Do you like spy novels? Ones that mix in politics and love? If so McEwan’s Sweet Tooth is for you.
It’s set in the rollicking early 70s in England—a time of drugs, rock and roll, miniskirts, and--on a more serious note--women’s entry into careers en masse. It tells the story of Selena, a bright vicar’s daughter who loves to read and read fast. Her mother, in the only moment of life- dissatisfaction she’s ever expressed to her daughter, advises Selena to go to Cambridge and study “maths” so she can have a challenging career. Selena, being the good older daughter, follows her mom’s advice and gives up studying literature for something better career-wise.
But Selena’s real education begins the summer after college. An older tutor she meets through a boyfriend soon becomes her lover. In the process he teaches her about food, wine, politics, international relations, and how to read the newspapers for hidden facts and government policies. He’s grooming her for a role in M15, the spy service. But then Tony leaves her abruptly after an argument so Selena goes to London and does find a job with M15. Read more »
I try to stay familiar with new books coming out, but also keep a list (on goodreads.com) so I don't miss anything great either. I recently read two great books that either were published in 2010 or enjoyed a resurgence in 2010. These two books don't have too much in common, but I missed them then, maybe you did too!
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is a complicated contemporary novel that follows many different characters, but centers around Bennie and Sasha, who work in the music industry. We meet both of them at different points in their lives, from teenagers to older parents and the novel stretches from the Bay Area, to NYC, to Africa and Naples. Each chapter focuses on a particular character at a specific time and place with no real instruction to the reader on the how and why. Through the strength of Egan, this doesn't break down the narrative. I really enjoyed all of the voices, varied narrative structures, and cried during a chapter told as a powerpoint told by a 14 year old character previously un-introduced. This book is risky, edgy, intellectual, unafraid of emotion, and requires a lot from the reader. With all that said, it was also highly enjoyable!Read more »
if missing capitals drive you crazy, this may not be the book for you. however, i hope you will try it because the colour of milkbrims with a young girl’s voice. despite the fact that she lives on an english farm and does back-breaking labor from dawn to dusk under her brutal father’s command, mary still possesses a sense of wonder at the world.
the time period covers the years of our lord, 1831 and -32. throughout this compelling novel, mary repeats over and over “this is my book and I am writing it in my own hand.” you’ll have to finish it to understand why these words resonate.
mary shares the harsh farm work with her mother and three sisters. violet sneaks off at night for sensual adventures in the hay loft. (mary discovers this when she goes out to press her head against the cow she loves dearly and almost the only creature who gives her any comfort). whenever she is not working, beatrice holds a bible in her hand, but when she recites what is inside it, mary notices that she’s holding it upside down. hope suffers from the same bad temper as their father and dreams of living in her own house with a rich husband. Read more »
Our March Books Plus will be special because Wendy Rubin will be leading a discussion on the book so many Bloomingtonians are reading, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Not only is it our 2013 One Book One Bloomington selection but it's a dystopian novel that focuses on the treatment of women.
This novel offers so many interesting questions to discuss, what makes a theocratic society, can women really be revered when they are policed by men, and how does dividing women into hierarchies based on their domestic tasks affect society. It's basically a book about good and evil. In one passage, Margaret Atwood said, "The moment of betrayal is the worst, the moment when you know beyond any doubt that you've been betrayed: that some other human being has wished you that much evil.” Read more »
“Can I tell you what it’s like to live inside Millais’ painting of Ophelia?” asks Emma Forrest in her memoir, Your Voice in My Head. Forrest is already a published author and journalist when in her early 20s moves from London to New York. Her professional rise as a writer coincides with her extreme struggles with self-cutting, an eating disorder, mania, a suicide attempt, and depression.
Forrest credits a lot of her survival to psychiatrist, Dr. R. So when Dr. R dies suddenly, and then a famous Hollywood actor dumps her via text message shortly after, Forrest is left alone to pick up the pieces of her heartbreak and loss.
This isn’t the type of memoir I usually read, but I’m glad I did. Forrest walks well the line of artistic genius and insanity. You care for her, even when the choices she makes are hard to understand. Rounding out the sympathetic characters are Dr. R, and Forrest’s own parents who deal the best they can from London. Read more »
If you look back to those long summer afternoons of reading during your childhood with longing, this book is for you. Three years after losing her beautiful and talented older sister, Anne-Marie, to cancer, Nina Sankovitch decided to do something she had long dreamed of doing, making books central to her life again. Of course as the mother of three teens and one preteen—all boys—she didn’t have much free time. But from Oct. 28, 2008 to the same date in 2009—Nina read and read and read some more.
