July 25, 2012 by Reader's Connection
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks will be discussed twice in August.
Brooks, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her Civil War novel, March, here imagines the life of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard. The story is told by Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of a preacher who traveled from England to Martha’s Vineyard to try and “bring Christ to the Indians.” In 1660, when Bethia is 12, the family takes Caleb, a Wampanoag Indian, into their home to prepare him for boarding school. Bethia is a bright scholar herself, and though education for women is discouraged, she absorbs the lessons taught to Caleb and her brother Makepeace like a sponge. She struggles through the deaths of her mother, a younger sister, another brother, and her father. When Caleb and Makepeace are sent to Cambridge, Bethia accompanies them as an indentured servant to a professor. She marries a Harvard scholar, journeys with him to Padua, and finally returns to her beloved island. In flashbacks, Brooks relates the woes of the Indian Wars, the smallpox epidemic, and Caleb’s untimely death shortly after his graduation with honors. Brooks has an uncanny ability to reconstruct each moment of the history she so thoroughly researched in stunningly lyrical prose, and her characters are to be cherished. — Booklist
What the kitchen maid saw. Powell’s account of her time “in service”–employed as a servant in several stately English homes in 1920s England–is a key inspiration for such entertainments as the TV series Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey, programs that relish in the dynamic between the lordly masters of the house and the earthier workers who toil down below. The author’s voice is instantly compelling, salty and unsentimental about the many difficulties and small satisfactions she encountered as an impoverished young girl and woman struggling to make her way. Sex is much on Powell’s mind, both as a source of wry amusement and a mercenary desire to marry and escape a life of domestic drudgery, and her plainspoken bluntness on the topic is bracing . . . But it’s Powell’s nascent social conscience–an evolving rage at the inequities and institutional humiliation inherent in the English class system–that makes the strongest impression and elevates the memoir from a quaint look back to an affecting portrait of a vital, intelligent young woman struggling to assert herself against a system that would prefer she keep her head down and her mouth shut. It’s to her credit and the reader’s good fortune that she did neither. — Kirkus Reviews
On Monday, August 6th at 6:30 p.m., at the Wayne Library, a guest musician from the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra will take part in a discussion of “The Art of Fear: Music in Stalin’s Russia” which is Chapter 7 of Alex Ross’s The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century.
Ross, the classical music critic for the New Yorker , leads a whirlwind tour from the Viennese premiere of Richard Strauss’s Salome in 1906 to minimalist Steve Reich’s downtown Manhattan apartment. The wide-ranging historical material is organized in thematic essays grounded in personalities and places, in a disarmingly comprehensive style . . . Thus, composers who led dramatic lives–such as Shostakovich’s struggles under the Soviet regime–make for gripping reading, but Ross treats each composer with equal gravitas. The real strength of this study, however, lies in his detailed musical analysis, teasing out–in precise but readily accessible language–the notes that link Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story to Arnold Schoenberg’s avant-garde compositions or hint at a connection between Sibelius and John Coltrane. Among the many notable passages, a close reading of Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes stands out for its masterful blend of artistic and biographical insight. Readers new to classical music will quickly seek out the recordings Ross recommends, especially the works by less prominent composers, and even avid fans will find themselves hearing familiar favorites with new ears. — Publishers Weekly
As announced in the previous post, a Shared Reading Group will be launched in August at the Spades Park Branch. William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying will be read aloud by facilitator Anja Saak (and others who wish to read aloud) and discussed on Friday mornings from 10:00 to 11:30. (Actually, that was going to happen on Tuesdays but it’s moving to Fridays.)
Spades Park’s regular monthly book discussion will be held on Wednesday, August 22nd and is listed below.
