Saturday, July 29, 2017

August Book, Saturday

It is Saturday, February 15, 2003. Henry Perowne is a contented man, a successful neurosurgeon, a devoted husband and the father of two successful adult children. One dawn, as he looks out of his bedroom window, he is filled with a growing unease fed by the impending war in Iraq and the wake of 9/11.

As Perowne makes his way through a typical day, a minor car accident brings him into a confrontation with Baxter, a fidgety, aggressive young man on the edge of violence.

Towards the end of the day, a Saturday, filled with incidents and thoughts of war, morality and love, Baxter reappears, this time at the Perowne home during a family reunion. The consequences are extraordianry.

In Saturday, Ian McEwan shows how life can change in an instant, for better or for worse.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Horse Drawn Yogurt, July Book

Peter Gould spent the 1970's living at Total Loss Farm, a commune in Guilford, Vermont. Horse Drawn Yogurt is a memoir of stories from Total Loss Farm.

Peter and his fellow communers were a part of the back to earth movement. Protests, writings and marches were not ending the war in Viet Nam nor improving civil rights. Disappointed and disallusioned, Peter and his friends sought to establish a utopian life of love, sharing and creativity that seemed attainable in southern Vermont.

Horse Drawn Yogurt has inspired Guilford Free Library to create a Guilford Reads summer program with various events around town that highlight the book and its captivating stories. As part of Guilford Reads, Peter will be visiting the Talk About Books group on Wednesday, July 19 at 6:30 to talk about his book with us.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

June Book, The Oregon Trail: A New American Adventure

Rinker Buck wanted to go west and experience a bit of history. A burnt-out newspaperman (he was a staff writer at The Hartford Courant for many years), and a self-described “divorced boozehound with a bad driving record and emerging symptoms of low self-esteem,” Buck hit the road in the summer of 2011 . . . in a mule-drawn covered wagon. 

That’s one way to beat the blues.

You may think him just plain crazy. Buck followed in the old wagon ruts and dusty paths of the thousands of pioneers who navigated the 2,100-mile Oregon Trail in the decades before the Civil War.

There’s a lot going on in “The Oregon Trail,” a book that’s absorbing on shifting levels. Fundamentally, it’s an adventure story, one in which the Buck brothers find themselves in some legitimately harrowing situations involving cliffs, rivers, runaway mules and low water supplies in the desert.

Mr. Buck is also a capable historian, and he delivers concise primers as he moves along. More than 400,000 pioneers made the trip from the Missouri River to the Pacific Coast in the 15 years before the Civil War, he notes, in what was probably one of the largest single land migrations in history.
Buck and his big blunderbuss of a brother, Nick fashioned an epic of their own. They drove their three-mule team from St. Joseph, Mo., across the plains of Kansas and Nebraska, into the forbidding high altitudes of Wyoming, then into mountainous Idaho and on to Oregon.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

May Book, Rules of Civility

  Amor Towles' debut novel, Rules of Civility, transports readers back to Manhattan in 1938, just before the sharp lines between social stratifications were smudged by the leveling influences of World War II and the G.I. Bill.  

Rules of Civility takes its title from young George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation, all 110 of which appear in the novel's appendix. Like the literary touchstones he evokes — F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton and Louis Auchincloss — Towles, a principal at a Manhattan investment firm with English degrees from Yale and Stanford, writes with grace and verve about the mores and manners of a society on the cusp of radical change.

Towles uses the somewhat contrived device of a long flashback to tell his story, but it works. His starting point is the 1966 opening of Walker Evans' "Many Are Called" show at The Museum of Modern Art, attended by his then-middle-aged, urbane narrator and her husband. Among the photographs — in which Evans captured New Yorkers on the subway with a hidden camera in the late 1930s — the narrator recognizes two shots, taken a year apart, of a man she used to know named Tinker Grey. Seeing these photographs sends her back to reminiscences of the year she met Grey, a turning point in her life.

The Week's Best Stories from NPR, August 2011

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April Book, The Water is Wide

The Water is Wide is a memoir published by Pat Conroy in 1972. It is based on his work as a teacher on Daufuskie Island, South 

The island is poor and isolated from the mainland, having no bridges and little infrastructure. Nearly all of the islanders are directly descended from slaves and have had little contact with the mainland and its people.

Conroy writes about his struggles to communicate with the islanders, to find ways to reach his students, ages 10 to 13, who are illiterate and innumerate. They know shockingly little of the world beyond their island. Conroy finds himself doing battle with the principal over his unconventional teaching methods and with district administrators who have neglected to provide proper education for these children.

Conroy writes with humor and compassion when recreating dialogues and incidents, but never deserting the seriousness of the topic.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

March Book, The Collaborator of Bethlehem

In his first Omar Yussef mystery, The Collaborator of Bethlehem,  (published in 2006),  Matt Beynon Rees tackles the complex Palestinian world of culture clash and suspicion.

Omar Yussef has been a teacher of history to the children of Bethlehem. He is a likable character filled with humility, humanity and faith in the power of knowledge. When a favorite former pupil, George Saba, a member of the Palestinian Christian minority, is arrested for collaborating with the Israelis in the killing of a Palestinian guerrilla, Omar is sure he has been framed. If George is not cleared, he faces imminent execution. When the wife of the dead man, also one of Omar Yussef’s former pupils, is murdered, possibly raped. When he begins to suspect the head of the Bethlehem al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is the true collaborator, Omar and his family are threatened. But as no one else is willing to stand up to the violent Martyrs Brigades men, who hold the real power in the town, it is up to him to investigate. 

Author Anne Perry writes, “A beautifully written story. I have walked the streets of Bethlehem with Omar Yussef, smelled the dust and the fear, tasted his food, shared his anger and his hope. His decency is a light in the gloom. I shall not forget him."

Other Omar Yussef Mysteries: A Grave in Gaza, The Samaratan's Secret, The Fourth Assassin

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

February Book, Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, by Jennifer Chiaverini, is based on the true story of Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave who became a  professional dressmaker and personal friend to Mary Todd Lincoln.

The story of their childhoods could not have been more different, yet both grew up to be ambitious young women. Elizabeth was determined to earn enough money to buy her freedom; Mary sought a husband who would respect her intelligence. When each arrived in Washington DC, it was a crucial time in her life. Mary was to be the First Lady and Elizabeth had developed a client list that included the top of Washington society. Their friendship would endure the death of children, the assassination of the President and a nationwide scandal.

Keckley published a memoir, “Behind the Scenes,” in 1868. The public did not react positively. Chiaverini writes, “She had always prided herself on her integrity and dignity, and to suddenly be dismissed as a lowly servant telling tales was quite a shock.”

Self-taught, self-made and utterly self-reliant, Elizabeth Keckley represents an important but forgotten piece of history.