Saturday, January 28, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru,  Last weekend I attended the Women’s March on Washington with friends from the North Shore LI group organized by Carolyn Mazzu Genovesi.  It was an incredible experience I will always remember.  We had many wonderful conversations and one of them was about good books we had recently read. Someone mentioned a new novel about women, parenting, and Brooklyn. I think my book group would really enjoy it. Any thoughts on this?  Marching From Washington

Dear Marching From Washington,  We were in D.C. too  –  and yes,  much thanks to Carolyn for her amazing job of organizing and inspiring  so many of us.  The book you are considering is CLASS by Lucinda Rosenfeld.  Karen Kipple is a forty-five years-old mother of a young daughter, wife of an out- of- work lawyer, and head of a non-profit food bank. The book is set in Brooklyn and deals with  a myriad of issues: schools, food, friends, clothes- all filtered through a prism of race and class. At times darkly humorous and always brutally insightful, CLASS is a fast moving tale rich with compelling details and memorable characters.  Throughout, we question how far Karen will go in pursuit of her unique version of social justice. Recommended!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was with a group of friends this week at their annual “Beat the Winter Blues” party and someone mentioned a new book- a literary thriller- set in a boys’ school in England.  She said it was a compelling read but couldn’t remember the title.  Does it sound familiar?  Beating the Winter Blues

Dear Beating the Winter Blues,  Sounds like a great idea for a party and yes, I know the book: DIFFERENT CLASS by Joanne Harris.  Told from the dual perspectives of  veteran Latin teacher Roy Straitley and a former student who remains nameless through most of the book- this novel shifts back and forth between 1981 and 2005.  In 1981, a murder occurred at St. Oswalds’s School for Boys and three of Straitley’s students were somehow involved.   A charismatic teacher and friend of Straitley’s, Harry Clarke is implicated and imprisoned but the murder remained unsolved.  Now in 2005, one of the students returns as headmaster to rescue the school from insolvency bringing in technology and a new faculty, overthrowing 500 years of scholastic tradition.  Soon it becomes evident that someone has been hiding a horrific secret.  Despite a darkly menacing overlay, there is much biting humor as students and faculty adapt to the new world of the 21st century.  An insightful study of the British class system and public school milieu in particular, this is a worthwhile read- recommended!

Hope to meet up with many of my readers Saturday at the March on Washington!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru, I am planning on joining friends next weekend for the Women’s March on Washington. We will be leaving Sea Cliff Saturday at 5:30am and returning late that night. While there will be much talking and some sleeping, I would like to take something along to read.  Any suggestions?
 Marching in Washington

Dear Marching in Washington,  I have a wonderful, thought-provoking, very short book  (160 pages) about two women who also undertake a long journey. It’s ELEVEN HOURS by Pamela Erens.  Lore, a speech therapist, arrives alone in the emergency room of an uptown New York City hospital about to give birth. Franckline is a midwife labor room nurse on call that night.   As the evening and labor progress the two women share with us their life stories.  Lore tells of a painful childhood and a devastating breakup with her longtime lover. Franckline recounts her early fascination and skill as a midwife in Haiti with perceptive insights into her courtship and marriage. At first, the women warily assess one another, but soon a bold intimacy develops.   Their alternating stories create a rhythm that mimics the stages of labor so when  birth comes, we feel as if we have been part of a violent, heroic struggle.  Not a tale for the fainthearted but certainly recommended for most readers!

Another book I read this week that I found fascinating and definitely worthwhile:

Friday, January 6, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru,  I am headed this week for a family holiday party in Point Lookout.  There are many readers among the group and someone will surely ask what I have read lately.  With the holidays, I have fallen behind in my reading so can you suggest something I can “bring to the table”?   Holiday Party Goer

Dear Holiday Party Goer,  I just finished a harrowing but rewarding novel by  Edna O’Brien: THE LITTLE RED CHAIRS.  Set in the small rural village of Cloonoila in the west of Ireland, the story opens in fairytale fashion with the arrival of a mysterious stranger who evokes fear and wonder in all who meet him.   We hear from ten villagers as they come to know Doctor Vlad .  Sister Bonaventure, an elderly nun, is his first patient, and she finds great comfort in his massages and herbal remedies.   The local priest too is quickly won over while Diarmuid, the village school teacher, remains wary of this “visionary healer.” But it is Fidelma- the beautiful young wife of an elderly man- that we long to protect from Doctor Vlad. When the truth of his identity comes to light, we are horrified at the enormity of his sins and the depth of Fidelma’s suffering. We travel from Cloonoila to London to The Hague, with these journeys reinforcing the mystical quality of the novel, as we come to witness the struggle between the forces of good and evil embodied in Vlad and Fidelma.  Recommended!