The Heist by Daniel Silva – Book

Daniel Silva’s 14th book featuring his reader’s favorite Israeli spy is The Heist. Gabriel Allon kills the people who do evil in the world (Europe and the Middle East for the most part). Gabriel is an unlikely hero, slight of build, not very tall, with a full head of dark hair graying at the temples. He has aged some through the years and is somewhere in his fifties but he has a new young wife, Chiara, who also works for “the Office”. Gabriel feels regret for the killing he does but he doesn’t let that govern him because these are villains, exhibiting some serious anti-social behaviors.

Gabriel is an unusual spy because he is a great art restorer (who perhaps would have been a great artist except for his mentor, Ari Shamron). Shamron recruited him and he wants Allon to agree to become the head of Israeli Intelligence. Gabriel has resisted this role but has recently promised that he will do that when Uzi Navot’s term ends.

Art heists have become common in Europe. Security in museums is often fairly lax or spread a bit thin. Art thieves have many ways to trick museums, but one of the safest is to employ a great forger. Empty spaces tend to attract attention, but it often takes time to identify a really good forgery as a fake. One painting, missing for a long time, is a Caravaggio painting of a mother and child. Gabriel may be Jewish but he specializes in restoring Renaissance religious art. He hopes to find that Caravaggio, but the painting seems to have fallen into the hands of a dictator who gases his own people.

So, there is a Syrian connection in this story, and Silva provides an informative backstory of the origins of the regime of Bashar al Assad, which is now in Gabriel’s sights. Gabriel cannot assassinate Assad, but he can try to make some of his ill-gotten fortune turn up in other bank accounts. There is a woman involved who works for a Saudi man who hides Assad’s fortune in lots of places where banking secrets are seen as sacred, and where laws can’t reach, such as the Cayman Islands. Gabriel doesn’t let women off the hook as sources and allies in matters of conscience. He has only lost one of the women he enlisted to help so far, although she was already ill and dying. Does the woman he recruits this time live through this op?

Does Gabriel Allon get Assad’s money? Does he find the Caravaggio? Does Chiara lose the twins she is carrying? Fourteen books later, still good stuff.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, NewsOK

November 2018 Book List

November 2018 Book List

What I noticed about the books published in October (which are on this November book list) is that there are many enticing biographies, memoirs, and autobiographies just in time for finding a lamp, a chair, and a blanket this winter and getting lost in someone else’s life. Here’s a list of some of the people’s lives you can immerse yourself in: Marie Colvin, Johnny Rosselli, John Marshall, Edward Gorey, the Beastie Boys, Churchill, Henry Worsley, Michelle Obama, Sally Fields, Ghandi, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Babe Ruth, John Williams, Chopin, Bing Crosby, Philip Johnson, Saul Bellow, Benjamin Rush, Andrew Johnson, and John Kerry. That is quite a list. Surely almost anyone can find a great read for November, or way too many great reads for November. Stay toasty.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

My Sister, the Serial Killer: A Novel by Oyinkan Braithwaite

The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim

A Ladder to the Sky: A Novel by John Boyne

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Heads You Win by Jeffrey Archer

Insurrecto by Gina Apostol

Wolves of Eden: A Novel by Kevin McCarthy

Tony’s Wife: A Novel by Adriana Trigani

Those Who Knew by Idra Novey

Mystery and Thrillers

The Best Bad Things: A Novel by Katrina Carrasco

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Night Town (A Junior Bender Mystery) by Timothy Hallinan

The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem

Dark Sacred Heart by Michael Connelly

Wolves of Eden by Kevin McCarthy

Past Tense (A Jack Reacher Novel) by Lee Child

Debris Line (Gibson Vaughn) by Matthew Fitzsimmons

Seventeen: A Novel by Hideo Yokoyama, Louise Heal Kawai

A Ladder to the Sky: A Novel by John Boyne

The Shadows We Hide by Allen Eskens

Someone Like Me by M R Carey

Nonfiction

The White Darkness by David Grann

Nashville: Scenes from the New American South by Ann Patchett, Heidi Ross

Heirs of the Founders (The Epic Rivalry of Henry, John Calhoun, and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants) by H W Brands

Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond, Adam Horowitz

Einstein’s Monsters: The Life and Times of Black Holes by Chris Impey

The End of the End of the Earth by Jonathan Franzen (Essays)

Gene Machine: The Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome by Venki Ramakrishnan

The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success by Albert-LászlóBarabási

Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World by Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell

Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’ Hollywood by Karina Longworth

Biographies and Memoirs

In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum

Handsome Johnny: The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli; Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, Assassin by Lee Server

John Marshall: The Man Who Made the Supreme Court by Richard Brookhiser

Born to be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Dery

Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond and Adam Horowitz

Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts

Why Religion: A Personal Story by Elaine Pagels

The White Darkness by David Grann (Henry Worsley)

Becoming Michelle Obama by Michelle Obama

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Fire and Blood: 300 Years Before a Game of Thrones by George R R Martin, Doug Wheatley

Someone Like Me by M R Carey

The Winter Road by Adrian Selby

Kimiko and the Accidental Proposal by Forthright

Vita Nostra: A Novel by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko

New York Times Book Review

Oct 7

Nonfiction

American Prison by Shane Bauer

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre

Farsighted by Steven Johnson

Attention: Dispatches From a Land of Distraction by Joshua Cohen (essays)

