Sunday, October 30, 2022

Dear Great Book Guru,  My friends and I are having great fun with our film discussion group and your suggestions for book/movie combinations have been very helpful. Now we are thinking of reading something about present time movie production.  Any thoughts?   Film Fan

Dear Film Fan,  I recently read COMPLICIT by Winnie M Li - a fascinating look at the underbelly of the Hollywood moving making industry.  Sarah is a thirty-seven-year-old teacher of screenwriting at an obscure college in New York City and we meet her as she is preparing for an interview with New York Times reporter Tom Gallagher to discuss her past career as a film producer. We immediately sense that things had not ended well in Hollywood and the series of interviews that follow confirm this. The daughter of Chinese immigrant parents who own a successful restaurant in Queens, Sarah was a cinephile since childhood and after graduating with honors from Columbia University,   was eager to work in the film industry, much to her parents’ dismay. A lawyer, doctor, accountant… these would please her family. When she gets an internship with a small production company, she quickly makes herself indispensable. So, when billionaire investor Hugo North becomes part owner, she inexorably moves into the Hollywood world of glitter and greed. Sarah sees the newspaper interviews as a way to right the wrongs she has endured, but she slowly begins to question her role in the downfall of many of her colleagues.  A very thought-provoking study of personal responsibility - highly recommended! 


Sunday, October 9, 2022

 Dear Great Book Guru,  There is a fun-filled Sea Cliff weekend coming up - the rained out, much beloved Mini Mart has been reinvented  on a smaller, more intimate scale for Saturday October 15 at Roslyn Park in conjunction with St Luke’s Fall Bazaar.  What fun…but I am always looking for something good to read even during the busiest of times!  Any suggestions?  Fall Festival Fan

Dear Fall Festival Fan, I just finished a compelling, albeit terrifying, novel by Celeste Ng: OUR MISSING HEARTS.  Unlike Ng’s earlier, very popular novel LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE, this is a truly dystopian tale. Narrated in part by a twelve-year old boy Noah - or as he is sometimes called, “Bird” - and by his mother Margaret, the novel is set slightly in the future after a “Crisis” – an economic and societal breakdown - has occurred. To keep peace and end the violence, a common enemy is identified, families are cautioned to educate their children in the new ways, books are banned, and those that question the draconian laws are mysteriously sent away.  Bird’s mother had been identified as a dissident because of her poetry, and to protect her family, she flees their Boston home leaving behind Bird and his father, Ethan, a linguistics teacher at Harvard. Much of the novel recounts Bird and Margaret’s quest to reunite, but the most disturbing part of the story is the indifference shown by much of the population to the extreme injustices that abound. Interestingly, libraries are shown as beacons of enlightenment and a continuing means to right society’s wrongs.  Highly recommended!

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Dear Great Book Guru,  Last week I read that the six finalists for the annual Booker Prize for Literature have been chosen. The criteria seem simple – the author could be any nationality but the book must have been written in English and published in the UK or Ireland.  They all looked interesting, but one stood out… a very short tale set around Christmas time.  Too early for holiday reading?  Fall Reader

Dear Fall Reader, SMALL THINGS LIKE THESE by Claire Keegan is a wonderful book with year-wide appeal. Set in a small town in Ireland in 1985, this short novel describes the daily life and musings of Bill Furlong. Bill was born to a young unmarried girl employed as a live-in maid. Her employer was a wealthy elderly woman with progressive ideas and a generous spirit.  Bill and his mother lived comfortably but his illegitimacy was always an issue with the townspeople. Over the years, his hard work earned him a good job as a coal merchant, he married a woman from the middle class, and they ha five daughters. Always however Bill feels an outsider - precariously holding on to economic and social stability.  When he is confronted with a grave injustice, he must decide whether he should endanger his livelihood and his daughters’ future well-being. Bill knows the pain of being the outlier but is he willing to have his family share this fate?  The coal business that provides warmth and security for them is shown to be ephemeral as Bill attempts to be a good man in a corrupt system. Highly recommended!


Dear Great Book Guru,  I belong to a film discussion group and we focus on older, classic noir movies.  One of our members mentioned that there is a new novel out that covers a myriad of subjects, but the focus is on Hollywood in the 1960’s. Does it sound familiar?  Movie Maven

Dear Movie Maven, Chris Bohjalian’s latest novel is THE LIONESS and it is a great piece of historical fiction and a suspense thriller.  Set for the most part in 1964 on the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania, Hollywood super star Katie Barstow has just married David Hill and the couple has planned an iconic safari honeymoon with seven guests accompanying them. A luxurious trip has been arranged with all the comforts of home mixed with the wonders of African flora and fauna - giraffes nibbling outside their exquisite tents, zebras singing them to sleep, gourmet meals served by attentive natives.  Very soon into the trip, our group of Hollywood denizens is caught up in a political kidnapping gone awry. Each of the party and their tour guides has a story that unfolds in alternating chapters.  Their glittering lives back home have done little to prepare them for the nightmarish adventure to come.  The events of that time in that part of the world seem far away but reminiscent of an era where movies colored the lives of all. The racism of 1960’s Hollywood and the political upheaval in Tanzania eerily mirror each other and the reader is left to reflect on what “civilized” truly means. Recommended!