Friday, September 25, 2020





A Japanese housekeeper with a ten-year old boy takes a job cleaning and cooking for a mathematician whose memory is only good for 80 minutes. This is a dear book. It reminded me a lot of The Elegance of the Hedgehog. The story concerns how she circumnavigates this dilemma, the relationship between the housekeeper's son and the professor, the beauty of math, and Japanese baseball. There were a few surprises and some failures for me although I liked the book very much. The housekeeper becomes fairly skilled in math over the course of the book and yet at its end she is still keeping house. The book suggests there might have been some sort of relationship between the professor and his sister-in-law yet never really pursues it. And thirdly, the professor seems to  have little interest in the housekeeper, only her son, which seems strange. Perhaps some of this was lost in translation. Her more recent book The Memory Police was definitely a big leap forward both in concept and in writing. But this was very enjoyable in its own way. There is a film version of this but I can't find out where to stream it so I guess it is lost to us in that format.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Just Watch

 is a very useful app for telling you where a movie or show is playing, both for streaming or for pay.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Still Here

Really like The Housekeeper and the Professor. It's the same author who wrote The Memory Police. Borgen is very good but I am using the dubbed version. It is just easier for me not to have to read subtitles right now and the dubbing is excellent. Also enjoying The Split on Hulu.

VanDerValk was good but not at all like I remember Love in Amsterdam. It's a lot edgier than the typical fare on Masterpiece. Always enjoyed Nicholas Freeling.

Watched MISMATCHED on You Tube last Sunday Night. I don't get as much out of it as I should because I don't get to see that many Broadway shows. It was fun though seeing some live performances. The idea is the performers sing songs they wouldn't normally sing in a musical. Mostly men sing songs women sang and vice-versa. 

I Know Where I Am Going,  is such an unusual film I won't bother describing it but it's on Criterion if you want to dabble with true originality. 

Boy, Schitts's Creek really cleaned up on the Emmy's.  Such a contrast between Succession about a family that is all bad and Schitts Creek about a family who learned to be good.

What about you, guys?

Friday, September 18, 2020



This 2013 collection of around 20 essays written over many years for many different publications is a pleasure to read. Patchett writes of her childhood, her sad first marriage, her much better second one, her father, a cop, who helps her train for entrance into the LA police (for the purposes of a story), her love for a dog, learning opera for BEL CANTO, her relationship with the cancer-disfigured friend written about in TRUTH AND BEAUTY, Clemson University's reaction to that book when she came for a reading, an RV road trip with her second husband, and most of all her development as a writer. I listened to Ann Patchett read her book and that probably enhanced my enjoyment. I think Patchett could make any subject interesting. What a gift.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Still Here

Lots of reading this week. So many friends complain they have lost their focus for reading, but for me, it's the opposite. I find a serenity while reading that few other things afford me. Anne Tyler (The Redhead) writes books where the stakes are not too high and thus her characters' issues are tolerable. In this one, Micah just doesn't know how to get himself a girlfriend. I can handle that. She is very good at setting out an ordinary man's life. Perhaps a bit too good because her characters from book to book are much alike. 

Finished The Teagirl of Hummingbird Lane and was seduced enough by the tea she grew to order some. Hugely expensive for a few ounces of tea and it will probably taste like dirt but seduction is a strange thing. 

Also listening to Ann Patchett read her essays. This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. She is a terrific essayist. Even when her subject is prosaic, her thought never are.

The book about The Office  was huge fun for me. I do think it was the best comedy of the 2000s. Especially once they figured out what to do with Michael Scott.

Watching the Morses. I am skipping the ones listed as "the worst" on a list I found. I find them very strong in atmosphere and character compared to a lot of the current crop

 Borgen, however, gives it a run for the money. Very smart. Luckily I can watched it dubbed, and very well dubbed, or I would have trouble following Danish politics.

Watching the Albert Brooks movies on Criterion, which don't hold up as well as I expected although they are good enough to kill 95 minutes. Defending Your Life was better than I remembered and Lost in America, not as good.

The strange but fun Charlie Kaufman movie, I Am Thinking of Ending Things, really occupied online chatter this week. Luckily Slate, among other, explained it to me. 

I have lost my cleaner/driver/gardener for a while. Her daughter went into cardiac failure having a baby. This apparently can happen. What a shock it must be. So my help is in Canada till things resolve.

Am I safe taking Uber or Lyft? Not sure. More worried about them not showing up than anything.