The Dinosaur Artist by Paige Williams

Beautiful Country Burn Again by Ben Fountain

The Imposter: A True Story (Enric Marco) by Frank Wayne

The Shortlist

Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator by Jason M Colby

Spying on Whales by Nick Pyenson

The Last Lobster: Boom or Bust for Maine’s Greatest Fishery? by Christopher White

Eye of the Shoal: A Fisherman’s Guide to Life, the Ocean and Everything by Helen Scales

Fiction

Crime

Wrecked by Joe Ide

Holy Ghost by John Sanford

Dark Tide Rising by Anne Perry

Death of a Rainmaker by Laurie Loewenstein

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Boomer1 by Daniel Torday

The End of the Moment We Had by Toshiki Okada

Crudo by Kathy Acker

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Best New Fantasy Novels

Witchmark by C L Polk

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Half Witch by John Schoffstall

Every River Runs to Salt by Rachael K Jones

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix (YA)

Oct. 14

Fiction

The Witch Elm by Tana French

Patient X by David Peace

Deviation by Luce D’Eramo

Nonfiction

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis

Presidents of War by Michael Beschloss

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister

Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly

In Pieces by Sally Field

Looking for Lorraine by Imani Perry

If You Love Me by Maureen Cavanaugh

Ghandi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914-1948 by Ramachandra Guha

You’ve Been so Lucky Already by Alethea Black

The Arab of the Future 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987 by Riad Sattouf, trans. from the French by Sam Taylor

Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War by Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple

Unwanted: Stories of Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (YA)

Oct. 21

Nonfiction

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Poison Squad by Deborah Blum

Mind Unraveled by Kurt Eichenwald

No Property Man by Sean Wilentz

Grand Improvisation by Derek Leebaert

Every Day is Extra by John Kerry

Fiction

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Children of God by Lars Petter Sveen

Jean Harley Was Here by Heather Taylor-Johnson

One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan (Tamil)

CoDex 1962 by Sion

Crime Novels

Shell Game (V I Warshawski) by Sara Paretsky

The Stranger Game by Peter Godol

The Darkness by Victoria Cribb

The Midnight Witness (Louise Rich) by Sara Blaedel trans. from the Danish by Mark Kline

Oct. 28

Thrillers

The Infinite Blacktop by Sara Gran

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

Find Me Gone by Sarah Meuleman

Horror Fiction

Melmoth by Sarah Perry

Little by Edward Carey

I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley

True Crime

Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present by Peter Vronsky

The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit’s Most Notorious Serial Killer by J Reuben Appelman

In the Name of the Children: An FBI Agent’s Relentless Pursuit of the Nation’s Worst Predators by Jeffry L Rinek

A Tale of Two Murders: Guilt, Innocence, and the Execution of Edith Thompson by Laura Thompson

The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul by Eleanor Herman

Blood and Ivy: The 1849 Murder that Scandalized Harvard by Paul Collins

Fiction

City of Crows by Chris Womersley

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt

Shortlist (Crossover YA Novels)

A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos

A Heart in the Body of the World by Deb Caletti

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

Nonfiction

The Sky is Falling by Peter Biskind

Kafka’s Last Trial by Benjamin Balint

Daemon Voices by Philip Pullman (Essays)

University of Nike by Joshua Hunt

Nov. 2

Fiction

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

The Lake on Fire by Rosellen Brown

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger

The Shortlist (Family Sagas)

In Your Hands by Inês Pedrosa

The Hope Fault by Tracy Farr

News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail DeWitt

Transgender Literature

Freshwater by Akwaeki Emezi

Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir by Kai Chen Thom

Nonfiction

On Sunset by Kathryn Harrison

American Dialogue by Joseph J Ellis

The King and the Catholics by Antonia Fraser

She Wants It by Jill Soloway

Melting Pot or Civil War by Reihan Salam *

Capitalism in America by Alan Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge *

Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Jane Sherron DeHart *

The Corrosion of Conservatism by Max Boot *

Never Ran, Never Will by Albert Samaha

We Are the Nerds by Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

Publisher’s Weekly

 

Oct. 8

What if it’s Us? By Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (YA)

Open Your Eyes by Paula Daly – Thriller

The Witch Elm by Tana French – Mystery

99 Ways to Die by Ed Lin – F

Death of a Rainmaker: A Dust Bowl Mystery by Laurie Loewenstein – Mystery

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – F

One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan trans. from the Tamil by Aniruddhan Vasudevan – F

Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return by Martin Riker – F

The Souls of Yellow Folk by Wesley Yang – Essays

Bridge City by Markus Zusak – YA

Oct 15

Unfurled by Michelle Bailat-Jones – F

A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese-Anne Fowler – F

Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl by Uwe Johnson, trans, from the German by Damion Searls – F

The Darkness by Ragnor Jonasson – Thriller

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver – F

Heavy – An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon – Memoir

The Big Fella by Jan Leavy (Babe Ruth) – Biography

The Library Book by Susan Orlean – NF

Melmoth by Sarah Perry – F

Wasteland: The Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror by W Scott-Poole – NF

The Man Who Wrote the Perfect Novel: John Williams, ‘Stoner’, and the Writing Life by Charles J Shields – Biography

Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar – Fantasy

Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times by Alan Walker – Bio

The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of US Primacy by Stephen M Wait – NF *

