CategoryOther Reviews

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Years ago someone told us about the wonderful JP Morgan Library and Museum in New York and we visited it several times, including once for a midday music performance. So, when I read about The Personal Librarian, a fictional book about Belle da Costa Greene, the long-time librarian hired by J.P. Morgan to help catalog and build his collection of rare manuscripts, I didn’t hesitate. The non...

A Cat, a Man, and Two Women by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki

What a treat this 1936 novella is! I can’t remember where I saw a recommendation for it, but when I realized the author had written The Makioka Sisters, I knew it would be worthwhile finding it. And Interlibrary Loan came to the rescue. In only 99 pages the author creates a complicated household that focuses on a cat, Lily. There’s the slovenly Shozo, the Man of the title who loves...

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

This is my third Amor Towles book; The Rules of Civility was a treat from beginning to end and while A Gentleman in Moscow wallowed in the perfection of that gentleman, it too was irresistible. And once again, I find that when you are in the clutches of an Amor Towles book, it’s hard to resist. Set in 1954, the story unfolds in chapters told by or focusing on each character that end just as...

Haymaker in Heaven by Edvard Hoem

Dorothy recommended (and loaned me) this book and I thank her for it. It begins with the author explaining that Nesje, the haymaker, was his great-grandfather, born in 1838, and that though he heard many stories about Nesje and had some documents relating to his life, he would have to “invent him out of air and nothingness.” This he did, using “the light over Molde and...

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

Before I began to read this book set in Cyprus, I read the part of the Wikipedia entry for that country about the long struggles between the Greeks and Turks, especially the events of 1974 and found that background very helpful. Many elements make this a pleasing book. First, the familiar story of teenagers from opposite sides of a conflict in love; Romeo and Juliet leap to mind. Kostas, Greek...

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

This account of a fictitious popular interracial music duo begins in the 1970s and ends with their revival in 2016 and is a tour de force. Opal and Nev are an unlikely twosome; when they met, Opal was an amateur with barely any experience and Nev had recently arrived from Britain with more expectations than promise in his musical ambitions. The story is told from the vantage point a year or so...

The Promise by Damon Galgut

This 2021 Booker Prize winner is set in South Africa and spans the time from deepest apartheid years (mid-1980s) through the euphoric times of the mid-1990s when South Africa was allowed to rejoin the community of nations and for some years beyond that time. Each chapter centers on the funeral of a member of the Swart family until the only member left is Amor who checked out of the family as soon...

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

This book features¬†a person who works in a bookstore having to deal with the ghost of an annoying former customer who was haunting the store. Anyone who has worked with the public can identify with such a scenario, imagining someone so troublesome that even death would not stop them. And it’s true that when Flora comes to the store, she knocks over stacks of books, rustles around, and even...

Matrix by Lauren Groff

I expected that a book set in 1158 which begins with the main character Marie on her way to the abbey where she has been sent by Eleanor of Aquitaine was going to be hard-going. And to be sure there were countless words I had to look up, but it was certainly worth the effort. The story was of an undervalued woman sent to an impoverished nunnery who overcomes many obstacles and brings wealth and...

Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart

Having loved some of his previous books, especially Super Sad True Love Story, I was eager to read this one that is set in early pandemic times. After I finished it, I read what I’d written about his other books and the terms ¬†“over the top” and “exhausting” come up. So you can assume those are the starting point here. An expat Russian couple (he’s a writer)...

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