Historical novels are not my favorite, but Late City is more about how our experiences shape our view of others, our morality, our choices in life. Sam Cunningham, as he lies dying at age 115, reviews the first half of his life (nothing about his later years after the death of his wife) in conversation with GOD.
The story covers his youth in Louisiana, growing up with a brutal father. He hates his father and disagrees with his beliefs and ideas but carries many of them into his own life. Specifically what it means to be a “man.” We spend time with Sam as a sniper in the trenches of WWI, meet his wife and son, follow his career as a Chicago newspaper man.
There is far too much to cover in the complicated story. Two things that stood out for me. One was the underlying theme of people’s acceptance of evil, from Hitler to Al Capone to Trump and others. The second was Sam’s obliviousness to the feelings of the people around him (which the author points out specifically at the end of the book). Sam is all about the facts, not just in his news reporting but in life. He neglects to connect.
Excellent writing kept me engaged from beginning to end.
I opened this book with trepidation since I’m not a great fan of historical fiction, but the exceptional writing captured me and kept my attention throughout the story. Some reviewers criticize the writing as too flowery, but I found the lyrical style suitable to the story. O’Farrell captured my heart and mind with her poetic descriptions of people and places. She made me grieve with Agnes over the loss of her son. She brought me into the world of late 1500s England–the sights, sounds, smells, and the attitudes of the people.
This is Agnes’s story, of her love, her marriage, her children, her talents (which she feels have deserted her after Hamnet’s death). It’s also the story of complex family ties and the effects the death of a child can have in a marriage.
I would have rated this 5 stars except I had unanswered questions, minor items that were mentioned but not followed up. What was the story with the hidden sheep skins? How did Agnes get comfortable with the A shaped house? Did the apples spoil after being knocked around in the apple store? Did Hamnet’s injury have anything to do with his illness? And I wanted more about Agnes and her kestrel.
Overall a great read!
Krueger transports us to a different time and place in this
saga of four orphan children traveling the rivers of the Midwest in 1932, the
middle of the Great Depression. They have escaped a cruel Native American
training school where Odie and his brother Albert were the only white children.
Their river “family” includes Emmy, a young girl whose mother was killed in a
tornado, and Mose, a Sioux who speaks only sign language. They meet helpful and
dangerous people as they travel the river, trying to stay ahead of the owners
of the school and the law.
Excellent writing with interesting characters, good story,
and settings that make you feel you are there. Written from the point of view
of an old man telling the story of his adventures as a twelve-year-old, young, naïve
boy, Odie sometimes seems too wise for his age.
This novel is a story of survival, a fictionalized version
of the life of a real person. At the age of sixteen, Cilka is imprisoned at
Auschwitz and survives by doing whatever is required to stay alive. When the
Russians liberate the camp three years later, they accuse Cilka of being a Nazi
collaborator and send her to a Siberian Gulag. Again she survives by making
decisions, good and bad, to not only stay living but try to keep her hut mates
and friends alive.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I’m not a great fan
of historical fiction or WWII novels, so my judgment may be skewed. The story
is very dark, depicting man’s inhumanity to man. Yet it contains accounts of
kindness and friendship…even love. Some parts of the tale are poignant and
heartbreaking, but other parts lack emotion. Cilka has a conflicted
personality. She keeps her life secret, protecting herself from the judgment of
others, keeping her distance from fellow prisoners. But she reaches out to help
and defend them.
I read Cilka’s Journey
as a stand-alone. It was given to me by a friend at this time when the
libraries are closed (spring 2020). I probably won’t read the previous book in
Helen Clapp (first-person POV) is a physics professor at MIT
and a single mother with a seven-year-old son, Jack, by an anonymous donor. Her
best friend, Charlotte (Charlie), has died, but Helen is receiving text
messages from her phone. I believe this is the plotline, but the author touches
on it only occasionally throughout the story.
Billed as a ghost story, it’s more about Helen’s disbelieve
in the afterlife or ghosts. I would classify the novel as women’s fiction or
literary. It’s mostly about friendship and relationships.
Charlie’s husband and daughter (Terrence and Simmi) come to
Boston from California to be closer to Charlie’s parents after her death, and
they move into an apartment in Helen’s house. Their children, Jack and Simmi,
become friends. Neel, an old flame and research partner of Helen’s returns to
MIT. Much of the book is Helen remembering times spent with Charlie or Neel.