Oct. 22

Of Love and War by Lynsey Addario – Photos

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah – Short stories

Little by Edward Carey – F

The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay – F

18 Miles: The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and its Weather by Christopher Dewdney – NF

Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond and Adam Horowitz – Illus. Bio

The Fox by Frederick Forsyth – Thriller

Rush: Revolution, Madness, and Benjamin Rush, the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father by Stephen Fried – Bio

The Rise of Andrew Jackson: Myth, Manipulation, and the Making of Modern Politics by David S Heidler and Jeanne T Heidler – Bio

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson – F

The Line by Martin Limón -Mystery

Astounding: John W Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A Heinlein, L Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee – NF *

An Empire for Ravens: A John the Lord Chamberlain Mystery by Mary Reid and Eric Mayer – Mystery

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E Weymouth – YA Fantasy

Oct. 29

Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly – F

Valley Forge by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin – NF

Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star – The War Years, 1940-1946 by Gary Giddens – Bio

An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris – Fantasy Thriller

Marooned: Jamestown, Shipwreck and a New History of America’s Origin by Joseph Kelly – NF

Elevation by Stephen King – F

Bastard by Max Radiguès – Graphic Novel

The Hole by Jose Revueltas, trans. from the Spanish by Amanda Hopkinson and Sophie Hughes – F

The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. 2 1956-1963, Edited by Peter K Steinberg and Karen V Kukil – NF

Family Trust by Kathy Wang – F

Nov. 5

The Day that Went Missing by Richard Beard – F

Evening in Paradise: More Stories by Lucia Berlin (pub. Posthumously) – short stories

An Unexplained Death: The True Story of a Body at the Belvedere by Mikita Brottman – True crime

Past Tense: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child – F

An Agent of Utopia by Andy Duncan – Short Stories

The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century by Mark Lamster – Bio

The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, 1965-2005 by Zackary Leader – Biography

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – Thriller

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan – Fantasy

Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts – Bio *

We Begin in Gladness: How Poets Progress by Craig Morgan Teicher – NF

Beyoncéin Formation: Remixing Black Feminism by Omise’eke Tinsley – NF

A Shot in the Dark: A Constable Twitten Mystery by Lynn Truss – Mystery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The English Girl by Daniel Silva – Book

The English Girl by Daniel Silva stands out as a Gabriel Allon book that sort of breaks the mold. It has all the characters we expect to find, but they don’t show up for quite a while. Instead Gabriel teams up with a character who has enticed our interest from time to time, Christopher Keller.

Christopher Keller is a dead man. On the record he died as a British soldier. In actual fact he was the only survivor of a deadly attack. Since his parents in London have already mourned his death, and since he has no official identity he took a job as an assassin in the service of Don Orsati, the “Don” of Corsica. Don Orsati pays well and he treat Chris Keller like a son.

Up to now Silva has used Christopher sparingly in his books, perhaps because he does not always “fight for the right”. But in The English Girl he teams up with Gabriel and we see a social, “bro”-style side to Gabriel that we rarely if ever see. The two men seem relaxed with each other. This may also be because the details of this particular spy tale are a bit unusual.

Gabriel is supposed to be permanently retired but when a young English woman on a Corsican vacation is kidnapped, Graham Seymour of MI5 (soon to be MI6) asks Gabriel for some hush-hush help. Why is this girl more important than your average British subject? Perhaps because she holds the Prime Minister’s career in her hands. Since Gabriel’s trail starts on Corsica, Christopher is a natural choice for a partner in the investigation which seems like it will be quite simple to resolve. Also Christopher owes Gabriel a favor and Gabriel has a token attesting to that debt which he plans to redeem.

Corsica requires certain behaviors that must be observed if one wants to borrow Keller from Don Orsati. Gabriel must always stop by to see Don Orsati first and share a meal and a few intimidating amenities. And, although Gabriel scoffs at superstition, a rather talented seer must be consulted. For some reason she tells Gabriel he will die if he goes to Moscow. How could the kidnapping of an English girl possibly have a Moscow connection? To unravel that mystery you will have to start in Corsica with Gabriel and Christopher. I did not foresee the twist this thriller takes. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: ClipZui.com

Find me on goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson

Transcription by Kate Atkinson – Book

Kate Atkinson’s new novel, Transcription, joins a spate of World War literature coming out of Great Britain. All these books talk about what British citizens who were not soldiers did during wars. People wanted to help with the war effort and since many of the adults who were still in British cities were women, the tasks women took on often affected them in ways similar to the way soldiers are affected. The end of the war found women who had done unlikely, dangerous and heroic things, having to assimilate their war time behavior into the person they would be moving forward in peacetime. Other recent novels include: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn which I have not read yet, Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce, and Warlight by Michael Ondaatje.

Why is this the moment when so many writers were moved to write about such very similar experiences? Are people feeling an instability in political institutions these days that could lead to war? Are people rushing to offer us some patriotic roles that we could play? Is this a creative brain meld? Is this just an odd coincidence or nostalgic moment? With all the authoritarian figures rising in nations that once flirted with democracy does this feel somewhat similar to the rise of “you know who” before WWII? Are authors feeling the same fears we all feel that we may be called upon to defend our freedoms in the very near future, or to keep them alive for what could be decades of darkness?

