September 2019 Book Reviews

The Children Act by Ian McEwan.  I know he is a prolific and well loved author, but I almost didn’t keep reading after the first chapter. His use of language was overwhelming, everything so heavy and going on and on. I got that this was going to be the story of a British Judge and her failed marriage and the cases she had tried, but nothing in the story made me connect with her. It felt piecemeal and less than a third of the way through I knew how it would end. Not a recommend. Rate: 2.0

The Pleasing Hour by Lily King. So….mixed review. When I started reading this book a lot of characters, mainly women, were introduced and I truly couldn’t figure out who they were, their relationship to the protagonist, the time line. At page 100 I was finally getting the lay of the land. I almost gave up. I’m glad I didn’t because the novel got more engaging. There was a bullfight scene described from several points of view that was very good. In fact, I felt like it should be the wrap up of the story, although I still had unanswered questions. But there was a bit more and while some things were wrapped up, other were left open ended. I actually like stories that leave a bit to the imagination at the end, but this one felt incomplete. Indeed, the readers guide has questions like “what do you think happened to Rosie later?” Anyway, this is the story of young Rosie, who has fled difficulties in USA to be an au pair in Paris. Rate: 3.0

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross. Historically based on the existence of a female Pope, this is an excellent novel. Cross used language that took me back to the time, her flow and progression kept me reading and the underlying relationships were excellent. The chronology of how a woman could become Pope was great. Rate 4.0

The Saturday Wife by Naomi Ragen. Quite different from anything I ever read, this seems like a “genre” work, but the odd perspective on the Orthodox Jewish families in New York had me a bit puzzled. Then I read a bit about the author, who lives in Jerusalem, and it made a bit more sense. An expat point of view, for certain, and likely written for a European audience, rather than a US audience (although that is just my opinion). It was an entertaining, but somewhat puzzling novel. Rate: 3.0. Description from Amazon: Beautiful, blonde, materialistc Delilah Levy steps into a life she could have never imagined when in a moment of panic she decides to marry a sincere Rabbinical student. But the reality of becoming a paragon of virtue for a demanding and hypocritical congregation leads sexy Delilah into a vortex of shocking choices which spiral out of control into a catastrophe which is as sadly believeable as it is wildly amusing.

Away by Amy Bloom. Another very different story. Young Lillian Leyb, who comes to America alone after her family is massacred in a Russian pogrom, has to do what it takes to survive. The story seems to be going in a certain direction, then suddenly makes a sharp turn, as Lillian discovers her daughter might still be alive in Russia. The story then morphs to her roundabout journey back to Russia. I did like Bloom’s way of telling about the future of characters with a kind of in-a-nut-shell summary when we weren’t going to see them again. Rate: 3.0.

Key for my personal rating system:

5.0 – A book I will never forget, will quote, will tell everyone I know they MUST read it.

4.0 – An excellent book, but doesn’t quite make the best books of all time list.

3.0 – A recommendation, good read, decently written

2.0 – Some redeeming qualities, I finished it, but I’m not likely to seek out more by the author

1.0 – Don’t waste your time.