Anathem by Neal Stephenson – Book

Although I have enjoyed Neal Stephenson’s books in the past I had a little trouble finding the best way to read Anathem. First of all, it uses the word “maths” a lot, and math is not my strong suit, although in the end no deep knowledge of math was required. Since Stephenson is building a world, the planet Arbre, the learning curve is a bit steep in the beginning. The characters have names that are almost familiar, but just a bit off. Main characters are Erasmus, Lio, Arsibalt, Jesry, Tulia, Ala, Orolo, (and many, many others).

So first I tried Audible, but I learned that listening to books puts me to sleep, which tends to destroy the continuity. I bought the paperback so I could read along but the print was just too small. Finally I reserved a hardcover copy from the library and that had another disadvantage. Once I started reading the hardcover edition I could not put this book down.

The book’s title, Anathem– a mash-up of anthem and anathema –  is a perfect example of the way Stephenson plays with our reality to make his invented world seem close enough to what we know in our own world that we can catch on to life in the Concent of Saunt Edhar fairly quickly. By the time we get to sample what is going outside the walls of the concent we are easily able to adjust.

Our characters are on the same clock-winding team. Since the Third Sack praxis (technology) is outlawed in the concent so mechanics are handled in old school ways. This giant clock at the center of concent life is connected to the observatory on the roof and must be wound with ceremony every day. Bells and weights all play important roles in the clock ceremony and in the community. The similarity to a combined monastery and convent helps us realize that our minds already have a schema for this world.

We spend a long time getting acquainted with the world of the concent and the maths that are scattered around the planet. We learn that these communities are not about religion though; they are about philosophy, geometry, history, astronomy, and physics. We also learn that the concents are surrounded by secular cultures lead by the Sæculua and that the concents open their gates at intervals and these separate populations visit each other. Erasmus, first among main characters has a cousin, Cord, who lives in town.

Just as we get familiar with these two adjacent cultures we learn through Raz’s “Fraa” (concent brother) – Orolo that something is going on with the Sun, something the members of the maths are not supposed to know about. But Erasmus is young and worried when Orolo is expelled from the Concent and he takes an enormous risk to find out what’s going on.

Worlds within worlds is a theme in Anathem. The concents share a design and ceremonies and titles. They all wear the bolt and chord and carry the sphere. Outside the concents where the people known as slines live differences vary by geography.

Eramus and his clock-winder group, in response to the emergency connected to what is going on with the Sun, get sent out of their concent to another, much larger concent for a Convox (a working conference). This does not go smoothly for Eramus who gets sent on a side mission by a Thousander prior to arriving at the Convox.

Eventually we see that Stephenson is headed to sucking us into a theory that says that there is more than one cosmos – there are cosmi. We also see that he is a unifier rather than a divider. Tag along with our heroes and see where this takes you and learn a whole new vocabulary along the way. (If you know your Latin roots you’ll have few difficulties.)

Neal Stephenson can transport me into one of his elaborate creations anytime and Anathem was no exception. The only problem is that landing back in my own reality required an airlock (metaphorically of course).

May 2019 Book List

May 2019 Book List

Don’t judge a book by its title. If you paste the title or type it into Google or Amazon you can get a nice brief summary of the book. I have marked some books that I like with an asterisk. This does not mean that you will like these titles best. I sometimes get a brief description of a book as I am compiling this list but I don’t do a search about every book. Keep your eyes open and you will begin to hear which new books create a buzz on people’s reading lists that is reflected on the internet. If you don’t pay any attention to book talk and like to pick your own selections just dip in and start reading. Summer is coming. Some people get lots of reading done in summer, perhaps on vacations. (Probably not if you have young children.) So many good books, so little time.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

Rabbits for Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum

Riots I Have Known by Ryan Chapman

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna: A Novel by Juliet Grames

Walking on the Ceiling: A Novel by Aysegul Savas

Correspondents by Tim Murphy *

The Guest Book: A Novel by Sarah Blake

The Farm: A Novel by Joanne Ramos

Like Lions: A Novel by Brian Panowich

A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How to Do: A Novel by Pete Fromm

