The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone – Book

The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone – Book

The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone follows Kate Moore and her husband Dexter from a stay in Luxembourg in his first novel The Expats, where things started out calmly and went pretty badly off the rails. Kate worked for the US government in intelligence but, of course, it’s a secret. Dexter got lured into a scheme to hack a fortune in dirty money and his law-abiding wife finds out. She finds a way to keep Dexter out of prison but at the end of Chris Pavone’s first book, The Expats, the Moore’s marriage is a bit stormy – a very quiet storm because they are barely speaking.

After Luxembourg they travel around Europe for a while with their two children and then they settle in Paris minus the other expat couple they befriended in Luxembourg, a couple Kate hopes is out of their lives forever. Kate’s two children are now school age and she wishes she could enjoy being a full time mom, but life with the agency is just too exciting. What else would she do all day while her children are in school? And now she has been given her own little agency office to run in Paris.

Dexter works at home. He has decided to become a day trader. But it turns out that everyone, except Kate who is busy with her motherhood guilt, has revenge on their minds, and it all leads to one spectacularly messy day in Paris. If this day didn’t involve the deaths of two single fathers, a terrorist attack that immerses Paris in chaos, and threatens to nuke the Louvre it would most resemble one of those French hotel comedy/murder mysteries where everyone is sneaking in and out of everyone else’s room, sometimes with hanky-panky on their minds, and luggage is getting mixed up while people wander around in extravagant outfits and identities get confused. Perhaps to update the genre a bit this is a sort of thriller version of that Barbara Streisand movie “What’s Up Doc?”. Sadly the actual events in Paris seem a bit inappropriate to what is basically a romp, but such are the paradoxes here in the 21 st century and it is after all a thriller/romp.

The author’s chapters focus in turn on the characters, each telling his/her part of the story in small glimpses. You know that the facts will eventually give you the whole picture. You start to see or think you see through this plot – the author has left too many clues, the affair is too easy to unravel, but don’t become overconfident. There are plenty of surprises.

The Paris Diversion is not at all like a true thriller, but it is a true diversion that uses realities that have become far too normal to us. Throughout this whole crazy day the adults are having, the Moore children are safe in a good French school behind a high wall and at the end of the day will suspect nothing. How bad can things get in the space of someone’s slightly elongated school day? You won’t believe it.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Parnassus Musings

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – Book

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Sometimes fiction based on a true story is a difficult beast for an author to tangle with. It can be a struggle to make the elements of fiction (plot, setting, characters) hold the spark that turns a story into literature. The Tattooist of Auschwitz basically retells a true story told to the author Heather Morris by the man who we know as Lale Sokolov. The author, as a beginner tells the story well, but, for me the story lacks the depth and poignancy that might have come from the pen of someone more experienced in ways to use prose to embellish and flesh out the facts. However, perhaps the unadorned story is more useful for historical purposes.

This novel deals with the prisoners in the concentration camps who did jobs that put them in closer touch with German officers, tasks that carried perks like more food, better quarters, access to favors as long as the prisoner groveled properly when required. Although these prisoners often had no choice about taking on these “lighter” duties, they were seen by other prisoners as collaborators and their few rewards understandably were resented.

Lale, our tattooist was a young man on his way up. He worked in a department store until all the Jews were fired. He was and is a great admirer of women, although he doesn’t seem overbearing about it. He seems to possess some personal charm. When told to report to the train for transport he puts on a suit and tie. His mother makes him pack some books, which won’t matter because he will never see any of his personal items ever again. Not long after he arrives in the concentration camp he becomes assistant to the current tattooist and soon takes the lead tattooist’s place. In the camps people often just disappear, never for a good reason. Lale, as the tattooist, gets extra food and a room of his own. He does not have to labor with a shovel from sun up to sun down. He makes sure to pass some of his extra food along to his old bunkmates.

Once he sees Gita in the nearby women’s camp he falls in love and she returns his affection. Gita works in an office keeping records and lives in a barracks with girls who have named the building where they work Canada because that sounds like a safe place. They sort through and categorize the possessions the Germans take from prisoners. Lale eventually finds a way to take some of the jewelry slipped to him by Gita’s friends and exchange it for food, mainly sausages and chocolate, which he shares to supplement the starvation fare in the camp. The love that grows between Lale and Gita fuels their will to survive.

