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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...

Trust by Hernan Diaz

While I rarely hesitate to divulge plot twists and probably should always post “spoiler alerts” on my posts, I want to limit that as much as possible for this one. Personally I do not mind knowing what to expect in my reading and in fact consider it a bonus to read with knowledge of what’s coming. But in this case, I enjoyed having the feeling of slowly coming to understand what...

Horse by Geraldine Brooks

This is my fifth book by Geraldine Brooks and I do love them all. The complexity of the story she has told by weaving together many strands related to a racehorse that lived in the middle of the 19th century is breathtaking. At the center is the racehorse Lexington, who became famous for his speed and even more for his many very fast offspring, including a horse named Preakness. (I thought...

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...

Tête-à-Tête by Hazel Rowley

The subtitle is The Tumultuous Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. Long as it is, the title could use another word in there somewhere. I would suggest “creepy.” While I learned a great deal about the work of these two brilliant public intellectuals of the 20th century, the book focuses on their unusual relationship and their connections to others, especially...

Robert E. Lee and Me by Ty Seidule

Ty Seidule’s premise, that the lie of the Lost Cause perpetuated from the end of the Civil War is a reflection of White Supremacy that infects the whole country, is not a surprise or new idea. What is different is that a military historian at West Point who grew up in the South idolizing Robert E. Lee has described his beliefs and his coming to understand the facts and reject the myth. As...

River of the Gods by Candice Millard

Years ago I read books about the discovery of the Blue Nile and the White Nile by Alan Moorehead, a great biography of Henry Morton Stanley, and a biography of Richard and Isabel Burton. It was interesting to revisit the European discovery of source of the White Nile and that dramatic struggle between Richard Burton and John Speke. The recent book by Candice Millard is good, but left me more...

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...

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

This is a debut novel by a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a classmate of my friend’s daughter. While that influenced me to pick up this book, it was already on my radar, especially after seeing Ron Charles’s review in the Washington Post. When we meet Olga, she is an over-the-top wedding planner for the super-rich, charging high prices and finding ways to scam...

The Ride of Her Life by Elizabeth Letts

This book was recommended by Dorothy and it gave me hours of pleasure as I listened to it. Annie Wilkins found herself in dire straits financially in the mid-1950s, having just recovered from a serious illness, and was told by her doctor that she would no longer be physically fit to run her farm. She had no family and he suggested she give up the farm that had been in her family for three...

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