CategoryOther Reviews

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In Coates’ Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross I learned that in addition to his non-fiction work, he has authored Black Panther Marvel Comics, a series which began in 1966. A character with superpowers comes naturally to him and an action-filled story is to be expected. So for me the pace was exhausting, even with the reflections and introspection of Hiram, the narrator. The author...

Immigrant City by David Bezmozgis

The Shadow Giller Prize Jury is back in business now that the shortlist has been announced and I am happy to see David Bezmozgis is on the shortlist. I loved the two of his other books that I have read. His work reflects his background:  he is a Jewish Latvian who arrived in Canada in 1979 when he was a child. This collection of short stories is sometimes told by a narrator who seems to be the...

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

As I read this short book, I was alarmed at how quickly it was flying by. And after it was finished, I remarked on the intensity with which I felt the presence of each character the author created. It opens with a chapter narrated by Melody, dressed to the nines for her 16th birthday party in 2001 in the dress her mother would have worn had she not been pregnant with Melody. Subsequent chapters...

spill simmer falter wither by Sara Baume

Kim of Reading Matters made a list of eight great novels using the second person point of view. Who could resist that list? I was drawn to the title of this one when I realized these four seemingly random words capture the seasons. And I was ready for a low key book and this one seemed to be about a lonely man and his connection to a one-eyed dog. Ray does speak in the second person to his dog...

Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena

This short book by a well-known Latvian writer is on Reading Matters’ list of favorite books by women in translation. It is told through two narrative voices, a mother born in 1944, and her daughter born in 1969, alternating in short sections. The mother’s lifespan is roughly the same as the Soviet Union’s domination of Latvia, 1944-45 ending in 1989-90 with the dissolution of...

Thomas and Beal in the Midi by Christopher Tilghman

This is Tilghman’s third book featuring the Mason family; the first Mason in this country was given a land grant in Maryland when as a Catholic, he fled England in the 1650s. The books are Mason’s Retreat and The Right-Hand Shore. Thomas and Beal appear in the latter book; they were close as children then fell in love and had to leave not just the Retreat, but the continent because he...

Spies by Michael Frayn

When I recently read A Life of My Own by Claire Tomlin, I learned that she is married to Michael Frayn. I so admired his book Headlong, I was moved to read this one. I was surprised by how disconcerted I was by this book, as I was expecting a light-hearted romp involving young boys playing spy games during wartime. The narrator begins the tale by describing the sensation he has each spring when...

Travelling in a Strange Land by David Park

It was Reading Matters’ announcement that it won the 2019 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year that took me to this book. I had read Park’s book The Light of Amsterdam in 2012 and greatly admired it and now I want to read his other books. The tone of this short book is claustrophobic:  a man named Tom set out to pick up his son from college after a snowstorm that closed the airports...

The South by Colm Toibin

This is my sixth Colm Toibin novel, the first he wrote. It turns out he began his career with a strong and beautiful novel. It is the story of an Irish woman who in 1950 at age 32 left her husband and 10 year old son to be a painter. She landed in Barcelona after a harrowing train trip and was terrified to leave her pension for days. Her mother had left her when she was quite young so she could...

Normal People by Sally Rooney

It was Tony’s enthusiasm for this book that moved me to read it and I must remember to thank him. It is set in a small town in western Ireland and Dublin from 2011 to 2015; the characters are in high school, then at Trinity College. Marianne is a brilliant student, not attractive or liked by others; she shows disdain for her classmates. Connell is also brilliant as well as being one of the...

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