Blue Diary

Hoffman, Alice. Blue Diary. Berkley Trade, 2002.

Reason read: in honor of Alice Hoffman’s birth month I chose Blue Diary.

Ethan and Jorie are the perfect couple. From the outside looking in they have everything. Ethan Ford. Let us start with him. What’s not to love about Ethan? He’s a first-rate carpenter, a volunteer fireman who has saved many people from various burning buildings, an excellent little league coach, he’s extremely good looking, generous and kind, married to Jorie and father to sixth grader, Collie. This is a tight knot community in Massachusetts. Everyone knows everyone. Jorie, Charlotte, Trisha, Mark, Barney and Dave all went to high school together. Ethan is the odd man out. That’s the way he likes it.
Blue Diary bounces from third person perspective to the first person narrative of Kat, Collie Ford’s best friend. They will share devastation in common. Kat lost her father to suicide, Collie will lose his to incarceration. This is a story about perception.
Interestingly, everyone seems to be pining for someone else. Jorie’s best friend, Charlotte, has a deep crush on Ethan (but then again, who doesn’t?). Barney has the hots for Charlotte. Confessional: I didn’t like many of the characters so I had a hard time rooting for anyone.
As an aside, Hoffman likes to write in color so when I started reading Blue Diary I started to take note of everything described as blue: blue air, brilliant and blue, blue eyes, shimmering blue, blue ice, blue shadows (2), blue images, blue ponds, blue shapes, blue jays (several), blue blur, blue, blue skies, still blue, pinched and blue, blue flickering, Blue tint, blue silk, written in blue, China blue, blue frock, inkberry blue, blue skies, blue circles, blue dress, blue dusk, blue binding, blueberry, blue leatherette, wash blue, bluer still, frozen and blue, sweet blue, bluebirds, blue diary, milky blue, now blue, and the variations of blue, indigo and cobalt.

As an another aside. Usually, when an event as big as the arrest of a neighborhood’s favorite man, reporters are on the front lawn of the accused before it’s even on the evening news. In Blue diary it’s backwards.

Author fact: Hoffman is a New Yorker.

Book trivia: This is not a spoiler alert. While the title of the book is Blue Diary you never get to read the diary. The little key to the diary is literally the key to everything.

Playlist: “All You Need Is Love”

Nancy said: Pearl said something along the lines of if you want to see the evolution of Hoffman’s writing, read Blue Diary.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “A…is for Alice” (p 1).

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

le Carre, John. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold. Ballantine Books, 1963.

Reason read: while The Spy Who Came In from the Cold didn’t win an Academy Award, Richard Burton was nominated for his role as Alec Leamas. The Oscars are usually presented in March.

I had heard a lot of great things about John le Carre’s novels. Growing up, I can remember one or two titles floating around the house. I definitely think The Spy Who Came In from the Cold was one of them.
You know the story: someone is very close to retiring, getting out of the game, but there is one last job they need to do. After they complete this one final task, whatever it is, then they are out. Fini. Except, you know that’s not how it ends up. The job is always more complicated and/or dangerous. Something always goes sideways and the end is horribly wrong. The spy Who Came In from the Cold is no different. Alec Leamas is nearing the end of his career as a British agent. He wants out but die to a fabricated “problem” with his pension, he has one last mission in East Germany. All he has to do is spread rumors about an East German intelligence officer. After that, he can “get out of the cold” comfortably. Of course, nothing goes to plan. I knew this book was going to be trouble when, within 15 pages four people would die in quick succession.
Heads up: keep in mind this was written in a time when men were allowed to be sexist. It never occurs to Leamas that he might have to work for a woman.

As an aside, I love when books give me a connection to Monhegan however small. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold mentions the Morris Dancers. They performed on Monhegan every summer for years and years.

Line that made me think, “At first his colleagues treated him with indulgence, perhaps his decline served them in the same way as we are scared by cripples, beggars and invalids because we fear we could ourselves become them; but in the end his neglect, his brutal, unreasoning malice, isolated him” (p 23).

Author fact: le Carre died in 2020 and according to his Wiki page, his death was unrelated to Covid-19.

