This was a very absorbing novella about a young attorney, Claire, whom we get to know through dual story lines. At first, it seems the story will revoThis was a very absorbing novella about a young attorney, Claire, whom we get to know through dual story lines. At first, it seems the story will revolve around whether Claire will be able to get her client, Grace, off a murder rap for killing her own daughter. Instead, Pishko reveals Claire's backstory in her former professional life, working for a high-rolling financial firm that is busted by the feds, and her romance with the head of the firm.
Claire's decisions are often morally dubious, and the painful repercussions lead her to a very different professional direction, representing prisoners accused of capital crimes and without other means of defense. As the reader learns more about both Grace and Claire, it becomes easier to find sympathy for both.
This is not a typical legal thriller. The mystery is not so much on what will happen to Grace, but in exploring such evergreen issues as the complexities of human behavior and motivations, and the power of faith to both heal or, in some cases, corrupt.
Elizabeth Gilbert needs no further endorsements; this bestseller from 9 years ago has ensured her ongoing reputation. She's a lively, intelligent writElizabeth Gilbert needs no further endorsements; this bestseller from 9 years ago has ensured her ongoing reputation. She's a lively, intelligent writer, adept with phraseology. But this memoir of a young newly divorced writer's year-long journey to Italy, India and Indonesia, to both find her "center" and recover from the trauma of an expensive and emotionally draining divorce left me wondering several things.
First, I wondered how a woman so eager to connect to God and a spiritual life could spend 4 months in both India and Bali, where so many people are desperately poor, and not write a word about its impact on her. While she raises a large sum to help a poor Balinese woman purchase a home, the single grand gesture, as generous as it is, is not the same as a cultivated habit of giving. Gilbert may well do so, but she doesn't say anything about it. The focus on her story is ultimately about HER feelings, HER anger, HER sense of loss, HER finding HERSELF, without regard to how she will fit in to any community outside of herself.
Second, she writes at excessive length about her deep unhappiness in her marriage and about her husband's anger at her for perceived selfishness. I couldn't help but wonder, though, since she traveled so often and at length for her work on previous books, whether the man had a point: maybe he wanted a wife who stuck around longer to develop the relationship? Her marriage was not the reader's business, but if she's going to go on about it, may as well also write about whether he had a point.
Finally, she experiences many unbelievably fortunate, hard to believe, breaks, such as arriving in Bali to meet up with a medicine man she had met before, but has no idea how to find him, yet manages to find him that same afternoon. She runs to her herbal healer to treat a budding leg infection and voila! Within 2 hours it is healed. As someone who benefits from herbal treatments, this is a bit much to believe.
She writes at length about her time in the ashram in India, working on the discipline to learn to meditate and eventually finding moments of transcendence. This is laudable, but to me, a truly evolved consciousness is one where you don't just sit and go deep inside yourself, it's where you learn to connect regularly with the outside world, as inconvenient as this may be, because people are often a pain in the neck!
She is always conflicted about romance, determined to avoid it for the year while she finds a new way of living/being, but in Bali she ends up in love with a Brazilian man, a happy ending that one hopes will last.
For all these faults, I still enjoyed reading the book. Few writers have had the good fortunate Gilbert has had to have, as she acknowledged, received an advance for the memoir even before setting off for her year-long journey, and instantly had so many exotic people and situations to write about....more
Sometimes I have a perverse aversion to reading books that become massive bestsellers; I hate to admit it, but it's probably just writerly envy. So yeSometimes I have a perverse aversion to reading books that become massive bestsellers; I hate to admit it, but it's probably just writerly envy. So years after Mitch Albom published this book I finally read it, and it was wonderful. I shouldn't have waited so long, especially as Albom had proved his abilities with Tuesdays with Morry, which I had read many years earlier and found to be moving and memorable.
In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Albom takes us on a journey that intersperses scenes from the Earthly life of Eddie, who never managed to rise above a job as an amusement park maintenance man, with his celestial life in Heaven, where he meets the five people whose lives he changed, and most of whom take him by total surprise by what they reveal.
Comparisons with "It's a Wonderful Life" are frequent, and with good reason. When he dies on his 83rd birthday, Eddie is sour about life. Too long a widower, father to no children, Eddie's life is simple and lacks depth. But as Albom shows, even the simple goodness of an amusement park maintenance man can have far-reaching effects. A quick and lovely read.
