Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I bought "Her Fearful Symmetry" solely because it was written by Audrey Niffenegger, author of "The Time Travelers' Wife", which I loved.

"Her Fearful Symmetry" tells the story of two sets of twins. The younger set, Americans Julia and Valentina, are left a flat in Vautravers Mews in London by their late Aunt Elspeth. The stipulations are that they cannot live in the flat until they turn 21, they must stay there for a year before they can sell it, and they must never let their father and their mother (Elspeth's twin Edie) visit the flat.

Valentina is the more fearful twin (Julia calls her "Mouse"), but eventually she acquiesces in accepting the legacy and they move to London after their 21st birthday. What the twins do not know - but learn quite early on - is that their late Aunt Elspeth haunts the flat. (That was no spoiler - Elspeth's ghost is revealed to the reader even before the twins arrive.)

Other characters include Robert, who was Elspeth's younger lover and is mourning her to distraction. Instead of living with Elspeth in her second-floor flat, Robert had kept his own flat on the first floor. After avoiding the twins at first, he later befriends them and forms an attachment to Valentina. A side story involves the third-floor residents of Vautravers, the obsessive-compulsive Martin and his wife Marijka.

I've often said a city can be just as much a character of a book as a human. In this case, it's not a city but a cemetery. London's famous Highgate Cemetery, burial place of such famous people as Christina Rossetti, Karl Marx and George Eliot, abuts right on the property of their apartment building.

This may sound weird, but the cemetery, where Robert volunteers and where Elspeth's remains are encrypted, is portrayed as a delightful place to be - beautiful, peaceful, calm.

I mentioned that the presence and identity of Elspeth's ghost is no secret, but there is a secret regarding the reason why Elspeth and Edie were estranged and Edie moved to and stayed put in America, the twins never to see each other again. When the secret is eventually revealed, I felt quite a letdown.

There are episodes of twin switching among Elspeth and Edie which left me totally confused and I still do not know which twin was which at certain key points in the story.

For these two reasons, I didn't enjoy the book as much as I did "The Time Traveler's Wife" (although it too can become confusing, especially when the time traveler meets himself in the past).

You will enjoy the portrayal of the younger twins and their forays into the neighborhoods of London. At the beginning the twins dress alike and do everything together in very eerie fashion. But this intense attachment begins to weaken as Valentina tries to find a way to be her own person and separate from Julia. How she attempts it - and how it goes awry - is where the book definitely veers off into magical realism.

I do have a problem with magical realism in books. Or I should say certain types of magical realism. Note that I have no problem accepting time travel and ghosts, but some plot twists really do take one's willing suspension of disbelief to the limits.

I believe the title of the books comes from the William Blake's famous poem: "Tiger, burning bright / In the forests of the night, / What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" One reason for the choice of title might be that Julie and Valentina are mirror twins, in which some of their internal organs are reversed, although they are so symmetrical on the outside as to appear identical. However, I think the tiger could also refer to Elspeth, who might not be as benign a character as she seems.

Ms. Niffeneger is a guide at Highgate Cemetery, which is probably why the cemetery is portrayed as such a welcoming place and its caretakers as such appealing people. What is shown as Robert's research on the history of Highgate is no doubt her own.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


"THE ROAD" by Cormac McCarthy

I had not intended to purchase or read "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy. I do not like post-apocalyptic stories. That's why I do not read Revelations in the Bible. I did not like Mel Gibson's Mad Max movies. And as much as I like the actor Skeet Ulrich, I did not like the TV series Jericho.
Yet, I somehow felt as if I were missing out on something. "The Road" won the Pulitzer Prize. It was on the Bestsellers List. It was made into a movie starring another very good actor, Viggo Mortensen.

So, having a gift card in hand and a passel of books to choose from, I ended up buying it. I had chosen two other books but didn't have enough money to buy a third trade paperback. However, I had just enough to buy a mass market paperback.

So: "The Road". The story of two people traveling through a ravaged world (probably a nuclear holocaust, although this is not made clear.) They are constantly on the move, forever on The Road.

Sun blotted out. Falling ash, permanently gray skies, dirty snow, bone-chilling rain. No living trees, no plants. No birds, no fish. No animals except dogs. No fresh food. 

Burned-out cities. Utter desolation. Dust. Barrenness. Devastation. Anarchy. Humans reverting to savages.

Bad people. Very bad people. Murderers. Cannibals. Barbecued babies on a spit.