Book trivia: The Spy Who Came In from the Cold is the sequel to Call for the Dead and A Murder of Quality. I only have the former title on my Challenge list, but once again I have read these books out of order. Ugh.

Playlist: “On Ilkley Moor bat t’ at”

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned le Carre as someone to read if you are into spy novels. She also called The spy Who Came In from the Cold remarkable.

BookLust Twist: from a few places. First, Book Lust in the chapters called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1960” (p 175) and “Spies and Spymasters: the Really Real Unreal World of Intelligence” (p 223). Second, in Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Berlin” (p 36).

Outlander

Gabaldon, Diana. Outlander. Read by Divina Porter. Recorded Books, 1997.

Reason read: Valentine’s Day is in February. Outlander is somewhat of a romance.

Modern day is 1945. War is afoot. Claire Randall is on holiday with her newly reunited husband, Frank. Both have been involved in the war, he as a soldier, she as a nurse. Scotland is a chance for them to reconnect, a second honeymoon of sorts. The couple finds useful ways to spend their time, him researching information on family ancestry and she looking for herbs and medicinal plants. While wandering around the Inverness countryside, Claire hears a tiny humming noise emanating from Scotland’s version of Stonehenge. Upon touching a buzzing stone, Claire faints then reawakens in 1743. So begins the journey of Claire Beauchamp that everyone knows so well. the burning question on everyone’s mind is how will she get back to modern day history professor and husband, Frank?
The real question to me is, after tangling with her husband’s ancestors, would she change her own present day life? On the heels of reading Kindred by Octavia Butler, I couldn’t help but make comparisons between the two time-travel novels. Butler’s Californian heroine, Dana, not only accepted her situation readily, but understood her purpose for being sent back to slave-era Maryland. Gabaldon’s English heroine, Claire, barely questions her jump back in time and seems to integrate herself into 1743 seamlessly. Dana finds a way to take her husband back in time with her while Claire not only leaves her modern day husband behind, but falls in love and marries a 1743 Scotsman. Claire’s main purpose, after some time, seemed to be her usefulness as a nurse and her knowledge of events in the future to save the clan who took her in. Neither Dana or Claire seem too anxious to return to their original place in time.

As an aside, when I mentioned to a friend that I had started Outlander her eyes lit up as if I had just handed her a million dollars. “Oh, I love that book” she gushed. I could tell she wanted to say more , but I hushed her with a “nope, nope. nope.”

Author fact: Gabaldon, at the time of publication, was also a professor. cool.

Book trivia: There is a certain craze surrounding Outlander. My husband cannot wait for me to watch the series. Even though there is a movie of the same name, they are not one and the same.

Playlist: “Up Among the Heather”.

Nancy said: Pearl classified Outlander as paranormal. She also calls it the best of the five (at the time) books in the series.

BookLust Twist: Pearl favored this one. From More Book Lust in the obvious chapter of “Time Travel” and again in Book Lust in the chapter “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203) and “Romans-Fleuves” (p 208).

Guermantes Way

Proust, Marcel. “The Guermantes Way.” Remembrance of Things Past: In Search of Lost Time. Vol. 5 Reanslated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff. Illustrated by Philippe Jullian. Chatto & Windos, 1960.

Reason read: to continue the series started in November in memory of Proust’s death month. Obviously, I skipped a month.

As Proust’s narrator grows up his narrative becomes drier and less whimsical. There is a larger focus on French society and the titles within it. We move beyond intimate portraits of individuals, but Proust is careful to let his narrator grow through the people he meets and the obsessions he develops. TI was struck by the genius of lines well delivered. For example, “Perhaps another winter would level her with the dust” (p 275). In the end I found myself asking, how do you cope with a love that is held only by the games one plays? Is this a form of emotional hostage-taking? What will become of one so enamored with another?

Author fact: Proust spent a year in the army.

Book trivia: I have to admit even though I am three books into the Remembrance of Things Past series, I get confused about the different published titles. Someone said Guermantes Way is also called In Search of Lost Time: Finding Time Again. What the what?

Nancy said: Pearl did not mention Guermantes Way specifically.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 208). In all fairness, the individual titles of Remembrance of Things Past were not mentioned at all.

