2008

 

The Thirteenth Tale

 

 Diane Setterfield

3.7 (out of 4 rating)

British author, Ms. Vida Winter, has asked Margaret Lea to write her biography. Ms. Winter, who has written over 50 novels, having them translated into many languages, given many interviews over the years, (none true), has decided she wants to have her biography written. Many years ago, a young man came to interview her stating, "Tell me the Truth!". Of course she didn't, but she never forgot that man and those words. Margaret Lea only wrote one article that was published and it was about siblings. That is the reason she is chosen. Ms. Winter has a story that she believes only Margaret can write. Ms. Winter cannot write any more, but this story has one last character who wants her story told. It will be her last story and it will be true. 'The Thirteenth Tale' contains all the elements to make this novel a true historical gothic. It is a story of ruins, darkness, twists and turns, the psyche of people who have lived through tragedies, strangers, and secrets; very well written. We had a great discussion.

The American Plague

The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, The Epidemic That Shaped Our History

Molly Caldwell Crosby

3.8

This was an incredible book on the history of the yellow fever. Ms. Crosby concentrates on Memphis, Tennessee,1878, to start her story of those infected and how it came to our country. During the Civil War, two thirds of the soldiers that died, died from the plague. Napoleon sold Louisiana to the USA because of the yellow fever. Scientists fought amongst each other as to how yellow fever spread. Three scientists, one was Walter Reed, went to Havana, Cuba, to discover and experiment the true cause. Scientists volunteered themselves to contract yellow fever. Although the cause is found, it is not yet cured and is still active today. You will also learn little tidbits and phrases that we have heard of all our lives but did not know where they came from, such as: How did the KKK begin? What was the Flying Dutchman? Why did we start calling the parlor, living room? Where did the word cemetery derive from? Who was Walter Reed? and last but not least, Will you ever look at a mosquito the same way again? This is Ms. Cosby's first book and is written so that it flows like a story, not a history book. She is an excellent writer and I hope we hear more from her. Books like this and "River of Doubt" are not only educational, but very fascinating into the history of our country that we on our own know little or nothing about. We need more books like this. After reading this book, a member went to Memphis and decided to go on a tour of the yellow fever according to the book. When she asked business' where things were, they didn't know and knew nothing about the fever or the author. The author still lives there.

The Welsh Girl

 

Peter HO Davies

3

Ester is a seventeen year old Welsh girl. Living in her native hometown of Cilgwyn, she helps her father with the sheep and works at the local tavern. They have also taken in a British evacuee, Jim, to raise until it is safe for him to return home. In the meantime, it is D-day and Karsten surrenders his troop of Germans to the British. It was either surrender or die. Throughout the book, he wonders if he was a coward or right to save himself and the other men. Back in Wales, British men are building a POW Camp in Cilgwyn. The workers visit the tavern often and Ester becomes infatuated with one of the workers, Colin. After the prisoners come to camp, Jim and the boys spend many days outside of the fence taunting them. Ester hears the noise and goes down the hill to the camp. Karsten notices her and calls out to her in English. That connection sets up what happens during the rest of the book. As a sidebar to this story, the author throws in another storyline. A man named Rotheram, who is half German and half Jewish, becomes a translator for the Political Intelligence Division to sit in on interrogations. He goes to Wales to interrogate Rudolf Hess, a deputy fuhrer to Hitler. Hess was being held on charges of war crime. He was in Wales to await trial. It is another means that the author uses to relate how a person doesn't know where he belongs because of his heritage. We used the readers guide found online and realized there were many themes flowing throughout the book. One of our members came from southern England and had evacuees stay at her house. She said it was exactly like the book described.

Rise and Shine

 

Anna Quindlen

1.3

Meghan Fitzmaurice is a famous morning talk show host. She lives a glamorous life with her husband, Evan, and son, Leo. Her sister, Bridget, is a social worker in the Bronx and has been a second mother to Leo. When Meghan thinks she is off the air, she calls her guest a name. Thus, the book goes on. We expected more from the author who wrote, "Black and Blue", which was made into a TV movie of the week. We were casting the characters for this movie as we had just read the outline.

Good Harbor

 

Anita Diamant

1.5

Kathleen Levine, a resident of Glouster on Cape Ann, MA., has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her sister and best friend, Pat, died fifteen years earlier of the same disease. Joyce Tabachnik, a magazine writer, has used her royalties from her first published romance novel to purchase a second home in Glouster. Joyce is at a point in her life where she is unhappy in her marriage. Her twelve year old daughter, Nina, is entering her rebellious teen years. Both women are feeling very alone and vunerable when they meet at Temple. A friendship is slowly formed through out the summer months during their walks together on Good Harbor Beach. As they get closer, they are able to confide and share their past and present. This book shows the importance of women friendships. One cannot compare Ms. Diamont's first book, "The Red Tent", with her second. The writing style and story telling are very different. We questioned her need for a specific plot line each woman had. We found it negated the book. 

