This series has been an enjoyable one up to now, so I was happy to see a new adventure on the shelf. However, I have to say that this latest one disapThis series has been an enjoyable one up to now, so I was happy to see a new adventure on the shelf. However, I have to say that this latest one disappointed. I'm sure there are followers who were thrilled by the historical backfill of the French colonization of Laos and Madame Daeng's early life. It just seemed like a lot of fill-er-up to me. It may have been that I wasn't concentrating enough, and I'll probably try this one again later on.
Same characters, same kinds of silliness and humor, but somehow it didn't work. Maybe just a few too many spirits and ghosts. If you're a fan of the series, you'll still enjoy seeing how Dr. Siri continues his adventures even after his "retirement". If you've never read them before, don't start here....pick an earlier one. In fact, this series builds so well it's best to start at the beginning. ...more
I had no idea what this was really about when I received the review copy from the publisher. Then I found it on my "hafta read" pile for the Maine ReaI had no idea what this was really about when I received the review copy from the publisher. Then I found it on my "hafta read" pile for the Maine Reader's Choice Award panel. I hesitate to call it a delightful surprise since the subject matter, Eugenics, is one that is deeply controversial and ugly.
Evidently, in the US, several states had Eugenics programs in place allowing them to sterilize certain institutionalized citizens deemed unsuitable for procreating for a number of reasons, e.g., epilepsy, mental retardation, etc. In North Carolina, the setting of this story, social workers were allowed to recommend this procedure on clients who were members of the general population without their residing in an institution. Often they were simply poor, undereducated, and malnourished.
In the story, we follow Jane Forrester and Ivy Hart. Jane is an upper middle class college graduate, recently married to a pediatrician who does not want his wife to work. Jane has different ideas, wanting to have some sort of career before settling down to staying home to raise children. She is hired as a social worker in North Carolina in the early 1960's. Ivy Hart is one of her clients, a 15 year old girl who is trying hard to be a caregiver to a diabetic grandmother, a mother to her slightly retarded older sister and the sister's child "baby William" all the while trying to stay in high school and be the first in the family to graduate.
The poverty of the Hart family is thoroughly depressing and would crush the spirit of just about any normal person. Ivy, with encouragement from Jane, is determined NOT to allow herself to become pregnant, and at the same time is doing everything she can to be sure that her sister, who is known to be quite promiscuous, does not have another child. The social services department for whom Jane works, is determined to sterilize both girls.
Jane finds herself in the middle of a moral dilemma trying to help Ivy, obey her boss, and placate her husband while keeping him unaware of the specifics of her job. As the timeline becomes more critical, Jane is forced to make decisions that will have a definite impact not only on her clients, but also on her own future.
This is a true page turner. The characters are real, believable, and the story is horrifying in its implications. The author has done significant research to present us with an in-depth look at the unbelievable options that actually occurred in this country just 50 short years ago. It is a must read.
I've now read all the Barbara Holloway Mysteries. This latest is every bit as intriguing, convoluted and engaging as earlier ones in the series. BarbaI've now read all the Barbara Holloway Mysteries. This latest is every bit as intriguing, convoluted and engaging as earlier ones in the series. Barbara Holloway, maverick defense attorney reluctantly takes on client Travis Morgan after
..two witnesses swear they saw Travis Morgan walk into his father's house and shoot the man at his desk. Although he admits to a passionate hatred and fear of his father, a fundamentalist preacher, Travis swears he is innocent. Barbara Holloway believes him, and as she investigates, the case explodes into a dangerous conspiracy, causing Frank, Barbara's father and part-time associate, to hire a bodyguard to protect her. (So says the publishing blurb).
Much of this episode is similar to earlier entries in the series: Barbara still gets obsessed with her clients and neglects not only her health but her relationships with partner Darren and her father. There are still enough red herrings thrown in to keep the reader guessing well into the story not only about the murder but all the clues and issues needed to be developed to resolve the story. Barbara's ageless and charming father Frank, the irrascible PI Bailey, and bubbly perky brilliant associate are still here, and seamlessly woven into another great courtroom drama. It is particularly intriguing with its focus on the veracity of eye witnesses.
I especially enjoy these in audio format. Carrington MacDuffie's narration is perfect for the personalities portrayed. Let's hope Wilhelm has some more adventures for this intrepid attorney tucked away. I can't wait....more
NoViolet Bulawyo's debut novel landed her on the short list of finalists for the 2013 Man Booker prize. Told in the first person of a young girl namedNoViolet Bulawyo's debut novel landed her on the short list of finalists for the 2013 Man Booker prize. Told in the first person of a young girl named Darling whose wonderful assortment of family and friends in her native Zimbabwe include Bastard, Chipo, Godknows, and her grandma Mother of Bones. The preacher, Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mborro, proclaims from the top of a steep climb his flock must endure every sabbath before they can enjoy (or endure?) his proselytizing posturing. She paints a very realistic picture of life in Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe) and the pain the birth pangs of revolution imparted to everyday citizens: the hunger, the lack of privacy, lack of sanitation and education opportunities, and the disappearance of male family members who leave to go to work in the gold mines, often to return bringing no money but "the sickness" instead.
