The Greensboro Book Club Meetup Group Message Board › It is time to select our next 10 titles for the coming year (Sept 2010-June
Here is the space were we will collect our titles....
Here are my five suggestions:
1. The Cleft, by Dorris Lesssing (this book resulting in her winning the nobel prize in literature).
The story is narrated by a Roman historian, during the time of the Emperor Nero. He tells the story as a secret history of humanity's beginnings, as pieced together from scraps of documents and oral histories, passed down through the ages. Humanity was made up, in the beginning, of solely females who reproduced asexually. These females were a calm race and had few problems
2. Let the great world spin (National book award winner for 2010) two of my friends said it was amazing.
The plot of the book revolves around two central events. The first central event, which is laid out clearly in the book's opening pages, is the sensational real-life feat of the Twin Towers tightrope walk of Philippe Petit 110 stories up, performed in 1974. This first of the two "central events," being focused on the old Twin Towers, lays the groundwork for the author's description of the human ability to find meaning, even in the greatest of tragedies, for which the Twin Towers serve as a sort of an allegory. The second central event, which is only revealed halfway through the book, is the fictional courtroom trial of a New York City prostitute. This second central event serves as a sort of point of balance, bringing the book back down to its more earthly, and therefore more real basic story lines.
3. My stroke of insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor. Also highly recommended by friends. A memoir. A brain scientist's journey from a debilitating stroke to full recovery becomes an inspiring exploration of human consciousness and its possibilities
4. Corelli’s Mandolin (my friend said that this book turned out to be the best discovery in a half a decade. He added, "read it. You won’t regret it”)
Corelli's Mandolin explores many varieties of love. We see the initial lust-based love between Pelagia and Mandras, which burns out as a result of the war, and the change it prompts in both of them. Corelli and Pelagia's slow-developing love is the central focus of the novel. Love is described by Dr. Iannis as "what is left when the passion has gone", and it certainly appears that this criterion is fulfilled by the love of Corelli and Pelagia. The paternal love of Iannis for Pelagia is also strong and is heavily compared and contrasted to that of Corelli.
5. Tinkers by Paul Harding (2010 pulitzer winner). The novel tells the tale of George Washington Crosby, a clock repairman, who recounts his life story and his father's struggles with epilepsy to his family on his deathbed
|A former member|
1. American Gods - Neil Gaiman
This book is amazing. I'm reading it right now and while it's long, it's simply wonderful.
"Original, engrossing, and endlessly inventive; a picaresque journey across America where the travelers are even stranger than the roadside attractions." -- George R. R. Martin
American Gods is Neil Gaiman's best and most ambitious novel yet, a scary, strange, and hallucinogenic road-trip story wrapped around a deep examination of the American spirit. Gaiman tackles everything from the onslaught of the information age to the meaning of death, but he doesn't sacrifice the razor-sharp plotting and narrative style he's been delivering since his Sandman days.
Shadow gets out of prison early when his wife is killed in a car crash. At a loss, he takes up with a mysterious character called Wednesday, who is much more than he appears. In fact, Wednesday is an old god, once known as Odin the All-father, who is roaming America rounding up his forgotten fellows in preparation for an epic battle against the upstart deities of the Internet, credit cards, television, and all that is wired. Shadow agrees to help Wednesday, and they whirl through a psycho-spiritual storm that becomes all too real in its manifestations. For instance, Shadow's dead wife Laura keeps showing up, and not just as a ghost--the difficulty of their continuing relationship is by turns grim and darkly funny, just like the rest of the book.
2. High Fidelity - Nick Hornby
I've actually never read the book, but I've heard it's awesome and the movie by the same title (with the wonderful John Cusack in the lead role) is awesome.
It has been said often enough that baby boomers are a television generation, but the very funny novel High Fidelity reminds that in a way they are the record-album generation as well. This funny novel is obsessed with music; Hornby's narrator is an early-thirtysomething English guy who runs a London record store. He sells albums recorded the old-fashioned way--on vinyl--and is having a tough time making other transitions as well, specifically adulthood. The book is in one sense a love story, both sweet and interesting; most entertaining, though, are the hilarious arguments over arcane matters of pop music.