Friday, September 11, 2020

FFB The Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa

 The location is not identified, nor is the year but on an island somewhere things are disappearing. No one knows why and no one really tries to find out. It is already underway when the novel begins. First it is little things like hats, ribbons, and eventually it is birds and flowers. When the object disappears, so does the memory of it. Except for a small group of people who do remember and it is that group that the memory police are hunting down. 

Our heroine, who is a writer, tries to save a friend who remembers (her editor) with the help of an older man and a dog.  He lives under her floorboards for we don't know how long. As a reader you will have to accept there are many unexplained things and if that upsets you, you may not want to read this book. But both the idea and the execution is so skillful you will be missing a book much like ones by Atwood, Huxley, Orwell but with its own sensibility and lovely writing.  I admired all of the things she didn't explain. And truly you didn't need them explained.

The Memory Police was originally published in 1994 but finally translated last year.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Still Here

The Memory Police was outstanding but I will say more about it on Friday. Hugely depressing but worth it for the originality of the concept and the amazing follow through. Also enjoying the oral history of The Office, which to my mind is the best 30 minute series of the 2000s. Reading about how they worked out what Michael Scott should be like, how Jim and Pam's romance would work, what Dwight Shrute was actually about is a lot of fun. The Office, like most workplace comedies, turns out to be about family. Wasn't the gang on Taxi really a family even though it took place in a taxi garage? Same with all of the better ones, I think. Still reading The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane for my book group. Pretty Ambivalent about it. Is is basically a romance and why does it trouble me if it is? Have I ever read an out and out romance. Maybe Forever Amber as a ten.

Watched Modern Romance with Albert Brooks this week. Lots of laughs. Also watched the ESPN two-parter on Lance Armstrong. What a jerk. Nice that he has done much to help raise money for cancer but other than that....

Started Borgen and am rewatching Life on Mars. 

Lots of dental stuff. Ugh. As long as I remember I have had dental issues. Scots-Irish teeth, I think. I should have gotten dentures and saved myself a fortune. Also still trying to solve the problem of my dizziness. I have it most autumn but this one is worse than most. Maybe stress is adding to it.

A quiet week here.  What about you?

Friday, September 04, 2020

FFB-NOVEMBER, Georges Simenon

This is one of Simenon’s standalones, which I generally prefer to the more formulaic, of still wonderful, Maigrets. A French family lives comfortably, if claustrophobically, outside of town. The first person narrator is twenty-one and works at the local hospital as a research assistant. She’s having a rather prosaic affair with her employer, an older scientist. Her younger brother is taking classes at the local college, majoring in chemistry. 

The two siblings live with their parents in a state of constant tension. The mother is an alcoholic, and goes on binges that the rest of the family calls ‘novenas’. Her behavior seems to date from the beginning of her marriage and has almost a formal structure to it. The tension of her behavior is palpable throughout the story.

A newly hired maid, a sexually obliging sort of girl, Manuela, from Spain, brings some needed air into this hothouse. Both father and son begin sleeping with her. Neither is satisfied with this arrangement.

When Manuela disappears. it is unclear what has happened and the ambiguity will either intrigue or annoy you. The ending is surprising, yet fitting. This was not my favorite Simenon and yet it succeeded in keeping my interest. Short novels stand a better chance of doing that.


Wednesday, September 02, 2020

First Wednesday Book Review: THE DUTCH HOUSE, Ann Patchett

I listened to Tom Hanks read this book and perhaps that was part of the reason it worked so well for me. Because as I read some Amazon reviews, a lot of readers found this book lacking in a compelling story And I will admit that there was not a lot of plot. You had to be satisfied with an evocation of a family and place to enjoy it. The Dutch House is the story of a family that purchases a large, striking house in Elkins Park, PA. The story is filtered through the son, Danny, and there is initially just a sister (Maeve) and some (beloved) household staff. 

The father is absent a lot and the mother has completely disappeared. The book does not explain what caused this schism until nearly the end. A sad little household evolves into an even sadder household when the father suddenly marries a woman with two little girls. Danny and Maeve are very close and the book dwells a lot on their relationship. Since there is not a lot of plot, I will leave it here but say I found it a very satisfying read, especially through the voice of Tom Hanks. I grew up and went to school in the area that the book takes place in but I don't think that mattered too much. I have liked all of Patchett's work. And all of Tom Hanks' movies. If they ever make A Wonderful Life over again, Hanks should play George. And Ivanka comparing her father to him is the greatest misunderstanding of character I ever remember. 