Within a Budding Grove

Proust, Marcel. Remembrance of Things Past: Within a Budding Grove. Translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff. Chatto & Windus, 1966.

Reason read: to continue the series.

If you remember from Proust’s first volume of Remembrance of Things Past our narrator was looking back on his childhood. Now he is thinking back to when he was a young adult; the coming of age stage of life. This time he has a sweetheart named Gilberte, the daughter of M. Swann, and he still has a singular attachment to his mother. Many of the same characters that were in the first installment are back in volume two, only now they are more refined due to their changing circumstances. Family relations change. Gilberte starts to drift away. The chase of Gilberte seemed endless. Twenty pages later and our narrator is still stalking her; looking for excuses to connect with her. The turning point was when he decides to play hard to get himself. The head game of renouncing Gilberte and then realizing this could backfire and he could lose her forever had a very modern feel to it.
Most of the drama takes place in the seaside town of Balbec or Normandy, France. There are times when Within a Budding Grove drags. Entire pages are dedicated to the description of ladies gowns. Society’s dedication to cordial formalities and the quest for the value of Beauty were tiresome. Questioning the possibilities of happiness or suffering seems an age-old topic. Only when the narrator was looking for intellectual distraction in a dinner conversation did I find the situation funny. To see what others had done with the carnation wrapped in silver paper was relatable.

Quotes I liked, “My father had always meant me to become a diplomat, and I could not endure the thought of that…” (p 13) and “There is perhaps nothing that gives us so strong an impression of the reality of the external world as the difference in the positions, relative to ourself, of even a quite unimportant person before we have not met him and after” (p 341).

Author fact: Marcel Proust’s books coined the phrase “romans-fleuves” as a way to describe them.

Book trivia: Within a Budding Grove is also called In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower.

Nancy said: Pearl does not say anything specific about Budding Grove.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called Romans-Fleuves (p 208).

Brideshead Revisited

Waugh, Evelyn. Brideshead Revisited: the Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder. Everyman’s Library, 1993.

Reason read: Waugh was born in October; read in his memory.

Brideshead Revisited is twenty years in the life of Captain Charles Ryder and the relationships that sustained him. Friendships with the Flyte family and Brideshead Castle, the military, religion, romance. We learn early on that he compares his waning affection for the military to a marriage in the post-honeymoon phase. I found that to be a really interesting analogy.
I would compare Brideshead Revisited to a lazy river. There is no white water pulse pounding plot twists. Instead it is a pleasant, gentle read that meanders through Victorian life. I can see the reason for its popularity and the various made for television movies it spawned.

Line I liked, “He was the acid test of all these alloys” (p 9).

Author fact: Brideshead Revisited was Waugh’s most successful novel. It was made into a miniseries in 1981 and a movie in 2008.

Book trivia: Waugh made revisions in 1954 (the original was published in 1944). He was of two minds about Julia’s outburst about mortal sin and Lord Marchmain’s dying silioquy. Were they appropriate for the story?

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything about Brideshead Revisited in either chapter.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1940s” (p 177) and from Book Lust To Go from the chapter called “Oxford: Literary Fiction” (p 170).

Midwives

Bohjalian, Chris. Midwives. Vintage Contemporaries, 1997.

Reason read: Chief Justice John Jay was born in the month of December.

Imagine anything and everything that can go wrong when trying to midwife a birth: there are complications with an at-home pregnancy in rural Vermont; a storm rages; phones go out and roads are impossibly icy; the midwife’s assistant is inexperienced and immature. The husband freezes, struck and stuck immobile with fear. These are the days before cell phones and computer communications. No VoIP, no texting, no Googling how to perform a cesarean or how to stop a woman with high blood pressure from having a cerebral hemorrhage. There is no way to go for help when this same exhausted woman starts bleeding to death after hours and hours of trying to give birth to a second child. A desperate situation calls for desperate measures and seasoned veteran midwife Sibyl Danforth makes a decision to perform an emergency cesarean on this mother. Months later, at her trial for manslaughter, she will tell the court she believed the mother had died. Was it a necessary action or did Sibyl commit callous unthinkable murder? As with all suspicious deaths, Sibyl must be tried in front of a jury of her peers, all the while battling traditional medical opinions and an overzealous community ripe for justice. The midwife culture is one of hippies, people who buck the system and thumb their noses at modern medicine. Midwives give off the vibe they lounge around buck naked while smoking pot. Told from the perspective of Sibyl’s daughter, thirty year old Connie Danforth looks back on her mother’s horrific choice and the subsequent trial that followed.

