What’s That Book? The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

whats-that-book

the aviator's pic
TitleThe Aviator’s Wife

Author:  Melanie Benjamin

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating:  ****

What’s it about?  A realistic look into the public and private lives of Anne Morrow and her famous aviator husband, Charles Lindbergh. Melanie Benjamin takes on a well-known subject and fills in the gaps by letting the reader imagine how Morrow felt during her early marriage and later when Charles left her and their five children alone for long stretches.

Benjamin also describes how Lindbergh’s career changes as flight technology advances and he takes on more advisory roles. His pro-Nazi comments made him a controversial figure in the late 1930s and his alliance with Henry Ford, a known anti-Semite, made him extremely unpopular during this time and ruined his long friendship with the Guggenheims.

How did you hear about it?  I always have my eye out for stories about  Charles Lindbergh because of the bigger story behind the glamour of his aviator feats, especially the media sensation during the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. I also read Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh years ago and liked learning about Morrow’s life and her ideas. This was before I knew about Lindbergh’s double life in Europe, in which he had long-term relationships with three women and fathered two children with one and another with a sister. I wanted to read The Aviator’s Wife to learn more about Anne Morrow.

Closing comments:  So many times the people who do great things are selfishly focused, unable to see either left or right, only straight ahead. I think this must be how Charles was. Anne found her own way to shine, by being a mother, by writing and by forming her own important relationships. In the end, Benjamin gives us a realistic picture of what might have been said between Anne and Charles throughout their marriage and during Charles’ final days.

Contributor:  Ginette


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The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman – great movie too!

The Light Between Oceans – a great story on the pages and on the screen!

the-light-between-oceans-movie

It’s a win-win when a movie adaptation is just as good as the book and I found this out when I watched The Light Between Oceans starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander.

Set on an island off Western Australia just after World War I, it’s the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife, who live alone on Janus Rock. One day, they discover a boat that has washed ashore, carrying a dead man and a crying baby.  Heartbroken over their own losses, they are faced with a decision that will shape the rest of their lives.

Despite being isolated from the world, it’s no surprise that Tom and Isabel Sherbourne’s choice ultimately affects a great many people and a complicated story emerges. It is a story of love, marriage, family and sacrifice.

Terrific filming and a great moral dilemma make this movie a satisfying tear-jerker and I felt the heartstrings being pulled from many directions.  Read the book first and watch the movie second?  I think it can be done in either order!

the light between oceans pic

Click here for a more detailed review of The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman.

What are your favorite film adaptations?

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The Time Between by Karen White

the-time-between
The Time Between

by
Karen White

Rating:
bookmarks-3a

Are sisters “forever” or can secrets can break the bond?  That’s the big question in Karen White’s story about two sets of sisters whose lives are divided by tragedy and broken dreams.  The Time Between traces the modern lives of Eleanor Murray and her wheelchair-bound sister Eve, whose life was forever changed because of a sisterly dare.  We meet the second set of sisters when Finn Beaufain, Eleanor’s daytime boss, hires her for a second job as companion to his elderly aunt, Helena Szarka.

The story takes place on the scenic Edisto Island in South Carolina, where Eleanor and Eve grew up and where Helena and her sister Bernadett followed their older sister Magda after World War II.  Eleanor is a young woman, trapped by guilt and obligation to care for Eve and their arthritic mother.  Her dream of studying piano at Julliard has been dashed and Eve’s husband Glen is a reminder of what could have been.

Helena does not want a companion.  At ninety years old, she is grieving Bernadett’s death and has little patience for Eleanor’s self-absorbed martyrdom.  Their shared love of music may bring them together, but family secrets on both sides block the way.  At Helen’s house, something is strange about the oil paintings that hang on her walls.  And Eleanor’s unspoken and painful thoughts trace back to Eve’s accident.  If only her father were still alive to guide her.

