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Category: Books

Best of 2019

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield. A meandering magical sojourn along the winding upper Thames. Only one other person in our NYC Book Club liked it besides me. The others pretty much hated it. So. Discovered Sadie Jones. First read Snakes, her recent novel about a ramshackle inn in France and then her older The Uninvited Guests. Both feature awful mothers and quirky dwellings. Witty prose. Ruth Reichl’s Save Me The Plums proves that not only is she a legendary food editor and writer, but a really good story teller. Lots… Read more Best of 2019

Drowning With Others

by Linda Joffe Hull & Keir Graff = Linda Keir. Secret History-ish. Murder mystery at a Prep School twenty years after the disappearance of a visiting poetry instructor. I liked it. Not brilliant writing. Yet. The amalgam authorship worked. Getting different points of view through old journals and current thoughts clever and compelling. Not sure how the two writers collaborated, but it really did flow well and each character was sharply drawn and memorable. At first I thought, another love story in high school, and frankly who remembers high school… Read more Drowning With Others

Wo Man Booker

Two women won the 2019 Man Booker Prize. Margaret Atwood for The Testaments and Bernardine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other. Can we now finally do away with other women-only literary lists?

The Dutch House

by Ann Patchett. The Dutch House is never a home. Those who live in it are unsettled. Danny is the narrator who tells the story of its inhabitants. He is the least formed character. The brother of Maeve, son of Elna & Cyril, husband of Celeste, father of May and Kevin, step-son of Andrea and step-brother of her daughters. An uncurious boy and man who seems to sleep-walk through a traumatic life. Even when he finds himself it is as his father’s son, his sister’s keeper, his daughter’s admirer. His… Read more The Dutch House

Once Upon A River

by Diane Setterfield. I love a long meandering story. As long as it’s good. The river metaphor held throughout. Brilliantly crafted. A community of people who frequent The Swan, an Inn in Northern England along the Thames. Its currents are both forces and characters of their own. The telling is more interesting than the plot, which gets wrapped up too neatly and seems contrived at the end. But. At its best, this novel recollects The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, in its rich description of a discreet place with mystical undertones.… Read more Once Upon A River

The Uninvited Guests

by Sadie Jones. An author with a jaundiced view of life. This book is ironically laugh out loud funny. A madcap Twilight Zone. Jones also seems to have a love of old “piles”. Here a cherished country manor called Sterne in a remote English setting. As in Laurence? Anyway, despite a rationale for her character, the mother was horrid. As was the mother in Jones’ most recent The Snakes. Most of the men are fuzzy and wishy-washy. The women are conflicted yet strong. A bit retro. The train wreck is… Read more The Uninvited Guests

Good Riddance

by Elinor Lipman. A poor guy from a small New Hampshire town gets a bad rap. He’s an unwitting love-struck kid who shows a great deal of civility toward the woman he loves and her family. Yet they heap unwarranted vitriol on him. So there’s that. Then. Father and daughter end up in New York City four blocks apart in Hell’s Kitchen. They become enmeshed in each other’s sex lives. Yuck. Jeremy, a character on “Riverdale” has some spunk. Lots of dog-walking and poop-scooping. Oh. And there’s the central intrigue… Read more Good Riddance

Chances Are . . .

by Richard Russo. Pre-ordered as soon as I heard Russo had a new novel coming out. Couldn’t wait. Got it. Read it. If I didn’t see his name on the cover, this could have been written by any generic author this season. Disappointing. It did not have the rich descriptions of Russo’s classics like Empire Falls or even recently That Old Cape Magic. If he ever went to Martha’s Vineyard, it was clearly as a visitor. There was no depth of scene as in Upstate New York or even The… Read more Chances Are . . .