As an aside, I found myself gritting my teeth through the more difficult sections.

Author fact: Bohjalian also wrote Water Witches. I read that back on April 2010.

Book trivia: Each chapter is introduced with an entry from Sibyl Danforth’s journal.

Playlist: Abba, the Shirelles, Joni Michell, and Janis Joplin,

Nancy said: Pearl called Midwives a remarkable mother-daughter novel, yet it is not included in the “Mothers and Daughters” chapter of Book Lust on page 159.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “What a Trial That Was!” (p 243).

Remake

Willis, Connie. Remake. Bantam Books, 1995.

Reason read: Willis was born in the month of December. Read in her honor.

Remake is captivating. Imagine moviemaking of the future where technology allows you to alter endings to your favorite movies. Don’t like Johnny Depp starring in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Want to see Ryan Reynolds as the lead instead? With just a keystroke, you can change any detail you want. Live-action filming is a thing of the past. Every little detail can be turned upside-down with a little techno-photoshopping. Nothing is real anymore. Which is unfortunate for one na├»ve young woman named Alis. All she desires is a dance with Fred Astaire up on the silver screen. She knows all of Ginger’s moves and like Alice in Wonderland, believes the right combination of eat-me and drink-me drugs will get her there. Caught up in love with Alis, Tom muddles his way through fixing bad alterations, all the while offering Alis her face on all the great dancers who danced with Fred. Alis doesn’t want a photoshopped image of herself on Ginger’s body. She wants the real deal.
As an aside, I loved how Willis thought. Here’s a twist: when bona fide actors are maliciously altered into snuff films, litigation ensues. Either that, or the wronged actor becomes a popular porn star.

Author fact: Even though Connie Willis has written a ridiculous number of books, I only had ten on my Challenge list. I have read all but three, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Passage, and Unchartered Territory.

Book trivia: there is an insane number of movies mentioned in Remake. I don’t know if they are all real or not, but I took the liberty of listing them all. You’re welcome.

