On this chilly, late fall morning, what better subject could there be than books??? Here are the titles I read in October. Again, I don’t want to give a fulI “book report”, just a brief overview. I hope you find something that piques your interest. And if you have a title you would like to share, I’d love to hear!
The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward
I don’t remember where I came across this title. I am going to start keeping yet another list and when I do request a book from my library, I’m going to write it down and note where I found the recommendation.
The premise of the book did catch my attention. Seventy-year-old Charlotte Perkins submits a sexy essay to the “Become a Jetsetter” contest in hopes of winning and taking her three estranged children on a ten-day cruise traveling from sun-drenched Athens, glorious Rome and onto Barcelona. Charlotte, of course, wins and everyone packs their bags.
I did find humor, poignant moments and a little twist at the end I didn’t see coming. But, and it’s a big but, much of the book was written too easy breezy for the underlying heaviness that triggers the family pain. I did read the entire book, partially because I thought it was building to something that never materialized for me. I’m giving it 3 grandmas out of 5.
A Bookshop in Berlin by Francoise Frenkel
Originally published in 1945 under the title No Place to Lay One’s Head, this memoir documents the fulfillment of a dream for Francoise Frenkel and her husband, opening La Maison du Livre, Berlin’s first French bookshop in 1921. They are both Jewish. Their dream is shattered on Kristallnacht in November 1938. Though the shop is miraculously sparred, fear of prosecution forces her to flee, first to Paris, then to southern France. Chronicled in her writings are the countless horrors she witnessed along the way. She survives the war at the courageous hands of strangers who risked their lives, secreting her away in safe houses.
Ms. Frenkel believed it was the duty of those who have survived to bear witness to ensure the dead are not forgotten. She tells her story in gripping, compelling prose. I will not forget this book. 5 grandmas.
Paris, A Love Story by Kati Morton
I have mixed feelings about this book. Kati Marton is an award-winning journalist and distinguished author. After the sudden death in 2010 of her husband, American diplomat and author, Richard Holbrook, she retreats to Paris where she and Holbrooke had purchased a pied-a-terre in the Latin Quarter in 2005. The book jacket describes the book being “For anyone who has ever fallen in love in Paris, or with Paris.”
Born in Budapest, Hungary, the daughter of to reporters who spent two years in prison on false charges of espionage for the U.S., Kati and her older sister were placed in the care of strangers. Following the revolution, her parents fled Hungary and settled in Chevy Chase, Maryland with Kati and her sister. Kati eventually studied at the Sorbonne and the Institut Politiques in Paris where she began her love affair with Paris.
I thought the book was going to be about the death of her third husband, Richard Holbrooke, and how she recovered from this loss. What I found was story of her three marriages. The first short one barely mentioned, her second marriage to Peter Jennings and her third to Ambassador Holbrooke. Perhaps it is because we live in such different worlds, the book felt obsessed with glitterati and name dropping. While she certainly has led an interesting life, I never felt engaged with her thoughts or emotions. Maybe I read it at the wrong time. Sometimes I reread a book and wonder why I didn’t like it the first time through. If someone else has read it and found it engaging, please let me know. Back in my Kendallville book group, other readers insights often helped me see things differently. But for me, it gets 3 grandmas.
Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie
Spoiler alert, this book gets 5 grandmas out of 5. It follows the story of Noriko, a young half African American, Half Japanese girl as she grows up in post-WWII Japan. Abandoned by her mother, 8-year old Noriko is locked in the attic by her grandparents. Noriko’s isolation and suffering are palpable and I was rooting for her the entire book. It is not until her half-brother, Aira, enters her life that she seems to have any chance of happiness. In her debut novel, Asha Lemmie tells a story I had never heard before and tells it in a compelling and compassionate way. I didn’t want to put it down, reading it in two days.
C’est la vie.