NEXT TO LOVE by Ellen Feldman

NEXT TO LOVE starts out very strong. We meet three childhood friends in Massachusetts – Babe, Millie, and Grace – whose men are on the cusp of going off to World War II. Ms. Feldman deftly juggles their stories and breathes life into their characters. Grace is the beauty who is married to the heir of one of the town’s most illustrious citizens and has a young daughter; Millie is married to Pete, the pharmacist’s son; and Babe is the feisty wrong-side-of-the-tracks gal who is in a committed relationship with an upstanding man who wants to become a teacher.

July 28, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, NE & New York, Reading Guide

RICH BOY by Sharon Pomerantz

Family sagas have long been a staple among American best-sellers; the examples are wide and vast. The very predictability of the family saga genre promises an absorbing yet familiar reading experience: the once-poor yet highly attractive and charismatic main character who overcomes all kinds of adversities, goes through heartbreak and scandal, and then emerges older, wiser, and in most cases, wealthier than before (or at the very least, with enough knowledge to BECOME wealthier).

July 14, 2011 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Contemporary, Debut Novel, Family Matters, Reading Guide

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

THE ARTIFICIAL SILK GIRL by Irmgard Keun

There is nothing fake or “artificial” about the heroine of this surprising work of fiction. First published in 1932 in Germany, it was followed very quickly by its English translation in 1933. It was an immediate hit for a young author’s second novel; praised for its pointed sense of humour as well as the underlying critique of society. The story, written in the form of the central character’s musings and diary, blends a young woman’s daily struggles to make ends meet with, an at times sarcastic, yet always, witty commentary on daily life among the working classes during the dying days of the Weimar Republic.

June 14, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Character Driven, Classic, Germany, Translated, World Lit

THE YEAR WE LEFT HOME by Jean Thompson

Jean Thompson has been aptly labeled “an American Alice Munro,” and as a reader who has been mesmerized time and again by her captivating short-story collections, I wholeheartedly concur.

Now, in THE YEAR WE LEFT HOME, Ms. Thompson leverages all her strengths and skills as a short-story writer and creates a sweeping and emotionally satisfying novel composed of interlocking, decade-spanning stories of a family in flux. As her grand theme, she takes on the universal quest for “home,” exploring all the manifestations of that search.

May 5, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, US Midwest

VIENNA TWILIGHT by Frank Tallis

VIENNA TWILIGHT, the fifth installment in Frank Tallis’s superb mystery series, focuses on a serial killer obsessed with death; a degenerate artist, Herr Ludo Rainmayr, who paints emaciated young girls in the nude; and an agitated mental patient named Norbert Erstweiler. Dr. Max Liebermann is a psychiatrist and disciple of Sigmund Freud. He also unofficially assists his close friend, Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt. Max and Oskar attend concerts, chat over meals, make music (Max plays the piano and Oskar sings in a rich baritone), drink brandy, smoke cigars, and track down felons. Max’s knowledge of abnormal psychology helps him understand the subconscious forces that drive people to commit unspeakable acts.

April 17, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Sleuths Series, World Lit