Freudenberger covers a lot of science, which I found
interesting but much too detailed, even though I enjoy physics. As a successful
woman in the male-dominated world of science, Helen spends too much time
worrying about what others think of her.
I enjoyed the book, although it didn’t have much of a plot.
The characters were interesting, if not always likable.
I just returned from an awesome trip into the Amazon
rainforest without leaving my home. All my senses are on overload. Erica
Ferencik not only excites sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, she introduces
you to a variety of alien cultures and characters, pulls at your emotions, plucks
your heart strings, and teaches you about the unique environment of the jungle.
She is an extraordinary storyteller.
Into the Jungle is
my favorite read this year.
The Current is a
strange story written in a strange style, and it leaves unanswered questions at
the end. It’s closer to real life where everything doesn’t get neatly tied up. There
is mystery here, but not your typical “whodunit” mystery, maybe a literary
I enjoyed the story, but it took a little while to
understand the flow. At times Johnston writes stream
of consciousness, sometimes he uses second person POV, head-hopping from
one character to another, and he skips back and forth between timelines. But he
digs deep into the psyches of his characters—love, hate, grief, curiosity, need-to-know,
vengeance—and tells all that is going on around them—sights, smells, heat and
cold, sounds, skin sensations.
I enjoyed the book but only gave it four stars. It grabbed
my attention, my heart, and my mind. But the author could have made it a little
easier to follow without losing the grip of the story.
Strange but captivating—but that’s true of most literary
novels that hold my interest (many don’t). The story is philosophical and the
plot is complicated, so I won’t try to describe it except to say John Woman has
an interesting interpretation of history. If you like to read a book that makes
you think, this is a good candidate.
Mosley is known for his mystery/crime/detective stories with
Easy Rawlins, Fearless Jones, or others. This is the second standalone literary
novel of Mosley’s that I’ve read, and I thoroughly enjoyed both.
Lisa Geneva captures your mind and your emotions. This is a sad, sad story. It’s a different kind of “horror” story, but the monsters aren’t aliens, werewolves, or ghosts. Instead they are a disabling disease and a dysfunctional family.
Richard and Karina are both talented pianists who met and married when they were studying classical piano in NYC. They were competitive, with Karina probably the more talented, until Karina fell in love with jazz. Early in their marriage Richard took a job in Boston where the jazz world was almost nonexistent. Karina followed and lost her connection to her new love—jazz. Then their daughter Grace was born. Karina gave up her career as a pianist to become wife, mother, and piano teacher at home. Richard became a renowned pianist, touring the world. Richard wanted more children; Karina wanted no more.
Resentment grew between them from early in the marriage. Deception and blame ruled. They divorced when Grace was a teenager.
Now, at the age of forty-five, Richard develops ALS. His arms and hands go first, leaving him divorced from his one true love, the piano.
Genova takes you on a trip through every emotion; there is even a little humor thrown in. She follows Richard’s thoughts and details of the disease as the ALS progresses. She gives us the emotional upheavals of ex-wife Karina as she takes Richard back into her home to care for him. She examines the disconnection between father and daughter and the regret that he wasn’t there for her as she grew up.
Every Note Played is a powerful and exquisitely written novel.
Something bad happened at St. Oswald’s boys’ school twenty-four years ago. What was it and who was responsible? Different Class is a British literary, psychological suspense story, which takes place in 1981 and 2005. This novel reveals many secrets slowly. More than once, you think you know what happened, only to find out you’re wrong.
Roy Straightly has been the school’s Latin master for thirty years. One of his least favorite students from 1981 returns to the school as headmaster to bring the old institution into the 21st century. Straightly resists in every possible way.
The point of view in 2005 is mostly Straightly’s, and we see the events of 1981 mainly through a journal of an unknown student. The novel started a bit slow, and I almost stopped reading. But the unanswered questions and suspense kept me reading, and the more I read, the more I enjoyed it. In addition to the twists and turns and suspense, Harris throws in dark humor, murder, and underlying themes about class differences, friendships, revenge, and acceptance of others.
A very good read.