I enjoyed this story of family, mystery, and the parallel look at sisters, written from the surviving sisters’ varying points of view.  I also enjoyed the historical element, which describes the three Szarka sisters as young women during the German invasion of Hungary.  White’s vivid descriptions of Edisto make it easy to picture life on the island, a place that would be nice to visit.  Sweetgrass baskets sold by roadside locals fill Helena’s house and they take on special meaning when Helena enters a forbidden closed-off room at Luna Point.

Helena and Eve are different, but their similarities may be enough to help them understand the decisions they’ve made and see that there are indeed second chances, allowing them to break free from the time between.

The Time Between is a light story with thought provoking themes.  While its plot and characters are often predictable, White writes about many of my favorite subjects, family, relationships, and mysterious old houses with locked doors and forbidden rooms.

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That’s life! Books about life

Life has many ups and downs, but you can always count on a book to get you through the tougher days.  Heavy or light, fiction or nonfiction, there is no shortage of books on the subject!


Books with the word “life” in the title:

Archie The Married Life
Archie – The Married Life Book 2
by Paul Kupperberg
:  Even comic book characters have challenges and Archie has his hands full with both Betty and Veronica!


Barbarian Days A Surfing Life
Barbarian Days:  A Surfing Life
by William Finnegan:  winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, a self-portrait of a life-long surfer.


Dear Life coverDear Life by Alice Munro:  terrific collection of short fiction by one of the best.


life after life pic

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson:  One of the best books I’ve ever read, Atkinson looks at the what-ifs during the world-changing events of World War II.


Stll Life with Bread Crumbs
Still Life with Bread Crumbs
by Anna Quindlen:  Love enters the picture at all stages of life in this popular story.


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty new
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”
by James Thurber:  A henpecked husband escapes into his own world in this Thurber classic.


The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace
by Jeff Hobbs:  an absorbing story about a super smart and caring guy from a poor neighborhood in New Jersey who just couldn’t make it work.


helen-keller-the-story-of-my-life
The Story of My Life
by Helen Keller:  Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing as a baby and overcame tremendous obstacles and became a well-known supporter of many causes.


Of course you don’t have to have the word “life” in the title to write about the subject.  Here are some notables from this year’s reading list:

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway:  Hemingway looks back on his days in Paris and his marriage to Hadley Richardson.

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín:  A young Irish woman takes a chance on a better life in America after World War II.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume:  a fictionalized depiction of life in 1950s Elizabeth, New Jersey when three planes crashed in their town.

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout:  How do you put the hushed experiences of your childhood into words, and should you?

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie:  terrific semi-autobiographical story about a life of poverty on the Spokane Indian reservation.

The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler:  Life changes in an instant when a man’s wife dies.  Will he get a chance to fix unreconciled conflicts in his marriage?

The Hours Count by Jillian Cantor:  great 1950s historical fiction about the lives of accused spies, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were the only civilian Americans to be killed for spying for the Russians.

Traveling Mercies – Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott:  an honest and often humorous memoir about finding faith.

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas:  A family’s life is transformed after a loved-one’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler:  a solid reminder that successful people put in a lot of time at the bottom, before anyone knows about them.


Thanks for visiting – back to my book!

Currently reading The Time Between by Karen White

Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig

rhett-butlers-people-cover
Rhett Butler’s People
by
Donald McCaig

Rating:
3 book marks

Great characters live on long after the final pages of our favorite books, subject to our wild imaginations.  In the final pages of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, our minds are already working on what could happen next when Scarlett vows, “I’ll think of some way to get him back.  After all…tomorrow is another day.”

For decades, we wondered if Rhett and Scarlett would get back together.  To answer our curiosity, Alexandra Ripley wrote Scarlett in 1992.  Then Donald McCaig wrote Rhett Butler’s People in 2007 and Ruth’s Journey in 2014.

