Thursday, November 25, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru, We had a great outdoor family party this weekend - weather was challenging but everyone had a fun time and, as always, when we gather together conversation turns to our latest book choices. One of the cousins talked about a mystery series by an Irish author and the rest of us were interested but now I’m not sure of the author. Thoughts?   A Bookish Family

Dear Bookish Family, My guess is it’s John Banville’s Benjamin Black mysteries - the latest came out just last month:  APRIL IN SPAIN.  John Banville is a renowned prize-winning Irish author who writes a mystery series under the pseudonym Benjamin Black.  His hero is Quirk, a 1950’s Dublin pathologist. His tortured past and present is the stuff of these literary mysteries. There are eight books in the series beginning with CHRISTINE FALLS. While each novel can stand alone, to see the complexity and evolution of Quirk, they should be read in order. The latest is set in Dublin and the Basque countryside with locations and characters exquisitely described. In the opening chapter we meet Terry Tice who liked “killing people.” In alternating chapters we are with the gloomy Quirk and his long suffering psychiatrist wife, Evelyn. While in some ways this is a simple mystery, Banville’s writing is so beautiful, it is hard not to reread many evocative passages even as we are eager to see how all the story lines come together. A wonderful read and highly recommended!


Friday, November 19, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru,  While  Halloween is over, I am still in the mood for some suspenseful tales. I would like a good psychological thriller set in   present time.  Any suggestions?  Craving Suspense

Dear Craving Suspense, I recently read a disturbing  literary thriller I think you will enjoy: MRS MARCH  by Virginia Feito. Mrs. March – we don’t learn her first name until the last page- is the wife of George, a famous author who has recently published his latest novel which has received universal praise from both critics and the public. She soon realizes he has based the novel’s protagonist on her- her mannerisms, her appearance, her gloves- and it is not a flattering portrait.  She  begins to think every friend and stranger she passes  has read the book and is aware of her shame. She neglects her young son,  abuses her housekeeper, and we watch in horror as she seems to lose all sense of reality.  When she suspects her husband of being a serial killer, we are quite sure she is delusional but there is always the thought…. perhaps there is some truth in her suspicions.   The lifestyle of this wealthy Upper Eastside Manhattanite is described in exquisite detail and we clearly sense the anger and purposelessness Mrs. March feels.  Neither she nor her husband are admirable characters, but the novel is a compelling read and recommended!

Saturday, November 6, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru, This past weekend I met up with lots of friends and we all agreed we needed something great to read - something thought-provoking and with a strong story line. Any thoughts? Readers in Search of Meaning

Dear Readers in Search of Meaning, I spent this last weekend with a compelling book, filled with moments of deep insight. This shortlisted 2019 Booker Prize winner is 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak. It is the haunting tale of Leila - victim of a brutal murder in Istanbul, Turkey. Leila explains that for 10 minutes and 38 seconds after death, we are capable of conscious thought with heightened sensitivities and robust memories. The first half of the novel describes Leila’s thoughts as she moves from life to death and we count down the moments we share with her.  She remembers her early life in exquisite sensory detail - her young mother who was forced to give her up at birth, her mercurial father, an abusive uncle, a beloved autistic brother, and her young activist husband. In alternating chapters, we meet each of her five friends who play important roles in her life and death.  These friends like Leila live on the outskirts of Istanbul’s society where gender, violence, and religion combine to crush many. With her death complete, the second part of the book is more a caper but satisfying nevertheless.  A painful tale but well worth reading - highly recommend!