Doctorow, E.L. Ragtime. Plume, 1996.
Reason read: Emma Goldman was born in June. Read in her memory.
Rich in historical fiction, Ragtime will parade past its readers men like Sigmund Freud, Winslow Homer, Henry Ford, Harry Houdini, J.P. Morgan, Theodore Dreiser, and Booker T. Washington.
All walks of life thrive within the pages of Ragtime. The sideshow freaks of the Barnum and Bailey circus, the curse of the Egyptian mummies, the advent of the Model Ford, the destruction of Tammany Hall, sexual fainting was a thing, segregation was strict in parts of the country, there was human trafficking by a different name, Robert Peary’s quest for the Arctic, L.L Bean boots, the Stanford White shooting, Charles Dana Gibson was asking the eternal question, the anarchist Emma Goldman, even Emiliano Zapata. At the center of this turn-of-the-century drama is ten years of one family. Their business is fireworks and flags and while they are profitable in business, they are poor in happiness. Everyone is undergoing personal strife. It isn’t until a seemingly abandoned black child wanders into their midst, followed by the depressed mother and musician father when things start to perk up.
Best lines: none because I am too lazy to seek permission. Blah, blah, blah.
Author fact: E.L. stands for Edward Lawrence.
Book trivia: Ragtime was made into a move starring James Olson in 1981. Of course I haven’t seen it.
Playlist: with a name like Ragtime you know music will be mentioned. Al Jolson, Scott Joplin’s “Wall Street Rag” and “The Maple Leaf”, Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody”, John McCormack’s “I Hear You Calling Me”, and “The Liberty Bell March”.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Ragtime except to describe a little of the plot.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “American History: Fiction” (p 22)
Kundera, Milan. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Translated by Michael Henry Heim. Harper Row, 1984.
Reason read: I honestly don’t remember why.
My favorite scene was when Tereza and Sabine spend time together. An odd friendship blossomed between wife and lover as they photograph each other in the nude.
I love it when books intersect one another. I am finishing up Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and learn that the dog in The Unbearable Lightness of Being is named after Karenin. The Unbearable Lightness of Being reminded me of another book as well, Orchard. I found myself asking the same question about morality. What form of “cheating” is worse, emotional infidelity or physical betrayal in the form of fornication? Is there something to be said for complete and utter loyalty? Either way, I didn’t like any of the characters so that made The Unbearable Lightness of Being all the more difficult to enjoy.
Quote that spoke to me, “and he knows that time and again he will abandon the house of his happiness.”
Author fact: People sell tee shirts with Milan Kundera quotes on them. I wonder what he would think of that.
Book trivia: The Unbearable Lightness of Being was published in the New Yorker as a serial.
Nancy said: Pearl called The Unbearable Lightness of Being Kundera’s best known novel. She also called it a “stellar example of literary erotica” (Book Lust p 218).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in two chapters. The Unbearable Lightness of Being shows up in the chapter called “Czech It Out” (p 70) and in “Sex and the Single Reader” (p 218). She is not wrong.
Doyle, Roddy. The Van. Penguin, 1997.
Reason read: to finish the trilogy started in March in recognition of St. Patrick’s Day.
The Van picks up pretty much where The Snapper left off. Daughter Sharon is now a new mom with a toddler, Gina. Jimmy Rabbitte’s house is getting too small even though some of his children have moved out. A baby can do that. Unemployed and bored, Rabbitte babysits Gina until his best friend, Bimbo, loses his job. Suddenly as men of leisure they have all the time in the world to play endless games of pitch and putt, ogle teenage girls and roam the bars drinking and trying to pick up women (or as they say, “chasing women who had “fine sets of lungs” and “their arses fit nicely on the stool; there was noting flowing over the sides” p 266). It isn’t until Bimbo buys a van with the hopes of turning it into a burger food truck that the two men start to have a purpose for getting up in the morning. They have no idea what they are doing and in the end it nearly destroys their friendship. By turns funny and desperate, The Van was my least favorite of the series.