Every day he steadily tattooes numbers on the arms of more prisoners at Auschwitz and Birkenau, a flood of dispossessed people doomed by one man’s madness. Lale describes the building of the furnaces and the human ashes that drift down over all and have to be ignored for reasons of sanity and survival. But emotional content is missing and it just seems a bit superficial given the horrific circumstances and the daily dread – more news report than work of fiction. Maybe the way Lale survives is exactly is how some people survive by convincing themselves that they are able to use those who have imprisoned them. When so many were shot on the spot for the slightest infraction Lale’s good fortunes seem unlikely. The story could be true but it could be what one man told himself to get by.

The Tattoist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris does bring up the often examined issue of whether people like Lale were collaborators or just survivors. If it is true, this represents a rare alternative view inside the concentration camps. I don’t recall reading another book about collaborators within the camps, although there are many books about collaborators in occupied territories and much speculation about what makes someone a collaborator and even about degrees of collaboration. Although I am not enamored of the art of the book it raises interesting issues and takes us back to that question of what we would have been capable of in similar circumstances. So many brave survivors came out of the camps that I’m not sure Lale’s story seems similarly heroic, but perhaps it should.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – American Jewish University

June 2019 Book List

June 2019 Book List

Summer months often see publishers offering readers plenty of treasures, perhaps to attract readers who have more time to read in the summer. Lots of good books on this June Book List. I tend to try to be reasonable about the number of books I add asterisks to, because I cannot possibly read everything. Books with asterisks are not my recommendations for everyone. They are my picks for me. Sometimes I wish I could be cloned and one version of me could happily spend all her time reading while the other version of me could do laundry, clean bathrooms, mop floors, cook meals, do dishes, and socialize. Alas another part of me hopes we never learn how to clone ourselves and accepts that I have to read when I can. I share my reviews on goodreads.com. (as Nancy Brisson) I also have a book blog https://nbrissonsbookblog.com

Please stop by.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

The Stationery Shop: A Novel by Marjan Kamali

The Travelers: A Novel by Regina Porter

Patsy: A Novel by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg

Ask Again, Yes: A Novel by Mary Beth Kane

The History of Living Forever: A Novel by Jake Wolff

On Earth We Were Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel by Ocean Vuong

Mrs. Everything: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner *

The Porpoise: A Novel by Mark Haddon

City of Girls: A Novel by Elizabeth Gilbert *

Mystery and Thriller

Joe Country (Slough House) by Mick Herron

The Sentence is Death: A Novel by Anthony Horowitz

Recursion: A Novel by Blake Crouch

Keep You Close: A Novel by Karen Cleveland

Murder in Bel-Air (An Aimeé Leduc Investigation) by Cara Black

One Night at the Lake: A Novel by Sarah Galley

The Darwin Affair: A Novel by Tim Mason

This Storm: A Novel by James Ellroy

Rogue Strike (A Jake Keller Thriller) by David Ricciardi

The Summer We Lost Her by Tish Cohen

Biographies and Memoirs

Smokin’ Joe: The Life of Joe Frazier by Mark Kram Jr.

We Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson by Bruce Conforth, Gayle Dean Wardlow

The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un by Anna Fifield

And Then It Fell Apart by Moby

Naturally Tan: A Memoir by Tan France

The Beautiful No: Tales of Trials, Transcendence and Transformation by Sheri Salata

Grinnell: America’s Environmental Pioneer and His Restless Drive to Save the West by John Faliaferro

My Parents: A Introduction/This Does Not Belong to You by Aleksandar Hermon

On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real and Listening Hard by Jennifer Pastiloff, Lydia Yuknavitch

Formation: A Woman’s Memoir of Stepping Out of Line by Ryan Leigh Dostie

Nonfiction

Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love by Naomi Wolf

The Ice at the End of the World: A Epic Journey into Greenland’s Buried Past and Our Perilous Future by Jon Gertner

William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock ‘n’ Roll by Casey Rae

Eyes in the Eye: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and Now it Will Watch Us All by Arthur Holland Michel

