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Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

21 Aug

In Philippe Claudel’s By a Slow River, a small-town policeman recounts the murder investigation of an angelic young girl during WW1. The investigation coincides with the suicide of the beautiful but enigmatic new schoolteacher, and the death of the narrator’s beloved wife during childbirth. His description of how the town’s local residents respond to the murder and suicide is colored by his overwhelming devastation at his wife’s death.
Well written, but grim, with a little twist at the end and a revelation about the narrator that may stun, but not really surprise the reader.
So, if you don’t need a happy ending, this winner of the France’s 2003 Prix Renaudot award is well worth the time

Kathy B
Slow River


Little Women and (their father) March – Two novels

17 Feb

The Pulitzer Prize winning novel March by Geraldine Brooks, paired with a re-reading of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, is a rewarding dual selection for book discussion groups. March is Mr. March, the father of sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, who leaves home to volunteer as a Union chaplain the Civil War. His experiences provide a dark picture of the war – evil and suffering that affect soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict.  Marriage to Mr. March, who is a “true believer” in abolitionism, is not a bed of roses for Marmee, his wife.  You may not accept Brooks’ March as the missing father in Little Women, but the author has woven solid historical research into an engrossing story. Louisa May Alcott finished her novel about the March family a few years after the Civil War, basing her characters on her childhood memories.  Re-reading Little Women as an adult lets you compare your favorite sisters or family members, then and now.  Plan on extra discussion time if your book club reads these novels in tandem! Beth

Submerse yourself in Victorian London

24 Jan

How can I describe The Meaning of Night: A Confession?
A force of nature, perhaps? It pulled me along like the tide…just one chapter, I’d think – an hour later I’d come up for air and shake the fog shrouded London scene from my head. Author Michael Cox has written a rich story of obsession and murder filled with twists and turns and a satisfying ending.

I could not stop reading – despite the fact the main character, Edward Glyver, admits to a cold-blooded murder on the first page. But Edward is a fascinating character and I found myself liking him, despite his many flaws. I wanted to know what compelled him to do what he did on that first page and I think you will, too. Kathy B

If you enjoy historical mysteries…

1 Dec

I recommend Some Danger Involved, the first in a series by author (and librarian!) Will Thomas. Set in Victorian London, young Thomas Llewelyn is down on his luck and in desperate need of a job. After a strange interview process, he becomes the assistant to the enigmatic “enquiry agent,” Cyrus Barker. These enjoyable mysteries are told from Thomas’ perspective, and while the story is entertaining and the author brings Victorian England to life, it’s the relationship that develops between these two very different men that I most enjoyed. Cyrus Barker is a true original and Thomas seems bemused yet fascinated by his secretive boss. The next two titles in the series are To Kingdom Come and The Limehouse Text. Enjoy! Kathy B