Tag Archives: romance

A period piece you’ll relish reading

August 20, 2014

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The Time In BetweenDo you savor good writing?

The slow-moving action of “The Time In Between” perfectly fits this lengthy, detail-filled novel. It lets you soak up the lovely writing and the exquisite translation from the original Spanish into beautiful English.

It lets you absorb the tenor of the times and the emotions of characters into whose lives you’ve been dropped for 600-plus pages.

Hemingway and others have written about the Spanish civil war, of course, but Maria Duenas decorates with ornamentation, flavor and the style of the period in contrast to the straightforward, unadorned sentences of Hemingway.

Fashionistas will appreciate the detail Duenas shares as she portrays the life of the seamstress turned spy in the chaotic 1930s as Spaniards moved from their own tragic war into observers of World War II all around them.

There’s drama, mystery, romance and unexpected turns of events — all the pieces that drive readers to keep turning pages. People even pray and go to church, something rare for modern literature.

Hats off to Daniel Hahn for bringing this 2009 novel to readers of the English language. Only once did I feel as though he’d missed the mark.

Just as I was admiring the beauty of the translation, he has an old Moroccan woman threatening the suitor of the main seamstress character sounding like a thug straight from the streets of south Philadelphia. Just had to laugh.

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Library find: Heroine considering abortion gets tangled in ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland

August 17, 2010

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Night Crossing cover

“Night Crossing,”

by Don J. Snyder

Authentic history of the not-long-ago “Troubles” in Northern Ireland mix with a mid-life crisis for an American woman in “Night Crossing,” a compelling read that caught my eye in the library.

It was a 2001 release by Alfred J. Knopf, so this fast-paced, 277-page novel isn’t new. It is, however, one of the few works of fiction that I’ve come across that deals with the subject of abortion in more than a cursory, matter-of-fact, approving way. In real life abortion isn’t an easily made decision, and author Don J. Snyder does a good job of bringing the abortion decision-making process into his story without making it the focal point.

What is the focal point is the conflict that caused bloodshed in Northern Ireland for so many decades. Snyder uses the Aug. 15, 1998 car bombing in Omagh as the jumping off point for what turns out to be a chase-filled drama across the counties in the north of the Irish island. In real life, 29 people died and more than 200 innocents were injured from the blast that was pinned on a splinter group of the Irish Republican Army, a group that opposed disarmament and a peace settlement. But what role did the British government play in the affair?

Snyder hooks his readers early with the thought of complicity in the evil. How it rolls out makes for great reading. — bz

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Best book you’ll read this summer has a quirky title

July 20, 2010

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Guernsey-cover

“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,”

by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A delightful read for any time of year, this New York Times #1 bestseller is a perfect summer treat now that it’s out in paperback.

The use of a string of letters to tell the story doesn’t even seem like a gimmick once Shaffer and Barrows pull you into this gem.

In the novel, Juliet Ashton is a journalist and author who finds herself intrigued by a request she receives in the mail from a resident of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands between France and England.

The setting is just a year after the end of World War II. Guernsey’s inhabitants had endured four years of occupation by the forces of the Third Reich, and woven through the novel is their telling what life was like as British citizens under German military rule.

Telling the story – all through “the post,” at Brits call the mail – are the members of the book club with the odd name, as cleverly drawn a group of characters as have ever won over your heart.

Not to give away the story, but there’s a bit of romance involved, a bit of drama, some must-turn-the-page excitement, but in a genteel, well-mannered, earlier-generations sort of way.

In the Dial Press small paperback version I picked up, this wonderful story is told in just 274 pages.

A yardstick I’ve come to use as my standard for good reading is if I don’t want a book to end. Suffice it to say that 274 pages were hardly enough. What a great work of literature. — bz

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