Transcription is an absorbing book all on its own, but I recommend giving all these books a read because each takes a different tack on the same subject. In Transcription our heroine Juliet Armstrong is recruited by MI5 to help keep an eye on Hitler lovers and want-to-be Nazi’s living in England. British intelligence rents two adjacent apartments. In one a rather convincing Godfrey Toby, a spy of course, makes friends and collects important data about England’s defenses. These friends of Hitler think Gordon will pass this strategic data on to Germany. Of course this is simply a way for Britain to keep this information away from Germany and keep potential British traitors from doing real damage to the allied side in the war.

The second apartment is filled with recording equipment and a typewriter where a very young Juliet listens to what Gordon’s unwary informants reveal and then types a transcript that tries to give a word-by-word script of who is talking and what they reveal. Not all of the dialogue comes across clearly but Juliet does the best she can. Then Juliet is embroiled further into spying when she is asked to adopt a new persona and join a more upscale right wing group of traitors. This is how a girl who simply types gets deeply into something that is so unforgettable that she will never be free of either her memories or her handlers.

Do books make the future and the culture happen, do they predict what will come, or do they just reflect the present and the culture of the times in which they are written? It seems that books can do all of these things, and they can sometimes do all of them at one and the same time, which is probably one of the aspects of reading great books that keeps readers hooked. So what will turn out to be true of this little cluster of intellectual doppelgangers?

I am happy to read every book that Kate Atkinson writes and I feel the same way about Michael Ondaatje. I don’t know the other two authors as well but I may eventually be adding them to my long list of beloved authors. However, I would much prefer that these novels be reflective rather than predictive. You may find that you begin asking yourself how you would have performed under similar circumstances. One more point, possibly a #metoo point, although all of these books feature female characters, not one of them is a “chick” book. But because they all happen in the past, all these women work for men. However war seems to blur the lines between women’s work and men’s work as you will see. Don’t forget to spend a few moments thinking about why this book is called Transcription rather than Transcriptions. Thank you Kate.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, Running in Heels

Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva – Book

Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva is Book 12 in the Gabriel Allon series, the fictional, but famous spy for the Israeli Intelligence Service at the Office on King Saul Boulevard in Tel Aviv Israel. Gabriel is an unusual person to be an assassin for justice, world peace, and the survival of Israel. He is an artist who gave up an artist’s life (his own) when recruited by Shamron, the aging hero of Israel, to pursue the terrorists who killed athletes from his beloved homeland at the Olympics in Munich.

Since that op he has trained with a talented art restorer and has become one of the best restorers of classic religious art in Europe. He is a bundle of contradictions but his strong values tie the whole package together. Gabriel’s family was, for the most part, killed in the Holocaust, except his mother who never really recovered from the horrors she experienced. Gabriel lost his first wife and his son to a car bomb, probably targeted towards Gabriel. Terrorists blew his life away right before his eyes. And even though they failed to kill the one the car bomb was designed to kill this became a sorrow he had to carry with him always. It hardened his heart in a more personal way and made him more lethal, more determined to fight evil in the world.

Through the first 11 books there have been plenty of evil actors to stop in their tracks, tracks which always are about either power and world domination or money or both. Eventually Gabriel remarried to the beautiful Chiara, daughter of a Rabbi, who also does intelligence work for the Office. Sometimes she is with him on ops and sometimes she stays home. Putting her at risk brings back old memories for Gabriel. After a while Allon is joined by a team, each person with different strengths and we become concerned about their safety in these rather impossible-seeming, risky, but usually successful operations they undertake. Gabriel is frequently wounded because he cannot let a villain get away. He retires every time he completes a mission as if he has beaten evil once and for all. But he knows this war is endless and he up-ends his life over and over again to do battle when he must. After a while we begin to wish there really was a Gabriel Allon and a Chiara, et al out there in the world, abolishing amorality and immorality.

So in Fallen Angel we have a lovely young woman who agrees to inventory antiquities in the Vatican collection who is found artistically dead after a fall from a balcony in the Sistine Chapel. At first her death is ruled a suicide. But Gabriel is a friend of the Vatican’s top two people, the Pope and his constant companion Father Donati, because he saved the Pope’s life and unraveled one of the plots that live in the competitive Vatican culture. Gabe is restoring a Caravaggio in some basement on the Vatican grounds and Donati has him summoned to tap into his expertise. Gabriel (also a fallen angel) does not believe this is a suicide. But when he pulls a couple of strings he opens a Pandora’s box of illegal trading in antiquities. These thieves never preserve provenance and this represents a huge loss of historical data about ancient sites and people. Once again what begins in Italy leads Gabriel all over the world and eventually home to Israel.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – You Tube

Find me on Goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter – Book

We meet the Kurc (Kur-see) family in Rodam, Poland in 1939. Hitler is on the move and we know what is coming, but this close-knit family of middle class Jewish Poles does not. We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter, covers familiar and dreaded ground, but this is a family of survivors. How did that happen?

Not one of these five siblings or their parents ended up at a concentration camp. They saw that Jews were being rounded up. They saw the railroad cars crammed with frightened humans supposedly going off to work in war factories. How is it that of the five (Addy, Halina, Bella, Genek, and Mila) and their parents only Mila ended up on such a train and she managed to escape a truly traumatic fate. They did not collaborate, they did not thrive; they worked almost to breaking in factories, subsisted on little food and sometimes no food. They often did not know where their other siblings were and they missed their family terribly, and worried about each other all the time.

