CategoryOther Reviews

My Year of Dirt and Water by Tracy Franz

Years ago, I read a book by a woman who spent two years in Japan learning about pottery. From it, and from my friend Pat, I learned about Japanese woodblock prints, so it was an important book for me. I read this book to revisit that one I loved so much. The subtitle of this one is Journal of a Zen Monk’s Wife in Japan. The author and her husband had been in Japan for a few years when in...

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

Having been impressed with Thirteen Ways of Looking and Let the Great World Spin, I was glad to hear Dorothy’s recommendation to read TransAtlantic. I was doubtful that the structure of this novel would work for me. McCann first tells the story of three important but unrelated events:  the first airborne crossing of the Atlantic, the visit to Ireland in 1845 by Frederick Douglass, and...

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

The narrator of this dark comic novel tells that she was “lovingly brought up in a normal suburban residential area. But everyone thought I was a rather strange child.” She describes an Amelia-Bedelia moment:  as a small child she finds a dead bird in the park and when her mother suggests burying it, she counters with a suggestion to eat it, grilling it as other birds are cooked and...

There There by Tommy Orange

This one will make my list of favorites for the year. The world of Native Americans in this country is hard to imagine and painful to confront. The confinement to reservations is somewhat familiar to us; this book brings us into the world of urban Native Americans, in this case, in Oakland. The author introduces many characters and slowly reveals the connections among them.  The narrative moves...

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

It was Tony’s review that sent me to this book, and thank you for that, Tony. It is set in London and begins in 1945 when Nathaniel, the narrator and his sister were teenagers and their parents left them “in the care of two men who may have been criminals.” Nathaniel tells us the story, not always in a linear manner, from his vantage point as an adult. He brings the odd corner...

The Hamilton Case by Michelle de Kretser

There is much to admire about this book, but at half way through, I gave it up. I want to read Michelle de Kretser’s two recent novels, but this was available at the library, so I gave it a try. It is set in Sri Lanka and begins with a first person narrative by a man born in 1902. His description of himself and his family paint unpleasant portraits, told with a light, amusing touch that is...

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

The second in the series of Maisie Dobbs books was at least as satisfying as the first. I was surprised how much I enjoyed revisiting the exceptional Maisie, but it was a lovely companion to kitchen work, walking, and weeding. Maisie, the former housemaid in a grand house, graduate of a Cambridge women’s college, and nurse in France during The Great War, has become a private investigator...

Happiness by Aminatta Forna

Aminatta Forna’s mother was Scottish and her father was from Sierra Leone. When she was young, her father worked in Sierra Leone as a physician. He was imprisoned and declared an Amnesty Prisoner of Conscience and later was hanged in 1975. According to Wikipedia, her memoir includes an investigation into the conspiracy surrounding his death. She has become a well-respected figure in the...

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

This is my fourth Kate Atkinson book (Life After Life, A God in Ruins, and Case Histories) and I have loved each one. This one and Case Histories feature Jackson Brodie, a former policeman who became a private investigator. The appeal of all her books for me are the characters that you come to love, however improbable they are. There’s Reggie, a teenager who manages to live on her own after...

The Kappillan of Malta by Nicholas Monsarrat

Because of a planned visit to Malta next year, I googled “books set in Malta” and began with this one. It is remarkably good at putting you in the place and I feel I have walked the hill of Valetta, wandered through Sliema, and taken the ferry to Gozo myself. The main character is a priest who honors his noble birth and ancient family, but prefers the humble life of caring for his...

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