Gone With the Wind has inspired other books as well, including The Wind Is Never Gone:  Sequels, Parodies and Rewritings of Gone With the Wind by M. Carmen Gómez-Galisteo; Scarlett’s Women:  Gone With the Wind and Its Female Fans by Helen Taylor; Frankly, My Dear:  “Gone With the Wind Revisited” by Molly Haskell; and the parody by Alice Randall, The Wind Done Gone.

Rhett Butler’s People is a saga of the Butler family in Charleston, South Carolina before, during and after the Civil War, and is a companion piece to GWTW.  It begins with a fateful duel of honor and jumps back to Rhett’s boyhood days on the family’s rice plantation.  It’s no surprise that Rhett is a rebel and McCaig takes the reader through Rhett’s many clashes with his controlling father, Langston Butler.  The back story ties into what the reader already knows about Rhett from GWTW and the author fills in the plot with new characters to interact with some of GWTW’s main characters, including Melanie Hamilton, Ashley Wilkes and Belle Watling.  Some new characters are Rhett’s little sister, Rosemary, school companions Andrew Ravanel and Edgar Puryear and Belle Watling’s bastard son, Tazewell.

Although Rhett and Scarlett meet under the same circumstances at Twelve Oaks, McCaig tells the story from the Butler angle and follows Rhett through his blockade running days during the war and as he meets up with Scarlett in Atlanta.  McCaig, who also wrote Canaan and Jacob’s Ladder, is a Civil War expert and, in his story, he describes the major conflicts between the north and south, slavery and the war’s impact on the southern way of life.

While no story can compare to a classic like Gone With the Wind, McCaig fills in a lot of nice details about the Butler family.  The story is at its strongest between McCaig’s original characters and the complicated dynamic within the Watling family, and less so, however, when he retells scenes from GWTW.  It’s always risky to pick up characters from another book and the author’s portrayals of Melanie and Belle, in particular, will seem a little off to GWTW fans.  In addition, Rhett’s character seems too soft and too understanding to be the swaggering, dangerous and irresistible Rhett we swoon over in GWTW.

Rhett Butler’s People is a well-told story, however, with lots of interesting side characters and plots, painting a vivid picture of the south during the war.  In addition, readers are rewarded with a wild and satisfying finish.  A fun read inspired by a great classic!

If you love historical fiction about the Civil War, check out my review of Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

fever pic

Fever 1793
by
Laurie Halse Anderson

Rating:
4 book marks

Now that the kids are back at school, lots of middle-schoolers are reading historical novels like Fever 1793, the story of Mattie Cook, a fourteen-year-old girl living in Philadelphia during the Yellow Fever plague of 1793. Mattie must grow up quickly during that summer, as the fever strikes her family and friends. She makes difficult decisions and learns hard lessons about survival, life and love.

Anderson weaves history into her story and the reader learns about these difficult times in early America, as well as about how people lived and how the black population built a powerful supportive network to help them through sickness and hunger. She also includes a great deal about doctors’ different approaches to healing the sick and the heated debate over these methods.

I like how Mattie matures during this time.  Anderson shows how, despite vastly different circumstances, young teenagers of all time periods share similar feelings of love, loyalty and rebellion and must make difficult decisions that ultimately shape their adult characters.

Although the story includes sadness and loss, Fever is more a story of hope and survival with a definite feel-good ending.

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What’s That Book? Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

 

whats-that-bookLoving Frank cover

Title:  Loving Frank

Author:  Nancy Horan

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Rating:  ***

What’s it about?  Historical novel about the charismatic American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, his creative style and innovative designs and his failed marriage to Catherine Tobin, whom he deserted (along with six children) to continue an affair with Mameh Cheney, the wife of a client.  The story also includes the 1914 disastrous fire at Taliesin, Wright’s new home in Wisconsin, set by a deranged servant who also murdered Mameh, her two children and four others.

How did you hear about it?  Recommended by a friend who knew I liked historical fiction

Closing comments:  I liked reading Loving Frank and trying to imagine these historical figures as they spoke and acted in their everyday lives and during the actual events that occurred. I did not know much about Frank Lloyd Wright and had never heard of Mamah Cheney and, had these things not really happened, I would have thought the book’s story line to be unbelievable!