3. The Last Summer (of you and me) - Ann Brashares
I thought this was a great more adult book from the author who wrote The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books. More of a summer read, but it's still really good.
From the Inside Flap
In the town of Waterby on Fire Island, the rhythms and rituals of summer are sacrosanct: the ceremonial arrivals and departures by ferry; yacht club dinners with terrible food and breathtaking views; the virtual decree against shoes; and the generational parade of sandy, sun-bleached kids, running, swimming, squealing, and coming of age on the beach.
Set against this vivid backdrop, The Last Summer (of You and Me) is the enchanting, heartrending story of a beach-community friendship triangle among three young adults for whom summer and this place have meant everything. Sisters Riley and Alice, now in their twenties, have been returning to their parents' modest beach house every summer for their entire lives. Petite, tenacious Riley is a tomboy and a lifeguard, always ready for a midnight swim, a gale-force sail, or a barefoot sprint down the beach. Beautiful Alice is lithe, gentle, a reader and a thinker, and worshipful of her older sister. And every summer growing up, in the big house that overshadowed their humble one, there was Paul, a friend as important to both girls as the place itself, who has now finally returned to the island after three years away. But his return marks a season of tremendous change, and when a simmering attraction, a serious illness, and a deep secret all collide, the three friends are launched into an unfamiliar adult world, a world from which their summer haven can no longer protect them.
4. Farewell Waltz - Milan Kundera
Another good book from Milan Kundera.
"It is hard to imagine anything more chilling and profound than Kundera's apparent lightheartedness."'Elizabeth PochodaIN this dark farce of a novel, set in an old-fashioned Central Euroepean spa town, eight characters are swept up in an accelerating dance: a pretty nurse and her repairman boyfriend; an oddball gynecologist; a rich Amrican (at once saint and Don Juan); a popular trumpeter and his beautiful, obsessively jealous wife; an unillusioned former political prisoner about to leave his country and his young woman ward.Perhaps the most brilliantly plotted and sheerly entertaining of Milan Kundera's novels, Farewell Waltz poses the most serious questions with a blasphemous lightness that makes us see that the modern world has deprived us even of the right to tragedy.Written in Bohemia in 1969-70, this book was first published (in 1976) in France under the title La valse aux adieux (Farewell Waltz), and later in thirty-four other countries. This beautiful new translation, made from the French text prepared by the novelist himself, fully reflects his own tone and intentions. As such it offers an opportunity for both the discovery and the rediscovery of one of the very best of a great writer's works."Kundera remains faithful to this subtle, wily, devious talent for a fiction of `erotic possibilities.' "'New York Times Book Review"Farewell Waltz shocks. Black humor. Farcical ferocity. Admirably tender portraits of women." 'Le Point (Paris)"After Farewell Waltz there cannot be any doubt. Kundera is a master of contemporary literature. This novel is both an example of virtuosity and a descent into the human soul."'L'Unit, (Paris)
5. Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman
I haven't read this book yet, but it looks to be another great read from Neil Gaiman!
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. If readers found the Sandman series creator's last novel, American Gods, hard to classify, they will be equally nonplussed—and equally entertained—by this brilliant mingling of the mundane and the fantastic. "Fat Charlie" Nancy leads a life of comfortable workaholism in London, with a stressful agenting job he doesn't much like, and a pleasant fiancée, Rosie. When Charlie learns of the death of his estranged father in Florida, he attends the funeral and learns two facts that turn his well-ordered existence upside-down: that his father was a human form of Anansi, the African trickster god, and that he has a brother, Spider, who has inherited some of their father's godlike abilities. Spider comes to visit Charlie and gets him fired from his job, steals his fiancée, and is instrumental in having him arrested for embezzlement and suspected of murder. When Charlie resorts to magic to get rid of Spider, who's selfish and unthinking rather than evil, things begin to go very badly for just about everyone. Other characters—including Charlie's malevolent boss, Grahame Coats ("an albino ferret in an expensive suit"), witches, police and some of the folk from American Gods—are expertly woven into Gaiman's rich myth, which plays off the African folk tales in which Anansi stars. But it's Gaiman's focus on Charlie and Charlie's attempts to return to normalcy that make the story so winning—along with gleeful, hurtling prose.
ok here goes...