Favorite parts: Jimmy Sr.’s boredom takes him to new heights. I laughed when he tried to understand the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins…and when he gets a library card.
Author fact: I have one last Doyle book to read, A Star Called Henry.
Book trivia: The Van is the final installment in the Barrytown trilogy. The cover illustration is weird…until it isn’t. It is a weird perspective of Jimmy, Bimbo, and their van. The view is of the underside of the van as if you are looking up from underwater, but at a floating angle.
Playlist: Bob Geldof, “New York, New York”, Kylie Minogue, The Cure, “Mighty Quinn”, “Teddy Bears Picnic”, Megadeath, Anthrax, The The, UB40, “Nearer My God to Thee”, “Hippy Hippy Shake”, and Georgia Satellites.
Nancy said: Pearl called the whole Barrytown trilogy humorous.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Irish Fiction” (p 125).
Lessing, Doris. The Golden Notebook. New York: HarperPerennial, 1999.
Reason read: October is Lessing’s birth month. Read in her memory.
At the center of The Golden Notebook is Anna. To understand The Golden Notebook is to understand the four sides of Anna. Author of four colored notebooks, Anna is a reviewer of her experiences and travels in Africa (black covered), a questioner of communism and her role in politics (appropriately red covered), an author writing a descriptive autobiographical novel (yellow covered), and a diarist expressing her undying love for an American author (blue covered). In an attempt to organize all aspects of her life, Anna strives to combine all four notebooks into one golden book called “Free Women.”
Drawing from her own life, Lessing knew she had to change some details in the Golden Notebook, but to this day, readers are left asking themselves, exactly how much of Golden Notebook was still the autobiographical truth?
I knew this to be an important piece of literature by just how many times other authors made mention of it by name. I likened it to hearing about a person long before meeting them face to face. Hello Golden Notebook! I’ve heard so much about you from so many other authors. “Good things, I hope” replies the notebook.
Author fact: I am reading a bunch of Lessing’s work. Six books in all (I have read two already). I think Pearl likes her a great deal and yet there isn’t a Book Lust chapter called “Doris Lessing: Too Good To Miss.” I wonder why?
Book trivia: Mashopi is the real town of Macheke. Lessing said she once wanted to walk around Macheke so that she might tease out what was real and what was of her own creation. Another good piece of trivia: Lessing wrote two introductions to the Golden Notebook.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Golden Notebook.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1960s” (p 175). for all the times other authors have referred to The Golden Notebook I would have thought Pearl would mention it more than once.
Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Penguin Books, 2000.
Reason read: Russia celebrates Victory Day in May.
Who doesn’t know the tragic story of Anna Karenina? When the story was complete I found myself asking does Anna our deserve pity? Many see her love for another man other than her husband as a tragedy. Indeed, Anna’s husband only cares about how society will view him in regards to her infidelity. Karenin is weak, cold and completely unlikable. However, there was another far more appealing couple. I found Konstantine Levin’s relationship with Kitty far more enthralling and far more tragic. As an aside, when I first picked up Anna Karenina I wondered to myself what made this story nearly one thousand pages long. The more I got into it, the more it became clear Tolstoy could spend entire chapters on the threshing of fields, the racing of horses, croquet competitions, and philosophical tirades about Russian society. Condensed down, Anna Karenina is simply about unhappy relationships; specifically an unhappily married woman who has to chose between her duty as a mother and her emotional attachment to a lover. We all know how that turns out.
Quote to quote: “Alexi Alexandrovich smiled his smile which only revealed his teeth, but said nothing more” (p 228).
Author fact: Tolstoy bears a striking resemblance to the Hermit of Manana.
Book trivia: according to practically everyone, the translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky is the edition to read.
Nancy said: Interestingly enough, Leo Tolstoy is not in the index of Book Lust To Go because she does not mention the author of Anna Karenina. Instead, she mentions Pevear and Volokhonsky as translators and they are indexed in Book Lust To Go. In other Lust books she called Anna Karenina “great” and “a classic”.
BookLust Twist: I have always said, the more Pearl mentions a title, the more I know she loved, loved, loved the book. I’m not sure, but Anna Karenina might be Pearl’s most often mentioned book. It is included in all three Lust books: from Book Lust in the chapters “Families in Trouble” (p 82) and “Russian Heavies” (p 210), of course. From More Book Lust in the chapters “Lines that Linger; Sentences that Stick” (p 140), “Men channeling Women” (p 166), and “Wayward Wives” (231). Finally, from Book Lust To Go in the chapter “Saint Petersburg/Leningrad/Saint Petersburg” (p 194). I will add that Anna Karenina also takes place in Moscow.
Morrison, Toni. Jazz. Alfred A Knopf, 1992.
Reason read: while it is not accurate, I read Jazz in honor of May being music month.
Joe and Violet are in the business of beauty. Joe sells cosmetics door to door and his wife is a home-visiting hairdresser. Usually a straight up and dependable man, Joe falls in obsessive love with a teenager named Dorcas. His passion for Dorcas forces him to kill her. At her funeral, in a fit of jealous insanity Joe’s wife, Violet, attempts to slash the dead girl’s face while she lay in her coffin. Violent Violet then goes home to free all of her pet birds. Her rage makes her human. The smartest character in the book is the City. I like the way the City makes people think they can do whatever they want and get away with it. The culture is full of passions, both right and wrong. Jazz will also take you back to July 1917, a time when Grandmother True Belle (great name) was afraid of Springfield, Massachusetts. (Kind of funny since I work in that urban area and sometimes I, too, am afraid of Springfield, Massachusetts.) Morrison’s vivid descriptions of culture are breathtaking.
Lines I loved, “Can’t rival the dead for love” (p 15) and “Two dollars will get you a woman on a store-bought scooter if you want it” (p 46). I have no idea what that means.
Playlist: Wings Over Jordan
Author fact: Princeton University could boast that Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison was on their payroll.
Book trivia: Jazz is part of the Dantesque Trilogy: Beloved, Jazz, and Paradise X.
Nancy said: Pearl used the words “jazzy syncopation” to describe Jazz.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: She Say” (p 12).
Maass, Peter. Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War. Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.
Reason read: History books state the Bosnian War started in on April 6th 1992 despite earlier acts of violence.
April 1st, 1992. My father was five months and twenty days away from dying. On that day, Serbians commenced their brutal attack on Bosnia. I think I might have done damage to my psyche to read about Bosnia and Guernica in the same month…To wipe out an entire community or ethnicity for absolutely no reason other than pure dominance is unfathomable.
Line that gave me pause, “There was even a slip of paper from the library saying they didn’t posses any overdue books” (p 86). Imagine giving up everything you own, including items you don’t, like books borrowed from the library. The business of the bureau for ethnic cleansing demanded Bosnians claim they handed over all worldly possessions to a Serbian. This act does not encompass the horrific violence, but rather the senseless humility.
About the violence. Most of the time I found myself twisting and twitching in my chair, wanting to turn away from the sentences of torture Maas wrote. I am one of those fat and happy and white privileged people who blissfully and ignorantly cite misunderstanding when it comes to the war in Bosnia. I was oblivious to the death and destruction with the exception of what the U.S. media decided or cared to reveal to me. What baffles me the most is that, like the Hutu and Tutsi, Serbs and Bosnians at one time got along like neighbors and family. Another war similarity from forty years earlier, like Franco denying the bombing of Guernica, Serbia denied the bombing of Bosnia was their responsibility. Death and destruction is not a macabre mirage and yet they do refuse see or own it. The practice of modern warfare with age-old atrocities was hard to read. Reporters and journalists had the luxury of escaping Sarajevo – taking a break was not an option for its entrapped residents. Maas takes his time to carefully humanize the narrative by inserting personal anecdotes from his own life.