  • 3 Sailors and a Girl
  • 42nd Street
  • African Queen
  • Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • All About Eve
  • American in Paris
  • Anchors Aweigh
  • An Affair to Remember
  • Annie Get Your Gun
  • Arsenic and Old Lace
  • Athena
  • Babes on Broadway
  • Back to the Future
  • Bell, Book and the Candle
  • Belle of New York
  • Bells are Ringing
  • Ben-Hur
  • Beverly Hills Cop
  • The Birds and the Bees
  • The Blue Max
  • Born to Dance
  • The Boyfriend
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Brigadoon
  • Broadway Melody of 1940
  • Broken Blossoms
  • By the Light of the Silver Moon
  • Camelot
  • Camille
  • Can-Can
  • Carefree
  • Carousel
  • Casablanca
  • Cat Ballou
  • The China Syndrome
  • Chorus Line
  • Citizen Kane
  • The Collector
  • The Color Purple
  • Dance
  • Days of Wine and Roses
  • Death Wish
  • Double Indemnity
  • Dr. Zhivago
  • Dumbo
  • East of Eden
  • Educating Rita
  • Fantasia
  • Field of Dreams
  • Flying Down to Rio
  • Follow the Fleet
  • Fools
  • Footlight Parade
  • Footloose
  • For Love or Money
  • Frankenstein
  • Funny Face
  • Gaslight
  • Gay Divorcee
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
  • Giant
  • Gigi
  • Girl Crazy
  • Godfather
  • Godfather II
  • Gold Diggers of 1933
  • Good News
  • Goodbye Mr. Chips
  • Graduate
  • Great Expectations
  • Greed
  • Gunga Din
  • Guys and Dolls
  • Hallelujah Trail
  • Harvey Girls
  • Hats Off
  • Hello Dolly
  • High Road to China
  • High Society
  • House of Wax
  • How the West was Won
  • How to Marry a Millionaire
  • I Killed Wild Bill Hickok
  • I Love Melvin
  • In the Good Old Summertime
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Into the Woods
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • The Kid from Brooklyn
  • Let’s Dance
  • Little Miss Marker
  • Lost Horizon
  • Lost Weekend
  • Love Story
  • Magnificent Seven
  • Maltese Falcon
  • Mame
  • Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  • Man with the Golden Arm
  • Meet Me in St. Louis
  • Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
  • Music Man
  • My Fair Lady
  • Ninotchka
  • Notorious
  • Now Voyager
  • An Officer and a Gentleman
  • Oklahoma
  • Oliver
  • On the Town
  • One Touch of Venus
  • Painting the Clouds with Sunshine
  • Palm Beach Story
  • Party
  • Pennies from Heaven
  • Phantom Foe
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • Philadelphia Story
  • Pinocchio
  • Plainsman
  • Postcards from the Edge
  • Pretty Woman
  • Psycho
  • Public Enemy
  • Purple Rose of Cairo
  • Purple Taxi
  • Rear Window
  • Rebel Without a Cause
  • Rio Bravo
  • Rising Sun
  • Risky Business
  • Saratoga Trunk
  • The Searchers
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  • Seven Year Itch
  • Shadowlands
  • Shall We Dance
  • She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
  • She’s Back on Broadway
  • Showboat
  • Silence of the Lambs
  • Singing in the Rain
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Sleepless in Seattle
  • Small Town Girl
  • Snow White
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Somewhere in Time
  • Spellbound
  • Stagecoach
  • Stage Door
  • Starlift
  • Star is Born
  • Star Trek
  • Star Wars
  • Strike Up the Band
  • Summer Holiday
  • Swingtime
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Tea for Two
  • Ten Commandments
  • Terminator
  • Thief of Bagdad
  • There’s No Business Like Show Business
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie
  • Three Little Girls in Blue
  • Three Little Words
  • Time After Time
  • Thin Man
  • Too Much Harmony
  • Top Hat
  • Topper
  • Towering Inferno
  • the Trouble with Angels
  • Two Weeks In Love
  • Valley of the Dolls
  • Vernon and Irene Castle
  • West Side Story
  • What’s New Pussycat
  • Where the Boys Are
  • White Christmas
  • Wings
  • Wizard of Oz
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Yankee doodle Dandy
  • You Can’t take It With You

Setlist: “Abba Dabba Honeymoon”, “Anything Goes, “Buckin’ the Wind”, “Crazy Rhythm”, “I Only Have Eyes for You”, “Moonlight Lullaby”, “Put On Your Sunday Clothes”, and “You are My Lucky Star”.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Remake.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: Too Good to Miss” (p 247).

Cat Who Came for Christmas

Amory, Cleveland. The Cat Who Came for Christmas. Little, Brown and Company, 1987.

Reason read: December is the month for Christmas

Every December I look for a few books that are lighthearted and funny. The Cat Who Came for Christmas fit the bill for the most part, being both a memoir about a specific stray cat coming into Cleveland’s life and a didactic nonfiction containing interesting facts about cats. Here are a few examples: Cleveland delves into the theory of a cat having nine lives; he provides names of politicians and rulers who either loved or detested cats; he shares the dirty secrets of animals shelters, testing on animals (ouch), and price gouging of veterinarians. He shares stories of his work with animals rights organizations. It is not just a warm and fuzzy story about a cat named Polar Bear. But let’s be fair. Polar Bear is the star of the show. The full blown, complete sentence dialogues Cleveland would have with his cat are hysterical.
Cleveland is in good company of famous people who enjoyed cats: Mark Twain, Colette, Walter Cronkite, and Robert De Niro to name a few.

Quote to quote, “You do not, after all, have to walk a wife (p 6).

Author fact: Cleveland likes to drop names. He was good friends with Cary Grant and George C. Scott.

Book trivia: the advance praise for The Cat Who Came for Christmas is star-studded. Bea Arthur, Walter Cronkite, Norman Cousins, and even Doris Day all give a glowing review. See what I mean about the name dropping?

