I loved The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer about murderer Gary Gilmore, Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi about the Manson Murders and I read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, the first nonfiction novel, three times. So it isn’t surprising that I couldn’t put down Michelle McNamara’s story about the Golden State Killer, a man accused of over 50 rapes and at least ten murders. Although she died in 2016 and never got to see him captured, much of the work she did on the cases and the interviews she held were instrumental in helping find him. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is not a :who done it,: rather it is an in depth study of a criminal’s modus operandi, the unfortunate people he preyed on, and the law enforcement personnel who worked on the case. Michelle McNamara also describes how she left no stone unturned trying to find this psychopathic criminal.
Hannah is an American scholar who has come to Paris to do research on a paper about the lives of French women during WWII. She allows a young Algerian boy named Tariq to stay with her at her apartment. He has come to Paris hoping to find out information about his mother who he barely remembers. Each chapter is named for a metro stop in Paris, and they alternate from Hannah’s point of view to Tariq’s. Tariq’s eyes show us, for the most part, the present day Paris while Hannah’s describe what life was like for several women when the German’s occupied France in the 1940’s.
Paris Echo is not for everyone, but I liked it a lot. While reading Faulk’s thirteenth novel, I realized how little I knew about France during WWII. Much of Hannah’s research is based on historical facts and Tariq’s wanderings accurately describe The City of Lights. Paris Echo reverberates with many ideas about history, reality, identity and acceptance.
Daniel Patrick Ahearn is 64 years old and he is dying. When his only child, Susan, was three years old, he killed her mother (his wife) in a jealous rage. He spent 15 years in prison and lived a quiet, lonely life thereafter. Because he knows his days are numbered, he decides to go to Florida to meet the daughter he hasn’t seen in 40 years. Susan was raised by her maternal grandmother who didn’t tell Susan the true story of her mother’s death and her father’s part in it until she was well into adulthood. Gone So Long Centers on three characters who are carrying a lot of emotional baggage and what they ultimately decide to do about it.
Gone So Long is not the gut wrenching tale I expected from Andre Dubus. The characters are flushed out, the concept is fine, but for some reason, and I’m not sure what it is, this novel is not dramatic or exciting.
This is an engrossing tale of three generations of women living in Urbana, Illinois. All three lead unsatisfied lives, but seem to settle for what they have. Evelyn, the grandmother, loved teaching history but put her ambitions aside when she married and had children. Laura, Evelyn’s daughter, marries a man she feels is different than those she grew up with yet eventually realizes he is just an angry man who drinks too much. Grace, Laura’s daughter, wants an exciting, fulfilling life but can’t seem to leave her hometown or her dreary job working in a health food grocery. Evelyn, Laura and Grace at first glance seem to be three very different women, but actually they are quite similar, repeating the same mistakes for three generations.
I thoroughly enjoyed A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl. It immediately captured me with its empathetic realistic female characters.
The latest novel by Barbara Kingsolver is two connected stories separated by 150 years. Both stories take place in Vineland, New Jersey, both involve a house that is literally falling apart, and both involve a family and an era in turmoil. The modern day story centers around Willa Knox and her family who have inherited a home that is sinking into the ground. Willa’s problems also include a right wing father-in-law who is quite ill, a daughter she can’t connect with, a son who is the sole parent of a very young child, and her husband who is a college professor who is never able to get tenure. The tale that takes place in the 1870’s centers around Thatcher Greenwood, a science teacher who locks horns with his principal, a naysayer of Darwinism. Greenwood is also living in a home that is practically unlivable and is in a marriage that the reader knows is doomed.
I was extremely disappointed with Unsheltered. The characters were one dimensional and many portions were tedious. Poisonwood Bible and The Bean Tree are proof that Barbara Kingsolver can do much better.
Mason, an author and a physician, has written a powerful novel about WWI. Lucius Krzelewski is a young Viennese medical student enlists in the Austrian army in 1914. Having never operated, he is alarmed when he is assigned to a hospital that has been set up in a church deep in the Carpathian Mountains in Hungary. He is astonished and frightened when he realizes he is the only one on the premises who has had any medical training. Fortunately, a nun named Margarete quickly teaches Lucius all he needs to know. Despite the make shift hospital being overrun with rats and lice, Lucius and Margarete operate, medicate, treat an assortment of neurological diseases brought on by the war, and fall in love.
I hadn’t read a book I thoroughly enjoyed and was awed by for months, but then I read The Winter Soldier. It is beautiful and exciting, yet graphically describes the horror of The Great War. It took a while for The Winter Soldier to grab me, but when it did, I was hooked!
William Boyd writes another interesting work of historical fiction which takes place from 1894-1906. The main character, Brodie Moncur, is a Scotsman and a skillful piano tuner. After a somewhat successful life working for a piano company in Paris, he takes on the job of being the personal tuner of John Kilbarron, a brilliant yet unpredictable Irish pianist. Almost immediately he falls in love with Lika Blum, Kilbarron’s Russian mistress. What results from Moncur’s “blind adoration” and why it takes him all over the world-Saint Petersburg, Paris, Edinburgh, Vienna, Trieste and beyond-is the crux of Love Is Blind.
I am a fan of William Boyd, however; this is not his best. It is well-written, but once I finished Love Is Blind, nothing stayed with me. It is one of those books I enjoy reading but a year later I probably will forget that I read it.