1. Ceremony – Leslie Marmon Silko - this is my favorite college professor's favorite contemporary novel, and I've been meaning to read it for years now....
“Thirty years since its original publication, Ceremony remains one of the most profound and moving works of Native American literature, a novel that is itself a ceremony of healing. Tayo, a World War II veteran of mixed ancestry, returns to the Laguna Pueblo Reservation. He is deeply scarred by his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese and further wounded by the rejection he encounters from his people. Only by immersing himself in the Indian past can he begin to regain the peace that was taken from him. Masterfully written, filled with the somber majesty of Pueblo myth, Ceremony is a work of enduring power.” – Amazon.com
2. Wolf Hall: A Novel– Hilary Mantel - caught my eye recently on Amazon; Man Booker Prize winner
“No character in the canon has been writ larger than Henry VIII, but that didn't stop Hilary Mantel. She strides through centuries, past acres of novels, histories, biographies, and plays--even past Henry himself--confident in the knowledge that to recast history's most mercurial sovereign, it's not the King she needs to see, but one of the King's most mysterious agents. Enter Thomas Cromwell, a self-made man and remarkable polymath who ascends to the King's right hand. Rigorously pragmatic and forward-thinking, Cromwell has little interest in what motivates his Majesty, and although he makes way for Henry's marriage to the infamous Anne Boleyn, it's the future of a free England that he honors above all else and hopes to secure. Mantel plots with a sleight of hand, making full use of her masterful grasp on the facts without weighing down her prose.” –Amazon.com
3. Moloka'I – Alan Brennert - another one Amazon keeps suggesting to me, the other side of "paradise"
“Compellingly original in its conceit, Brennert's sweeping debut novel tracks the grim struggle of a Hawaiian woman who contracts leprosy as a child in Honolulu during the 1890s and is deported to the island of Moloka'i, where she grows to adulthood at the quarantined settlement of Kalaupapa. …. Rachel finds happiness when she meets Kenji Utagawa, a fellow leprosy victim whose illness brings shame on his Japanese family. After a tender courtship, Rachel and Kenji marry and have a daughter, but the birth of their healthy baby brings as much grief as joy, when they must give her up for adoption to prevent infection. …. Brennert's compassion makes Rachel a memorable character, and his smooth storytelling vividly brings early 20th-century Hawaii to life.” – Publisher’s Weekly
4. A Voyage Long and Strange : Rediscovering the New World – Tony Horwitz (non-fiction)
I really enjoyed his Blue Latitudes which retraced the journey of Capt. Cook & examined his legacy.
“Horwitz set out to explore all the points in the New World "discovered" and described by early explorers. Focusing on the three categories (that frequently, in reality, overlapped) of discovery, conquest, and settlement, Horwitz narrates the history of, for example, Coronado's search for the Cities of Gold (pp. 134-164) or the settlement of Roanoke's "lost colony" (pp. 293-325), and interweaves in the narration accounts of his own travels over Coronado's route and his exploration of the Carolina peninsula where the lost colony once flourished. The mixture makes for exciting reading, lending a contemporary vitality to the historical descriptions.”--Amazon.com review by Kerry Walters
5. The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living – Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler (non-fiction)
came up frequently in ethics class discussions on happiness; another I've been meaning to read for way too long now...
“Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sit down with the Dalai Lama and really press him about life's persistent questions? Why are so many people unhappy? How can I abjure loneliness? How can we reduce conflict? Is romantic love true love? Why do we suffer? How should we deal with unfairness and anger? How do you handle the death of a loved one? These are the conundrums that psychiatrist Howard Cutler poses to the Dalai Lama during an extended period of interviews in The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living.”
|A former member|
Right now, I am reading, Making Rounds With Oscar-David Dosa and am enjoying it, also read Julie & Julia & enjoyed it, so, think both would be good to discuss,have read some others lately that did not enjoy, such as Eat, Pray, Love, was trying to think what else have read lately that I could suggest only thought of those 2.
