“Come with me,’ Mom says. To the library. Books and summertime go together.”
I have always loved summer. Summer meant no school and endless time for reading. Even in high school and college when summer also meant a job it was never a real job, at least not in my mind. When I went home after work there was no homework, no studying for tomorrow’s test, no worries about shopping and cooking and cleaning and paying bills. There was just time for reading. Now that I am retired and I can read anytime I want, at any time of the year, summer still feels like a freer time. And for me, unless it is for a book group or I want to research something, I read fiction because nonfiction is just too much like required reading for class. It seems my fellow book club members felt the same this past month because everyone talked about fiction. I think that’s a first.
1. Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland (2000) 242 pages. Nancy presented Vreeland as our author this month. Vreeland specializes in historical fiction with art-related themes. In this one the ownership of a painting by the Dutch painter Vermeer is traced as it passes from one owner to another. The story is told in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most current owner, who hides the painting in his home, to the girl in the painting and her wishes to become an artist herself.
2. Rescue by Anita Shreve (2010) 288 pages. This is a story of a young EMT man who falls in love with a patient of his following an accident as a result of her drunk driving. Though they eventually marry and have a child her alcoholism forces a split and he must raise his daughter alone, only to have the mother return 18 years later. Not one of Shreve’s best efforts.
3. Lost Empire by Clive Cussler (2010) 416 pages. If you are looking for a quirky thriller it is hard to go wrong with Cussler. This one continues with the team of Sam and Remi Fargo (introduced in Spartan Gold), who on a scuba diving trip in Tanzania, discover a relic from a long-lost Confederate ship. This is the catalyst for a secret that could even bring down Mexico’s ruling party. Don’t think too much, just have fun reading.
4. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (2015) 438 pages. The setting is World War II, Nazi-occupied France. The story follows two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, and how they each respond when the Nazis invade, something they never expected. Their parallel stories portray the importance women played in wartime.
5. Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding (2012) 314 pages. Set postwar in Romania, this novel traces the story of Augustin, a deaf-mute, who has found his way across a war-ravaged landscape to give a message to Safta, his childhood friend since their days growing up together on her family’s estate. She was the daughter of the manor, he, the son of the cook.
6. Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards (2005) 401 pages. On a stormy night, a doctor must deliver his own wife’s son, but surprisingly, there is a twin sister as well. (No ultrasounds in 1964). The doctor realizes the girl has Down’s Syndrome and to protect his wife from the grief of having a child die early (common for Down’s children then?) he gives the child to his trusted nurse and asks her to take the baby to an institution. Instead she keeps the child as her own.
7. Memory Man by David Baldacci (2015) 405 pages. A typical Baldacci thriller which is good from beginning to end. However, contrary to more popular main characters, Amos Decker is over-weight, a bad dresser, and is hardly making ends meet as a P.I. after losing his detective’s job. All of this began when his family was brutally murdered, a crime that has never been solved. Oh, and did I mention he has an unusual ability of never being able to forget anything, no matter how minute.
8. Ruth’s Journey by Donald McCaig (2014) 384 pages. Authorized by the Margaret Mitchell Estate, this is the first-ever prequel to Gone with the Wind. McCaig recounts the life of Mammy, one of literature’s greatest supporting characters.
9. A Secret and Unlawful Killing: A Mystery of Medieval Ireland by Cora Harrison (2008) 336 pages. Second in the Burren Mystery Series, set in ancient Celtic Ireland (1509) with a female judge (Brehon) who is the sleuth. The historical perspective on the Irish system of hierarchy and society before English law came into force is more interesting than the crime solving.