The book skips between siblings and their spouses so we know where the Kurc’s are and how close they came to discovery and death, but they only learn this after the war when they all meet their son/brother Addy in Brazil. Georgia Hunter, the author, is Addy’s grandchild. He married a woman in Brazil who was from the American South. How did he get to Brazil?

Dumb luck and many delays, near capture, and the ability to anticipate and avoid being trapped helped Addy survive. He learned the name of a man who was supplying visas to Jews so they could leave Europe. He went to see this man and ended up on one of the last ships to Brazil. Even so all aboard the ship got rerouted to Casablanca and Addy almost ended up being caught there with an expired visa and sent back to Europe. This is just one of the family’s survival stories. The rest are just as compelling although told more as history than drama.

Georgia wrote a fictional story for the sake of flow and form and character development, but this is essentially a true story she researched for a decade, interviewing family, visiting museums and Holocaust data centers. Her family, whose stories she tells in We Were the Lucky Ones, may have only survived because they did not stay in one place and they were willing to learn new languages, buy papers that said they were Catholic, and because they were the recipients of favors from non-Jewish Europeans.

I don’t know why stories about WW II and the Holocaust keep falling into my hands, but this period in human history was a time when heroes and villains reigned. This was a time when what we learned about human nature was that we could succumb to a sickness of the spirit, to our most negative traits, envy, fear of others, national pride, genocide; or resist and become our better selves. Such books have special relevance in 2018 when we are in the midst of dealing with our fear of Muslims and “the others”, inclined to isolationism, and fomented to an exaggerated nationalism similar to what sent the German people so spectacularly and disgustingly awry in those WW II years.

Every time I read about WW II I learn something I did not know and feel things that I would not have felt otherwise. This may not be a perfect book; but it’s a very good debut and a great addition to the growing library of books about WW II for Jews in Europe.

Photo Credit: Books and a View

Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva – Book

Europe is in an economic recession and it is flooded with refugees who cannot speak the language of their new nations and who have difficulty finding work that will pay enough to support their families, or even a single person. In this post 9/11 world refugees inhabit areas around Europe’s cities and some mosques are centers of religious radicalism where young men are recruited to terrorize the West. Portrait of a Spy(Gabriel Allon Series, Book 11) by Daniel Silva deals with an environment we recognize from our very recent past, a set of circumstances that could easily flare up again in the future.

Gabriel Allon, now a retired Israeli spy, leaves his cottage in Cornwall to visit Isherwood Studios in London, run by Julian Isherwood, friend of Gabriel and of Israel. Gabriel is a talented art restorer who often restores damaged paintings, sometimes for Isherwood. Gabriel’s wife Chiara is with him. As they are walking near Covent Garden Gabriel spots a suicide bomber. Bombs have been used in the past few days in Paris and in Copenhagen, and a bomb is about to detonate in Central London.

No one else identifies this man as a terrorist but Gabriel’s experiences set off warning signals. He even knows what time the bomber will trigger the detonator because it is timed to when a plane hit a target on 9/11. Gabriel is almost on time to stop the killing. Gabriel has his gun out to shoot the bomber when two London policemen arrest him. The bomber detonates. Gabriel’s guilt calls him back to duty as a spy. He even has a fair idea of who is running this group of terrorists. When he is vouched for by Graham Seymour, head of MI5 he joins forces with Adrian Carter of the CIA in Washington, DC and a cohort he has hunted down bad actors with on the world stage many times. Chiara is on board and eventually his team joins him in the new high tech national security center in DC.

The man Gabriel is seeking has been out of view for years and is believed dead. But Gabriel does not believe it. Word is that the terrorist group is running out of money which means these guys will go to ground for a while. Gabriel visits a young and wealthy Arab business woman he met when she was a young girl in the South of France (Book #6, The Messenger). Nadia al-Bakari was with her father (a wealthy funder of terrorists) when Gabriel killed him. She is also a philanthropist, helping especially Arab women. Nadia forgives Gabriel and agrees to buy a recently restored painting to create pool of invisible money that will go to tempt the terrorist and his group into the open.

As usual with Gabriel Allon spy thrillers the plan unfolds in great detail before we get to the actual op and the usually violent end game. Terrorists and other bad actors who stay hidden are well-guarded and very paranoid. They are hard to kill. Gabriel does not usually get off without injury. We always wonder what will happen to him this time. He also does not like to put others in danger, although he will do what he must to take out someone whose intent is to harm many. How do things turn out for Nadia?

It is Silva’s contention that Saudi Wahhabism has led to a good deal of the terrorism unleashed on Europe and America. He also feels that America’s supposed Allies, the Saudi’s, are responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the intended attack on Washington that shocked America and the world. And yet we remain tied to Saudi Arabia, probably for oil more than loyalty. A fiction author, such as Daniel Silva, writing a spy thriller like Portrait of a Spy, is freer than others to speak candidly about his world view and these spy thrillers always connect to events in the real world. This one upped my heart rate.

Equally bizarre, as I am writing this it is 9/11, seventeen years later, and they are reading the names of those killed in the attack on the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center on my TV news. A most strange coincidence.

