Friday, August 31, 2012

The Lantern

Finished The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson. What a cover! Yes, I often judge a book by it's cover and this one grabbed me. Reading that the inspiration for the novel was Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca clinched it. Set in Provence, it consists of two storylines. One, in the present, is the story of young woman and her boyfriend who purchases a rundown farmhouse. The other, set in the past, is the story of the family who owned the farm for generations beforehand, including Marthe Lincel, who went blind as a young girl, but later became famous for her Provence inspired perfumes.

Like DuMaurier's heroine, the current day heroine of the novel does not have her name mentioned. And like the second Mrs. DeWinter she slowly begins to suspect that her significant other is not what he seems. There are ghosts and ghostly forces in the past and the present, even the ghosts of smells. This book was riveting.

Watership Down

Finished Watership Down by Richard Adams. I listened to an audiobook recording of the novel, read by Ralph Cosham. Cosham's voice and the voices he uses for the various characters is so engaging. It really added to my enjoyment of the book. Many people read this book in high school. It makes perfect sense as a book to read for logic class. The problem solving that the rabbits accomplish as they attempt to establish a new warren is an excellent example of how to think out-of-the-box.

The rabbits' adventure is epic. Hazel, the protagonist, is an admirable sympathetic hero. Bigwig, although initially a bully, grows in many ways and acts with extreme valor. Fiver, the rabbit who has premonitions, is a wonderfully mystical character. My favorite character is Kehaar, the seagull. His phraseology is hilarious. The story is laced with rabbit folklore, reminiscent of Kipling's Just So Stories and The Jungle Book. I adored this book.

The Family Man

Finished The Family Man by Elinor Lipman. A co-worker passed this book on to me after she read it. It's charming and funny. Set in New York City, it's the story of Henry Archer, a lonely, retired. openly gay lawyer who reunites with the stepdaughter he lost in divorce 25 years earlier. A wonderful book about the evolving concept of the modern family.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Paris Wife

Finished The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. The novel tells the story of Hadley Richardson and her marriage to Ernest Hemingway as his first wife. Hemingway was twenty-two when they married. Hadley was eight years his senior. The two met in Chicago and moved to Paris soon after they married.

McLain's prose is achingly true. I found myself so engrossed in Hadley and Hemingway's characters that I actually dreamed that I was Hadley. More than once.

Reading this book brought me back to my own writing and to my former appreciation of Hemingway's work, which I've now begun to re-read in the order in which it appears in the novel.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Mayor of Casterbridge

Finished The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. Each summer I switch off between reading a novel by Hardy or one by George Eliot. Sadly, I was a bit disappointed in this summer's choice. I find no fault with the book, I just didn't like the title character, AKA Michael Henchard. Seldom have I encountered a character who behaved so stupidly and made such terrible decisions, except perhaps Undine Spragg. This was less bucolic than most of the Hardy novels I've read so far, something I found lacking as well. I much prefer my Hardy read from summer 2010, The Return of the Native.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Nantucket Nights

Finished Nantucket Nights by Elin Hilderbrand. Sometimes characters just need a high-five. In the face. With a chair. Which is too bad, because I loved Hilderbrand's first novel The Beach Club.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Maisie Dobbs

Finished Maisie Dobbs, the first book in Jacqueline Winspear's series of nine mysteries. It's 1929 and Maisie's mentor, Maurice Blanche, has retired. Maisie sets up shop as a "Psychologist and Investigator" in London. Her first case appears to be one of simple infidelity, but Maisie knows better. She is drawn into investigating "The Retreat," a farm where disfigured veterans of WWI live away from the gaze of the rest of the world. Her investigation drums up memories of her time as a nurse at a casualty clearing station in France, memories she has avoided these past ten years.

I enjoyed this book. It's set in a period that has always fascinated me. While the characters and circumstances of the novel are unconventional, everything melds together nicely, with the satisfaction of having the final, quiet mystery of Maisie's own past revealed in the last pages of the novel.