deeper into the house, we learn  about his life, his wife, the man responsible for her death, and the family that has helped him begin to heal. When we finally realize the horrific burden he carries, all the pieces come together in a chilling but satisfying conclusion.  What responsibility we bear for the unintended consequences of our actions is the underlying question that resonates throughout this book.  Highly recommended!  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  This weekend  I plan to spend Saturday morning at the Beach CafĂ©- I love their omelets and there is nothing more fun than meeting up with friends, chatting,  and looking out on Hempstead Harbor.  Of course, that leaves the rest of the day to settle down with a good book….do you have one in mind?  Summering in Sea Cliff

Dear Summering in Sea Cliff, I just finished a really good book about vacationing- actually a vacationer’s nightmare- so much so that I may never leave Sea Cliff again…. THE DIVER’S CLOTHES LIE EMPTY by Vendela Vida.  The novel opens with our narrator on a flight to Casablanca. We don’t know the purpose of her trip, but from the start there are mysterious clues that all is not as it seems.  When she arrives at the Golden Tulip - after passing up some lovely, luxurious hotels - her backpack containing passport, credit cards, and cash is stolen- apparently in full view of the hotel staff. Every traveler’s nightmare!   But wait… the police chief finds someone else’s backpack with passport, credit cards, etc.  and insists she take it;  so begins a mesmerizing  tale of intrigue, humor, and deceit.  This is a psychological thriller, a lush travelogue, and a literary puzzle- best read in one sitting so put aside three or four hours this weekend for a real treat.  Highly recommended!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  This Friday, Music at Sea Cliff Beach 2015 begins and I am very excited. First, I love the setting: the beautiful band shell right on the shore, the setting sun, a beach filled with enthusiastic music lovers… and then the added attraction of one of my favorite singers opening the season: Jenn Gerrity. The only thing I need now is a good book  for the rest of the weekend.  Do you have a recommendation?                          Great Fan of Music on the Beach

Dear Great Fan, I too can’t wait to hear Jenn perform Friday, and I do have a book to recommend- a fascinating historical/literary mystery set in 1840’s Dublin: THE CONVICTIONS OF JOHN DELAHUNT by Andrew Hughes.  Hughes is a social historian and archivist who became intrigued with the story of John Delahunt, a convicted murderer who was hanged before a mob of 10,000 angry Dubliners in 1842.  The novel is written in the first person voice of Delahunt, a poor young Trinity College student who became a paid informant for the brutal  secret police of the time known as “the Castle.” Hughes paints a shockingly vivid portrait of Victorian Dublin with its teeming tenements,  squalid public houses, corrupt police officials, and  perennially doomed politicians- all  presented through the eyes of the sociopath Delahunt.  The book opens as he is about to be hanged  for a horrific murder and we begin to learn of the events that led up to this moment. Recommended and, yes- highly recommended- if you are as intrigued by Irish history as I am!