“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore.
“Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair.
People will insist on giving me books.”
I had to chuckle at this quote from Dumbledore in the first Harry Potter book. I dearly love socks but I also dearly love books. An ideal Christmas would be to receive both. Why am I going on about socks? Well our October book group met in the park again this month and though it was still comfortable, along with our masks, we needed jackets, and scarves, and some needed mittens, and we definitely needed socks. Unless a heat wave descends upon Wisconsin we won’t be in the park in November. Of course the way this year is going we might be experiencing hell on earth by then. But let’s remain optimistic and hope that by the time Nov 12th arrives (the date we would normally meet), we will be too busy celebrating the removal of the dangerous buffoon from our White House to think about anything else. One thing I can guarantee, we won’t stop reading. So, we had lots of books this month, even some members who could not attend in person sent me their titles so I will add names at the end of each annotation for the group’s edification.
- The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick (2020) 336p. In 1910 the Women’s Suffrage movement was just getting started. Women were still beholden to the patriarchal standards of society. If a woman did not conform, rebelled or acted “inappropriately” she could be sent away to a sanitorium or to a house for wayward women like The House of Mercy in Manhattan. Its public aim was to rescue women from vice but it actuality was a Magdalene laundry where women were not redeemed from their sin, but imprisoned and exploited for free labor. (Jeanne)
- Cocaine Blues (#1 in the Phryne Fisher Mysteries) by Kerry Greenwood (2006) 326p. This series should be familiar to many from the Aussie TV series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. In this, the first in the series, Phryne, a wealthy single woman living in England, is hired by a friend to go to Australia to find out if his daughter Lydia is being poisoned by her husband. Bored, and originally from Australia, she takes the case. (Rikki)
- Squeeze Me by Carl Hiaasen (2020) 352p. Carl Hiaasen returns us to the madness of Florida, in a deranged, irreverent and funny social and political satire featuring the imbecilic Orange one with his gerbil like attention span and his first lady, referred to here by their secret service names of Mastodon and Mockingbird. Gee, I wonder who he is referring to? (Pete)
- Fool’s Run: A Kidd Novel by John Sandford (1989) 254p. This series was written by Sandford under his real name John Camp. It features a guy named Kidd who is a painter, a tarot reader, and genius hacker of computers long before the days when everyone has a cell phone. It is a good story but very dated because it was published in 1989 when the technology was all about dial up connections and other things we never see nowadays. (Dan)
- Vinegar Hill by Ansay Manette (2006) 240p. After her husband loses his job, Ellen Grier and her family move back to their hometown of Holly’s Field, Wisconsin and move in with her in-laws. This is a harsh, loveless, and cold home filled with secrets. Ellen is troubled and depressed and angry and apathetic. She is finally able to come to a decision for her own family and her life. Interesting but very morose and bleak.(Sue)
- Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days that Changed the World by Chris Wallace (2020) 320p. This is by Chris Wallace, the veteran journalist and anchor of Fox News Sunday. A behind-the-scenes account of the secret meetings and events across the globe during the days leading up to the world’s first use of the atomic bomb in wartime. (Ellie)
- The Guest List by Lucy Foley (2020) 320p. This is a classic who-dunnit mystery, and it all takes place during a wedding on an island in Ireland. The writing, the characters, and the suspense will keep you guessing. (Linda)
- Grace of Silence: A Memoir by Michele Norris (2010) 208p. Michele Norris – journalist and former host of NPR’s All Things Considered, has written a heartfelt memoir about her family and her work covering race relations in America. (Bea)
- Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald (2020) 288p. From the author of “H is for Hawk”, a collection of essays, some more substantial than others, on the complexities of the natural world, the environment, climate change, and people. (me)
- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mandel (2009) 560p. First in the author’s Thomas Cromwell Trilogy. The novel principally follows the life of Thomas Cromwell, from his youth living with his sisters and abusive blacksmith father, to his eventually becoming, arguably, the most powerful man in England. It is a dense read that requires focus. Reviews run hot and cold. (Anita)
- I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg (2010) 315p. The main character, Maggie, is planning her suicide when a big twist delays her plan. A novel that is equal parts Southern charm, murder mystery, and old-fashioned wisdom. (Nancy)
- The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwache Emezi (2020) 248p. The novel begins with a Nigerian woman, who finds the body of her dead son, Vivek, on her porch. It seems he has been beaten. We gradually learn about Vivek’s birth, childhood and his disconnection with most of his peers as well as his suffering from blackouts and seizures. The book is part mystery as Vivek’s secrets and subsequent death are revealed. The novel explores the issues of transgenderism and homosexuality in a time and culture when these things were forbidden. (Barb)
- The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance during the Blitz by Erik Larsen (2020) 585p. Erik Larson shows how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home. (Paul)