In the intervening years after her sister’s death, Nina had kept fiendishly busy, driving, cooking, cleaning, heading committees, and organizing literary projects--all the myriad duties of raising a family and being involved in her Connecticut community. But each day she felt guilty to be alive because her sister had died. This lovely book is both a tribute to a sister, and a memoir of their relationship. It’s also a narrative about how concentrating on reading finally healed Nina, so that she was eager to go forward again.
Nina resurrected (reupholstered) the big purple chair that one of their cats had made its own by spraying on it. Here in this regal chair for two, three, even four hours a day, Nina both lost and found herself through books.
Besides telling Anne-Marie’s story, Tolstoy and the Purple Chairalso relates the story of her father, Anatole, who lost three aunts and uncles in a shooting during WW 2. All were shot in his family’s kitchen in Poland while their terrified Read more »
No other author manages to squeeze so much historical detail and under-the-surface emotion into her short stories as Canadian writer, Alice Munro. Her short fiction has enthralled me for years. Although she’s written a novel or two, almost her whole output—17 published books—is in the short story form.
In Munro’s stories time is never strictly chronological. Munro artfully flits between the present and the past. She never loses control. Her transitions are seamless; the reader never has to search or root around for the correct time and place. Also, important to these stories is the emotional arc.
Dear Lifeis her most personal collection yet. To the ten stories included, Munro has added four memoir pieces that are not fiction, although Munro said that she fictionalized certain elements of them. If you’ve read the author’s other collections, you’ll recognize the farmland and small towns near Lake Huron, marked by poverty that Munro returns to again and again. There’s also the young girl or woman breaking away from her family, seeking a better life. Sexuality often becomes a main theme and the endings are seldom happily-ever-after, but more like life, both good and bad, always complicated. Read more »
Charlotte Rogan’s debut novel The Lifeboatrestores your faith in 21st century writing. In this historical novel, two narratives intertwine: the more dramatic one being the story of the shipwreck of the Princess Alexandria during the first months of WWI on a voyage from England to America. The second story is about Grace, a young woman whose family has suffered a financial collapse. Suddenly, needing to make her own way in the world, Grace’s choices are narrow: to become a governess or find a rich husband—Grace being resourceful and not wanted to be tied down by a job with long hours and little pay chooses the latter.
She finds her husband material in an unlikely place: the engagement listings of a London society paper. Henry Winter, an American financier, is handsome and rich and works for a company rapidly increasing in power and influence. Amazingly, this part of the plan works. They marry and set off for America. On the ship, as a sign of her newly altered status, Grace and Henry are invited to sit at the captain’s table.
But there Grace’s good luck ends. For one thing, Henry has not cabled his parents about the marriage, and seems reluctant to do so. His parents send him telegrams about his “former” fiancée but does she even know that she’s become history to him? In the middle of the night the Empress explodes—mysteriously—and the new bride finds Read more »
Do you have a favorite book you’d like to share with other Monroe County Public Library patrons? Impressed by the idea of a review that you wrote showing up in the library’s catalog for other patrons to find and read? If you are the kind of person who doesn’t just want to read good books, but also write about good books then we’ve got something new for you.
It is now possible for patrons who want to write reviews of library materials to do so. Visit the Create Local Reviewpage and let us know what you think of your recently read book or ebook. Maybe you listened to an audiobook, a music cd or even watched a movie you’d like other patrons to know about. Write as much or as little as you’d like, and give a rating of 1-5 stars. Once the reviews are published, they will show up in the catalog under the record for the selected title. The complete list of local reviews can be found together on our website as well.
Library staff will continue to write reviews here on this blog, but now you can share your voice too. Happy reviewing!
"My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist" is the shocking opening line of Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. This memorable novel is set in Atlanta in the mid-80s and unwraps the themes of family, love and loyalty often with some painful results. Two half-sisters are caught in the middle of the two families, one secret and one public.
Books Plus has been on a mini-break over the holidays, but the first book discussion of the year will take place next Sunday. Please join us on February 3rd to discussthis raw and memorable novel.
Books Plus meets the first Sunday of each month. All are welcome. Join the discussion or simply come to listen.