The Confessions of Frannie Langton: A Novel by Sara Collins

Mystery and Thrillers

Little Darlings: A Novel by Melanie Golding

Like Lions: A Novel by Brian Panowich

The Paris Diversion: A Novel by Chris Pavone

The Road to Grantchester by James Runcie

The Night Before: A Novel by Wendy Walker

Cari Mora: A Novel by Thomas Harris

The Rationing: A Novel by Charles Whellan

The Last Time I Saw You: A Novel by Liv Constantine

The Never Game by Jeffrey Deaver

The Satapur Moontstone (A Perveen Mistry Novel) by Sujata Massey

Biographies and Memoirs

Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption by Ben Mezrich

The Apology by Eve Ensler

No Walls and the Recurring Dream: A Memoir by Ani DiFranco

Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the America Century by George Packer

The Deer Camp: A Memoir of a Father, a Family, and the Land that Healed Them by Dean Kulpers

Nothing’s Bad Luck: the Lives of Warren Zevon by C M Kushins

Riding the Elephant: A Memoir of Altercations Hallucinations, and Observations by Craig Ferguson

How to Forget: A Daughter’s Memoir by Kate Mulgrew

Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff, Georgia Hardstark

Nonfiction

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption by Ben Mezrich

The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California by Mark Arax

The Darkest Places: Unsolved Mysteries, True Crimes, and Harrowing Disasters in the Wild by the Editors of Outside Magazine

The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Hotel Marmont by Shawn Levy

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis by Jared Diamond *

Moneyland: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule in the World by Oliver Bullough *

The Moscow Rules: The Secret CIA Tactics that Helped America Win the Cold War by Antonio J Mendez, Jonna Mendez *

Every Tool’s a Hammer: Life is What You Make It by Adam Savage

Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad by Gordon H. Chang

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Last Tango in Cyberspace: A Novel by Steven Lotter

Breach (An Analog Novel) by Eliot Peper

Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

The New York Times Book Review

April 5th

Fiction

Lost and Wanted by Nell Freudenberger

Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad

The Blind Worm in the Labyrinth by Veeraporn Nitiprapha

The Volunteer by Salvatore Scibona

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Kaddish.com by Nathan Englander “Like a JDate for the Dead”

Nonfiction

Skeleton Keys by Brian Switek

Horizon by Barry Lopez

Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young (Essays)

Coders by Clive Thompson *

Solitary by Albert Woodfox *

The Club by Leo Damrosch *

The Empire and the Five Kings by Bernard-Henri Lévy

Gullible Superpower by Ted Galen Carpenter

April 12th

Fiction

The River by Peter Heller *

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

The Altruists by Andrew Ridker (Humor)

Women Talking by Miriam Toews

River of Fire by Quirrtulain Hyder

The Alarming Palsy of James Orr by Tom Lee

Nonfiction

Charged by Emily Bazelon

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl

Hale by Marc Weitzmann

The Last Stone by Mark Bowden (True Crime)

The Lion’s Den by Susie Linfield (Essay)

All You Leave Behind by Erin Lee Carr

April 19th

Nonfiction

Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert a Caro, Private Eye

Falter by Bill McKibbens

Running Home by Katie Arnold *

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T. Kira Madden

The Beneficiary: Fortune, Misfortune, and the Story of my Father by Janny Scott

The Absent Head by Suzannah Lessard

Ben Hecht by Adina Hoffman

The Notorious Ben Hecht by Julien Gorbach

Fiction

The Club by Takis Würger

Outside Looking In by T C Boyle

A Wonderful Stroke of Luck by Ann Beattie *

Little Boy by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Minutes of Glory by Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Short Stories)

Naamah by Sarah Blake

Crime

Neon Prey by John Sandford

Who Slays the Wicked by C S Harris

Lights! Camera! Puzzles! By Parnell Hall

The Missing Corpse by Sorcha McDonagh

Fiction

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

Make Me a City by Jonathan Carr

The Shortlist

That Time I Loved You by Carrianne Leung

Sing To It by Amy Hempel (Short Stories)

Aerialists by Mark Meyer

April 26th

Nonfiction

The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace Webb

Losing Earth by Nathaniel Rich

Unbecoming by Anuradha Bhagwati

American Messiahs by Adam Morris

What You Have Heard is True by Carolyn Forché

Greek to Me by Mary Norris

What Blest Genius by Andrew McConnell Scott

Shakespeare’s Library by Stuart Kells

Stony the Road by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Biased by Jennifer L Eberhardt

Fiction

A People’s History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian

Vacuum in the Dark by Jen Beagin

The New Me by Halle Butler

Publisher’s Weekly

April 5th

Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud (Short Story)

Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration by Emily Bazelon (NF)

Working: Research, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A Caro (Essays)

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi (F)

Confessions of an Innocent Man: A Novel by David R Dow (F)

Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza (F)

The Parisian: A Novel by Isabella Hammad (F) *

Freedom’s Detectives: The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan and the Man Who Masterminded America’s First War on Terror by Charles Lane (NF)

Helen Oxenbury: A Life in Illustration by Leonard S Marcus (NF)

Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi (NF)

Rock, Paper, Scissors and Other Stories by Maxim Osipov, trans. from Russian by Boris Dralyuk, Alexandra Fleming and Anne Marie Jackson (Short Stories)

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold (NF)

Tombland by C J Sansom (F)

The Octopus Museum by Brenda Shaunghnessy (Short Stories)

Fame Adjacent by Sarah Skilton (F)

April 12th

Never a Lovely So Real: The Life and Work of Nelson Algren by Colin Asher (Bio)

Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells by Pico Iyer (Memoir)

Nest of the Monarch by Kay Kenyon (3rd in a series) (F)

Falter: Has the Human Gene Begun to Play Itself Out by Bill McKibben (NF)

Hacking Life: Systematized Living and It’s Discontents by Joseph M Reagle Jr. (NF)

Alice’s Island by Daniel Sánchez Avévalo, trans. from Spanish by the author

Eating the Sun: Small Musings on a Vast Universe by Ella Frances Sanders (NF) *

Clyde Fans by Seth (Graphic Novel)

Flowers Over the Inferno by Ilaria Tati, trans. from Italian by Eken Oklap (Crime novel)

The Polyglot Lovers by Lina Wolff, trans. from Swedish by Saskla Vogel (F) *

April 19th

Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein (F) *

Flowers of Mold by Ha Seong-nan, trans. from Korean by Janet Hong (Short Stories)

Sisters and Rebels: A Struggle for the Soul of America by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall (Triple Bio)

The Heartland: An American History by Kristin L Hoganson (NF)

Bitter by Francesca Jakobi (F)

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan (F) “the novel loses steam”

Hawk Parable by Tyler Myles (F)

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse (Fantasy)

Appendix Project: Talks and Essays by Kate Zambreno (Essays)

April 29 th

Springtime in a Broken Mirror by Marlo Benedetti, trans. from Spanish by Nick Caistor (F)

The Global Age: Europe 1950-2017 by Ian Kershaw (NF) *

The Lazarus Files: A Cold Case Investigation by Matthew McGough (True Crime)

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon (F)

Star by Yukio Mishima, trans. from Japanese by Sam Bett (F)

The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern by Robert Morrison (NF)*

Waste Tide by Chen Qinfan, trans. from Chinese by Ken Lui (F) *

The Ardlamont Mystery: The Real-Life Story Behind the Creation of Sherlock Holmes by Daniel Smith (NF)

A Good Enough Mother by Bev Thomas (F)

Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11 by Michael Zuckoff (NF)

 

 

 

 

The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell – Book

Each section of The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell begins with the voice of a mosquito, or a swarm of mosquitoes- a fitting device for a tale of Africa.

“Zt. Zzt. (lots of Z’z) and a zo’ona And so. A dead white man grows bearded and lost in the blinding heart of Africa.”(Livingstone, I presume) “With his rooting and roving, his stops and starts, he becomes our father, unwitting, our inadvertentpater muzungu. This is the story of a nation – not a kingdom or a people – so it begins, of course, with a white man.”

 Colonialism, imperialism are words that inspire different emotions depending on whether you are the colonizer or the colonized. But whenever the European colonizers interfered in the natural development of the many places they felt would benefit from “civilization” (and supply untold riches to their imperial overloads) they diverted what might have been the history of an indigenous people into a new channel that forever combined native history with that of their colonizer. In this case, since we are in Africa, we have the further marker of skin color, which was often the case in colonization, as white Europeans (and later Americans) believed the white race far superior to any nation made up of folks with darker skin.

Namwali Serpell begins her tale of Zambia at a falls, mistakenly thought to be at the source of the Nile. They named the falls Victoria after the long-lived English queen. We hear the story of the first colonizers to arrive near the falls where the Brits who follow Livingstone to Africa set up their earliest town and drifted over Africa, and returned to settle near the Falls. Percy Clark was one of these early settlers. The Gavuzzi family owned and operated the Victoria Falls Hotel for a while. Colonizers eventually decided they would build a dam at the falls, a dam which will flood the lands of the Tonga people. These people have their entire history and culture tied to this land and would like to stay and drown on their land when it floods. The colonizers will not allow this. They disperse the Tonga people and raise a revolutionary spirit in them which never dies out. Each section of The Old Drift is written almost as a short stories. These short stories drift forward in time, but the stories always connect. The book ends back at the falls where it began, but despite a kind of belated divine justice, Zambia lives on.

