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Category: Classic Fiction
AUGUST 1, 2011
Just finished reading...
.........The Wood Beyond by Reginald Hill. I read this Dalziel and Pascoe series mystery while I was on vacation. I found it very fitting, as I was in Belgium and in this story Yorkshire policeman Peter Pascoe is taken back in time and place to that very country. After his grandmother's funeral, he finds himself left with the job of distributing her ashes as requested in the will. This task leads him to information about his great-grandfather, a soldier who served in Belgium during the first World War. Hill's mysteries are always complex, and he likes to blend the intricacies of the case with the everyday events in the lives of the detectives. An attack on a research company by a group of animal activists, soon connects with Pascoe's personal research into his family history, You can find this book in paperback at the library, and we also have several other selections in this long-standing detective series.
Since the end of the Cold War, the spy novel has been struggling to evolve as a genre. While there are a few secret agents out there still flourishing-Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon is one I can think of-readers don't seem so interested in spying these days. I recently had the pleasure of rewatching the first parts of John LeCarre's masterful A Perfect Spy, dramatized back in 1987 by the BBC, and available on Netflix. I was reminded of the pure pleasure of reading the wonderful book from which it was adapted. LeCarre's creation, Magnus Pym, is indeed perfectly portrayed, along with his con-man father, Rick and the refugee friend whom he betrays, Axel. It may be getting old, but it is still worth a read, if you are missing those golden days of the British spy.
Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard. Some readers may be familiar with this title from the Steven Spielberg film, which I thought was excellent. When I saw this book show up in the collection (a very welcome donation), I was anxious to read it and see how it compared to the movie. Based on his own personal experiences during World War II, Ballard has created a very memorable novel of war. Jim is an eleven year old boy who is suddenly separated from his parents and on his own in the great Chinese city of Shanghai. The Japanese have taken over, and he is forced to live on sheer nerve, as he moves from the deserted neighborhoods around his home to being placed in the infamous Lunghua Detention Center. The author captures the horror of Jim's situation, but makes us want to stay with him and hope for his survival. Look for this finely written and fascinating story on my shelf of staff recommendations at the library.
Missy-librarian posted recently about one of her picks for the staff recommendations display at the library. My picks could be entitled "Oldies but Goodies" this go-around, as I tried to select some favorites of mine that aren't necessarily being read much these days. I once was visiting in England and stopped in a small bookstore in the town of Rye. A little old woman was sitting in the store signing books and she turned out to be Rumer Godden, a popular novelist in the UK and the US back in the 40's. 50's, and 60's. One of her first big hits was Black Narcissus, one of the books on my shelf. Nuns in a remote Himalayan convent feel the effects of the local culture and the relative isolation of their mountain retreat. This beautifully written novel was made into a very successful film-noire Hollywood movie starring Deborah Kerr back in 1947. Although Godden's work may seem a little dated to some readers, I find her stories compelling and her writing some of the best. Check it out on my shelf.
For about a year, the Harry Potter series has been taking a rest on the shelves of the library. Pretty much everybody that wanted to read it had done so, and even last year's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 film hadn't generated much interest. However, in the last couple of months, a whole new generation of readers seems to have rediscovered the wizardly tale, and many of the volumes are now on reserve. Of course, there is a lot more hype recently with the upcoming release of the last film coming in July, but I think it's more significant than that. The series is a classic, and in many years to come, as young children reach the right age to begin, they will find it. If you are an adult, and you haven't read it, you might want to give it a try as well. It contains many of the elements that avid readers look for in a good novel-compelling characters, ingenius plot, and the ability to carry us away to another place.
If you still have a cassette player, you might be interested in a book on tape currently available in our rotating collection. P. D. James wrote her first mystery novel when she was forty. Until that time, she was employed in the British Civil Service. Too bad she didn't start to write sooner, for her work is excellent. Cover Her Face was the first of her acclaimed Inspector Dalgliesh series, and it is detective fiction of the classic kind. A cozy country house, a tightly knit family group, a brazen interloper-this novel has all the elements of a good English mystery. The character of the detective is not yet quite developed-we are just getting to know Dalgliesh, and his backstory is only partially revealed. Once you get a taste of P. D. James, you will most probably want more.
Angel's Flight by Michael Connelly. In my efforts to entice more people to try some of our audio books, I sampled one of America's most popular authors of police detective fiction to tell you about. Connelly's Detective Harry Bosch finds himself pulled from his regular Hollywood beat in order to investigate the murder of influential civil rights attorney, Howard Elias. Almost at once, Bosch realizes that something isn't quite right, and that he and his team are being put into the middle of a tense situation pitting police against mobs of angry citizens. Harry is an irresistible guy-tough, rough around the edges, but loyal to his friends and capable of great depth of feeling. He is surround by a wealth of interesting characters, and placed into a plot which keeps you guessing to the end. This particular novel is available in hardcover as well as on tape, but Dick Hill's reading on the audio version is superb. Other Bosch adventures, some on CD, are also in the library's collection.
