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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...

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

I listened to this book some months ago without writing about it and had forgotten it. I realized that when Laura mentioned reading it because Nancy Pearl recommended it. The main characters, Mattie Simpkin and Flora Lee (known as the Flea) are veterans of the suffrage movement in Britain and have the battle scars to prove it. Mattie comes from a privileged background while the Flea always had to...

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

After I finished listening to this book, I listened a second time and found that to be worthwhile. Mrs. Dalloway was irresistible; this one has more ruminative “self talk” that eludes me. Still, I enjoyed the moments of clarity and brilliance. I was reminded of the Edward Albee play/movie “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” about the elusive Virginia Woolf, dreaded by...

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

This is my third Antoine Laurain book and once again I have had a pleasing time reading it. The tone is light and folks are friendly and likable. It begins with a Parisian woman, Laure, being hit on the head and mugged outside her apartment building very late at night; her bag was stolen, so she had no keys or phone. She was given a room in a hotel across the street for the night. The next day...

The Dressmaker by Beryl Bainbridge

It was Tony’s enthusiasm for Beryl Bainbridge that took me to this book which he described as “a humorous gothic horror novel.” It was set in Liverpool in 1944, a bleak time. The blitz began in the summer of 1940 and continued erratically until January of 1942. Liverpool, along with Birkenhead, across the Mersey River, were hit very hard by the German bombardments to disrupt the...

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