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Category Archive for 'Book Club Suggestions'

However many surprises the artwork of Felix Vallotton (1865 – 1925) may provide for the viewer, this book, a record of two art shows in 2019 and 2020, will provide even more. Five critics, including novelist Patrick McGuinness, give important general information about why Vallotton, a Swiss, may not have received the attention of artists like the impressionists and post-impressionists who were purveyors of new styles. Vallotton,. too, provides new views of the world, but his are unique, not part of a movement. In addition to his insightful, often personal, and sometimes even amusing, paintings, Vallotton revived the whole concept of the wood block print, creating dozens of commentaries on daily life from his perspective as an anarchist, used in newspapers, often in place of cartoons. One picture of one painting by Vallotton, sent to me by a friend this past year, was all it took to unleash weeks of pleasure for me through the study of Vallotton’s work. This book, filled with many pages of color photographs and block prints, will lead, I hope, to similar discoveries among others who read and view it and celebrate the new worlds it opens.

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A new investigation into the story of Anne Frank and her Jewish family during World War II in Amsterdam concentrates on how they were betrayed after spending twenty-six months in hiding and who may have been responsible. Author Rosemary Sullivan spent much time with the leaders of the recently completed investigation, which ultimately lasted five years and involved two dozen experts in a variety of fields, from artificial intelligence to behavioral science and archiving. Led by Director of Investigation Vince Pankoke, a former FBI investigator, the researchers searched archives in eight countries in an effort to provide the whole truth regarding the fate of Anne Frank and most of her family.

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I have never thought of Louise Erdrich as a particularly humorous author, but the opening chapter of this novel, “Time In Time Out,” had me chuckling nonstop at the wry humor and irony for all thirty pages. Tookie, the narrator, wastes no time introducing herself, explaining in the opening sentence that “While in prison, I received a dictionary. It was sent to me with a note. This is the book I would take to a deserted island,” a book she had received from a former teacher. Tookie, released from prison in her thirties, “still parties, drinking and drugging like I [am] seventeen,” and she admits that she does not yet know who she is. Finding a job becomes difficult until she talks with “Louise,” who runs a bookstore in MInneapolis, Birch Bark Books, which becomes a setting and includes “Louise.” Since author Louise Erdrich herself also owns a bookstore called Birch Bark Books, the identifications are real. Characters come to life as history takes place, with Covid playing a strong role in the action, as does the death of George Floyd. A book which focuses on books, readers, and authors, this will appeal to a wide range of readers.

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In this psychological study of Pietro Vella, who is a thirty-year-old teacher in Italy at the beginning of the novel, author Domenico Starnone concentrates on themes of love, the self-knowledge it needs to grow, and the kind of honesty which evolves from the trust and respect which two people must have in each other. The novel opens with Pietro’s early love of Teresa, a wild, brilliant, and impulsive woman, whose relationship with Pietro lasts for three years, before her career beckons. Nadia, Pietro’s next love, with whom he eventually has a family, is Teresa’s opposite, and their decades long marriage and family, become a key to the novel and Pietro’s happiness – or not. The three main characters- Pietro, Nadia, and Teresa – each with his/her own section – provide alternative visions of major events as the characters show their interactions, their love, and their self-awareness – or not – as fifty years pass, lives grow and change, and the characters share their lives with the reader.

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HARLEM SHUFFLE by Colson Whitehead is a gem of novel, one certain to win both literary prizes and enthusiastic plaudits from its readers. A crime novel which remains both entertaining and filled with warmth toward many of the characters, even those who do not follow the straight and narrow, it shows life as it is and emphasizes the variety of ways that people deal with their difficulties successfully, even when threats and fear become part of the equation. Despite his marginal set of ethics and a neighborhood in which murder is common, Carney as main character remains intriguing and sympathetic in most of his actions. And though he may never be considered a “hero” on a grand scale, he is a hero to many people for his accomplishments and his pragmatic vision of the community’s future possibilities. His innate goodness, even in the most trying times, somehow shines through, often with a touch of humor.

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