Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Nevermore: Jonasson, Center, Patchett, Larson, Gordon, Hoffman, Honeyman

Reported by Kristin

Nevermore began our weekly Zoom meeting with The Island by Ragnar Jonasson, the second in the Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir series after The Darkness. Jonasson did not disappoint, as a group of four friends go to a remote Icelandic island for a weekend, but only three of them come back. Our reader was especially impressed by the stellar descriptions of the countryside, and found the writing thrilling and atmospheric.

Katherine Center’s novel What You Wish For features Samantha, a school librarian who has a history with the new school principal. Duncan used to be an easygoing administrator, but now he has turned into a tough guy. Our reader said that it was a very easy, light read, which was rather mindless but very fun.

Our next reader says that every time she finishes a book she likes to ask herself what she learned. In the case of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, for this particular reader, the answer was “absolutely nothing.” Although it was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and a New York Times bestseller, this epic story set over five decades simply did not speak to her. About the Conroy family who built a real estate empire after World War II, the characters go from poverty to wealth and back again over the generations. Our reader felt that the people were shallow and selfish, and she moved on to her next book.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson tells the story of William Dodd, American ambassador to Germany in the early 1930s. Dodd brings his wife and children along to his post, and his daughter Martha is all too enthralled with the charming young men of the Nazi party. Hitler kept taking more and more liberties in his reach for power, and over time established a precedent that this was acceptable. Our reader highly recommended this as a snapshot of history, and as a cautionary tale in today’s politics.

Several book club members have been reading the Cole Trilogy by Noah Gordon, starting with the first book, The Physician. Set in the 11th century, an orphan boy is sold as a slave, but ends up apprenticed to a barber-surgeon. The boy wants to be a healer, and eventually makes his way into a Persian medical school. Our reader said that she is loving Gordon’s incredible writing voice, and that she can see, smell, touch, and viscerally sense everything that is happening in the series.

Another reader picked up Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman, a beautiful novel that follows the families who live in a farmhouse on Cape Cod over two centuries. Full of relationships, the stories told are somehow mystical, with symbolic white blackbirds appearing throughout the book. Our reader enjoyed it very much, and recommended it to others.

Finally, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman came back to the virtual table. As our reader commented, obviously, she is not fine. Eleanor is a young woman working in an office, and from her lack of social skills and self-isolation, it soon becomes very apparent that her mother’s cruel treatment stunted her emotionally. An arc of events forces Eleanor to interact more with her community, although she goes kicking and screaming (metaphorically) all the way. Our reader called this a lovely book, and said that Eleanor puts such care into making such bad decisions and she (the reader) relates to that.

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