January 31, 2016

January 2016

We started off the new year with a new Beatrix Potter book to look forward to, as well as others (hello Annie Proulx fans!), and are still reading traditional paperbound books but will read an ebook if necessary.

Here's what else we discussed:

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant - Anne Tyler
My Sweetest Libbie - Jean Gora
Z A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald - Therese Anne Fowler
Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
Nature of the Beast - Louise Penny
Corrupted - Lisa Scottoline
Rogue Lawyer - John Grisham
The Lincoln Lawyer - Michael Connelly
The Guilty - David Baldacci
Margaret Fuller - Megan Marshall
The Paris Wife - Paula McLain
That Camden Summer - LaVyrle Spencer
The Courtesan - Alexandra Curry
The Making of the African Queen - Katharine Hepburn
Burning Down George Orwell's House - Andrew Ervin
The Circle - Bernard Minier
The Alienist - Caleb Carr
Humans of New York: Stories - Brandon Stanton
The Stupid Crook Book - Leland Gregory
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams -  Stephen King
The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith - Graham Greene
Choose Your Patricia Highsmith Recommendation Engine
Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - Marie Kondo


From our sister group in OK:

Books

Alexievich, Svetlana. Voices from Chernobyl; Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War; War’s Unwomanly Face
Brown, Alton. Feasting on Asphalt
Carl, Joanna. The Chocolate Falcon Fraud
Coulter, Catherine. Final Cut
Goodman, Ruth. How to be a Victorian
King, Stephen. The Wolves of Calla
Lam, Vincent. The Headmaster’s Wager
Lewis, Michael. The Big Short
Lipton, James. Inside Inside
Patton, Benjamin. Growing Up Patton
Philbrook, Nathaniel. In the Heart of the Sea
Sacks, Oliver. An Anthropologist on Mars; On the Move: A Life
See, Lisa. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Sides, Hampton. Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette
Smith, Tom Rob. Child 44
Vonnegut, Mark. Just Like Someone with Mental Illness Only More So
Wilder, L. Douglas. Son of Virginia



Movies

Carol
Danish Girl
Hateful Eight
In the Heart of the Sea
Revenant

Iceland Writer’s Retreat http://www.icelandwritersretreat.com/
(Book Bunch member, K.W. Hillis will attend in April 2016)

From Mary Lou in MD:

Anton Chekov, Selected Plays (Norton Critical Edition, 2005). I read the plays and selected critical essays for a Russian Lit class at my Senior Center. We studied Ivanov (first played 1887), The Seagull (1896), Uncle Vanya (1899), The Three Sisters (1901), and The Cherry Orchard (1904). Except for Ivanov, I had seen them all at least once, in very good productions. This is fortunate, as they don’t read all that well. I agree that they are masterpieces, but they are much better enjoyed in the theatre, where the director has done much of the interpretive work for you. Some playwrights are a joy to read (Shakespeare, Shaw), but in my opinion, not Chekov.

Jane Austen, Persuasion (1818, posthumous). I read this in conjunction with a Senior Center class on The England of Jane Austen. I think this is the equal of her other, more famous novels. Anne Elliot is as admirable a heroine as Elizabeth Bennett and the novel offers several other admirable (though flawed) women characters, including her godmother Lady Russell and Mrs. Croft. At age 27, Anne seems fated for spinsterhood, having declined the proposal of a dashing but poor naval officer, Frederick Wentworth. Her father’s vanity has squandered the family fortune and they are obliged to rent out Kellynch Hall and take up lodgings in Bath. The Hall is let to Admiral and Mrs. Croft, who just happen to be the now-wealthy Captain Wentworth’s brother-in-law and sister. A series of social and domestic crises and numerous misunder-standings conspire against a reunion of Anne and Wentworth and while this is being worked out, Austen gives us a vivid portrait of the constraints social norms placed on women of the time.

Jo Baker, The Undertow (2011). The novel presents the story of four generations of the Hastings family from World War I to the present. In August 1914 William Hastings, a London factory worker, is about to leave for the Navy. He gives his sweetheart Amelia a lovely album for postcards and promises to send her one from every place he goes. In April 1915, Amelia gives birth to a son and names him Billy. As a teenager, Billy gets a job delivering groceries by bicycle and eventually grows up to be a champion cyclist. In World War II he is placed in a company of cyclists who ride into the D-day landings on military bicycles. Billy’s son Will manages to make himself into an athlete, despite a crippled leg. He also studies hard and gets to Oxford where he becomes a professor in the 1960s. His daughter Billie becomes an artist in London. She attempts to discover her family history. The postcard album makes scattered appearances throughout the novel. Reading this novel can be a slightly disorienting experience, as the focus shifts to the next generation before the story of the older generation reaches full resolution.

Charlotte MacLeod, The Withdrawing Room (1980). This is the second novel in the series of mysteries featuring Sarah Kelling and her eccentric relatives of a prominent Boston family. In The Family Vault (1979) young Sarah’s husband is killed and now the widow finds herself facing destitution. Over the vociferous objections of her family (Cousin Dolph, Uncle Jeremy), she turns her large Beacon Hill brownstone into a boarding house so she can continue to pay the mortgage. She carefully recruits her tenants and serves as their gracious dinner hostess, while disguising the fact that she is also the cook. She is ably, if unconventionally assisted by her maid and butler, Mariposa and Charles. In fact, no one in this household is quite what they appear to be. Things get really strange when her most obnoxious boarder is murdered. The replacement tenant proves hardly more satisfactory. Sarah is a resourceful and imaginative sleuth.

Martha Grimes, Vertigo 42 (2014). Wealthy Tom Williamson asks Scotland Yard Superintendent Richard Jury to meet him at a bar named Vertigo 42 atop a London skyscraper. (Remember, the titles of all of Grimes’s Richard Jury novels are the names of pubs.) Williamson wants Jury to reinvestigate the death of his wife in Devon 17 years previously. The Devon-Cornwall investigating officer deemed the death accidental, ascribed to the wife’s known vertigo; the coroner issued an open verdict. The junior officer involved in the investigation was Brian Macalvie (a friend and colleague of Jury’s familiar in other Grimes novels). Macalvie found the death suspicious. Jury agrees to go to Devon to see where the “accident” occurred. On the way he stops to see his friend Melrose Plant and they go to the local pub, the Jack and Hammer. There they hear of the mysterious death of a young woman in a fall from a tower. Did she fall, or was she pushed? Now Jury has two mysteries to ponder. Without the astute comments of his fashion-conscious young neighbor Carol-anne and the actions of a stray dog, he never would have figured things out. This is a very witty novel with ample literary allusions. Grimes does not disappoint her readers.