1. A Wedding In December-Anita Shreve-A Big Chill–like group reunites for a 40-something wedding in this melancholy story of missed opportunities, lingering regrets and imagined alternatives by Shreve (The Last Time They Met). Bill and Bridget were sweethearts at Maine's Kidd Academy who rediscovered one another at their 25th reunion
2. Seabiscuit-He didn't look like much. With his smallish stature, knobby knees, and slightly crooked forelegs, he looked more like a cow pony than a thoroughbred. But looks aren't everything; his quality, an admirer once wrote, "was mostly in his heart." Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of the horse who became a cultural icon in Seabiscuit: An American Legend.
3. The Swimming Pool-Holly LeCraw-A heartbreaking affair, an unsolved murder, an explosive romance: welcome to summer on the Cape in this powerful debut.
Seven summers ago, Marcella Atkinson fell in love with Cecil McClatchey, a married father of two. But on the same night their romance abruptly ended, Cecil's wife was found murdered—and their lives changed forever. The case was never solved, and Cecil died soon after, an uncharged suspect.
4. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo-Steig Larssen-It’s about the disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden . . . and about her octogenarian uncle, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder.
5. The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food And Friendship by Andrea Israel-A touching story of friendship, loss, and the ties that bind, with more than eighty recipes.
Edited by User 8,644,345 on May 20, 2010 5:04 PM
Wow! Hard to believe it is time to pick the next year's books! Actually, I have been compiling a short list of reads that look intriguing. Below are 5 of them:
1. Homer and Langley, by E.L. Doctorow. I remember reading Ragtime in college. This new book by Doctorow looks intriguing. Doctorow's exclusive Amazon essay on Homer & Langley:
"I was a teenager when the Collyer brothers were found dead in their Fifth Avenue brownstone. Instantly, they were folklore. And so there is the real historical existence of them and the mythological existence--two existences, as with Abe Lincoln, though of a less exalted standing. I didn’t know at the time that I would someday write about them, but even then I felt there was some secret to the Collyers--there was something about them still to be discovered under the piles of things in their house--the bales of newspapers and the accumulated detritus of their lives. Was it only that they were junk-collecting eccentrics? You see that every day in the streets of New York. They had opted out--that was the primary fact. Coming from a well-to-do family, with every advantage, they had locked the door and closed the shutters and absented themselves from the life around them. A major move, as life-transforming as emigration. In fact it was a form of emigration, of leave-taking. But where to? What country was within that house? What would have caused them to become the notorious recluses of Fifth Avenue? As myths, the brothers demanded not research but interpretation, and when a few years ago I was finally moved to do this book, I felt as if writing it was an act of breaking and entering just to see what may have been going on in that house, which really meant getting inside two very interesting minds. And with the first sentence, “I’m Homer, the blind brother,” I was in. In one sense I think of Homer & Langley as a road novel--as if they are two people traveling together down a road and having adventures, though in fact they are housebound. It turns out that the world will not let them alone--others intrude on their privacy as if it is the road running through them. As for their collecting, I think of them as curators of their life and times, and their house as a museum of all our lives. That is my idea of them, that is my reading of the Collyer myth. I make them to be two brothers who opted out of civilization and pulled the world in after them."--E.L. Doctorow
2. Day After Night, by Anita Diamant. This is a new book out by the author of The Red Tent. From Publishers Weekly: "Diamant's bestseller, The Red Tent, explored the lives of biblical women ignored by the male-centric narrative. In her compulsively readable latest, she sketches the intertwined fates of several young women refugees at Atlit, a British-run internment camp set up in Palestine after WWII. There's Tedi, a Dutch girl who hid in a barn for years before being turned in and narrowly escaping Bergen-Belsen; Leonie, a beautiful French girl whose wartime years in Paris are cloaked with shame; Shayndel, a heroine of the Polish partisan movement whose cheerful facade hides a tortured soul; and Zorah, a concentration camp survivor who is filled with an understandable nihilism. The dynamic of suffering and renewed hope through friendship is the book's primary draw, but an eventual escape attempt adds a dash of suspense to the astutely imagined story of life at the camp: the wary relationship between the Palestinian Jews and the survivors, the intense flirtation between the young people that marks a return to life. Diamant opens a window into a time of sadness, confusion and optimism that has resonance for so much that's both triumphant and troubling in modern Jewish history. (Sept.)"
