Tuesday, October 25, 2016

November Book, The Franchise Affair

The Talk About Books group decided at their October meeting to read a mystery for the November book selection.  Josephine Tey came up as a much loved British mystery writer. The Franchise Affair was first published in 1948.

The setting is contemporary post-Second World War, but could be  inspired by the 18th-century case of Elizabeth Canning, a maidservant who claimed she had been kidnapped and held prisoner for a month. It could be based on a 1925 non-fiction account of the case, The Canning Wonder by Athur Machen.

Robert Blair was about to knock off from a slow day at his law firm when the phone rang. It was Marion Sharpe on the line, a local woman of quiet disposition who lived with her mother at their decrepit country house, The Franchise. It appeared that she was in some serious trouble: Miss Sharpe and her mother were accused of brutally kidnapping a demure young woman named Betty Kane. Miss Kane's claims seemed highly unlikely, even to Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, until she described her prison -- the attic room with its cracked window, the kitchen, and the old trunks -- which sounded remarkably like The Franchise. Yet Marion Sharpe claimed the Kane girl had never been there, let alone been held captive for an entire month! Not believing Betty Kane's story, Solicitor Blair takes up the case and, in a dazzling feat of amateur detective work, solves the unbelievable mystery that stumped even Inspector Grant.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

October Book, The Greater Journey

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough recounts the activities and observations of Americans who went abroad to Paris in great numbers beginning in the 1830's.

Waves of young Americans who would become important in art, education, medicine, literature, music and technological innovation sought the kind of broadening experiences that were not available to them at home.

 Mr. McCullough’s account of how Morse, who would become best known for his telegraph and code, painted his monumental “Gallery of the Louvre” (1831-33) is fascinating.  So are the experiences of American medical students in Paris, whose educational opportunities (including free lectures at the Sorbonne) were vastly greater than anything available to them at home. In America, male doctors could not examine female patients; in France, they could learn about obstetrics. And Paris enabled Elizabeth Blackwell to go home and become the first female doctor in the United States.

That's just a taste of the many famous personalities who fill the pages of The Greater Journey. The descriptions of Parisian life and political events during the span of the 70 years covered in the book are equally entertaining and enlightening.