In the second part of the story, Darling manages to go to America where an aunt has agreed to sponsor her for a student visa in Detroit. Her description of her first experience of snow is just one example of her exquisite descriptive abilities. A sample from the chapter DestroyedMichygen:
What you will see if you come here (America) ...is the snow. Snow on the leafless trees, snow on the cars, snow on the roads, snow on the yards, snow on the roofs---snow, just snow covering everything like sand. It is as white as clean teeth, and is also, very, very cold. It is a greedy monster too, the snow, because just look how it has swallowed everything; where is the ground now? Where are the flowers? The grass? The stones? The leaves? The ants?...As for the coldness, I have never seen it like this. I mean coldness that makes like it wants to kill you, like it's telling you, with its snow, that you should go back to where you came from. p.150
Was this one compelling enough merit a Booker nomination? Maybe. It is certainly IMHO a compelling read, one that grabbed me and held me. Ms. Bulawayo certainly deserved a good hard look. I was grabbed, repulsed, horrified, entranced, amused and immersed from the beginning to the end. Did I like the subject matter? NO. Did I like the characters - not particularly, but neither did I dislike them. Some are actually eccentric enough to be loveable. This is a coming of age story that tells us not just the discouragements of her birthplace, but her disappointments when expectations of America don't quite fit her mind's picture. As such, the brutality fits the realism of Darling's life....more
In the historical epilogue to this lush novel author Sarah Dunant says
"More than many in history, the Borgias have suffered from an excess of bad pr
In the historical epilogue to this lush novel author Sarah Dunant says
"More than many in history, the Borgias have suffered from an excess of bad press. While their behavior--personal and political--was often brutal and corrupt, they lived in brutal and corrupt times; and the thirst for diplomatic gossip and scandal, along with undoubted prejudice against their Spanish nationality, played its part in embellishing what was already a colorful story. Once the slander was abroad, much of it was incorporated into the historical record without being challenged. Spin, it seems, was a political art long before the modern word was introduced.
Subtitled, The Borgias, A Novel, this book is part of my reading list for consideration for the Maine Readers Choice Award. It certainly is a worthy entry into the ring. While I had heard of the Borgias and their corruption over the years, I don't think I'd ever read anything that presented the story of this infamous family in such detail. Certainly authors have leeway when writing fiction, and Dunant makes no claim to have us see this as a biography. She has steeped herself in the history of the era, becoming as familiar as possible with source material, both fictional and archival. Her previous books, such as Birth of Venus, In the Company of the Courtesan, and Sacred Hearts, have shown her mastery of the language, the customs, the politics and the scenery of the era but with fictional characters. In this one, she tackles historical characters, treading carefully among the information available to present us with a plausible rendition of this well-known and oft-villified family.
Pope Alexander VI, born Rodrigo Borgia, ascends the throne of Peter after some intense backstage maneuvering. He promptly makes his illegitimate son Cesare a cardinal at the age of 19, and begins marrying off his other children to various royal partners to form alliances to bolster his political ambitions. This is a time when Italy was still not a unified country, existing instead as series of city-states, when the Holy Roman Empire was gradually disintegrating, when Spain's power was on the rise. A Spaniard by birth, Alexander had to tread carefully through the politics of Italy, using the power of his office, as well as his love for his family to enhance his power, his wealth, and his ego.
His son Cesare, is a power hungry young man, well loved by all the ladies, unscrupulous in his relations with both church and state. The world has been fed stories about Cesare's relationship with his sister Lucrezia, the Pope's only and very beloved daughter. Dunant treats this relationship carefully, never allowing the undocumented rumors to overtake other possibilities. Certainly the two were close, but here they are portrayed as being very politically astute siblings who are under the tight rein of their father the Pope. While they may have been pawns and playthings, the author is careful to also let us see the power these women held in the male dominated arena.
Dunant gives us a richly drawn portrait of the Pope, his off-spring, his enemies, his mistresses and relations, his offspring, his warts, his dealings with foreign countries, all the while showing us possibilities of humanity not often attributed to this family. In addition, the customs, the fashions, and the history of the period are intricately described, taking the reader back to a time of rich but vile corruption, political perfidy, and horrifying treachery.
Historical fiction doesn't get much better than this. This is definitely Dunant's best work. I read somewhere that there may be a sequel in the offing. Let's hope so. There's much more to this story that deserves a well-researched, objective, and humane look.
