Part history, part memoir, Fintan O’Toole describes his story and that of Ireland’s from the year he was born, 1958, to the present. He depicts the country over the last 60 years politically, economically, spiritually, sociologically and morally. O’Toole’s life as an altar boy, a good student in a Catholic school, and an investigative reporter for the Irish Times help shed light on Ireland then and now.
If you are very pro Irish, you might want to be warned that We Don’t Know Ourselves describes a country, its political and religious leaders as well as its everyday citizens with all of their many blemishes. However, for anyone who has some interest in modern day Ireland We Don’t Know Ourselves is a work of nonfiction that should be read.
Elizabeth Zott has a Master’s degree in chemistry from UCLA and is working at a research institute in Commons, California. It is the early 60’s when women scientists were not just an oddity they were second class citizens. After leaving that job where she was underappreciated and treated poorly, she lands a job in television. Her show Suppers at Six is a cooking show where Elizabeth combines her knowledge of chemistry with her devotion to healthy meals.
Bonnie Gramus’s debut novel is an entertaining read that I think most women will enjoy. Elizabeth Zott is at least ten years ahead of the women’s movement which makes her a worthy protagonist. However, for me, she and her situation are too good to be true.
*These are books I read in 2022. Not all of them were published this year.
The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin
Dinosaurs by Lydia Millet
Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival and Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliott
The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Lessons by Ian McEwan
Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout
Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks by Patrick Radden Keefe
The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy
Watergate by Garrett M. Graff
This debut novel and National Book Award Winner for fiction in 2022 tells the story of several tenants in a run down apartment building know as the rabbit hutch in Vacca Vale, Indiana. The main character, Blandine, is an eighteen year old who believes in mystics, was a foster child, and lives with three young men who are also products of Vacca Vale’s foster care system. Tess Gunty also introduces her readers to a dead child star, her wacko son, a young mother who is unable to look into the eyes of her very young child and a lonely spinster who edits letters of condolence that follow a newspaper’s obituaries.
Gunty’s novel is intriguing and quirky. She has taken an old plot- what happens to people who live in close proximity to one another-and put her own twist on it. The Rabbit Hutch is book that would make for great discussions in a book group. Like it or hate it, there’s lots to talk about.
Greta Fernsby is a 91 year old widow who lives in a lovely apartment in London. She was born in Germany an but moved to Poland when she was twelve when her father became the commander at Auschwitz. Since the end of World War II, she has tried to ignore her past and the part she played in it. When a family with a nine year old boy moves into the apartment beneath her, Greta is forced to look at her childhood and what she was responsible for.
John Boyne’s most recent novel is a page turner and an easy read with well drawn characters. Mark my words: All the Broken Places will be a best seller.
The young, unnamed female character of Keegan’s novella is sent to spend the summer with her childless aunt and uncle. Her home is filled with children, and her mother is pregnant. Her father is a cold, selfish man who is probably an alcoholic. The summer she spends with her aunt and uncle on their farm in southeast Ireland is paradise compared to her life at home.
This is a lovely short novella. Using few words, Keegan conveys the heart and soul of the young narrator and her family. I also admire how she took a typical tale of foster care and turned it upside down. Yet, is it worth $20 for an hour of pleasurable reading. I think not.
Every five years for the past 50 years a small group of friends meet on Holy Island in northern England to eat, drink, catch up and reminisce. When one of them is found hanged in his room, Detective Vera Stanhope takes on the case. Certain it is murder, not suicide, Vera and her small crew delve into this group’s past in order to find the murderer.
I rarely read mysteries, but I always try to read the latest from Ann Cleeves. Like most of her mysteries, The Rising Tide is a good easy read with wonderful descriptions of the English countryside and of Vera, the cranky, overweight fearless, woman who eventually gets the job done.
Patchett’s collection of 22 essays covers a variety of subjects. We meet her family-mother, father, sister, step-fathers, step-mother and husband. She describes experiences with several of her closest friends, some she has known since childhood, one is a very recent friend. Ann Patchett tells her readers what it’s like to own a bookstore, write a novel and go on a book tour. What all these essays have in common is the subject of death. In some death hits you in the face; in others it is a subtle suggestion. But obvious or obtuse, the grim reaper is in all 22 essays and in the introduction and the epilogue.
If you are squeamish about death and dying, I suggest you don’t read These Precious Days. However, if you enjoy Ann Patchett’s nonfiction, especially when she cynically honest, read her most recent work.
Nonso, Remi, Aisha and Solape are best friends at a boarding school in Nigeria. When a new, abusive principal heads the school, three of the four girls join a somewhat violent protest with disastrous results. Told through a series of short stories, narrated for the most part by three of the four friends, Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions, describes the lives of these girls in the past, present and future.
It took me a while to get the hang of this novel, especially to be able to differentiate each of the girls. Also, there are a lot of foreign words and phrases thrown in which might be annoying to some readers.
It is the 1970’s in a small town in Northern Ireland near Belfast. The main character, Cushla Lavery is a teacher in the town’s Catholic school. She also helps out at her family’s pub and has just begun an affair with Michael Agnew, a married man who is a barrister. Cushla lives with her alcoholic mother. She helps the McGeown family who has seen more than their share of misery since “The Troubles” began.
Louise Kennedy’s first novel is great. The characters, especially Cushla and Michael, are realistic and complex. I fell in love with Davey McGeown, the youngest of the unlucky Mcgeowns, who is a student in Cushla’s class. Trespasses rendering of what it’s like to live in Northern Ireland during “The Troubles” is true to life and unnerving.