Quotes to quote, “They didn’t wear normal uniforms, they didn’t have many teeth, and they didn’t want us there” (p16), “At the time, I didn’t think there was anything strange about flying through the air with 35,000 pounds of feta cheese” (p 23), “If surrealism had not existed, Bosnia would have invented it” (p 28).
Playlist: Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way,” Ringo Starr, Guns N’ Roses, Edith Pilaf’s “Je ne regrette rien,”Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” Ella Fitzgerald, Mick Jagger, Louis Armstrong, Ike and Tina Turner.
Author fact: Maas has written a bunch of other books, but I am only reading Love Thy Neighbor for the Challenge.
Book trivia: As an aside, it is a shame the public library from which I borrowed Love Thy Neighbor had to plastic cover the book. The original material would have felt good to hold.
Nancy said: Peter said Love Thy Neighbor “expose(s) the horror of life during wartime in the former Yugolavia” and Maas is more “visceral” about his writing (Book Lust p 31).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Balkan Specters” (p 31).
Doyle, Roddy. The Snapper. Penguin Books, 1992.
Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland.
I can safely say most everyone knows about Doyle’s first novel, The Commitments. It was made into a pretty good movie and had a phenomenal soundtrack. I am willing to bet more people know the music than the book or the movie combined. The Snapper is like an episode of Seinfeld where a whole lot of nothing happens to an ordinary group of people. The plot centers around the fact Jimmy Rabbitte’s sister is pregnant. If you remember Jimmy Rabbitte, Jr., he was the guy who started the band, the Commitments. He wanted to be a manager of someone famous in the worst way. Remember how, in The Commitments he was always practicing his interview? In The Snapper his dreams have changed slightly. Still looking for fame, he now wants to be a disc jockey. But enough about Jimmy Jr. This time he isn’t the lead character. He is firmly in the background while his sister, Sharon Rabbitte, takes center stage as a twenty year old unwed mother-to-be. Like The Commitments, the dialogue carries the story. Family members and friends all try to guess the baby daddy. I felt bad for Sharon’s highly emotional and confused father. One day embarrassed about who knocked up his daughter, the next reading everything he can about what she is going through. The Snapper gives a spot-on account of the good, bad, and ugly elements of pregnancy.
Author fact: Doyle has also written books for children.
Book trivia: The Snapper is the next book in the trilogy, but can easily read on its own. Aside from the Rabbitte family, there is nothing to tie The Snapper back to The Commitments.
Playlist: Jennifer Rush’s “Power of Love,” “The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music,” “Just a Spoonful of Sugar,” Bon Jovi, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Tina Turner, Victor Sylvester, Alison Moyet’s “Is This Love,” Alexander O’Neil’s “Fake,” and James Brown’s “Living in America.”
Nancy said: Pearl thinks of Doyle when she thinks of Irish fiction.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Irish Fiction” (p 125).
Hijuelos. Oscar. The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1989.
Reason read: March is Music month.
Delve into this book if you want a cultural education in Cuba and its music. Taking place in the 1950s, two Cuban brothers emigrate to the United States with big dreams of conquering the music scene. Cesar Castillo looks back on his life, playing mambo music with his brother, Nester and having a small spotlight in the fame arena after a guest appearance on an episode of I Love Lucy. I read this book on the heels of the Netflix documentary about Desi and Lucy so it seemed as if the couple was everywhere. Confessional: I couldn’t really get into this book. The parts where Desi Arnez makes an appearance were my favorite and, as the story went on, I began to skip scenes that involved sex or Nestor pining over “Beautiful Maria.” I grew weary of the repetition. I did appreciate all the references to music of the era.
Author fact: Hijuelos was honored with the 1985 Rome Fellowship in Literature of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Book trivia: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love was made into a movie starring Antonio Banderas in 1992.
One of the best aspects of Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love is the musical education you will get. Singers, composers, pianists, violinists, and lyricists from Catalan, Dominican, Cuban, Columbian, and Puerto Rican backgrounds flood the pages of Mambo.
