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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...

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

Karen Joy Fowler’s book We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves remains one of my favorite books ever. It took me awhile to be prepared to take on this book about the Booth family, but I am so glad I did. I think it is brilliant. And I am glad I listened to the audiobook; at first I was disconcerted at the firehose level of words coming my way, but ultimately the big picture became clear. I...

Montebello by Robert Drewe

What a treat this audiobook memoir by Robert Drewe is! I loved his previous memoir, The Shark Net and especially his novel The Drowner. In this one published in 2012 he ranges around his life recounting moments that are enlightening, or nostalgic, or revelatory. Interspersed throughout is his description of a visit to the Montebello Islands with scientists who were reintroducing some species to...

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...

Straight Man by Richard Russo

Recently I listened to this book that I read decades ago, in the pre-blog days. I recall it as being very funny and a delightful send-up of academia and I was curious to see how it held up after all this time. Before I go into that, I want to say that I have read other books by Richard Russo and loved them, particularly Empire Falls, Nobody’s Fool, and Bridge of Sighs. The memorable moment...

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

This is my seventh Kate Atkinson book; my first and favorite was Life After Life. This one takes place between the wars in London among the dissolute, the innocent, and a policeman named Frobisher. The central character is Nellie, owner of five night clubs run by her children who gather at the end of each night at her club the Amethyst to report the events of the night to her. Nellie believes in...

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 Devil and Webster by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Having loved The Latecomer, I was moved to listen to this one. It was a good choice, always engaging and kept me tuned in. I read somewhere that the college this book uses as the backdrop, Webster, is based on Wesleyan with a bit of Dartmouth thrown in.  The Dartmouth bit was that part of Webster’s original mission was to educate Native Americans. The main character is Naomi, president of the...

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