The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian - Elizabeth KostovaThis fascinating book has a Dan Brown-like plot (but with much better writing). Academics search for clues to find missing persons and to research Vlad Dracula’s life (is he still living?). This research is conducted in medieval libraries (yay!) with much travel: Oxford, Istanbul, Budapest and Bulgaria. Actions happen in three times: the 1930s, 1950s and 1970s, often with parallel stories so the complex plot with much historical detail requires the full attention of readers. This is a really enjoyable read; thanks Steph, for this recommendation.

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The Golem and the Jinni – Helene Wecker

The Golem and the Jinni - Helene WeckerA second recommendation from Steph, so thanks again. This book is another example of a remarkable first novel, notable both for its imagination and context. A golem is created from clay and brought to life by her master who then promptly dies, leaving her adrift in New York. A jinni is accidentally released from a copper container. Much of this book is about alienation – how to fit into a human population. And the context is glorious: New York in 1899 with detailed descriptions of Little Syria and the Jewish enclave with some fantastic trips to Central Park. And yes, there is a wicked villain! This is a very entertaining book.

Moonglow – Michael Chabon

Moonglow - Michael ChabonChabon has written many imaginative novels: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Telegraph Avenue, etc. Moonglow is a fictionalized memoir, ostensibly based on his grandfather’s life. The writing is superb: his grandfather’s experiences in WWII and a lifelong interest in rocketry; a poignant story of his grandmother’s mental illness. A powerful aspect of the story telling is the consequences of keeping secrets and telling lies. This is an excellent read; thanks Renee, for this recommendation.

Into The Water – Paula Hawkins

Into The Water - Paula HawkinsThe huge success of The Girl On The Train meant high expectations for Hawkins’ next book, and Into The Water delivers, in my opinion, another well written mystery/thriller. The setting is Northern England, a town with a drowning pool where too many women have drowned over many centuries, usually under mysterious circumstances. Many standard issues are present: lies and deceit and memories that are selective. The key relationship is between two estranged sisters – how did this estrangement begin and how did it evolve? The outcome, aka big reveal, is tantalizing and completely surprising. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

The Past – Tessa Hadley

The Past Tessa HadleyThis is a perfect introspective story of family relationships in the present and past. There are secrets, things that are observed but not spoken of. The point of view of the children is most extraordinary – what they observe and what they keep secret. This is a very English story with some surprises – overall a very fine read.

A Week In December by Sebastian Faulks

A Week In December by Sebastian FaulksFaulks is a wonderful writer (Birdsong, On Green Dolphin Street) and his latest book is a worthwhile addition. The premise is simple: a diverse group of people are selected to attend a London party, so the book details the back stories. What is fascinating is the diversity: a Polish footballer playing for a new London team; a pot-head son of someone who is receiving an OBE and who needs a crash course in contemporary literature; a greedy hedge-fund manager (so lots about shady banking), and the list goes on – there is a related story of a woman Underground driver, a literate lawyer, and importantly a radicalized British-Muslim young man so a home-grown terrorist attack is planned. There is a wonderful rant about the decline of teaching in schools and so much more. Such rich story-telling – highly recommended.

The Mountains Can Wait by Sarah Leipciger

The Mountains Can Wait by Sarah LeipcigerThere are two fine elements in this book. First, it is a BC book: Prince George, tree planting, Vancouver Island. The description of the physical environment is excellent. And second, this is a guy book, with a well-described look at male relationships, especially a father-son relationship with communication issues at its core. Overall, a very good read.