This collection of essays and Q & A's with several well-known memoir writers isn't a how-to but more a "how I did it." As a writer who has discoveThis collection of essays and Q & A's with several well-known memoir writers isn't a how-to but more a "how I did it." As a writer who has discovered how shockingly difficult it is to get a grasp around a memoir theme, I hoped some of these authors would throw me a lifeline.
My biggest takeaways from the book were that it is normal to realize you cannot rely on memory alone in reconstructing one's past; that focusing on a period of time in one's life will help narrow down the scope and angle, and how much research these writers did to verify what they thought they knew, as well as to discover new and sometimes exciting facts that shed new light on the families they thought they knew.
I especially enjoyed Russell Baker, Frank McCourt and Toni Morrison's essays.
"'Undine Spragg -- how can you?' her mother wailed, raising a prematurely wrinkled hand heavy with rings to defend the note which a languid bell-boy h"'Undine Spragg -- how can you?' her mother wailed, raising a prematurely wrinkled hand heavy with rings to defend the note which a languid bell-boy had just brought in."
This is the opening line of this outstanding novel, whose starring character is the oddly named beauty Undine Spragg, brought to New York by her Midwestern parents to make a splash in society. It's an appropriate opening, as Undine's every thought, word and action is selfish to the core. The novel explore's her exploits as she tries to fit in with a New York society she doesn't understand but whose rules she is determined to learn.
As with Wharton's "The Age of Innocence," this novel skewers the pretensions and fixed rigidity of the wealthiest among New York society, which the author knew well from personal experience. It also explores the impact of divorce (the book was published in 1913) on women in particular, who bore the taint of scandal from a divorce, even though it was becoming more and more common.
I was surprised to read that many believe the book's primary theme is the impact on women of divorce and the unwritten rules of hob-nobbing among the monied class. To me, this was just as much a character study of an unfathomably self-centered woman, who craves the limelight and is a shopaholic, with absolutely no regard or sympathy for anyone other than herself. It is a cautionary tale against those who think money and titles will bring happiness, because when that is all a person wants, she can never find satiation.
Wharton writes: "During the interval between her divorce and her remarriage she had learned what things cost, but not how to do without them; and money still seemed to her like some mysterious and uncertain stream which occasionally vanishes underground but was sure to bubble up again at one's feet."
When Undine has a son, he doesn't help her find deeper meaning in her life; he is an inconvenience to be foisted off on tutors and nannies. All her life she has plied her beauty to help her marry "well," and then to marry again, and again. Yet no matter how high the title of her husband, nor how wealthy he is, Undine Spragg will always find a reason to zero in on what she still has not conquered or cannot have. She ultimately learns how to navigate "the custom of the country," but she'll never be anything other than a vain, greedy and ungrateful social climber.
Wharton's gift is to keep us reading and wondering what will happen, even though the protagonist is so thoroughly detestable. ...more
Uneven quality to these stories, and in a few of them I felt a bit cheated because the conclusions simply didn't make sense. Nothing really memorableUneven quality to these stories, and in a few of them I felt a bit cheated because the conclusions simply didn't make sense. Nothing really memorable here. I much prefer Binchy's novels....more
Fans of John Mortimer's always delightful Rumpole series won't be disappointed in this essential volume. The Penge Bungalow Murders are referred to inFans of John Mortimer's always delightful Rumpole series won't be disappointed in this essential volume. The Penge Bungalow Murders are referred to in every other Rumpole book, because this was the case through which our intrepid and funny barrister made his name.
In this book we also meet She Who Must Be Obeyed, Rumpole's wife Hilda, as a young woman who sets her eye on the inexperienced barrister, new to the law chambers run by her father, C.H. Wystan. When the murder case is given to Wystan, it is Hilda who urges Daddy, as she always calls him, to take young Rumpole on as his assistant.
The case looks hopeless: two WWII veteran airmen are murdered after a party, and plenty of witnesses at the party saw young Simon Jerold waving around a gun and threatening to kill his father if his father didn't stop badgering him. The bullets in the bodies of both father and his friend came from the gun.