Nancy said: Pearl said many people enjoyed The Cat Who Came for Christmas.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Cat Crazy” (p 51).

Black Path of Fear

Woolrich, Cornell. The Black Path of Fear. Ballantine Books, 1982.

Reason read: Woolrich was born in the month of December. Read in his honor.

To read a Woolrich mystery is to be pulled into a compelling, fast-paced drama that has you turning page after page after page to figure out what happens next. In Black Path of Fear, a chance meeting between a newly hired chauffeur and his mob boss’s beautiful wife sets the stage for a story of gangster vengeance and betrayal. Scotty steals Eva away from her marriage and together, they manage to escape to Havana, Cuba. They have escaped, but not undetected. Soon after their arrival, Eva is quietly and cleverly murdered. All evidence points to Scott. He bought the murder weapon hours earlier. Did he murder the gangster’s wife to avoid the jealous wrath of organized crime? Partnering with a mysterious woman primed for revenge herself, Scott is trapped in Havana. How to extricate himself from the crime is the mystery he and his new partner, Midnight, must solve. [As an aside, I loved the character of Midnight. She is the element of spice that makes the plot all that more delicious.]
Someone said the plot is fiendishly ingenious and I cannot help but agree. I read this in three sittings.
Details matter to me. There is a part of Woolrich’s narrative that did not make sense to me. Scott is chauffeuring Eva, Jordan and Roman to a nightclub. He observes how the three get into the car, saying, “they sat on each side of her.” Yet, when they arrive at their destination, he describes their exits as, “she had to alight before them, and they brought up the rear.” How is that possible? If she was in the middle, how did she get out before them? Would the men allow a woman in an evening gown to crawl over one of them? Unless they were in a limousine, which they were not…

Lines I liked, “It’s surprising how much easier it is to be ethical when you are well fed” (p 50) and “A change of opinion doesn’t make any noise” (p 57),

Author fact: I have six “Black” books of Woolrich’s on my Challenge list. I have only read two so far.

Book trivia: Black Path of Fear is a very short novel. Barely 160 pages, it is a quick read.

Playlist: “Jesus Loves Me”, “Amazing Grace”, and “Siboney”.

Nancy said: Pearl said all Woolrich’s stories are filled with “melodramatic plot twists, doom and dread” (Book Lust p 66).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Les Crimes Noir” (p 65). It also could have been included in the adjacent chapter called “Cuba Si!” (p 68). Just saying.

Swann’s Way

Proust, Marcel. “Swann’s Way,” Remembrance of Things Past: In Search of Lost Time. Volume One. Translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff. Illustrated by Philippe Jullia. Chatto & Windus, 1964.

Reason read: Proust died in the month of November. Read in his memory.

The theme of remembering: the way a cake tastes when dipped in tea; an involuntary memory when least expected. Like experiencing that first kiss, we spend our lifetimes trying to recreate all of the sensations of that first time of anything. It is impossible to do. Proust has a sensory understanding of the world at large and our place in it. Memories of certain foods or music or places have sentimental value because their taste, sound or sight are evocative of childhood’s sweet innocence. A simpler time is romanticized. Most of Swann’s Way takes place in the country home of Combray where Charles Swann is a guest of the unnamed narrator’s parents. Mr. Swann’s way is one of extreme correctness and high society. Much like the novels of Austen, not much happens in Swann’s Way. Proust’s focus is on society.
Dialogue is interesting and accurate. First talking about Mme. Sazerat’s dog and then jumping to Francoise’s asparagus is how dinner party patter often sounds.

Lines to like, “What an abyss of uncertainty whenever the mind feels that some part of it has strayed beyond its own borders; when it, the seeker, is at once the dark region through which it must go seeking, where all its equipment will avail it nothing” (p 59).

Author fact: Proust has been compared to James Joyce. Proust’s full name was Valentin L:ouis Georges Eugene Marcel Proust. No ownder he shortened it to just Marcel Proust! Proust was also a recluse due to health reasons.

Book trivia: my copy was illustrated by Philippe Jullian. Very lovely drawings.

