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Goldfinch

What can I say about this book? I have actually been avoiding posting a review of The Goldfinch because I am nowhere near a good enough blogger to write a description or synopsis that can do it justice.  When books have praise blurbs written by the likes of Stephen King, they don’t need little old me telling the Internet my thoughts.  But, I jotted down some thoughts anyway:

  • How about this: The Goldfinch recently won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and it is easy to see why.
  • And: I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK
  • And: THIS BOOK IS AMAZING
  • And Finally: I CAN’T TRULY STRESS ENOUGH HOW AMAZING THIS BOOK IS

Signature

The Signature of All Things is in no way similar to Eat, Pray, Love. In fact, it is in no way similar to any book I have ever read before!  I can honestly say that The Signature of All Things left a very deep impression on me and I would put it at the list of my top books that I have recently read.  I find myself going through my days when all of a sudden I will recall something from this book – now that is a memorable book!

The beginning of the book follows Henry Whittaker, a poor boy who grew up in England in the 18th century, eventually making his way on a ship working with a captain and a scientist, and then ultimately moving to Philadelphia and becoming the richest man there due to his trade and pharmaceutical business.  The book then passes to Henry’s daughter Alma, a brilliant girl born in 1800who ultimately becomes a botanist focusing on moss.  Alma resigns herself to her science and living on her father’s estate as a spinster until she meets and ultimately marries Ambrose Pike.  Ambrose is the expert on exceptional paintings of orchids.

Amazingly, The Signature of All Things starts in England, works through Peru, goes on in Philadelphina for a while, then travels to Tahiti and ultimately ends up in Amsterdam.  Each of these locations feels like a different story in itself, but does not make the book too unwieldy.  What a wonderful trip!

LifeAfterLife

WOW this book!

This is actually the best way that I can sum up my reaction to Life After Life. It is a wonderful novel that is so hard to explain I’m afraid to try.

Ursula was born in 1910 and is the third child of a wealthy English couple living in the English countryside. Life After Life shows Ursula’s life how it could have been in so many ways.  She lives various lives and dies various deaths, with each story semi-related to the previous one, but not enough so that you know how the current life will play out.

Many of Ursula’s lives are lived during WWII, and there is an especially poignant life with Ursula living through the blitz and working as a warden on a rescue team.  I loved the characters and the character and strength within Ursula herself.

I can honestly say this book is a unique experience!

AJFikry

What a cute, quick, suspenseful read! I never thought I would use those three adjectives to describe one book, but they are perfect for The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.  A.J. Fikry lives in the type of small town where I have always wanted to live – on the east coast where everyone knows everyone – and he owns a bookstore (also my dream!).  Unfortunately, he’s a bit of a grump because he has had some pretty bad things happen recently in his life (mainly having his wife die).

But something happens that turns his life upside down, and turns the book 180 degrees.  The characters in the book are delightful, from the smalltown sheriff who feels some comradeship/responsibility for A.J. to his dead wife’s sister who still checks in on him, to the publisher’s representative who tries to get him to buy their new books each season.

If you are looking for a nice summer read, this book is it! LOVED it!

Still Life with Bread Crumbs

Still Life With Bread Crumbs is the name of a piece of photography that made Rebecca Winger famous when she was younger.  But she is 60 years old now, divorced, and has not had much success lately.  Because of the financial demands of her mortgage, her mother’s nursing home, her aging father’s apartment, and wanting to give some money to her grown-up son each month, money issues cause her to rent out her NYC apartment facing Central Park and take a small cottage in the woods in upstate NY in an attempt to find some inspiration and live without having to sell her apartment.

When she arrives at the dilapidated house (rented online based on glowing descriptions), it seems that she will not be able to survive in that wilderness on her own.  But Rebecca becomes stronger throughout the book, and the characters that Rebecca meets in the small town near to her rented house help to add a bit of comical relief to this story – as well as to help her make it through her hard times.  The writing is amazing and so easy to read, and the point of view of many of the chapters changes – I have to say that the one that is told from the point of view of the dog is my favorite.

When We Were Strangers Swimming in the Moon

These books are nonstop emotion!  Wow they are powerful.  They are so hard to put down because you keep wanting to find out what happens next –  I finished both of them in a day and a half!

The first book, When We Were Strangers, takes place in the late 1860’s, when thousands of immigrants arrived in America to start new lives.  It is the story of Irma, a 20-year old girl who lives in a small village in Italy, whose mother dies, whose great-aunt is old and feeble, whose father is becoming malevolent, and whose older brother leaves to go to America.  Irma is not the most beautiful girl in her village and knows that her options are limited, so she eventually decides to go to America – she leaves to go to Cleveland, where her brother told her he would be.  The adventures that encounter Irma on her way from her village to Naples to catch the boat, on the boat crossing the Atlantic, and in NYC Cleveland, Chicago, and San Franciscso are what make the book unstoppable.  Irma can sew, so she tries to find work while trying to keep her dignity when faced with difficulty finding housing, learning English, robbery, and other brutality.  When We Were Strangers paints a very realistic picture of the lives of immigrants in America in the late 1800’s.

While not a connected series, per se, the second book Swimming in the Moon also follows the story of immigrants coming to America.  In 1905, Teresa and her daughter Lucia have to leave Naples for America, and they end up in Cleveland.  The difficulties they face are similar to those that Irma faced, including learning English, making enough money to pay rent, and dealing with American prejudice against immigrants.  Irma is determined to become a high school graduate and wants to go to college, but also has to deal with her mother who seems to slowly be losing her mind.  Swimming in the Moon again paints a vivid portrait of immigrant life while also delving into the issue of workers’ rights at the time, and the fight for higher wages and shorter workweeks.

Aftermath

In 1946, Colonel Morgan moves his wife Rachael and young son from England to Hamburg to be with him while he oversees the rebuilding of the destroyed city.  Colonel Morgan, who feels empathy for the Germans remaining in Hamburg, allows the family (a widower and his teenage daughter) that owns the house where he has been stationed to live in the floors above the main floor.  Colonel Morgan, however, has a lot of work to do and is rarely at home, leaving Rachael to figure out how to appropriately interact with the man and his daughter, and the servants who remain there to serve her.

The book alternates focus on Rachael, Colonel Morgan, his son Edmund, the German widower, the daughter, and a young German boy who was orphaned during the bombs and who, with a group of other young boys, travels the city looking for items to sell or exchange for food and a warm place to sleep at night.

It is difficult to use the “Enjoyed it!” category for this book, since it is a very somber tale throughout.  But it is very well-written and engrossing and nicely captures the difficulties of the time and place in which it is set.