CategoryOther Reviews

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...

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

When this book came out, I was moved to read Bennett’s previous book The Mothers and admired it; this one deserves the attention it has received. It is centered on the story of twins who came from a village in Louisiana populated by Black people  with very light skin. They preferred to avoid those with darker skin while they were themselves subject to the oppression of whites. The story...

The Boy in the Field by Margot Livesey

The developments in the lives of three teenager siblings is the heart of this book; their lives change when they discover a boy who had been knifed and left to die in a field.  Their discovery saved his life. The three are Matthew, 18, Zoe, 16, and Duncan, 14 and they live in a village near Oxford in a comfortable and loving family. While the knifing is a key event and we do learn about the...

Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa

This turned out to be an excellent book for these times. A post in A Life in Books about Japanese novels tells that it features an elderly woman who had Hansen’s Disease (formerly known as leprosy) as a young teenager and spent her life confined to a sanatorium though she had recovered. Even after the law was changed allowing former patients to leave, Tokue had no home to go to, and her...

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

It was the pleasure Tony experienced in recognizing the setting of this book as his own alma mater that drew me to the book. What kept me reading is a little less certain. I did keep reading, despite thinking that the graduate student life of these friends does not resemble the real life of graduate students as I know them. But then the “real life’ referred to in the title is life...

The Queen of Tuesday by Darin Strauss

I read somewhere that this book grew out of a fantasy of the author when he learned that his grandfather and Lucille Ball had both attended an event hosted by Fred Trump. The fantasy involved a kiss between strangers and later…..well, more. Though I knew this book was not a factual biography of Lucille Ball, still, time with that amazing woman seemed a good idea. And the bonus of a fantasy...

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

While I was reading Jesmyn Ward’s book, Sing, Unburied, Sing, I sometimes woke up at night worried about one or another of her characters. All her characters seem fully human and you care for them, even those whose actions are reprehensible. In Salvage the Bones, Katrina is in the background looming over all the action. Along with tardy and sometimes disastrous preparations for the...

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...

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