Monday, December 22, 2008

Retro Reviews of Recent Reading

There are a number of interesting books I've read this year that I never really got around to reviewing. To catch up a bit before the year ends, here are a few stories encapsulated in a paragraph or two!

New York: HarperCollins, 2008.

Another book that everyone's been reading!* I like these kind of gothic stories, and one set in Salem, Massachusetts was too good to pass up. The setting was superbly evoked, Barry making use of all the mystique of Salem very successfully. I loved the character of the aunt who dies at the beginning, drawing main character Sophia (or as she prefers to be called, "Towner") home; the aunt was the original Lace Reader and her house is appealing on its own. The story was good overall; but the twist at the end was, for me, unbelievable and made the rest of the story implausible.

*Wendy at Caribousmom, Dar at Peeking between the Pages, Softdrink at Fizzy Thoughts

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society / Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I'm not sure who hasn't read this one by now. Told in letters, this is the story of a woman whose life is changed when someone on Guernsey writes to her after finding her name in a used book he purchased (Charles Lamb's essays). It's infinitely charming and yet not twee, as it takes place around WWII. There is sorrow and friendship and love, and the meeting of literary minds. Letters fly between our main character and all of the people she comes to know on Guernsey, as well as her London friends and publisher. Many voices and yet all distinct, so it was easy to keep track of who was writing. For bookish people it is a novel which can't go far wrong. I loved it despite the unwieldy title.

Reviewed by:
While I had this book on the TBR, I was finally inspired to read it after Dewey's glowing review. Her taste was always to be trusted.
This is a quick read, a story of "what-ifs"; what if the Queen discovered, late in life, a passion for reading? What if this passion for reading changed everything? How would it affect someone like the Queen? This story reflected charmingly on the joys and pleasures of books and the act of reading itself, and was an entertaining read. Bennett has dealt with questions about the Queen before, notably in his play A Question of Attribution, but this book goes a bit further and uses her as the main character. A cheery but rather light and quick read.

Also reviewed by:

This is also a recent choice of Yann Martel's as a gift to our Prime Minister as part of his campaign to get the PM reading (lost cause, I'd say, but he is persistent). I actually read it before he chose it, so was one up, yay! Despite the PM proroguing Parliament, Martel has not followed suit and has chosen not to prorogue his project just to get himself out of a tight spot -- potentially 4 more years of books!!


  1. Wow! Mel, I did not know that the Lace Reader was set in Salem - I may just read this one after all... thanks for the great review.

  2. These are the very 3 books that are top on my wishlist. I cannot see them around the net anymore, it makes me sad :)

  3. I'd love to read The Uncommon Reader, I just love the premise. And the Lace Reader sounds interesting, I used to live near Salem and it would be fun to see how the book matches my own feelings of that mysterious city.

  4. don't you hate when the reading goes so well that the reviews just get away from you? LOL

    Have a great holiday!


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