Archive for July, 2019

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

July 22, 2019


I had read about this book as being a light and glitzy summer read, which is not especially what I was looking for, but having really enjoyed The Signature of All Things by this author, I thought I’d give it a try. Although the setting of the world of theater and showgirls in New York City in 1940 certainly has its share of glitz, I found this to be an interesting, frank, and empathetic story of a woman who lived an unconventional life for her time. While Vivian Morris wishes things were always light and glitzy, they’re not, and it is interesting to see her gain perspective on this as she looks back on her life from an old age. She is refreshingly unapologetic about certain aspects of her life, such as her sexuality, while being quite frank about her mistakes and lapses in self-awareness in other aspects of her life, such as her privileged background. This book reminded me a little of Saint Mazie by Jamie Attenberg with it vivid setting of old New York City neighborhoods and its focus on an honest and unusual woman. If you’re interested in a not so light, but still interesting and entertaining summer read, give this one a try.

City of Girls on Libby/Overdrive

The Door, by Magda Szabo

July 12, 2019

[Lesley] I may have mentioned before that I am the official recommender of odd books – at least it seems that way sometimes! I liked Convenience Store Woman, The Friend, Melmoth, House of Leaves, and Open City. These are great books and I have happily shared that opinion with plenty of people but I also know that they aren’t for everyone.

The Door certainly belongs in this same category. The story takes place in Hungary with a small cast of characters all of whom surround our two main characters – Magda (also the narrator) and Emerence who is one of the most complex characters ever. The New Yorker story (“The Hungarian Despair of Magda Szabo’s “The Door””) about the book sums up my experience as a reader: “[My friend] Nell was reading a book. When she raised her eyes from the page, she looked like someone who had stepped back from the curb at the very last moment before being hit by a bus.” That may not sound appealing but it is the kind of book that subsumes your thoughts and attention to the point that emerging from it is a shock to the system.

I can’t give a plot summary as it wouldn’t be able to describe every layer or the way the story itself is actually many stories. Suffice it to say that this book will not disappoint in suspense, psychological drama, unreliable narrators, and true mysteries – of place, relationships, privacy, love, and betrayal. 

This book is one of those that will stay with me, that leaves me feeling changed in an essential way of seeing the world.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

July 10, 2019


If you’re familiar with Linda Holmes as pop culture critic on NPR or host of the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, you won’t be at all surprised to hear that her debut novel is as smart and funny and interesting as she is. The book is about two people who are both in pretty unusual and unexpected situations. Evvie is a young widow in a small town in Maine who was secretly packing to leave her husband on the day he dies in a car crash. She struggles with the expectations of grief and widowhood in light of how unhappy she was in her marriage to a very popular small town doctor. Dean is a famous Yankees pitcher who gets the yips (meaning he suddenly, and for no medical reason, can no longer pitch) and comes to Maine to escape his humiliation and the media spotlight. The book is more than just a love story between two people in very different but difficult life situations- it deals with identity, grief, guilt, and friendship in relatable, funny and sympathetic ways. This is a great summer read, with a lovely mid-coast Maine setting. Fans of Rainbow Rowell and Elinor Lipman will love it.

Evvie Drake on Libby/Overdrive

Evvie Drake Starts Over