Monday, June 25, 2012
Very good debut novel, about three sisters (Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia ... Dad's a professor, a Shakespeare expert) who gather to their childhood home in Ohio when their mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. There's something in this book I've never seen before: a first-person plural narrator ... the whole book is told by a "we" (as in weird!), and it works. Rose (the eldest) is predictably reliable and responsible; Bianca ("Bean") the middle (also somewhat predictably) feels invisible, overshadowed by eldest and youngest, and is bad with money; Cordelia is the free spirit whom everyone loves and babies. But for the most part, the book avoids cliches; there's clever dialog and messy lovable characters, as well as lots of Shakespeare, sprinkled throughout in a good way. I read this one in a day.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Wow, what a TWISTED book. I mean that in the very best way. The story of a marriage between good-looking, laid-back Nick and amazing Amy gone wrong because of preconceptions and selfishness and narcissism; because of the daily, small things that pick at a marriage; and--mostly--because each one, Nick and Amy, has a fundamental (or a few fundamental) flaws. This book seriously asks us to think about the uneasy question: where does flaw cross over into sociopathy? It's also a solid crime novel (murder, affair, more murder), and a brilliant meta-novel about how, now that there are shows like CSI and Law and Order, crime stories can be shaped and sheared by the perpetrator(s) to look like this or look like that. For anyone who likes Tana French, I'd say give this one a try.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Gripping thriller set in eastern Europe, 1956, with Comrade Inspector Ferenc Kolyeszar trying to uncover the reason for a growing body count. Dark, seedy, scary, with a shifty, uncertain moral center and several satisfying plot twists. Not gratuitously violent, but though I will read other novels by this author, I will not read them before bed.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
An interesting memoir, published 2001, about a man who lives in Paris and slowly discovers a piano shop, a piano of his own, and a whole world of pianos--along with a group of Parisians who tune and play and even revere them. It's a well-written, at times poetic story filled with curious and intriguing facts and some great personalities. Sort of a "niche" book but an engaging read.
Another mystery set in England in the aftermath of WWI. Scotland Yard Inspector John Madden, haunted by his traumatic memories of the war, is an investigator involved in a brutal multiple murder in a country house. It's more savage and dark than the Maisie Dobbs novels and includes a passionate and racy romance plot between Madden and the brilliant Dr. Helen Blackwell, a proto-profiler. At times I had a hard time keeping track of all the characters--there are many investigators and officers, including the youngster Billy whom Madden must take in hand. But some of the descriptions of place are beautifully written, and it's a good, quick read.
Another Maisie Dobbs novel. Like her first novel in the series, this mystery novel explores the long shadow of WWI. A promising young man dies in 1917 and his body is discovered in 1932. He's carrying some letters from a nurse (like Maisie was during the war), and his parents ask Maisie to help find her. Woven amongst the mystery are the subplots of Maisie's own life--falling in love, losing a mentor, helping a friend whose wife is mentally ill, supporting a friend who tends to drink. This is not a driving, thrilling, death-defying mystery; but it's a finely etched portrait of a woman in her community, who also happens to have unusual instincts for solving crimes involving the human heart.