Freezing cold. Starvation. Nightmares. Fatigue. Loneliness. Mistrust. Sickness. Paralyzing, constant fear.

No future. No hope. No reason to go on putting one foot in front of another on The Road. No Nothing.

Nothing. Nothing. Except:

The love that passes between a man and his young son.

Is it enough? Is it enough in the end?

Friday, January 22, 2010


by Elizabeth Strout

What to say about Olive Kitteridge? And I do mean the character, not the book. Except for a couple of disappointing chapters, I loved the book for its spot-on characterizations of small-town residents.

I find I must elaborate on my previous sentence in case you are wondering why I would disparage a few chapters and still love the book as a whole. The reason is that each chapter is almost a short story unto itself, all involving the character of Olive Kitteridge in major or minor fashion. In fact, when I first heard about the book, I had the mistaken impression that it was a collection of short stories. I tend to shy away from short story collections, especially in a collection by one writer, but rest assured, "Olive Kitteridge" is, as the title asserts, a novel.

I was quite prepared to dislike Olive, based on her first appearance in the book: Olive's husband, Henry, asks her if it is too much to ask that "a man's wife" accompany him to Sunday church. 'Yes, it most certainly is too goddamn much to ask,' Olive had almost spit, her fury's door flung open. 'You have no idea how tired I am, teaching all day, going to foolish meetings where the goddamn principal is a moron! Shopping. Cooking. Ironing. Laundry. Doing Christopher's homework with him! And you  - '. She had grabbed onto the back of the dining room chair, and her dark hair, still uncombed from its night's disarrangement, had fallen across her eyes. 'You, Mr. Head Deacon Claptrap Nice Guy, expects me to give up my Sunday mornings and go and sit among a bunch of snot-wots!'"

Allllrighty then, Olive! Tell us what you're really thinking!

But as I saw Olive through the eyes of her high school students and fellow townspeople of Crosby, Maine, I began to see her redeeming qualities, especially as she aged. Definitely one to express her opinions and admittedly caustic, Olive, it is revealed, does have tender, caring qualities which endear her to us, especially regarding her memories of Henry after his death, and later, her relationship with rich widower Jack Kennison.

Among the residents of Crosby, Maine, a couple of people particularly engaged me, including secret lovers Harmon and Daisy, new widow Marlene Bonney, and Henry. A pharmacist of a small-town drugstore, Henry becomes extremely fond of his sales clerk, Denise. Henry is a standup guy who would never stoop to having an affair, but he does have deep feelings for Denise, no matter that he does not act on them.

Amazingly, we learn that Henry truly loves Olive, despite her abrasive character.

As I mentioned before, the chapters that make up the book all mention Olive in some form or another, forming the glue that holds everything together. In some instances, the connection may be just in passing, as when the Kitteridges visit The Warehouse Bar and Grille, where 50-ish Angela O'Meara is the piano player.

I loved the story of Angela, who was a gorgeous redhead in her youth. Now, she is plagued by stage fright and has acquired a taste for alcohol to assuage that fear. A single woman, she has a married lover named Malcolm, and an old flame named Simon who "wanted to be a pianist and ended up a real estate lawyer."  When Simon pays a surprise visit, Angela discovers that Simon, who wants to tell her he has pitied her for years, is himself to be pitied. She informs him he "had married a woman and stayed married to her for 30 years, when she did not ever find you lovely in bed. "

Such insights into the human character just floored me.

A character much closer to Olive is her son, Christopher. From Olive's point of view, Christopher is strangely remote, and she cannot understand why he doesn't love her after all the affection she has lavised upon him. But as we come to learn, Olive may have been a smothering, even abusive mother. Again, the difference between perception and reality is enlightening.

Frankly, I was surprised that this book won the Pulitzer Prize, for it is quite uneven. As much as I did like it, I found that a few chapters were especially weak: Kevin Coulson returns to Crosby to commit suicide at his old childhood home, in imitation of his late manic-depressive mother. Instead, he ends up saving a woman who falls (jumps?) off a cliff into the ocean. But what of Kevin after that? And what of the woman?

As with all small towns, everyone in Crosby, Maine, knows way too much about all the other residents. "Jesus", asks Kevin quietly of Olive about his hometown. "Does everyone know everything?"

"Oh sure", she said comfortably. " What else is there to do?" For all of us who ever lived in a small town, her reply is both an answer long time in coming and undoubtedly true.

