Archive for June, 2011

THE DANTE CLUB by Matthew Pearl

You could classify THE DANTE CLUB loosely as historical fiction. Or perhaps, try historical-fantasy-fiction-literary-murder-mystery. It’s definitely a work to be enjoyed by “literary types,” but also by thrill-seekers, detective buffs, psychological and social analysts and in fact anyone who enjoys a good read.

June 30, 2011 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Literary, Mystery/Suspense, NE & New York

HELL IS EMPTY by Craig Johnson

William Walk Sacred describes the Native American vision quest experience as a time when, “You are presenting yourself before the Great Spirit and saying, ‘Here I am. I am pitiful. I am naked.” “You’re down to the nitty gritty of who you are.” He adds, “You cannot go off the path at that point because you are now owned by the spirits. They watch you continuously. There is no hiding.” This quest to gain spiritual insights and to, in effect, travel to God, can be compared to the allegorical journey taken in Dante’s The Divine Comedy in which a soul moves through hell, purgatory, and heaven. Of course, hell (Inferno) is the most gripping. The ninth circle of Dante’s hell holds those guilty of treachery in an icy prison, with Satan encased waist-high in the center. How fitting then that Sheriff Walt Longmire of Absaroka County, Wyoming should find himself in a mountain snow storm with a beat-up copy of Dante’s Inferno, battling the elements, violent men, his own limits of endurance, and mysteries of the mind and spirit — in effect, undergoing his own involuntary vision quest.

June 30, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Reading Guide, Sleuths Series, US Frontier West, Wild West

THE BLIND CONTESSA’S NEW MACHINE by Carey Wallace

For a book that focuses on a blind contessa, this is an extraordinarily visual novel. It’s filled with vivid descriptions: afternoon sun streaming through the scarves in windows, stars that flare into full suns or disappear altogether, bright flashes of bird wings, wicks blazing in chandeliers, colorful marzipan fashioned into the shape of lemons, grapes, apples, and roses, glorious dresses in rich hues of blue watered silk with scarlett ribbons.

The beauty of THE BLIND CONTESSA’S NEW MACHINE is that the young author, Carey Wallace, shows us exactly what is lost when Carolina Fantoni, an eighteen year old Italian contessa, gradually loses her eyesight.

June 29, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, italy

THE SOLDIER’S WIFE by Margaret Leroy

The quotation shows Margaret Leroy at her best, describing the ordinary routines of everyday life, in a strongly realized setting, and an acute emotional sensitivity. The place is Guernsey, one of the British Channel Islands nestling off the French coast between the arms of Normandy and Brittany. The time is 1940, when the islands came under German occupation, after being more or less abandoned by the British as indefensible. The sadness comes from the fact that man of this little farm has been one of the few inhabitants killed in the bombing that preceded the invasion. One of the very few, actually…

June 28, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, United Kingdom

CHILDREN AND FIRE by Ursula Hegi

In her new novel, CHILDREN AND FIRE, Ursula Hegi tells the story of Thekla Jansen, a teacher in the fictional German village of Burgdorf, familiar to readers of the author’s previous novels. Taking for the most part the perspective of her heroine, Hegi explores, from the inside out so to say, the emotional confusion and moral dilemmas that Germans were confronted with after the Nazis’ rise to power. The author sets the historical stage effectively, and while alluding to pivotal events, she focuses her attention on one specific day in February 1934, a day that, while starting off like any other, ends with the Burgdorf residents shocked, emotionally scarred and deeply divided…

June 28, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Germany, Reading Guide, World Lit

DAUGHTERS OF THE REVOLUTION by Carolyn Cooke

Carolyn Cooke is a master of the short story form—she won the O. Henry Award for her collection, THE BOSTONS. Cooke’s debut novel, Daughters of the Revolution, is also set in New England in the late 60’s, in a town called Cape Wilde.

The epicenter of much of the action, even if might not seem so at first, is the Goode School—a prep school for boys. Principal Goddard Byrd, known simply as “God,” is absolutely against allowing co-education in his school. “Over my dead body” is his constant refrain when asked about it.

June 27, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Contemporary, Debut Novel, Facing History, NE & New York, Reading Guide