Here is the fifth installment of Tattered Cover’s recommended titles for book clubs — next week I will present the final nine offerings from them. I have found lots of other great resources in the meantime, so I will continue to present my findings on future Mondays! I only read one of this week’s selections, although I have SEEN two others. So, I will refer to Tattered Cover’s reviews quite a bit this week.
A million-dollar painting by Chagall is stolen by a quiz-show writer, Benjamin Ziskind, who is sure the painting used to hang in his parents’ living room. Benjamin’s twin sister, Sara, who is an artist, delves into the mystery of how the painting got to the museum in the first place. The mystery deepens when the author reveals that Chagall taught art to orphaned Jewish boys in Soviet Russia in the 1920s. Chagall befriended a great Yiddish novelist, and here is where the painting, a hidden tale, and the Ziskind family merge their stories.
In this stunning debut novel, Agu, a young boy in an unnamed West African nation, is recruited into a unit of guerrilla fighters as civil war engulfs his country. Haunted by his father’s death at the hands of militants, Agu is vulnerable to the dangerous yet paternal nature of his new commander. While the war rages on, Agu becomes increasingly divorced from the life he had known before the conflict started—a life of school friends, church, and time with his family still intact.
It’s 1961 in a quiet Wisconsin town where nine-year-old Button Peters lives with her parents. When the Malone sisters move to town, the town is no longer quiet. An extroverted, blond Winnalee Malone changes Button’s world and fills it with adventure. The two girls become best friends. Winnalee constantly carries her mother’s ashes in an urn and her big book of bright ideas where she jots down everything she learns. Freeda, Winnalee’s older, wilder sister, shocks Button’s mother. When a secret is accidentally revealed, it changes all their lives forever.
My husband and I try to see all of the Oscar nominees before the awards show each year, and I think the movie version of this novel was my favorite. (I say “think” because it is very violent, and because we thought Gone Baby Gone was better than all five of the nominees combined!) I actually had a customer request a kit on the film, and enjoyed creating it. Regarding this novel, my mother was travelling with a women who was reading it and really enjoying it. She even read passages aloud to my mom, who was very impressed. My next kit will most likely be on McCarthy’s The Road – which will be my first experience with McCarthy’s writing.
In the last months of the Nazi occupation of Poland, two children are left by their father and stepmother to hide in a dense forest. Because their real names will reveal their Jewishness, they are renamed Hansel and Gretel. They wander in the woods until they are taken in by Magda, an eccentric, stubborn old woman called a witch by the villagers. Magda is determined to save them, even as a German officer arrives in the village with his own plans for the children. Combining classic themes of fairy tales and war literature, this haunting novel of journey and survival powerfully depicts how war is experienced by families.
This novel was discovered by Nemirovsky’s daughter in 1990. It was written in the 1940s during Germany’s occupation of France. Nemirovsky, of Ukrainian and Jewish parentage, was a successful writer in Paris. She started writing this book as a five-part novel. Unfortunately, just after she finished two parts, she was arrested and taken to Auschwitz, where she died at age 39. The first part of the novel begins with the mass exodus from Paris just before the Nazi invasion. Families are thrown together in a battle to survive. In the second part of the novel, she takes us to a German-occupied village where the inhabitants have to co-exist with German soldiers. This is an extraordinary novel especially in view of the fact that its author also became a victim.
This is the second of this week’s selections that I have seen but not read. I just loved the film — the cinematography, directing and acting were just superb. The story revolves around farmers tapping into irrigation sources in order to save their crops. This novel was chosen as Denver’s pick for the entire city in 2006. I’m adding it to my library list today!
Peter Pouncey worked on this debut novel for 23 years. It is a beautiful story of love, loss, and growing old. Robert MacIver is facing living alone in an old house on Cape Cod after his wife Margaret dies. He soon realizes that his health is failing and that if he doesnít start living by rules, he will die with the house falling down around him. MacIver thinks back to his Scottish rugby-playing days, his service in WWII, and life with his wife and son. He also writes a story about men in World War I.
Roberts shows that sometimes the best way to learn about one’s own life is to make the lives of others your central concern, in this case the poor and the criminal in Bombay, India. Penetrating insights, expressed in lyrical prose carve an indelible image of Lin, his main character, and show us how salvation can come from a place we never thought we could understand. We are shown how the love of mankind is more important than the rules or laws and that in living life there is an equality beyond all systems or governments. Even the deeply flawed can teach us. Fascinating and memorable.
This is the only selection I’ve read this week, and unfortunately it did not grab me. However, it was quite a hot book club book last year, and my opinion is in the minority. The story follows two girls from 19th century China who are paired as laotong “old sames” — best friends, but in a permanent sense. They communicate through a secret language they write on fans. The premise sounds so interesting, and I can’t specifically remember why I didn’t enjoy this, so would still recommend it!
Since I’ve only read one of this week’s titles, I would love to hear from anyone who has read any of the others! Happy Reading!
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