A short list of books to begin January, 2019:
- Heads You Win
Jeffrey Archer is back with another cliff hanger, examining what if the other road were taken. After a harrowing escape from Russia, the life of the main character switches between Alex and his mother in New York City and Sasha (same character) in London. The parallel lives of the same character follow a fast-paced thriller in alternating chapters, with a surprise ending.
2. Night of Camp David
Fletcher Knebel’s 1965 novel about a deranged President has made a comeback, probably because fiction may not be far from the present truth. The political thriller features “an unhinged American president who falls prey to his own paranoia and conspiratorial fantasies, as people around him struggle to rein in his worst impulses.” Sound familiar?
3. The Bookshop of Yesterdays
Amy Meyerson’s mystery adds a little romance and familiar literary references to Melinda’s surprise inheritance of a bookshop. Although I had solved the puzzle early in the story, I still enjoyed the read – and learned about a few icons I didn’t know were adopted, including Eleanor Roosevelt and John Lennon.
After following the characters in Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles for years (one character was named after me, but only my first name appears in one of the short stories), it’s a relief to have a few shorts without cliffhangers in Archer’s new book of short stories – Tell Tale.
In fourteen short stories, Archer targets a range of characters and lifestyles, from the bank executive forced to retire months before his pension, to the iron monger who became a theologian. In one story, “The Holiday of a Lifetime,” Archer offers the reader a choice of endings, and two well-known literary characters pop up in “A Wasted Hour” and “A Good Toss to Lose.” Demonstrating his talent for writing clever plots, Jeffrey Archer begins and ends his collection with stories confined to 100 words; the others are varying lengths, but each has a surprising O’Henry twist at the end.
Archer’s newest collection of short stories is as entertaining as his novels, and he ends with a teaser for his fans – the first four chapter of his next novel – “Heads You Win” to be published next year – I can’t wait.
With the same fast-paced intensity as the six books leading up to this final entry in The Clifton Chronicles, Jeffrey Archer’s This Was a Man leads the reader back to the family saga of the Barringtons and the Cliftons. Although the last two books included my name ( a result of winning a contest), this final volume has no Ph.D. with good advice. The main characters do return, and Archer successfully reminds the reader of past adventures but it would be easier to binge read all the books together – if you could.
Cunard has bought out the Barrington ocean liners, Harry has been knighted, and Margaret Thatcher is in office, with Emma newly appointed to championing a health care bill. Villains return too, with Lady Virginia artfully and greedily worming her evil through the scenes.
Archer skillfully addresses each family member in the line, providing successful outcomes as their lives continue to develop and interact. Despite the novel’s length and the complications of following a number of characters across dissecting story lines, Archer has the unique ability to maintain clarity, helping the reader follow with anticipation and sometimes with empathy, as he weaves his storytelling drama across generations.
The character Harry Clifton offers an undeniable clue to the ending of Archer’s last volume – it really is the end – and Archer uses his last pages to revisit highlights of his previous six novels. The family saga is over. But maybe it will reappear someday as a modern Forsythe Saga in a BBC special drama series. I would welcome it to my Sunday nights.
Although the source of most of my books is the local library, I sometimes get impatient waiting for a bestseller. Who wants to read one a year after the excitement fades? And Audible has lately caught my attention and dollars, giving me companionship when I walk. My bookshelf is small these days, and I tend to be cautious in purchasing new books to crowd those I’ve chosen to keep forever. Nevertheless, circumstances, the news, and my own procrastination have motivated me to buy a few books I might otherwise have not.
Hamilton by Ron Chernow
After borrowing this tome of over seven hundred pages from the library – twice – and returning the book not finished, I discovered the paperback version has been published. Someday I will take a long flight again, and then it will be with me.
Bob Dylan – The Lyrics
After Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature, I wondered if I had missed something. His familiar lyrics from “Blowin’in the Wind,” written in 1962 have a message still applicable today, but what of his others? Downloading the sample book to my iPhone gave me a few, appropriately stopping at “Mixed Up Confusion” – my sentiments lately after the recent Presidential election. I decided more of Dylan’s poetry might be the salve I need now.
This Was a Man
Jeffrey Archer’s last book in The Clifton Chronicles could not wait. Will my namesake be back? I want to know what happens – now.
Dr. Rosemary Wolfe reappears briefly in Jeffrey Archer’s latest installment of The Clifton Chronicles – Cometh the Hour – in the ongoing family saga of the Barringtons (British upstairs) and the Cliftons (the downstairs). Dr. Wolfe, who won her place as a character name appearing first in the fifth book – Mightier Than the Sword – has a short cameo, but enough to make me proud.
As I read his latest book, comparisons of Archer and Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, delighted me. Both keep the action moving by popping back and forth among tense character scenes; both use finite descriptions of places and manners to create the atmosphere; and both authors conveniently tie up plot lines quickly and satisfactorily – despite having to kill off an unsuspecting innocent now and then in shocking end of episode style.
Archer combines the political fervor of the seventies in Great Britain – time of the election of the first woman Prime Minister – with the backrooms of bankers and shipping magnates in developing convoluted plots pitting villains against the good guys, as he continues the family adventures through generations. One of my favorite lines was Archer’s description of two despicable villains – “Gone to ground…they’ll resurface in the spring like all pond life…”
The action is pure fun, and if you haven’t discovered this series, you might consider binge reading from the firs book Only Time Will Tell. I’ve read them all – see my reviews below – and can’t wait for the next, due in November. I can only hope Dr. Rosemary Wolfe will return.
Only Time Will Tell
Sins of The Father
Best Kept Secret and Be Careful What You Wish For
Mightier Than the Sword – and my fifteen minutes