Friday, December 22, 2017


A novel about a true historical crime, beginning in Memphis 1939 with a woman who stole children and sold them to wealthy families, under the guise of "helping orphans." Like quite a few good historical novels, this is a "split" novel, told from two different perspectives and from two time periods. Two different women, one who has been ripped from her family that lived, poor, on a riverboat; and one who has been brought up wealthy and whose life is deeply intertwined, both personally and professionally, with hers. Some lovely writing in here, and a compelling, painful story.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Emma Donoghue, THE WONDER

I found the premise of this book intriguing: an historical novel, set in back-of-beyond 1860s-ish Ireland, about a young girl who is, ostensibly, living on nothing but air and thus is possibly a miracle or a saint. Told from the perspective of a practical and somewhat jaded nurse named Lib (who served in Crimea under Nightingale), it suggests the various ways a child can be put to use--by a religion, by her family, by the townspeople--for their benefit, and to conceal their own selfishness, greed, and failures of character. At the bottom of the "miracle" is a sordid but not unexpected event; it is revealed at the end, giving the book the structure of a mystery. My one difficulty is that Lib seems slow to gather the clues; when she sees the picture of the brother "Pat" for example, her parents say he has "gone over, God bless him," I immediately assumed he had died; but Lib thinks, "Oh, he went to the colonies." Perhaps this might be indicative of a tendency of her character, but she gathers other, similar clues readily enough; so it just seemed odd. Still, I liked the book; a two-day read.