Archive for October, 2019

The Secrets we Kept by Lara Prescott

October 24, 2019

[Tricia]

This historical fiction novel set during the Cold War is based on the true story of the CIA mission to smuggle copies of Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak into the Soviet Union after it had been banned. I knew almost nothing about Pasternak’s story or CIA mission before reading this. The book is told from multiple perspectives, including Pasternak, several of the CIA workers, Pasternak’s mistress Olga Ivinskaya, and a kind of Greek Chorus typing pool at the CIA. While the story itself is quite compelling, I found the three women at the center of the book: Olga, Sally and Irina (the latter two are fictionalized CIA spies) to be the most interesting. Their stories highlight the difficulty women in both societies faced at the time, and the high prices they often paid for living unconventional lives. I haven’t read Dr. Zhivago, although I have seen the movie, but I will add it to my list.

The Secrets We Kept can be found on Libby/Overdrive.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

October 16, 2019

[Tricia]

I always look forward to Ann Patchett’s books. There are scenes in her books that have stayed with me over the years, and in case of The Dutch House, I imagine it will be the recurring image of siblings Danny and Maeve throughout their lives parking across the street from the Dutch House – the house they grew up in and which their stepmother unceremoniously kicked them out of – gazing at the house while they talk about their lives. This brother-sister relationship is the heart of this book, and I love those small, intimate scenes over the years where the two of them come together to look at the house and confide in each other. It is both so dysfunctional and so touching that they do this, and that tricky balance throughout this book is what makes it so good. The characters in this book are each screwed up in their own particular way and, in the case of everyone except the stepmother and maybe the mother, very relatable ways.

So much in this book is so small, and yet so impactful. For instance, the fact that growing up in this beautiful mansion, Danny never realized that the cook and the housekeeper, the two women who basically raised him, were sisters. It just never occurred to him to notice, or to ask. It is a really interesting choice to make Danny the narrator. While he is a sympathetic character, he is often completely oblivious to himself and those around him. With the exception of his sister Maeve, the other characters in the book are held at arm distance, which is a reflection of how Danny sees them. I think listening to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Tom Hanks, worked really well for me, as it made Danny seem more relatable and understandable than he might have been for me on the page. But overall a very good addition to Ann Patchett’s work.

The Dutch House can be found on Libby/Overdrive.

Ladybug Picture Book Award

October 7, 2019

[SAM]

Did you know New Hampshire has its own picture book award? The Ladybug Picture Book Award is designed to promote early literacy and honor the best in recent children’s picture books. A committee of children’s librarians from around the state selects 10 picture book titles each spring. Then, during November, New Hampshire children from preschoolers to those in third grade choose the award winner. The winning picture book is announced at the end of the year. This year’s nominees are truly fantastic. Stop by the kids room and check them out:

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