Archive for February, 2014

EUROPE IN SEPIA by Dubravka Ugresic

Dubravka Ugresic’s new collection of cultural essays deal, primarily, with “Nostalgia,” the title of her first piece.

Ms. Ugresice is a Croatian, formally a Yugoslavian, who now lives in Amsterdam.

Her essays delve into politics, history, popular US, Yugoslavian and European culture from the 1950′s to the 21st century, as well as her own thoughts and flights of fancy. She is branded a “Yugonostalgnic,” by many of her fellow countrymen and women. This is a derogatory term, a synonym for those who long for the days of the Yugoslavia of yore under the reign of Tito; dinosaurs who look back fondly to the slogan “brotherhood and unity.”

February 21, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Croatia, Europe, Non-fiction, Translated, World Lit, Yugoslavia

THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS by Claire Messud

The eponymous title of this penetrating and artful novel refers to third-grade schoolteacher and unfulfilled artist Nora Eldridge, who has lived in the Boston area her whole life. It is also the book’s principal motif, surfacing periodically to describe Nora’s various attributes as an uncharacteristically plain woman, a woman who doesn’t rock any boats or shine like a supernova– one who is always nice, mannerly, and unthreatening to others. Essentially, anonymous and invisible. Nora has previously accepted this about herself, living up to the part with emblematic virtuosity.

February 20, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, NE & New York, Reading Guide

FOREIGN GODS, INC. by Okey Ndibe

FOREIGN GODS, INC. is one of those rare books that has you laughing and crying at different intervals. It is well-written, excellently characterized and the story line is near perfect. I enjoyed this reading experience immensely.

February 19, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Debut Novel, Humorous, New York City, World Lit

A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED by Dara Horn

The idea for writing a modern version of the biblical story of Joseph came apparently from the author’s husband. It is a brilliant one, even more brilliantly executed. First, because she uses it for resonance rather than prediction; you recognize the biblical parallels after they have occurred, but you never know when she is going to depart from the Genesis version, so her novel remains surprising to the end. Second, because the Egyptian setting grounds the book in aspects of Jewish history that are perhaps less well-known, but obviously relevant to the eternal geopolitical situation in the Middle East. And third, because the Torah reference provides the perfect opening to explore many issues in Jewish teaching and philosophy, most notably those concerning divine providence, accident, and free will. The title of her novel, actually, is borrowed from a treatise on these very questions written in Cairo by the twelfth century doctor and philosopher Maimonides. The result, in Horn’s hands, is a richly layered novel that is humane, exciting, informative, and thought-provoking, all at the same time.

February 18, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Family Matters, Literary, Middle East, Speculative (Beyond Reality), Theme driven, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES by Karen Joy Fowler

The most absorbing books I read have a vital lesson at their core: they teach me what it means to be human. Karen Joy Fowler’s latest book tackles this crucial theme and by doing so, captured my heart and reduced me to tears.

There is no getting around that this is an agenda book. Ms. Fowler’s purpose is to show us—through fiction—that the most complicated animal – the human animal can be disastrous to the rest of the animal kingdom through sheer arrogance.

Typically, I avoid authorial intrusion like the plague. But this book was so irresistibly readable, so original, and so psychologically nuanced that I couldn’t help but turn the pages compulsively.

February 15, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Theme driven, US Midwest

THE SWAN GONDOLA by Timothy Schaffert

Swan Gondola literally starts off with a bang! Two elderly sisters, Emmaline and Hester, known by most in their small county, as the “Old Sisters Egan,” are sitting in their Nebraska farm kitchen drinking coffee. The day has been a peaceful one. Suddenly the house begins to shiver and shake and they are enveloped in noise, a loud BANG!! Books fall from their shelves, china dishes and cups fall to the floor, breaking, chimney bricks drop into the hearth, their caged canaries stop singing and the two sisters are left stunned, shocked.

February 14, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, US Frontier West, Wild West