Playlist (because this is a book about music, there was a lot to mention.): Musicians and composers – Alberto Beltran, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Bing Crosby, Beny More, Cesar Nestor, Desi Arnaz, Enric Madriguera, Ernesto Lecuona, Fletcher Anderson, Glorious Gloria Parker, Maurio Bauza, Mongo Santamaria, Miguelito Valdez, Manny Jimenez, Nelson Pinedo, Nat King Cole, Noro Morales, Paul Whiteman Orchestra, Olga Chorens, Ornette Coleman, Rene Touzet, Tito Rodriguez, and Vincento Valdez.
Songs: “Acercate Mas,” “Besame Mucho,” “Beautiful Maria of My Soul,” “Cielito Lindo,” “Frenesi,” “Hong Kong Mambo,” “In the Still of the Night,” “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” “Moonlight Becomes You,” “Mambo de Paree,” “Mambo Nine,” “Mambo for a Hot Night,” Mambo Number Eight,” and “Twilight in Havana.”
Nancy said: Pearl included a sentence about the plot for The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called Cuba Si!” (p 68)
Roberts, Nora. Face the Fire. Jove Books, 2002.
Reason read: to finished the trilogy started in February in honor of Valentine’s Day and love and romance and cheesy chick lit.
To recap the trilogy: Nell came to Three Sisters Island, off the coast of Massachusetts, looking to escape an abusive husband (a la Sleeping with the Enemy). She found a sisterhood of witches with Ripley and Mia and true love with Ripley’s brother. In the second installment, Ripley, the witch with the biggest chip on her shoulder needed to chill out. She found true love with a witch researcher. In Face the Fire, it is Mia’s turn to find her true love. The only problem is, her true love is someone who walked away from her many years ago, leaving deep scars and a toughened exterior. While I appreciated the fact Mia’s story ran through the earlier installments, I was disappointment when she decided she could have a sexual relationship with long lost love, Sam. Like the other plots in the Three Sisters Island trilogy, there is an element of evil that must be vanquished before anyone can live happily ever after.
Book trivia: Face the Fire is the last book in the trilogy.
Playlist: “Sea of Love” and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say much about Face the Fire except it was out of chronological order in Book Lust.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203).
Treichel, Hans-Ulrich. Lost. Translated by Carol Brown Janeway. Pantheon Books, 1999.
Reason read: April is known for April Fool’s Day. Lost is known for its black humor.
Who is more important? The son who didn’t go missing in1945 or the lost son who has the potential to be found? When we think of war, we think of brave soldiers on the battlefield; soldiers sustaining horrific wounds and giving up previous lives. We hardly think of the refugees, the byproducts of conflict. Treichel tells the German story of an-every wartime family fleeing Russian encroachment. In haste and confusion, an infant is handed off for safe keeping, never to be seen again. Despite having a second son, the parents never forget their firstborn son, Arnold. When this second son is told the story of his missing older brother he is only eight years old and wise enough to know that if Arnold is found, his life will change forever. As the younger and more insignificant brother, he will have to share everything he has had to himself for his entire life. Thus begins his story of his parents’ obsessive journey to identify Arnold. Told through the first person lens of an eight year old, the narration is at turns darkly funny and heartbreaking.
Treichel speaks volumes in the things he doesn’t say, “…the dreadful thing that the Russians had done to them, my mother in particular” (p 13). Is he talking about the event when his older brother was “lost” or something more sinister? Is he implying rape?
Author fact: Lost is Treichel’s first novel.
Book trivia: Lost has been called a “small masterpiece” by several reviewers. Indeed, being only 136 pages long, it is a tiny but well written book. Interestingly enough, there are no chapters or even paragraphs.
Nancy said: While Lost is mentioned twice, neither time does Pearl say anything more about the book than to describe the plot.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. First in the chapter called “Black Humor” (p 40). and then again in the chapter called “First Novels” (p 87).
