Wilson, Sloan. The Man in Gray Flannel. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002.
Reason read: Wilson was born in the month of May. Read in his honor.
This is the story of Tom Rath and economic survival in the 1950s era. Tom’s wife, Betsy and their three children want the good life. Tom is determined to give it to them, even if it means slogging to work doing a job he doesn’t completely enjoy. When a new prospect for employment pops up Rath jumps at the chance to move up the ladder but it is not without consequences.
The Man in Gray Flannel epitomizes the proverbial meaning of life in a material world. It is also a study of 1950s conformity and climbing the corporate ladder. You have one man who is a slave to his workaholic lifestyle and is miserable because of it while another man is angry because he can never get ahead. Tom’s boss, from the outside, projects an image of ease and calm amidst his wealth while Tom encounters roadblocks in every aspect of his life. The new higher paying job is not what he thought it would be. Secrets from his time as a solider in World War II will not stay buried. His wife wants more and more. Even the seemingly straightforward last will and testament of his grandmother’s estate doesn’t seem to be in his favor.
Confessional: the odd thing is, despite all of Tom’s setbacks and struggles, I couldn’t entirely feel for him. I felt more for his boss.
Author fact: This is Sloan Wilson’s first book.
Book trivia: The Man in Gray Flannel is autobiographical.
Nancy said: Pearl said absolutely nothing about The Man in Gray Flannel.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade:1950” (p 177).
Fowler, Earlene. Mariner’s Compass. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 1999.
Reason read: May is supposedly National Museum Month and Benni works in a museum…
The theme of Mariner’s Compass is, in a word, home. Benni Harper learns a lot about what ‘home’ means when she becomes the sole heir of a stranger’s modest fortune. Jacob Chandler, dead of an apparent heart attack, leaves everything to Albenia Louise Harper with the condition that she live in his house for two weeks straight. If she does, she will inherit his house and everything in it, a modest bank account, and a dog named Scout. Benni takes two weeks off from her job at the museum, leaves her husband at home and honors the strange request. To the reader, there are many ways this particular premise for a plot could fall flat. Benni could decide she doesn’t need a stranger’s inheritance and refuse to stay in the house. (Who’s watching to see that she does it anyway?) Or she could live in the house for fourteen days straight and not be curious enough to investigate this mysterious Jacob Chandler. Luckily for Fowler fans, Benni not only takes the challenge but goes to great lengths to solve the mystery. The plot thickens when this stranger for all intents and purposes seems like in life he had been Benni’s stalker. He knows the name of her childhood horse. He has a picture of her deceased mother. He has newspaper clippings of every major event in Benni’s life. Just who is this guy?
My biggest pet peeve? Despite the ominous idea of Jacob Chandler being a stalker, Benni is not discreet. She tells just about anyone the entire story. Not your typical behavior when your life might be in danger.
Lines to like: I didn’t make note of any. Weird.
Book trivia: There were a few places where a twist in the plot was too transparent to be a shock. When Bennie has a picture of the deceased Chandler sent to his sister I knew she wouldn’t recognize the man as her brother. I won’t spell out the other situations as they would definitely spoil the plot. Let’s just say, there were no surprises for me at the end.
Author fact: taken from the back flap of Mariner’s Compass: Folwer was raised in La Puente, California which explains her expansive knowledge of Mexican food and customs.
Nancy said: Pearl included Mariner’s Compass in a chapter about mysteries under the subsection of occupations (museum). Truth be told, Benni’s occupation does not play a factor in this book. She doesn’t do a day of work at the museum. There is a subplot. The new mayor wants to replace the museum with a bigger money maker. In protest Benni’s grandmother and a group of other women (including the mayor’s mother) arrange a sit-in until the issue can be resolved.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 117).
Briggs, Raymond. Ethel and Ernest: a True Story. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.
Reason read: May is Graphic Novel month. I read that somewhere.
This is Raymond Brigg’s story of his parents as a couple from the moment they met until death did them part. Simplistic in graphic novel form but powerful in message. What started off as an accidental communication for the couple kicked off a poignant romance that lasted fifty years. Brigg’s loving tribute continues through his parents’s courtship and marriage, his mom giving birth to him at 38 years old (their only child), the war and the political aftermath, the ravages of aging, and finally each of their deaths. What makes the retelling so heartwarming is Brigg’s ability to communicate parental emotion. Every fear, hope, happiness and expectation they felt towards their son was delivered and exposed in loving detail.
Author fact: Briggs was removed from his parents (evacuated during the war for safety) when he was five years old.
Book trivia: Ethel and Ernest is a graphic novel.
Nancy said: Pearl called Ethel and Ernest a “touching story” (Book Lust p 103).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Graphic Novels” (p 103). Interestingly enough, the title Ethel and Ernest and author Raymond Briggs are missing from the index.
Nesbit, E. Five Children and It. New York: Dover Publications, 2002.
Reason read: Nesbit was born in the month of May.
The Psammead or Sammyad is a strange looking sand fairy capable of granting wishes. I loved the description of “it” as having eyes on long horns like a snail, ears like a bat, body like a spider, hands and feet like a monkey, and whiskers like a rat. And. And! And, the thing talks! When five children named Cyril (Squirrel), Roberts (Bobs), Anthea (Panther), Hilary (the Lamb), and Jane, digging in the sand discover the Psammead can grant wishes they immediately embark on making choices that always seem to backfire on them: wealth, becoming physically bigger than an opponent, living in a castle, growing angel wings, fighting wild Indians, to name a few. Even after they decide to be more thoughtful with their wishes they still run into disaster. Luckily, their parents are away dealing with an ailing grandmother so they have plenty of opportunities to get it right…and wrong. The best part of Five Children and It is the relationship between the siblings. It rings true no matter what drama they face.
