Sunday, September 29, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, This coming weekend is a major iconic Sea Cliff event - Mini Mart ! This is its fiftieth anniversary so it will be particularly festive with many families staging reunions. My favorite spot is the Children’s Library where amazing “pre-owned” toys and children’s books sell for almost nothing - it is the ultimate in recycling. But, as always, I love to have a good book to read when things get quiet. I am yearning for a good mystery.  Any suggestions? 
Mini Mart Maven

Dear Mini Mart Maven, A favorite author of mine, Kate Atkinson, just came out with her latest Jackson Brodie literary mystery:  BIG SKY.  Atkinson is famous for the wide variety of books she has written - all beautifully constructed and intellectually stimulating. There are five novels in her Brodie series and each can be read on its own. This latest, set in 2019, has references to Brexit, Harvey Weinstein, and cyber surveillance. Brodie is a former British police officer turned private investigator who is world weary with a young teenage son and an estranged daughter about to marry. In the novel’s opening pages we meet a pair of young Polish sisters who are embarking on an exciting, life-transforming journey to England. In subsequent chapters we meet a trio of businessmen, a series of troubled wives, and two dynamic detectives. Atkinson brings together the many stories these characters have to tell us – some sordid, some brutal, some tender and always fascinating. Highly recommended!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, I am looking forward to the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s annual Back to School gift to the Village: Movie Madness, featuring the original “Aladdin.”  It will be at Roslyn Park on September 28, Friday night, starting at sunset around 6:45. Afterwards, I’ll have time for a short novel - interesting and unusual. Ideas?
  Movie Madness Goer

Dear Movie Madness Goer - I just finished a new novel by a favorite author and I loved it:  THE GRAMMARIANS by Cathleen Schine. The grammarians are Laurel and Daphne, identical red-haired twins who are obsessed with language - puns, derivations, definitions, rhymes – and their twinness.  Much to their parents’ confusion and consternation, the girls share a secret language. As we follow their lives through babyhood to middle age, we share in the sorrow and pain they experience as they are forced to create separate existences. Their family - parents, spouses, aunt, uncle, and cousin - all add to the depth and humor of the novel as they reflect on the mystery of twin-ship.  Especially poignant was their mother’s evolving relationship with them. For many years she felt the outsider and only when the girls become estranged does she begin to feel part of their lives. A very funny and complex story of love and language - highly recommended!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, This weekend I am going the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s annual Newcomers Welcoming Party. I can’t wait to meet the other forty or so new families that have moved to Sea Cliff over the last year. A friend suggested I read a book I might want to bring up if things get quiet- what do you think? Eager but Nervous Newcomer

Dear Eager Newcomer, No need to be nervous - this party is always so, so much fun! But I do have a fine book to recommend this week: A PURE HEART by Rajia Hassib. Set in the present time here and in Egypt, this novel tells the tale of two sisters and the conflicts faced by them as they try to live moral lives in an ancient and changing world.  Rose is a curator of Egyptian antiquities at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and married to a New York Times correspondent she met in Cairo. Gameela is her younger sister - a twenty-eight-year-old engineer living with her parents in an affluent section of Cairo.  Rose struggles with guilt and grief at having left her homeland but is delighted with her new life in America. Gameela has become very religious and scorns her sister’s new life. As the story opens, we learn that Gameela has died in a terrorist attack. When Rose returns home to learn what motivated her sister, she uncovers a bevy of secrets that haunt the family and the reader. Highly recommended!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, At the end of August, family and friends spent two weeks on Martha’s Vineyard. It was great fun. Two of our favorite guests mentioned a book set in Martha’s Vineyard about three friends visiting the Island. Now that we are back home, I would indeed love to extend summer a bit, but I forgot the title. Thoughts?  Summer Lingerer

Dear Summer Lingerer, I just finished Richard Russo’s ‘CHANCES ARE….’ – a great end of summer read!  Three men - college friends from the late sixties who are now in their sixties - gather on Martha’s Vineyard for a nostalgic reunion.  The men’s lives have had dramatically different outcomes: Lincoln (whose family house they are visiting} is a very successful real estate developer; Teddy is an impoverished and very depressed editor of a small religious press; and Mickey is a hard-living, voice-fading musician.  All three were once in love with a college sweetheart who mysteriously disappeared on a visit to Martha’s Vineyard decades ago. A compelling tale in a beautiful setting - highly recommended!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, This Saturday September 7 is the Village’s 100th Year Anniversary of the celebration of the return of Sea Cliff’s World War I soldiers.  There will be a parade from Memorial Park to Clifton Park where there will be a picnic dinner, much music, and scrumptious desserts.  I would love to read a book on World War I before I head over for the festivities. Seeker of Knowledge

Dear Seeker of Knowledge, Recently I read a short history (240 pages) of what is ironically called The Great War.  WORLD WAR I by Norman Stone tells the story of this horrific disaster. Fourteen million people died, four empires fell, and the victorious nations were badly damaged.  Stone shows how Europe and eventually the United States were dragged from the world of the nineteenth century to the brutality of the twentieth.  He captures the harshness of trench wars, poison gas, and lasting psychological trauma.  Another book I found very informative was Diana Preston’s A HIGHER FORM OF KILLING. She describes a six-week period that changed modern warfare forever and continues to plague us.  First was the use of poison gas – a scourge still used in attacks today. Then came the sinking of the Lusitania where civilians were targeted, and finally aerial bombing which preceded the destruction of much of Europe during World War II.  All in all, these two books show the incredible cruelty and far reaching effects of this War to End All Wars.  Highly recommended!