Sue H.

The Children Act

Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Ian McEwan
The Children Act

The Children Act, as the title suggests, is about a law written in England to help protect the rights of children when the high court must decide on an issue concerning the child.

This rather short novel is about Fiona, a family high court judge, who must make decisions about a child’s welfare. The young Jehovah’s Witness, Adam, is 17 and legally unable to make medical decisions apart from his parents’ wishes. Since Adam has Leukemia and his parents refuse blood transfusion for their son due to religious reasons, Fiona must step in and make the decision for Adam as the case has been brought before the Court for a ruling by the doctors providing care. 

The Children Act is more of a character study than courtroom drama, involving the judge and a difficult and sensitive medical case she is faced with regarding treatment that could save Adam’s life. The consequences of her ruling in the case are at the heart of the story, but, despite the sobering topic, it was not a difficult read.

Fiona herself has an issue; the fidelity of her marriage is at stake, and the conditions her husband wants to put on the marriage (to make it open) makes for an engaging side story. Their problems are realistic issues acknowledged by married couples, but the decisions made by the high court and Fiona are much more pivotal than domestic issues. In the court cases, the effects of the law and religion can change how a life is lived; in the domestic arena, the problems are painful but not necessarily life-threatening. Gradually, through time, Fiona and her husband come to the realization that their marriage might be saved; the outlook for Adam is not as encouraging.

This author takes an already engaging story and adds an interesting element that makes it extraordinary. I'm glad I read this book as the writer has the ability to use words in a descriptive manner to make it beautiful prose.

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Sue H., Reference

The Marriage of Opposites

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Alice Hoffman
The Marriage of Opposites

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman is a historical novel that takes place on both the Carribean island of St. Thomas and also in Paris, France. Rachel Pomie Pizzarro, our strong Creole female in this story will become the mother of French Impressionist painter, Camille Pissarro.

In 1807 when the novel begins, Rachel is only 12 and enjoys breaking rules, irritating her mother and rebels against this strict and dutiful woman. Her mother knows that behavior such as this will not be tolerated by the Sephardic Jewish community in which they live. Nevertheless, Rachel and her best friend, Jestine, a mixed-race daughter of the cook, are taught to read and are educated by Rachel’s father who is more relaxed about duty and convention than his wife.

By the time Rachel reaches her early twenties, her father has arranged a marriage for her with a businessman, father, and widower twice her age. This event secures the future of her father’s business, a rum-exporting operation on the island. When her husband dies several years later and Rachel finds herself the  mother of seven at an early age, she is distraught. Within several months, her husband’s nephew from France arrives to settle the estate and Rachel seizes control of her life, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair with the nephew that sparks a scandal affecting her entire family, including her favorite son Camille. This son will one day become the “father” of the French Impressionist movement and great artist in his own right.

Rachel had always longed for a visit to Paris where she had heard from her father during her early years about her ancestry but she had never been there. It takes the movement of her son Camille to Paris where he is to study art and painting to define the event which ultimately moves Rachel to Paris. There are convoluted themes within this novel but it is beautifully written and the enchanting locations become alive when described.

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Sue H., Reference

The Nightingale

Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Kristin Hannah
The Nightingale

Read it. Not much more needs to be said.  Read it because you want something real, something beautiful, something to learn from and remember. Read it because it will change you a little.

Vianne and Isabelle are French sisters in 1941. Vianne is the older sister by 10 years and the more quiet, introspective of the two sisters; Isabelle is outrageous, angry, and brutally honest.  She is this way because of how she was treated by her father at an early age after their mother died. The sisters are vastly different people. When war comes, Vianne and Isabelle react in their own way. Isabelle is adventurous and wants to join the war efforts but is naive. Vianne is terrified - mostly for her children.

This is WWII as told to us through the stories of two exceptional women. Terrible things happen - parts are difficult to read. You will find yourself emotionally involved in this story and cringe at some of the events that take place, but the descriptions are not overly descriptive so it is left to your imagination to parse out the details.  If you have any compassion in you at all, you will cry at some places in this story. The events are eluded to with a light hand. Never manipulative. Never over the top. But mostly this was a story of bravery. Immense bravery that is absolutely inspiring. Even with the pain - the atrocities - the sadness. Finishing the book will give you a sense of kinship with one or both of the brave women who endured so much and you will find yourself thinking about the chapters long after you have put the book down.

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Sue H., Reference

The Dinner: a novel

Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Herman Koch
The Dinner: a novel

The events in this book take place in the course of one evening and the discourse is between two Dutch families in the Netherlands - brothers and their wives, along with their respective children who are middle-school aged boys.  The one brother is an unemployed former teacher, married to a seemingly complacent wife; the other brother is paired with "Babette" and this brother has political aspirations and exhibits an outgoing, friendly demeanor one would expect from a politician.  The commonality  between them is their sons and as the dinner progresses from one course to another, details of the horrific events that have taken place at the hands of both sons begin to emerge.  The parents continue to exhibit a nonchalant attitude as they gracefully meander through dinner and each forkful of food brings forth more disturbing details of the evening in which the sons have played a part.  The police have been brought in concerning this "act" to investigate and as the couples continue to eat, the subject finally comes up that needed to be discussed...how is each couple going to respond to the shattering accusations levied upon the boys.  



