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.

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Wolf Winter; The Midnight Sun – Cecilia Ekback

I read these two books back-to-back so my comments will be combined. My friend Hilary introduced me to this author, described as a master of Nordic Noir. The best aspect of these two books is time and place. Both books are set in Northern Sweden where Norway and Finland converge. WW takes place in 1717; MS takes place in the same location 140 years later, in 1856. Living in this isolated setting is exacerbated by weather: bitter winter cold in WW and insomnia for one key character in MS due to continuous summer sunlight. In both books, murders are committed and solved by amateurs, the inhabitants (settlers) in WW or visitors in MS. The chief protagonist in WW is Maija, a woman with two children struggling to survive in the absence of her husband. Both books, but especially WW, have a mystical element (the old religion, aka witchcraft) from the wandering Lapp inhabitants of the region (now Sami). Both books are highly recommended.

 

The Dust That Falls From Dreams – Louis de Bernieres

The Dust That Falls From Dreams - Louis de BernieresDe Bernieres wrote the delightful Corelli’s Mandolin, and his latest book is also excellent. The setting is Britain in 1914. The horror of WWI, the mud and stink and brutal death, is described vividly. Also, very precise details of flying are detailed. But this is a book about relationships within the McCosh family, in particular the 4 sisters. At times, the book is a tender love story that also touches on grief and religion. The relationships are often complicated: a sister loves someone who does not love her in return, and vice versa. There is some wry humour, particularly the class-conscious matriarch Mrs. McCosh who should be played by Maggie Smith if this story is ever adapted for film or theatre. Overall, a very entertaining story.

The Little Red Chairs – Edna O’Brien

The Little Red Chairs - Edna O_Brien
An astonishing book: the seduction by an evil person, the desperate lives of the displaced and dispossessed. The title refers to a 2012 commemoration of the siege of Sarajevo: 11,514 red chairs were placed in rows, one for each person killed in the siege that lasted for almost 4 years. What is remarkable about this book is that it is an Irish woman, Fidelma, who is the central core to the story which takes place in Ireland and England. Thanks Mike, for this recommendation.

The Sympathizer – Viet Trans Nguyen

the-sympathizer-viet-trans-nguyenThis is a brilliant book, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, about the aftermath of the Viet Nam war from the point-of-view of Vietnamese people. The narrator is a Communist double agent who flees to America after the fall of Saigon, and then returns to Viet Nam to be subjugated to the extreme brutality of a Re-Education Camp. This book has a brilliant presentation of politics and ideology, moral ambiguity, and the existential crisis of leading a double life that is complex, compelling and frustrating. The legacy of war is presented in graphic detail.

The Daughters Of Mars – Thomas Keneally

the-daughters-of-mars-thomas-keneallyThis is a sweeping epic story of two Australian sisters who travel to Europe as nurses at the time if WWI.The settings: Egypt, Gallipoli and finally France. The chaos of war extends to medical care, and just as WWI is ending, Spanish influenza creates more death and suffering. There is a broad scope to this novel, particularly the role of women at this time. Keneally is the author of Schindler’s Arc, the Booker-prize winning novel that was transformed into the movie Schindler’s List.

The Sky Is Falling – Caroline Adderson

The Sky Is Falling - Caroline Adderson..jpegAdderson writes perfect novels of time and place, in this case Vancouver in the early 1980s. A group of young people share a home in Kitsilano, and the description of their lifestyle is fantastic. They are preoccupied (obsessed) with concern about war and the nuclear arms race, and their confusion and angst drives the plot. This is an under-rated novel, so highly recommended.