This week’s column includes a guest review by Fran Plewak, two historical biographies, two novels on audio cassette and one novel on paper (how quaint and old fashioned).
Exit Ghost by Philip Roth. Roth brings back Nathan Zuckerman in a story about literature, memory, the indignities of old age, hopeless passion, death, the nature of the creative imagination and the distortions inherent in biography writing. Playful and desperate at the same time, this book takes us inside the mind of a brilliant writer who is afraid that he is losing his mind along with his virility.
Copernicus’ Secret: How the Scientific Revolution Began by Jack Repcheck. The fascinating story of how and why Copernicus recalculated and reconsidered the shape of the universe is well told by the author. I was disappointed by the author’s limited exploration of the nature of the old belief system and how and why it fit together as it did. Although Copernicus overthrew the geocentric concept, he did not replace with a mechanical view of the cosmos. For Copernicus, the universe was still a manifestation of the perfect mind of the creator.
Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon (audio cassettes in paperback collection, book in regular collection). Ms Gabaldon took a minor character from her Outlander series and created a mystery novel set in 18th century London. Lord John wanders upstairs and down, through back alleys and brothels, in search of some stolen papers and the truth about his cousin’s fiancé.
Guest review: Fran Plewak–Audio book – Home to Holly Springs, by Jan Karan
If you’ve ever read one of Jan Karan’s heartwarming books about small town life, you’ve probably fallen in love with Father Tim Kavanagh, and all the endearing characters who live in Mitford, North Carolina. Yes, the plots are always full of unrealistic coincidences, and are a bit sentimental, but they make you feel so good, you’re willing to put up with it!
The first of a new series about Father Tim, Home to Holly Springs has the retired Episcopal priest returning after thirty-eight years to the Mississippi town where he was born and raised. We learn about his childhood for the first time, as he searches for answers for unresolved issues. Not only does he find them, but some of his discoveries turn out to be life altering, and themes of acceptance and forgiveness are prominent throughout.
The reader, Scott Sowers, does an excellent job, and I tend to be very picky about who I want to listen to for over eleven hours. I was sorry to see (hear?) this one end.
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver (audio cassettes available until September 1 and book). Summer in Appalachia—three clusters of human beings search for their place in the world: a wildlife biologist guarding a park, a young woman suddenly faced with running a farm and two elderly landowners debating religion and herbicides. Kingsolver slides into a teacherly tone every now and again, but I still found myself caught by the story and the people.
Shakespeare’s Wife by Germaine Greer. Ann Hathaway has gotten some seriously negative press over the last 400 years and Greer sets out to bring some balance to the story of the famous playwright’s spouse. Greer dug through a huge mass of contemporary records to find out how women lived, how they worked, what they ate, where they slept, how they gave birth and how marriages were arranged. Many of the assumptions made about Ms. Hathaway rest on a misreading of the cultural mores of her time and place. A bit dense in spots, but entertaining, overall.
See you at the library!