LOVE AND TREASURE by Ayelet Waldman

Ayelet Waldman’s new book begins in Red Hook, Maine, the setting of her novel RED HOOK ROAD, but the two could hardly be more different. For whereas she had previously confined herself to two families in the same setting over a period of a very few years, she travels in this one to Salzburg, Budapest, and Israel, at various periods over a hundred-year span. By the same token, though, it is a stretch to call Love and Treasure a novel; it is essentially a trilogy of novellas, each with different characters, but linked by a single object and common themes. The object is an enameled Jugendstil pendant in the shape of a peacock. Although only of modest value, it plays an important role in the lives of the people who people who possess it, and provides a focus for the novelist’s enquiry into the lives of Hungarian Jews both before and after the Holocaust.

March 31, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Eastern Europe, Israel, NE & New York, World Lit

THE PARIS ARCHITECT by Charles Belfoure

It is Paris in the spring of 1942. Paris, the glorious “City of Lights” is even more wondrous in the springtime….but not for the French, not in 1942. It is the second year of the victorious Nazi occupation, and the French are struggling to get by. There are economic problems with the payment of the costs of a three-hundred-thousand strong occupying German army, which amounts to twenty million Reichmarks per day; lack of food for French citizens – the Germans seize about 20% of the French food production, which causes severe disruption to the household economy of the French people; the disorganization of transport, except for the railway system which relies on French domestic coal supplies; the Allied blockade, restricting all imports into the country; the extreme shortage of petrol and diesel fuel; (one walks or rides a bike); France has no indigenous oil production and all imports have stopped; labor shortages, particularly in the countryside, due to the large number of French prisoners of war held in Germany. And then there was the Jewish problem.

December 8, 2013 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Facing History, France

IN THE GARDEN OF THE BEASTS by Erik Larson

Before you even think of reading Erik Larson’s latest masterwork, clear your calendar, call in sick, send the kids to grandma’s, and place all your evening plans on hold. You will not want to come up for air until you’ve reached the last pages. It’s that good.

In his preface, Larson writes, “Once, at the dawn of a very dark time, an American father and daughter found themselves suddenly transported from their snug home in Chicago to the heart of Hitler’s Berlin. They remained there for four and a half years, but it is their first year that is the subject of the story to follow, for it coincided with Hitler’s ascent from chancellor to absolute tyrant, when everything hung in the balance and nothing was certain.”

May 19, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Germany, Non-fiction

VISITATION by Jenny Erpenbeck

The “Girl,” who ponders these questions, is one of the protagonists in Jenny Erpenbeck’s innovative and powerful novel VISITATION. Memories of innocent excitement and happiness of youth, of arriving, settling down, and then having to leave again and of families and people loved and lost form the core of the story. People and events are centred around a lake-side summer house surrounded by expansive woods and gardens in the region just east of Germany’s capital, Berlin, affording it the role as the central character and integrating force of the narrative. Using her zooming lens, the author condenses many decades of twentieth century German history into time-specific, intricate and intimate glimpses into the lives of twelve different residents and their families living on the property. While the owners build and add to the house, change it and its grounds over time, leaving visible marks and impressions, they are in turn impacted by the environment and the historical events occurring beyond it.

May 2, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Facing History, Germany, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

THE LAST BROTHER by Nathacha Appanah

Usually I review books shortly after reading them. However, Nathacha Appanah’s book, The Last Brother, sat so deeply in my heart that I had to wait several days before reviewing it. I needed it to come closer to the surface, closer to that word place where emotions can be translated into language.

Nathacha Appanah is a French-Mauritian of Indian origin, born in Maruitius and now living in France. The Last Brother won the Prix de la FNAC 2007 and the Grand Prix des lecteurs de L’Express 2008. Geoffrey Strachan has beautifully translated it into English. It reads as if it is in its native language, a feat very rare for translations.

April 14, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Facing History, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

COMEDY IN A MINOR KEY by Hans Keilson

To be comfortable in the world of the Kafkaesque, one must slowly climb up the literary ladder, page after page, year after year. My journey began with the likes of V.C. Andrews during my tawdry youth, and then eventually reached its pinnacle with Tolstoy, and of course, Kafka. Aside from my literary snobbery (which is nothing short of a veneer – I still love me some Sidney Sheldon), having entered Kafka’s abyss of absurdity and horror makes Hans Keilson’s novel, COMEDY IN A MINOR KEY, not only recognizable, but entirely brilliant.

December 16, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Classic, Holland, Reading Guide, World Lit