June 26, 2016

June 2016

"No two persons ever read the same book." - Edmund Wilson

Here's what we've been reading lately:

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
When We Were Sisters - Emilie Richards
Future Crimes - Marc Goodman
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew - Margaret Sidney
The Gathering Storm - Winston Churchill
The Quartet - Joseph Ellis
Almost French - Sarah Turnbull
God is Not Great - Christopher Hitchens
The Queen of the Night - Alexander Chee
Bad Dog: A Love Story - Martin Kihn
Beach Town - Mary Kay Andrews
The Weekenders - Mary Kay Andrews
Speakers of the Dead - J. Aaron Sanders
Mystery of the Lost Cezanne - M. L. Longworth
Winemaker Detective series by Jean-Pierre Alaux
Wine and War - Donald Kladstrup and Petie Kladstrup
God Bless John Wayne - Kinky Friedman

From our sister group in OK:


Baldacci, David. The Guilty; Memory Man

Barclay, Linwood. No Time for Goodbye

Bell-Scott, Patricia. The Firebrand and the First Lady

Coben, Harlan. The Stranger

Cole, Henry. Brambleheart

Cooper, Anderson and Gloria Vanderbilt. The Rainbow Comes and Goes

Doerr, Anthony. All the Light We Cannot See

Edgarian, Carol. Rise the Euphrates

Erdrich, Louise. The Round House

Goldsworthy, Andy and David Craig. Arch

Hot Dudes Reading Blog. Hot Dudes Reading

Lackberg, Camilla. Hidden Child; Lost Boy; The Stonecutter

L’Amour, Louis. Sackett’s Land; To the Far Blue Mountains

Le Carre, John. Night Manager

Lee, Hermione. Willa Cather: A Life Saved Up

Little Thunder, Julie Pearson. Doris Littrell: A Life Made with Artists

Michener, James. The World Is My Home

Penman, Sharon Kay. Falls the Shadow

Penny, Louise. Cruelest Month; A Rule Against Murder

Poling-Kempes, Leslie. Ladies of the Canyon: A League of Extraordinary Women and Adventures in the American Southwest

Richardson, Wyman. The House on Nauset Marsh

Roosevelt, Eleanor. The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt

Sides, Hampton. In the Kingdom of Ice

Skiff, Jennifer. Divinity of Dogs

Simpson, Helen. The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea

Smith, Tom Robb. Secret Speech (Child 44 Trilogy)

Walls, Jeannette. Silver Star


McAdams, Dan P. “The Mind of Donald Trump.” The Atlantic, June 2016, pg. 76+

From Mary Lou in MD:

Rosemary Sullivan, Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva (2015). This is a carefully researched and well written biography of a very complex personage who definitely captivates the reader. The title, though inevitable, is rather ironic, since Svetlana struggled her entire live to be viewed as herself, not her father’s daughter. Svetlana was born in 1926 and spent her childhood in the Kremlin. Her mother died when she was 10 and she didn’t realize the extent of her father’s cruelties until he died when she was in her 20s. She had a very difficult life, marrying four time and having three children. When she was 40 years old, she defected to the USA but long term happiness proved elusive. Unfortunately she inherited a bit of her father’s volatile temper and her outbursts alienated a number of friends over the years. The notion of her paranoia probably was exaggerated. After all, she was hounded by the press, both the KGB and the CIA exploited her as much as they could, and once in the West her publishers and lawyers did not do particularly well by her. At age 85 she died penniless as Mrs. Lana Peters in rural Wisconsin. This is a thoroughly fascinating book, for both the character and the history.

J. Courtney Sullivan, Maine (2011). The Kellehers are a Boston Irish Catholic family with an unusual talent for saying vicious things to one another. The matriarch is Alice, and when we meet her in chapter one she is well into her 80s. When she and her husband Daniel were young and childless, he won a 3-acre costal property in Maine in a poker game. They built a cottage there and over the years their children and grandchildren spent many boisterous summers there. Their son Patrick is a prosperous businessman married to Ann Marie, a perfectionist who dedicates herself to the needs of her family, whether they want her to or not. She and Patrick built a modern house for his parents on the property and Ann Marie has worked out a schedule for her siblings and their families to spend a summer month in the cottage. Alice’s oldest child Kathleen is assigned to June, Ann Marie and Pat have July, and Alice’s other daughter Clare and her family are assigned to August. In chapter two we meet Kathleen’s daughter Maggie, a New York freelance writer who is planning to spend the first two weeks on June in Maine. In chapter three we meet Kathleen, divorced and living as far away from her hard drinking family as she can get. She left her husband when her children were small, joined AA, and eventually met aging hippie Arlo and moved to Sonoma Valley with him to run a worm farm. The chapters of this novel alternate among the four women, slinging acrimony at one another and revealing a great deal of family history as they consider the conflicts and challenges of the present. Yes, this is a beach book and thoroughly entertaining.

