What Do I Read Next?

At a recent conference Random House representatives Steve Atinksy and Wade Lucas offered a list of books to read.

51j1810-p6L._AC_US218_   At the top of their list was John Boyne’s The Hearts Invisible Furies, a 2014 publication with good reviews but not a popular following.  Their teaser might be enough for you to find this tormented Irish tale:

“Boyne’s new novel opens in the small west Cork village of Goleen, in 1945, during mass in the parish church. Instead of giving a sermon, Father James Monroe rises to denounce 16-year-old Catherine Goggin, recently discovered to be pregnant. The priest calls her up to the altar to shame her before family and congregation, before kicking her out of the church and banishing her from the parish. Boyne introduces this scene by informing us that it will be known later that this priest has himself fathered two children in the area, and his brutality is inflamed rather then tempered by hypocrisy.”

9780553447583  Their recommendation for book club discussions is Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles – a story about a paraplegic vet who suddenly rises to his feet, catching the attention of religious leaders, reality TV producers, and skeptics.  Just reviewed by the New York Times, Christopher Beta asks “is he healed or is it a hoax?”

511KC48VxJL._SX353_BO1,204,203,200_  Man Booker Prize winner Julian Barnes makes their list with his new book  – The Only Story – another small book (261 pages) packed with large ideas.  The Only Story opens with a question: “Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less and suffer the less?”  A story about an old man reminiscing about his affair with a 48 year old woman when he was 19, the Washington Post review promises the same “writerly skill” as The Sense of an Ending, but “is so full of grieving sighs that it practically hyperventilates. ”   Sounds depressing.  Let me know if you read it.

A few on their list I’ve read and reviewed:

 

 

 

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Movie Tie-Ins

Want to read the book before the movie comes out?  Three books are soon to be in the movies:

      51f2c8bc-85bb-41ec-a73f-f3bc6417af96_1.f4decc4d6ffadbfeda9aaba4e2e5074d1. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

The first in the three book series is the story of an Asian-American girl, Rachel, accompanying her boyfriend, Nick, to Singapore for a wedding, only to learn about Nick’s family wealth and power. The book uses the opulent lives of Asia’s ultra-rich as its focus, with an all-Asian cast scheduled for release in August.

The novel is built on shopping expeditions and gossipy lunches hosted by scheming ladies with boundless amounts of time and money – a combination of the Shopoholic with The Mean Girls. Kwan poses his novel as a satire, using the the naive Rachel as the foil for glamorous and wealthy Asians.  Tash Aw, the author of “The Harmony Silk Factory” (2005), and winner of the Whitbread Book Award, reviewed the book for NPR, and recommends having a good time with the story.  I did, and went on to read all three books in the series.

:All that you need to know is that Charlie Wu, of the tech billionaire fortune, is in love with Astrid, the granddaughter of the Shang Su Yi, who is unhappy that her grandson Nicholas is not dating the Rachel Chu of the Taipei Plastics Chus, but they are all going to the wedding of Araminta Lee, of the luxury hotel Lees, and Colin Khoo, of the Khoo Teck Fong fortune and — alamak! — some big secrets might be revealed.” Tash Aw for NPR

51VSk1M187L._AC_US218_  2.  The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook

Set in ravaged Germany after World War II, the story revolves around two families – one British and the other German – thrown into one house.  Brook’s 2013 book is set in Hamburg, Germany where Colonel Lewis Morgan has been charged with the rebuilding of the devastated city in the wake of World War II.  Morgan and his family have been offered a palace belonging to Stefan Lubert as their home. Instead of turning Lubert out as Morgan is expected to do, the officer suggests he, his wife, Rachael and their son, Edmund, share the house with Lubert, his daughter, Freda, and their servants.  Keira Knightly stars in the film,

I have not read the book, and the Washington Post gave it a lukewarm review in 2013 but the Boston Globe predicts the movie will be better than the book.

518DrlH61lL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_ 3. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

This Man Booker Prize finalist tells the story of newlyweds Edward and Florence, both in their early 20s and also both virgins.  The novel focuses on the wedding night and their terrified preoccupation of the upcoming consummation of their marriage.  In reviewing the 2007 book for the New York Times, Jonathan Lethem succinctly summarizes the plot:

“Edward and Florence have retreated, on their wedding night, to a hotel suite overlooking Chesil Beach. Edward wants sex, Florence is sure she doesn’t. The situation is miniature and enormous, dire and pathetic, tender and irrevocable. “

When the book was published, I had forsworn reading any more of McEwan’s sad, depressing dramas, no matter how iconic or soul-searching, so I have not read this book.  McEwan adapted his novel for the screen, due to be released in May, and for lovers of Atonement (and I was one of both the book and the movie), the movie adaptation of On Chessil Beach might be worth seeing.