Seeing the trailer for the new film, a remake of True Grit, I was reminded of a vivid literary memory. I read the 1968 novel, True Grit, by Charles Portis when it first came out, and have long considered it one of my favorites reading experiences, even though I am not a big fan of the western in general. I was encouraged to pick up this little gem again, and I was not disappointed. It definitely deserves to be considered a classic of its genre. The adventures of Mattie Ross and her protectors, Rooster Cogburn and Ranger LeBoef, serve as a delectable little tidbit of Americana, mixed with true originality on the part of Portis. If you prefer, try the 1969 film version with John Wayne, Kim Darby, and Glen Campbell. Both book and DVD are available for loan at the library. As for the new film just released, I for one can't wait to see it!
the Karla trilogy by John leCarre. Well, honestly, I'm not quite finished yet on my second time around. This well known series of books about the Cold War era are some of the best spy thrillers ever written. In Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, leCarre's famous intelligence officer, George Smiley, is asked to conduct a secret investigation of friends and colleagues in order to discover the double agent lurking at the top of the British Secret Service. Promoted to the head job himself, Smiley assigns Jerry Westerby, The Honorable Schoolboy, to sniff out the details of a suspicious bank account in Hong Kong. Jerry soon has his own agenda, and in this second volume, Smiley is less successful. Once again, however, in Smiley's People, the enigmatic old man is called back into service when an old emigre agent is found shot to death. Smiley is faced with another opportunity to finally bring down his longtime adversary in Moscow, the powerful agent known as Karla. These three novels make for a great summer read, and might even lead you to more of leCarre's great writing. All three are available for loan at your library.
Being such an ardent Janeite (that's a devoted fan of Jane Austen, the creator of the modern novel in my opinion), I couldn't let the presentation on PBS of the newest dramatization of Emma go by without a mention. Now Emma is not my favorite among Jane's six completed novels, but it is a masterful piece of writing and can bring forth a wealth of discussion among fans. As much as we older readers may regret the need to modernize the language and add bits in order to make it more appealing to the modern viewer, this was a nicely put together version-mostly true to the book in terms of plot and characters, and full of charming country scenes and luscious Regency costumes. If you had a look at it, and you'd like some of the real thing, try reading the original. It's here for you at the library.
On Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 7pm our Adult Readers Group will be meeting at the library to discuss The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter. Although Richter left his birthplace, Pine Grove, PA, as a young man, he returned to Pennsylvania in his fiction. This novel tells the story of a 15 year-old white boy captured and raised by the Lenni Lenape Indians, who is chosen to be returned to his family. In 1951, Richter won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, The Town and is regarded as a significant figure in American fiction. The Adult Readers have been discussing books for over six years. They include all types of literature in their program and meet monthly. Call 874-3382 for more information or use our contact page at www.frackvillelibrary.com.
Many of us need a little help seeing these days, and some people have found it a lot more comfortable to read a book with larger print. Of course, there are others who find large print books strange to read and want no parts of them! But, if you prefer it, you'll be glad to know that our collection of large prints is growing. Not only have we received donations of some great titles over the summer, but we are also buying a few new editions of the latest best sellers in large print. You'll be finding authors like Stephen White, Kathy Reichs, and Sandra Brown as the year progresses, in addition to older favorites by writers like Danielle Steele, Sue Grafton, and Nora Roberts. Come have a look, and you may not even need those glasses!
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. I happened to catch the lastest dramatization of Dickens' early novel on Masterpiece Classics recently, and it led me back to the original. Most people are familiar with the famous story of the boy who dared asked for more to eat from his minders in a Victorian workhouse. The film, Oliver, based on the famous Broadway play, was a boxoffice hit in 1968/9, and won the Best Picture Oscar. Most people don't realize that Dickens' created this blockbuster hit when he was only twenty-five years old, and it is still as exciting and touching to read as it was back in 1837. The novel was published as a monthly series in a magazine, and is full of cliffhanging chapter endings, memorable comic characters, and plenty of adventure and romance.
The Eight by Katherine Neville. Twenty years ago, Neville created a masterful romantic adventure story which combines two interesting themes-chess and the French Revolution! Her heroines, the spirited young nun, Mireille, and Catherine Velis, a modern day working woman and computer whiz, travel from one exotic local to another in search of a legendary set of chess pieces, the Montglane Service. Both women find themselves in Algeria, a land we don't often hear about in the news or in fiction, making their way from the coast of the Mediterranean to the great Sahara and the Atlas Mountains. Also available after a long wait is a sequel to this popular novel, called The Fire. Both books are available at your library.
