LOVERS AT THE CHAMELEON CLUB, PARIS 1932 by Francine Prose

Early on in Francine Prose’s richly imagined and intricately constructed tour de force, Yvonne – the proprietress of the Parisian Chameleon Club –tells a story about her pet lizard, Darius. “One 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.”

History – and the people who compose it – is itself a chameleon, subject to multiple interpretations. Ms. Prose seems less interested in exploring “what is the truth” and more intrigued with the question, “Is there truth?”

April 22, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Facing History, France, Literary, World Lit

A STUDENT OF WEATHER by Elizabeth Hay

Elizabeth Hay centres her superb, enchanting and deeply moving novel around Norma Joyce and sister Lucinda, her senior by nine years. Set against the beautifully evoked natural environments of Saskatchewan and Ontario, and spanning over more than thirty years, the author explores in sometimes subtle, sometimes defter, ways the sisters’ dissimilar characters. One is an “ugly duckling,” the other a beauty; one is rebellious and lazy, the other kind, efficient and unassuming… I

December 15, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Canada, Contemporary, Debut Novel, Giller Prize, Reading Guide, y Award Winning Author

THE PRICE OF ESCAPE by David Unger

Samuel Berkow, at thirty-eight, stands at the crossroads: In 1938, life in Germany is fast becoming dangerous for Jews. At the urging of his concerned uncle, he agrees to leave Hamburg and emigrate to Guatemala, where his cousin is expected to help him settle. In THE PRICE OF ESCAPTE, David Unger explores his hero’s self-conscious and stumbling efforts to put his German existence out of his mind as he prepares for a new one that carries promise but is also full of uncertainty.

September 29, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Latin American/Caribbean, South America, World Lit

BOXER, BEETLE by Ned Beauman

First-time author Ned Beauman really lays it out there in the first chapter of this extraordinary novel, which begins with an imaginary surprise birthday party thrown by Hitler for Joseph Goebbels in 1940. It is an exhilarating, outrageous opening to a book that will in fact take a quite different course. But it is important as a way of establishing the moral parameters (and this IS a moral book) and freeing up an imaginative space in which Beauman can explore some ideas that are normally unapproachable.

September 13, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Facing History, Humorous, Satire, United Kingdom

RULES OF CIVILITY by Amor Towles

If a novel could win an award for best cinematography, this would take home the gold. Amor Towles’s sophisticated retro-era novel of manners captures Manhattan 1938 with immaculate lucidity and a silvery focus on the gin and the jazz, the nightclubs and the streets, the pursuit of sensuality, and the arc of the self-made woman.

July 27, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Debut Novel, Facing History, Humorous, New York City, Reading Guide

THE WINTER GHOSTS by Kate Mosse

Mosse gives her beguiling novel an old fashioned gothic framework that suits this eerie story of ghostly love in an insular mountain village of France a decade after WWI. The story opens in 1933 as Frederick Watson visits an antiquarian bookseller in Toulouse. “He walked like a man recently returned to the world. Every step was careful, deliberate. Every step to be relished.” Well-dressed and confident, Watson knows his appearance contrasts sharply with his last visit to Toulouse in 1928 at age 25. “He had been another man then, a tattered man, worn threadbare by grief.”

July 10, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Facing History, France, Mystery/Suspense, Psychological Suspense