I also sampled a significant part of this one in audio. Narrator Edoardo Ballerini does a stellar job of giving us the characters in different voices, accents, and attitudes. The print copy includes an excellent family tree and map of the different political entities of the era, a definite plus for those of us needing a history refresher.
The pedophilia scandal in the Catholic diocese of Boston in the early part of this century is certainly one that is well known by everybody who can reThe pedophilia scandal in the Catholic diocese of Boston in the early part of this century is certainly one that is well known by everybody who can read or who has a TV set. Jennifer Haigh uses this setting to present us with a story of a family, the McGanns, steeped in the traditions and superstitions and faith of the Boston Irish Catholics of that period. Haigh has the daughter Sheila tell the story. Fr. Art Breen, the oldest son, is accused of pedophilia by a single mom whom he has befriended. Mike, the younger brother who had been a cop for awhile, assumes his half brother is guilty. Their mother refuses to believe the accusations, and although the newspapers jump right in, the church refuses to discuss it, Art refuses to hire a lawyer, and it is Sheila who decides she must determine the truth of what really happened. It is her quest for the truth that allows us to see how different versions of "Faith" can exist on so many different levels.
This is a book that has many stories: There's the Irish Catholic Boston pedophilia story. There's the story of priestly vocations - what is it that draws men to this way of life? How do they live their lives of quiet loneliness? What kind of training do they get to handle those difficulties? There's the family story: how does the mother relate to her adult children? How does the sister reconcile her feelings for the brothers? What impact does this scandal have on the other brother's marriage? There's passion play of characters in addition to the immediate family. The accuser, the supposed victim, the various clerics and officials all contribute to the dynamics of belief, guilt, secret-keeping, forgiveness, and redemption that are the story's hallmark.
I found the device of using the sister to narrate and drive the story a bit confusing at first, but can't imagine a better way to bring all the divergent views and motivations together. Therese Plummer does a spot-on job as a narrator in giving us the Boston Catholic viewpoint and accent. This is a story written compassionately, and with great insight into the many aspects of events that happen when such an accusation is flung into the air. Jennifer Haigh gives us a caring and sensitive look at the Catholic Church and its struggles over the past decades - going back to Vatican II and working forward. She gives excellent explanations of rituals, traditions, and a way of life that will be familiar to those who have lived it, and understandable to those looking in from the outside.
What she discovers, and what she does with the information is best omitted here to avoid spoilers. It's a remarkable book that treats a very distasteful subject with objectivity, understanding, and empathy, while allowing the reader to process it from his or her own perspective. Well worth the read.
With a protagonist named Father Christmas, and a cover touting a line from the famous holiday carol, you'd think this was a Christmas story. However,With a protagonist named Father Christmas, and a cover touting a line from the famous holiday carol, you'd think this was a Christmas story. However, C.C. Benison has simply used the naming devices to open a delightful British cozy mystery series. Having answered the call to a vocation after an earlier career as a magician, Father "call me Tom" Christmas is still reeling from the recent brutal murder of his wife. He jumps at the chance to move himself and his 8 year old daughter to the quiet rural English countryside parish at Thornton Regis. The story actually opens during the annual May Fayre where the vicar's sister-in-law is introducing a new production of the village teens playing a set of Japanese drums.
When the body of a local teen is discovered inside one of the drums, the Vicar begins suffering from severe "deja vu". He doesn't want his daughter to have to go through more trauma, but there are many very mysterious people and happenings to sort out. The backfill to the story is nicely padded by letters written by the vicarage housekeeper, who has her finger on the village pulse, and who writes her aging and ill mother every morning telling all the juicy details.
Add to the mix the requisite retired British army officer who suffered immensely as a POW under the Japanese during "the war", a Japanese artist married to the local barkeep, a very secretive verger, the sister and her doctor husband whose marriage doesn't seem any too secure, an aging rock star recovering from previous addictions and his crazy ex-wife, and you have a formula for lots of interesting inter-personal exchanges. You also have lots of suspects and motives and a vicar who won't leave well enough alone. He is determined to figure out what happened and why.
There's lots to like here for fans of English cozies and there's at least enough to make me want to read another one in the series. I actually picked this one up because I have the next one as an ARC from Net Galley, and I wanted to start at the beginning. So stay tuned for my thoughts on "Eleven Pipers Piping" the next in the Fr. Christmas series. I wonder though if Benison can sustain this village and its occupants for 12 volumes.
A wonderful surprise! I think I expected this book to be about the famous Flapper, Louise Brooks. But this novel is much more complex than the publish A wonderful surprise! I think I expected this book to be about the famous Flapper, Louise Brooks. But this novel is much more complex than the publisher's blurb would lead us to believe. The parallel stories of Cora and Louise go only through the first part of the book. After that first five weeks together in New York, their paths split, and the story becomes Cora's. Her role as chaperone serves only to provide the beginnings of a transformation that will continue throughout her life. Louise continues to appear, but only in cameo roles.
