A fresh new year means fresh new reads from the Simply Books! group. Though technically, this was our December meeting, I’m counting it as 2015.
Here are the titles we talked about last Saturday! I’ve included the reader’s comments and descriptions, which I noted to the best of my ability. (It’s hard to take notes with this crew, they’re so fast and funny and smart, I always miss a few things….a good problem to have):
War in Val D’Orcia, 1943-1944 by Iris Origo
Origo wrote this diary during WWII, and it was published largely unedited in 1947. Origo wanted to keep the emotional immediacy of her experiences, and it was well worth the effort. During the war Origo and her husband owned a 4,000 acre farm complex in Tuscany, where they took in twenty-three children from the city as well as housed and protected deserters and travelers. She wrote every day for two years, describing their activities on the farm, the visitors they’d had, the German inspections. Her story of life “on the ground” during wartime makes you think about what war does to people–how many soldiers are just regular people who would rather not be where they are, and how sometimes war can bring out the best in people.
Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life by Roxana Robinson
This was a re-read of the hefty but rich biography of O’Keeffe. The artist was a fiercely independent extreme introvert who loved nature, and felt that art comes from feeling and intuition (which made her a bit of a maverick in the art world of her time). Her nuances and complexities make her a compelling subject for biography. Robinson also includes a lot of discussion about schools and theories of art, which adds to the already rich life story.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
This modern classic centers on an impeccable butler named Mr. Stevens, who has spent his life in service to one Lord Darlington at Darlington Hall. The plot centers on Mr. Stevens taking a road trip (with his new employer’s car) to retrieve the housekeeper he used to work with. Along the way, disturbing, rattling memories begin to surface, as well as the realization that the man Stevens idolized wasn’t as wonderful as he seemed. A fascinating character study as well as an instructive meditation on the human ability to self-deceive.
The Four Graces by D.E. Stevenson
A delightful, charming, witty story of a vicar and his four daughters in a small quirky village in England during the second world war. It’s fun but not frivolous, very much of its time. A lovely read.
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
A novel which tells the story of Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah. This fictionalized account of her life is very rich in Biblical history, womens’ issues, and relationships (the red tent is where the women of the tribe go in times of menstruation and childbirth, to receive guidance and support from fellow tribeswomen). It’s nice to hear a Bible story from a woman’s perspective, and to learn more about daily life in that time and place.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The reader had just started this novel, but had read The Kite Runner and was very impressed with Hosseini’s phenomenal job of portraying both a woman’s perspective and that of modern Afghanistan.
Revival by Stephen King
He did this story at least twice already, and did it better and scarier in Pet Sematary, and better and more heartrending in The Green Mile. Namely, the exploration of grief and what comes after death–in this story, it has to do with a former minister broken by loss and grief and obsessed with what he calls “secret electricity.” All of the good elements of King are there, his characters and compelling storytelling ability. What’s missing is either drama or horror this time around, at least not in the usual doses.
There you have it! If you’d like to join us for our January meeting, bring your latest greatest read to the Jean Picker Room on Saturday, January 24th at 2pm.