Spain Remembers

Spain Remembers

Friday, June 6, 2014

Summer Reading

Here are a few suggestions:

Riel Street by Colette Maitland. A very Canadian family. The four children are realistic, brats sometimes, angels sometimes. The Bouchard family copes but just barely, held together by the grit and tenacity of mother Shirley. Maitland's writing is clean, strong and never sentimental as she chronicles small triumphs and larger tragedies.  This is a great follow-up to Keeping the Peace, Mailand's fine collection of short stories which also explores the fraying edges of relationships.

Toby's Room by Pat Barker. Set in England inWorld War I, the young artist,  Elinor is inconsolable when her beloved brother, Toby, is reported missing. She has to find out the truth and turns to her fellow artist and former lover Paul Tarrant  for help. Another artist friend, Kit Neville, is horribly wounded in the face, turning him grotesque.  But is her quest for the truth misguided? This book follows Barker's novel, Life Class but can be read on its own. A tender and searing look at the ruins of war.

The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland. Top notch historical by a top notch Canadian writer, remembered for her wonderful Josephine B. trilogy. Young Claudette, a member of an acting family, meets a lovely girl of the upper classes. The girl becomes Madame de Montespan and then the mistress of Louis IV, the Sun King. Claudette is drawn into court life with all its dangers and delights.

Old Filth by Jane Gardam. The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam, a British writer. The first two books in the trilogy should, I believe, be read in order. Barrister Edward Feathers, sometimes called Filth (Failed in London, Try Hong Kong) looks back on a seemingly uneventful life but many secrets are held under his conventional exterior.  The second book in the series The Man in the Wooden Hat, deals with the story of Filth's beloved wife, Betty and her attraction to rival barrister Terry Veneering.  Only three main characters, wonderfully drawn, each one living unusual lives. Gardam's prose is sparse, fast paced and exciting.  The British class system informs every action. The third book in the trilogy, Last Friends, is, in my opinion, not as well done as the first two. Gardam is a prolific writer and the local libraries have lots of her works.

Plainsong by Kent Haruf A mesmerizing book about a few characters in the small American prairie town of Holt. Lyrical writing tells great stories in a compassionate manner. I enjoyed this book very much.

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