The Man Booker Prize winner for 2014 was announced on Tuesday. Richard Flanagan, a popular and highly-regarded Australian novelist, won it for his book The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a historical novel set during WWII.
It’s about the construction of the Thai-Burma railroad, known as the Death Railway. For an odd bit of symmetry, Flanagan’s father, who worked on this railway during World War II, died on the very day that Flanagan finished his book.
In the first hundred pages of this novel, Ursula Todd, its heroine, lives and dies at least six times. Once she dies in childbirth, another time she falls off her own roof, having chased a sibling’s favorite toy, and a third time she dies of influenza. This alternative history novel, although innovative in form, is rich in storytelling particularly about life at the beginning of the last century and during World Wars I and II. Ursula’s intelligent and perceptive take upon the world makes captivating reading.
New York Times reviewer, Janet Maslin, called Life after Life "a big book that defies logic, chronology and even history in ways that underscore its author's fully untethered imagination."
Publishers Weekly described the book this way, “through Ursula’s many lives and the accretion of what T.S. Eliot called visions and revisions, she’s found an inventive way to make both the war’s toll and the pull of alternate history, of darkness avoided or diminished, fresh.
Atkinson is not afraid to take risks including using Adolph Hitler as a walk-on character in this book—in fact he’s responsible for one of Ursula’s many deaths.
Please join us for a book talk about this intriguing book this Sunday, June 1st at 2pm. All are welcome. We will meet in Room 2B. For more information about this and future Booksplus programs, please follow the link.
No one else writes with the lyric flow of Alice McDermott. Or covers childhood and adolescence with so much immediacy as though it were happening right now. When I surfaced for breaths while reading this novel, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t in a stuffy walk-up in Brooklyn listening to children play ball and jump rope in the street.
The novel tells the story of Marie Commeford as a child, teen, young woman and as an older woman with grown children of her own. Marie is the stubborn second child of Irish Catholics. Her brother Gabe is remarkably obedient and good, already in grade school, on a path for the priesthood, whereas Marie is rebellious, adventurous, and not one for rules.
Her dad takes her on walks to speakeasies and encourages her fiery temperament; her mother tries to discipline her and tamp down her rebellious spirit. Saturday mornings, she runs to her best friend Gerty’s house and buries herself in her mother’s lap, but Gerty’s kind mother dies in childbirth. This tragedy convinces Marie to refuse to learn how to cook. Gerty had learned and look what happened to her.Read more about Someone
Oh my, what happens when a novel’s lead character dies on the fourth page? Alas, Dr. Fellowes never made it to Ursula’s birth (at least not this time around)—he was busy treating a man trampled by a bull.
This novel made many “best book” of the year lists. On a cold winter’s night in 1910, a baby girl was born to the Todd family, but alas poor Ursula was born blue. Then she is born again and the family cat, Queenie, smothers her (not necessarily on purpose.) She’s born again and drowns while swimming in the sea with her older sister Pamela.
But in between all the births and deaths, (her younger brother Teddy, has his own run-ins with nasty accidents and reincarnation), a lot happens to the Todd family. Hugh, the father, is a banker, and his wife Sylvie, a rather uninvolved mother. In a style and format all her own, Kate Atkinson has reimagined the historical novel. Read more about Life after Life
I’ve read other books by Joan Silber, and I think she is a writer who deserves a bigger audience. If you’re a fan of historical novels, you will enjoy this book. It’s less a novel than a collection of interrelated stories centered on friends of Dorothy Day (or were related to her inner circle). She was a famous Catholic worker who fought hard for the poor.
The first story revolves on a group of young 20-somethings in Day’s New York circle about the time she was getting serious about Catholicism. (She was an adult convert.) In the title story, a young vivacious woman named Vera, loves her life surrounded by smart, interesting people, one of whom she marries. Silber captures the feel of New York City during this time, the freedom young adults experienced living together, going to political meetings, working their day jobs but also doing creative things on the side.
Vera is a sign painter until her employer insults her and then eventually fires her without cause. Although in love with her husband, Joe, Vera is drawn to Day’s boyfriend, Forster, who is also the father of Day’s child. A chance meeting in a park brings Vera and Forster together when they discover the corpse of a poor man who froze to death on a bench. Read more about Dorothy Day's Circle of Friends
The holiday season seems like an appropriate time to read about the historical Jesus. While you are waiting for the best selling book by Fox News host Bill O'Reilly - Killing Jesus (Main Library and Ellettsville Adult Nonfiction 232.96 Ore) - the latest in his "Killing..." series; you might want to check out some of these books on the life of Jesus by some award winning authors and respected historians ....
Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History by Dale C. Allison (Main Library and Ellettsville Adult Nonfiction 232.908 All) --- What did Jesus think of himself? How did he face death? What were his expectations of the future? In this volume, now in paperback, internationally renowned Jesus scholar Dale Allison Jr. addresses such perennially fascinating questions about Jesus. The acclaimed hardcover edition received the Biblical Archaeology Society's "Best Book Relating to the New Testament" award in 2011.
The Historical Jesus: Five Views by James K. Beilby (Main Library Adult Nonfiction 232.908 His) --- 2011 Christianity Today Book Award winner! The scholarly quest for the historical Jesus has a distinguished pedigree in modern Western religious and historical scholarship, with names such as Strauss, Schweitzer and Bultmann highlighting the story. Since the early 1990s, when the Jesus quest was reawakened for a third run, numerous significant books have emerged. And the public's attention has been regularly arrested by media coverage, with the Jesus Seminar or the James ossuary headlining the marquee. The Historical Jesus: Five Views provides a venue for readers to sit in on a virtual seminar on the historical Jesus.
The Challenge of Jesus : Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is by N.T. Wright. (Main Library Adult Nonfiction 232 Wr) --- Today a renewed and vigorous scholarly quest for the historical Jesus is underway. In the midst of well publicized and controversial books on Jesus, N. T. Wright's lectures and writings have been widely recognized for providing a fresh, provocative and historically credible portrait. Out of his own commitment to both historical scholarship and Christian ministry, Wright challenges us to roll up our sleeves and take seriously the study of the historical Jesus.
The Jesus Quest : The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth by Ben Witherington III. (Main Library Adult Nonfiction 232.9 Wi) --- Voted one of Christianity Today's 1996 Books of the Year! In recent years Jesus' time, place and social setting have received renewed scholarly attention. New research on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Jewish and Hellenistic texts has resulted in a surge of new images of Jesus and new ideas about his ministry. Dubbed the Third Quest for the historical Jesus, this recent effort is a transformation of the first quest, memorialized and chronicled by Albert Schweitzer, and the second quest, carried out in the 1950s and 1960s in the wake of extreme Bultmannian skepticism.