LEVELS OF LIFE by Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes’ memoir of grief for the death of his wife Pat Kavanagh in 2008 after a thirty-year relationship, must be one of the most moving tributes ever paid to a loved one, but also the most oblique. So let’s start with something simple, a photograph. Look up the title in the Daily Mail of London, partly for the marvelously-titled review “Lifted by Love, Grounded by Grief” by Craig Brown, but mostly for the photograph that accompanies it. Julian is seated. Pat stands behind him, her arms around his shoulders, her chin resting on the crown of his head. Her love is obvious, she whom Barnes refers to as “The heart of my life; the life of my heart.” But equally striking is the unusual vertical composition. Pat, who on the ground was a small woman beside the gangling Barnes, here appears above him, like a guardian angel reaching down.

February 10, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Non-fiction, Reading Guide, y Award Winning Author

POLICE by Jo Nesbo

Suspects abound and deceit, lies and corruption are the order of the day from everyone – criminals and cops – in Police, an enthralling follow-up to Jo Nesbo’s previous Harry Hole novel, Phantom. POLICE actually takes up where PHANTOM leaves off. And my question, for over a year, while waiting in angst for this book to be published is…”Is Harry Hole still alive?” Obviously he is…or this book would not have been written. But still…there was some doubt.

February 7, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Literary, Mystery/Suspense, Sleuths Series

INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEAT WAVE by Maggie O’Farrell

Almost as though in reference to the title of her best novel, THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX (2006), Maggie O’Farrell’s new one begins with a disappearance. One morning in 1976, in the midst of a heatwave, retired bank manager Robert Riordan, after laying breakfast for his wife Gretta, leaves their North London house, draws some money from his bank, and does not return. Within a day, their three grown children have all returned home to help their mother handle the crisis: Michael Francis from his house a few miles away, where he lives with his wife and two young children; Monica from a farm in Gloucestershire, where she lives with her second husband and, at weekends, his two children; and Aoife*, the youngest, from New York, where she is single with a boyfriend. Thus O’Farrell lays the groundwork for a book about family dynamics, not only Gretta, the absent Robert, and their grown children, but also the individual situations of the offspring, who will each confront and largely resolve their own personal crises over the four-day span of the novel. At this level, it is an extraordinarily well-constructed and heart-warming read.

January 16, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Family Matters, United Kingdom, y Award Winning Author

ELEVEN DAYS by Lea Carpenter

n a blog that she wrote for the Huffington Post, Lea Carpenter notes that eleven days was the period of truce negotiated between King Priam and Achilles in the Iliad after the death of Hector — an encounter movingly narrated by David Malouf in his novel Ransom. It is an appropriate reference for many reasons, not least the almost classical values that Carpenter both celebrates and espouses in her storytelling; this gripping debut novel is immediate in content, ample in moral perspective, rich and thoughtful in its human values.

December 11, 2013 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Debut Novel, Middle East, Reading Guide, Washington, D.C.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami doesn’t lend himself to easy categorization. Though his prose is spare, almost styleless, it’s more supple than muscular, and though his stories are often occupied with mundane domesticities, they’re also often founded in the surreal. It’s no surprise, then, that Murakami’s long-awaited latest, 1Q84, isn’t easy to shelf –it’s at home among either fantasy, thriller or hard-boiled noir – but one thing’s for sure: this book is grotesquely Murakami. That is, quiet domesticity punctuates adventures tenuously connected to reality, and yet for all its faults – and some have argued there are many – this is a book that haunts you long after you’re done, a book that, like a jealous lover, won’t let you move on.

December 31, 2011 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Literary, Noir, Scifi, World Lit

BLUE NIGHTS by Joan Didion

BLUE NIGHTS is ostensibly about the loss of a child. In reality, however, it is about the passing of time. Indeed, it is the passing of time that captures all loss, loss of children, of loved ones, and ultimately, of self. It is the classic Heritclitian flow and Ms. Didion has here given herself to it fully, embracing every ripple, bend and eddy. With superhuman strength she resists fighting the current. She does not emote. She does not wax sentimental. Rather she turns her hard-edged and beautiful prose squarely upon her subject matter–as she always has done–and sets to work. Yet even she wonders if the manner in which she practices her art is up for the task.

November 10, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: End-of-Life, Non-fiction, y Award Winning Author