Wednesday, May 30, 2018

VARINA by Charles Frazier

VARINA  by Charles Frazier
The person is eminently interesting – the wife of the Confederate President. The era is interesting – the decades before, during, and after the American Civil War.  The episodes are fascinating – a Southern white woman raising an enslaved child as her own: the escape of fugitives in a devastated land: the marriage of a 17 year old to a 40 year old.  So why didn’t I like it?
The episodes are just that – episodes that jump from decade to decade with no cohesion.  The story is not a story – there is no plot.  The tempo and pacing are erratic at best. 
BUT… the writing is wonderful. The conclusions are insightful.  The characters are real and well presented.
YOU might like it. I didn’t.
3 of 5 stars

Thursday, May 17, 2018

THE HIGH TIDE CLUB by Mary Kay Andrews

THE HIGH TIDE CLUB   by Mary Kay Andrews
Andrews is one of my favorite “women’s lit” authors. Her characters speak and act like real people. Her plots are intricate and satisfying. Her settings are richly described. The tempo is fast enough to keep up interest and yet slow enough for a well-paced read.  HIGH TIDE CLUB does not fail!

Murder, illegitimate babies, broken engagements, crotchety old ladies, absent boyfriends, a private island, a mean sexual predator,  a vast fortune, a dying heiress and skinny dipping under a full moon  -- what more could one want in the ultimate beach read.

This one is fun and will keep you guessing till the last pages, although one of the many mysteries I was able to figure out early on.
5 of 5 stars

THE WEIGHT OF INK by Rachel Kadish

THE WEIGHT OF INK  by Rachel Kadish
This somewhat disturbing tale is the story of a young Jewish girl living in exile in Holland (Amterdam) in 1660 when tragedy forces her to live with an aging Rabbi in England.  Ester’s own father, also a rabbi, had encouraged Ester’s education in defiance of community norms.  In England, Ester continues her education and is employed as scribe to her protector rabbi . Unbeknown to her employer, she embarks on a philosophical correspondence with a number of renowned philosophers including Benedict Spinoza. The interwoven twentieth century tale concerns an aging professor who finds her letters and is determined to publish them.

The characters are skillfully defined and brought to life on the pages.  The political climates of Jewish diaspora and England between Cromwell and the renewed monarchy are clear.  The tension between the rival philosophies is palpable.  Although VERY long, the well-researched story holds one’s attention. Ester is a likeable, although obstinate and often misguided, personage.  Her plight will resonant with today’s feminist sympathizers
4 of 5 stars because of the 600 page length.