CategoryAudiobook Reviews

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

This little treat of a book opens with the arrival of a flying saucer near the Chateau Saint-Antoine vineyard in 1954 which transformed that year’s ordinary Beaujolais into an extraordinary wine. The vintner was never able to reproduce such a remarkable vintage again. Then we cut to 2017 in an old building in Paris where because of unusual circumstances four people celebrate when one finds...

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

This novella is small, but powerful and unfortunately, it’s timely as well. It is set in 1985 and though times are hard in Ireland, it’s almost Christmas and folks are in a happy mood. The central character, Bill Furlong, has quite the backstory, and is surely facing a difficult economic future. His mother became pregnant while working in the household of Mrs. Wilson, the wealthy...

The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka

Having read The Buddha in the Attic I was familiar with Otsuka’s unusual and surprisingly successful method of storytelling. This one introduces a community of swimmers who are regulars at an underground pool. We get to know them by the accretion of factual characteristics: “Some of us come here because we are injured and need to heal. We suffer from bad backs, fallen arches...

South to America by Imani Perry

Imani Perry has an impressive academic background:  Yale undergraduate, Harvard Ph.D, LLM degree from Georgetown, and she now teaches at Princeton. Her ramble through the South is an informed and wide-ranging trek, with both familiar and new bits of information to digest. The approach to talking to people about Washington, DC used the question, “Is Washington a Southern city?” While...

What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad

Though I used to follow closely the Canadian Giller Fiction Prize, I didn’t know What Strange Paradise was the 2021 winner until after I finished it. The moment I finished it, I headed straight for the Internet for an explanation of the mystifying ending. More about that later. In alternating chapters the story unfolds in two parts. The first centers on refugees leaving North Africa for an...

The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson

Having admired his book about Steve Jobs, I knew I would appreciate Isaacson’s book about Jennifer Doudna. He does a good job of explaining the how scientists learned about RNA and CRISPR, but it’s still a big mystery to me. I now recognize a lot more words on the topic, but wow, it remains an alien world to me. First, CRISPR:  it is a relatively quick and easy way to edit the DNA in...

When All Is Said by Anne Griffin

I listened to this audiobook after reading the review in Reading Matters, a lover of Irish literature. I almost gave it up when I began to recall that I am often not entertained by reminiscences of elderly Irish men, but kept going and found it worth the occasional irritation. It is a good story, especially impressive as it is a debut work. Over the course of a long night, Maurice Hannigan toasts...

Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson

This is the second book I’ve enjoyed from the list of comfort reads that A Life in Books recommends. It is an epistolary novel; in this case the letters are exchanged between Tina Hopgood, a farmer’s wife in East Anglia, and Anders Larsen, a museum curator in Denmark. They are both mature adults with grown children who find companionship with each other that is lacking in their own...

The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain

I came upon this book in a list of comfort reads in A Life in Books and have been completely charmed by it. First published in 2013 in France, it is set in the mid-1980s and begins with the President of France François Mitterrand leaving his hat in a restaurant. It is picked up by a young bureaucrat thrilled to be dining next to the President; he is unable to resist stealing the hat. Daniel...

Still Life by Sarah Winman

It was Ron Charles’ review in the Washington Post that took me to this audiobook. And what a treat it was; I spent 15 hours with these lovely characters, most of the time in Florence. Such a comfort. It begins during World War II when a young British soldier named Ulysses meets a 64-year old woman named Evelyn Skinner in Italy as she was working on identifying and protecting art works...

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