Monday, February 18, 2013
Strout is a great writer and an interesting storyteller. I loved Olive Kitteridge for its slow accumulation of details that ultimately made for an touching, intimate portrait of the title character. But there's something missing in The Burgess Boys. A great novel, even just a very good novel, is somehow more than the sum of its parts. This isn't one of those books.
It follows the Burgess siblings (two boys and a girl, so, why, Book Club, why, is it called The Burgess Boys?) as they work through a scandal involving the sister's son, a pig's head, and the Somali community in the tiny Maine town where the Burgess' grew up. The brothers are New York lawyers, one a bumbler and the other a star. That almost sounds like a comedy, but it's not.
This would make a great book club selection both because it's full of issues (I almost wrote "issues") and because it somehow fails. I won't reveal too much here, but one of the characters has a very, very unrealistic ending to his/her story. Of course, that's the kind of statement that's perfect for book club.
p.s. This books comes out in the end of March.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
I may not have read as many books this year as I have in the past (something slowed me down a bit starting in early August), but I still couldn't resist making a top ten list. I wish I could link these titles to my new bookstore-home, but I don't have one yet. For now I'll direct you to indiebound and they'll help you find the indie bookstore nearest you.
|1 The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey - I was utterly enchanted by this story of an older couple homesteading in Alaska and finding joy raising a mysterious young girl. It's beautiful and touching and I loved it.|
P.S. I wrote this blog post using the voice to text feature on my new phone while holding a baby. Wow, it took a lot of editing to clean it up enough to post and I'm sure I missed things. If there's a serious typo, email me.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
The quote on the back of the review copy I read calls this book, “C.S.I in the Georgian era,” and that isn't too far off the mark. The nuts and bolts of the detective work do follow a kind of C.S.I. pattern. Crowther examines the body while Harriet uses her insights into people to put the evidence together. Working together – the cold, scientific viewpoint paired with the more human details – they managed to get results without DNA or blood tests or even fingerprints.
The problem with that catchy quote is that it ignores how great the characters are and how well-evoked the time period is. Harriet’s struggle to deal with her ailing husband, her disapproving sister, and her love of her children all combine to make her a great leading lady. Crowther’s shell of self-protection is slowly cracking, but in a believable and gradual way. And, just like in the first book, there is a side story involving a tarot-reader and a street urchin that is woven in and out of the main mystery that is completely captivating as well.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
This story takes place far into the future when the oceans are gone and the seabeds are lined with railroad tracks. Hunters make their livelihoods by riding trains in search of giant moles that live below the surface of the soil. Yes, there is a mammoth white mole that eludes the captain of the train our hero, Sham ap Soorap, rides, but this is Sham's story, not the captain's. Sham embarks on adventure to solve some of the greatest mysteries of the railsea - where do the tracks end? who made them? what are the great machines (called angels) that tend to them? and what does the obsessive pursuit of one white mole do to a person's soul?
I love Mieville's writing and the strange (sometimes very, very strange) worlds that he creates. I highly recommend this book (appropriate for roughly 13 and up due to complicated language and some violence). At the end of reading this I had two requests to make of the media universe: please, China, write a sequel and please, please Miyazaki make this into a movie.
Marian Sutro is just out of school and doing her part for the War Effort. She is offered a new job with the vaguely named Special Operations Executive. She’s a native French speaker and capable student. Sooner than she expects it becomes clear that the distant idea that she might go to occupied France is actually a very near reality. She’ll test her new skills, her relationships, and her mental strength behind enemy lines.
This is more a novel about one woman than a novel about World War II or spies or even the French Resistance. It’s the strength of Marian as a fascinating young woman, combined with that great writing, which makes this one of my favorite books so far this year. If you loved Restless by William Boyd or any of the Alan Furst novels, then you really should consider Trapeze.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Mary's beloved Granny is ill and probably won’t live much longer. One day, Mary meets a mysterious woman on the way home from school who seems to know a little too much about her. She discovers that Granny, the mysterious woman, her mother, and she are all connected in a way she never could have imagined. This sets them all on a road trip that teaches Mary about love and mothers and death and life. It’s aimed at roughly 9 to 12 year-olds, but I recommend it for everyone open to a book like this.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
This is a lovely book that I couldn't put down. It perfectly dances between a real, grounded story of homesteaders and an ethereal, almost-fairy tale. It would make a great book club discussion book.