Reported by Kristin
Nevermore began our latest Zoom book club discussing Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years by Michael E. Newton. Our reader is a huge Hamilton fan and has read many books about him over the years, but was highly impressed with Newton’s research. She said that she thought she knew everything about Hamilton, but learned so much more with this reading. Hamilton’s heroic exploits of the Revolutionary War were emphasized, even praising his compassion at the Battle of Yorktown as he quickly outmaneuvered the British troops, but let the defeated soldiers go rather than dispatching them with bayonets.
Our next reader picked up a recommended book from six decades ago, (1960!) Man on a Raft by Kenneth Cooke. Although faded and worn, this little paperback was proclaimed to be wonderful, even though the main character endured so much misery. Our reader said that it was truly about courage, and that she was inspired by others’ perseverance.
On another serious note, the same reader highly recommended the Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. Set in Seattle and moving between the 1940s and the 1980s, this debut novel tells the story of Asian families removed to internment camps. The Panama Hotel once served as an intersectional place for the Japanese and Chinese communities, and indeed, Henry Lee met his first love, Keiko Okabe, there during the war years. Our reader said that one of the best parts of the book was how Henry and his father came to understand each other as they each tried to define their cultural identity.
Moving further back in historical fiction, another book club member read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, a venture back to the fifteenth century in another retelling of the Dracula tale. The novel uses three different narrators: an unnamed young woman in the 1970s, her father Paul in the 1950s, and Paul’s mentor a generation earlier in the 1930s. The story weaves much travel through Eastern Europe through the pages, visiting monasteries and villages while looking for the origin of Dracula.
Back on this side of the Atlantic, our next reader read another novel that sounds all too familiar these days because it involved an influenza pandemic, The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia. The first of this Mexican author’s books translated into English, this is the tale of Simonopio, a baby found under a bridge and covered in bees. As he grows, he has visions, causing some villagers to view him with superstition. With the 1918 pandemic and the Mexican Revolution intertwined, Segovia’s beautiful voice tells of turbulent times of change.
Finally, another reader enjoyed a book that has been making the rounds of Nevermore for months: An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten. This small book of stories was translated from the original Swedish, and has been well enjoyed by most readers. Maud is 88 years old and has been living in her inherited apartment for decades, (rent-free, mind you) and has no plan to give it up anytime soon. She is clever, possibly criminal, and an absolute joy to know—as long as you don’t cross her.