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
While the Smarts are a happy, prosperous British family on the surface, underneath they are as friable as a Balkan republic. Eve suffers from a block about writing yet another of her popular Genuine Article books (a series of imaginary reconstructions of obscure, actual figures from the past). Michael, her English professor husband, is a philanderer whose sexual predation on his students has reached critical mass. Teenaged Magnus, Eve’s son by first husband Adam, is consumed by guilt around a particularly heinous school prank. And Astrid, Eve and Adam’s daughter, is a 12-year- old channeling the angst of a girl three years older. Into this family drops one Amber MacDonald, a mysterious stranger who embeds herself in the family’s summer rental in Norfolk and puts them all under her bullying spell. By some collective hallucination–one into which Smith utterly and completely draws the reader–each Smart sees Amber as a savior, even as she violates their codes and instincts. So sure-handed are Smith’s overlapping descriptions of the same events from different viewpoints that her simple, disquieting story lifts into brilliance. When Eve finally breaks the spell and kicks Amber out, it precipitates a series of long overdue jolts that destroys the family’s fraught equilibrium, but the shock of Smith’s facility remains. — Publishers Weekly
Elisabeth Hyde’s novel In the Heart of the Canyon will be discussed at the Irvington Library on Thursday, August 9th at 1:30 p.m. (There will also be a Teen Book Discussion on August 20th. See below.)
Twelve travelers and three guides set off on a rafting trip down the Colorado River in this adventure from the author of The Abortionist’s Daughter. Each comes to the trip expecting a life-altering experience, but none is prepared for the events as they unfold, least of all JT Maroney, their veteran guide. It is JT’s 125th trip down the river, and he thinks he’s seen it all; but a dog, a couple in their seventies, two dysfunctional marriages, and an overweight teenager provide him with challenges that have nothing to do with white-water rafting. Each traveler leaves the trip with much more than he or she expected. VERDICT The reader is swept along with the characters through the strikingly beautiful canyon and the potentially deadly river. Great scenic description and fully believable characters make this adventure story well worth the ride. — Library Journal
A delightful, quirky, clever, murder mystery — P. Morrison, Washington Times- Herald
A new mystery with three sixty-something widows as the detectives by choice will offer some delightful reading for just about anyone who enjoys fiction. — Dee Ann Ray – Clinton Daily News
These three sassy grandmothers turned Matlock incarnate broke the stereotype I had about “old people” Hilariously funny and witty, I would recommend this novel to anyone. Grandmothers, Inc. proves that age is truly nothing but a number.” — Joy Farrington, Nubian Sistas Book Club
I would embed the book trailer here, but it might get me in trouble. Check out some of the reviews at Goodreads.
At Irvington on Monday, August 20th at 4:30 p.m. there will be a Teen Book Discussion of Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Teens can come to the Information Desk to pick up a copy. The program is made possible through Friends of the Library.
Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. Routine, order and predictability shelter him from the messy, wider world. Then, at fifteen, Christopher’s carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing. Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. — Random House
First published in 1931, this classic novel about Chinese peasant life around the turn of the 20th century . . . traces the slow rise of Wang Lung from humble peasant farmer to great landlord-a feat he achieves by steadily adding to his lands and making enormous sacrifices to retain them through hard times. As one of the first Western novels to explore the lives of ordinary Chinese, this work has had an enormous influence on American views of China, and it propelled Buck to the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938. — Library Journal
Portal, the Indianapolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Discussion Group, will meet at Glendale Library on Sunday August 26th from 1:00 to 3:00.
Their theme this month will be Multicultural SF & Fantasy – Black Science Fiction
Click on the Portal image to go to their Facebook page.
Icy Sparks is the sad, funny and transcendent tale of a young girl growing up in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky during the 1950′s. Gwyn Hyman Rubio’s beautifully written first novel revolves around Icy Sparks, an unforgettable heroine in the tradition of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird or Will Treed in Cold Sassy Tree. At the age of ten, Icy, a bright, curious child orphaned as a baby but raised by adoring grandparents, begins to have strange experiences. Try as she might, her “secrets”–verbal croaks, groans, and physical spasms–keep afflicting her. As an adult, she will find out she has Tourette’s Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder, but for years her behavior is the source of mystery, confusion, and deep humiliation. Narrated by a grown up Icy, the book chronicles a difficult, but ultimately hilarious and heartwarming journey, from her first spasms to her self-acceptance as a young woman. Curious about life beyond the hills, talented, and energetic, Icy learns to cut through all barriers–physical, mental, and spiritual–in order to find community and acceptance. — Penguin Putnam