Underland: A Deep Journey by Robert Macfarlane

The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s 1984 by Dorian Lynskey

Norco ’80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History by Peter Houlahan

More Fun in the New World, The Unmaking and Legacy of La Punk by John Doe, Tom DeSavia

VC: An American History by Tom Nicholes (Venture Capital)

The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghose Ship, a Killer and the Birth of a Gangster Nation by Rich Cohen

Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Fall, or Dodge in Hell: A Novel by Neal Stephenson *

War (House War) by Michelle West

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry *

Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone *

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

The Lesson: A Novel by Cadwell Turnbull *

Magic for Liars: A Novel by Sarah Galley

The Outside by Ada Hoffmann

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind by Jackson Ford

The New York Times Book Review

May 3

Fiction

The Flight Portfolio: A Novel by Julie Orringer

Henry, Himself by Stewart O’Nan

Oksena Behave by Maria Zuznetsova

Lights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick

The Spectators by Jennifer duBois

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

Homeland by Fernando Aramburu

Nonfiction

Firefighting by Ben S. Bernanki, Timothy F. Geithner and Henry M. Paulson Jr.

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

The Unwanted by Michael Dobbs

So Much Longing in So Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Martin Buber: A Life of Faith and Dissent by Paul Mendes-Flohr (Bio)

The Lost Gutenberg by Margaret Davis

Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe by Sheri Berman *

Crime

The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone *

Black Mountain by Laird Barron

The Unquiet Heart by Kaite Welsh

The Woman in the Blue Cloak by Deon Meyer

May 10

Nonfiction

Our Man (Bio of Richard Holbrooke) by George Packer *

Maybe You Should Talk To Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb *

Leap of Faith by Michael J. Mazarr (Why Iraq War)

Fall and Rise by Mitchell Zuckoff (9/11) *

Beeline by Shalini Shankar

The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez by Aaron Bobrow-Strain

The Second Mountain by David Brooks *

The Shortlist

Blueprint by Nicholas Christakis

Humanimal by Adam Rutherford

Genesis by E.O. Wilson

Fiction

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

Revolutionaries by Joshua Furst (60’s)

The Dragonfly Sea by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

The Binding by Bridget Collins

May 17

Nonfiction

Furious Hours by Casey Cep

Who Brooklyn was Queer by Hugh Ryan

The Body Papers by Grace Taluson

Mother is a Verb by Sarah Knott

Sea People by Christina Thompson (Polynesia)

Endeavor by Peter Moore (Polynesia)

The Golden Age by Ian Kershaw

The Heartland by Kristine L. Hoganson

Nanaville by Anna Quindlen (True Short Stories)

Fiction

Not by Bryan Washington (Short stories)

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad *

Rabbits for Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum

The Ash Family by Molly Dektar

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza (from Argentina)

May 24

Nonfiction

The British are Coming by Rick Atkinson *

Sissy by Jacob Tobia

Real Queer America by Samantha Allen

The Player’s Ball by David Kushner

A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell

The Impeachers by Brenda Wineapple

Upheaval by Jared Diamond

The Last Job by Dan Bilefsky

Ghosts of Gold Mountain by Gordon H. Chang

Fiction

Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif *

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg

The Farm by Joanne Ramos *

Shortlist (new French fiction)

The Cook by Maylis de Kerangal

Waiting for Bojangles by Olivier Bourdeaut

Hold Fast Your Crown by Yannick Haenel

May 31

Fiction

The Poison Bed by Elizabeth Fremantle

Dream Sequence by Adam Fould

Prince of Monkeys by Nnamdi Ehirim

The Fox and Dr. Shimamura by Christine Wunnicke

Westside by W. M. Akers

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

Throw Me to the Wolves by Patrick McGuinness

Dawson’s Fall by Roxana Robinson

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

Thomas and Beal in the Midi by Christopher Tilghman

The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin

Nonfiction

Mr. Know-it-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder by John Waters

How to Become a Federal Criminal by Mike Chase (reviewer says ‘very funny’)

How to Build a Boat by Jonathan Gornall

Boom by Michael Shnayerson

Becoming Dr. Seuss by Brian Jay Jones

K by Tyler Kepner

Best. Movie. Year. Ever: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raftery