Serpell’s characters are colorful, plentiful, full of human failings and quite loveable (for the most part). The European Giuseppe Corsale who returns to Europe to party in a gone-to-seed salon meets a child born with hair over her entire body that engulfs her and grows and grows. Sibilla, who captivates both Giuseppe and his brother Federico, learns that she has her own Zambian connection. Her father and grandfather are the same Gavuzzis who ran the Victoria Falls Hotel. Federico kills his brother, takes over his identity, marries Sibilla and takes her to Africa. His position at the dam construction makes his family a wealthy family in Zambia.

Ronald, an African man, goes to England to study, and falls for the blind ex-tennis star, Agnes, daughter of the rich family who gives him a place to stay. He marries Agnes and takes her to Zambia. They also, through Ronald’s position as an engineer, become a wealthy Zambian family, of mixed race – a thing that probably never would have happened if Agnes could see. The children of these two families involve themselves in the life of their new nation (they know no other) with, as the author tells us, many errors made.

A revolutionary spirt buzzes through the entire story as do those mosquitoes, and the urge to freedom drifts through generations of Zambians. Ba Nkoloso gathers in Matha’s mother and Matha is practically pickled in revolutionary chants, speeches, and writings. Matha dresses like a boy to attend school. She takes part in the Afronaut program of her mentor which aspires to beat the Americans to the moon. Then she enters puberty and her fellow Afronaut, Godfrey, now with ambitions to be a rock star, impregnates her and sends her spinning off track for almost an entire generation. Her daughter Sylvia, beautiful and adventurous, takes the family back into their connections to the colonizers. The thrum of freedom is almost louder than the swarms of mosquitoes. So many great characters in this novel.

Freedom becomes less and less likely as Zambia becomes entangled in European and American capitalism and eventually computer technology through the “Digit-All “bead” which turns hands into a computer interface. Addictive and enslaving, especially once government learns how to connect all to the cloud or the “swarm”. Those pesky mosquitoes are both inspirational and deadly.

The AIDS epidemic hits Zambia, the symbolic offspring of Ba Nkoloso, that original Zambian revolutionary and the children of Europeans alike. Are Zambians being used to test new AIDS drugs – are they the new lab rats? It becomes easy to understand the yearning for freedom. These young Zambians of the near future, create microdrones that connect and swarm, that drift wherever you direct them, called Mosketoze. They are used to convene a political rally and they bring about the ending that I cannot tell you about.

Although even to comment on this excellent novel, turns me into something of a colonizer, I will, as my ancestor’s did, drift into this Zambian space and bequeath TheOld Driftby Namwali Serpell to all adventurous readers everywhere.

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami – Book

IMG_0953

“Beware the double metaphors”, our artist, our main character, our guy in an early mid-life crisis is told by the Commendatore. Haruki Murakami bends our brains in fiction once again and his readers, and I, enjoy every minute.

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami does something several books have done recently. It begins at the end and then fills us in. Of course by the time I immerse myself in this story I forget that it is all a flashback. The end of the story we get in the beginning is hardly definitive. But we do meet the artist, acting like a true artist in that little scene.

In present time (in the novel) he is feeling that his life has robbed him of the excitement and ambitions he once had as an artist. He, in a way, blames his wife. He rationalizes that he has had to be practical since he is a family man. He earns his living painting portraits and as his wife works away from home and he is often working at home, he does most of the housework. He feels he has “sold out” by painting portraits, which he considers a lesser form of art. He is feeling dead inside. Just when he is most dissatisfied with life and his art his wife asks for a divorce, says she is sleeping with another man and will not sleep with two men at once.

Yuzu’s husband (the artist) grabs a few clothes (very few) and begins a long journey in his car along the northern coast of Japan. Until he begins naming roads he could be living anywhere. He could be any modern man in any modern nation. He ends his journey months later when he has a very strange and concerning sexual encounter with a young woman and meets the possibly evil man in the white Subaru Forester.

His old college friend and fellow student Masahiko offers him the small mountain house where his father, the famous artist Tomahiko Amada, who is now in a nursing home with dementia, had his studio. Masahiko cannot care for the home as he works and lives in Tokyo.