Contributor:  Jane


Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it?
Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

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Summer Reading Challenge – Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

Brooklyn Toibin

Brooklyn  by Colm Tóibín

A Book Recommended by a Librarian

Rating:
4 book marks

Eilis Lacey’s older sister Rose understands the small-town limits of Enniscorthy, Ireland.  The years following World War II have been hard for the Lacey children and their widowed mother.  Brothers Jack, Pat and Martin have left for work in England, leaving Rose and Eilis to look after their mother.

At thirty, it may be too late for Rose, but Eilis has a chance for a better life in America.  And the decision is made when Rose arranges for an Irish priest from Brooklyn to sponsor her sister.  A few weeks later, a stunned and wide-eyed Eilis boards a ship for New York to begin her life.

Eilis settles into a Brooklyn walk-up with a group of women boarders, overseen by the opinionated Mrs. Kehoe and begins her job working the floor at Bartocci’s department store.  The strangeness of her new life overwhelms Eilis, but she keeps busy with work and accounting classes at Brooklyn College.  Slowly, her life changes and when she meets a man at an Irish church dance, Eilis begins to believe she can find happiness in New York.

When tragedy at home calls Eilis back to Ireland, she realizes that her ties to home are much stronger than she knew and she is tormented by indecision.  And her life in New York becomes more remote the longer she stays in Ireland.  Love, loyalty and family pull from two directions and it isn’t until the final pages of this lovely story where Eilis chooses.

Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn is a classic tale about post-war immigration to America.  Readers feel the same mix of optimism and fear that runs through Eilis as she makes her way in an entirely new world.  Tóibín includes many details about 1950s New York, adding unique color and depth to an experience many have shared.  And the author’s strong female characters make this a story as much about gaining independence as it is about love and happiness.  What I enjoyed most was the emerging strength in Eilis as she adapts to change and then confronts the most important decision of her life.

At 262 pages, Brooklyn is fairly short and I would have liked to learn more about some of Tóibín’s lesser characters, including the Lacey brothers, Father Flood and Miss Fortini.  The author hints at interesting details about them and I think the story would have been even stronger if they had played greater roles.  Likewise, the author only touches on the conflicts between the different immigrant nationalities and other post-war tension.  Maybe he chose to only refer to these to add context and perhaps we will see these minor characters in another book.

Of course, if it’s a book that’s become a movie, I’m likely to watch the movie and make the comparison.  In this case, I was delighted.  While the movie, like all adaptations to film, omits layers of details too difficult to include, I thought it kept very close to the characters and story line.  You can learn more about the movie starring Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson here.


Follow along as I work my way through my 16 in 16 Challenge!

Book 1 – A Book You Can Finish in a Day:  The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner
Book 2 – A Book in a Genre You Typically Don’t Read:  The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
Book 3 – A Book with a Blue Cover:  The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Book 4 – A Book Translated to English:  I Refuse by Per Petterson
Book 5 – A Second Book in a Series:  Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy
Book 6 – A Book To Learn Something New: The Beginner’s Photography Guide by Chris Gatcum
Book 7 – A Book That Was Banned:  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Book 8 – A Book Set Somewhere You’ve Always Wanted to Visit:  Calmer Girls by Jennifer Kelland Perry
Book 9 – A Book with Non-human Characters:  The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

From the Archives: Books about Water and the Sea

Ocean

With only a few weeks left on our summer calendars, there’s still time to read a book about water and the sea.  Take a look at this mix of classic tales, popular fiction and nonfiction!


Classic fiction

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
What happens to a group of young British schoolboys when their plane is shot down and they land on deserted island in the Pacific?


