Tag Archives: female author
“The Summer I Met Jack” and “The Book of Summer” by Michelle Gable
I changed my mind about Michelle Gable. She’s off my “to read” list.
Once again, I ask myself “Why did this author write FICTION about a real person whose life is well documented? And rather recent?”
The Summer I Met Jack is a fictional account of a possible affair between John Kennedy and a young woman who worked, for a brief time, at the Kennedy family enclave in Hyannis Port on Cape Cod. This is too speculative for me.
Whatever happened to the concept of privacy? Isn’t it enough that the whole Kennedy family has been dragged through endless tabloid speculation? Why does Gable feel free to impose her imagination on the former President and her biases on the dynamics of his family?
I stopped reading after a few chapters.
When I tried The Book of Summer, I found it trite. A family drama set in Nantucket. Not in the mood…
Back to my search for satisfying recent literature.
“Tell Me An Ending” by Jo Harkin
I found this book in “New Arrivals – Fiction”. A very lucky pick!
Lots of sci-fi writers try this premise: a new technology emerges and causes trouble. In this case, it is a procedure to erase memories. Originally, it’s touted as a way to help PTSD sufferers. But things go wrong…
Three quarters of the way through the book, I had no idea how it would END, or who were the bad guys… The plotting was almost overly intricate, but instead of being turned off, I finished the book and considered turning right back to the first page for a slower, more thoughtful read.
Psychology and memory are so interesting! What is the role of narrative in private life? (This book doesn’t address communal memory.) How do we protect ourselves and our loved ones from life’s most painful blows? From accidents and errors?
Harkin throws in interesting references – to Shakespeare (Lear, Othello), Haydn and StarTrek, for example.
Speaking of narrative… I’m looking for books that just tells a story, without jumping all over the place. Too much “structure”. Guess I may have to default to Jane Austin. I liked To Kill a Mockingbird and Cold Mountain for their plain narration.
The genre associated with this book is “literary sci-fi”.
“A Paris Apartment” by Michelle Gable
Who else has had to press “restart” after life (or death, for that matter) interrupted their reading? I’m suffering from brain fog and distraction. I decided a good dose of chick lit might help me get reading again.
A Paris Apartment is reasonably intelligent chick lit. Our heroine is an American woman with a shaky marriage and family burden of fears, most particularly, fear of child bearing. A charming Frenchman gets inside her boundaries and helps her deal with some of them. Fun reading.
Gable uses the term “provenance” so frequently that I am now curious. I plan to do some reading and consult with friends who are artists.
I’m willing to give Gable’s other books a try.
“Roger and the Devil” by Marian Parry
My son found this at a used bookstore and bought it because Marian Parry illustrated the wonderful Space Child’s Mother Goose, of which we own a tattered, precious copy dated 1963.
Parry both wrote and illustrated Roger and the Devil. The protagonist is based on a three year old boy Parry met in Cagnes, France. He’s described by the old fashioned word “rascal”. Roger is a bratty little trickster who has most of the adults in his small, isolated town entirely cowed. They give in to his demands (for food or coins) or face annoying pranks. But the Devil turns up, elegantly dressed and suave, attempting to buy souls. He wants Roger’s soul. Roger responds with caution, and eventually scams the Devil himself, to the great advantage of the community.
Marian Parry flies WAY under the radar. I couldn’t find her in Wikipedia or Legacy.com. She was born in 1924, but I can’t find a date of death. She was an author, poet, illustrator, watercolor artist and teacher of art, French and dramatics. The Boston Public Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Smith College hold extensive collections of her works. I found a work of hers for sale dated July, 2014.
What makes Marian Parry’s artwork so striking? It is whimsical! It’s detailed. It’s wonderfully expressive. I’m reminded of Tove Janssen’s fanciful Moomintroll books and comic strips. I guessing Roger and the Devil was meant as a children’s book, but adults will enjoy it.
We also have copies of Parry’s Exercises in Perspective and Birds of Aristophanes.
“The Girl Who Reads on the Metro” by Christine Feret-Fleury, translated by Ros Schwartz
This little book (172 small pages) could probably be classified as “magical realism”. It contains just a hint of the supernatural, the appealing notion that books respond to people, want to be read, want attention. Aside from that, it’s a simple story about the transformative power of reading. Anyone who ever REALLY gets lost in a book will understand.
Juliette lives a safe and quiet life, but she’s endlessly curious about the people she sees reading books on the Paris metro. She stumbles into a place marked “Books Unlimited”. It’s not quite a store. Sometimes it’s referred to as a “depot”. It’s not clear where the books come from, but they arrive in a steady stream.
Before the dust settles, not only has Juliette quit her unsatisfying job, but so have her two colleagues, each moving towards fulfillment of a happily cherished dream.
This book is being marketed for Book Clubs. I think it will be popular! I could happily spend some time imagining backstories and alternative futures for Feret-Fleury’s loveable characters. And there’s an extensive book list included!