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. In 1989, noted English novelist, Ken Follett, departed from his usual suspense thriller format. He slipped back into the twelfth century and wrote an epic work about the building of a Gothic cathedral. Filled with fascinating characters and lots of detail about life in the Middle Ages, The Pillars of the Earth became one of his greatest successes. Most readers found themselves wanting more when the book was finished, and finally, in 2007, Follett produced a long awaited sequel, World Without End. Pillars of the Earth is now being featured on our staff recommendations display, and World Without End is available with new books.
The spy novel has always been one of my favorite genres. Whether visiting an old classic or seeing how authors have managed to revamp the format since the end of the Cold War, spy novels continue to be fun to read. The Ipcress File, Len Deighton's first success, with it's nameless narrator, is available at the library on audio tape. This convoluted story of British intelligence was one of the first to introduce us to this shady underworld of clandestine meetings, electronic surveillance, and sometimes murder. More recently, the master of spy fiction, John LeCarre, has created the story of a Muslim refugee, a prestigious banker, and a young woman lawyer, which resonates with the issues of today. A Man Most Wanted exhibits LeCarre's usual attention to detail regarding European espionage, while at the same time presenting characters with whom we can sympathize. (While you're at it, try one of LeCarre's best, A Perfect Spy, now being featured on our staff recommendations shelf.)
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. This is a new feature on our blog. We recently set up a display with some favorite selections of our staff members. If you're not sure what to read next, check out some of our favorites, and be sure to let us know what you think! The narrator of Rebecca is a young woman whose name we never know. She is working as a companion to a snobbish widow when she meets Maxim de Winter, a rich, handsome, but somewhat troubled man who sweeps her off her feet and immediately marries her. He carries her off to his family estate called Manderley, and things get a bit dicey for the poor girl as the past comes back to haunt them both. Du Maurier is a master of suspense, coupled with a generous dose of romance. This is a genuine classic. Look for another of our staff recommends next week.
I'm never sure whether listening to a book on tape or CD counts as reading! It is such a totally different experience. Any way, I just finished listening to St. Peter'sFair by Ellis Peters. Ellis Peters is an English woman who began life as Edith Pargeter. Her two most famous book series, however, were written under her pen name. Probably the best known of the two in America is the Brother Cadfael Chronicles, many of which were made into excellent Mystery installments on PBS. The medically adept Brother Cadfael, a monk in 12th century Shrewsbury, England can always be counted on to come across a brain teasing murder case. These books are a great way to get a painless dose of history as well. Peters is also responsible for a detective series featuring Inspector George Felse, the typical kind of English policeman that we all love. A few books in both series are available at your library.
I was recently viewing a website dedicated to the Brontes, that amazing family of 19th century British literature. Their blog contained a post about an upcoming edition of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte's enduring novel about an English governess. This new edition is being done by Classical Comics in the graphic format, a category which is becoming a staple of many public library's teen collections. Whether you think these picture books for older kids and even adults are a good idea or not, they appear to be here to stay. We recently received a copy of Thoreau at Walden by John Porcellino. Porcellino has taken the writings of Thoreau and presented them like a favorite comic(with the addition of lots of discussion ideas.) The book is a publication of the Center for Cartoon Studies, a premier cartooning school located in White River Junction, Vermont. Learn more at www.cartoonstudies.org , www.classicalcomics.com, or www.bronte.org.uk.
On a recent trip to Hawaii, I had the pleasure of visiting the Iolani Palace, home to the last reigning monarchs of the Kingdom of Hawaii. This monarchy was deposed in 1893 and soon the islands were annexed by the United States. The compelling story of King Kalakaua and his sister and successor, the unfortunate Queen Lili'uokalani sent me looking in our collection for additional material. I found two interesting items. Edward Joesting's Hawaii: An Uncommon History does not attempt to give every detail, but focuses on particular events. Several chapters tell of these interesting royals who unwittingly played a role in the development of the United States as a world power. A more complex look at the evolution of modern Hawaii can be found in the great popular classic Hawaii by James A. Michener. By creating his own dynasty of characters, he tells the saga of Hawaii in this captivating novel. Our 50th state is certainly worth a visit, but if you can't get there just yet, try these books!
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. As a member of JASNA, the Jane Austen Society of North America, I have recently joined one of their reading groups. Members get together to discuss the work of Jane, as we like to call her. Most of us are such fanatic Janeites, that we read her six novels and various fragments over and over again. This particular book, the first of the novels to be published during her lifetime, is not looked on very kindly by many critics. In my own experience, however, I have found it well worth a second look and even a third, and I can honestly say my opinion about it has changed with each reading. If you don't feel quite up to facing the story of the Dashwood sisters in the language of the early nineteenth century, try the new dramatization being shown on Masterpiece on PBS, Sunday, March 30.