CategoryOther Reviews

The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken

This novel is hard to think about and I had to keep reminding myself that it is a novel and I never quite believed that. The narrator is an author writing about her mother who had recently died. I loved the tone. She works hard to explain she is writing fiction, although it feels like a memoir. I don’t like being the center of attention except under very specific conditions. Then I adore it...

The Last White Man by Mohsin Hamid

I admire the author’s book Exit West and looked forward to this one. The audiobook read by the author captures the grimly factual, matter-of-fact tone of the book as he did for Exit West. The book opens with Anders waking to discover he has turned brown. While this book has elements of Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Jose Saramago’s Blindness, its trajectory is its own. Other...

The Angel of Rome by Jess Walter

I’m hesitant to read a book of short stories (all those beginnings and endings!) but having admired Jess Walter’s book Beautiful Ruins, I took this on. And I’m so glad I did. Qualities that were evident in that book were what made these short stories work for me. He creates places and characters with impressively few words that are poignant and make you glad you are there. More...

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout

This is the third Elizabeth Strout novel I’ve read with Lucy Barton at the center. A fourth one was published in September. In this one Lucy is the narrator and takes a conversational tone with us: Because I am a novelist, I have to write this almost like a novel, but it is true—as true as I can make it. And I want to say—oh, it is difficult to know what to say! But when I report something...

The Colony by Audrey Magee

Set on an island off the west coast of Ireland in 1979 in the midst of The Troubles, this is the story of a summer-long visit of an English artist and a French linguist to the island. The island is losing population; fishing can no longer sustain the population and in fact was dangerous in itself. One of the main characters is a widow whose father, brother, and husband were killed the same night...

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

This is my third Antoine Laurain book and once again I have had a pleasing time reading it. The tone is light and folks are friendly and likable. It begins with a Parisian woman, Laure, being hit on the head and mugged outside her apartment building very late at night; her bag was stolen, so she had no keys or phone. She was given a room in a hotel across the street for the night. The next day...

The Dressmaker by Beryl Bainbridge

It was Tony’s enthusiasm for Beryl Bainbridge that took me to this book which he described as “a humorous gothic horror novel.” It was set in Liverpool in 1944, a bleak time. The blitz began in the summer of 1940 and continued erratically until January of 1942. Liverpool, along with Birkenhead, across the Mersey River, were hit very hard by the German bombardments to disrupt the...

The London Train by Tessa Hadley

I greatly admired Tessa Hadley’s The Past and have thought about reading other books by her. She seemed to sketch her characters effortlessly without making them single dimension figures or being cruel or dismissive. This one begins with a focus on Paul whose mother had just died. I couldn’t stop thinking of The Stranger by Camus; which begins, “Today Maman died.” The...

The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz

It was an endorsement by Nancy Pearl, the librarian who inspired an action figure, that brought me to this book. I haven’t read a book that was both this gripping and satisfying in ages. Several times during this unlikely tale, the John McEnroe phrase came to mind:  “You cannot be serious,” given the coincidences and exaggerations that came up. Along with those excesses came...

Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty

I have read two of Bernard MacLaverty’s books, one in the pre-blog days (Grace Notes) and The Anatomy School and am very much a fan of his work. This one from 2017 is also worthy, if you can manage the bleakness. An older couple, Stella and Gerry, are preparing to leave their home in Glasgow for a short trip to Amsterdam. They were from Northern Ireland and had left to escape the Troubles...

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