Sunday, July 28, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, Last week I attended an amazing event- the Great Gatsby Gala.  Lovers of this great American novel gathered to enjoy a dramatization of the book, participate in a detailed discussion of its main themes, and then tested their knowledge in an extended trivia contest. We all went home with prizes, favors, and dessert treats from Sleepy Jean’s.  While at the party, someone mentioned a fast-moving literary thriller set in a Florida courtroom.  Any thoughts?   Great Gatsby Gadfly

Dear Great Gatsby Gadfly, I just spent the afternoon reading THE BODY IN QUESTION by Jill Ciment. This short (200 pages) novel opens as a panel of jurors are being chosen for what they soon find out is a sensational murder trial. A teenage girl from a wealthy family is accused of murdering her toddler brother and her twin sister is testifying against her.  The jurors are sequestered for three weeks and we come to learn much about them all especially Juror C-2 (we do not learn their names until the last pages of the book).  She is a 52-year-old successful Prius-driving photographer married to an 86-year-old man in poor health. She and Juror F-17 – a forty-year-old medical school professor - begin an affair that is soon discovered by the rest of the jury. There are many questions posed: is the accused indeed guilty, what role did her domineering twin play in the death, how does C-2’s affair cloud her judgment, and finally what role does the media play in our justice system?  A very powerful and disturbing read - highly recommended!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, Last week I was at an Aloha Farewell Party for the Kessler family, Karen, Scott and their children are moving to Hawaii in the next few days and their many, many Sea Cliff friends will miss them terribly. At the party there was much talk about good books to read on their long flight.  Someone mentioned a new book by the author of the prize-winning UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. What are your thoughts?  Missing the Kesslers Already

Dear Missing…, What a great suggestion - THE NICKEL BOYS by Colson Whitehead is a short, very powerful historical novel based on a real-life reform school: the Dozier School for Boys. Opened in 1900 and finally closed in 2011, the school was the site of brutality, torture, and murder. Whitehead tells the story from the perspective of two young boys: Elwood Curtis and his friend Turner. Elwood is an idealistic follower of Martin Luther King and believes that by following rules and loving his oppressors, justice will triumph.  On the way to his first day of college, he accepts a ride in what turns out to be a stolen car and is arrested. Nickel Academy is offered as a supposedly good alternative to prison. Turner is much more cynical and is soon proven the wiser of the two.  The Jim Crow laws of the 1960’s prevail, and Elwood’s innocence is destroyed.  A startlingly pessimistic take on the American dream - highly recommended!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, This September, the Sea Cliff Civic Association is planning to celebrate the passage of the 19th amendment - the amendment that ensured women’s right to vote. In preparation, my book club would like to read a book that tells the story of that exciting time. Any suggestions?                     Keen on the Suffragists

Dear Keen on the Suffragists, I have just the book for you: THE WOMAN’S HOUR by Elaine Weiss. Weiss focuses on the final battle in the seventy plus-year struggle to win women the right to vote. This spirited tale which reads like a political thriller opens in July 1920 as the friends and foes of the suffragist movement gather in Nashville, Tennessee.  Only one more state is needed to ratify the amendment, and several states have flatly rejected it - Tennessee could go either way.  Weiss focuses on three major players: Carrie Chapman Catt - a gifted, aristocratic strategist; Sue White - a militant native Tennessean who scorns the genteel ways of Catt; and Josephine Pearson - a staunch advocate of states rights and female domesticity.  All three and their supporters gather in the luxurious Hermitage Hotel where lobbyists, legislators, and politicians vie for crucial votes. Anti-prohibitionists ply lawmakers in “Jack Daniel” suites and railroad tycoons whisper loudly that a woman’s vote is a vote for those ‘Bolshevik’ unions.  Above all, race is on the minds of everyone.  As the final vote is taken, Weiss records the cheers and tears and a surprising climax. An amazing story vividly told…. highly recommended! 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, Now that the Fourth of July week of celebrations has ended, I am concentrating on the music scene   here in Sea Cliff.  Last night, the acclaimed Roger Street Friedman and Friends performed at Sea Cliff Beach.  My friends and I had a delicious dinner there at Jennifer Angliss DeSane’s Beach Hut - love that turkey brie pear wrap! Next week will be Broadway at the Beach and I know there will be time for a good book before the music begins.  Any recommendations?  Beach and  Music Lover

Dear Beach and Music Lover, I just finished A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY by M.T. Edvardsson - a fascinating psychological thriller set near Stockholm, Sweden.  Stella - eighteen-year old - has been accused of the violent murder of a corrupt businessman and is awaiting trial.  Her parents - Adam, pastor of a large Christian congregation, and Ulrika, a criminal defense lawyer - are horribly afraid she might be guilty and must decide how far they will go to protect her,  The story is told from the perspectives of the three family members  and we gradually  learn many disturbing facts about this so very normal family.  Cell phones, encrypted messages, surveillance cameras all come into play as the parents are confronted with information, they find both shocking and confusing.  What is justice ….and can it be served?  A chilling tale presenting us with an aching moral dilemma - highly recommended!