CategoryOther Reviews

My Husband Simon by Mollie Panter-Downes

One of my favorite books from 2017 was One Fine Day by this author. She wrote for nearly 50 years for The New Yorker and her writing there informed many about wartime in London. This is one of her early books and is somewhat autobiographical, though the marriage she describes is not her own. The narrator Nevis is a young woman who has published two novels and falls in love with an unsuitable man...

Fair Stood the Wind for France by H.E. Bates

Warning:  this is an addictive book. It is the story of a British World War II pilot whose plane goes down with four other crew members when an engine fails. They land in Occupied France on their way to a mission in Italy. Everyone survives though the pilot John Franklin badly hurt his arm. The five make their way to a farm where they are taken in by the family. I had known that much would...

Troubles by J.G. Farrell

Having admired The Siege of Krishnapur about witless Brits at the Indian Rebellion of 1857, I decided to try this one about witless Brits when the Irish were ready for them to leave. Troubles is set in 1919-1920, during the guerrilla war the Irish fought for their independence and was written in 1970, as those troubles were beginning again. The story focuses on “the Major,” a young...

The Bridge of Little Jeremy by Indrajit Garai

Tony’s description, “A boy and his dog along the banks of the Seine in Paris,” sounded good, though he did mention that one should not underrate “the merely pleasant.” I know nothing of the author, except that he was born in India and lived in France and wrote in French for a time. This is a self-published book. The story is told by a 12-year old boy just recovered...

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

I did come to enjoy the Olive stories in the original Olive Kitteridge, but hesitated to read this one. Olive is hard to love, given her penchant for saying what she thinks, no matter how hurtful it might be. She seems to go out of her way to express that honesty when no one asked for her thoughts. On the other hand she often finds the kind word to say, in spite of herself, and steps in to be...

The Mountain by Paul Yoon

After a month of reading and listening only fitfully and irritably, this week I found I could lose myself again in a book. And what a surprising one the first book turned out to be:  A book of short stories set in a variety of circumstances that had misery in common. And yet the artistry made it possible to focus on the stories. As always it’s unclear how to describe a book of short...

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

When I finished this book I had one of those rare moments when I was so overwhelmed by its beauty that tears came to my eyes.  When the full impact of its wonderful structure became evident at the end, I felt such elation. Evaristo is the co-winner of the Booker Prize this year for this book. She tells the stories of a dozen characters who have ties to each other; sometimes the ties are...

The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez

The book jacket says this 2006 book is about two women from very different backgrounds who met as freshmen at Barnard in 1968. One, Ann, is from a wealthy family, successful at any endeavor she takes up. The other is Georgette, the narrator, who comes from an underprivileged background involving heavy drinking and an abusive mother in upstate New York. The two become very close, and though...

Florida by Lauren Groff

The author’s great strength, evident in both this book and in Fates and Furies, is her brilliant use of descriptive language. In “Ghosts and Empties,” the first story, a woman recounts the walks she takes each night while her husband puts their two boys to bed. She is dismayed to have become “a woman who yells,” and she hopes her walks will counter that. Some of my...

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

This remarkable novel on the NYT list of the ten best novels of 2019 is the author’s first. It is set on Kamchatka, a remote peninsula in the east of Russia, much closer to Alaska than to Moscow. It takes place over the course of a year, a chapter for each month. The first chapter describes a terrible event, the kidnapping of two young girls, that was very difficult for me to read. Each...

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