Thursday, August 30, 2018

American Pastoral

One of my book groups chose American Pastoral by Philip Roth for our August discussion.  I don't have a lot to say about this book.  We all agreed that the 423 pages could have been 200.  My goodness, what a wordy man Philip Roth was. And the point of the book?  Everyone is searching and striving for a good, meaningful life. Okay, having said this, the reviews for the book are praising it to the heavens.

American Pastoral (American Trilogy #1)
It is the story of Swede, an all American boy, and how his life went from being a star athlete, admired by all, to being the owner of a glove manufacturing plant, to being the husband of Miss New Jersey of 1949, to one day having his whole life turned upside down when, in 1968, his sixteen year old fanatical daughter's act changed everyone's life forever.

I really enjoyed the core story in the book, but the pages and pages describing one thing killed my enthusiasm.  We deducted that because he was Philip Roth, no editors would confront his writing!

The German Girl

I borrowed The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa from one of my daughters.  I had some interest in it whenever I saw it at the bookstore, so was pleasantly surprised to be able to borrow it! Until I finished reading it, I did not realize that the novel was based on a true story.  I always find that very interesting.

The German Girl: A Novel
The book takes place in two different times with two different characters.  Twelve year old Hannah Rosenthal's story began in 1939.  The story of Hannah's grand-niece, Anna, also twelve years old, began in 2014.  The novel began in Berlin in 1939, when Hannah's parents, who were German and Jewish were realizing that they needed to leave Germany.  After much tribulation, they finally found passage on the German ship St. Louis which was going to Havana, Cuba.  Their plan was to be in Havana for a short period of time, then go on to New York to settle. Hannah's family was wealthy, could afford the better accommodations on the ship, and the purchase of an apartment in New York.  Hannah's best friend, Leo, and his father also were traveling on the ship.

When the St. Louis arrived in Havana, they were turned away.  Havana decided not to take the 900 people on board.  Finally a very few were allowed entry, including Hannah and her mother.  The ship went to both America and Canada, but neither country would allow the passengers to enter the countries. So all of the passengers left on the ship were to be returned to Europe. Hannah and her mother found a place to live and began to make a life there, hoping that Hannah's father would be able to eventually join them.  Hannah's mother was pregnant when they arrived in Havana, and was determined that she would have her baby in New York so the baby would be an American citizen, so she was allowed to go there for a short time, have the baby, then had to return to Havana with the baby, a son.

Forward seventy years to twelve year old Anna Rosen.  Her father had disappeared when her mother was three months pregnant with her, so she and her mother lived in their apartment in New York.  Her mother would talk to her often about her father, saying that he would be back.  Anna knew that her father had been raised by his aunt in Cuba, and that his parents had been killed in a plane accident, but that was about as much as either she or her mother knew. Then one day a large envelope was delivered addressed to Anna's mother.  It came from Canada. In the envelope was a smaller envelope addressed to "Anna from Hannah".

And so the story goes.  From there old family secrets are learned, and family is reunited.

I would have liked to have read more about the history of the St. Louis and the struggle for the refugees on board.  The book was a good story with some interesting twists to it. It would make a good book for a book group to discuss.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Yes We (Still) Can

I'm a big fan of the podcast Pod Save America and my favorite co-host on the pod is Dan Pfeiffer.  When I heard that he had a new book out (his first, I believe), I rushed out to get it.  The book did not disappoint me.

Early on Dan began working on the Obama campaign, and then went on the serve in the Obama White House for six years.  He was the White House Communications Director, then became a senior advisor to the President.

Yes We (Still) Can is Dan's story of his career path, working in the White House for President Obama, and the horror of Trump.  He also discusses the campaign of Hillary Clinton, and lessons that need to be studied for the Democratic 2020 campaign.  The book contains a lot of Dan's dry and funny humor. But the lessons need to be seriously studied over the next couple of years.  He has a lot of political wisdom.

The last chapter of the book is called Thanks, Obama (Seriously).  I found it funny, but very poignant.   Yes, Dan, we are missing him terribly.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Books 5 and 6 of the Outlander Series

It's taken me forever to get through the Outlander series, primarily because they are such huge books and I have to fit in reading them in-between books for my two book groups!

The two that I have recently (used in loose terms) finished were The Fiery Cross and A Breath of Snow and Ashes, 1443 and 1439 pages respectively.  It really took me forever to finish The Fiery Cross, because the story seemed to drag on forever.  It was only near the end of the book that the story became interesting to me, when an unexpected person showed up.  Then I began A Breath of Snow and Ashes right away (in March) and just finished it up this past week.  It was a much more interesting read.

To very briefly sum up both books, Jamie and Claire Fraser were now settled in North Carolina and the two books go from 1771 to 1776, so the Revolutionary War was beginning/going on. But as you can see, that is both books covering only five years together!

I have to say, the author, Diana Gabaldon, does a great job at ending the books in a way that I can't help but immediately want to begin the next one in the series! We'll see how long the next one takes me to get through!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

3 Books Read this Summer

I have been gone to the beach for awhile and am now trying to catch up on blogging.  So these reviews will be short and sweet!

Early One Morning by Virginia Bailey: This was a book chosen by one of my book groups.  It is a story about the aftermath wrought upon a family following the Nazi invasion of Rome in 1943.  A split second decision was made one morning and lives were changed.  Thirty years later the secrets were revealed.

This was a good story and an interesting read.  We all agreed that the author ended the story too abruptly, leaving some questions unanswered. However, other reviews of the book seemed to be content with the ending. The book was published in 2015. I wonder if the author intends to write a sequel.

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer: This book was recommended to me by a friend.  It came out in 2009, but I had not heard of it.  It also involves a bit of Nazi era, but is more about a family and a house that they built in the 1930's in Czechoslovakia called The Landauer House.  They had consulted and hired a well-renowned architect to design and build their dream house.  The home was a modern, open design that was breathtaking.  The family settled in well and life was good.  However, Victor Landauer (the owner) was Jewish and as the war progressed, he and his family had to leave the house and flee to America.  Meanwhile, during all of this story, the Landauer's personal lives are evolving with secrets.

I really liked this book for several reasons.  One reason is that the writing is great, characters are well-developed and the story kept my interest.  Another reason is that the story spans about thirty years. And the last reason is that I could easily identify with the process of designing and building one's dream home and the care and attachment for the home.  This book is a definite contender for being in the top five favorite books read in 2018!

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury: A beautiful book about growing up in the summer of 1928 in Illinois. Each chapter is a story involving twelve year old Douglas, his friends and his brother, along with various characters in the town.  It is beautifully written and is a book that I will return to over time, like I do with To Kill A Mockingbird.  I highly recommend Dandelion Wine.

Yes, the author is the Ray Bradbury, the well-regarded science fiction writer.  This book is described as a "1957 semiautobiographical novel".  We read it for one of my book groups and we couldn't understand why he wrote science fiction when he was able to write novels as beautiful as this (clearly, we are not fans of science fiction!).  I have seen that there is a sequel to Dandelion Wine and that is now on my to-be-read list!