Sunday, July 31, 2022

 Dear Great Book Guru, Last week I went to a great celebration at the Metropolitan Bistro. After being closed for over two months, Billy and Anita Long hosted a reunion of staff and devoted customers and what a wonderful night it was! While there, someone mentioned a new thriller about two women with an ingenious scheme involving…counterfeit handbags! Have you heard of it?  Happy to be Back

Dear Happy to be Back, I just finished Kristin Chen’s COUNTERFEIT and it is a winner on many levels.  The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Ava Wong and Winnie Fang. The women had met as students at Stanford twenty years before. Winnie dropped out mysteriously after only a few months while Ava graduated with honors, went on to Harvard Law School and was hired by a prestigious law firm.  When we meet the women, Ava is married to a successful surgeon, has a young toddler, and is on maternity leave.  A now very glamorous Winnie reconnects. She is a spectacularly successful entrepreneur running a luxury handbag company (think Hermes, Prada, Marc Jacobs…) and she needs a partner with an American passport and a circumspect life. The novel takes us to multiple Chinese cities where we meet an assortment of characters - some comic, some threatening, but all fascinating. While a compelling adventure story, this is also a feminist tale upending the myth of mild mannered, compliant women plus a dissection of what is real and what is fake…. and we are not just talking about handbags - highly recommended

Sunday, July 24, 2022

 Dear Great Book Guru,  We were at Sunset Serenade last week and despite a horrific storm earlier in the day,  the band LOVEPEACE performed to a delighted audience. It was a magical evening, and as is often the case in Sea Cliff - after the music ended - talk turned literary! Someone mentioned a mystery series set in Cambridge University with a formidable lead detective.  Any thoughts?  Lover of LOVEPEACE

Dear Lover of LOVEPEACE, I just finished the first in the series: MISSING, PRESUMED by Susie Steiner and it is terrific. Manon Bradshaw is a thirty-nine year old detective, incredibly skilled in her professional life but very lonely and struggling to find meaning outside of work. The novel opens with her recounting a series of disappointing online dating encounters. In alternating chapters, we also meet the parents of the missing person, Edith Hind, Helena -her best friend - and Davy, Manon’s colleague. Each of these people brings a different take to the case.  Who was Edith? Her mother presents a picture quite different from the facts that the police uncover while her friend offers yet another side. The more we learn the more confused this picture becomes.  The various suspects are described in such sympathetic detail, we find ourselves hoping no one is guilty.  Because of Steiner’s colorful description, the University itself becomes a cherished character. A wonderful literary mystery and a sizzling summer read - highly recommended!

Sunday, July 10, 2022

 Dear Great Book Guru, This past weekend, I attended my first Progressive Dinner - what fun! Every Fall the Sea Cliff Civic Association hosted this event… until 2020 when the world changed, but with the idea of an all-outdoor event, Progressive Dinner BBQ came into being. With over eighty people participating, an array of beautiful gardens and patios and perfect weather, the event was a spectacular success. While at dessert, someone mentioned a short, very funny book about the art world - are you familiar with it?  Progressive Dinner Devotee

Dear Progressive Dinner Devotee, I am still laughing days after having read ST. SEBASTIAN’S ABYSS by Mark Haber. This very short (150 pages) novel deals with obsessions, friendship, and art in a hugely comic manner. We meet our unnamed narrator as he is flying to Berlin to meet up with his dying friend, Schmidt. The two men had met as students at Oxford while studying art history. They had noticed a cheap reproduction of a 16th century forgotten masterpiece, St. Sebastian’s Abyss, in a textbook.  Both men were transfixed by this fictional painting of the apocalypse.  Their careers (20 plus books on the subject) were based entirely on this one painting.  The narrator attributes his two divorces to disagreements over the worth of the work and his wives’ inability to share his passion. Schmidt and himself have also been estranged because of the painting. As the two men meet and have their final debate, the reader is caught up in this comically passionate absurdity.  Highly Recommended!