Up to now. I must say, our artist (unnamed) seems more like an engineer. He has a very pragmatic approach to his wife’s confessions and his road trip. But Haruki Murakami paints his portrait with words. Our guy cannot have a boring identity crisis or get to know himself without going through an ordeal.

From the time he enters that mountain home his inner journey begins and it is a doozy. Temple bells ring in the dead of night with no temple nearby, a deep and magical pit is uncovered with meticulous and unusual stonework walls. There is a secret painting Tomahiko Amada has hidden in the attic with the pretty little owl, there is a collection of opera and classical music on vinyl, and there is a millionaire neighbor with a purring silver Jaguar (car) and many secrets. Then there is the young girl, Mariye, he meets in his children’s art class (about the same age as his beloved sister, Komi, who died as a young teen) and the older, married woman from his adult art class who we get to observe, along with the Commendatore, having satisfying illicit sexual relations with her teacher. Who is the Commendatore and how does he get killed? That I cannot tell you.

There is no blatant spirituality and our artist seems far too self-absorbed and modern to accommodate a deeply religious life, but, even so, in this novel the symbolism (the temple bell, the little shrine, the pit) and a certain sparseness in the prose give a religious tone to the artist’s inward journey. Whether it strikes you as spiritual or not, you can at least enjoy the novel as one great big entertaining Haruki Murakami double metaphor.

 

 

Milkman by Anna Burns – Book

IMG_0941

Milkman by Anna Burns follows none of the rules for storytelling or literary fiction that we are used to. The novel seems to be written as one long sentence (of course it isn’t really). I enjoy reading authors who try something new, especially if they do it well. Anna Burns does it well enough.

Middle sister comes of age in a divided culture, almost a tabloid culture. It is a paranoid, male-dominated place in a perpetual state of war (although most of the fighting happens elsewhere) with the “over the border”, “across the waters” people. Readers identify this unnamed country as Northern Ireland because Middle sister speaks of the on-going hostilities as ‘the troubles’. Men are either renouncers, soldiers, paramilitaries or police. Terrorist bombs from unidentified groups occasionally plague the residents and acts of personal terror up to and including death happen frequently enough to keep people on edge. Toxic masculinity is the expected male behavior. Of course, not all men conform but those who don’t are not allowed much peace by those who enforce the convoluted code these folks live with.

Middle sister is also maybe-girlfriend to her car loving mechanic, maybe-boyfriend, who seems nice and who says he would like to not be a ‘maybe’ anymore. Middle sister has her own reasons for wanting to remain a ‘maybe’ for now. Middle sister does things that make her stand out in a culture where women especially are not supposed to stand out. She reads books while walking (nothing newer than the 19th century). Now that she is of marriageable age her behavior is considered deliberately provocative. She is not being properly observant of possible dangers. She is too self-absorbed. She attracts the attention of the creepy, middle-aged Milkman (who is not the real Milkman).

Around her in her single state swings the true chaos of this time and this place. Young people go to bars to drink and mingle – not to dance it seems. Some bars cater to only one group for example, the paramilitary, others attract a more mixed group –  a more dangerous situation with violent fights and explosions more likely. Once Milkman shows an interest in Middle sister other men in the bar scene back off and certain women begin to offer her tips about what to wear and how to act.

Her relationship with maybe-boyfriend continues as he is not part of the mainstream toxic male culture. Middle sister is seriously weirded out by Milkman. She no longer walks and reads. She now runs with Third brother-in-law rather than alone. She knows better than to get in Milkman’s cars or his van. Because of Milkman’s attentions Middle sister becomes an object of gossip because rumor has it that she is having an affair with this Milkman. Until her recent difficulties she did not see herself as belonging or identifying with these grown up mothers (including her own) and widows (lots of widows). As her fate gets more precarious she begins to learn of the subtle power these women have.

Maybe-boyfriend, the car guy, wins ownership of a ‘Blown Bentley’ engine from over the water. Gossips claim that he got to keep the bit with the flag (not the right flag), but he didn’t. Eventually Milkman uses this gossip to threaten maybe-boyfriend whenever he runs into Middle sister – not often if she can help it. He talks about “car bombs”. He’s a real subtle guy.

Some may find this book difficult to read, although words, at first, tend to be short and simple. The breakneck pace lacks pauses or temporary stops, and the vague war between basically unidentified enemies, all the jargon of a carefully controlled society, gets repetitive and makes us long for some specificity. But Middle sister makes the perfect protagonist because, although she knows the rules, she doesn’t always follow them. She is bright, and cautiously adventurous. On occasion her internal dialogue breaks away from the monosyllabic argot and reveals some pretty sophisticated language skills. Of course she was a girl who read books while walking.

Creating a world, or even turning a real world place into something more generic, is not always easy if it is to be a believable world that readers want to occupy for a time. For me the world of Middle sister in Milkman by Anna Burns was well done. But see what you think about that ending.

Find me at

https://thearmchairobserver.com/

Goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson

Tremr.com as brissioni

White Rose, Black Forest by Eoin Dempsey – Book

White Rose

White Rose, Black Forest by Eoin Dempsey starts with a real resistance movement inside Germany, the White Rose Society, and builds a novel around it. We can imagine that there were Germans living in Nazi Germany who did not buy into Hitler’s racism, his use of fear and instant retribution, the way he used his paranoia about what people said and did in privacy to justify invading everyone’s privacy, and setting neighbors to spy on neighbors.

In White Rose, Black Forest we meet a young German woman who was imprisoned for a short time because she had a boyfriend in the White Rose Society, the German resistance group which published underground news sheets called “The White Rose”. Franka Gerber, our young lady, a nurse in Munich, actually helped write that flyer and distribute it but was assumed to have been naively led astray by her boyfriend Hans. After serving time in prison she is now considered an outcast.

Now with all her family dead Franka lives alone in the family’s cabin in the Black Forest. She is devastated by the things that have happened to her family and the rumors of the terrible things happening to the Poles and the Jews. She sees no way forward for herself. She is planning to shoot herself out in the Black Forest with her father’s gun. It is the middle of winter and winter snows are deep on the ground, the cabin in a remote location, the roads closed due to the snow.

Her suicide is interrupted when she stumbles on a Luftwaffe officer attached to a parachute and unconscious, with two broken legs, who despite his extensive training speaks to her in English. This is where the story goes a bit off the rails. Some of the author’s explanations for what Franka does require a bit too much suspension of disbelief. Although the snow is a great device to buy her parachutist, John Lynch aka Werner Graf, time to heal.

What I did find relevant and worthy of attention were Franka’s interactions with her neighbors dished out in flashbacks to her years as a young girl when she joined the Hitler Youth movement, and with her earliest friends and her first boyfriend who shared these experiences with her. She eventually turned against Hitler and the Nazis, but her old beau, Daniel Berkel, became an agent of the Gestapo, became a loyal Nazi, and with promotions and power became quite a menacing figure.

Much is revealed about the role of women under Nazi rule which was defined by Hitler. Women were house frau’s and child bearers and kept an eye on their neighbors and reported their behavior when it seemed suspect. Women, unless single, did not work outside the home. However many German women became very good Nazi citizens and supported the regime in every way. Others obeyed because the penalties for not obeying were very steep, often even life-threatening.

White Rose, Black Forest by Eoin Dempsey is a very readable story, but not a polished literary novel. We do end up on the edge of our seats, and you might want to see if they are able to escape their very precarious situation.

From Wikipedia – “The White Rose (German: die Weiße Rose) was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in the Third Reich led by a group of students and a professor at the University of Munich. The group conducted an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign that called for active opposition to the Nazi party regime.”

Find me at Goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson

 

April 2019 Book List

books upright big

My April 2019 Book List is part of my ongoing attempt to keep track of new and interesting titles as they are released by publishers. Although I would like to read every title I cannot because of time constraints and financial ones. Some titles I include for others who might use these lists, such as the books about baseball which are on this month’s list. I have placed an asterisk next to books that sound especially to my taste. I may not stick with my original choices. Sometimes readers provide feedback that makes a title more desirable and moves it up in my priorities. Tempting to sit in a comfy chair surrounded by piles of books and just read, but I understand that sitting for long periods of time can rob you of your mobility. Thank goodness you can read at the gym or even in the park. Enjoy!

