March 26, 2012 by Reader's Connection
Our April discussions begin in Africa and finish in Nebraska, with stops in Indianapolis and the Hudson River.
In this book, the author of Seven Gothic Tales gives a true account of her life on her plantation in Kenya. She tells with classic simplicity of the ways of the country and the natives: of the beauty of the Ngong Hills and coffee trees in blossom: of her guests, from the Prince of Wales to Knudsen, the old charcoal burner, who visited her: of primitive festivals: of big game that were her near neighbors–lions, rhinos, elephants, zebras, buffaloes–and of Lulu, the little gazelle who came to live with her, unbelievably ladylike and beautiful. — Random House
Addressing a 1937 Writers Congress in a rare public speech, Ernest Hemingway proclaimed that there is “only one form of government that cannot produce good writers, and that system is fascism. For fascism is a lie told by bullies. A writer who will not lie cannot live and work under fascism.” With this rallying cry against the fascist forces in Spain’s then year-old Civil War, Hemingway expressed his firm belief in an artist’s need to write “what is true,” his commitment to freedom, and his passion for the people and culture of Spain, his spiritual home. In 1940, these sentiments came together in Hemingway’s most celebrated novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, the powerful story of a young American fighting for the Spanish Republic during four suspenseful days in 1937. — Blackwell North America
Catch-22 took the war novel genre to a new level, shocking us with its clever and disturbing style. Set in a World War II American bomber squadron off the coast of Italy, Catch-22 is the story of John Yossarian, who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. Yossarian is also trying to decode the meaning of Catch-22, a mysterious regulation that proves that insane people are really the sanest, while the supposedly sensible people are the true madmen. And this novel is full of madmen — Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly m order to finish their tour; Milo Minderbinder, a dedicated entrepreneur who bombs his own airfield when the Germans offer him an extra 6 percent; Major Major Major, whose tragedy in life is that he resembles Henry Fonda; and Major — de Coverley, whose face is so forbidding no one has dared ask his name. No novel before or since has matched Catch-22’s intensity and brilliance in depicting the brutal insanity of war. Heller satirizes military bureaucracy with bitter, stinging humor, all the while telling the darkly comic story of Yossarian, a bombardier who refuses to die. — Simon and Schuster
Eastsiders are a fiercely loyal bunch. No matter where you go in life, the connection to the Eastside remains. In its early days, Indianapolis was designed to be a city of only one square mile, but as settlers flocked to the Circle City, a steady beat of progress made its way across the Eastside. Through their dedication to maintaining the character of neighborhoods like Woodruff Place, Fountain Square and Irvington, Eastsiders have banded together time and again to preserve the memories of landmarks like the Rivoli Theatre and Al Green’s. Julie Young, a lifelong resident of the Eastside, celebrates one of the most culturally diverse areas of Indianapolis as she illuminates the strength and determination that would make any resident proud to call the Eastside home. — found on the Barnes & Noble website.