Christopher Isherwood, The Last of Mr. Norris (1935); Goodbye to Berlin (1939). Isherwood is a gay British novelist who spent much of the early 1930s in sexually liberal Berlin, at the time when Hitler was on the rise and Nazis and Communists were in competition. After returning to England he wrote and published these two novels, later collected as The Berlin Stories (New Directions, 1963). In The Last of Mr. Norris, the narrator William Bradshaw meets the title character, a very nervous older man, on the train returning to Berlin. For the rest of the novel, covering a period of many months, Mr. Norris flatters and manipulates the younger man into assisting him in various matters while dodging all of Bradshaw’s inquiries as to the nature of his difficulties. While the conversations and situations imply at a minimum, sexual attractions among the male characters, nothing is explicit. Rather, this motif is consistent with the general murkiness of the atmosphere of Berlin at this time. Eventually Bradshaw pieces the puzzle together. Bradshaw’s landlady Frl. Schroeder is a colorful comic character who appears also in Berlin Stories. Here the author narrates in his own name and she calls him, fondly, Herr Issyvoo. Again the

period is the early thirties, the Nazi’s are on the rise, and Berlin is particularly decadent among European cities. There is a notable lack of plot in these stories, each of which is titled after one of the author’s acquaintances. One of these, Sally Bowles, a thoroughly amoral American girl who markets her sexual favors while indulging in the city’s night life, is later portrayed by Liza Minelli in the musical Cabaret. With the war threat engulfing Europe, Isherwood traveled with his friend W.H. Auden to the United States in 1939. Isherwood became a U.S. Citizen in 1946 and lived in California where he died in 1986 at the age of 81.

Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace, To Marry an English Lord: Tales of Wealth and Marriage, Sex and Snobbery (1989, 2012). This volume of short, well-illustrated chapters traces the successes of beautiful American heiresses in captivating the society of Queen Victoria’s England, including even her son “Bertie,” Prince of Wales. It is said to have influenced Julian Fellowes in the creation of Downton Abbey’s Lady Grantham. There are many entertaining stories about famous American millionaires, their socially ambitious wives, and beautiful, fashionable daughters.

Colleen McCullough, Bittersweet (2013). This is another large family saga by the author of The Thorn Birds. It is set in the Shire and City of Corunda, New South Wales, Australia in the 1920s and 1930s. Church of England Reverend Thomas Latimer has two sets of twin daughters. The mother of Edda and Grace died soon after their birth. A little over two years later, their stepmother Maude gave birth to Tufts and Kitty. All the girls are attractive, but Maude sees beauty only in Kitty. The girls are united in protecting Kitty from the damages wrought by Maude’s doting. As the novel opens, the sisters are about to escape home and Maude by embarking on nurses training at Corunda Base Hospital. Challenges and conflicts involve practices of medical institutions of the period, Tory vs. Labor politics, and the economic depression following the economic crash of 1929. The personalities of the four girls are quite different and they each are molded by their experiences as the novel progresses. In general, their suitors are unworthy of them.

Helen Simonson, The Summer Before the War (2016). In June 1914 Beatrice Nash finds it necessary to support herself after her father’s death and she finds a position as a Latin teacher in the town of Rye, East Sussex. Although the town worthies are reluctant to engage a woman Latin teacher, Beatrice’s candidacy is supported by Mrs. Agatha Kent, whose husband John has a position of some importance in the Foreign Office. They have two nephews, surgeon-in-training Hugh aspiring poet Daniel, for whom Rye is a second home. When the first Belgian refugees arrive in Rye, the town worthies exhibit great self-importance in their efforts to house and assist the refugees without lowering or inconveniencing themselves. Town fetes and parades cause great excitement, but for the Kents, Beatrice, and the cousins the war becomes a terrible reality. The strong-minded Beatrice is a particularly engaging character as she struggles against the prejudices and restrictions facing a single woman without male protection.

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