Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Nevermore: Yann Martel, Frank Delaney, Rebecca Kauffman, Tracy Chevalier, Margaret Atwood

Reported by Ambrea

Nevermore had some great books to share, including one reader’s favorite book:  The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel.  Martel, author of The Life of Pi, creates a moving epic in his latest novel, which follows the lives of a young man on a mission to redefine history, a Portuguese pathologist, and a Canadian senator returning to his ancestral home.  It begins in Lisbon in 1904 with a journal and a dream, before culminating in a century-long quest that leads readers in an unexpected direction.  Our reader said she absolutely loved this book.  She said, “[It has] parts to make you laugh; parts to make you cry.”  It has everything for readers, she continued, and it has an underlying theology—a universal idea of God—that she found fascinating.  Our reader, who admitted she read The High Mountains of Portugal four times, always found new things to appreciate and enjoy each time she read it.  She highly recommended it to our other Nevermore members.

Next, Nevermore looked at Tipperary by Frank Delaney.  Charles O’Brien is a healer, a traveling doctor who ventures all along the countryside and beyond to dispense traditional cures and help heal a variety of ailments, maladies, and wounds; however, he becomes an unlikely storyteller when he unwittingly soaks up the tales of his homeland.  Then, at forty, when he is summoned to Paris to treat one of his dying countrymen—Oscar Wilde, no less—he falls in love with April Burke, who doesn’t return his affection.  Determined to win her over, Charles sets out to preserve Tipperary, an abandoned estate in Ireland, and win April’s favor.  Our reader, who enjoyed reading Delaney’s Ireland, said she was a little disappointed with Tipperary.  Charles is an excellent storyteller, but, when other narratives were sewn into the story, our reader pointed out that she didn’t like the anonymity given to other characters.  It made Tipperary challenging, because she was never sure whose narrative she was reading, and, ultimately, unrewarding.

In Another Place You’ve Never Been by Rebecca Kauffman, Nevermore was introduced to Tracy, a woman who aspires to something greater than her work as a restaurant hostess in Buffalo, New York.  However, rather than following Tracy as she works to cultivate her creative talents, Kauffman looks to the peripheral characters—people who have known Tracy, people whose lives intersect hers—and interweaves their stories to create a fascinating narrative tapestry of lives, hopes, dreams, and experiences.  Although our reader said Tracy was a memorable heroine, both dynamic and fascinating, she thought Kauffman’s novel was a little bland.  She found Another Place You’ve Never Been just didn’t stir as much of an emotional response for her and she didn’t really recommend it to her fellow Nevermore readers.

Nevermore also shared Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring and At the Edge of the Orchard.  On the coast of England, Mary Anning discovers a series of unusual fossils buried in the cliffs near her home and sets tongues to wagging.  Not only do the townspeople have something new about which to gossip, the scientific community is absolutely voracious to learn more about these fossils—even if they are set to disregard Mary entirely.  But Mary gains an unlikely friend and champion in Elizabeth Philpot, a spinster who shares her passion for scouring beaches and has her own fascination with fossils.  Our reader enjoyed reading Chevalier’s novel, saying it was a fascinating look at women and their impact on early scientific discoveries.  Moreover, she said, “The characters are great; the scenes are great.”  She appreciated Chevalier’s eye for detail and her ability to make sifting through sand in search of fossils a fascinating experience.

Next, Nevermore visited another reader favorite:  Moral Disorder, a series of eleven stories by Margaret Atwood that follows the life of one remarkable young girl as she traverses her childhood in the 1930s and beyond.  According to the jacket cover, “Each story focuses on the ways relationships transform a life:  a woman’s complex love for a married man, the grief upon the death of parents and the joy with the birth of children, and the realization of what growing old with someone you love really means.”  It’s a fascinating, funny but poignant collection of stories that our reader termed as “wonderful.”   Our reader is a big fan of Atwood—and Moral Disorder is one of her favorites.  She enjoys it each and every time she reads it, because she likes the complexity of the characters, including the narrator, and the subtle traces of humor and humanity throughout it.

Last, but not least, Nevermore took another look at Margaret Atwood’s work with her latest novel, Hag-Seed.  A reimagining of William Shakespeare’s Tempest, Hag-Seed is a curious novel that follows the rise and fall of Felix, a former Artistic Director for the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival, as he puts on the finest show of his life—and plots revenge against those who betrayed him.  Our reader said she really liked Atwood’s novel, noting that it read like a mystery story and a very good one at that.  Our reader also took a special interest in Atwood’s bibliography, which listed many of the books and movies and plays watched by the author in preparation for Hag-Seed.  As the latest installment of the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, Hag-Seed joins The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson, Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson, and Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler.

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