Dear Mrs. Bird by A J Pearce – Book

At first, when I began to listen to Dear Mrs. Bird by A J Pearce, I thought I might be diving into a new Brigitte Jones style “chick lit” book. Since these books are a guilty pleasure of mine I was not unhappy about it. Emmeline Lake has a job at a law office (solicitor) but she wants to be a journalist. She has not taken any journalism courses but there is war in England and wars are often crucibles that enable those who are brave enough to do things without credentials. These fast lanes tend to disappear in peacetime. Emmy has a best friend she calls Bunty who grew up nearby and has been her friend for years. They share a small apartment in town on the third floor of a house belonging to Bunty’s parents. Bunty’s parents are no longer living but her grandmother is.

Bunty works in the War Office with secret documents and Emmeline works at the fire station several evenings a week taking emergency calls during the frequent bombing runs from Germany (it’s “the blitz”). Almost everyone who can does war work. When Emmy answers an ad that looks like it is for a “junior” at a prominent London newspaper she believes that this will be her entry into journalism. She shares her various unrealistic but highly idealistic fantasies on this theme with us. We are entertained.

The novel Pearce writes ends up being not nearly as superficial as it seems in the beginning. The job at the paper actually involves working with a woman who is a real character, actually an old battle axe, as we used to say. She comes from wealth but she is a country woman with lots of dogs and a gruff manner. She is involved in a number of charities and she is connected to important people who have known her all their lives. She’s never endearing but she is a force. Her name is Henrietta Bird and she answers letters in a column for women who need advice, in a news sheet style magazine called Women’s Helper. People address their letters to Dear Mrs. Bird.

The magazine is in decline as Mrs. Bird is not exactly modern and refuses to answer any problems that involve topics like sex, or affairs, or divorce, or even menopause “Buck up and get on with things,” is her usual advice favorite. When Emmy goes to work for Mrs. Bird deciding which letters Mrs. Bird will answer, she has difficulty ignoring the letters that seem to cry out for exactly the kinds of advice Mrs. Bird will not give. Emmy’s decisions relative to Mrs. Bird’s neglect end up bringing about a crisis for Emmeline that is quite adult. The war also hits far too close to home.

Although I found this book a bit young for me, I enjoyed it anyway. And the writing, although not terribly literary, never got in the way of the story. The author makes living in England, at the time when it was being bombed to rubble on every clear night, accessible to those who might like to flesh out their high school history lessons. Since I listened to the book I should note that the whole narrative was read in a particular British accent we Americans enjoy very much.

September 2018 Book List

September 2018 Book List

It’s September already and I haven’t finished my summer reading yet, so I still have quite a pile of books spilling over into fall. You won’t find many starred selections to add to my pile on this list yet. But I am guessing I will be choosing more titles from this list in the future. There are many things that divide our attention these days and reading, a time-consuming pastime, may seem hard to fit into your schedule, but a single book, ostensibly about only one topic, brings to mind so much more than perhaps the author even intended. For depth, for language, for character, for ideas, for world view, no other media offers as much as a great book. Find time if you can in this busy season to read some books that appeal to you.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

Washington Black: A Novel by Esi Odegyan

A Key to Treehouse Living by Elliot Reed

Lake Success: A Novel by Gay Shteyngart

We That Are Young: A Novel by Preti Taneja

Transcription: A Novel by Kate Atkinson *

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman

French Exit: A Novel by Patrick deWitt

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock: A Novel by Imogn Hermes Gowar

The Tattooist of Auschwitz: A Novel by Heather Morris

Mysteries and Thrillers

Cross Her Heart: A Novel by Sarah Pinborough

The Wildlands: A Novel by Abby Geni

Rylan Does to Detroit by Peter Leonard

When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica

Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan

The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Wild Fire: A Shetland Island Mystery by Ann Cleeves

Lethal White (A Cormoran Strike Novel) by Robert Gilbraith

The Piranhas: The Boy Bosses of Naples: A Novel by Roberto Saviano Antony Shugaar

Depth of Winter (A Longmire Mystery) by Craig Johnson

Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit (A Kopp Sisters Novel) by Amy Stewart

The Forbidden Place by Susanne Jansson

The Man Who Came Uptown by George Pelicanos

Nonfiction

Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms by Hannah Fry

Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar

How Do We Look: The Body, the Divine, and the Question of Civilization by Mary Beard

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward

How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler by Ryan North

The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emre

Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Avis Lang

The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth’s Ultimate Trophy by Paige Williams

Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall by Tim Mohr

Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL by Jeff Perlman

These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore

Daeman Voices: On Stories and Storytelling by Philip Pullman

21 Lessons for the 21stCentury by Yuval Noah Harari

Biographies and Memoirs

My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science and Senseless Love by Dessa

On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope by De Ray Mckesson

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh

The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre

The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman

Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King

The Last Palace: Europe’s Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House by Norman Eisen

In Pieces by Sally Field

A Song for the River by Philip Connors

The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty that Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation by Miriam Pawel

The Escape Artists: A Band of Daredevil Pilots and the Greatest Prison Break of the Great War by Neal Bascomb

New York Times Book Review

Aug. 2

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (F)

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler (F) *

Metamorphics by Zachery Mason (F)

Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo (F)

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley (F)

Nonfiction

The Trials of Nina McCall by Scott W Stern

Dopesick by Beth Macy

Amity and Prosperity by Eliza Griswold

The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela *

Light of the Stars by Adam Frank

City of Devils by Paul French

Rome: A History of Seven Sackings by Matthew Kneale

What the Eyes Don’t See by Mona Hanna-Attisha

The Poisoned City by Anna Clark

Conceivability by Elizabeth Katkin

An Excellent Choice by Emma Brockes

Kissinger the Negotiator by James K Sekenius, R. Nicholas Burns, and Robert H Mrookin

