Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Nevermore: Lost Causes, Stella Bain, St. Maybe, Painter's Apprentice, Bastard, Dinosaurs

Reported by Jeanne

There are several Nevermore members who love “Nordic Noir,” crime fiction by Scandinavian authors.  The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen fits into that category, and our reader found it to be quite good.  It’s the first in the “Department Q” series, and the book opens with Danish homicide detective Carl Morck returning to duty after a terrible incident in which Morck was badly injured while a fellow officer was killed and another left paralyzed.  Morck is considered difficult by the department, so he is ordered to set up a task force (of one) to investigate cold cases.  Knowing that it’s a ploy just to get him out of the way, Morck becomes intrigued by  marking time.  Other members of the group were already familiar with this fine series, so this title comes with the Nevermore seal of approval.

Two other group favorite authors came up this week.  The first was Anita Shreve whose book Stella Bain captivated our reviewer.  The setting is 1916, when an exhausted and confused woman is taken in by compassionate London doctor and his wife. The woman thinks her name is Stella Bain but she has lost most of her memories: the last thing she can remember is waking up in a battlefield hospital in France.  She thinks she was working as a nurse there, but clues to her real identity are few.  Finding out who she really is opens up a complicated past.  It is well written as is usual for Shreve, and is a wonderful blend of historical events, family ties, and the toll that war takes. 

Anne Tyler is another frequently enjoyed author, and Saint Maybe did not disappoint. When Ian’s brother Danny dies, Ian holds himself responsible. Danny’s wife dies soon after, and Ian steps in to help care for their three children.  Still wracked with guilt, Ian finds comfort in the Church of the Second Chance.  It’s another of Tyler’s complex and satisfying family stories, and our reader recommended it.

The Painter’s Apprentice by Laura Morelli takes place in the early 16th century.  Maria Bartolini is learning to gild but develops an unfortunate attachment to a young man who is a gold beater in her father’s workshop. She is summarily sent away to apprentice to a painter and to learn about pigments until such a time that she can return and marry someone suitable. When the Plague begins sweeping through Italy, she fears she may never be able to return home. Our reader was enchanted by the descriptions of Venice.  As far as she was concerned, this book had it all: interesting characters, insights into the art world of the time, and Venetian and Italian history.  She had read Morelli’s previous book, The Gondola Maker, and enjoyed it as well.

Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison made a very strong impression on our next reviewer.  It is the heart wrenching story of a young girl growing up in poverty who suffers both physical and mental abuse.  Several Nevermore members had read it previously and all found it to be an incredibly powerful book.  Our current reader thought it should be a required text.

Finally, one Nevermore member had a bit of theme going with her books:  The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in which Professor Challenger leads a group of British explorers to a place where prehistoric creatures still survive;  Prehistoric Origami by John Montroll, which illustrates how to make dinosaurs, mammoths, and other creatures out of paper; and finally, T-Rex to Go by Christopher McGowan, which gives step by step instructions on how to build your own T. Rex out of chicken bones.  Chicken recipes are included.

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