Eat, Pray, Love

 

Elizabeth Gilbert

2

Suffering from depression, questioning her life and wants, Liz decides to leave and divorce her husband. She enters into a relationship with David, (but that isn't working), so she decides to take a year absence from her job at GQ-with pay as long as she writes about her year's journey. Liz would spend time; in Italy learning Italian, in India studying meditation at a yoga ashram, and in Indonesia trying to balance the two. She writes with humor and interesting factoids. She also reminded me of Virginia Woolf but not in a good way. She writes as if in a stream of conscienceness and one sentence could be the entire paragraph. I found this distracting. By the time she went to India, her writing appeared to be more structured. For those who have never meditated, it may be hard to understand the levels one goes through in meditation. It truly can be a mind opening experience.

Tomorrow to be Brave

 

Susan Travers with Wendy Holden

3.6

Susan Travers was the only woman to serve in the French Foreign Legion earning the Military Medal and the Legion d'Honneur. She was born into an upper class English family, where she yearned for her father's approval and her mother's love. Susan moved from England to Cannes with her family when she was a young girl. In her teen's, she attended boarding school in Florence, Italy. She became quite the socialite after school ended until WWII broke out.  Her father had taught her how to drive at a young age, not typical of most females, so she decided to enter the Legion as a driver. She first had to volunteer as a nurse in the French Red Cross. Eventually, she would become the personal driver of Colonel Koenig through the historic battle at Bir Hakeim in Libya. Her story takes you through her life in the Legion starting in Finland, then on to Northern Africa, Southern Italy, Indonesia, then back to Tunisia. It is not only a story of war, but also of love for a man who would never be her's. Ms. Holden did a wonderful job with research, description, and giving voice to Ms. Travers life. It is a part of history we would have never known otherwise. A must read.

The World to Come

 

Dara Horn

3.5

Ben Ziskind attends an art exhibit of Chagall's paintings. He recognizes the small painting "Over Vitebsk", as one that hung on the wall of his childhood home. Convinced it was taken from his family wrongfully, he steals it. The novel is a testament of Jewish history starting in Russia circa 1920. Chagall and his novelist friend, Der Nister, teach at an orphanage. Chagall asks one of the orphan's, Boris, for his painting. Boris wants a trade. Chagall gives him "Over Vitebsk". The story then continues, weaving into different timelines in the lives of Ben, his twin sister- Sara, parents-Rosalie and Daniel, their parents, and other characters that become important in their lives. There are words-themes-which are continued throughout every storyline. A complex book filled with love, loss, pain, horror, betrayal, war, death, birth, art, literature, history,and family.

All the Numbers

 

 

JudyMerrill Larsen

Author Visit

2.9

Brothers Daniel and James are playing with friends in a lake when a Jet Ski swerves into them. This is a nightmare no mother wants to imagine. Ellen, the boys mom, must now come to grips with the tragedy of losing James and trying to stay strong for Daniel. The scenes in the hospital are heart wrenching. When Ellen and Daniel try to get on with their lives, trying to keep a routine of family life alive in the home, they both find it difficult. Ellen not only has her job as a teacher, but she is determined to find justice for her son's death. She meets Bob, a lawyer, who helps to bring the young man, who was the driver of the jet ski, to trial. Ellen also is having a hard time managing her relationships with her parents, friends, and her ex-husband.

The author was a guest at our book club. She began by telling us of her writing process. She made many changes to the book before she began submitting it to publishers, as authors often do. She submitted her manuscript on her own with no luck. In the summer, she attended the Iowa Writers Worshop. While there she made a connection to an agent in NYC. Her book was picked up quickly. She came up with the idea for this story one summer when she was at the lake with her two sons. A jet ski came to close and she wondered, "What would happen if...?". She has had many comments from grieving parents saying that she had written true to what they had gone through. You may contact the author for your bookclub through this link:  www.judymerrilllarsen.com. She is available for phone chats.

The Bonesetter's Daughter

 

Amy Tan

3.6

Ruth Young is a ghost writer for self help books. While looking in a drawer in her office, she finds papers her mother, LuLing, gave her to read several years ago. Her mother had told her that she had also been writing a book about her own life  The papers are in Chinese. Ruth never read them. Now she has noticed changes in her mother's behavior. Ruth takes LuLing to the Dr's. and discovers her mother is in early stages of Alzheimers. Ruth begins to read the papers but is unable to translate them. In the days ahead, she discovers in her mother's home, more papers. She hires someone to translate them and learns the real story of her mother's life beginning in China.

A truely classic story of life in China during the time of the Peking Man, relationships between mothers and daughters, survival, and the uncovering of many secrets and ghosts. 

The Ex Files

 

Victoria Christopher Murray

05

Take four women and four ways to lose your husband/lover, give each woman their own chapters throughout the book as they congregate intermittenly with each other at a prayer service just for them, and you have this book. The premise was there, unfortunately, the writing was not. The author admits in interviews as having an agenda when writing her Christian based stories. If her agenda is homophobic, anti-media, sterotyped characters, she succeeded. That isn't saying much. There is nothing Christian about her viewpoints. The surprising factor of the night was that we had a great discussion. One the author would not  want to hear.