Getting back to unresolved questions, what about young Julie Harwood, the spurned bride, who runs away from her family to join her definitely uncommitted lover? And what about Rebecca Brown, the kooky girl-child who can't get a job and definitely has some mental issues, including her habit of setting fires? Both stories are decidedly unresolved and consequently frustrating.

In many ways, I found Olive to be like me, a person who thinks herself to be a really nice, good person but who is mystified as to why not everyone in the world likes her. Perhaps the most redeeming quality of the book is the self-knowledge that Olive Kitteridge acquires along the way.

Usually I remember the authors of the books I have read, but it wasn't until after I had finished "Olive Kitteridge" that I learned that Elizabeth Strout is the author of a book I read years ago, "Amy and Isabelle" (which I also recommend).

Monday, January 18, 2010


"It was as black in the closet as old blood. They had shoved me in and locked the door. I breathed heavily through my nose fighting desperately to remain calm. I tried counting to ten on every intake of breath, and to eight as I released each one slowly into the darkness. Luckily for me, they had pulled the gag so tightly into my open mouth that my nostrils were left unobstructed, and I was able to draw in one slow lungful after another of the stale, musty air."

Did those lines grab you the way they did me? They're the opening paragraph of "The Sweetness of the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley. I was hooked. Although I seldom read mysteries, I knew I was going to like this book.

The heroine, 11-year-old Flavia de Luce, is destined to become a classic fictional character. Motherless Flavia lives with her father and two older sisters, Feely (Opelia) and Daffy (Daphne) at Buckshaw, an English manor house.

I have loved books set in English manor houses all my life ("Last night I dreamed I was at Manderly again") and this one, set in 1950, is no exception. Here's Flavia's description of her home: "As I climbed over the last style and Buckshaw came into view across the field, it almost took my breath away. It was from this angle and at this time of day that I loved it most. As I approached from the west, the mellow old stone glowed like saffron in the late afternoon sun, well settled into the landscape like a complacent mother hen squatting on her eggs, with the Union Jack stretching itself contentedly overhead."

A lonely child, Flavia has a cantankerous relationship with Feely and Daffy, and an almost-non-existent relationship with her father. For comfort, she turns to her love of chemistry and an elaborate chem lab, both inherited from an uncle. In her sanctum sanctorum, she creates her favorite chemical compounds, which just happen to be poisons. Fortunately, she doesn't use them on any one.

A mysterious stranger's late-night visit to Flavia's father, followed by her discovery of a soon-to-be corpse in the garden, begins a whodunit in which she must clear her father of a murder charge and find the real villain. 

In addition to possessing a keen intellect, Flavia is naturally curious, determined and plucky. Of the dead man in the garden, Flavia says "I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn't. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that has ever happened in my life."

With Gladys, her trusty bicycle, Flavia sets out to scour town and countryside looking for clues. They include stolen rare stamps, a 30-year-old murder and characters from her father's past, and of course, poison as a murder weapon.

"Sweetness" is the well-deserving winner of the (British) Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger Award. It has also won other awards, including a best young adult book. I feel that is a misnomer, for in no way is  "Sweetness" a book for children even if the heroine is a child.

In many ways, "Sweetness" reminds me of that wonderful book, "I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith, for its evocation of a similar time and place.

It wasn't until I reached the "About the Author" page that I learned that Bradley will be featuring Flavia de Luce in a series of books. "The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag" will be out on March 9. I can't wait! At last I too have a murder mystery series to follow and an ongoing character to watch as she grows and develops as a sleuth.

Monday, January 11, 2010


"Testament" by Alis Hawkins is the January selection of the Cornflower Book Club, an online book club (see link under sidebar). I joined this club because I quit my local book club, because this U.K.-based club features many British authors I am unfamiliar with and because last year's selections looked really interesting.

As a lover of historical novels, especially those set in Great Britain, I tore through the nearly-600 pages at a gallop after I got past the first chapter or two. At first I thought it was going to be a "brick and mortar" story like "Pillars of the Earth". Not that I disliked "Pillars", but once is enough.

The book travels alternately back and forth between medieval and present-day Salster, England. Although I know quite a few English cities, I had to research whether or not Salster actually exists. It does not, but one can envision a city like Oxford, which contains many colleges that together form a university.

Kineton and Dacre College is 600 years old when we first encounter it, in present times. A minor fire discloses eight previously hidden wall paintings (frescoes?) that are, to say the least, disturbing. It falls to new marketing director Damia Miller to discover the meaning behind the paintings and the history of the building of the college.

