Friday, August 25, 2023

Dear Great Book Guru,  My friends and I take our children every week to Storytime at Sea Cliff Beach and we stay afterwards for lunch on the pavilion. Last week one of the parents mentioned a new book about a cruise gone terribly bad - she called it a psychological thriller and recommended it to us. Any thoughts?  Fan of Sea Cliff Beach.

Dear Fan of Sea Cliff Beach, I just finished reading THE ANNIVERSARY by Stephanie Bishop and it is quite the thriller. The novel opens with J.B.Blackwood, a forty year old Australian author receiving news that she has received a major literary award – think the Booker - but she is cautioned not to tell her much older husband Patrick, a famous filmmaker because Blackwood tells us “he can’t be trusted to keep secrets.”  J.B. has planned a luxurious cruise to celebrate their wedding anniversary and its final destination will be the award ceremony. The couple had met years before when she was his student at a prestigious university while he was married with an infant son. The opening chapters recount their blissful courtship and travels around the world. A few pages in we learn that a storm breaks out onboard the ship and Patrick is thrown overboard. Gradually, we begin to suspect there is more going on in the marriage than our narrator has suggested. Ultimately, we realize that nothing we have been told – from childhood memories to present day events - is to be trusted. A disturbing albeit compelling tale….recommended!


Friday, August 11, 2023

Dear Great Book Guru, Last weekend I was at a Midsummer’s Night Dream party and there was lots of talk about what to read for the rest of the summer.  Someone suggested reading a biography of Robert Oppenheimer- the subject of the much-acclaimed movie recently released.  Is there one you would recommend?  Midsummer Reader

Dear Midsummer Reader, Last month in anticipation of the opening of one of summer’s most touted movies, OPPENHEIMER, I read the book the movie is based on: AMERICAN PROMETHEUS by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin.  What an amazing tale! While over 500 pages, this book reads like a fast-paced novel.  Oppenheimer’s early years in New York City are colorfully presented with many anecdotes about his parents, school mates, and teachers and their influence on the young boy. The family’s history in Europe also adds to an understanding of where many of his beliefs and -yes - quirky behavior originated. His college years at Harvard and later in Germany present a colorful picture of his developing interest in the world of quantum mechanics and nuclear physics leading to his now famous appointment as head of the Manhattan Project and move to Los Alamos to oversee the making of the atomic bomb.  Throughout, we meet his many friends, enemies, lovers, and relatives – all of whom are described in exacting detail. The final half of the book deals with his spectacular fall from grace in the Cold War era with special attention paid to his chief nemesis, Lewis Strauss. The book presents us with a somber appraisal of a complicated man living in a complicated time.  Highly recommended!


Sunday, August 6, 2023

 Dear Great Book Guru,  We just came back from Sea Cliff Beach where we had a great lunch at the Potters’ Cliffside Café. Everything was delicious but the lobster roll and turkey wrap were particularly wonderful!  While there, I listened in on a couple’s conversation nearby (always a fun Sea Cliff thing to do) and they were discussing a new book - a noir mystery set in 1970’s Boston.  Sound familiar?  Loving the Cliffside Café

Dear Loving…. Dennis Lehane’s SMALL MERCIES is a newly published bestseller and well worth the read.  Set in the racially charged summer of 1974, the book deals with crime, race, and class - in and about an Irish American housing project.  Mary Pat Fennessy has lived there all her forty or so years, raised two children, married twice, and is struggling desperately to get out of debt. Her childhood friends are involved with the mob so when her daughter does not return home one evening, she turns to them for help.  She soon finds herself enmeshed in a world where violence is the norm and she is both victim and perpetrator. A young black man is found dead on the subway tracks nearby and we learn that his murder is connected to her missing daughter, the upcoming school desegregation rally, and a widespread drug operation. Mary Pat has a moment of epiphany when she realizes her long held beliefs have little basis in reality. The grief and contrition she feels is described in exquisite detail, but few of the other characters share her moral awakening. The reader is left to question if goodness will ever triumph.  Highly recommended!