Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fiction Corner

These hot muggy days it's sometimes a pleasure just to sit in your air-conditioned house and read a book, isn't it? The last couple of novels I read were the authors' second books, and both were very good. Jennifer Vanderbes wrote a novel a while back called Easter Island.

It was one of those novels that tell two intertwined stories from different times. It was fascinating and informative, and I learned quite a bit about Easter Island and what happened to that society that had erected the enormous figures.

Now she has a new novel called Strangers at the Feast. Again, anthropology figures into the plot in a way, but this one is set in the United States and takes place on the most American of holidays, Thanksgiving. The tale turns tragic and is a grim indictment of where the American dream has gone wrong ... gone wrong ... gone wrong. The book touches on many aspects of family life, the changing role of women in U.S. society, the issue of eminent domain and unbridled development and materialism, and the familiar gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Jenna Blum is the author of an excellent earlier novel about a woman who finds a way for her and her child to survive in the midst of the horrors of World War II in Europe -- Those Who Save Us. It was very well written and engaging.

Now she has a new novel called Stormchasers. It's set in familiar territory--Minnesota and the Plains States. It's about twins who haven't seen each other for 20 years. The brother is bipolar and he's a stormchaser. The sister is a reporter who joins a stormchasing tour to try to find her brother while doing an assignment for her paper. As with many novels where the intricacies of family life are important, there is a deep secret between the twins that emerges from the shadows.  The scenes describing the tornadoes the group is chasing are vivid and dramatic indeed.

I am in the middle of reading Helen Simonson's Major Pettigrew's Last Stand.

I haven't read this author before, but I am thoroughly enjoying her writing. The book is so very very English and utterly charming.

In our reading group, we've been doing Corduroy Mansions, the new McCall-Smith series set in London -- what fun! I just rented the DVD of the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series HBO episodes to view a second time. I love all his books.

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