I have seldom read a more touching and deep love story than this tender novel of an artist and a writer in the 1830s
It is the meeting and life of theI have seldom read a more touching and deep love story than this tender novel of an artist and a writer in the 1830s
It is the meeting and life of the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne and his bride the artist Sophia Peabody around which the author has woven a narrative of a marriage and its children, devoted friends, imperfect families, the birth of some of the greatest literature of 19th century America and always the shadow of sickness and terrible loss in a time when both accident and untreatable illness swept away friends and family.
Sophia sees the young man she will marry through a window one snowy day in her country home in Salem Massachusetts in the early 1830s, “a dark figure against the white. He is tall, and his top hat makes him seem more so. He walks with a strange, hesitant gait…” He is also very beautiful.
When Sophia met Nathaniel Hawthorne, she was an artist but he was hardly a writer. Though he was immediately drawn to her, he would not consent to marry her until he could support her; after several frustrating years as she painted through her poor health and he struggled to put ends together, they finally gave in to their desire to be together. Even then it was hard times for them and their young family until Nathaniel wrote The Scarlet Letter; even after that he took dull functionary positions rather than farm to support them. Through all difficulties their love for each other, sometimes imperfect and frustrated, did not stop.
Yet Sophia and Nathaniel were individuals and he was, though utterly hers in every way, impossible to entirely encapsulate. “After all this time,” she writes, “I now know that some people are not for the world…..Our love is a work of art. It is the great masterpiece of my life.” Decades later after they first met, and after much tragedy and joy, he remains a beautiful tall man in a top hat seen through a window coming towards her through the snow.
Fall in love with this novel of late 1930’s Provence!
Suffused with the colors of Provence in the late thirties to forties, Lisette’s List tells the enFall in love with this novel of late 1930’s Provence!
Suffused with the colors of Provence in the late thirties to forties, Lisette’s List tells the enchanting, sometimes deeply sad and always moving story of a young Parisian girl Lisette who agrees reluctantly to move to the south of France with her husband to live with his weakening grandfather. The old Pascal has stories to tell of his memories of Pissarro and Cézanne, both of whom he knew; he also has five gorgeous paintings to leave them. But when the Nazis overrun France and Pascal dies, the husband André hides the paintings to avoid their confiscation from the enemy and goes off to war with his best friend not even telling Lisette where he has hidden them. She finds herself alone but for close neighbors and faces dangerous trials when the Nazis do arrive. During all this time she makes a somewhat haphazard list of things she feels she must accomplish. Her struggles over the list with its matters small, great and impossible, lead the book; they include finding the paintings, her husband, and helping his best friend.
Written with great nuance and tender observations of smallest things — from unraveling a sweater to gather wool for socks, a sensitive goat, the color of apples, the making of a stew from little — the author draws character with a fine brush. Lisette’s List will make you cry and smile and wonder when you look up (so real is the writing) why you do not find yourself in a farmhouse in Roussillon across the table from a charming, principled young woman who is making her list and determined, though she cannot know how, to fulfill all its promises.
This may be Susan Vreeland’s finest novel. Buy it! ...more
I was swept into another time and place as sixteen-year-old Billy Bah, an Inuit girl from Greenland in the early 20th century, navigates between the mI was swept into another time and place as sixteen-year-old Billy Bah, an Inuit girl from Greenland in the early 20th century, navigates between the moral, spiritual and societal customs of her country and the America of the great explorer Robert E. Peary who has taken her there and back again. The struggle and mortal danger of living in the relentlessly cold and icy world of Greenland is gripping. The attention to detail is fascinating as she hunts birds, climbs dangerous cliffs and sews sealskin garments so that her friends and family may survive in the cold. Eventually, as the young Billy discovers love and tenderness outside of her marriage to a thick-headed young man who takes her for granted, she begins to ask, “Who am I? What are my strengths? What can I do if the world is not the way I thought it would be?” And, as is the custom of her country, she calls on the spirits of her dead parents to help her.
I was totally captivated by this passionate story of a girl with an unusual talent for singing, suggested by the life of the real young singer Anna StI was totally captivated by this passionate story of a girl with an unusual talent for singing, suggested by the life of the real young singer Anna Storace who was not eighteen when she stole the heart of the Viennese opera public with her voice. But her very open-heartedness of spirit which makes her so loved as singer also leaves her open for heartbreak. When her first lover leaves her pregnant, she must marry an older man to avoid ruin. But her husband is brutal and gradually she loses the joy that made people flock to her singing; an even greater loss leads to the breakdown of her health and the disappearance of her voice.
In Vienna, however, she had also begun to know the brilliant, unpredictable, playful composer Mozart, a happily married man with a child who sees a soul mate in the sometimes radiant and then crushed young Anna. He is struggling as much as she is. “There was a mixture of lightness and strength about him; how he spoke, how he held himself, how he used his hands.” When she is very ill and comes from her room, Anna finds him playing at the keyboard, “The room billowed with music and sunlight. She could almost lean against it.” It is a poignant romance. They are both too honorable to hurt his marriage and yet they are so much in love with each other, it is as if they discovered life for the first time.
