Leo Hertzberg seeks out Bill Wechsler after he buys one of his paintings, starting a lifelong friendship between the two men. The lives of their two fLeo Hertzberg seeks out Bill Wechsler after he buys one of his paintings, starting a lifelong friendship between the two men. The lives of their two families become entangled in this story about relationships, love, and loss.
Leo, an art historian, is the narrator looking back on the last twenty-five years in a book divided into three sections. The first part sets us in the New York City world of artists, academics, and intellectuals. There are beautiful, detailed descriptions of Bill's art and Violet's research on hysteria and eating disorders. The two families live in the same building, and their young sons, Matthew and Mark, become friends.
Part two begins and ends with tragedies. Some relationships struggle to survive because grief overwhelms the people. Friends offer needed emotional support. The Wechslers' son Mark is a troubled boy, an unrepentant liar with surface charm. He falls under the spell of an installation artist, Teddy Giles, who creates art about sadistic violence.
The third section of the book changes its tone into a psychological thriller as Leo and Violet try to save Mark from being completely drawn into Teddy Giles' world. It was fast-paced and exciting, although a multi-city trip to the Midwest seemed a little over the top.
As the title suggests, the older Leo has told us what he had loved--friends, family, art, and intellectual ideas. The journey was sometimes heartbreaking, but always complex and fascinating.
Penelope Fitzgerald spent several years living on a barge on Battersea Reach of the Thames River when her family had financial difficulties. Those expPenelope Fitzgerald spent several years living on a barge on Battersea Reach of the Thames River when her family had financial difficulties. Those experiences--including the sinking of their boat--served as the inspiration for Offshore: A Novel, a short spare novel that won the Booker Prize in 1979.
The book has wonderful characterizations of a group of misfits living on the houseboats. "The barge-dwellers, creatures neither of firm land nor water, would have liked to be more respectable than they were....But a certain failure, distressing to themselves, to be like other people, caused them to sink back, with so much else that drifted or was washed into the mud moorings of the great tideway."
The book centers on Nenna, a woman whose husband refuses to live on the barge with her and their two daughters. The girls are precocious and run wild, skipping school and exploring Battersea Reach. Their neighbor, marine painter Willis, is trying to sell his boat before it sinks. Another boat is owned by the responsible Richard, married to Laura who wants to move to solid ground. Maurice, a good listener with a heart of gold, also lives in the group of barges.
Fitzgerald writes beautifully with touches of dry British wit. There is such a sense of place in this story that I felt like I had actually spent some time at Battersea Reach by the end of the book. There is minimal plot as Nenna tries to reconcile with her husband, and Willis attempts to sell his boat. This is a character-based book with the river itself acting as an important character. Offshore: A Novel was a delightful small book....more
I was in the mood for a book with a quilting theme after visiting a quilt exhibit at the New Britain Museum of American Art recently. A Quilt for ChriI was in the mood for a book with a quilting theme after visiting a quilt exhibit at the New Britain Museum of American Art recently. A Quilt for Christmas is a book about strong women during the Civil War era. Their husbands were soldiers with the Kansas Volunteers, and some were killed in the battlefield. The women treasured their monthly quilting meetings because their friendships with other women helped keep their spirits up. A Stars and Stripes quilt made by Eliza for her husband Will for Christmas is a unifying element throughout the story. Although this is a short simple book, it showed how much disagreement there was in the border states during the Civil War, especially concerning slavery. Family, friendship, charity, forgiveness, and tolerance were important themes running through the book....more
3.5 stars The tale from Greek mythology of Demeter and Persephone, mother and daughter, acts as a theme for this travel story. Ann Kidd Taylor had just3.5 stars The tale from Greek mythology of Demeter and Persephone, mother and daughter, acts as a theme for this travel story. Ann Kidd Taylor had just received a rejection letter from a graduate program she wished to attend, and was unsure what direction her life should follow. Her mother, Sue Monk Kidd, was trying to adjust to the changes life was throwing her as she turned fifty--from hot flashes to acting on her dream of writing a novel.
Each found inspiration from mythological and historical female figures encountered on their trips to Greece and France. Sue sought out sacred feminine images, especially the Black Madonna that she incorporated into her novel The Secret Life of Bees. Ann drew strength from a trio of inspirational females--Mary, Athena, and Joan of Arc.
This is a book of reflection with alternating chapters written by each woman. Their travels helped them find their way spiritually as individuals, and strengthened the bond between mother and daughter....more