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

Normal People: A Novel by Sally Rooney *

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad *

Roar by Cecilia Ahem (Short stories)

Lights All Night Long: A Novel by Lydia Fitzpatrick *

Boy Swallows Universe: A Novel by Trent Dalton *

The Girl He Used to Know: A Novel by Tracy Garvis Graves

Courting Mr. Lincoln: A Novel by Louis Bayard

Stay Up with Hugo Best: A Novel by Erin Somers *

Outside Looking In: A Novel by T.C. Boyle *

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Mysteries and Thrillers

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

Odd Partners: An Anthology, Mystery Writers of America, Alison Brennan, et al

Redemption (Memory Man series) by David Baldacci

Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline

The Mother-In-Law: A Novel by Sally Hepworth

Miracle Creek: A Novel by Angie Kim

Metropolis (A Bernie Gunther Novel) by Philip Kerr

The Better Sister: A Novel by Alafair Burke

Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow

The Eighth Sister by Robert Dugone

Biographies and Memoirs

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl

Some Stories: Lessons from the Edge of Business and Sport by Yvon Chouinard

Colin Powell: Imperfect Patriot by Jeffrey J. Matthews

Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America by Jared Cohen

Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement by Rich Karlgaard

Women of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell

The Honey Bees: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees by Meredith May

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb

Autumn Light: Seasons of Fire and Farewells by Pico Iyer

Women’s Work: A Reckoning with Work and Home by Megan K. Stack

Let’s Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, The Life of Ernie Banks by Ron Rapoport

The Light Years: A Memoir by Chris Rush

Notes From a Young Black Chef: A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi, Joshua David Stein

Nonfiction

The Last Stone: A Masterpiece of Criminal Interrogation by Mark Bowden

The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story by Aaron Bobrow-Strain

Hotbox: Inside Catering, the Food World’s Riskiest Business by Matt Lee, Ted Lee

The Mission of a Lifetime: Lessons from the Men Who Went to the Moon by Basil Hero

Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe by Steven Strogatz

American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy on the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley

Everything in it’s Place: First Loves and Last Tales by Oliver Sacks

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice that Shapes what We See, Think and Do by Jennifer Everhardt, PhD

Shakespeare’s Library: Unlocking the Greatest Mystery in Literature by Stuart Kells

Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen by Mary Norris

The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive and Fall by Mark W. Moffett

Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Luminous Dead by Caillin Starling

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World: A Novel by C. A. Fletcher

(and a number of series that have added new volumes)

New York Times Book Review

March 8

Nonfiction

An American Summer by Alex Kotlowitz

Nobody’s Looking at You by Janet Malcolm

Good Kids, Bad City by Kyle Swenson

Nature’s Mutiny by Philipp Blom

El Norte by Carrie Gibson

Fiction

The Wall by John Lanchester *

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

Cherokee American by Margaret Verble *

New and Noteworthy

The Art of Bible Translation by Robert Alter

A Desert Harvest by Bruce Berger

Who Killed My Father by Edouard Louis

Max Havelaar, The Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company by Multatuli

8 New Books Recommended by Editors this Week

They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers

Nervous States: Democracy and the Decline of Reason by William Davies *

Mamas Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves by Frans de Waal

The White Book by Han Kang

The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations by Toni Morrison

Death is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa

The Heavens by Sandra Newman

March 15th

Fiction

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Elsewhere Home by Leila Aboulela

House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

Nonfiction

I.M. by Isaac Mizrahi (Memoir)

Madame Fourcade’s Secret War by Lynne Olson

Ten Caesars by Barry Strauss

Figuring by Maria Popova

Truth in Our Times by David McCraw

The Impossible Climb by Mark Synnott

The End of the Myth by Greg Grandin

The Twice-Born: Life and Death on the Ganges by Aatish Taseer

March 22

Fiction

The Parade by Dave Eggers

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib (eating disorders)

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray (eating disorders)

The Silk Road by Kathryn Davis

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

Nonfiction

First: Sandra Day O’Connor by Evan Thomas

The Mastermind by Evan Ratliff

Savage Feast by Boris Fishman (Memoir)

Survival Math by Mitchell S. Jackson

Ten Drugs by Thomas Hager

The Chief by Joan Biskupic (Life of John Roberts)

Zora and Langston by Yuval Taylors

Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman (memoir)

Spies of No Country by Matti Friedman

In a Different Voice by Carol Gilligan

March 29

If you search and find this issue of the NYT’s Book Review you will find a link to a list of 100 Notable Books of 2018.

