Monday, July 30, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru,   This is the half way mark for my favorite summer event: Sunset Serenades. With five concerts completed and five more to go, this is a good time to acknowledge the people that make these wonderful evenings possible.  Petrice Kaider proposed this concert concept sixteen years ago to the Sea Cliff Civic Association. The idea was quickly embraced, and every year since she has lined up an amazing group of musicians.  In addition, she and her husband Walter Kaider see that the lights are shining for every Serenade,  Civic Association Board members provide the refreshments, and all of Sea Cliff gets to enjoy a summer of beautiful music.  Now, please recommend a good book for an early August read.  
Grateful in Sea Cliff
Dear Grateful in Sea Cliff, Recently,  I read J. Courtney Sullivan’s SAINTS FOR ALL OCCASIONS.   Reminiscent of Mary Gordon’s early works and Colum Toibin’s BROOKLYN, this novel is a family saga set  over  fifty years,  two continents,  and  told from the perspectives of  sisters Nora and Theresa.  We meet these women as young girls in rural Ireland as they prepare to emigrate to America.  Much of the story is set in Boston from 1967 to 2009 as the two women carve out very different lives in their new home.   Secrets are gradually revealed and we come to realize there are few villains and some unlikely saints in this story.  Highly recommended!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru, Friday nights in the summer here in Sea Cliff are truly magical.  From 7 to 10pm music fills the sandy shores of Sea Cliff Beach, the sun begins to set, and the crowd grows mellow.  I get there early, have dinner at the Beach Café, and settle down with a good book as I wait for the music to begin.  I haven’t read a mystery this entire summer - do you have one you would recommend?  
Friday Night Music Lover
Dear Friday Night Music Lover, I just read a very unusual and compelling mystery noir: OUR KIND OF CRUELTY by Araminta Hall.  Told from the unreliable perspective of Mike Hall, a young banker driven mad by his obsessive love for Verity or V as he calls her.  The two met in college – she the daughter of a wealthy family while he is the son of an abusive, alcoholic single mother. When the book opens, Mike is in prison for having killed someone and is discussing his defense.  Nothing is as it seems as he recounts the details of his relationship with V over an eight year period and its recent unraveling.  Who is telling the truth, who has the most to lose, who are these people ???  Set in present day London, this novel is a beautifully written but devastating description of love gone mad…. Recommended!    

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru,  Every Saturday and Sunday my friends and family meet up at Sea Cliff Beach to share a scrumptious Beach Café breakfast.  Afterwards, we all linger reading our books, magazines, and newspapers.  I am looking for something to suggest to the group that we all might enjoy.  Any suggestions?   Fan of Breakfast at the Beach
Dear Fan of Breakfast at the Beach,  One of my all-time favorite authors Anne Tyler has just come out with a new book- her 22nd novel: CLOCK DANCE.  We first meet Willa in 1967 as she tries to find the courage to sell candy bars door to door while  dealing with a cruel,  charismatic mother and a gentle, ineffectual father.  We quickly move to 1977 when she brings her self- assured, explosive boyfriend home to meet her parents.  Things don’t go well and soon it is 1997. Now she is dealing with an angry, explosive husband, and again things do not go well. Our next encounter with Willa is 2017, she is in her sixties and finds herself in a strange city, caring for a nine-year old girl, an angry shooting victim, a dog named Airplane and a bevy of eccentric neighbors. Is this her chance for happiness, her chance to make things right, her chance to dance the clock?  A beautifully told story of choices made and unmade- highly recommended!

Dear Great Book Guru,  Every Thursday during July and August, you will find me at Sea Cliff’s Memorial Park enjoying the Civic Association’s Sunset Serenades.  The music is lovely and the setting extraordinary.  While waiting for the musicians to arrive, I always look out at the Harbor with a good book in hand. Do you have a recommendation for this week?   Sunset Serenader

Dear Sunset Serenader,  This weekend, I finished a very short, very moving book: THE ONLY STORY by Julian Barnes.  When the story opens, Paul is a nineteen year-old British undergraduate spending the  summer of 1963 with his parents in their London suburb home.   To keep him amused and “out of trouble” his mother gifts him a membership in a local tennis club.  There he meets Susan Macleod- a forty-nine year old married woman with two grown daughters.   Susan and Paul fall in love and their story becomes for Paul  “the only story”- the story that is central to his identity.  The novel traces Paul’s feeling over a fifty year period as he questions the depth of friendship, of passion, of love.  We suspect from the beginning that love will not conquer all, but along the way we meet characters that hint at its redemptive powers. At the end, Paul leaves himself and the reader with the question: “Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more, or love the less and suffer the less?”  Highly recommended!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru,  Fourth of July in Sea Cliff is one of my favorite times: it starts on the Eve at the Children’s Library.  First there is the decorating of bikes, trikes, strollers, and carriages followed by the iconic “Happy Birthday, USA” with songs and music for and by all ages.  On the Fourth itself there is the reading of the Declaration on the Village Green and a parade down Sea Cliff Avenue.  When all this is done, I would like to throw myself into a good book.  Any suggestions?   Fervent Fan of the Fourth
Dear Fervent Fan of the Fourth,   I just finished a fascinating book about one of America’s most hated historical figures: Benedict Arnold.  In Stephen Brumwell’s TURNCOAT, we learn that Arnold  was one of the bravest and most revered of Washington’s generals.  Historians have posited that he was overcome with greed while others suggest he had come to resent the recognition others were receiving.  The book traces his enthusiastic support of the ideals of the Revolution to his villainous betrayal of the cause.  Brumwell comes to the radical conclusion that Arnold was the ultimate patriot: he believed America’s best interests would be served by ending the war, halting the bloodshed,  and remaining part of the British Empire. To accomplish this, he was willing to sacrifice everything.  A very interesting and controversial look at a man who has come to define evil itself. Recommended!