Feed on
Posts
Comments

Category Archive for 'Book Club Suggestions'

Very much in the tradition of her previous Neapolitan Quartet, author Elena Ferrante delves deeply into the psychology, culture, and social and romantic goals of characters whom the reader comes to know from within. In the course of the novel, she first presents Giovanna, age twelve, her family, and their friends – those living elegantly at the top of the hill in Naples – and sets up contrasts between their lives with those who live at the bottom of the hill, a much poorer area in which life is far more difficult. When Giovanna decides she wants to meet her mysterious aunt Vittoria, the family pariah, considered a “demon” living at the bottom of the hill, the family’s interrelationships become more complex. Over the next five years, they meet several times, and when the marriage of Giovanna’s parents begins to crack, Vittoria tells Giovanna to pay close attention to their arguments and actions to learn what is happening behind the scenes. Complex details involving all of these characters give new meaning to the “lying lives” of the adults. While these revelations are occurring, Giovanna herself is growing up and feeling her own sexual interests come alive, adding intensity to the atmosphere and more tension in Giovanna’s life. Those who have loved the Neapolitan Quartet will find this novel a good counterpart with its emphasis on psychological development, the inner thoughts and quandaries of its main character(s), and the constant reliving of the past and its mistakes. Book clubs will have a fine time analyzing the “adult” Giovanna as she makes a life-changing decision on the last pages.

Read Full Post »

Though D. A. Mishani employs all his talents and experience as a detective story writer in pacing this novel and its complications, his primary focus for the first hundred pages is on the psychology of three women seeking companionship from a man who is looking for a change of scenery without serious commitment. Each has her own secrets. Gradually this psychological study turns into a dramatic action novel which speeds along as it absorbs elements from all the accumulated action and combines it into a carefully constructed and un-put-downable mystery novel. The book, though different from what it appears to be, at first, is an exciting crime story with well-developed characters, several climactic scenes related to individual women, and a more-than satisfying conclusion.

Read Full Post »

On May 5, 1840, Lord William Russell, a quiet, elderly member of the aristocracy, was found in the bedroom of his unpretentious London townhouse with his throat slit so severely that his head was almost detached. Other wounds to his chest were equally horrifying. The shock of the murder reverberated throughout the city, especially among the upper classes, who well knew his prominent family and that of his deceased wife. This was a period of social change, and London was “teeming with immigrants, the unemployed, and a burgeoning working class who were more literate and organized than ever before.” The winter of 1839 had been one of “mass rallies by Chartists demanding universal suffrage,” and in some places had turned into bloody riots. Over two hundred Chartists had been convicted of high treason for their actions and were transported out of the country. Several fiction writers of the period came under fire for “writing fictions that glamorized vice and made heroes of criminals.” Popular books now were seen by some as “pandering to the lowest…full of violent excitements and vulgarity that could all too easily lead susceptible readers astray,” and a whole genre of “Newgate books,” for the masses, evolved. Claire Harman’s careful research and her eye for telling details, even as she focuses on the broad theme of murder in 1840 and the controversy over whether that is an appropriate subject of fiction, make this an absorbing study. She draws in the reader with her selection of facts and her elucidation of the goals of literature as seen by famed authors of the day, making them almost as compelling as the gruesome realities of real murder.

Read Full Post »

Ha Seong-nan’s latest collection of stories, originally published in Korea in 2002, reflects the fresh, dynamic approach to writing which has made her writing so successful both in Korea and internationally over the past twenty years. Famous for her sharp, penetrating imagery, the author creates stories that capture the small moments which make the lives of her characters so memorable for the reader. At the same time, however, she often places these characters in circumstances which evoke unsettling thoughts and feelings, often close to horror, as the reader gains sudden new insights into what has happened in the past and what may happen in the future. High on my Favorites list for the year!

Read Full Post »

Believe all the good things you see, hear, and read about this dramatic, totally involving, and thematically insightful novel about three young people and their families living in and around Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. A huge train fire and its resulting spread to a neighborhood of huts, with over a hundred deaths, described in the opening quotation, is the event around which the novel evolves, with three main characters. Jivan, a young woman living in a slum area near the railway station “ought to have seen the men who stole up to the open windows and threw flaming torches into the halted train.” She is accused of being involved in the terrorism. The second main character, Lovely, is a “hijra,” a transgender person who is taking acting lessons and drawing applause for her performances in class. The third character, PT Sir, a teacher of physical-training at a girls’ school, also knows Jivan because she was once a scholarship student whom he helped. With main characters who are female, male, and transgender, author Megha Majumdar is able to provide broad commentary on the city, its values, the difficulties of finding good work, the lives and decisions made by Jivan’s acquaintances, and Jivan’s own “crime.” Majumdar writes so efficiently, descriptively, and intelligently, that I cannot imagine a reader not becoming caught up in every aspect of this astonishing novel.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »