Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Perilous Undertaking

Veronica Speedwell is back! This is the second in the series by Deanna Raybourn, and it is delicious! Veronica, lepidopterist and adventuress, is invited to the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only club for intrepid women. There she meets Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task; Miles Ramsforth, art patron, has been convicted of the murder of Artemisia, his artist mistress, and will hang in a week's time unless Veronica can unmask the true killer. For various reasons, Veronica accepts this challenge. With the help of Stoker, her natural-historian colleague, she hares about 1880's London, from palace to pleasure grotto, to resolve the case.

This book in the series is more raw than A Curious Beginning, but just as delightful. The characters are well drawn and likeable. The plot hums along. The tension between characters is recognizable and utterly believable. I look forward to the next installment.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Little Children

A novel by Tom Perrotta, Little Children is about a group of suburban, thirtyish parents and the children they bring to the playground. However, it seems to be more about the childish, selfish behavior of said parents. It's a sad book with no growth on the part of any character. It simply chronicles the dissolution of several families.

The Round House

This novel by Louise Erdrich was a National Book Award winner for fiction in 2012. It tells the story of the Coutts family, Geraldine, Bazil, and Joe, Ojibwe who live on a reservation in North Dakota. One Sunday in Spring, 1988, Geraldine is brutally attacked. The rape occurred near the Round House, a sacred space for the Ojibwe. This complicates justice, for the Round House is on tribal land but is surrounded by multiple jurisdictions. Unless the traumatized Geraldine can remember exactly where the attack took place, her white attacker will go free. Geraldine enrolls people into the tribe; Bazil is a tribal judge. Both of them have had occasion to "meet" the attacker through their files. Joe, the 13-year-old son of aging parents, realizes it is up to him to reclaim his family. With the help of his friends Cappy, Zack, and Angus he sets out on a course of revenge. Because the attacker has gone free through the jurisdictional nightmare. And, even if the rape had happened on tribal land, the tribal leaders would be unable to prosecute because the perpetrator was non-Indian; federal law prohibits them. (This burns my butt!) Something else I learned in the course of this book that is upsetting, to say the least. The number of women subject to sexual assault in this country is 1 in 5. That's sad. The number of native women who face sexual assault? 1 in 3. The number is surely higher because not everyone reports rape. 86% of these assaults are carried out by non-Native men. 86% cannot be prosecuted "in house", so to speak, leaving a Native woman to tell her story, relive the trauma, more than necessary. And face possible prejudice as well as the stigma of rape. Too sad. Must be changed. This unjust law must be changed.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Goodbye Days

A novel by Jeff Zentner. I. Am. Wrecked! This is a young adult novel; why is the YA genre so gaspingly real! Carver Briggs is a bright young man who has maybe done a stupid thing. He texted his friend Mars; a friend on the way to meet him with his two other best friends, Eli and Blake. Then there was The Accident. All three of his friends died, and on Mars's phone was a half - finished text to Carver. Now Carver is friendless, going to funerals, blaming himself, being blamed by some of the family members of his friends. Mars's father, a judge, is pressing the district attorney to charge Carver with negligent homicide. Eli's twin sister, Adair, stares daggers through him and uses her considerable influence at the prestigious Nashville Academy of the Arts, where they all went/go to school to turn people against him. He's having panic attacks. Yet Carver does have a support system still. His family. Jesmyn, Eli's girlfriend. Dr. Mendez, his psychiatrist. And Nana Betsy, Blake's grandmother, who asks Carver for a goodbye day, where they fill each other in on their parts of Blake's story. His life. It was successful. Cathartic. Soon the other families are asking for goodbye days. Will they be as successful?

Silent in the Sanctuary

A Lady Julia Grey Mystery by Deanna Rayburn. This is the second in the series, and quite entertaining. Lady Julia has spent six months recovering in Italy, but with her brother Lysander's precipitous marriage to a hot-headed Italian woman they are all called home to spend Christmas at the decommissioned Abbey in Sussex that serves as her father's estate. To buffer her father's anger, her brothers Lysander and Plum determine to invite their Italian friend, the Count Alessandro Fornacci, along. Lady Julia is grateful for his presence when Nicholas Brisbane is among her father's guests, with a friend of his own. Romantic intrigue takes a backseat, however, when one of the houseguests is found murdered in the chapel. Nicholas and Lady Julia investigate as snow cuts off communication and transportation and a murderer walks the halls.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Longbourn

This lusciously imagined novel by Jo Baker is a literary spin-off of Pride and Prejudice. Longbourn is the manor of the Bennet family; and the book focuses on the world of the servants. The novel begins with the central character, Sarah, a housemaid, getting on with the business of washday. Simply gruelling. A startling insight into servanthood in regency England. Sarah is beginning to find service restrictive; she's young, she wants to see the world. Then a new footman hires on, and begins to turn the servants' world upside down, especially Sarah's. James Smith has secrets, though, and what he does to keep those secrets distresses everyone below stairs. A good read.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Saint Vs. the Scholar:

The Fight Between Faith and Reason. Jon M. Sweeney wrote this as a historical account of the clash between Bernard of Clairvaux (now recognized as Saint) and Peter Abelard. Unfortunately, the book often descends into a screed against Bernard. Sweeney represents the clash as one between faith and reason, two different ways of thinking about revelation and tradition (also, Tradition) that continue to this day. Yet his obvious bias against "faith" makes it difficult to accept anything he says as objective or accurate. His solution to the dilemma,  "let's just agree to disagree" is untenable when one considers the questions the Church faces today.

I found this an unsatisfactory read. I read it for my church book club, and barely finished it. (We discuss it this evening.) I'm sure our next book won't be such a slog.