Their seemingly ordinary lives begin to unravel as the parents discuss the incident and it is revealed how far some parents will extend themselves in order to protect not only their son but themselves as well.  It is unimaginable that there are parents in this world who would go to such far extremes to cover for their children.  The subject is compelling and the different scenarios that play out point to the darker side of human nature. Check our Catalog

Sue H., Reference

Me Before You

Friday, May 8, 2015
JoJo Moyes
Me Before You

 

Will Traynor is one of the main character, changed forever in the blink of an eye as he stepped out into traffic  one rainy London day. Now, Will is a quadriplegic who needs round-the-clock care for his physical ailments, but for his emotional state-of-mind his mother has hired Louisa Clark to be a companion to Will. Louisa is a simple girl who has lived her entire 26 years in the shadows a small English village. She likes to wear colorful clothes and bumble bee tights. She just lost her job at a café; her family relies on Louisa for income so she accepts a job as Will’s care giver for a six month time period. 

 What happens in this six month time period is the heart of this story. It is about two families and how they cope with what life has dealt them. It is about choices and being allowed to choose. It is about awakening and discovering life and all there is to take from it and not be afraid to really love and live.  There are thoughts that came to mind as I read this story…thoughts I had never entertained.  It is a struggle between choice of live or choice of being and the quality or lack of that goes with it.   The outcome was a struggle and this book is haunting to say the least in that I kept thinking about it days afterwards, wondering what decision I would have made in the same circumstances.

 The cover of the book is misleading – it looks like it would be a 1960’s type read when in fact, it is a morally divisive topic. This is a book you need to experience…you have to know that it won’t be the way you think it will turn out so you need to read it blind.  It will take you the entire book before you figure out what the title means. Check our Catalog

Sue H., Reference

Pardonable Lies

Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Jacqueline Winspear
Pardonable Lies

This is a stand-alone novel by the author of the Maisie Dobbs series. Ms. Winspear wrote this book to commemorate the 100 anniversary of the beginning of this terrible war. The setting is a farm in Kent and of course in France where the fighting was occurring. The time is 1914 and 1915.  It tells the story of a man and his sister; her friend who becomes the man's wife, and the local landowner. They all become caught up in the Great War as the men go off to war and the wife stays home. She writes letters to her husband telling of wonderful dinners she is cooking at home on the farm. These are the "lies" that are told, as she is pretending she has these resources because she knows that her husband would enjoy them were he home.  As the war progresses, the men in Tom's company learn to love the meal descriptions and talk about them among themselves. They savor the connection between the description of the food and what they all are missing back home.

A beautifully written but deceptive book. It begins by wrapping you up in warmth like a cozy flannel nightgown, but gradually the effects of war strip this away. This creates a sense of sadness and loss, the realization that things will never be the same again. True to the author, this is a quiet book with deep meaning and the horror of war that comes to real people. Check our Catalog

Sue. H., Reference

 

The Care and Management of Lies

Monday, January 5, 2015
Jacqueline Winspear
The Care and Management of Lies

This is a lovely little book for those times when you're not in the mood for heavy, analytical reading. The underlying sense of feminist issues and an anti-war sentiments is pervasive through one of the main characters.   The Care of Management of Lies is set in England in World War I. As the plot progresses, the lives of its three protagonists are radically changed. With imagery and emotion, Ms. Winspear sweeps the reader away from the bucolic farmland to the horrors of the battle field. In all, I enjoyed the way she tells the story and although the ending was something I didn't understand, I looked forward each day to joining the characters in their journeys.  The novel is prosaic in its delivery and enjoyable book that ended in a way that is controversial.  Check our Catalog

Sue H., Reference

Cholera in Detroit: A History

Friday, May 9, 2014
Richard Adler
Cholera in Detroit: A History

This book seemed like another part of the rich History of Detroit, taking the reader back to times before germs and pathogens were discovered.  Cholera was a deadly disease back in the centuries before toxic microbes were analyzed.  There was no known cure for Cholera because people did not know where it originated from.  Some thought it came from the soil; others thought it was transmitted by touch.  It took the documentation of several scientists and medical professionals to find the elusive pathogen that was Cholera.  The book outlines the eipdemics that took place in the Detroit area before cholera was identified to be water-borne.  The history of the sewers and raw sewage that made it way both into the Detroit river, and consequently into the water supply outlines a time that is unimaginable.  Not only cholera took its toll on the residents, but dysentery and smallpox ravaged the population.  
It was interesting to learn about how the city began and how the early residents lived through these unsanitary times.  
I liked it but it was a lot of history and rather unsavory in some of the descriptions of how people lived...not your bedside novel you would read at night...

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Sue H., Reference



 

Under the Wide and Starry Sky: A Novel

Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Nancy Horan
Under the Wide and Starry Sky
I never knew I wanted to know so much about Robert Louis Stevenson's life and times, along with his wife, Fanny van de grift Osbourne's, until I started to read this novel. It was thoroughly fascinating. The combining of historical facts with romantic and turbulent fiction is seamlessly written and entices the reader to travel along their globe-trotting locations. An enjoyable read, although the real life and description of Robert and Fanny is different from this fictional book.  Nevertheless, the book still gives insight into their relationship. Check our Catalog
Sue H., Reference
 

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