Although I am not bothered by books that jump around in time, I by far enjoyed the historical sections of "Testament" over the modern. They contain part political intrigue and part family drama, as wealthy merchant Richard Daker, master mason Simon of Kineton and - more reluctantly - Simon's wife, master carpenter Gwyneth, join forces to build an outstanding institution of higher education.

Just as the plans for the college are taking form in 1385, Gwyneth gives birth to a child she and Simon have desperately wanted for 20 years. Sadly, Simon and Gwyneth discover Toby is crippled and thought by townspeople to be possessed by the devil (from the description of his symptoms, Toby probably had cerebral palsy).

A side benefit of historical novels is that they are educational. I found it very illuminating to learn how colleges in the late 14th-Century were controlled by the Catholic church, that they were only for the chosen few and that all classes were conducted in Latin. Daker, a not-too-secret Lollard (followers of John Wycliffe, critical of the traditional church), believes that men should learn in their native language, that colleges should be open to the common man and not be controlled by the Church.

I found the story of Gwyneth's love for her damaged son to be heartwrenching and real. In contrast, the modern-day characters are much less empathetic.

At the turn of the 21st Century, Kineton and Dacre College, nicknamed Toby by fond students, is full of political intrigue too - in the form of university politics. There is a tenant's strike and a possible takeover by the smarmy leader of a fellow college. Those subplots either bored or mystified me and I skimmed through them - perhaps because I'm not English. Our colleges do not have tenant farmers and our universities are much more cohesive under their university umbrella.

I had the hardest time with Damia' character. I found it extremely difficult to believe that Ms. Miller, lacking a college degree, could suddenly become a marketing director of a major college and do a bang up job of it. I also found it a real stretch to believe that the only coach the school can find for their annual Fairings, the most-famous footrace in the world, is, you guessed it, Damia.

Since I am listing Damia's faults, I am also going to say it bothered me that she is a lesbian. Not that a lesbian protagonist in itself bother me - I say kudos to Hawkins, herself a lesbian, for having a lesbian (and black, to boot) character who is an intelligent, savvy career woman. But really, I see it as a contrivance and just so unnecessary. The side stories of Damia's present and past lovers - both male and female - were empty and bland. I felt no sympathy toward Damia's "plight", in vivid contrast to the way Hawkins made me feel about Gwyneth and Toby's situation.

Toby ends up being the hero of the story, ending up with not one but two statues of himself at Kineton and Dacre. How a crippled boy achieves this is a story that begs reading.

Friday, January 8, 2010


"I carry the delicate porcelain beauty of Charleston like the hinged-shell of a soft-tissued mollusk. My soul is peninsula-shaped and sun-hardened and river-swollen. The high tides of the city flood my consciousness each day, subject to the whims and harmonies of full moons rising out of the Atlantic. I grow calm when I see the ranks of palmetto trees pulling guard duty on the banks of Colonial Lake or hear the bells of St. Michael's calling cadence to the cicada-filled trees along Meeting Street."

Sometimes the city in which a book is located is just as much a character in the book as the people who populate it. Such is the case with "Miss Garnet's Angel" by Salley Vickers, in which Venice takes center stage. And then there is "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt, in which Savannah, GA, is the shining star.

And so it is with Charleston, SC. Years ago our family flew to Florida and after a short stay rented a car to drive to Washington, DC. I was "allowed" to pick a famous Southern city to visit along the way - but just one. I wavered between Savannah or Charleston. Going to Savannah meant driving a ways inland, so Dan was rooting for Charleston. I was leaning toward Savannah, but I was glad I acquiesced, for I had a magical time in Charleston. I fell in love with the city. Who doesn't?

In his latest book, "South of Broad", Pat Conroy returns to one of his favorite spots on earth, the Low Country of South Carolina. This time, he concentrates on the city of Charleston. As I read "South of Broad", I again encountered the city I had fallen head over heels for - St. Michael's Church, The Battery, the old Slave Market, the stately homes and nearby antebellum plantations, the antique shops, the enchanting hidden-away gardens, the seafood restaurants along Shem Creek.

"South of Broad" has its flaws, but it has two very redeeming qualities: the City of Charleston, a character unto itself, and the overwhelmingly beautiful language with its cadence of rivers and sea.

The book begins with the fateful day of June 19, 1969, during which the protagonist, Leopold Bloom King, encounters the people who will figure importantly in his future. That he meets them all in one day - deeply-wounded twins Sheba and Trevor Poe; orphaned brother and sister Niles and Starla Whitehead; privileged brother and sister Chad and Fraser Rutledge; Chad's socialite girlfriend Molly Huger; and black football player Ike Jefferson  - is a stretch in itself, and there are other passages in which credulity is stretched to the limit. As much as I wish they did, people in real life do not actually talk like Conroy's characters.