The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
The classic Hemingway story of Santiago, an old Cuban fisherman who has not caught a fish in eighty-four days


Popular fiction

sea creatures pic

Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel
Set in Miami, Florida, a story about love, marriage, family, death, art, weather and the sea


stiltsville book cover

Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel
All about marriage, family and relationships in a community of stilt houses in the Miami sand flats


The Dressmaker cover

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
Light historical fiction and romance written into the history of the Titanic’s voyage, its passengers and the disaster’s aftermath


the light between oceans pic

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
A story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife, who live alone on an island off Western Australia


The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Fast-paced, coming-of-age fantasy tale for adults about the mysteries of life, death, nature, the past, and the present


We Are Water

We Are Water by Wally Lamb
A rotating narrative about abuse over time and generations, and its range of effects


Mystery

Death in a Red Canvas Chair cover

Death in a Red Canvas Chair by N. A. Granger
Debut mystery novel, the first in a series about Rhe Brewster and her adventures as an amateur detective.  Set in the fictional coastal town of Pequod, Maine


Death in a Dacron Sail cover

Death in a Dacron Sail by N. A. Granger
The second in the Rhe Brewster mystery series, full of New England color and Maine personality


Romance

I also enjoyed reading Tracy's first love story!

Catalina Kiss by Tracy Ewens
Where the Tracy Ewens romance series begins.  Set on the island of Catalina during Prohibition, a light, feel-good romance


Young Adult/Children’s

Casey of Cranberry Cove

Casey of Cranberry Cove by Susan Kotch
Teen love on the Jersey shore, lots of fun shore references for Jersey guys and girls


the cay pic

The Cay by Theodore Taylor
Touching coming-of-age story about an eleven-year-old American boy living on the island of Curaçao during World War II


Tommy's Mommy's Fish

Tommy’s Mommy’s Fish by Nancy Dingman Watson
Tommy wants to give his mother the best birthday present so he heads to the beach to catch the biggest fish he can.


Non-fiction

Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast

Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast by Margie Miklas
Coffee table/photo book featuring the people, streets and culture of a beautiful part of Italy, showcasing magnificent coastlines, ancient architecture and vibrant street life


In the Heart of the Sea

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
True survival story of the whaleship Essex, attacked and sunk by an eighty-five foot sperm whale in the Pacific


Read but not reviewed

Billy Budd by Herman Melville
A classic Melville story about the battle between good and evil

Jaws by Peter Benchley
Gripping suspense novel about a killer shark off a Long Island beach

Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Ahab takes on a killer whale.  Classic story inspired by the whaleship Essex

Gift from the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh
Meditations about love, marriage and family written by Charles Lindbergh’s American wife


Do you have any favorite tales about the sea?

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What’s That Book? Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Whats That Book

Brooklyn Toibin
Title
: Brooklyn

Author:  Colm Toibin

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating:  *****

What’s it about?  Set in both Ireland and Brooklyn in the early 1950s, Toibin’s novel tells the endearing and compelling story of Ellis, a young woman who must ultimately choose between her home country and her new life in America.  Smart and capable, Ellis leaves her beloved home to find work in Brooklyn.  After coping with a horrific voyage across the ocean and paralyzing homesickness, Ellis soon begins to excel at her job and in her college classes.  She falls in love and slowly her new country becomes her home.  When family tragedy strikes, Ellis is forced to choose between her old life in Ireland and her new life in Brooklyn.  This is a lovely story with interesting, believable characters and lavish descriptions that contrast Ellis’ small Irish hometown and 1950s New York City.

Brooklyn DVD
After your read the book, be sure to check out the movie adaptation which received many film awards and garnered three Oscar nominations including Best Motion Picture of the Year.  The settings are stunning, the acting is superb (Saoirse Ronan was nominated for Best Actress) and the screenplay is wonderfully true to the book.

How did you hear about it?  A friend over the holidays watched the movie and recommended it to me.  I decided to read the book first, then watch the DVD.

Closing comment:  This is the rare but wonderful instance when a movie is as enjoyable as the book on which it is based.

Contributor:  Susan


Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it?
Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!