After turning the final page of Bellman & Black, I found myself coming to a rather uncomfortable realization: I’d need to read this book at least...moreAfter turning the final page of Bellman & Black, I found myself coming to a rather uncomfortable realization: I’d need to read this book at least once more to really get a good grasp on just what on earth was going on in this novel. But I’m not sure that I am equal to this multilayered story. I could see it becoming a staple in English classes 50 years down the road, just for the endless amount of what the reader (me) doesn’t really understand.
The basic narrative revolves around William Black, an amiable boy who grows into an amiable man, and who runs a very successful mill and has a very happy family until his fortunes begin to take a turn for the worse. But beyond the narrative, the whole story is nuanced with metaphors… and populated by flocks of very persistent rooks. The rooks mean something—they mean a lot of things—and they seem herald plenty of death, but what is less clear is the purpose for the existence of “Black”—the strange man who shows up at gravesites throughout the life of William Bellman, and with whom William strikes up a possible deal one drunken night. Is Black Death? Is he Time? WHAT DOES HE MEAN? I still don’t know.
Oddly, what stuck with me the most throughout this book was William Bellman’s endless drive, and energy, and motivation. His work ethic was incredible—although all-consuming—and I envied it (and still do) immensely. Somehow, I really don’t think that’s what the author wanted her audience to take away from this story.
If you don’t enjoy historical fiction, don’t worry—while this gothic tale takes place sometime in the 19th century, the author has a decided talent for making the historical details take backseat without making the narrative, storyline, or characters seem anachronistic. Atmosphere is key to the execution of this novel, as is the abundance of subtext and things that go unsaid. I’m still scratching my head over this. And while I’m glad I read it, I won’t be reading it again.
In the real world, twenty years have passed since John Grisham published his courtroom drama A Time to Kill, but in NoveLand, in the sleepy Southern t...moreIn the real world, twenty years have passed since John Grisham published his courtroom drama A Time to Kill, but in NoveLand, in the sleepy Southern town of Clanton, Mississippi, only three years have passed since the violent events occurred. Since then, the attorney Jake Brigance and his family have struggled to recover, financially and emotionally, from their defense of the vigilante killer Carl Lee Hailey. They’re living in rented digs, embroiled in lawsuits, struggling to make ends meet…and then Jake lucks out. Seth Hubbard, a wealthy, cantankerous man ,has killed himself and oddly, left all of his $24 million fortune to his (black) housekeeper, Letty, and has instructed Jake to defend his will. Of course, his children are enraged and willing to fight back…so once more, Jake’s in the courtroom, trying his hardest to follow Hubbard’s wishes and protect the dubious handwritten will. Jake’s nominal boss, the drunken Lucien, and his absurdly loyal and grotesque friend Harry Rex, are along for the ride, and so is Jake’s long-suffering wife Carla, and what they are all telling him is the one thing that may wreck his case: Jake’s ego might be his greatest asset, but it’s also his biggest liability, and it may just lose him the case.
It’s impossible to review this book without comparing it to its predecessor, which perhaps is not fair. However, them’s the brakes. While Grisham’s style has become quite assured and polished over the years, and while he is a gifted storyteller who can spin compulsively readable yarns that, if not literary and elegant, are still compelling, his latest lacks a certain heart that ran through A Time to Kill. This book is not as descriptive, nor as humorously snarky, and the stakes just aren’t the same. A darned good read, but not quite as spirited or genuine as the first Brigance novel. (less)
Named as one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People in 2012, Sheryl Sandberg is at the time of this review the Chief Operating Officer of...moreNamed as one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People in 2012, Sheryl Sandberg is at the time of this review the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. She has also worked with Google and served as the Chief of Staff to the US Secretary of the Treasury from 1996 to 2001. For several years in a row, she was listed as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business by Fortune Magazine.
You might think, Here’s a woman that has together. She has a flourishing career, she has power and respect, she even has a husband and children. She appears to be confident, capable, energetic…she is in charge.
And then her executive assistant scolded her.
Turns out Sandberg turned into a flustered shadow of herself whenever anyone congratulated her on making one of those lists. She called the list “ridiculous” and for a good long time, didn’t own up to the success and the perception of her own power. Yup—she denied her own success. She was in her own way, until her executive assistant called her into a private room and set her straight.
And this is, essentially, the thrust of Sandberg’s book—identifying the ways in which society AND females hold women back from claiming a place of true equality. I could totally see her starting something called “The Lean-In Movement” in which we help the females of this world lean into their careers, rather than detaching from them through various behaviors—disowning their successes, stepping away from their careers to raise families, choosing modest and self-effacing approaches in the workplace, being authentic; and in which the males of this world help the females by doing their part to equalize the load by leaning into their families.
Throughout this solid book of observations and advice, Sandberg is disarmingly honest, from admitting that she feels like a fraud all the way through to her desire to be liked by everyone and an unfortunate weakness—from time to time, she cries at work. That’s right, you read me: Sheryl Sandberg has cried at work. And for the ladies reading this review, let me assure you I had the following reaction: “OMG YOU MEAN I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE?????” And whenever I have this reaction, I immediately know I am not the only one. (Incidentally, Sandberg’s response to crying in the workplace is frank and comforting: “Research suggests that it is not a good idea to cry at work” (p. 88), but that “prominent thinkers in the field of leadership studies…” posit that “true leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed.” (pp 90-91).
If you are at all interested in strengthening your leadership potential or your professional confidence—or if you are at all interested in making the professional world more equal—this is an invaluable book to add to your collection. (less)
“Sometimes what you want in your twenties isn’t what you want or need in your forties.”
So reads the inside cover of this diverting novel, which felt a...more“Sometimes what you want in your twenties isn’t what you want or need in your forties.”
So reads the inside cover of this diverting novel, which felt a little like Sex and the City for mothers (only with less sex and more city). And true to the title, when we’re in our twenties and trying to reach our castles in the sky, how are we to guess what the weather will be like around our castles when we hit adulthood? No one can guess the weather. Or how we respond to the weather. Or who we will experience the weather with.
The four women whose lives intersect in this book—transplanted Brit Lucy, kind workaholic Julia, detached and elegant Christy, and harried, resentful Robyn—are each dealing with the knowledge that the existences that they have been living for the past twenty years have somehow, inexplicably culminated in their present lives…and now they’re starting to wonder just how much they are willing to stick to the paths they are on, and where they are going.
The friendships and marriages of the characters are portrayed with empathy, but without sugar-coating; the author doesn’t skate around the inevitable threads of tension, but rather twangs at them like guitar strings, deliberately calling our attention to them, sometimes with subtlety, and sometimes not. I found this a charming novel—there’s a deep-seated vein of optimism in it, diminished not one whit by the realistic honesty which is also present. Take, for example, the following passage:
“It was commonplace for Lucy to declare that […] they hadn’t changed a bit. In fact, they always had. Normally, it was the straightforward deterioration of their looks or the sense that some bright light inside them had been switched off by a force greater than themselves; but sometimes, in her own case certainly, the years had made them look better, grown into themselves somehow.”
The comfort in this statement, of course, is that each of us can believe that this sentence is the one that applies to us. (less)