The main flaw of the book is that it skips from 1969 to 1989, leaving out a huge chunk of time during which the friendships formed among the teenagers. Though Conroy does fill in some blanks later, the back stories are sketchy, to say the least. The biggest stretch of unexplored and unexplained territory is how and why Starla, who later becomes Leo's wife, descends into madness when her equally-troubled brother and the even-more-troubled twins do not.

Another "character" in the book is Hurricane Hugo, which devastated the City of Charleston in 1989. I thought for sure that the hurricane would be the perfect time for the psychopathic stalker/murderer we had already encountered to make his reappearance. What better plot twist than to have a group of people trapped by a murderous hurricane be stalked by an equally violent killer?

Good thing I'm not a novelist. Conroy instead elects to have his villain reappear later in a much less dramatic way. Quite the letdown. In regard to the stalker, I had early on guessed his identity and later,  his  fate. These revelations were meant to be dramatic, but instead of providing us with "a-ha" moments Conroy gives us "ho-hum" moments.

As always, Conroy does do some things right. He is always good at writing about strong male friendships, such as that between Leo and Ike. Leo's character, fortunately, is fully drawn. He's a good man, a fine man - complicated but likable, wise but oh-so-human, nearly broken but resilient as the trees that survived the hurricane. I loved the portraits of Starla and Trevor, also survivors - of a hellish childhood - who turn to their imaginations and a love of beauty for salvation.  But other characters are poorly developed. For example, though we learn that Niles, too, is a fine and good man, we are only told this, not shown it.

For me, Conroy's best book will always be "The Prince of Tides" (one of my favorite books of all time). So I will forgive him the flaws in "South of Broad". For despite its deficits, he has still given me a great deal - the story of a Dolphin Queen, a stellar early-morning bike ride through a sleeping city, a mother who is a Joycean scholar and who was a nun, a town rife with the scents of jasmine and magnolia, the swell of the tides, friendships beyond measure.

"Since the day I have been born I have been afraid that heaven would never be half as beautiful as Charleston, the city formed where two rivers meet in ecstacy to place a harbor and a bay and an exit to the world."

It's apparent Conroy loves his city, and it was certainly a pleasure for me to to re-visit it during a time in which my personal landscape is white and bitterly cold.

Monday, January 4, 2010


So far I am doing smashingly well with my (one and only) New Year's Resolution: to post about a book in my book blog before I begin the next one! I bought "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Muriel Barbery with my Christmas gift card last Wednesday, and finished it New Year's Day, so I'm counting it as the first book for 2010.

I had heard about this book through Cornflower's Book Blog (link on my sidebar). From her I learned that readers are very divided about this book, either loving it or hating it. Those who didn't care for it had two major complaints: that the main characters were snobbish, elitist and unlikable, and that the book itself was too intellectual, too philosophical, boring even.

Although I am a smart, quite well-educated person, I do not consider myself an intellectual, and am, in fact, put off by the yammering of self-important intellectuals. (I think of a girl at school named Blatherwick whom my friends and I called Blatheralot). I was a bit intimidated too: afraid to buy the book and let myself in for philosophical treatises too deep for me. But the glowing descriptions of those who liked the book tipped the balance. And "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" turned out to be one of the best books I have read in a long time. I know I will be reading it again and again.

The two major characters are Renee Michel, the apparently sterotypical concierce of a Parisian apartment building, and 12-year-old Paloma Josse, who lives in the building with her family. Both are stunningly intelligent but - for reasons that will ultimately revealed - each chooses to hide her intellectual light under a bushel basket of anonymity.

Renee, a 54-year-old widow, is known only as Mme. Michel to the tenants. They have no idea that behind closed doors Madame is vastly unlike her public persona of the dowdy, grumpy concierge. Rather than sitting glued to mind-numbing television, Renee, an autodidact, listens to classical music, reads philosophy and watches DVDs of Japanese films.

Precocious Paloma is world-weary and disillusioned. Her parents, sister, schoolmates and teachers have no idea of the depths of her still waters. Perhaps too well read and too informed for her tender age, Paloma has come to the conclusion that life is not worth living. She plans to commit suicide and burn down the apartment building on her upcoming 13th birthday.

