My bookshelf…

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

Having happily devoured several of Curtis Sittenfeld’s previous novels, I was eager to read Rodham.  This is the story of what might have happened had Hillary not married Bill.  As in real life, she graduates from Wellesley and attends law school at Yale where she meets Bill.  After graduation, they head for Arkansas so Bill can start his political climb.  He proposes several times until Hillary finals accepts.  In the novel, when she discovers he has been unfaithful, she endures a painful breakup and leaves Arkansas to blaze her own trail, eventually becoming the first woman president of the United States.

The first third of the book was borderline creepy with much too much information on the sexual antics of the couple for my taste.  It became much more interesting after the breakup.  I learned some things about how politics work.  Even though I already knew money influences politics, this book – even if it wasn’t the intent – certainly makes the case for campaign finance reform.  

I have mixed feelings about the book.  On one hand, it is the perfect revenge story for a woman who gave up her dreams to follow those of her husband.  On the other hand, I had to remind myself while I was reading that it is FICTION.  I wonder what Hillary thinks.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig  

British author Matt Haig gives us the story of a woman on the verge of ending her life.  She has lost her job, her life is falling apart and her cat is dead.  So, Nora overdoses on pills. When she wakes up, she is not in heaven, hell or purgatory, but in a library.  Nora is filled with regrets about decisions she has made in her life. The Midnight Library is a place where people can go when they are between life and death, not entirely sure which way to go.  It is filled with endless books to choose from, allowing you to try on another life you could have lived.  Author Jodi Picoult described it as “…an It’s a Wonderful Life for the modern age…”

While not life changing, I did like the book.  I loved that Nora’s school librarian, Mrs. Elm, who was a great comfort to Nora growing up, runs The Midnight Library.  And while I was pretty certain I knew where the story would end up, it was still a satisfactory read.  By age 65, I have certainly wondered what life would have been like if I had made different choices.  What better place to work out those thoughts than in a library!

Touched by the Sun, My Friendship with Jackie by Carly Simon

In early December, I received a text from my friend, Lou Anne, inquiring whether I had read Touched by the Sun. I had not and she proceeded to send me a copy as a Christmas gift, along with ordering a copy of her own. Around the end of January, we both found time to read it.

Carly lost me early on in the book when she went on and on about Jackie’s town car being so much better and cleaner than anyone else’s.  “…It was tempting to conjure up images of chambermaids licking every leathery square inch in one fast, last, lapping touch up…”  Really?  

In addition to thinking maybe Carly should stick to songwriting, I struggled with the privilege of it all.  Between the lingering lunches at all the best restaurants and parties on Martha’s Vineyard, I was getting annoyed with Carly, her drug use and whininess.

One aspect of being a part of a book group that I miss was that other people’s perspective sometimes made me re-evaluate my own.  Lou Anne and I “discussed” the book via text and her insights made me look a little into Carly’s background which made me feel a little kindlier towards her. I appreciate Lou Anne making me dig a little deeper, but I’ll never forgive Carly the chambermaid’s line.

The book is really more about Carly than Jackie, but Lou Anne and I both appreciated that she was respectful of Jackie’s privacy.  If you like Carly and admired Jackie, you will find the book interesting.  We both gave it three grandmas.

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

Paris, libraries, friendships and family.  This historical novel is a dual narrative, not usually a favorite format of mine, but this one works beautifully.  Odile is a young woman working at the American Library in Paris from 1939 to the liberation in 1944.  Lily is a young, lonely teenager, in small-town Montana from 1983 to 1988.

When Germany occupies Paris, libraries are targeted for banned books and given lists of to cull from their stacks.  Jews are not allowed in and some libraries are closed.  Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, I was drawn to book from the beginning.  Odile is part of a group of dedicated employees who keep the American Library in Paris open during the war.  When the war finally ends, there is a betrayal causing Odile to leave the library and volunteer at the American Hospital.  There she meets the American she will marry and move to Montana with.  

Lily has recently suffered the loss of her mother.  Grief-stricken and lonely, she befriends Odile, now widowed. Odile teaches her French and reveals secrets about her life in Paris.  They share a love of language and books and find that they have much in common.  Ms. Skeslien Charles stated, “My novel is a love letter to libraries and librarians, reminding us that in the digital age, our libraries – our third space, our sanctuary, our source of facts in a fake-news world – are more vital than ever.”   She also receives the coveted Five Grandmas!

C’est la vie.