3. Making Toast, by Roger Rosenblatt. From Oprah's Reading Room: "Between the loss of a child and the childhood loss of a parent, there is no determining which hurts more. But veteran journalist and essayist Roger Rosenblatt reveals a deeply affecting and unsparing memoir of moving in with his three grandchildren after his daughter's sudden death. Soon after 38-year-old Amy Soloman dies of a heart attack in her home gym, Rosenblatt and his wife, Ginny, leave Long Island and take up residence in Amy's house in Bethesda, Maryland, with Jessica, 6; Sammy, 4; Bubbies, as 1-year-old James is called; and Harris, the son-in-law whom they always liked but never expected to have as a housemate. A situation fraught with possible disaster becomes an occasion for mutual healing. It turns out that getting his family through this enormous sadness is the only way Rosenblatt can get through it himself. Making Toast pays btribute ton the quotidian pleasures of living with children, to the agony of watching them suffer, and to the serious business of growing up. Sad but somehow triumphant, this memoir is a celebration of family, and of how, even in the deepest sorrow, we can discover new links of love and the will to go on."
4. And There Was Light, by Jacques Lusseyran. From Oprah's Reading Room: Background: "This is a memoir written years after World War II by a man who, as a 16-year-old boy, started a Resistance group made up mainly by teenagers in Nazi-occupied Paris. That alone is incredible, but he was also blind. He was particularly valuable to the movement because he could almost always tell when people were lying. He couldn't see, but he felt "light" coming from people. I find it amazing that he turned his blindness into an enlightening experience." Why this book was chosen for review: A lot of people don't know about this memoir, and it gives such a unique perspective on oneof the most dramatic periods of human history. Also, Lusseyran had a very clear moral compass; he risked his life for the benefit of other people."
5. The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in the Jim Crow South, by Alex Heard. From Mother Jones Magazine: In 1945 in Laurel, Mississippi, a black man named Willie McGee was accused of raping a white woman named Willette Hawkins. Despite inconsistencies in the trial testimony that suggested that Hawkins had fabricated the story to cover up an extramarital affair with McGee, an all-white jury convicted him, and a judge sentenced him to death. In The Eyes of Willie McGee, journalist and Mississippi native Alex Heard tells in fascinating detail how this small-town trial snowballed into a landmark battle of the burgeoning civil rights movement. Communist Party lawyers got wind of the case and took up McGee's appeal, arguing that his sentence was the result of raqcism n- a white man would never be executed for rape. Over nearly six years of new trials and stays of execution, celebrities including William Faulkner and Norman Mailer advocated on McGee's behalf. But to no avail; McGee was executed in 1951. Heard is a great storyteller and a meticulous historian."
|A former member|
The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh
I read The Shadow Lines this past semester in my Post-Colonial Literature class. Even though I had to read it for class, I really enjoyed and would recommend this novel to anyone. ‘The Shadow Lines is an intricately woven tale based on both fictional and non-fictional events that shaped the author's life. Amitav Ghosh sends the reader on a journey that defies all familiar perceptions of time and space.’(http://www.essortment...)
The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton
THE MOONFLOWER VINE opens in the early 1950's with the Soames family gathered on the family farm outside Renfro, Missouri, for their annual summer visit. Matthew Soames, a retired school teacher, and his wife, Callie, are enjoying the last days of summer with three of their daughters and one grandson. The opening scenes paint a touching portrait from the youngest daughter’s point of view, of rural life and family ties: strong ties that bring them home on their annual pilgrimage, but only hint at the secrets and sorrows that lie beneath. The last day of their visit coincides with the blooming of the moonflower vine, a flower that blooms only a few days each season at sunset. The moonflower vine symbolizes a silent tribute to their family history and the life changing events that have marked the Soames family. After a heartwarming introduction, the novel is divided into five sections, telling the individual stories and secrets of Jessica, Matthew, Mathy, Leonie and Callie.
