Friday, October 28, 2016

Dear Great Book Guru,  This Sunday is one of my favorite Fall events- the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s Cider Social.  Heidi Hunt and her merry troupe of teen volunteers will be serving refreshments, organizing crafts, and spreading cheer to a bevy of costumed lads and lasses at Central Park from 3 to 4pm. Well, of course, I’ll need a good book to read while I wait for the fun to begin. Any thoughts?
 Ardent Fan of the Cider Social

Dear Ardent Fan of the Cider Social, I just finished a very unusual novel: THE NUTSHELL by Ian McEwan. This is the story of an impending murder told from the perspective of a fetus.  It  begins with the words  “ So here I am –upside in a woman” and our narrator- a nine month fetus- listens in on the world of his twenty-eight year old mother as she and her lover plot the murder of her husband/his father. Of course, one has to suspend reality as we listen to his insightful, utterly humorous insights into the daily lives of those outside the womb.  When he discovers that his uncle Claude is part of this plot, we quickly see the parallels with Shakespeare’s HAMLET. This is a darkly humorous murder mystery despite the wildly farcical nature of the story.  Very fast, very clever, very short (195 pages), this is a wonderful book to read on a busy Fall afternoon- recommended!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dear Great Book Guru,   Fall has arrived here in Sea Cliff and how lovely it is! One of my favorite autumn sights is the beautiful maple tree  basking in its full red bejeweled glory behind the Children’s Library.   Amidst all this beauty, I feel the need for some serious reading.    Any recommendations?
Lover of Sea Cliff Every Season of the Year

Dear Lover of Sea Cliff …, I just finished a remarkable, very troubling historical novel: THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead.  This award winning work is told from the perspective of Cora, a young woman who has been enslaved all her short life. Her grandmother had been kidnapped from an African village and eventually brought to the Randall plantation in Georgia where Cora was born. Her journey is told in harsh detail and serves as a prelude to her granddaughter’s suffering and abuse.  Early in the book, Cora sees a way to escape the horrors of plantation life by taking “the underground railroad.” Colson adds a level of magical realism here by making the railroad a subway of sorts- tracks deep underground on which actual trains ran emerging in various states, each location holding its own peculiar torments and terrors for the riders.  Interspersed with Cora’s story are short vignettes of historical and fictional characters she meets along her way. While set in pre Civil War times, the novel underscores the brutal legacy of racism that lingers in the American psyche.  A remarkable book and highly recommended!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Dear Great Book Guru,  Sad to say I am headed out of Sea Cliff this weekend.  We are headed to Vermont for a fall foliage trip.  Please recommend a good book to help me through the weekend.  
Reluctant Fan of Fall Foliage

Dear Reluctant Fan of Fall Foliage,  I so understand your reluctance to leave Sea Cliff, but I do have a good book for you: COMMONWEALTH by Ann Patchett.  This novel spans five decades, two families, four parents, and six children. The story begins in southern California at Frannie Keating’s christening when her mother and Bert Cousins begin an affair that sets the Cousins’ and Keating’ families asunder. Over the years the six children meet up in Virginia for summer visits- tragedy strikes, bonds are forged, and time relentlessly moves forward.    When one of the children becomes involved with a world famous novelist, the family’s story becomes a national bestseller and award winning film, leaving everyone involved questioning the validity of their memories. The novel ends with the death of the parents, and the reader and the children are left to wonder: what was it all about?  Despite humorous interludes, the story is imbued with sadness. A touching tale of familial pain and affection…recommended!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Dear Great Book Guru, This is the Columbus Day weekend coming up and I have a  wedding to go to in Brooklyn …my dear friends Claire and Rich are getting married. While I am waiting for the festivities to begin, I would love a good book to read.  Any suggestions?   Very Excited Wedding Guest

Dear Very Excited Wedding Guest, I just finished an interesting novel by Ann Leary : THE CHILDREN.  It is set in northern Connecticut at a wealthy lakeside resort community.  Whit Whitman had inherited a rambling mansion on the lake and with his death, his second wife continues to live there harmoniously with an assortment of children and stepchildren.  That is until…one of the children brings home a glamorous, accomplished fiancĂ©e with a mysterious back story. Soon longtime resentments surface and this strange paradise begins to collapse. The story is told from the unreliable perspective of Charlotte Maynard, a twenty-nine year-old who finds it difficult to leave her late, charismatic stepfather’s home. Gradually we learn of the many material and psychological burdens each of the children bears.  In addition, there is an odd but fascinating subplot involving a “mommy blog” that is cyber attacked.  This is a fast moving, entertaining read- perfect for a wedding weekend.  Our best wishes to the bride and groom!