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Foolish Mortals by Jennifer Johnston

This is my third Jennifer Johnston novel. She is an Irish writer, much loved by Reading Matters. I have appreciated each of them. I listen to them and have been rewarded for that because in each case sound is an element of the storytelling. In this case the reader slips into the occasional song, most notably Christmas carols. SPOILER ALERT Much of the story is told from Henry’s point of...

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...

Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald

It will not be possible to fit all I want to remember about this book in one short post. So I’ll start by saying that listening to the author read her essays was educational and entertaining, but even more, it was uplifting and brought me joy. It was as wonderful as her first book H is for Hawk. From childhood she has always been a lover of the natural world and her essays reflect that. She...

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...

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

I was conscious of this author, but it was Jennifer who told me she had written a book that recounted the Pride and Prejudice story in present day Cincinnati. How could that possibly work, I thought, and will it include the beloved Cincinnati-style chili? Well, yes, that chili with cinnamon, served on spaghetti, topped with cheddar cheese, beans and onions is featured. And yes, the translation of...

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I appreciated hearing the author read this audiobook, a personal message to his 15-year-old son.  It was beautiful, moving, and brilliant by turns, so I honor it best by quoting some passages. He writes about the false concept of “race” and refers often to those who “believe they are white.” Someone he knew from his time at Howard University was killed by police. It was...

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

Having seen the movie Rebecca (and who knows, maybe I read the book too), I was happy to listen to the audiobook of My Cousin Rachael. The story is told by Philip Ashley, brought up by his beloved uncle Ambrose after his parents died. They live in a completely male household and lavish their love on the estate that Philip will inherit. By the time Philip is in his early 20s Ambrose has health...

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...

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