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Travelling in a Strange Land by David Park

It was Reading Matters’ announcement that it won the 2019 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year that took me to this book. I had read Park’s book The Light of Amsterdam in 2012 and greatly admired it and now I want to read his other books. The tone of this short book is claustrophobic:  a man named Tom set out to pick up his son from college after a snowstorm that closed the airports...

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

Well, this one is going on my best-of-the-year list for sure. I can’t decide whether it’s best described as a fairy tale or as operatic. The story by Dalton, a newspaper crime writer, was inspired by his beloved mother and stepfather who dealt heroin, by his 70-something convicted murderer babysitter, and by his severely alcoholic father. My question is how it is that these folks inspired such a...

Lost and Wanted by Nell Freudenberger

A review by Maureen Corrigan led me to this book which begins with a physicist receiving a text on her phone from her college friend, then learning a few days later that her friend, a woman called Charlie, had died before it was sent. The characters are almost all Ivy educated brilliant, appealing bi-coastal characters. The narrator and her friends are not without interest; Helen tells us about...

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

When Mr. Tumnus the cat named by the SPCA arrived in Evie’s house recently, I concluded it was time for me to read this book. I hadn’t read it as a child and my children read it after they could do so on their own. The fictional Mr. Tumnus is a good-hearted little faun who saves Lucy from the witch and is turned to stone for his trouble. Though the young cat has not yet been called...

The South by Colm Toibin

This is my sixth Colm Toibin novel, the first he wrote. It turns out he began his career with a strong and beautiful novel. It is the story of an Irish woman who in 1950 at age 32 left her husband and 10 year old son to be a painter. She landed in Barcelona after a harrowing train trip and was terrified to leave her pension for days. Her mother had left her when she was quite young so she could...

Joy Enough by Sarah McColl

If you were writing a book about your mother dying just at the time your marriage was ending, it seems you wouldn’t use the word “joy” in the title. But joy, beauty, and pleasure somehow seep out of the book and I was happy as I read it. The author lets out lovely–and difficult–bits about her life with her mother and about her husband. Episodes that are not told in...

Madame Fourcade’s Secret War by Lynne Olson

One of Lynne Olson’s previous books about World War II, Citizens of London, was terrific, so I didn’t hesitate when I learned about this one. It is the wonderfully informative story of the woman who ran the biggest and most effective resistance movement in France during the war. The focus of the network, Alliance, was to provide intelligence for British MI6 for their work against the...

Normal People by Sally Rooney

It was Tony’s enthusiasm for this book that moved me to read it and I must remember to thank him. It is set in a small town in western Ireland and Dublin from 2011 to 2015; the characters are in high school, then at Trinity College. Marianne is a brilliant student, not attractive or liked by others; she shows disdain for her classmates. Connell is also brilliant as well as being one of the...

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

This is my sixth of Kate Atkinson’s books, the third of her Jackson Brodie series. It was a pleasure to pick up this book and fall into her clutches again. What I’ve written before about this series holds true for the most part:  Brodie, formerly in the Army, police, and private detective business, goes against type. Though he’s no longer a detective, he seems to happen upon...

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Reading Matters described this story as being told from the points of view of an elderly Jewish man and a teenage girl; that convinced me to read it. Leopold Gursky’s voice was appealing and funny, the teenage girl less so; still, of interest. It’s a complex story, that unfolds in a less-than-direct way.  Leopold Gursky lost both the love of his life, Alma, and the great book he wrote...

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