Gregory, Philippa. The Other Boleyn Girl. Simon & Schuster, 2001.
Reason read: March is Women’s History Month
The year is 1521. One of Mary Boleyn’s uncle has just been ceremoniously executed; beheaded in front of the entire watchful community. Married at twelve years old, aristocrat Mary Boleyn no longer thinks life is a joke. She definitely isn’t laughing when her father and uncle start putting Mary in King Henry the VIII’s way. The devious plot is to woo the philandering king away from his Spanish wife who, horrors upon horrors, hasn’t been able to produce an heir to the throne. Mary, successfully in capturing Henry’s attention, also succeeds in giving Henry first a daughter and then a much needed son. Unfortunately, despite wanting this heir to the throne, King Henry desires every last ounce of Mary’s attention. When motherhood agrees with Mary and she starts to dote on her children more than the needy king, she quickly loses favor with Henry and his court. This isn’t good. The more dear a Boleyn girl is to the throne, the more her family benefits. Which is why no one cares when Mary’s sister, Anne, begins to seduce the king right under Mary’s nose. Never mind the king is married. Never mind that Mary is married. You get the picture. King Henry the VIII switches love interests as often as the tower beheads people.
The moral of the story is stand too close to the sun and you will get burned.
Author fact: Gregory has written many, many other books but The Other Boleyn Girl is the only one I am reading for the Challenge.
Book trivia: The Other Boleyn Girl is first in the series. The next is The Queen’s Fool but I’m not reading it for the Challenge.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Other Boleyn Girl except to explain the plot.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Biographical Novels” (p 37).
Fisher, M.F.K. With Bold Knife and Fork. G.P. Putnam and sons, 1968.
Reason read: March is Food Month.
Fisher is one of the best known and well loved food writers of the last century. When I told someone I was reading With Bold Knife and Fork her immediate reaction was a one word exclamation, “love!” And speaking of love, I loved, loved, loved some of the snarky phrases Fisher used. Here are a few, “…floating dunghill of lassitude, corruption, dirt, and whatever evil I have ever recognized as such” (p 171), “Stuffed with prejudices” (p 287) and “culinary monkey” (p 291). But, back to the “plot” of With Bold Knife and Fork. Fisher will walk you down a myriad of memory lanes with food and how it related to her childhood or the social norms of the day. It was amusing to think of a very young M.F.K. Fisher as a child hearing the siren’s song and feeling the pull towards decadent food. There is a definite humor to her storytelling. I had to laugh when she talked about a pressure cooker and how “it should never be used by a person taking tranquilizers or alcohol for his own reasons, or one with a fever or the deep blues” (p 164). There is also a didactic nature to Fisher. I appreciated learning the difference between preserves, conserves, jellies, jams, honeys, and marmalades.
As an aside, what is so special about offal? Everything But The Squeal and With Bold Knife and Fork both offer pretty descriptive passages on the “delicacy.” Can is ask? The phrase, “tuck into.” Is that the act of starting to eat or the actual consumption of food?
Last off-topic observation: the quote reminded me of an episode of This Is Us, “We are so conditioned to this threat of the Secret Ingredient, and this acceptance of trickery, that even honesty has become suspect when we are brash enough to ask for recipes” (p 292).
Author fact: Fisher is a self-professed soy addict.
Book trivia: More memoir than cookbook, With Bold Knife and Fork offers 140 interesting recipes.
Favorite quotes, “Rice can be cooked in two basic ways, right and wrong” (p 79). Not helpful. Not helpful at all. Another quote, “There is a mistaken idea, ancient but still with us, that an overdose of anything from fornication to hot chocolate will teach restraint by the very results of its abuse” (p 99). One last one, “I like tomatoes but can skip them when I know I should for other people’s dietary or emotional reasons” (p 157), and last one “It is hot as the hinges of hell’s front door…” (p 302). the devil in me wanted to ask what about hell’s back door?