As is typical in a Rumpole novel, the case that appears "hopeless" may not be at all. And while the lead counsel, the esteemed C.H. Wystan, considers any defense "impossible," and tells Rumpole his role is only to take full notes, and not to even speak during the trial at all, readers will delight in seeing how Rumpole's determination to see that justice is done will turn the tables, and how he will find an opening not only to speak at trial, but to perform a devastating cross-examination of a key prosecution witness that changes everything.
As Rumpole's star quickly rises, Hilda is determined to hitch her star to this up-and-coming barrister. What's love got to do with it? Perhaps not much, but Mortimer devotees are sure to love this quick page-turning, frequently funny and clever tale....more
I found this book almost compulsively readable, even though the further along I got into the story, the more flaws started jumping out at me. If you wI found this book almost compulsively readable, even though the further along I got into the story, the more flaws started jumping out at me. If you want an easy read with a fast-moving storyline and are willing to overlook the not-quite-fitting pieces, you'll enjoy the book.
Tara Road revolves around the friendships of three women, Ria, Gertie and Rosemary, who live in Dublin, and whose lives continue to intersect despite the growing disparity in their personal circumstances. Plain-Jane Ria gets to marry the handsome, ambitious Danny, leaving more glamorous Rosemary behind. Ria and Danny buy a huge fixer-upper on Tara Road, and settle into domestic life, as Danny builds his real estate development career with the high-flying Barney McCarthy. Binchy keeps the reader guessing not if Danny will get in over his head, but when and how deep.
Gertie struggles to keep herself and her children above water and out of the ER because she is married to a drunken abuser, and refuses to leave him. Rosemary, forever single, becomes a hard-headed businesswoman whose love life remains a source of mystery to Ria. The wildly different lives and values of these three women make their ongoing friendship increasingly unrealistic. The introduction of another character from the U.S., Marilyn, made me impatient, because it took quite a while to even like her, let alone to understand what she was doing in the story. Well into the story, when Marilyn and Ria agree to swap houses for a summer, each to help forget particular personal painful circumstances, the healing that takes place for both of them is also absurdly quick and complete.
For all its flaws, I enjoyed this read and will check out Binchy's other books....more
Barrister Horace Rumpole, defender of the criminal class, loves his work. Fortunately, work finds him even during the Christmas holidays, as readers wBarrister Horace Rumpole, defender of the criminal class, loves his work. Fortunately, work finds him even during the Christmas holidays, as readers will discover to their delight in this collection of five Rumpole stories.
In "Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces," the barrister recognizes an old client who had run an exceptionally successful blackmailing operation. Now discovering him with a new name and assumed respectability at a country church event, Rumpole "suggests" that he make a sizable donation for church repairs, something Rumpole himself was asked to do.
"This is bloody blackmail!" Dicko Perducci, now known as Donald Compton, said.
"Well," I told him, "you should know."
Author John Mortimer, himself a former barrister, became a hugely successful novelist and playwright. His Rumpole character is funny, wry, always looking for an excuse to pour a glass of Pommeroy's Chateau Embankment, even when such behavior has been banned in his offices, and eager for his next case. When his wife, Hilda, books them into a health farm over Christmas, it is Rumpole's good fortune to help discover the true murderer of one of the guests who had been locked into the steam room.
In "Rumpole and the Christmas Break," the best story in this collection, the barrister has to defend a young Muslim student who wrote a death threat to a university instructor, who was found murdered the night the student was in the building. An impossible case?
Not for Horace Rumpole, whose alert eyes and ears, fearless arguing with the judges who always seem to side with the prosecution, and behind-the-scenes detective work make even the most hopeless cases turn on their heads, leaving Rumpole victorious, if still denied the privilege of being named as a Queen's Counsel.
These books are terrific reads, funny and engaging. ...more
This novel explores the tension between artistic expression and the Orthodox Jewish world that would set limits on that expression. As someone who greThis novel explores the tension between artistic expression and the Orthodox Jewish world that would set limits on that expression. As someone who grew up Jewishly traditional but chose Orthodoxy, I found Potok's characterizations very real and very balanced.
Asher Lev is born into a rabbinic dynasty and is expected to step up to his role, but his soul is that of an artist, and his calling cannot be denied. The story moves slowly but readers will be rewarded by the realistic conclusion and fully realized characters. As many other Goodreads reviews have noted, you don't have to be Jewish to be able to appreciate the universal aspects of the story. ...more