Becoming Abigail by Chris Albani
This novella is very intense with some really graphic scenes – BUT don’t let that turn you off. It is one read that you will never forget. Tough, spirited and fiercely independent Abigail is brought as a teenager to London from Nigeria by relatives who attempt to force her into prostitution. She flees and in the aftermath struggles to find herself in the shadow of a strong but dead mother and also the means to save the one lover she has chosen in her short life, her social worker; disgraced and now facing charges. In spare yet haunting and lyrical prose reminiscent of Marguerite Duras, Abani brings to life a young woman who lives with a strength and inner light that will enlighten and uplift the reader.
|A former member|
The Gargoyle Andrew Davidson
I read this book about 18 months ago and was hooked. It is essentially a central love story between what may or may not be reincarnated lovers; there are also four other side stories told during the course of the book.
Publishers Weekly Review
Starred Review. At the start of Davidson's powerful debut, the unnamed narrator, a coke-addled pornographer, drives his car off a mountain road in a part of the country that's never specified. During his painful recovery from horrific burns suffered in the crash, the narrator plots to end his life after his release from the hospital. When a schizophrenic fellow patient, Marianne Engel, begins to visit him and describe her memories of their love affair in medieval Germany, the narrator is at first skeptical, but grows less so. Eventually, he abandons his elaborate suicide plan and envisions a life with Engel, a sculptress specializing in gargoyles. Davidson, in addition to making his flawed protagonist fully sympathetic, blends convincing historical detail with deeply felt emotion in both Engel's recollections of her past life with the narrator and her moving accounts of tragic love. Once launched into this intense tale of unconventional romance, few readers will want to put it down.
Cloud Atlas David Mitchell
I have many things about this book from different friends and it is one on my must read sometime list
Publishers Weekly Review
At once audacious, dazzling, pretentious and infuriating, Mitchell's third novel weaves history, science, suspense, humor and pathos through six separate but loosely related narratives. Like Mitchell's previous works, Ghostwritten and number9dream (which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize), this latest foray relies on a kaleidoscopic plot structure that showcases the author's stylistic virtuosity. Each of the narratives is set in a different time and place, each is written in a different prose style, each is broken off mid-action and brought to conclusion in the second half of the book. Among the volume's most engaging story lines is a witty 1930s-era chronicle, via letters, of a young musician's effort to become an amanuensis for a renowned, blind composer and a hilarious account of a modern-day vanity publisher who is institutionalized by a stroke and plans a madcap escape in order to return to his literary empire (such as it is). Mitchell's ability to throw his voice may remind some readers of David Foster Wallace, though the intermittent hollowness of his ventriloquism frustrates. Still, readers who enjoy the "novel as puzzle" will find much to savor in this original and occasionally very entertaining work.
The Outcast Sadie Jones
Heard about this on a Radio Show and liked the sound of it
Publishers Weekly Review
Starred Review. Set in post WWII suburban London, this superb debut novel charts the downward spiral and tortured redemption of a young man shattered by loss. The war is over, and Lewis Aldridge is getting used to having his father, Gilbert, back in the house. Things hum along splendidly until Lewis's mother drowns, casting the 10-year-old into deep isolation. Lewis is ignored by grief-stricken Gilbert, who remarries a year after the death, and Lewis's sadness festers during his adolescence until he boils over and torches a church. After serving two years in prison, Lewis returns home seeking redemption and forgiveness, only to find himself ostracized. The town's most prominent family, the Carmichaels, poses particular danger: terrifying, abusive patriarch Dicky (who is also Gilbert's boss) wants to humiliate him; beautiful 21-year-old Tamsin possesses an insidious coquettishness; and patient, innocent Kit—not quite 16 years old—confounds him with her youthful affection. Mutual distrust between Lewis and the locals grows, but Kit may be able to save Lewis. Jones's prose is fluid, and Lewis's suffering comes across as achingly real.