Fiction

The Old Drift by Nomwali Serpell *

Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt *

The Women’s War by Jenna Glass

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

The Promise of Elsewhere by Brad Leithauser

Latest Horror Fiction

The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan

A People’s Future of the United States, ed. By Victor LaValle, John Joseph

The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Bickering Family Novels

White Elephant by Julie Langsdorf

Little Faith by Nikolas Butter

A Weekend in New York by Benjamin Moskovitz

Nonfiction

Doing Justice by Preet Bharara *

Thin Blue Lie by Matt Stroud

Putin’s World by Angela E. Stent

The Age of Disenchantment by Aaron Shulman

Bending Toward Justice by Doug Jones

Foursome by Carolyn Burke *

America’s Jewish Women by Pamela S. Nadell *

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young (memoir)

Publisher’s Weekly Tip Sheet

10 Books Coming Up for Spring

Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Disappearing Earth: A Novel by Julia Phillips

We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin

I Am God: A Novel by Giacomo Sartori

The Age of Light: A Novel by Whitney Scharer

The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell

House of Stone: A Novel by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

American Spy: A Novel by Lauren Wilkinson

March 1

Ancestral Night: White Space, Book 1 by Elizabeth Bear * – F

Lovely War by Julie Berry – YA

Little Faith by Nickolas Butler – F

A Fire Story by Brian Fies – Graphic Memoir

Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell S. Jackson – Memoir

An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago by Alex Kotlowitz – NF

Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland by Jonathan M. Metzi * – NF

The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt Och Dag, trans. from Swedish by Ebba Segerberg – Mystery

The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara – Biography

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi * – F

That Good Night: Life and Medicine in the 11th Hour by Sunita Puri * – NF

The Volunteer by Salvatore Scibona “this is a bold, rewarding novel” * – F

Solitary by Albert Woodfox with Leslie George * – Memoir

March 8

Wolf Pack by C. J. Box (A Joe Pickett Novel) – F

Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future by Kate Brown – NF

American Diplomacy and the Case for its Renewal by William J. Burns – NF

If, Then: A Novel by Kate Hope Day – F

See You in the Piazza: New Places to Discover in Italy by Frances Mayes  * – NF

The Selected Works of Abdullah The Cossack by H. M. Naqvi (Karachi) * – F

The Dragonfly Sea by Yvonne Aahaimbo Owour -Kenyan woman discovers Chinese heritage * – F

The Trial of Lizzie Borden: A True Story by Cara Robertson – NF

Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia by Christina Thompson – NF

March 15

A Town Called Malice by Adam Abramowitz – F

Doing Justice – A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment and the Rule of Law by Preet Bharara – NF

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams * – F

The Scar: A Personal History of Depression and Recovery by Mary Cregan – Memoir

Leaving Richard’s Valley by Michael DeForge – Graphic Novel

Outsiders: Five Women Writers Who Changed the World by Lyndell Gordon – Biography

Nobody’s Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead by Bill Griffith – Graphic Bio

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley – Science Fiction

Memories of the  Future by Siri Hustvedt – F

White Shoe: How a New Breed of Wall Street Lawyers Changed Big Business and the American City by John Oller – NF

The Sun is a Compass: A 4,000 Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds by Caroline Van Hemert – NF

Lot by Bryan Washington – Short Stories

March 22

The Workshop and the World: What Ten Thinkers Can Teach Us About Science and Authority by Robert P. Crease – NF

The Club: Johnson, Boswell and the Friends Who Shaped An Age by Leo Damrosch – NF

Murder by the Book: The Crime that Shocked Dickens’s London by Claire Harman – True Crime

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob – Graphic Memoir

A Change of Time by Ida Jessen, trans. from Danish by Martin Aitken * – F

The Other Americans: A Novel by Laila Lalami * – F

The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell – “this is an astonishing novel” * – F

Coders: The Making of a New Art and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson – NF

Guantanamo Kid: The True Story of Mohammed El-Gharani – Graphic Narrative – NF

The American Agent: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear – F

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays by Damon Young – NF

March 29

Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative by Jane Alison – “underlain with formidable erudition”  * – NF

The Last Stone: A Masterpiece of Criminal Investigation by Mark Bowden – True Crime

Gravity’s Century: From Einstein’s Eclipse to Images of Black Holes by Ron Cowen – “both a learning experience and a pleasure to read” – NF

Boy Swallows Universe: A Novel by Trent Walton –“an outstanding debut” – F

Diary of a Dead Man on Leave by David Downing – Thriller

Lost and Wanted by Neil Freudenberger – F

Is This How You See Me? by Jaime Hernandez – F

K: A History of Baseball in 10 Pitches by Tyler Kepner – NF

Loch of the Dead by Oscar de Muriel – Victorian mystery

Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen by Mary Norris – NF

Let’s Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks by Ron Rapoport – NF

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling – F

How Change Happens by Cass R. Sunstein – NF

Women Talking by Miriam Toews – F