CategoryOther Reviews

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)...

The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker

Kim described this as “a quietly understated novel that brims with a slow-moving rage and a gentle, long-lived grief.” Nevertheless I decided to read it and from the first page I found it oddly comforting and calming. Set in the Netherlands, it is the story of a man in his mid-50s whose twin died as a young man, forcing Helmer to give up university and help his father with the farm...

My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

This book of short stories by a woman who teaches art in Charlottesville is a debut book. The short stories are well-done and arresting but the novella that gives the book its title will be my focus. After reading the first 10 or so pages, I found that when I wasn’t reading I had a vague feeling of impending doom. Of course in these times, that’s not unreasonable, but the cause of my...

The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff

It was Reading Matters’ recent review that took me to this 1931 British novel. The edition I read has a helpful excerpt from the author’s autobiography. There I learned that R.C. Sherriff,  having had a successful play produced, struggled to write a novel, getting all balled up in words that were unfamiliar. He took a new tack and decided to write for his own pleasure. He says, I...

The Magician by Colm Tóibín

My first book after a month of no book-reading is in line to be my favorite book of the year. Although the two cataract surgeries in mid-August went well, it took time for my eyes (and brain) to be comfortable reading. I was excited to read this book and it has turned out to be a stunner. A book that has lots of surprising factual anecdotes, a view of 20th century Germany from a German person...

Monogamy by Sue Miller

This is a close examination of an unusual marriage and those tangentially connected to it. It was billed as the story of a widow who learns that her husband had been unfaithful, so I was surprised to find that I was more than half way through before Annie made her discovery. Besides the chief couple, Graham and Annie, there are other fully active characters. Most important of these is Frieda...

Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession

Leonard and Hungry Paul are two 30-something friends who lead quiet and largely contented lives.  Leonard works as a writer for children’s encyclopedias and is diligent and careful in his work. His mother has recently died; his social time is spent largely with his friend playing Monopoly one evening each week. Hungry Paul lives with his parents and works for the post office only on days...

A Million Aunties by Alecia McKenzie

I think it was the New York Times review that took me to this book. It was pleasant to be transported to Jamaica where we meet the loving Auntie Della. Christopher, a young artist recently bereaved was sent to her by his agent Stephen who had been plucked out of an orphanage by her when he was young. With her healing care, especially those hearty breakfasts, Christopher broadens his  horizon to...

Two Moons by Jennifer Jones

This has been the most enjoyable book I’ve read in a long time. This is my fourth Jennifer Johnston book, thanks to Reading Matters. The books are quite different from each other and I love them all. One piece of business they have in common is an interesting use of sound. In one book an echo across a lake came up several times, in another Christmas carols broke out from time to time. In...

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

Because I loved the Neapolitan quartet by Ferrante, I didn’t hesitate to read this new book of hers. Along with intense and detailed consideration of the thoughts and actions of each party to any interaction between characters, her quartet placed those actions and thoughts in historical and moral context. I was disappointed that I didn’t see much of either framework in this one. But...

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