The House at Riverton Kate Morton
Amazon Best of the Month, April 2008: In her cinematic debut novel, Kate Morton immerses readers in the dramas of the Ashbury family at their crumbling English country estate in the years surrounding World War I, an age when Edwardian civility, shaken by war, unravels into the roaring Twenties. Grace came to serve in the house as a girl. She left as a young woman, after the presumed suicide of a famous young poet at the property's lake. Though she has dutifully kept the family's secrets for decades, memories flood back in the twilight of her life when a young filmmaker comes calling with questions about how the poet really died--and why the Ashbury sisters never again spoke to each other afterward. With beautifully crafted prose, Morton methodically reveals how passion and fate transpired that night at the lake, with truly shocking results. Her final revelation at the story's close packs a satisfying (and not overly sentimental) emotional punch.
The Visible World Mark Slouka
Said to be similar to Milan Kundera who I know many of the Book Club love to read
From The Washington Post
It is a rare thing for a novel to split open the illusion of narrative -- like one of those 17th- century anatomical drawings where the corpse helpfully holds back the flaps of his own stomach -- to reveal the underlying mechanics of creation, memory and desire. It is even rarer for a tricky book like this to hit you in the heart. But Mark Slouka's second novel, The Visible World, not only questions the purpose of narrative and the connection between history and the present, it is also a vibrantly told love story.
The first section of the book, subtitled "A Memoir," presents vignettes (all with the flavor of autobiography) from the narrator's life with his parents, two Czech immigrants, and their expatriate communities in Queens, upstate New York and Pennsylvania. In a brief middle section, following his mother's death by suicide and his father's by cancer, the narrator journeys to Prague. Everyone he encounters during these two sections, except his mother, is a storyteller -- and the novel's central mystery is her lifelong silence about a man she loved during World War II. But as the narrator listens, the other stories begin to group themselves around this gap "like iron filings around an invisible magnet, suggesting a shape." Slouka explored this thematic territory in his first novel, God's Fool, and especially in his 1998 book of short stories, Lost Lake, from which this new novel borrows not only ideas but also characters, settings, subplots and even phrases. The major flaw of The Visible World, in fact, is that the opening sections read too much like a short-story cycle, with each section self-contained, providing little momentum -- which, in a novel, feels like a series of attempted liftoffs before the final flight.
Here are some I wrote down while book browsing one day. Sorry this is so long-I copied the summaries from Amazon.
1. The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston
When author Douglas Preston moved his family to Florence he never expected he would soon become obsessed and entwined in a horrific crime story whose true-life details rivaled the plots of his own bestselling thrillers. While researching his next book, Preston met Mario Spezi, an Italian journalist who told him about the Monster of Florence, Italy's answer to Jack the Ripper, a terror who stalked lovers' lanes in the Italian countryside. The killer would strike at the most intimate time, leaving mutilated corpses in his bloody wake over a period from 1968 to 1985. One of these crimes had taken place in an olive grove on the property of Preston's new home. That was enough for him to join "Monsterologist" Spezi on a quest to name the killer, or killers, and bring closure to these unsolved crimes. Local theories and accusations flourished: the killer was a cuckolded husband; a local aristocrat; a physician or butcher, someone well-versed with knives; a satanic cult. Thomas Harris even dipped into "Monster" lore for some of Hannibal Lecter's more Grand Guignol moments in Hannibal. Add to this a paranoid police force more concerned with saving face and naming a suspect (any suspect) than with assessing the often conflicting evidence on hand, and an unbelievable twist that finds both authors charged with obstructing justice, with Spezi jailed on suspicion of being the Monster himself. The Monster of Florence is split into two sections: the first half is Spezi's story, with the latter bringing in Preston's updated involvement on the case. Together these two parts create a dark and fascinating descent into a landscape of horror that deserves to be shelved between In Cold Blood and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
2. Travelling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd
In a probing literary collaboration that moves from Greece to their home in Charleston, S.C., novelist Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees) and her daughter, Taylor, explore and record the changing stages of a woman's life. At 50, Kidd, a wife and mother who had found fulfillment as a writer in recent years, was approaching menopause and anxious about tapping the green fuse, or regenerative energy, for the next step in her life. Traveling to Greece with her daughter, Taylor, 22, when the latter graduated from college in 1998, Kidd recognized that her daughter, who had just received a stinging rejection from a graduate school, was also undergoing another kind of wrenching transformation—from child to adult faced with decisions about what to do with her own life. In passages narrated in turn by Kidd and Taylor, the two create a gently affectionate filial dance around the other, in the manner of the fertility myth of Persephone and her mother, Demeter. In travels through Greece, Turkey and later France, Kidd and Taylor found strength and inspiration on their respective journeys in the lives of Athena, the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc, but mostly through a new understanding and appreciation of each other. Although the maiden-mother-crone symbolism grows repetitive and forced, their's is a moving journey.
3. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Following her breakout bestseller, The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger returns with Her Fearful Symmetry, a haunting tale about the complications of love, identity, and sibling rivalry. The novel opens with the death of Elspeth Noblin, who bequeaths her London flat and its contents to the twin daughters of her estranged twin sister back in Chicago. These 20-year-old dilettantes, Julie and Valentina, move to London, eager to try on a new experience like one of their obsessively matched outfits. Historic Highgate Cemetery, which borders Elspeth's home, serves as an inspired setting as the twins become entwined in the lives of their neighbors: Elspeth's former lover, Robert; Martin, an agoraphobic crossword-puzzle creator; and the ethereal Elspeth herself, struggling to adjust to the afterlife. Niffenegger brings these quirky, troubled characters to marvelous life, but readers may need their own supernatural suspension of disbelief as the story winds to its twisty conclusion.
4. Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan
Nigerian-born Jesuit priest Akpan transports the reader into gritty scenes of chaos and fear in his rich debut collection of five long stories set in war-torn Africa. An Ex-mas Feast tells the heartbreaking story of eight-year-old Jigana, a Kenyan boy whose 12-year-old sister, Maisha, works as a prostitute to support her family. Jigana's mother quells the children's hunger by having them sniff glue while they wait for Maisha to earn enough to bring home a holiday meal. In Luxurious Hearses, Jubril, a teenage Muslim, flees the violence in northern Nigeria. Attacked by his own Muslim neighbors, his only way out is on a bus transporting Christians to the south. In Fattening for Gabon, 10-year-old Kotchikpa and his younger sister are sent by their sick parents to live with their uncle, Fofo Kpee, who in turn explains to the children that they are going to live with their prosperous godparents, who, as Kotchikpa pieces together, are actually human traffickers. Akpan's prose is beautiful and his stories are insightful and revealing, made even more harrowing because all the horror—and there is much—is seen through the eyes of children.
5. Drood by Dan Simmons
Bestseller Simmons (The Terror) brilliantly imagines a terrifying sequence of events as the inspiration for Dickens's last, uncompleted novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, in this unsettling and complex thriller. In the course of narrowly escaping death in an 1865 train wreck and trying to rescue fellow passengers, Dickens encounters a ghoulish figure named Drood, who had apparently been traveling in a coffin. Along with his real-life novelist friend Wilkie Collins, who narrates the tale, Dickens pursues the elusive Drood, an effort that leads the pair to a nightmarish world beneath London's streets. Collins begins to wonder whether the object of their quest, if indeed the man exists, is merely a cover for his colleague's own murderous inclinations. Despite the book's length, readers will race through the pages, drawn by the intricate plot and the proliferation of intriguing psychological puzzles, which will remind many of the work of Charles Palliser and Michael Cox.
i would like to throw in some of the classics from our previous list:
* flaubert, madame bovary
(middle class french woman bored with her pharmacist husband
has an intense, ultimately tragic affair: maps out the difficult tensions
of modern relationships, individuals vs. society, desire vs. adaptation....)
* camus, the plague
(n. african european colony in World War II, birthplace of camus--
examines varied human responses to the totalitarian "plague."
challenging, realistic, melancholy, and inspiring....)
* lawrence, women in love
(powerful portrayals of sisters' varied adaptations to new mores in
20th c. britain, rels. of men & women, dealing w/ change....
a more in-depth, accomplished novel than lady c's lover)
* ariely, predictably irrational: the hidden forces that shape our decisions
(ground-breaker in the fairly new field of behavioral economics: "... wildly original.
It shows why--much more often than we care to admit--humans make foolish,
and sometimes disasterous, mistakes. Ariely not only gives us a great read;
he also makes us much wiser." -- Geo. Akerlof, 2001 Nobel laureate in economics