There is nothing ordinary about this writing: it dances, it falls into rapt poetry, wisdom and tenderness. And yet we are not just reading about eighteenth-century people; the love and resentment and joy between mothers, daughters, brothers, friends, lovers, colleagues is as immediate and real as the lives we live today. The sensuality is palpable and everywhere: a man and woman at one piano bench, her skirt falling over his knee. It is an emotional portrait of a prodigy singer growing up into a woman who has learned from her hurt and of one of the greatest musicians we have ever known who of course would die too young. “On his own he was small and bashful. Always saying some nonsense. He could never say quite what he meant.”
VIENNA NOCTURNE is a gem. I loved every word. ...more
Few writers can make Tudor England as vivid for me as C.W. Gortner. His portrayal of Whitehall Palace's sumptuous, tapestry-hung suites of privilege oFew writers can make Tudor England as vivid for me as C.W. Gortner. His portrayal of Whitehall Palace's sumptuous, tapestry-hung suites of privilege or its icy, damp, dark chambers for lesser folk make me feel as if I am walking those halls myself. His hero Brendan is ingratiating: coming from a menial boyhood to find his place among the royalty of the realm, he is both shy and self-confident and deeply loyal. As in the first novel in this series, Gortner’s drawing of the young Princess Elizabeth is enchanting and so real. Brendan finds her frantically packing her things to escape from her sister Queen Mary, "her little feet bare." And his portrait of the great traffic jams of the narrow passage of London Bridge between its dozens of shops and the freezing Thames below is like a fine 17th-century painting with every detail there yet vividly alive. Needless to say, there is a fine plot of danger and intrigue in this 16th century story of the fight for the English throne and who will eventually remain or become Queen and shape the country’s soul....more
I spent last weekend curled on my bed utterly engrossed in the fascinating adventures of Beverly Swerling's MOLLIE PRIDE. Mollie climbs into our heart I spent last weekend curled on my bed utterly engrossed in the fascinating adventures of Beverly Swerling's MOLLIE PRIDE. Mollie climbs into our hearts as an enchanting 5-year-old vaudeville dancer with her down-and-out family touring 3rd-rate music halls in the late 1920s; ever impetuous, she marries at sixteen full of ideals to a young man who does not know how to handle her generous spirit, daring and growing fame as a broadcaster in the early days of radio. The tragedy of her marriage, her longing for another man who loves her but cannot have her, the troubles of her family whom she adores, and the ups and downs of her career from poverty to fame leads her to a unique chance to move to London and broadcast the horrors of World War II to America.
The years of the 20s to the 40s come vividly to life in this fast-paced novel: the cold water flats, the ten cent buses, the basement shelters during the bombing of London, the severe food rationing, the young men who go to battle and may not return and the edgy danger of early radio broadcasting in a world at war. To the very last page, the novel is full of unexpected turns of plot led always by Mollie's brave spirit and loving heart and her determination to prevail. ...more
MRS POE is such compelling novel, bringing history to vivid life. Danger, sensuality, mystery and passion fill the pages of this bewitching story setMRS POE is such compelling novel, bringing history to vivid life. Danger, sensuality, mystery and passion fill the pages of this bewitching story set in the crowded cobbled streets, alleyways, cheap boardinghouses and literary gatherings of mid-nineteenth century New York City. Everyone warns the lovely, near penniless poet Mrs. Osgood, a deserted wife with two young children, to stay away from the dark-eyed writer Edgar Allen Poe who has fallen in love with her. She writes tender verses; he creates blood-curdling tales but he is darker than his writing, carrying secrets of his frail much younger wife and his heinous past. Even when Mrs. Osgood understands that someone is trying to kill her because of him, she cannot put aside her passion until it is almost too late.
A real page turner from one of our most skillful novelists!...more
It's truly a moving, brilliant book! -- a true love story. She writes with such feeling of the intimate relationships and private complicated loyaltieIt's truly a moving, brilliant book! -- a true love story. She writes with such feeling of the intimate relationships and private complicated loyalties which are behind all history and ultimately form it. ...more
I was up very late for two nights unable to put this book down. Set between the rather decent people of a small and ordinary town and the terrifying, I was up very late for two nights unable to put this book down. Set between the rather decent people of a small and ordinary town and the terrifying, child-abusing clan in the mountains above, Our Daily Bread has a compelling, almost scriptural pull between good and evil, those from the town who judge in a stupid but well-meaning way, those who try to help the children, those who are too afraid to do anything. The characters are compelling: principally Tom, a beautifully portrayed father and husband who wants only to live an ordinary good life and Albert, a young man who had grown up in the clan, was bitterly abused, and who can neither stay with them or move away. He is complex, a very old soul in a young man, a young man who never been young. His final realization of what he must do to save the children - and in a way, to save his own soul - is truly terrifying. Lauren B. Davis is not afraid to ask hard questions about decency and loyalty and she does not give us easy answers. The character of Tom's daughter Ivy who must take responsibility far beyond her ten years and the decent proprietor of a small antiques store walk off the page and into your mind. The novel evoked many questions for me about goodness and evil and responsibility. Original and utterly memorable. ...more
Romance comes to the inexperienced young Nora in the form of a gorgeous music theater baritone, divorced and missing his kids. He can't tell her his sRomance comes to the inexperienced young Nora in the form of a gorgeous music theater baritone, divorced and missing his kids. He can't tell her his secrets and she can't tell him hers, especially that not weeks before she has lost her beloved older brother in the war. A love story, a family drama, and a heroine in search of where she belongs in life and what she really loves most. THE VOICE I JUST HEARD is a beautifully written novel with enormous heart!...more