Monday, December 16, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, All over Sea Cliff there are holiday parties and some of the most fun are cookie swaps, and the oldest and best of these is Elizabeth Weinstein’s. For 29 years, Elizabeth has been hosting her elegant celebration of friendship and sweets. Well, this year I have my cookies baked and ready to go, so I have time for a good book.  Do you have something in the spirit of the holidays? Cookie Swap Connoisseur

Dear Cookie Swap Connoisseur, Ah… a book about the spirit of the holidays? MARLEY by Jon Clinch is about one of history’s most maligned of spirits: Jacob Marley from Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” Here we get the back story of Scrooge’s long dead business partner. We meet him as a boy, teenager, and man - at all stages a cruel, deceptive conniver who preys on his schoolmate - the then innocent Scrooge.  As men, they form a business partnership that amasses fortunes many times over.  The British slave trade forms a large part of their business. The young women characters, Fan and Belle from A Christmas Carol, play important roles in the lives of both men. As the two partners become more and more enmeshed in a dark world of greed, deception, forgery, and theft, the hope for redemption seems illusory. Marley’s ghostly return takes on deeper meaning as he tries to share the lessons he has learned.  A chilling and fascinating take on this perennial holiday tale …  a very intriguing read!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, My book club meets every month and we are always looking for our next good book. We recently read the 1980’s classic THE HANDMAID’S TALE and some members mentioned there is a sequel. Do you think we would enjoy it?  Sequel Searchers

Dear Sequel Searchers, I just finished Margaret Atwood’s THE TESTAMENTS - the sequel to THE HANDMAID’S TALE – and I found it fascinating.  The novel begins fifteen years after the end of THE HANDMAID’S TALE. The Republic of Gilead maintains its tyrannical control and international politics is in chaos. Canada plays a pivotal role as the former United States of America continues its theocratic repression of women. The story is told from three viewpoints:  Aunt Lydia who might well be a totally unreliable narrator and two first-generation children of the Gilead - Daisy and Agnes. Of the three, Aunt Lydia is the most interesting. An accomplished, highly educated lawyer and judge before the coup, she became part of the new regime. The choices she recounts could be altruistic but there is always doubt as to her true motivations. With the younger girls, we see the effects of this cruel regime, but we also see their irrepressible spirit.  Your book club will have a lively discussion about the ending- is there cause for optimism or…pessimism?  Recommended!   

Monday, December 9, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, The month of December is filled with a myriad of Sea Cliff holiday events, and I attend them all - but my favorite is the Scrooge Stroll. Fred Stroppel creates a magnificent reimagining of Charles Dickens’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL with costumed characters walking the streets of Sea Cliff. I will have some free time afterwards,  so if you have a good book to recommend, I would be grateful.  Scrooge Stroller

Dear Scrooge Stroller, My book club recently read Edna O’Brien’s GIRL; we found it very compelling and very disturbing.  It is the story of one girl, but Maryam is a composite of many. It opens as men claiming to be soldiers invade the dormitory of a girls’ high school. They pretend to have come to save them but instead capture and enslave them - these are the Boko Haram girls. We follow the brutal history of the young Maryam as she endures horrific torture - physical and mental - at the hands of these religious zealots.  When she finally escapes, her family and community are far from welcoming.  O’Brien who is eighty-eight years-old has been writing about the subjugation of women and girls for over sixty years. Most of her novels have been set In Ireland, but for this latest book she traveled to Nigeria to underscore the universal oppression of women. This is a painful book to read, but very worthwhile. Highly recommended!