Sometimes the language of the turn of the century really comes through. “Smell their fists” is a euphemism for fighting, for example.
Weird quotes to quote, “It is easy if you love the Baby as much as you ought to” (p 42) and “That lot’s all long hair, drink and rude women” (p 65).
Author fact: E. Nesbit is actually Edith Nesbit.
Book trivia: Five Children and It was originally published in 1902. My 2002 edition was illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky.
Nancy said: Pearl said Nesbit influenced writers before and after her.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fantasy for Old and Young” (p 83).
Lewis, Sinclair. Main Street. Floating Press, 2010.
Lewis, Sinclair. Maine Street. Read by Barbara Caruso. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 1996.
Reason read: Minnesota became a state in the month of May.
This is the satirical story of Carol Milford and her desire to transform her new husband’s little town of Gopher Prairie. While Dr. Will Kennicott is the celebrated hometown physician Carol is the new girl; the sophisticated, educated, and stylish “city girl” (having been a librarian in the metropolis of St. Paul, Minnesota). Her hopes and dreams for the little community are often met with bemusement, confusion, and more than a little resentment. From every angle Carol’s energy and enthusiasm to change things make the townspeople nervous resulting in stubborn denial. It isn’t long before, with all of her reform attempts failed, Carol yearns for adventure and big city culture. Even becoming a mother is not enough to contain her. She wants to shake things up and does so by falling in love with a young tailor. While the community tongues wag, Carol grows more emboldened and daring, finally leaving Gopher Prairie.
I have to get this off my chest, first and foremost. I didn’t really care for Carol Kennicott, nee Milford in the beginning. Early on she was a snob through and through. While traveling to Kennicott’s provincial little town she watches people on the train and is disappointed to see they are peasants. Previously, she didn’t believe in American peasants. Now she is witness to poverty and in her dismay she calls the less fortunate, “stuck in the mud” (p 42). She hasn’t even seen her husband’s town but already she is utterly panicked by the thought of living “inescapably” in Gopher Prairie (p 50). It isn’t until she removes herself from the wretched town that she learns what it means to belong somewhere.
Quotes which captivated me: “The rest of the party waited for the miracle of being amused” (p 51), “She felt that she was no long one-half of a marriage but the whole of a human being” (p 447), and “But sometimes he vanished; he was only an opinion (p 511).
Author fact: Lewis was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930.
Book trivia: Because this satire offended small town Alexandria, Minnesota they banned Main Street from their library.
Nancy said: Nancy described the plot and said Main Street “is probably the earliest Minnesota novel” (p 27).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust twice. First, in the chapter called “Big Country: the Literary Midwest (Minnesota)” (p 27) and again, in the chapter called “Libraries and Librarians” (p 139).
Euripides, Michael Collier, and Goergia Macherner, 2006. Medea. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. eBook Collection: EbscoHost (accessed 5/16/18/2018).
Reason read: June is the first time the weather is really nice enough to get on the water. Medea uses the ocean in a rather cruel fashion…
The things women will do for love. The things men will do for greed. Medea’s father, King Aeetes had possession of the Golden Fleece. Jason of the Argonauts wanted it. Medea, seduced by Jason, went to great lengths to prove her love. How else to explain murdering her own brother and scattering his body parts over the ocean; making her father slow his fleet to collect them for burial? How else to explain getting Jason’s cousins to poison their father in an effort to bring back his youth? In the end, Jason marries a different princess because Medea is too dangerous. Go figure. Medea starts with Medea seeking revenge. Next on her killing list is Jason’s new wife, Glauce. She gets even more evil from there. She would make a good candidate for that Deadly Women show…
Author fact: If you have ever seen the statue of Euripides in the Louvre, you know he had some killer abs.
Nancy said: Nancy said Medea was one of the four Greek plays you definitely didn’t want to miss (p 11).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Alpha, Beta, Gammas of Greece” (p 9).
Saylor, Steven. Last Seen in Massilia. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.
Reason read: the last book I need to read for the Sub Rosa series. I started the series in March in honor of Saylor’s birth month.
When we catch up to Gordianus the Finder in 49 B.C. he is on a quest to find his missing adopted son, rumored to have been murdered. It’s a tricky situation. Meto was caught betraying Caesar, or so the story goes.
Gordianus has taken Darus, his son-in-law, for companionship to the besieged port city of Massilia. (Massilia is modern day Marseille, by the way.) Once there, he encounters more mystery than he knows what to do with. In the middle of a bloody civil war between Caesar and Pompey a smaller, quieter war is underway. A beautiful woman is missing. Gordianus may or may not have witnessed her death. Was it a suicide? Did she jump or was she pushed. Different eyes see different things. An innocent man is doomed to death; a scapegoat by the priests of Artemis, for the sins of his family. Nothing is as it seems. All the while Gordianus is a guest or prisoner of Massilia, seeking the truth of his son.
Author fact: Saylor has appeared on the History Channel.
Book trivia: this is the eighth book in the Sub Rosa series.
Nancy said: nothing worth mentioning.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Classical World” (p 59).