Find more First Wednesday Reviews at Barrie Summy's blog.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Still Here

 More gorgeous weather. So glad I can get a walk in every day. And out at 8 on a Sunday and the streets were filled with walker and runners. Everyone is getting into shape for the next round even though this one isn't over. Even the dogs look like they have muscled up. It is already fall here basically. The smell of it, the look of it, the temps. Early fall but fall.

Friends took me out to an outdoor restaurant this week and although it was a little iffy mask-wise, I really enjoyed it. First time since March I have been out to dinner. And other friends brought food in so it was a really good week. And then Josh and family brought takeout from Potbelly so boy, am I lucky. Of course, now I have used up all my friends' good will for a while.

Reading Easy Rider, Raging Bull about the changes in the movie business in the seventies, The Memory Police, which has a fascinating premise if she pulls it off, The Teagirl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See for my book group. The date is supposedly 1988-90 but it seems more like the 1500s. Is it invented
? I am not sure. 

Watching the old Morse's which seem better than most anything since. John Thaw is certainly a large part of it and certainly Dexter's writing but they allowed the story to unfold more gracefully, I think. They included art and music and architecture. Did Morse ever turn down a drink?

Watched a oldie-History is Made at Night with Jean Arthur and Charles Boyer. Very romantic but a really nasty villain that was bit over the top for the era. Tried The Vow on HBO but it is too dark for me. Watched Wild Bill (Brit Box) but there were only four episodes. That is too few. Maybe they got sidelined by the virus. Really enjoying The Last Dance about Michael Jordan. Don't know why it works for me so well. Well, yes I do. Because it tells stories. 

I am concerned about how seriously kids are going to treat school given the way it will be this year. Somehow they have to understand they just can't slide for eighteen months. Which is the attitude I am seeing. Like they are getting away with something instead of being deprived of something.

What about you?

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Summer Jobs

 This is the ice cream menu at the restaurant where I worked in 1964-65. (I was 16) It had an extensive regular menu too. We were expected however, as waitresses to prepare the ice cream dishes ourselves. We also served each table a relish tray, which were highly prized by the patrons and a huge pain for us because they got sloppy very fast. One dish had a kidney bean salad, one a corn salad, and the third, cucumber. The restaurant was outside and on gravel by the Delaware River so carrying any food was a chore. I lost fifteen pounds the summer I worked there, coming home at 90 pounds. My mother shrieked when she saw me. The hamburgers sold for $2.00 which never failed to get hostile comments from people just beginning to frequent McDonalds and getting them for $.15. 

Did you have a summer job during high school and college. I also worked at Vic's Pizza Place where every chore was mine except handling the cash register.

Friday, August 28, 2020

FFB-THE STAR MACHINE, Jeanine Basinger


This is a lengthy study of the measures Hollywood studios went to to promote their actors. Of course, the studio system broke up in the fifties-sixties but from the 20s till then, an incredible amount of time and money was invested in making sure their stars became STARS. Basinger chooses actors who the studios were successful in promoting and played the game and others who fought the system or failed at it. It was not uncommon for an actress to appear in several stories in the same issue of a magazine. The studios had a lot to say about almost every facet of their "property's" life including marriage partners, wardrobe off the set, what activities the star engaged in, where they spent Saturday night, pretty much everything. Defying their edicts often meant less pictures (movies), smaller parts, even shunning them completely. It was very hard for an actor to have success without the backing of a studio and the ones that were successful were hugely successful stars before attempting it. Lots of fun facts and extensive research in this book.

A fun and relaxing read.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Whitey on the Moon

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

As summer fades...

Every year, around now, I'd tell Phil, we should have done more summer things. He'd always laugh and list the "summer things" we did: Tiger games, picnics, trips to Northern Michigan, to Pennsylvania, to Ocean City, NJ, attended art fairs, carnivals, went swimming at our local park, sat outside until the mosquitoes got us, hiked, went to fireworks, outdoor concerts, an occasional trip abroad. So many things. And, of course, this year there was none of this. It's a long winter in Michigan and not much to do so there will be less to miss than in summer. But that's little conciliation.
What did you miss most this summer? What's the first thing on your list for next summer--if we get one?


