A couple of weeks ago I renewed my subscription to Netflix, just in time to catch the new documentary about American author and essayists Joan Didion. It’s an excellent tribute, very entertaining. C.J., who normally only watches You Tube videos about old English houses, loved it. He was even inspired to try reading some of Ms. Didion’s essays. And I was inspired to pick up … Continue reading A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion
Jess Walter’s novel The Zero takes place in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. The hero is a policeman assigned to the disaster site in the months following the building’s destruction. When the novel opens, he has the job of taking V.I.P.’s on private tours of Ground Zero or The Zero. Soon, he is involved in a clandestine investigation into the disaster itself … Continue reading The Zero by Jess Walter
Is it insulting to turn a real person into a character in a book? The nature of historical fiction and the inherent trustworthiness of it is foregrounded in HHhH by Laurent Binet. Mr. Binet wants to tell the story of two men, Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík, who carried out an assassination attempt on the life of Reinhard Heydrich, second in command of the Nazi SS … Continue reading HHhH by Laurent Binet
I was looking for space opera. If you don’t know what space opera is, it’s Star Wars. Lots of space ships. Battles between them. A clear-cut hero. A clear-cut villain. Maybe some alien supporting characters. Maybe a little romance. Something fun. Lightless by C.A. Higgins partially delivers the goods as far as space opera goes. There are space ships. There is some romance. There are battles. … Continue reading Lightless by C.A. Higgins
Visited the local Friends of the Library book sale yesterday, in the rain, where C.J. and I managed to spend much more than we intended. He got several art books and a couple of books full of house plans while I nearly completed my Jane Austen collection. Can you name the book I still have to find. I’ve decided it’s a good time to re-read all … Continue reading Sunday Ramble and Two Books I Didn’t Like. Sorry.
As a reader, I’m kind of a sucker. It’s easy to take me by surprise. I didn’t see any of it coming in Gone Girl. Life of Pi came to me from far out in left field. And I admit it, it never even occurred to me that he would sell his precious pocket watch to buy his wife a beautiful hair pin. My jaw has hit the floor … Continue reading Red Joan by Jennie Rooney
One of the many reasons for reading literature in translation is the window it can provide onto experiences other than our own, sometimes experiences we never knew existed. The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vasquez provides a window on life among German nationals living in Columbia during the second world war. Because of diplomatic pressure from the United States, the government of Columbia published a list … Continue reading The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vasquez
The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon was listed as one of the top ten best bad books of 1959 by Time Magazine. That’s a good way to describe the novel–it’s a very good bad book. Today, the story is known primarily from the two movie adaptations: the ill-fated 1962 version starring Frank Sinatra and Angela Landsbury and the 2004 version starring Denzel Washington and Meryl … Continue reading The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
Even though I’m only halfway through the novel, I’m going to post a review of The Kills by Richard House. The Kills is one thousand and three pages long. I know some of you are thinking with a little bit of editing it could have been a perfect 1000 pages long. How cool would that have been. The Kills is the kind of espionage/thriller that doesn’t … Continue reading The Kills by Richard House: Books One and Two.
Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household begins where a more typical espionage thriller would end– after the assassination attempt has failed. When the novel opens, the unnamed narrator has already been captured by his enemies, he has already undergone intense interrogation and has already escaped. He is on the run, trying to flee one country for another, looking for a place to hide. We do not … Continue reading Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household
Resistance by Owen Sheers is much more than first meets the eye. The story asks what might have happened had the Second World War turned out differently and ended with the successful German invasion of the United Kingdom. Resistance can be read and enjoyed on this level, that of a speculative adventure story much in the vein of Fatherland and various other books, but Owen … Continue reading Resistance by Owen Sheers
Divorce Islamic Style is a cross between Our Man in Havana and an Italian romantic comedy circa 1068, a sort of Muslim sex farce. I can’t help but wonder if Amara Lakhous got into any trouble over it. Set in modern day Rome’s immigrant Muslim neighborhoods the story follows two main characters. The first is Christian, a well educated Muslim Italian, who agrees to go … Continue reading Divorce Islamic Style by Amara Lakhous – Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein