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All the Beauty in the World by Patrick Bringley

It’s hard to imagine a better audiobook than this one; hearing a deeply personal memoir read by the author reflecting on his brother’s death and on being a guard for ten years in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as he healed was great. The author had been a staffer at The New Yorker at the time of his brother’s death in 2008. His job was to work with eminent writers as...

Panenka by Rónán Hession

Recently I read a book that extolled the virtues of cricket; this one centers on a love/hate thing with soccer, or football, as they call it in Ireland. First, I learned that a Panenka is a surprise move, kicking the ball directly in the middle of the goal in a shootout kick with the hope that the goalie will leap to one side or the other to block the ball. It is named for Antonin Panenka, a...

The Road from Bellhaven by Margot Livesey

Having admired The Boy in the Field, I was excited to read Margot Livesey’s new book that was published in February. It is the story of Lizzie Craig, from her childhood in rural Scotland in the 1880s and 1890s to her adulthood in Glasgow and Fife, near Edinburgh. She was cared for by her grandparents as her parents had died when she was very young. When she was 10, she learned she had an...

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

Interest in Joseph O’Neill’s new book that will be published in June reminded me that I had not read his much-loved Netherland from 2008. It worked as an audiobook despite roving over time from 2001 to 2006 in an apparently random way. Because much of the joy of this book is its focus on the love of the game of cricket and a largely mysterious character named Chuck Ramkissoon, this...

The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine

The story of this family is distinguished by the focus on two aspects of their lives:  the daughters are red-haired twins and words are very important to them, toys when they are children, central to their lives as adults. Each chapter begins with a definition from Samuel Johnson’s dictionary. The twins are brilliant, have their own language, and begin communicating wittily while still in...

Spies in Canaan by David Park

I have previously read two books by the Irish writer David Park and think frequently of one of them, Travelling in a Strange Land. Though I don’t remember where I read about this one, I knew it was about an American CIA operative in Vietnam at the very end of the war and some consequent events 40 years later. Mike describes himself as a “prairie boy” whose family was mainstream...

An Astronomer in Love by Antoine Laurain

Ah yes, another delightful book by the author of The President’s Hat, Vintage 1954, and The Red Notebook. This one connects the historical figure, Guillaume le Gentil, Louis XV’s astronomer, to a fictional Parisian real estate agent in 2012. Before I began the book, I read Wikipedia’s entry about the astronomer and wonder if it is a spoiler to tell the true story of his life. If...

Salonika Burning by Gail Jones

Reading this book made me feel as though I were experiencing the fog of war, or perhaps the fog of an aging brain. That was especially the case when the focus was on the character who barely survived malaria, so I like to think that feeling was the result of skillful writing. This is my fifth Gail Jones book. Though the setting of the book was Salonika (now Thessaloniki) during World War I in a...

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

I listened to this one after I recommended a friend read Clare Pooley’s Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting and discovered this one was available through our library. It’s been a fine audiobook for me. An elderly eccentric artist in London named Julian writes about himself in a notebook and leaves it in a cafe, inviting others to write about themselves and to get to know their...

The Quiet American by Graham Greene

This is my fourth Graham Greene book; I am enthusiastic about two and not-so-much about two. This falls into the not-so-much category. It was written in 1955 and set at the end of the era of French colonial control of Vietnam as told by a cynical British reporter. Thomas Fowler has lived in Saigon for some years, happy to be away from his wife in Britain who refuses him a divorce. He lives with...

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