Monday, August 24, 2020

Still Here

I have never understood how to line up graphics on my blog, so I am putting them all at the bottom.
Finished THE DUTCH HOUSE, as read by Tom Hanks and it was a wonderful experience. He is just a superb reader. Read on kindle, SUCH A FUN AGE, which was an unusual look at racism that doesn't seem like racism until you really study it.. 
Now reading THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR, or listening to it. Also still reading THE STAR MACHINE.
Saw the movie SUN DON'T SHINE, which was pretty darn dark but well done. Watching THE LAST DANCE about Michael Jordan-although ten episodes may be more than I want to know. Still watching HALT AND CATCH FINE and finishing up I MAY DESTROY YOU. Last episode of ENDEAVOR tonight, which seems like not enough although it hasn't bee particularly compelling. I remember the MORSE's as being so much better but maybe I am remembering them wrong. Tempting to sign up for BRIT BOX and see. 
Went to a zoom birthday party which didn't really come off well because we spent the majority of time trying to get everyone on board. Someone needs to figure out what you can do for fun at a zoom birthday party too. 
The weather has been hot but so sunny. I don't remember a sunnier summer ever.
Things are quiet. I think everyone is pretty exhausted with Covid and Conventions and Chaos.


Friday, August 21, 2020

FFB: VANISHED, Mary McGarry Morris

Vanished by Mary McGarry Morris

I don't know if anyone saw this book as crime fiction on its publication. It certainly is noir and straight out of the Woodrell universe.
A laborer is lured into helping an attractive woman he sees o
n the road. He deserts his family and embarks on an odyssey with Dotty, who is a femme fatale of the highest order. She has kidnapped a baby and the three cobble out a life on the road over the course of the next five years. Their fate is further complicated when they run into an ex-con and his family, who come up with the idea of demanding ransom. This is one dark, often heart-breaking tale and amazingly Morris' first novel. Highly recommended. Her other novels aren't bad either.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Still Here

"The Past is a Foreign Country. They Do Things Differently There.” L.P. Hartley

. Rewatching movies: THE GO-BETWEEN was made in 1971 with Julie Christie and Alan Bates in the two lead roles. This version by Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter emphasized "class" rather than romance. I am not sure the book would not have allowed for a bit more romance. I read it back in the day, but can't remember if you got any feel for them as romantic couple. If you don't remember, it is the story of a twelve-year old boy who becomes a go-between for two lovers and how it affects the rest of his life. It was very hard to watch the behavior of this ultra-rich family. Of course, that is the whole point. If the story is about people you aren't meant to like, you can't fault that in it. But sometimes it is hard not to.

But I am still interested in seeing the newer BBC version

 Also rewatched A SINGLE MAN, which was gorgeous to look at and very sad. It's the story of a man who loses his male partner is a car accident. Julianne Moore is beautiful in it although her character didn't quite work for me. 

Still working on reading the Pandemic book (PALE DRIVER), the book on how Hollywood made stars (STAR MACHINE) and novels that I don't seem to finish. I read Laura Lippman's MY LIFE AS A VILLAINESS, which alarmingly had a multitude of words missing letters. How does something like that happen?

Watching HALT AND CATCH FIRE and RITA on Netflix. Trying to follow GIRI/HAJI. Plus ENDEAVOR on PBS. 

What about you?

Friday, August 14, 2020


THE NIGHTINGALE takes place during World War 2 in France. It's the story of two sisters who spend little of the novel together, but nonetheless are called upon in ways peculiar to their personality to help in France's resistance to the Nazi occupation. Hannah does a great job of making the pages turn. The sisters are very different and separated by age, personality and place. Isabelle, the younger and more rebellious, immediately finds her way into to the resistance movement. Viane, a mother and wife, takes years to come to a belief that she must do something too.

The contrast between them was well done and well explained. The setting is excellent. The cast of characters is very satisfying.

If I were to find a flaw or two with the novel, small though they may be, it is that the sisters, both having had difficult childhoods, are a bit too noble, a bit too self-sacrificing, a bit too able to undertake successfully their difficult tasks. They seldom feel sorry for themselves.

Secondly, I felt we retread the same ground a bit too much. Two Nazis live with Viane for instance. One would have been enough.

However, these are small flaws in what is a very fine novel and well worth your time. By chance I took this book with me to Berlin and Poland and my trip to Auschwitz was made more real and more horrifying by the story I was reading.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Still Here

 From the 1918 flu. I like the WEAR A MASK or GO TO JAIL sign.  And now in Lake St. Clair, 20 minutes away.

Megan's latest news.

Rewatching movies: BEING JOHN MALCOVICH-which held up wonderfully for the first hour and then descended into chaos. At least for me. Also watched THE HOLIDAY, which is the kind of romantic movie I usually stay away from but it was so relaxing. Nothing much at stake in a movie like this. 

