Tag Archives: literary fiction

Transatlantic by Colum McCann (2013)

transatlanticI appreciate good historical fiction, especially those stories that connect people and events across time. Colum McCann has done his research and given us some great historical framework before the reader figures out that Transatlantic is really about three generations of women who have left their mark on history, in particular that of Ireland. Great insights into women who carry many personal burdens, yet persevere. Great insights into human nature in general.

Death and Mr. Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis (2015)

deathmrpickwickSome reviewers were suffocated by Stephen Jarvis’ 800+ novel aiming to show it was the illustrator, Richard Seymour, not Dickens who had the original ideas for The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Although I had to renew the book, I enjoyed following Mr. Indelicate and Inscriptino (Scripty), the present day investigators, as they searched 19th century evidence for Mr. Pickwick’s origins.

Death and Mr. Pickwick provides many amusing stories and interesting facts about 19th century publishing. I was amazed at the reported great popularity of The Pickwick Papers as originally published in serial form and then as a novel. As I followed the investigation to the very end, I continued to hope Mr. Dickens and the publishers would show more kindness towards Seymour. After all, Mr. Dickens was no stranger to generosity as seen in his later works e.g. A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities.

Check out reviews in The New York Times and The Atlantic.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (2016)

commonwealthThis is being labelled a “domestic drama,” but I think it is probably a common story in this day and time. It concerns 4 adults and 6 children, marriages coming apart, and families being joined. The story spans over 50 years and shares the children’s disillusionment with their parents and the affection that grows between the children. The way Commonwealth is written is almost like a puzzle being put together. Ann Patchett’s latest novel is great storytelling.

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett (2016)

versionsofusA young woman named Eva riding her bicycle one day at Cambridge crosses paths with Jim, a law student. That chance meeting will change their lives in many ways. What is unique about about Laura Barnett’s The Versions of Us is that it explores the chances, decisions, and what makes us human in three variations of Eva and Jim’s story. How might the course of your life been affected if a single detail was changed?

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (2015)

fatesfuriesIn Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, the story of marriage is told by multi-faceted characters Lotto and Mathilde. Lotto, who is destined to be a world famous playwright, unfolds his love for Mathilde in the Fates, while Mathilde’s dramatically different perspective of their marriage is revealed in the Furies.

While unsure of where the story is going in the first section of the book called Fates, the reader is brought into a whirlwind of discoveries and uncovered truths in the Furies. The core of this marriage lies possibly in its secrets rather than in its truths and the unfolding of this complicated duo won’t disappoint.

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (2015)

godinruinsAfter reading – and very much enjoying – Life After Life, the idea of more Todd family adventures was appealing. Kate Atkinson calls A God in Ruins a companion novel to Life After Life, not a sequel. She takes one of the alternate realities of Ursula’s adored younger brother Ted, and develops the storyline after his miraculous recovery from a plane crash as a bomber pilot in World War II. The novel alternates between Ted’s wartime experiences and his civilian life as father and grandfather. Curious readers of Life After Life will also be treated to an excerpt from Aunt Izzie’s The Adventures of Augustus, the character she modeled after Teddy. Atkinson continues to test the reader’s concepts of time and fiction with this engaging novel.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (2001)

belcantoAnn Patchett gives us a story of hostage taking gone wrong when the principal target, the president of this backward South American country, is not at the party and the terrorists (or freedom fighters) are at a loss of what to do with the international collection of captured guests. Roxane Coss, an opera diva of great talent, is the only reason Mr. Hosokawa, a Japanese industrialist, is there. After all, the party is to celebrate Mr. Hosokawa’s birthday but more importantly to encourage him to build electronic factories in this country. Among the captives are the country’s vice president (the host), an assortment of international diplomats, and Mr. Hosokawa’s interpreter who becomes of great value in negotiations with security and communications among the captives.

Ms. Coss’ singing becomes a primary focus of attention among the guests and terrorists alike. The foot soldiers among the captors are very young but some show great potential and interact in amazing ways with the captives. This lyrical interlude with these unusual characters is one worth visiting.

Join us for a discussion of Bel Canto on Wednesday, December 9 at 7pm in the library. If you haven’t read the book yet, there’s still time – pick up a copy at the front checkout.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (2013)

lifeafterlifeKate Atkinson delivers a beautifully written, wildly imaginative tale of 20th century England. In Life After Life, Ursula Todd lives her life, over and over again. From the pre-war bucolic setting to the Great War and 1918 Influenza, to the horrors of WWII in London and beyond, Atkinson guides the reader through the first half of the 20th century through Ursula’s eyes. A novel of historical fiction with a fantastical element, Life After Life is a thought-provoking read of what might change if you could relive your life.

The plot may seem farfetched, but the author structures the book in such a way that it is believable. If you enjoy reading historical or literary fiction, WWII novels, stories about families, alternative histories, or just want a good story, try this book – you won’t regret it!

And if you’re hooked, a companion novel, A God in Ruins, will be released in May (and focuses on Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy).

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai (2014)

hundredyearhouseThis is the quirky and charming story of Laurelfield, a grand estate north of Chicago. Rebecca Makkai unfolds the history of the century old house in reverse order starting with Zee and Doug, a young couple struggling to find their place in the world of academia. At Laurefield, they encounter locked attics, Y2K fears, jealousy and plenty of ghosts. As the past is revealed in the subsequent chapters, you begin to understand that everything is connected in a mysterious way. I loved this unconventional story and you will want to read The Hundred-Year House again as soon as you finish.

Hey 20-30somethings — GenLit will be discussing this novel on Wednesday, March 25 at 6:30pm at Phillies Pizza in Willowbrook. Join the conversation on Facebook.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014)

allthelightThe horrors of Nazi-occupied Europe are told through the eyes of Marie-Louise and Werner. They are on opposing sides, yet they are both just innocent teenagers caught up in a no-win situation. In another time and place, they could have been soulmates. Their intelligent and gentle natures bleed through some of the travesty.

Marie-Louise escapes war-torn Paris as her father tries to hide her away in a family home in St. Malo, but the war catches up with them. Her father, as an employee of the National History Museum, is hiding a special stone with legendary stories attached to it. The stone and its legends add a touch of mysterious appeal to All the Light We Cannot See.

Werner is an electronic genius and an orphan who gets caught up into the Nazi plan at a much younger age than necessary. Superiors lie about his age to take advantage of his radio expertise on the front lines. Werner’s sister is part of the underground German resistance movement and adds an interesting element to the story.

Anthony Doerr alternates between Werner and Marie-Louise’s voices and magically creates a haunting story readers will not soon forget.

For more novels of WWII, check out our list.