The arrival of a new tenant in the building - the extremely perceptive Japanese businessman and aesthete Kakuro Ozu - is the catalyst that brings Paloma and Renee together, lifts Renee out of her self-spun cocoon and gives Paloma an abiding reason to live.

Rather than finding them snobbish and offputting, I loved Renee and Paloma immediately. Perhaps it's because I was and am still in many ways a misfit that I identified with them so. I found the philosophical discussions to be intriguing and sailed through them fairly well, finding only Chapter 2 under "Paloma" a bit daunting. But to balance out that chapter is Chapter 11 under "Summer Rain" that begins "What is the purpose of art?" and ends with this sublime sentence: "For art is emotion without desire."

The language of "Hedgehog" is glorious throughout. Through the character of Paloma, Barbery writes, "Pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language." For those who recognize it, the enchantment and beauty of language are on every page of "Hedgehog". For example, this paragraph which ends a description of a summer rain:

"Just as teardrops, when they are large and round and compassionate, can leave a long strand washed clean of discord, the summer rain as it washes away the motionless dust can bring to a person's soul something like endless breathing."

Or this:

"In the split second when I saw the stem and the bud drop to the counter I intuited the essence of beauty....Because beauty consists of its own passing, just as we reach for it. It's the ephemeral configuration of things in the moment, when you can see both their beauty and their death."

If you're wondering about the title, it's Paloma's description of Renee: "Mme. Michele has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside, she's covered with quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary - and terribly elegant."

Friday, January 1, 2010


"WOMAN READING" by Teodor Axtenowicz

Do you have some friends who have no books in their homes? I mean none? What do you think about these people?

"To me a room without books is missing an essential feature, as important as lights, chairs or carpets. Or pictures: in their way, books are like pictures on the wall; they reveal whether you are a minimalist with all covers hidden under plain wrappers, a maximalist whose every room has a generously filled bookcase, or an anarchist whose preferred method of storage is an untidy heap." (from "Books Do Furnish A Room" by Leslie Geddes-Brown).

The presence of books reveals many things, according to the above paragraph. The lack of books reveals a great many things too, about the homeowners. I look down on people who neither display nor own books. I think they are small minded, shallow, ignorant. Hardly worth spending my time with.

By Geddes-Brown's definitions, I guess I am a maximalist, although I wouldn't mind being in an anarchist's house. I would rather spend time in a house messy with books than a house antiseptic with none.

I heard a supervisor (the president of the company) say that she had read a book on the plane during a recent vacation, and it was the first book she had read in many years. Is that something to reveal - something to brag about?

Am I being mean spirited when I say these things about people who don't read, who don't own books? Perhaps I should pity them istead. In her book "The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery writes, "Pity the poor spirit who knows neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language."

I am reading this book now, and I will review it soon. Meanwhile, be assured, it is filled with the enchantment and the beauty of language, there on every single page.

GOLDFISH BOWL" by Lovis Corinth

Here is my very ambitious to-read list for the beginning of 2010:

1. "The Elegance Of The Hedgehog" by Muriel Barbery.

2. "Olive Kitteridge: Fiction" by Elizabeth Strout.

3. "Her Fearful Symmetry" by Audrey Niffeneger.|

4. "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson.

5. "The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie" by Alan Bradley.

6. "Testament" by Alis Hawkins.

7. "The Winter Ghosts" by Kate Mosse.

8. "South of Broad" by Pat Conroy

9. "Half-Broke Horses: A True Life Novel" by Jeannette Walls.

10. "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" by Muriel Sparks.

11. "Remarkable Creatures" by Tracy Chevalier.

12. "The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-time Indian" by Sherman Alexie.

13. "Howards End Is On The Landing" by Susan Hill.

14. "The Blue Tattoo" by Margaret Mifflin.

15. "The Zookeeper's Wife" by Diane Ackerman.

16. "People Of The Book" by Geraldine Brooks

17. "The Winter House" by Nicci Gerrard

18. "The Swan Thieves" by Elizabeth Kostova

19. "Travels With Charlie" by John Steinbeck

20. "The Road"  by Cormack McCarthy

Three I have; two ("Testament" and "Travels With Charlie") are for Cornflower Books' online book club (see link above). Others will come to me via BOMC2's monthly shipments (a good deal - $10.00 per book, no shipping). Others I will have to wait to afford. One, "The Winter Ghosts", isn't even published in the United States yet.

Whatever your list, happy reading in 2010.

by Mary Ferris Kelly