Reading THE CASE OF THE VELVET CLAWS (Erle Stanley Gardner). And still muddling through the Pandemic book and THE STARMAKER. 

Getting hot here this week. 

What about you?

Thursday, August 06, 2020

All About Penns River-or Dana King's new book.

I’m not a good person. Patti offered me this space weeks ago and I’m just now sending something. That’s inexcusable. I started blogging partly because of reading this blog, and her flash fiction challenges tightened my writing considerably. I owe this blog and I owe Patti, and I’m sorry for futzing around.

While my procrastination is inexcusable, there is a reason. The original plan was to write about the fictional town of Penns River, the setting of my police procedural novels. I based the town on three small cities where I grew up, so I know the area and people well. It’s a perfect setting for me.

The problem is that Pushing Water is the fifth Penns River book and, while I’m not anywhere close to running out of story ideas, I am running dry on what to say about the place. There is nothing inherently interesting about Penns River except how it shapes characters best described through their actions. Most of them are cops.

If only there was something topical to say about cops.

I’m not James Ellroy, writing about systemic corruption in a police force. I’ve worked in enough hierarchical organizations to know they all have inherent weaknesses exploitable by those with ill intent. Police departments are special because those exploitations can blossom into matters of life and death in a heartbeat.

I’ve planned for a couple of years to evolve the Penns River police from a close-knit small town department taking its cues from avuncular chief Stan “Stush” Napierkowski into something with a harder edge as the economy remains stagnant, crime became more entrenched, and the department’s personnel turn over.

The degree and intensity of crime has worn down some of the older cops who signed up to serve a far different city. The younger men and women who will replace them trained in 21st Century academies, or honed their craft on far meaner streets. This creates friction with the local population, as people they don’t know and who don’t seem to care as much about them replace cops they’ve known for years.

Penns River cops are the good guys. Flawed, not corrupt. That will evolve, but the core of the department will always have a compass. I have no desire to write them any other way. Several of my acquaintances are, or were, cops. Some have become good friends. None of them—not one—are anything other than fine and fair-minded people. Just as my experiences growing up in “Penns River” precludes me from depicting it as either the South Side of Chicago or Beverly Hills, my personal knowledge of cops prevents me from portraying them as brutal racists. As the current meme says, I am pro cop and against brutality and corruption. The positions are not mutually exclusive.

Are there brutal and bent cops? Absolutely. More than I care to think about and way more than should be wearing badges. The time has come for Penns River to reflect this.

I’m proud of my friendships with law enforcement, several of which came about because they respected how well I captured the life of a cop, even though I have never been one. My most flattering moments as a writer have come when someone with a law enforcement background assumes I have one, as well. They run toward trouble when everyone else runs away, and my cops will always show that.

Just because one runs toward danger doesn’t mean he’s not an asshole. Or a racist. Or bent. Any number of unsavory things. I’d do good cops a disservice if I ignored that. So there will be more of both sides.

The book I really want to write is one I am both qualified and not qualified to write: the effects of the blue wall for good and ill. I understand why it exists, I understand its benefits, and I understand the damage it does by protecting those who are unworthy. I can already hear, “Who’s he to write that? He was never a cop.” Maybe it’s the kind of thing that needs a sympathetic outsider’s perspective. It will have to be well researched and fairly written and it’s at least two books away.

I’m already working on it.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

My Year Of Rewatching Movies

I am only rewatching movies I originally liked and it is unpredictable what I will think now. And I have to wonder if 2020 events is influencing my enjoyment.

1. Three Days of the Condor-just as good as ever. It doesn't feel dated at all even though the whole plot would go off the tracks if Redford was able to use a cellphone and a lot of other technology. You don't miss it and in fact, it keeps him isolated and thus it's scarier. Dunaway is adequate but not sensational. It is really Redford's movie.

2. After Hours. It sure seemed to take a long time to get going. The pacing was different then. Four kooky women was perhaps too many and they were all kooky in the same ways. But hey, that is the point of the movie. It was not as good as I remembered it, but it was fun (enough) once it got going.

3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-Boy, I guess this idea has been too much copied. Or Jim Carrey gets on my nerves more than he did fifteen years ago, or this is too full of gimcrackery segments. Didn't finish it. Central idea is interesting but the playout doesn't work for me. I may not be a Charlie Kauffman fan.

Age of Innocence-Better than it was thirty years ago. It was so good I sent away for the screenplay with commentary. Pristine, is a good word for it. The ending crushes.