“The Bodies in the Library” and “Murder is a Must” by Marty Wingate, First Edition Library Mysteries #1 and #2
This new mystery series by Marty Wingate is great fun! I’ve already read two of them. I regret that my Library hasn’t got her other mystery series. Time to turn to Kindle.
So what is the fictional First Edition Library? A very wealthy widow in the coastal English city of Bath specializes in collecting first editions from the “Golden Age” of mystery writing, mostly by women. Authors like Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. Protagonist Hayley Burke becomes curator of this fabulous collection. She even gets to LIVE in the Library!
Aside with the usual problem with mysteries (real life rarely produces interesting crimes or clever murderers), what do we learn? That British women drink a tremendous amount of tea, and almost as much wine. They talk to cats and to portraits.
Now I want to go back and read piles of classic mysteries.
“Glamour Girls” by Marty Wingate
Marty Wingate is mostly a (cozy) mystery series writer, and my local library is regrettably deficient in her works. Glamour Girls is a standalone World War II historical fiction/romance. Wingate was inspired by the autobiography of Mary Wilkins Ellis (1917-2018), whose exciting life story has fortunately been preserved in several formats. See photo above.
Glamour Girls is part of a recent spate of works pertaining to the role of women in World War II. I read Code Girls in 2017.
We (the baby boomers) have been subjected to so much discussion of the “greatest generation”, our parents who fought World War II. It is disingenuous to think either the US or Great Britain (setting for Glamour Girls) was completely “united” during that war. Wingate includes anecdotes that show the cracks in the armor. For example, an air raid warden is caught looting.
This book is strong on both plot and atmosphere, and the protagonist is both believable and appealing. The plot reflects the shocking uncertainty of life during wartime.
Wingate follows (perhaps unknowingly!) the habit of Patrick O’Brian (of Aubrey-Maturin fame) in taking her “action” sequences (crashes, near misses…) from historical records. She says she filled in her heroine’s personal life (romance, family drama) from her own imagination. It works.
This book is a good read.
“Inseparable” by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Sandra Smith, with Forward by Margaret Atwood
This short novel is a fictionalized autobiography of the famous French feminist and political philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, who died in 1986. Inseparable was not published in English until 2021. (Amazon has caught up with this, but NOT Wikipedia! A rare delay…)
Beauvoir’s highly influential book The Second Sex was published in 1949, the year I was born. I read it around 1972, but made no effort to read her other work, which includes several novels about which I now feel curious.
Beauvoir’s autobiography Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958) covers the same time period as Inseparable. I just reserved it at my local library.
I was totally surprised to encounter this unfamiliar work. The first thing I noticed was its brisk, casual and somehow modern tone. The book, set among the upper class in post-World War 1 France, recounts the friendship of two girls from age 9 to early adulthood. Sylvie narrates, Andree is her adored friend. Their relationship is one of “passionate friendship”, a concept not recognized in contemporary America. They receive a challenging and impressively intellectual education that they take very seriously.
Translations always make me curious. Sometimes I look at a sentence and wonder how it might come across if the translator chose different words or expressions. For example, early in Inseparable, Sylvie describes Andree as having “character”. But the context makes me wonder if “sensitivity” might be what Beauvoir really meant. I looked up Sandra Smith, the translator of Inseparable. This led me to unfamiliar authors and works I look forward to reading.
The book ends with Andree’s death. She and Sylvie had taken differing paths in the face of religious quandaries and social pressures. My initial reaction was that fading in the grip of an undiagnosed fever was a poor plot device in a novel. Then I reflected on the ailments that now afflict American girls and young women, like anorexia and cutting, and it makes sense. Young women lose themselves in the battle with a social environment filled with contradictions and nonsense.
This book’s introduction by Margaret Atwood is a delight! She admits to having been “terrified” of Simone de Beauvoir. Well, I was/am terrified of Atwood. The author of The Handmaid’s Tale must be dangerous, right? Do I really want to read The Edible Woman, Atwood’s first published novel? Anyway, Atwood writes compellingly about Beauvoir and her friend Elisabeth (Zaza) Locoin and trashes existentialist Jean Paul Sartre. Thanks, Ms. Atwood!
“The Darling Dahlias Mysteries” by Susan Wittig Albert.
So far I’ve read two of these novels. I wasn’t at all certain that anything from the “cozy mystery” genre would work for me, but these books are great. Yes, chick lit. Yes, beach reading. Intelligent, lively beach reading!
To clarify, Darling is an imaginary small town in southern Alabama. The Darling Dahlias is a garden club with 12 members of varied ages. The series starts at the beginning of the Great Depression. Times are hard, and no one knows if improvement can be expected.
The Dahlias face a variety of (predictable) challenges and the occasional disruption of their quiet town by murder, embezzlement and organized crime. The local, two-person police force can’t always resolve these issues, but the Dahlias, thinking “outside the box” and using unconventional methods, have remarkable success. At the same time, they have fun and revel in mutual support. Darling is the (imaginary) small town we all wish we could live in!