Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Nevermore: Moyes, Kline, Theroux, Patton, Robson, Pierce

 Reported by Garry

Our first book reviewed this week was the best-selling The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes.  This historical novel is set in the Appalachian region of Kentucky and follows Alice Wright, an English woman who hopes to escape her stifling life.  Things don’t work out quite the way she envisions, and she finds herself stuck in a small town with an over-bearing father-in-law.  When Eleanor Roosevelt creates a traveling library program, Alice leaps at the opportunity, and adventure begins.   This historic fiction novel covers similar themes to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, and is soon to be made into a major motion picture.  Our reader highly recommends this book and found it touching, inspiring and very well written. 


Next up was The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline, which our reader borrowed digitally through TN Reads.  This historic novel centers on the lives of two young English women who have been sentenced to exile to Van Diemen’s Land – what is now known as Australia.  A third main character is a young Aboriginal girl, Mathinna, the orphaned daughter of an Aboriginal chief, who is adopted by the governor of Van Diemen’s Land, and is treated as a curiosity rather than a human being.  Our reader took particular note of the details of travel on the ship, the prison system in Australia at the time, and how awful both were.  She highly recommends this very interesting book.



Our next reader took a long and winding journey with through South America with Paul Theroux and his The Old Patagonian Express, which she borrowed from TN Reads.  First published in 1979, this written account retells Theroux’s journey from his home in Massachusetts, by train to Texas, then through Mexico into Guatemala and El Salvador.  Journeying further south by both plane and train Theroux makes his way to the small town of Esquel in Argentinian Patagonia.  Along the way Theroux meets and describes the locals and other travelers, sometimes unflatteringly.  Our reader liked Theroux’s somewhat curmudgeonly writing style and his insight into the people he meets along the way. 


Our next book was set on the other southern peninsula – South Africa.  Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Patton was published in 1948 and has become a classic novel.  Our reader initially read this book in high school and recently decided to revisit it.  The story centers on a Zulu pastor, Steven Kumalo and his son, Absalom.  Steven lives out in the country, and is called to Johannesburg to see his ailing sister.  The trip requires him to take 5 trains over 2 days to get to the city.  As well as trying to locate his sister, Steven tries to locate his son, Absalom, who has been arrested for the murder of a white man who was fighting for racial justice.  This novel was written before the system of apartheid was implemented in South Africa, and is a protest against the social structures that lead to the separation of the country along color lines.  Unflinching in its examination of the detrimental effects of systemic racism, our reader found that this novel is as relevant today as it was when she initially read it. 



Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson was the next novel reviewed.  This historical novel is placed in Italy during World War II, and tells the story of Antonina Mazin, a young Jewish girl who lives in Venice.   Antonina wants to become a doctor like her father, but faced with the growing Nazi occupation of Italy, she must leave Venice and hide in the countryside, where she poses as the new bride to Nico Gerardi, a young Italian farmer who had been studying to become a priest before circumstances required him to take over the family farm.  Nico and Antonina must convince the neighbors and local Nazis that they are indeed a young married couple in order to protect their lives.   Our reader really liked this book, and was especially appreciative of the author’s ability to so beautifully picture the village, and noted that while the characters are fictional, the setting and incidents recalled are pulled from reality.  



Also set in World War II, but this time in England, Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pierce was the next book reviewed.  In this historic novel, Emmiline Lake, wants would like to be a war correspondent.  When she lands a position at the London Evening Chronicle, she thinks she is on the road to achieving her dream.  When she arrives, however, she finds her position is that of a typist to the legendary and fierce Mrs. Bird, who rules the advice column with an iron fist.  Our reader loved this sweetly written quick read, and noted how it really does describe what it is like to be in a blitz in England. 


Also mentioned:

Take It Back by Kia Abdoulah

Raft of Stars by Andrew Graff

Machinehood by S.B. Divya

The Angry Wife by Pearl S. Buck

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X Kendi

Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

White Teacher by Vivian Paley

Across the Top of the World by David Fisher 

The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs

Those Who Are Saved by Alexis Landau

When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin

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