Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What's on Your Nightstand: April Showers Edition

Anne Hood is a favorite contemporary author of mine. I met her in her debut novel, Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine, and have enjoyed her ever since. The Obituary Writer tells the alternating story of Claire and Vivien, two women from different generations united by motherhood, by grief and by love. While there were some glaring editorial errors in this book, the story was amazing. I struggled only to put this down. Like Mr. Emerson's Wife last month, Ms. Hood was able to make the physical act of love into something profound and beautiful that I gasped reading this line: "when he entered her, it was as if something she had lost was returned to her...." (p. 177).[Note: this is not a sexually graphic novel, but I felt this line was really beautiful.] Beauty, love, loss, triumph--this book has it all. The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood

I'm sure my Facebook friends must have grown weary of hearing me swoon over this book! Honor Harris and Richard Grenville, the King's General in the West, are caught up in the English Civil war. Richard, a rapscallion of the highest order, is the love of Honor's life. A man's man to the core, Richard bears his own version of true allegiance to his lady. The rough times of the war, the rough and ready personality of Richard, the unconditional love Honor holds for him, all create one of the most memorable love stories ever. Daphne Du Maurier, author of Rebecca, and wife of World War II General "Boy" Browning, weaves a web of almost fatal love and attraction that is not to be missed. I seldom buy fiction, but I ordered bought this one and will be re-reading it for years to come. The King's General by Daphne Du Maurier.

Like many romantics, I first read F. Scott Fitzgerald in high school. I soon read every title of his I could locate. In college I took a course on the history of Paris and Berlin in the 1920s, where I encountered Hemmingway's Moveable Feast, and it's highly unflattering story of the two comparing their "manhood." Until then I don't think I'd connected great writers to each other as friends. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, explores both that friendship and the tempestuous marriage of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Like Loving Frank did for Frank Lloyd Wright, "Z," brings the couple fully alive before the readers eyes. The prose is captivating, the characters so believeable, even as their life becomes nearly surreal. Early on, we are shown Scott, who "looked like the man he said he was going to be." And tragically we come to the time when the Fitzgeralds found themselves with "too much everything, not enough anything,? and their beautiful world fell to pieces. Zelda's decent into mental illness is tragically and hauntingly told in the first person narrative of this marvelous book. This is, however, first and foremost a story of love, secondly of everything else. This is simply not to be missed. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler.

What's not to like about a small Southern town with a "Miss Delta Floozy" contest? Or, for that matter, what's not to love about a 50-something widow finding love for the second time with a handsome man who used to own a ballroom dance studio? Second Creek, Mississippi, is a town you'd want to call your own. Full of loveable wackos--most of whom are faithful friends and helpful neighbors. Laurie Lapanto and her "Nit Wits"--a group of widows who support and care for each other have a large presence in this small town. And, when their beloved Mr. Choppy's IGA store is threatened with closure they come up with a fabulous plan to save the story. An old rumor adds spice to the mix. I am eagerly awaiting the second installment of this series to arrive for me at the library. Waltzing at the Piggly-Wiggly by Robert Dalby.

 I'm not much for Christian fiction--usually written at a 2nd grade level, chopped up into 15 volumes and over-priced. Lynn Austin is an exception. An exceptional writer who weaves Christian thought and values into fascinating stories. Here's a lovely example from her newest book,  a tale of forgiveness with a side dish of love, set in Reconstruction Era Virginia:

"Because there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is external and can change when your circumstances change...But joy is deep inside us and isn't dependent on circumstances." ALL THINGS NEW by Lynn Austin 

I  threw back Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung and Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. Both were audio books and I just couldn't get into them. Both may get a second try sometime in the print version.

Need ideas on what to read next? Head over to 5 Minutes for Books and see all of this month's "What's on Your Nightstand" posts.


Susan said...

I remembered you like "Obit Writer," and I read a good review of it in the Sunday paper as well. But oh my -- not sure I want/need to read about "the act of entering her." Hmmmm. Dilemma here ...

King's General sounds good. I think I need to start by reading Rebecca, though.

Perfect timing on Z -- my 16-yr-old is reading (and loving) Gatsby for school. I want to re-read it and then see the new movie. Then I'll read this too. Great list, as usual!

Hopewell said...

Susan--if it helps that's as graphic as it gets. I throw back anything really explicit.

Anonymous said...

I can't remember how I happened upon your blog, but I love your book reviews. I am currently reading "Z" and so loving it. I don't know if you have read "The Paris Wife", if not I think you would like it. It is set in the same time period as "Z" and is about Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley. The "Obit Writer" sounds like a good read. Thanks for your reviews!
Robyn Strickland
Birmingham, AL

dstb said...

I've added Waltzing, Obit Writer, and The King's General to my TBR list (which is growing ever longer)!

I've recently finished Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden. Very enjoyable.

I also read a book I adored as a kid and was only recently able to track down called The Return of the Twelves by Pauline Clarke. It's the story of 8yo Max finding a set of wooden soldiers at the old farmhouse his family just moved into. The soldiers used to belong to the literary Bronte family. The soldiers come alive and have tales of previous adventures that were devised by the Bronte children. I still love it!

Thanks for the recommendations!

Jeanne said...

Rapscallion is the bestest word!

I, too, only know Zelda through Hemimgway's eyes. Would love to read this one.

Hopewell said...

Robyn: I'm on the waiting list for "Paris Wife" don't worry!

Hopewell said...

Sarah: I'll try to track that down! Sounds lovely!

bekahcubed said...

Waltzing at the Piggly-Wiggly sounds like a nice, fun, light read. It's at one of our branch libraries, but not my main library. I'm debating whether to go out of my way to get it--but you've definitely piqued my interest.