THE PARIS WIFE by Paula McLain

Before Ernest Hemingway was ERNEST HEMINGWAY – one of the most revered, studied, analyzed, and parodied authors of American literature – he was a young man with a burning talent, staking his claim to a bright future.

And part of this future included Hadley Richardson, his first wife, a woman who was his equal in many ways – a risk-taker, adventurer, and copious drinker. Paula McLain – in an addictive and mesmerizing debut book – breathes life into their life together in Paris in the 1920s, when everything was just starting to come together.

February 25, 2011 · Judi Clark · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Facing History, France

THE CRIMSON ROOMS by Katharine McMahon

THE CRIMSON ROOMS, by Katharine McMahon, opens in 1924, with thirty-one year old Evelyn Gifford shaken by a recurring nightmare involving her brother, James, dying in agony at the age of twenty on a muddy battlefield. She is startled to hear a knock at the front door in the middle of the night. Much to her bewilderment, a woman is standing in the entrance with a little boy who looks exactly like Evelyn’s late brother. The stranger introduces herself as Meredith Duffy; she is accompanied by her son, six-year-old Edmund, whom she claims is James’s child. The arrival of these guests throws the Gifford household, consisting of Evelyn, her mother, grandmother, aunt, and two maids, into turmoil.

February 12, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Facing History, Mystery/Suspense


Wesley Stace’s ample new novel — half murder mystery, half music criticism — opens with a press report on the death of the talented young English composer Charles Jessold in 1923. He appears to have shot himself in his apartment after poisoning his wife and his wife’s lover and watching them die. The murder-suicide has not one but two ironic precedents. It reproduces the story of the Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo, who similarly killed his wife with her lover. It is also the subject of an English folk-ballad, “Lord Barnard and Little Musgrave,” which Jessold had taken as the subject for his operatic magnum opus, due to premiere the following night.

February 4, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, United Kingdom

A LONELY DEATH by Charles Todd

A Lonely Death, by Charles Todd, is one of the most haunting mysteries in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series. The year is 1920 and the First World War has taken an enormous toll on the young Englishmen who naively went off to battle, expecting excitement and adventure. What they found, instead, was terror and violent death. Those who returned were often shell-shocked and/or physically maimed; their families suffered along with the damaged soldiers.

January 23, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Psychological Suspense, Sleuths Series, United Kingdom

DEATH INSTINCT by Jed Rubenfeld

In Jed Rubenfeld’s sexy, moody, Hitchcockian-cum-Freudian-cum-Jungian literary novel, THE INTERPRETION OF MURDER, Dr. Stratham Younger narrates a story within the framework of a fictional journal, focusing on his experiences with Drs. Jung and Freud on their revolutionary visit to the United States in 1909. Rubenfeld braided historical fact and fiction in this Manhattan corkscrew murder mystery, centering on Freud’s pioneering “talking therapy” and penning some biting dialogue between the three psychoanalysts. Younger’s skepticism and attraction to Freud’s theories enhanced the mesmerizing story of his attempt to cure a damaged, neurotic, and mute woman. The novel was peopled with a sprawling cast of doctors and louche politicians, drawing the reader into a lush, dissecting mixture of cerebral scrutiny and emotional desire.

Rubenfeld’s second and very ambitious novel also weaves fact and fiction, with extensive scope, while adopting some of the motifs and themes from his debut work. This time the author is tacitly paralleling events in the novel to the economic depression of contemporary times, as well as the 9/11 tragedies.

January 21, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Mystery/Suspense, New York City


Family bonds, particularly between fathers and sons, and mothers and sons, are explored with great sorrow and depth in this elegiac and epic tale of the Skala family, hard-working Czech farmers in Lavaca County. In the fertile flat lands of South Texas, in the fictional town of Dalton, 1895, Karel Skala is the fourth son born to Vaclav and Klara, and the one that results in Klara’s death. Vaclav’s pain shuts him down, and he forsakes holding his son.

November 17, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Family Matters, Reading Guide, Texas, Wild West