Yesterday was the perfect fall day – sunny and crisp air. Himself and I went to the State XC championship in Pasco Washington. Youngest met us there thrilled to see his high school team make the state finals for the first time since he was a freshman. The boys ran their heart out and placed 5th in the state. I spent the first part of the week on jury duty. Fortunately my fellow jurors were delightful and I used my down time to wrap up some books that I had half finished.
Here is what caught my interest this week, all of which are older books which were unknown to me:
Book Snob has introduced me to a writer from the 1930’s, Helen Rose Hull. Information about this author is hard to find other than she taught writing at Columbia and she wrote numerous short stories as well as seventeen novels. Book Snob describers Hull’s writing saying, “her prose is a blend of Willa Cather’s sparse, piercing clarity and Dorothy Whipple’s intuitive, sensitive portrayals of the soul and human relationships. ” Morning Shows the Day begins in the 1910’s in the Midwest and follows a group of young high school students, from both sides of the social and financial spectrum, for the next thirty years. I wish I could quote the whole review but will settle for this, “This is not a novel that deserves to be forgotten; it is touching and profound and striking in its honesty. I can’t praise it, and Hull’s writing, enough.” Two of Hull’s novels are available from The Feminist Press. The others, including this one, may be harder to find. Fortunately I can read this through the Inter-library loan program.
What is interesting about book blogs is you will read about a book and pass on it for various reasons and then you read a review that changes your mind. For example, The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton. Born in Missouri in 1913, Moonflower is the author’s only published novel. I have seen in on other blogs and even looked on Amazon and it didn’t spark my interest. Then I read a review done by The Boston Bibliophile and I am now thinking about putting it on my list. Set in the Ozarks, the novel is about the Soames family: Patriarch Matthew, a stern and distant father; his wife Callie; and four individualist daughters. This is the line in the review that sold me, “What I loved about this book is how Carleton crafts such rich interior lives for all of her characters, with so much compassion for them, but never loses sight of how much these people love each other.”
Jackie of Farmlane Books reviews a novel that is described by some as a “lost modern classic”, The Death of the Adversary by Hans Keilson. Keilson was a novelist, poet, psychoanalyst, and child psychologist as well as a member of the Dutch Resistance in WWII. As a Jew, Keilson was prevented from working by the Germans and eventually went into hiding. The resistance asked him to work with Jewish children in hiding and these experiences found their way into his writing. The Death of the Adversary was written while Keilson was in hiding and is the account of a young Jewish boy who watches a dictator obtain power. Francine Prose wrote in the New York Times Book Review:
“For busy, harried or distractible readers who have the time and energy only to skim the opening paragraph of a review, I’ll say this as quickly and clearly as possible: The Death of the Adversary and Comedy in a Minor Key are masterpieces, and Hans Keilson is a genius . . . Although the novels are quite different, both are set in Nazi-occupied Europe and display their author’s eye for perfectly illustrative yet wholly unexpected incident and detail, as well as his talent for storytelling and his extraordinarily subtle and penetrating understanding of human nature. But perhaps the most distinctive aspect they share is the formal daring of the relationship between subject matter and tone. Rarely has a finer, more closely focused lens been used to study such a broad and brutal panorama, mimetically conveying a failure to come to grips with reality by refusing to call that reality by its proper name . . . Rarely have such harrowing narratives been related with such wry, off-kilter humor, and in so quiet a whisper. Read these books and join me in adding him to the list, which each of us must compose on our own, of the world’s very greatest writers.”
The final classic that caught my interest is South Riding by Winifred Holtby reviewed by Rachel of Book Snob. Holtby, a friend of Vera Brittain, came of age in England after WWI. Her work focuses on the economic, social, and political challenges England faced along with the sheer enormity of the loss of life due to the war. Holtby was diagnosed with Bright’s Disease and used her remaining energy to finish South Riding. Set in the fictional town of South Riding, the novel has a large cast of characters “all of whom have their own absorbing lives that feed into this incredible, moving portait of humanity that Holtby paints so vividly.” Rachel’s review is well worth reading and she makes the book sound like something to both enjoy and savor.
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