Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What I've Been Reading

January is a great month to stay in bed and read! Sub-zero temperatures, snow, short days and long, dark nights add up to the perfect climate for reading.

The Best of January

Do you enjoy programs like the "History Detectives?" Do you know what "Crowd Sourcing" can mean in research? This is the incredible story of a young man who started a novel and ended up living it in real life. This is the true story of how a piece of home movie film from 1938--the "Three Minutes in Poland"--was research, the people identified, survivors reconnected and the whole thing added to the collective knowledge of the Nazi Holocaust. Amazing! I did not get to finish it due to the library's loan period, but will go back to it as soon as I get up the waiting list again. Don't miss this one! Three Minutes in Poland by Glenn Kurtz.

Imagine being rounded up, held captive for a few days and then sent away from your family to begin a new life? That's what happened to Milada  in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. At a "Lebensborn" center in Poland she is "re-made" into a model Aryan child and given to the family of the commandant of the Flossenburg. But "Eva," as she is forced now to be known, keeps hope alive of being reunited with her own family and resuming her own life. This is a book for any age--it is marketed to elementary or middle schoolers. The ending is a big less than I'd hoped for, but does not spoil the excellence of this story. It would be interesting to read a real-life comparison, but apparently there are none. This is what historical fiction should be.  Someone Named Eva: A Novel by Joan M. Wolf.

I love the impressionists--their work constitutes my favorite period of art history. Claude Monet and his wife Camille come alive in this excellent historical novel. The genius, the selfishness, the poverty, the heartache--and the love--all shine thru in this story. I came away feeling I had truly spent time with the great artist long-suffering wife. Claude & Camille by Stephanie Cowell

Daphne DuMaurier could create a universe of emotion within the covers of a book. This one, a book club friendly 300+ pages is a story of manipulation and betrayal. A charming woman distantly related to Ambrose and his nephew Philip charms both of them--the attentive younger woman to the uncle, the mysterious and intriguing older woman to the nephew. But things are not quite what they seem. Set in a rather neglected, but comfortable Cornwall estate, this story is a true page-turner not to be missed. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne DuMaurier.

The Rest of January

I've long been fascinated by all types of fundamentalism, regardless of the political or religious creed the espouse. Sima's Undergarments for Women is set in a mostly Orthodox and Hassidic Jewish neighborhood in New York. As the title indicates, Sima sells lingerie--the real stuff that real women wear daily. She fits bras perfectly--altering them when necessary. [Yes, I learned a lot!] The story intermingles her struggle to have children with that of the young woman she takes under her wing as a sort of surrogate daughter. Her stale marriage, a friend's glorious marriage, all get worked into the story. Sima's Undergarments for Women by Ilana Stanger-Ross.

The Romance Reader the story of a frustrated daughter of a Hassidic Jewish family living in rural New York summer community for various Hassidic families. Rachel finds her completely scripted life to be dull and too confining. She knows once she finishes school she will teach for maybe a year and then be married off--probably to the first suitor the matchmaker finds for her. There were too minor annoyances in this story--the drama Mama and the fact that the title has little or nothing to do with the story. Yes, Rachel and her sister sneak secular books, but that's about it for that supposed story line. Overall this was an interesting story that was well told. Mama's problems WERE easy to understand, but Jeesh Lady, get a grip! The Romance Reader by Pearl Abraham.

I wanted to LOVE Florence Gordon. An aging hero of the 70s women's movement confronts old age and the time in her career when "life achievement" awards beckon. Her cranky ex-husband, her son who somehow became a cop, her annoying daughter-in-law are all cognitive dissonance to her world. However, her granddaugher appears and Florence hires her to do a little research. No, no, no--this is not one of those "rediscovering the love of a child" sap-fests. This is an old broad with grit! This was the only part of the story that worked for me. The other characters were too blah to matter and their stories never really "got" me. But Florence and her grandaughter did. Florence Gordon By Brian Morton.

Leave me a comment with some of the books you've enjoyed this month!


Lisa notes... said...

You make Three Minutes in Poland sound so interesting! I'll have to go see if my library has it. Actually, you make many of these books sound so good! You're not good for reducing my to-read list. :)

Lisa notes... said...

You make Three Minutes in Poland sound so interesting! I'll have to go see if my library has it. Actually, you make many of these books sound so good! You're not good for reducing my to-read list. :)

A Dusty Frame said...

I always enjoy seeing what you're reading and pick up some of them!