After her return to Witchita, the life changing events Cora endures (often unexpected) and her ability to adopt to them is affirming, both for herself and her family. The variety of relationships, of changing social and cultural mores of the Roaring Twenties and pre-war era all serve as opportunities for growth, showing us a strong woman willing to take chances, often willing to defy society, while at the same time able to operate inside the structure of the accepted woman's role.
It's difficult to talk about everything that happens without spoiling an outstanding story. Moriarty gives us in excruciating detail the life of an upper-middle class woman of the era, as well as the changes bombarding her from the social, financial, medical, political, and religious circles in which she moved. It's a compelling story, and one that is sure to engage both women and men of all ages.
I listened to this one in audio, and while I normally enjoy this format, I did find the Kansas accent adapted by the narrator Elizabeth McGovern a bit off-putting. I don't think I realized that Kansans have that strong a a twang. Other than that small nit-pick however, it was an enjoyable story, a well-told narration, and a book that deserves a good look by many many readers.
Stephanie Madoff Mack had it all: homes in Soho, Greenwich and Nantucket, a doorman, a dog walker, reliable childcare for her two beautiful children,Stephanie Madoff Mack had it all: homes in Soho, Greenwich and Nantucket, a doorman, a dog walker, reliable childcare for her two beautiful children, a handsome rich husband who adored her, a famous even wealthier father-in-law, luxury cars, nice clothes. Then in December 2008, her father-in-law Bernard Madoff, confessed to his two sons that his entire life and business was a giant lie. The rest is history. Thousands of people lost millions of dollars from "investing" with Bernie Madoff, including Stephanie Madoff's own step-father.
Over night all members of the Madoff family became pariahs, hounded by the FBI, the SEC, and the media. Mark and Andrew, Bernie's two sons, were the ones who turned their father in to the FBI, but no one would believe that the sons had not been involved in the fraud. As lawsuits piled up, and bankruptcy loomed, Mark and Stephanie faced total isolation, and became estranged from the rest of the family who refused to sever relations with Bernie. Mark spiraled down into a deep depression and attempted suicide. After his failed attempt, he went into counseling and seemed to be recovering.
Two years to the day from his father's arrest, Mark hanged himself in the Soho loft, while his wife and daughter were in DisneyWorld, and his son slept in the next room. His final texts, sent on December 11, 2010, at 4:14 a.m., while Stephanie slept, simply said: Please send someone to take care of Nick and I Love You. Suddenly Stephanie's life was totally upside down. Now she not only had no money, no job, and myriad legal problems, but she had no husband, and her children had no father.
I was hesitant to listen to this in audio, although it is a format I really enjoy, because the author reads this herself. I thought it might be self-serving, or whiny, but it's not. It's a straight forward account of a young woman's change in circumstances and how she is dealing with the problem. Oh. Yes. there is certainly some rancor toward her mother and father -in law. There is certainly still an unsteady relationship with Mark's brother Andrew. And yes at times it is difficult to feel sorry for someone who still has a dog walker, nice cars, a doorman, and several houses. But she is very clear that all that privilege does not make up for being deprived of Mark's presence. She tells her story, from the beginning of her relationship with Mark, to their early days together, meeting the senior Madoffs, their wedding, early days of marriage and pregnancy and parenthood.
She is bluntly honest about the trauma and terror of the days following finding out about the Ponzi scheme, and her anguish as she watched the agony her husband and brother-in-law went through trying to convince the world that they were not involved. Her animosity toward her mother-in-law Ruth Madoff is especially well documented. She relates her panic at receiving those last two text messages from her husband, her frantic efforts to get her step-father to gain access to the apartment home to check on her son, and the subsequent flight home and how she had to explain to her 4 year old daughter that "daddy had a boo boo in his brain, and it made him die, and now he's in the sky and you can talk to him anytime you want. He can't come home but he's there for you anytime you want to talk to him."
She ends by reading from the first paragraphs of Mark's unfinished book that he had begun writing before his death. He wanted desperately to vindicate himself, to recapture the respect he felt he'd earned by all his hard work, and that he'd lost because of his father's transgressions. Her heart-felt passion is at once emotional and composed. No matter whether the reader believes that the sons were involved or not, and no matter what other financial tragedies that Bernie Madoff unleashed on the world, this story is a compelling personal one that presents a story needing to be told.
Penguin sums it up in their press release: "Stephanie Madoff Mack has written this at once searing and poignant memoir in order to tell her husband’s story—for him, for their children, and for the world."
Ms. Madoff gives us just enough emotion to be able to understand her feelings, without having to wallow in them....more