 

 

 

 

Agatha Christie Solves the Mystery of Happiness in Marriage

hercule-poirot    After enjoying Edward Sorel’s cartoon in this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review – The Literati Sketchbook – I was inspired to research Agatha Christie and her marriages.

Archie Christie, Agatha’s first husband, was a dashing pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. After fourteen years of marriage to Agatha, he did leave her for a younger woman, Nancy Neele.  Surprisingly, Archie Christie did love golf, as noted by Sorel, and belonged to the  Sunningdale Golf Club. (“He spent many of his weekends there while Agatha worked on her novels in their London flat.”)

After discovering her husband’s affair, Agatha did disappear:  “A major police hunt was undertaken, and Christie was questioned by the police. She was discovered ten days later at the Old Swan Hotel in Yorkshire, registered under the name of her husband’s lover… and suffering from a complete loss of memory when found and identified by her husband.” – just as Sorel depicts in his cartoon.

After divorcing Archie, Agatha meets and marries Max Mallowan, an archeologist fourteen years younger.  They live happily ever after for forty-five years.

In the last frame Sorrel shows an old Agatha solving the mystery of happiness in marriage, saying:

“An archeologist is the best husband any woman can get. The older she gets, the more interested he is in her.”

Amazing what cartoons can teach us.   Might be fun to see the 1979 film version with Vanessa Redgrave as Agatha.  Roger Ebert reviews the film – here.

Tangerine

shopping-1  A page-turner, with traces of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Hitchcock’s Gaslight, with two unreliable narrators, and with no “girl” in the title, Christine Mangan’s Tangerine has all the elements of a chilling thriller.  I was sorry to have it end.

Alice and Lucy meet as roommates at Bennington College in Vermont – Alice, the frail wealthy orphan with a trust fund and Lucy, the poor striving local girl on scholarship.  Although the plot proceeds predictably, with Lucy insinuating herself into Alice’s confidence, and Alice depending on Lucy to shore up her insecurities, the story makes a sharp turn when Alice finds true love with a Williams College boy in her senior year.

As the story shifts to Alice escaping to Tangier with her questionable husband, Lucy reappears in her life, and the mystery of the exotic surroundings adds to the intrigue.  Murders – more than one – dot the scenery, and Lucy evolves into a dangerous yet persistent terror.

Through flashback the reader understands Alice’s trauma filled life, with the death of her parents and the murder of her college love.  Referencing writer Paul Bowles, the novelist who wrote about Westerners who lose themselves in Morocco, Mangan gives Lucy and her shady Moroccan friend Youssef the motivation for  evil, ” You must read him {Bowles}, if you want to understand this place.” The “Tangerine” of the title refers to a native of the Moroccan city, Tangier, and the narrators do lose themselves there.

Poor Alice – despite her efforts – she seems doomed and outwitted at every turn.  This book is a movie waiting to happen.

After reading the book in one sitting, I decided to find Paul Bowles, and have ordered his The Sheltering Sky from the library.  The New York Review of Books offered a useful resource for his life and writings in Tangier – The Hypnotic Clamor of Morocco.

Related ReviewNew York Times: Trusting in the Sheltering Sky

Taking Off

452257583My favorite part of flying is the take-off.  I like to close my eyes as the plane revs up its engines and begins the thrust down the runway.  Against all odds, the tons of metal carrying people in their seats, luggage above their heads and below in the cargo hold, pounds of water and fuel – all miraculously rise into the air.

I always know that moment; I can feel it as the plane rises up off the ground, and nothing during the rest of the flight offers the same exhilaration.   Recently, I zigzagged across the country, wondering if my checked luggage was following my erratic itinerary, but I enjoyed six take-offs in nine days, six ecstatic moments of floating.

As is my practice, I brought old New Yorker magazines to read during my flights – these were dated before the last Presidential election, so I ignored the predictions and focused on the articles.

shopping    Claudia Roth Pierpont’s amazing review The Secret Lives of Leonardo da Vinci convinced me to find Walter Isaacson’s biography Leonardo da Vinci when I landed.  A short piece by Jonathan Franzen – Hard Up in New York – about his life before he was as rich and famous as a writer can be,  inspired me to write this short piece.

When I finish reading, I usually offer the magazines to the flight crew, or drop them in the seatbacks as a surprise for the next traveler.  I’ve been tempted to leave them in the terminal with a code I’ve used for books in Bookcrossing, a website that allows you to assign unique numbers to your books, and use these numbers to track your books as they travel across the globe. I’ve released a few books “into the wild” – in designated public places for others to find.  Let me know if you try it.

And scroll down to see a picture of my travels on Instagram.