Grissom’s unsentimental debut twists the conventions of the antebellum novel . . . Lavinia, an orphaned seven-year-old white indentured servant, arrives in 1791 to work in the kitchen house at Tall Oaks, a Tidewater, Va., tobacco plantation owned by Capt. James Pyke. Belle, the captain’s illegitimate half-white daughter who runs the kitchen house, shares narration duties, and the two distinctly different voices chronicle a troublesome 20 years: Lavinia becomes close to the slaves working the kitchen house, but she can’t fully fit in because of her race. At 17, she marries Marshall, the captain’s brutish son turned inept plantation master, and as Lavinia ingratiates herself into the family and the big house, racial tensions boil over into lynching, rape, arson, and murder. The plantation’s social order’s emphasis on violence, love, power, and corruption provides a trove of tension and grit, while the many nefarious doings will keep readers hooked to the twisted, yet hopeful, conclusion. — Publishers Weekly
All that is good and all that troubles African-American life weaves through the late bestselling author Harris’s final novel, composed in collaboration with Johnson. Cobi Winslow is a hard-charging state’s attorney in Chicago, the adopted son of a wealthy manufacturer of African-American hair-care products. But Cobi’s life changes dramatically after his parents are killed in a plane crash. He is left guilty and confused, having learned only days before the accident that he has a twin brother, a child not adopted because his father only wanted one son. Cobi’s relationship with his father had been troubled since his father discovered Cobi in a homosexual tryst with a high-school classmate. Now in love with a local politician, Cobi remains closeted. Cobi soon learns his father’s will has a condition. He will inherit millions in stock and trust-fund money only if Cobi marries before he turns 34. The stock in limbo is essential to maintain family control, as Cobi’s sister, Sissy, a business whiz and interim CEO, discovers. Sissy hatches a plan to arrange a marriage for Cobi, but Cobi is focused on finding his twin and . . . stumbles on his brother, Eric, while doing legal work at a prison where Eric is finishing a sentence. Much to Sissy’s dismay, Cobi invites Eric to live with him . . . — Kirkus Reviews
History is sadly neglectful of the supporting players in the lives of great artists. Fortunately, fiction provides ample opportunity to bring these often fascinating personalities out into the limelight. Gaynor Arnold successfully resurrected the much-maligned Mrs. Charles Dickens in Girl in a Blue Dress, now Paula McLain brings Hadley Richardson Hemingway out from the formidable shadow cast by her famous husband. Though doomed, the Hemingway marriage had its giddy high points, including a whirlwind courtship and a few fast and furious years of the expatriate lifestyle in 1920s Paris. Hadley and Ernest traveled in heady company during this gin-soaked and jazz-infused time, and readers are treated to intimate glimpses of many of the literary giants of the era, including Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But the real star of the story is Hadley, as this time around, Ernest is firmly relegated to the background as he almost never was during their years together. Though eventually a woman scorned, Hadley is able to acknowledge without rancor or bitterness that “Hem” had “helped me to see what I really was and what I could do.” Much more than a “woman-behind-the-man” homage, this beautifully crafted tale is an unsentimental tribute to a woman who acted with grace and strength as her marriage crumbled. — Booklist
Hailed for preserving the passengers and crew of US Airways Flight 1549 in January 2009 from all but certain catastrophe, pilot Chesley Sullenberger attracted intense interest from a hero-hungy media and public. In this hybrid of autobiography and second-by-second narration of the now-famous flight, Sullenberger reflects on the influences on his life, principally his parents, his first flight instructor, his military service in the 1970s, his commercial airline career, and his wife and adopted daughters. One of the remarkable facets to emerge about Sullenberger was his prior professional activity to improve flight crew performance during emergencies, which echoes Winston Churchill’s famous remark in The Gathering Storm (1948) about saving Britain in 1940, “that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial.” The modest Sullenberger doesn’t take sole credit for the success of his emergency landing; rather, he names his first officer, Jeff Skiles; an air traffic controller; and three flight attendants as making up the team that brought five-minute-long Flight 1549 to its Hudson River ditching with all souls safe. Concluding with Sullenberger’s diffidence about his unsought renown, this memoir-drama imparts insights about the piloting profession as it enthralls readers with its exultant plotline of disaster averted. — Booklist
Russell creatively reimagines Doc Holliday’s early years in this authentically detailed, evocatively rendered fictional biography. Beginning long before the ill-fated shootout at the O. K. Corral, she paints a portrait of the tubercular young Doc, heading west for his health. Thoughtful, well-educated, and genteel, the young would-be dentist joins forces with the love of his life, Maria Katarina Harony, a Hungarian prostitute with a razor-sharp intellect and her own interesting backstory. As dentistry takes a back seat to gambling, and the action moves to Dodge City, Doc also befriends Morgan Earp, and a host of familiar real-life figures are introduced. What elevates the novel above standard western mythologies lies in its crystalline characterizations, crackling dialogue, and vivid, less than idyllic descriptions of the time and the place. This robust realization of the man before he was replaced by the legend is not for genre fans only. — Booklist
See review at About.com
The new Portal science fiction & fantasy book discussion group will meet at the Glendale Library on Sunday, April 22nd at 1:00 p.m. Their theme will be More than Human–Exploring Metamorphosis and Transformation.
See previous post about Portal.
A review by Guy Salvidge is available.