The Regency Years by Robert Morrison *

Bitcoin Billionaires by Ben Mezrich (‘the Winklevii)

Hotbox by Matt and Ted Lee

Cult of Dead Cow by Joseph Menn (hacking)

Funny Man by Patrick McGilligan (Mel Brooks)

Land of the Ozarks by Bill Geist

The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara

Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light by Peter Schjodahl

The Drama of Celebrity by Sharon Marcus

The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee

Ladysitting: My Year with Nana at the End of Her Century by Lorene Cary *

How to Forget by Kate Mulgrew *

Broadway, Balanchine and Beyond by Bettijane Sills

Dancing with Merce Cunningham by Marianne Preger-Simon

Out of the Shadows by Walt Odets

Underland by Robert Macfarlane

Publisher’s Weekly

May 3

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (F) (YA)

The Assassin of Verona by Benet Brandreth (F)

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang (Science Fiction) (Short stories) *

The Law of the Skies by Gregoire Courtois, trans. from French by Rhonda Mullens (F)

The Archive of Alternate Endings: A Novel by Lindsey Drager (F)

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna (F) *

The Buried: An Archeology of the Egyptian Revolution by Peter Hessler (NF)

Calm Seas and Prosperous Voyage by Bette Howland (Short Stories)

China Dream by Ma Jian, trans. from Chinese by Flora Drew (F)

The Flight Portfolio: A Novel by Julie Orringer (F)

Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and The End of the American Century by George Packer (NF) *

Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Paler (NF)

May 10

The British are Coming: The War for America: Lexington to Princeton Volume One of the Revolution Trilogy by Rick Atkinson *

The Never Game by Jeffrey Deaver (F)

Dream Sequence by Adam Foulds (F)

A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism by Adam Gopnik (NF) *

Once More We Saw Stars: A Memoir by Jason Greene (Memoir)

Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif (F) *

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren (F)

Dream Within a Dream by Patricia MacLachlan (YA)

The Satapur Moonstone: A Mystery of 1920’s India by Sujata Massey (F)

The Obsoletes by Simeon Mills (F)

Lanny by Max Porter (F)

No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder (NF)

Message from the Shadows by Antonio Tabucchi, trans. from Italian by Anne Milano (Short Stories)

May 17

Gather the Fortunes by Bryan Camp (Fantasy)

Riots I Have Known by Ryan Chapman (F)

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (F)

Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers (Short Stories)

The Island by Ragnar Jónasson (Thriller)

Deception Cove by Owen Laukkanen (F)

Necessary People by Anna Pitonisk (F)

The Organs of Sense by Adam Ehrlich Sachs (F)

The Vinyl Frontier: The Story of the Voyager Golden Record by Jonathan Scott (NF)

Einstein’s War: How Relativity Triumphed Amid the Vicious Nationalism of World War I by Matthew Stanley (NF)

The Perfect Predator: A Scientist’s Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug by Steffanie A Strathdee, Thomas Patterson (NF)

May 24

Supernavigators: The Astounding New Science of How Animals Find Their Way by David Barrie (NF)

Time is the Thing a Body Moves Through: An Essay by T. Fleischmann (Essay)

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz (Mystery)

Passion on Park Avenue by Lauren Layne (Romance) *

Dark Site by Patrick Lee (F)

Austentatious: The Evolving World of Jane Austen Fans by Holly Luetkenhaus and Zoe Weinstein (NF)

May 31

A History of the Bible: The Story of the World’s Most Influential Book by John Barton (NF)

Exposed by Jean-Phillippe Blondel (F) *

This Storm by James Ellroy (F)

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (F) *

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin (on Pride and Prejudice) (F)

Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane (NF)

Out of the Shadows: Reimaging Gay Men’s Lives by Walt Odets (Memoir)

Dual Citizens by Alix Ohlin (F)

Aug. 9 – Fog by Kathryn Scanlan (F) *

Grinnell: America’s Environmental Pioneer and his Restless Drive to Save the West by John Taliaferro (NF)

Love They Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America by Ayaz Virji with Alan Eisenstock (NF)

In West Mills by De ‘Shawn Charles Winslow (F)