A Girl Stands at the Door by Rachel Devlin

In Search of Mary Shelby by Fiona Sampson

Aug. 12

Fiction

Hit and Misses by Simon Rich

A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen

The Middle Man by Olen Steinhauer

Playthings by Alex Pheby

The Shortlist

Sugar Money by Jane Harris

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

The Butcher’s Daughter by Victoria Glendinning

The Removes by Tatjana Soli

Nonfiction

Crashed by Adam Tooze

Aroused by Randi Hutter Epstein

Empress by Ruby Lai

No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol

Killing It by Camas Davis

Carbon Ideologies by William T Vollmann

Famous Father Girl by Jamie Bernstein

No Ashes in the Fire by Darnell L Moore

Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition by Roger Scruton

Into the Hands of Soldiers by David D Kirkpatrick

August 19

Nonfiction

The Tangled Tree by David Quammen

Into the Hands of the Soldiers by David D Kirkpatrick

The Third Bank of the River by Chris Feliciano Arnold

My Year of Dirt and Water by Tracy Franz

Borrowed Time by James Freeman and Vern McKinley

After the Educations Wars by Andrea Gabor

Rising by Elizabeth Rush

The Equations of Life by Charles S Cockell

Devil’s Mile by Alice Sparberg Alexiou

Fiction

Never Anyone But You by Rupert Thomson

The Family Tabor by Cherise Wola

A Long Island Story by Rick Gekoski

Crime Fiction

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Isolation Mountain by Stephen O’Connor

The Breakers by Marcia Muller

Don’t Eat Me by Colin Cotterill

August 26

Nonfiction

Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas

The Husband Hunters by Anne de Courcy

I Will Be Complete by Glen David Gold (Memoir)

Mr. Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense by Jenny Uglow

Jello Girls by Allie Rowbottom

Ninety-nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

Small Animals by Kim Brooks

The Fighters by CJ Chivers

Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien

Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor by Yossi Klein Halevi

Fiction

The Traitor’s Niche by Ismael Kadare

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

If You See Me Don’t Say Hi by Neel Patel

A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin Powers

The Shortlist

Love by Hanne Orstavik, trans. by Martin Aitken

Wait, Blink: A Novel by Gunnhild Oyehaug, trans by Kari Dickson

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors

Sept. 2

Nonfiction

The Splintering of the American Mind by William Egginton

The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Hait

Arthur Ashe: A Life by Raymond Arsenault

Bitwise by David Auerbach

Identity by Francis Fukuyama

The Lies that Bind by Kwame Anthony Appiah

Dead Girls by Alice Bolen

Against Memoir by Michelle Tea

Dickinson’s Nerves, Frost’s Woods by William Logan

Fiction

Red, White, Blue by Lea Carpenter

Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman

The Garden Party by Grace Dane Mazur *

This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Read Me by Leo Benedictus

The Shortlist

A Walk Through Paris by Eric Hazan, trans. by David Fernbach

My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now by Peter Mayle

A Bite-Sized History of France: Gastronomical Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment by Stéphane Hénaut and Jeni Mitchell

(Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living by Mark Greenside

Crime Novels

Gravesend by William Boyle

Depth of Winter by Walt Longmire

In Her Bones by Kate Moretti

Sunrise Highway by Peter Blauner

Publisher’s Weekly Tip Sheet

August 6

The Spy of Venice by Benet Brandreth (F)

Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin (F) (Graphic Novel)

So Much Left Over by Louis de Bernieres (F)

Nameless Serenade: Nocturne for Commisario Ricciardi by Maurizio de Giovanni, trans. from the Italian by Antony Shugaar (F)

Perennial by Kelly Forsythe (F) *

Desperate Girls by Laura Griffin (F)

Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else by Maeve Higgins (NF) (Essays)

The Blue and the Black: A Cop Reveals Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris (NF)

If You Leave Me by Crystal Hanna Kim (F)

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy (NF)

A Short Film About Disappointment: A Novel by Joshua Mattson (F)

The Arab of the Future 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987 by Riad Sattouf (Memoir)

Before She Sleeps by Bina Shah (F)

Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf (NF)

August 13

Blind Kiss: A Novel by Renée Carlino (F)

Pinnacle City by Matt Carter and Fiona J. Titchwell (F)

Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century by Nate Chinen (NF)

Don’t Eat Me by Colin Cotterill (Mystery)

The End of all Our Exploring by F.Brett Cox (Short Stories)

Pretty Things by Virginia Despentes (F)

Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, The American Revolution’s Lost Hero by Christian Di Spigna (NF)

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear (Mystery)

De Gaulle by Julian Jackson (Bio)

The Carrying by Ada Limón (Poems)

Amateur: A True Story about What Makes a Man by Thomas Page McBee (NF)

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, trans. from the Polish by Jennifer Croft (F)

August 20

Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood by James Baldwin for his nephew, Ages 10+ (reprint)

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett (Fantasy)

Fogland Point by Doug Burgess “a standout” (F)*

Red, White, Blue by Lee Carpenter (spy novel)

Heartbreaker: A Novel by Claudia Dey (F) “it’s the voice”

