Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Nevermore: Hello Girls, Girl on the Train, My Cousin Rachel, Long Black Veil, Taduno's Song, St. Louie Slow Drag, Hot Zone, Sapiens

Reported by Jeanne

Nevermore opened with praise for Jennifer Boylan’s Long Black Veil.  The story revolves around six college students who sneak into an abandoned prison on a lark.  The situation turns deadly, and the survivors find their lives forever changed. Thirty years later, a police officer arrests one of the former students, and another is faced with revealing secrets that could ruin her life.  The story moves back and forth from 1980 to the present day, and one thing our reader found most intriguing was simply realizing how much social norms have changed in that relatively small period of time.  She said it was a good, scary book that reminded the reader that secrets will come out.

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston was the next book up.  Our reader had lived near Reston, Virginia at one point, so the implications hit home for her.  The story is divided between a history of how the ebola virus was discovered and a frightening incident that occurred in a Reston lab in 1989.  Our reader said it a thrilling, terrifying book, and she recommended it to the others.

A Nigerian musician in exile receives a letter from his girlfriend that causes him to return home in the debut novel Taduno’s Song by Odafe Atogun.  Once there, he discovers no one remembers him, that his identification is all gone, and his girlfriend is missing.  It’s a Kafkaesque situation, in which the protagonist is powerless to do anything except play his music. Our reader enjoyed the book.

Sapiens by Yuval N. Harari details a number of different theories about mankind’s evolution, but he shows little or favoritism for any particular theory.  The author, a professor of history at Hebrew University, discusses the various human species whose remains have been found while describing the way our species has developed.  There’s an overwhelming amount of information packed into each page, which makes for slow reading; but the Nevermore member is finding it well written and quite good.

More recent history is covered in The Hello Girls by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman. World War I saw the first telephone lines used as a means of communication, and the first American women soldiers sent to France to operate them.  Their path was not an easy one.  They had very little respect, either from the male soldiers or the female nurses; they were in war zones; and both food and shelter were deplorable.  Our reviewer was impressed with General John “Black Jack” Pershing, who championed the women. She thought the book was quite an eye-opener, and thought more people should know about that particular part of WWI.

Our next reader was engrossed in Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  It’s the story of three different women whose lives become intertwined. Rachel takes the train to and from work every day.  She begins watching a couple who seem to be living perfect lives, including the perfect marriage— something that attracts Rachel, unhappily divorced and upset over her ex’s new wife.   Then an apparent crime draws together the lives of these three women, surprising the reader with twists and turns.  Our reviewer hasn’t finished the book, but is finding it to be intriguing, entertaining, and well written, with especially strong characterization.

St. Louie Slow Drag, the second in the Julia Nye series by Jo Allison, is a historical mystery set in St. Louis in 1910. Julia works as a typist in the local police department, which is not her only unconventional activity.  She’s also a suffragette and is willing to go on a date to a seedy part of town to hear ragtime great Scott Joplin play.  An explosion and fire sends the club-goers fleeing—and the kerosene can says this was no accident.  Our reader was impressed with the amount of historical detail in the book.  Allison creates a vivid portrait of life at the time, including race relations, the calls for women’s suffrage, and the march for Prohibition. She recommends the entire series.

Finally, a reader picked up My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier.  A young man is intrigued by his late cousin’s beautiful widow in a complex romantic-suspense novel set in Cornwall.  Our reader gave up on it early, saying that she had just read Jamaica Inn and that was a hard act to follow.  She may try it again later.

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