Playlist: “Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear” and “W.S. gilbert’s “Patience.”
Nancy said: Pearl said writing about food is how Fisher expressed her love.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Food for Thought” (p 91).
Dunn, Mary Lois. The Man in the Box: a Story From Vietnam. McGraw Hill, 1968.
Reason read: I read somewhere that March 8th is Hug a G.I. Day. I read this in honor of the thousands of men kept in little boxes from every war.
If you read this book with a child’s intent, it is a story about a young boy who knows the worth of a human life and tries with heroic measures to save it. If you read this book with an adult’s cynicism, it is a book that glorifies American soldiers in the Vietnam War and completely misses the point of the Vietnamese culture. My advice is to read it as Mary Lois Dunn intended: as a story for children. Chau Li witnesses the horrible torture of an American soldier kept cramped prisoner in a small cane box. His own father suffered in same-such box but did not survive the brutality. Determined to somehow save the American, Chau Li risks everything to squirrel “Dah Vid” away in a cave until together they can safely rejoin the Green Barets hidden somewhere in the deep Vietnamese jungle. As they hide out from the Viet Cong Chau Li and Dah Vid grow close, form a friendship and make unrealistic promises. Spoiler alert: the end is ambiguous which is surprising for a book meant for children.
Author fact: Mary Lois Dunn was a librarian.
Book trivia: The Man in the Box won the Oklahoma Sequoyah Children’s Book Award in 1968.
Nancy said: Pearl called The Man in the Box “harrowing and sad” and although it is long out of print, it is “definitely worth tracking down” (Book Lust p 115).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Historical Fiction For Kids Of All Ages” (p 115).
Roberts, Nora. Heaven and Earth. Jove Books, 2001.
Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of love (February 14th). All you need is love, love, love. Right?
In the Three Sisters Island trilogy, the plot of Heaven and Earth turns away from Nell and directs its focus onto Sheriff’s Deputy, Ripley Karen Todd. Before I go any further with the plot, I have to say there is always a popular formula to love and romance in bodice rippers: stubborn character refuses to accept second character’s heartthrob’s advances. However, handsome or beautiful second character is persistent. Very persistent with a charming veneer. Heaven and Earth is no different. Ripley is the stubborn one and newly arrived MacAllister Booke is persistent and charming. Be warned ladies, he also has a strong jaw. The problem lies in the fact MacAllister’s life work is researching people of the strange ilk: shaman, vampire, ghost, brujo, necromancer, witch, lycanthrope, alien, psychic, and neo-druid all interest him. Ripley doesn’t want to be researched. She doesn’t even like being associated with weird. There were more than a few times I resisted the urge to roll my eyes after reading lines like this, “She caught the unmistakable scent of Nell’s beef-and-barley soup and quickly decided it was that, and that alone, that was making her mouth water” (p 50). Yes, the hunky and irresistible MacAllister Booke was in Ripley’s presence.
Having said all that, I appreciated the consistency from one novel to the next. Ripley is still locked in a battle of wills with Mia Devlin. Ripley still resents the fact that she, at heart, is a witch. She’ll need to come to terms with this when Nell’s ex-husband convinces a shady reporter to pay the residents of Three Sisters Island a visit. It takes an ominous turn from there.
A word of obvious warning: Heaven and Earth is a little dated. A $20 spot as a bribe wouldn’t get you boo. These days a Benjamin is a good place to start.
As an aside, what brother calls his sister, “baby”? It kind of made my skin crawl.
Quotes to quote (aside from the eye-roll inducing ones), “He always liked the sound of the sea, especially at night when it seemed to fill the world” (p 37). Amen to that. Another one I wish could have been reworked, “A headache blasted his temples” (p 250).
Author fact: Did you know there is a Romance Writers Hall of Fame and Roberts was the first one to be inducted?
Book trivia: Heaven and Earth is the second installment of the trilogy.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Heaven and Earth except to list it out of chronological order.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203).