Desirable Body by Hubert Haddad (F)

Summer by Karl Ove Knausgaard (F)

The Boy on the Beach: My Family’s Escape from Syria and Our Hope for a New Home by Tima Kurdi (NF)

Notes from the Fog by Ben Marcus (Short Story)

Swift Vengeance by T Jefferson Parker (F)

A Life of My Own by Claire Tomain (Memoir)

August 27

Pandemic 1918: Eyewitness Accounts from the Greatest Medical Holocaust in Modern History by Catharine Arnold (NF)

Unapologetic: A Black, Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements by Charlene Carruthers (NF)

The Imposter: A True Story by Javier Cercas (Bio)

Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames (Fantasy) “a messy glorious romp” *

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas (NF)

21 Lessons for the 21stCentury by Yuval Noah Harari (NF)

Little Comfort by Edwin Hall (F)

The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves by Eric R Kandel (NF)

Been So Long: My Life and Music by Jorma Kaukonen (Memoir)

Dog Symphony by Sam Munson (F)

September 3

Better Times by Sara Batkie (Short Stories)

Small Fry: A Memoir by Lisa Brennan-Jobs (Memoir)

Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman (F)

Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs by Bill Cunningham (Memoir)

Pay No Heed to the Rockets: Life in Contemporary Palestine by Marcello Di Cintio (Memoir)

The Last Palace: Europe’s Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House (NF)

Pale Horse Rider: William Cooper, The Rise of Conspiracy, and the Fall of Trust in America by Mark Jacobson (NF)

Every Day is Extra by John Kerry (Memoir)

The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling (F)

After the Winter by Guadalupe Nettel, trans. from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey (F)

We That are Young by Preti Taneja (F)

Ponti by Sharlene Teo (F)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain – Book

 

Paula McLain wrote about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson in her novel, The Paris Wife and, this time, in Love and Ruin she writes about Hemingway’s third wife, Martha Gellhorn. I can understand the fascination with the women who married this literary giant. What kind of woman does such a legendary figure find himself attracted to? Hemingway was a handsome guy. Women found him desirable. It is almost tempting to wonder why only four women. But Hemingway sounds like he was not really a “ladies man”. He spent most of his social hours with men. He also seems to have seen women as occupying pretty traditional roles in a marriage, although he seems to have treated his wives as companions some of the time. Everyone in Hemingway’s world had a nickname.

Some readers do not value a fictional account of a Hemingway wife as they would a nonfiction one, but Paula McLain does do her homework, which she describes after the novel ends. So Love and Ruin is grounded in fact. But the day-to-day exchanges in a marriage are usually private business between husband and wife, although friends are privy to some of it, and can only be imagined in fiction.

Martha Gellhorn and her mother were recovering from the death of Martha’s father when they made a trip to somewhere as different and faraway as they could get without complicated travel arrangements. They fled to Key West and who should they meet in a bar almost immediately upon their arrival but Ernest Hemingway.

Both mother and daughter were pretty, long-legged and not at all shy. Ernest, married to Pauline Pfeiffer (Fife) with three boys (two from his first marriage) had his home, with his wife, right there in Key West. But he offered these two Gellhorn women a tour of the island. It was then he found out that Martha Gellhorn was a published writer. He began their relationship as her mentor. She was quite a bit younger. It seemed innocent enough.

If they had never gone off to report on the Spanish Civil War (Franco) at the same time (together) they might never have fallen in love and broken up Hemingway’s thirteen year marriage to Pauline. But Martha Gellhorn was not a “little wife” type of girl. She always wanted to be at the center of the biggest storm. She wanted to live life and she insisted that involved covering events like wars that only men generally wrote about. She and Ernest began as fellow war writers; she for Colliers, he making notes for a novel. Both felt more alive when death was everywhere around them.

When they needed to get away from the war they fled to Cuba, a place that Hemingway loved almost as much as Key West. They could not go to Key West because Hemingway was still married to Pauline. Martha found an old Cuban farm and when her book sold she used the money to restore it. It became the famous Finca where Hemingway still resided at the end of his live.

Martha imagined a sort of nirvana, with two writers living and sharing their craft, but Hemingway did not cooperate. He was demanding and selfish, and loving and ardent, and a partier and a hard drinker. Martha often found him exasperating. But just before World War II began Hemingway and Pauline divorced and Martha and Ernest married. They went to Hawaii for their honeymoon but trouble already was brewing. Martha had an independent streak that Hemingway despised and when she wanted to go off on her own to work or visit home he pouted and acted out. Although they both went off to London to cover the war they were more like rivals than sweethearts by then. Their marriage barely survived the war.

Martha Gellhorn went on to have her own career as a writer of some fame and Hemingway wrote one of my favorite books Islands in the Stream. Hemingway remarried to Mary Walsh, a bond that lasted until they both died in a plane crash in Africa. We leave Martha behind when her marriage to Hemingway ends which belies the contention that this is a book about Martha Gellhorn. It is a book about a Hemingway wife, but one stamped out of such an independent and adventurous mold that the marriage was doomed to end in ruin. It made me aware of her as a writer and a dashing person who was ahead of history, and an admirable person in her own right.

You will have to decide about the fiction/nonfiction choice for yourself and also about whether or not this is a “chick” book. But Martha Gellhorn is worthy of our attention and Paula McLain made her quite real. A worthwhile read.