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

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 RESERVOIR by John Milliken Thompson

Tommie Cluverius is on trial for murder in the first degree. The charge is that he killed Lillie Madison and threw her into a reservoir where she drowned. The year is 1885 and Richmond, Virginia is the scene of the crime. Did Tommie kill Lillie or was it suicide? Did someone else kill Lillie and try to pin the crime on Tommie? The outcome of the trial will determine whether Tommie lives or goes to the gallows.

June 21, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Facing History, Mystery/Suspense, US South

THE SECRET HISTORY OF COSTAGUANA by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

When Joseph Conrad was working on NOSTROMO in the early 1900s, and setting it in the fictional Latin American country of Costaguana, he found that his first-hand knowledge of the region, based on a couple of brief shore visits a quarter-century earlier, was insufficient. He therefore consulted friends who had spent greater time in northern South America and constructed a setting that is entirely believable, not only in its composite geography but also in its way of life and political turmoil. Now Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vásquez imagines that Conrad might have had one further contact, José Altamirano, born in Colombia but recently arrived in London as an exile from Panama, following the province’s secession from Colombia in the revolution of 1903. Writing now in 1924, the year of Conrad’s death, Altamirano believes that the novelist has stolen his life story and that of his country to make a fiction of his own, utterly obliterating him in the process.

June 18, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Latin American/Caribbean, South America, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

DOC by MARY DORIA RUSSELL

DOC relates how it might have been during 1878-79 when Dr. John Henry Holliday lived in Dodge City, Kansas. “The Deadly Dentist” who later gained fame or infamy, depending on perspective, for “pistoleering” along with the surviving Earp brothers at the O.K. Corral, saved Wyatt Earp’s life in Dodge first. Earp is said to have credited Holliday with saving him, but apparently didn’t share details, so history isn’t sure of the facts. But this novel presents its own story of how it might have happened.

May 24, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, US Frontier West, Wild West

AN ATLAS OF IMPOSSIBLE LONGING by Anuradha Roy

The title of this book alone drew me in; that and I’m partial to books about India. This is a fine book on many levels and I was not disappointed. It’s a multigenerational novel, a great love story, a cross-cultural learning experience, and a book about yearning, hope, loss, money and betrayal. It captures the big themes of life and does a great job of keeping the reader turning the pages.

The story starts out in 1907 when Amulya takes his family from Calcutta to Songarh, a small town on the edge of the jungle. He has a wife and two grown sons, along with one daughter-in law. He builds a house in the middle of nowhere. There are no other houses nearby except for one belonging to an English couple across the street. There is dirt, mud, the screech of monkies and not much else. Kananbala, Amulya’s wife, gradually loses her sanity from the loneliness and utters irrelevant profanities at the oddest times. Amulya confines Kananbala to her room so as to avoid embarrassment. There she languishes, for the most part alone and lonely. She takes to watching the comings and goings of the English couple across the street and is witness to a murder. Her interpretation of what she sees has a fascinating outcome.

April 21, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Family Matters, India-Pakistan, Reading Guide, World Lit