5. Pygmalion I have seen My Fair Lady many times and I have seen stage versions of this movie, but I am not sure I ever saw this. It held up well considering its advanced age. Leslie Howard is a dead ringer for Phil's Uncle Tom. Wendy Hiller is amazing but not as much as she is in "I Know Where I Am Going."

6. The Commitments, The music is delightful but the story surrounding it is so hectic. A bit of a disappointment.

7. The Fisher King. I know I saw this but remembered very little of it. When I watch Robin Williams now I just think the tragedy is already in his eyes and he sure plays a tragic guy in this. This was neither better or worse than I remembered but made me want to watch Brazil. (Terry Gilliam)

8. Sunday Bloody Sunday. Maybe I never saw this before but I thought I did. Moody, sad, ahead of its time in its theme. Great acting. Anxious to see Glenda Jackson in her forthcoming movie Elizabeth is Missing.

What have you rewatched lately and did it hold up?

Monday, August 03, 2020

Still Here

Somehow I am reading four books at once. One at lunch (Star Machine), one in later afternoon (Pale Rider) one when I walk or clean (The Lives of Edie Pritchard) and one at bedtime, the Ferrante book. I watched three movie this week and like them all. The Nighy one was on Hoopla from my library and so too the Larry Watson audiobook. What a great deal Hoopla and Kanopy are.

Pale Rider is really scary. But at least the 1918 flu took breaks. This one doesn't seem to and I think the third scenario, where is it never lets up until we get a vaccine, is the most likely now.

Watching Dark and Halt and Catch Fire on TV. As well as the HBO shows.

Finally some rain and boy do we need it.

What about you?

Sunday, August 02, 2020


Forty years ago. Three of them gone now.  This is probably at a place we stayed in Ocean City, N.J.  We never stayed at fancy places so this looks about right. We would go back to Philly for a week or so (to visit my grandmother) and then the "shore" as Philly people call it for most of August. Phil usually taught a summer class that ended about then.

Sometimes we would meet up with my brother and his wife and son in Rehoboth, DE. And sometimes we would visit Jeff in Springfield, VA. Unlike most Michiganders we rarely vacationed up north. Having grown up on the east coast, only a beach by the ocean would do. And we needed a boardwalk to entertain  us at night. The kids would ride on small scale ferris wheels and such, we ate fudge, we bought small treats from souvenir shops.  And when it got late, we went back to our rental and played yahtzee or risk and tried to get Tiger Baseball on our radio. WJR had a pretty powerful signal. Twice we went to Cape Cod or Cape Ann instead of NJ. I had gone to college (briefly) there and loved Rockport, MA. The week we spent in Cape Cod, it rained every day. Ugh.

Did you take a summer vacation as a child or as a parent with children? Where did you go?

Friday, July 31, 2020

FFB-BROOKLY, Colm Toibin

Brooklyn, Colm Toibin

This is a very fine novel that I was resistant to reading for a long time. It sat on my shelf despite the urging of several friends who loved it. But after seeing the movie, I wanted to read the book. And I am glad that I did. 
There are no jobs to be had in Eilis Lacey's hometown in Ireland. Reluctantly she sets sail for New York where a priest has secured her a job and place to live. She is nearly overwhelmed by homesickness--and I don't think I ever read such a great description of it--but eventually settles into her new life and finds a beau. A sudden death calls her home again and she must decide where her future lies.
What makes this novel work so well is how much inside the head of his character Toibin gets. And I am truly amazed at how well he does a female voice. And how well he seems to understand how a girl feels about a multitude of issues.
Eilis is utterly believable as a very nice girl with very nice friends and a very nice family. The descriptions of Brooklyn life in the fifties are terrific. 
If I found one flaw in the book, it would be there was so little conflict or strife for Eilis. I am sure an immigrant coming here with no friends of family to succor them would find life a lot harder. And the ending is perhaps too swift.
But this is a small flaw in a wonderful novel. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Six Favorite Books Midway Through 2020

This was Kevin Tipple's idea which he got from Lesa Holstine, I think. But here are my seven favorite books of the year so far. I really should list one of the novels of Nicci French I've read but they have all kind of run together, which happens when you repeat characters and situations from novel to novel. But they were enjoyable.

In no particular order

Between Them, Remembering My Parents, Richard Ford (a memoir)
The Movie Musical, Jeanine Basinger
Lean on Pete, Willie Vlautin
Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith
City of Nets, Otto Friedrich
Dance of the Happy Shades, Alice Munro
Chestnut Man, Soren Svestrup

What about you?