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Occupation : Instructor of English; retired manufacturing manager

My Reviews

The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting
The Keepers of the House

An excellent multigenerational story about the South up to the eve of the civil rights movement. The themes of generational continuity, love of the land and nature, clash with the old South\\\'s racial divisions.

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Insightful, Inspiring
The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty

Laurel McKelva, the optimist's daughter, learns from her father's death and the ensuing funeral and emotional aftermath that she must develop a new relationship with her past. As she is about to lose her childhood home to her father's much younger (and supremely insensitive younger wife), she comes to realize that our past must be held in the heart rather than in the material evidence left from the past. Eudora Welty accomplishes this realization in the course of four distinct sections: An objectively understated prologue that includes the death of Laurel's father, Judge Clint McKelva, in New Orleans during Mardi Gras; a comical section that includes brilliantly developed dialogue contrasting Laurel's stepmother's Texas relatives with Laurel's friends from childhood home, Mount Salus, Mississippi; a painful lyrical section occurring during Laurel's last night Mount Salus as she rummages through her dead mother's letters and notebooks during which Laurel gradually comes to realize that the value of one's past does not lie in memorabilia; and a coda in which she leaves the home to her stepmother. Eudora Welty's attention to psychological development and contrasting dialogue are brilliantly handled.

 
Book Club Recommended
Epic, Inspiring, Beautiful
A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin

A novel of epic length and scope--A Soldier of the Great War explores the search for beauty and meaning in life during a time of war and chaotic disorder. Inside its framework tale of the elderly Alessandro and the youthful Nicolo walking to Monte Prato lie a huge range of episodes that explore life's greatest themes.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Insightful
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

This novel provides an important reminder of the evils of totalitarian governments in which justice becomes arbitrary and capricious. Solzhenitsyn shows that the spirit can survive, even in the Soviet frozen inferno, and history shows that the individual can eventually triumph again. This novel played an important role in that triumph, making still an inspiration to read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Difficult, Dramatic
Stendhal, Le Rouge et le noir

In Le Rouge et le noir Stendhal presents a jaded view of the aristocratic and liberal society at the end of Bourbon Restoration. The novel, as its title suggests, is built from contrasting elements--the red of romantic love (not the military as some critics claim; blue is the color of the French military) and the black of church clerics (which provides a disguise for the main character\\\'s true ambitions), the restored but outdated aristocrats and the newly rich liberals who about to replace them, the rustic simplicity of provincial life in Verriere and the empty sophistication of aristocratic Paris. Our guide through these worlds is the bitter Jacobin Julian Sorel, who longs for the passion of the Napoleonic era and takes revenge on liberal society by seducing the wife of a provincial mayor and on aristocrats by seducing the daughter of the marquis who employs him. Even the composition of the novel involves contrasts--the restrained neo-classic style employed by Stendhal with its balanced sentences used to narrate Julian Sorel\\\'s search for passion and revenge.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Dark
Madame Bovary

Flaubert provides an insightful portrait of French bourgeois life in the mid-nineteenth century. Rich in detail, the novel is a perfect example of realism in which the details build both character and plot. Justly regarded as a classic for both content and style.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Dramatic, Difficult
Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd

Hardy's first Wessex novel, FFMC establishes the setting and values that Hardy uses in his later novels. The countryside of southwest England with its ancient connection to England's primitive and medieval past (Stonehenge and Glastonbury) informs the values and actions of Hardy's characters. His tragic or near-tragic figures violate the traditional values and cause pain beyond themselves. In FFMC, Bathsheba's pride and vanity violate the natural order of Wessex and are revenged/purged in her tragic marriage with Sergeant Troy. In contrast, the resourceful and knowledgeable Gabriel Oak represents the Wordsworthian figure that Hardy uses to represent the correct norms toward which the flawed character must either move, as Bathsheba finally does, or suffer tragic consequences, as many of Hardy's other characters do.

 
Book Club Recommended
Brilliant
The Secret Agent

Conrad's The Secret Agent is a remarkably contemporary novel, despite being set in the 1890s and published in 1904. The parallels between the anarchists of that period and the Islamic terrorists of ours are striking. Conrad loads virtually every word of the novel with irony.

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