May Book Reviews

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (published 1920). I’m not one for classics, but every once in awhile I dip into one. This was a good read, well written flow, but what a perspective. It was one of those books I had to look up when I finished because I didn’t “get” the end. Kind of a story of feminism from a male perspective by a female author…..the insults chewed away at me…Newland Archer is one of the society folks in New York. He is about to get married (he does in the course of the story) and he is questioning the rules of HIS society…while never even considering that the rest of the world lives any differently. There is a move, from 1993, which I will watch solely because Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis star. Rate: 3.5

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. I thought I might have already read this one (published in 1997) but it wasn’t familiar. Bohjalian is a master story teller, with pace, character development, foreshadow all at a top level. The story is more pertinent to the late ‘80s, with Sibyl Danforth, a midwife, making a decision that leads to a law suit. And while we get to peek into her life through her journal entries, the story is told from the point of view of her fourteen year old daughter, Connie, now an adult, reflecting back to the time the lawsuit and trial took place. I am not in love with trial novels….the part in the courtroom can be tedious. Bohjalian does a great job keeping those scenes from dragging by mixing in flashbacks, journal entries and other components of Connie’s life. Rate: 4.0

Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian. Yes, I am on a binge and there will be one more soon. This one was written much later than Midwives and I can’t say that I liked it much. I had a hard time connecting with the characters and I figured out what the twist was going to be early in the story. It was actually good for me to read this because I am toying with an idea for a novel where good guys become bad guys become good guys and this novel made me see how tricky it is to pull off this particular venture. In this story Reverend Steven Drew deals with the murder of one of his parishioners. Along the way he meets another character, a writer who believes in angels, Heather Laurent. We also have the daughter of the murdered woman. Bohjalian weaves a tangle story between the characters, then throws in the state’s attorney as well. A clever idea, but something was missing for me. Rate: 3.0

Stoner by John Williams. This was quite a book. Written in 1965, the tale is about William Stoner, born at the end of the 19th century. This is certainly the classic as acclaimed. The writing is so subtle, so deep. The story of a University professor and all the disappointments of his life, I wanted to scream “No! Do something else. Do something about it!” but that is what makes this book good. It draws you in. Rate: 4.0

The Best Land Under Heaven by Michael Wallis. This is the book Auburn has picked for the One Book, One Community events of 2018. I will write an entire blog on the events at a later date. The story of the Donner Party, only told with modern information, this one ventures more deeply into the politics of the times and the lives of the travelers prior to leaving for the west. The concept of “Manifest Destiny” rings a bell in todays confusing world and I am guessing that the community discussions will be emotional and deep. Normally I have such a hard time reading non-fiction, but I have been a constant fan of anything about the Donner Party since reading “Patty Reed’s Doll” in the fourth grade. This book did not disappoint and I read the entire 358 pages in just a few days. Rate: 4.0

The Sense of Paper by Taylor Holden. The story of Charlotte Hudson, traumatized war correspondent as she changes careers and writes a book about a famous artist that also chronicles the history of paper. This was a difficult read. There was a lot of information about paper inserted and I can’t say it went smooth. Maybe a bit too much like non-fiction for me. But underlying this was a tense story, about love and trust and hopelessness. That kept me ready, but I truly could only read little bits at a time and this book took me a long time to read. So…your choice…but I can only rate it 3.0.