Nancy said: Pearl used Proust as an example of an early roman-flueve.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 207).

Fifteen

Cleary, Beverly. Fifteen. HarperCollins, 1956.

Reason read: a Christmas gift to myself (something I could read in a day without thinking).

If you know Cleary’s books you know they can be inhaled in one sitting. Written for children and young adults, Fifteen tackles, well, being fifteen. Jane Purdy is exactly that age and anxious to break free of stereotypical teenager dilemmas like mean girls and being boy crazy. She tires of babysitting brats, longs for a boyfriend she can call her own, and is sick of being the homely girl Marcy always teases. As it is, Jane is an easy target with her sensible shoes, no nonsense hairstyle and round collars. I found it distressing that Jane needed a boy to feel like she belonged at Woodmont High, but that’s fifteen for you. This is definitely one book best read as a young child or early teen.

Author fact: Cleary also write the Ramona series. I am only reading Fifteen for the Challenge.

Book trivia: I couldn’t remember reading this book until I saw a different cover of it. Interesting fact: the cover of that book had a boy putting an identification bracelet on a girl’s wrist as a sign they were going steady. I was disappointed in the cover because that’s not how it happened in the book. Spoiler alert.

Nancy said: Pearl included Fifteen as a book that is better remembered than reread. She actually said it was one book she couldn’t reread without feeling “disappointed, betrayed, and embarrassed” (Book Lust p 165).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “My Own Private Dui” (p 165).

Hiroshima

Hersey, John. Hiroshima. Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.

Reason read: There is a day in November that is celebrating in Japan called “Cultural Day.” Read Hiroshima to celebrate the day. I also needed a book with a one-word title for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge of 2022.

Isn’t it strange that in times of intense tragedy (like your country being at war), that one could be lulled into a false sense of security just because of the Boy Who Cried Wolf syndrome? When the village of Hiroshima was bombed many people didn’t heed the warnings. Even those responsible for alerting others to oncoming attacks didn’t see it coming or want to believe it. As a common citizen, what are you supposed to do when the system you are taught to trust gives the “all clear” signal? How are you supposed to react to false alarm no. 42,364?
Hiroshima follows the lives of six Hiroshima bombing survivors from the moments before the blast on August 6th, 1945 at 8:15 a.m. to the aftermath of the following year: Miss Toshiko Sasaki, Dr. Masakazu Fujii, Mrs. Hatsyo Nakamura, Dr. Terufumi Sasaki (no relation to Miss Toshiko), Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, and Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto.
Fair warning: you will be privy to excruciating details about their injuries and subsequent health issues. People with no outward visible wounds had a delayed response to radiation sickness with symptoms difficult to fathom. Your heart will break to read of their confusion when trying to understand what happened to them. Theories and rumors about the “strange weapon” abounded. For example, for a while people assumed powdered magnesium was dumped on power lines, creating explosions and subsequent fires. Survivors believed they were doused with gasoline from airplanes high above them. As an American, born nearly twenty-five years after the attack, I hung my head in shame to read of the atrocities.
The edition of Hiroshima I read included a section called “Aftermath” and carefully detailed the rest of lives of the six survivors; how they lived out their remaining years. A few thrived after the attack, but most didn’t.

I like to learn things new when reading outside my comfort zone. The Japanese culture of families who move into their loved one’s hospital to care for them during an illness was fascinating. Family is everything. A decent burial for a loved one is far more crucial than adequate care for the living.

Quotes to quote, “…they could not comprehend or tolerate a wider circle of misery” (p 40).

Author fact: when I was reading up on John Hersey, I discovered his style of storytelling journalism was in its infancy and John was an early adopter of the method.

Book trivia: Do not let the size of the book fool you. While this is a short read (less that 200 pages), it packs a wallop. My 1988 edition included an additional chapter written forty years after the original.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Hiroshima.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1940” (p 175).

Dune

Herbert, Frank. Dune. Ace Trade, 2005.

Reason read: Herbert began his career as a novelist in November 1955. I also needed a book with a one-word title for the Portland Public Library’s Reading Challenge.

