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“He, (Ned), told me he was disgusted with the way Ocean Catch was fishing,” Thomasina says. “He didn’t say why but I figured they must have been exceeding quotas or trawling illegally. You know, breaking some sort of sustainable fisheries things. But I was surprised, because he never cared about this stuff before. ‘Let the environmentalists worry about the environment,’ he used to say.”
Review by Jana L. Perskie Â (MAY 11, 2014)
North of Boston is Elisabeth Elo’s debut novel, and to me it is a real winner. It certainly held my interest and I found that, at times, I was unable to put this books down.
Pirio Kasparov, heir to a very successful perfume business which her Russian immigrant parents founded, is our protagonist. She is a gritty, smart and complex woman. When Pirio’s mother died, the girl was just 10 years old. Her deceased mother’s will stipulates that when Pirio turns 21 years old, she will inherit her mother’s share of the extremely successful business, Inessa Mark, Inc. and that if she wants full ownership, the company would revert to her upon her eccentric father’s death. Pirio has joined the company where she works as “CEO in training.” Scent permeates much of the novel – the scent of perfume, ambergris, herbs, flowers, etc. And the smells of the sea also play an important part in the author’s descriptive passages. Read the rest of this post »
Last night I visited a club in Montparnasse where the men dress as women and the women as men. Papa would have loved it. And Mamaâ€™s face would have crinkled in that special smile she has for Papaâ€™s passion for everything French.
The place is called the Chameleon Club. Itâ€™s a few steps down from the street. You need a password to get in. The password is: Police! Open up! The customers find it amusing.”
Review by Jill I. Shtulman Â (APR 22, 2014)
Early on in Francine Proseâ€™s richly imagined and intricately constructed tour de force, Yvonne â€“ the proprietress of the Parisian Chameleon Club â€“tells a story about her pet lizard, Darius. â€śOne night I was working out front. My friend, a German admiral whose name you would know, let himself into my office and put my darling Darius on my paisley shawl. He died, exhausted by the strain of turning all those colors.â€ť
History â€“ and the people who compose it â€“ is itself a chameleon, subject to multiple interpretations. Ms. Prose seems less interested in exploring â€śwhat is the truthâ€ť and more intrigued with the question, â€śIs there truth?â€ť
The title derives from a photograph that defined the career of the fictional photographer, Gabor Tsenyl: two female lovers lean towards each other at the Chameleon Club table. His is one of five narratives that punctuate the novel. The showcase narrative â€“ written as a biography by the grand-niece of one of the participants â€“ focuses on Lou Villars, a one-time Olympic hopeful and scandalous cross-dresser who crosses over to the dark side and becomes a Nazi collaborator. Read the rest of this post »
“Morning brought still more reminders of why sheâ€™d hated the cabin: a panging headache, a weird gluey lethargy, small wheeling prisms in her vision. Her mother had attributed these symptoms to Cressâ€™s attitude, admittedly rotten. But Sylvia Hartley was off by a letter, as Cress had discovered camping in the Tetons and skiing in Utah. Anywhere above 6,000 feet, she was a poor adapter.“
Review by Betsey Van Horn Â (APR 21, 2014)
Cressida Hartley is suffering from a serious case of ennui. At 28, she is stagnating in ABD status, trying to finish her dissertation in economics, wholly disliking her field of expertise. It’s the eighties, and Reaganomics doesn’t suit her. But she found a way to integrate her affinity with art with her thesis–she’s writing about the value of art in the marketplace. So she moves to her parents vacation A-frame in the Sierras, intending to wrap herself in the mountain air, solitude, and writing.
Soon enough, Cress seeks out disruptions and distractions, and becomes absorbed in the community. I was installed in the story quickly, as I noted that her quirky supporting cast of characters were humanized and sympathetic rather than straw caricatures. Her parents are demanding and difficult. They are building a new cabin and come down periodically, often on the verge of suing the contractor, Ricky Garsh. Cress’s father is peevish and parsimonious to the point of churlish, even to his own children. Cress’s sister, Sharon, now living in London, goes through the primal birth therapy, so popular during this era. This alerts the reader that the sisters had some significant issues. Cress is largely unaware of her deep-seated problems, and acts out by entwining in a difficult relationship. Twice. And with much older men. Read the rest of this post »
“The walkie-talkie didnâ€™t work. I could hear my mom but not the other person. I hadnâ€™t thought of that. And in a lot of conversations, most of what she said was mm-hmm. I hadnâ€™t thought of that either. With us, she said a lot. I had to be completely still so she wouldnâ€™t hear noise through the device. Most of the time, I just heard her moving in her room, singing Joni Mitchell songs, off-key.Â “
Review by Bonnie Brody Â (APR 15, 2014)
Miles Adler-Rich is a precocious teen-ager, very much upset by the changes in his family. His parents have recently divorced and his mother has taken up with a new boyfriend named Eli Lee. Eli says he works for the National Science Foundation and professes to love Miles’s mother, Irene, very much. However, there is something about Eli that seems off to Miles.
Miles, along with his best friend Hector, decide to investigate Eli along with the help of a private investigator named Ben Orion. There are things in Eli’s stories that just don’t add up. Is he really divorced from his wife? He said he had pituitary surgery but has no scars. He came to visit with a dog that he borrowed from a friend. Who borrows a dog? He told Irene that he’d loan her a million dollars and that he’d contribute money to their household. Most importantly, he said he’d marry Irene but in the six years that they’ve been seeing one another, no marriage has occurred. Also, Eli is supposed to live in Washington, D.C. and Miles is sure he saw Eli with a woman and child in Pasadena. Read the rest of this post »
“I hope they will leave some men behind, to make sure she doesnâ€™t kill us in our sleep.”
Review by Betsey Van Horn Â (APR 10, 2014)
Twenty-eight-year-old Australian author Hannah Kent spent time in Iceland while in high school, chosen because she wanted to see snow for the first time. She fell in love with this island country south of the Arctic Circle, and returned several times to do extensive research on Agnes MagnĂşsdĂłttir, the last woman to be beheaded in Iceland, in 1829. Kent imagined the interior psychological states of various characters, especially the enigmatically alluring Agnes, and has successfully penned a suspenseful fiction tale that transcends the outcome. It reveals a complex love triangle and double murder, and a provocative examination of the religious and social mores of the time. Knowing the fate of Agnes prior to reading the novel won’t change the reader’s absorption of the novel. The strong themes hinge on the backstory and viewpoints that are woven in and reveal characters that go through a change of perception as the circumstances of the crime come to light. Read the rest of this post »
April 10, 2014
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: 19th-Century, Little Brown & Co, Real Event Fiction, Real People Fiction, Time Period Fiction Â· Posted in: Character Driven, Debut Novel, Facing History, Iceland, Mystery/Suspense