ON CANAAN’S SIDE by Sebastian Barry

So here I was yesterday, pounding my treadmill, reading Sebastian Barry’s new novel, alternately sobbing and laughing aloud at the sheer magnificence of it, reveling in the exuberant brilliance of his writing. Admittedly, exertion at the gym calls forth such strong reactions, but the book had touched me quietly already with its first pages upon waking, and would retain its hold through the limpid ambiguity of its final paragraphs, read before going very late to bed. Yes, I finished it in a single day; I could not help myself.

September 18, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: End-of-Life, Facing History, Literary, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

PIGEON ENGLISH by Stephen Kelman

Around ten years ago, a young Nigerian immigrant, 10-year-old Damilola Taylor, was beaten by boys barely older than him in Peckham, a district in South London. Damilola later bled to death. The incident sparked outrage in the United Kingdom and was subsequently pointed to as proof that the country’s youth had gone terribly astray.

The same incident seems to have also inspired a debut novel, Pigeon English, with 11-year-old Harri Opoku filling in for the voice of Damilola Taylor.

September 14, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Debut Novel, Facing History, United Kingdom, World Lit

NETHERLAND by Joseph O’Neill

The book jacket of the hard-bound edition is entrancingly deceptive. Printed on what feels like watercolor paper, it shows a colored vignette of men in white playing cricket on a village green watched by spectators relaxing in the shade of a spreading chestnut tree. It could well be the nineteenth century, except that the skyline in the background is Manhattan, and Joseph O’Neill’s novel is set in the first years of the present century. Written in a style of such lucidity that it might almost be an autobiographical memoir, it is the narrative of three years or so in New York City. The protagonist Hans van den Broek, a Dutch-born financial analyst, thirtyish and near the top of his profession, arrives there at the start of the millennium with Rachel, his English wife, herself a high-powered lawyer. But after the attacks of 9/11, Rachel returns to England with their infant son. Hans stays on.

September 7, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Contemporary, New York City, Pen Faulkner, World Lit

VACLAV & LENA by Haley Tanner

Once upon a time, in the exotic land of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, a young boy named Vaclav – an aspiring magician – falls in love with a thin, skittish girl named Lena. And, like any alchemy, the combustion is magical…and it endures.

There is a refreshing fairy tale quality about VACLAV & LENA, a lovely debut book by Haley Tanner. Slowly but surely, I fell under the spellbinding tale of this would-be magician and his girl. It’s an endearing tale that unfolds with gentle fireworks rather than major pyrotechnics – rather like the magic seen in the starlit sky on a summer’s night in Coney Island.

July 4, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Debut Novel, NE & New York, New York City

THE WHITE WOMAN ON THE GREEN BICYLE by Monique Roffey

THE WHITE WOMAN ON THE GREEN BICYCLE by Monique Roffey takes an intriguingly different view of the corrosive impact of colonialism. This tale covers fifty years of tumultuous Trinidad history seen through the lives of a married couple–George and Sabine Harwood. The novel begins in 2006–fifty years after the arrival of the Harwoods in Trinidad. They are now in their 70s, and even though they’ve spent more than half a century together, they still, basically, don’t understand each other. Neither do they understand Trinidad.

May 21, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Caribbean, Class - Race - Gender, Facing History, Reading Guide, World Lit

THE FREE WORLD by David Bezmozgis

Bezmozgis, born in Riga, Latvia, in 1973, centers this darkly humorous novel on the close-knit, irascible Krasnansky family as they emigrate from Soviet Latvia in 1978, joining the flood of Russian Jews seeking a better life elsewhere. Their way-station on this way to peace and plenty in Canada, America, Australia, Israel – somewhere – is Rome.

There are six adult Krasnanskys and two children. Battle-scarred Samuil, revolutionary and staunch communist, is the literal founder of the Krasnansky dynasty, having shed the family name – Eisner – and taken Krasnansky for “its evocation of the Communist color.”

May 13, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Family Matters, Literary, World Lit