At the center of Dune is a drug known to be a truth seeker called Melange. It acts as an extension of human youth and has the ability to produce multidimensional awareness, the foresight ncessary for space navigation, increased mental abilities, and vitality in the form of being able to diagnose illnesses and treat them accordingly. Quite the wonder drug and in obvious high demand. It is the proverbial fountain of youth and very addictive, as one might suspect. It is mined on the planet of Arrakis, otherwise known as “Dune” the desert planet. As mentioned earlier, Melange gives people the ability to change metabolism with each wound or injury, making survival that much easier when faced with a poisoned blade which makes an appearance frequently.
When it comes to the subject of breeding, I was reminded of The Handmaid’s Tale. Jessica, Paul’s mother, was “ordered” to give birth to a girl but ultimately disobeyed to give her husband a son. Mothers can chose the gender of her child. Imagine that. Another simularity to Handmaid is the idea of a strict caste system society.
Dune is the kind of book that drives me crazy. Suspensor lamps and glowglobes abound. WTF are they? Despite the “otherworldly” details, there is a fundamental truth within Dune. Water is precious in the desert. After the drought we just endured last summer, I can relate. In Dune people can be killed for the fluid in their bodies.

Confessional: how hated would I be if I said I never had the desire to read Dune? Everyone knows how I feel about science fiction in general, but there was something detracting about the vibe I got from the movie and (I say this with one eye open, cringing), I’ve never been a fan of self-centered Sting. There. I’ve said it. Sand worms aside, I wasn’t looking forward to Dune. I wasn’t even sure I would get through the requisite 50 pages. I opted for the audio version which was fantastic. I now want to see the movie. Imagine that!

Lines I connected with, “Dreams were predictions” (p 4). I believe that as well. Here is another phrase I liked, “sift people to find the humans.” I feel like I do that on a daily basis.

Author fact: Herbert based everything in Dune on magic mushrooms.

Book trivia: my audio version included a whole cast of characters. Instead of just one person reading the story, it was acted out by a bunch of people. In addition to that, sound effects were fantastic.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything in particular about Dune.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 215).

Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Complete Sherlock Holmes: Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

Reason read: It’s Sherlock.

Here are the short stories that make up The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes:

  • “Silver Blaze” – who killed a jockey and where is the famous horse, Silver Blaze?
  • “Yellow Face” – this was my favorite mystery of the book.
  • “Stock-broker’s Clerk” – What is a true connection and how can it be bought?
  • “The Gloria Scott” – a glimpse into Holmes’s past. We learn of a friendship that comes from a dog bite.
  • “Musgrave Ritual” – my favorite line came from this story, “Pistol practice should be an open air pasttime.” Amen to that.
  • “Reigate Puzzle” – holmes is supposed to be resting after an illness but cannot help getting involved with a murder mystery.
  • “Crooked Man”- it was at this point that I decided it would be exhausting to have a conversation with Shelock Holmes; to have all of his observations and elementary deductions punctuating his every sentence.
  • “Resident Patient” – Watson picks up on Sherlock’s method of deducation.
  • “Greek Interpreter” – it is revealed Sherlock Holmes has a brother, Mycroft. The two brothers share the same powers of deduction so a conversation with them would be twice as annoying.
  • “Naval Treaty” – we meet a college friend of Watson’s.
  • “Final Problem” – the story that makes everyone think Homes has died.

As an aside, what constitutes a fabulous forehead?

Author fact: Doyle studied medicine. I think that education helped his writing.

Book trivia: Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is odd in the sense that it was published in 1893 with a ’94 date.

Nancy said: Memoirs of Sherlock Homes was so under the radar or Pearl since she only indexed The Complete Sherlock Holmes.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 123). Confessional: when I realized I would be reading more than one title within a single book, I started listing out the individual titles. For example, Remembrance of Things Passed has seven volumes (seven titles). I am listing each title separately because there is no way I can read Remembrance in its entirety in one month. So. Same with the Complete Sherlock Holmes. Pearl doesn’t mention each compilation of short stories or novel within but since that’s how I’m reading them, I decided to list them that way. My true confessional is that I have started to list out the short stories and this is where I have gotten myself confused. I haven’t been listing out the short stories in other collections, so why now?