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Jan 19, 2020
Deepa Anappara and Rob Doyle on their new novels; Helen Fielding's book she'd never lend
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Jan 18, 2020
by Reid (Seattle): As with the first book, Olive Kitteridge, this is the story of a singular woman living her brief life on the coast of Maine, creating wreckage with her acerbic tongue and caustic judgments. She is deeply broken, our Olive, and not very likeable, and yet we love her and wish for her to succeed. This is the tightrope Elizabeth Strout has walked yet again in this second volume. How is it that such an unpleasant person can elicit such sympathy from us? I suspect the answer is the resonance we feel in response to her brokenness, how it chimes with our own. Though she is far more unskillful in her dealings with those around her than most of us, we have all had our moments of being the Olive in the room, the one who blurts out the ugly truth or the intolerant judgement, then wonders why we have become the pariahs.

It is rather odd to call this a novel (as it was the first book), because this really is a book of short stories interconnected by a single character, who sometimes is front and center, and other times barely even mentioned. Yet it becomes the story of a single life, much like a paint-by-numbers picture becomes comprehensible with the addition of each subsequent color, different shadings and hues of Olive become more evident with each passing chapter.

I particularly like her relationship to Jack Kennison, a person in whom she has met her match and who loves her despite herself, as did her late husband, Henry. But I also deeply appreciate Strout's expansion on Olive's connection to her son, Christopher, with whom she has both a deep bond and troubling animosity. She wishes to be loved by him, but seems incapable of being lovable with him. It is terribly heartbreaking, but also feels truthful and genuine.

A few quick notes: first of all, though this novel would stand alone, reading the first will give this one greater depth and meaning. Second, if you have not watched the adaptation of Olive Kitteridge with Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins (with Bill Murray as Jack Kennison), please do. They embody the characters so thoroughly and so well, it is difficult to imagine anyone else in those roles.

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Jan 15, 2020
by Reid (Seattle): I am not surprised to see that this strange and wondrous novel has generated a wide range of opinions, that it is found by some to be opaque or even pointless. As with Obreht's previous novel, The Tiger's Wife, there is a bit of magical realism to this book, whiffs of Gabriel García Márquez and Cormac McCarthy, particularly the latter in this novel of the American West. This is a fever dream of a book and it's no wonder that not everyone cozies up to it.

But for my money this is an expertly realized, fascinating read, an invocation of a time and place that resonates deeply, all the more so for its tinge of unreality. All of the characters are caught in a nightmare not (entirely) of their own making and are simply making the best they can of their hard lots in the hardscrabble year of 1893.

There are two parallel plots here, the first that of Lurie, an orphaned child who takes up with rough characters and runs as far as he can with them before encountering a train of camels, brought over from Asia by the United States army in the hope that they can do a better job of transporting goods across the American deserts than horses can. This is factual—I have read elsewhere about this effort, which actually seems pretty sensible (but didn't work out all that well). Lurie ingratiates himself with the camel herders and tries as best he can to hang on to the fragile thread of his life. The other plot line involves Nora, a strong, independent woman of the Arizona desert, trying to stay upright in a world that seems to be doing everything it can to destroy her and her family, especially the drought that is turning her farm and the surrounding community to ash and dust. Everything about their lives speaks of dissolution and decay, though Nora does everything she can to keep herself and her three boys afloat. Her husband has been gone for days, out negotiating for the water they so desperately need, and the situation has become dire.

Thirst is the thematic core of these stories. Lurie gathers water everywhere he goes in a canteen previously owned by his adoptive brother, and it whets but never slakes his thirst to know what is coming and what has been. Nora is perpetually dry, sacrificing what little water she has to her children and, eventually, the dressing of wounds.

But no description of plot or theme can scratch the surface of the beauty of this book, which is carried in the expansive prose Obreht employs. While The Tiger's Wife bore the signs of a first-time author, with its too-careful elucidation and somewhat stilted language, in Inland she has come into a mastery of her craft and never sets a foot wrong in climbing this particularly challenging terrain. This is not a perfect book (often motives are obscure and some of the action seems unlikely, even for the hallucinatory reality it lives in), but it is excellent. One must be willing to surrender, though, to the wonderful strangeness of the world evoked here, and this is not always easy. The reward is worth the effort and I strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the authors I listed in the first paragraph. While not as accomplished as either of those masters, Téa Obreht is clearly a talent to watch and read.

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Jan 15, 2020
by Veronica Earley: I loved this book just as I loved THE NIGHT CIRCUS. Two different reads but Erin Morgenstern is a wonderful writer. THE STARLESS SEA is a book you need to read daily or until you finish it. There is so much going on in this story and it is easy to get lost...but that doesn't take anything away from the story. In fact, getting lost is part of the story's fascination. I was always asking myself could this be happening. The characters are creative, smart and have very little fear of the unknown. Their personalities help make up this wonderful tale. They change each other's lives with love, strength and mystery. I highly recommend this book.

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Jan 14, 2020
by Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews: Captain Kidd had experience traveling uncharted lands as he read his newspapers in different towns to spread the news of the world, but traveling with a ten-year-old girl who couldn't speak English was quite a different task for him.

Johanna had been kidnapped by the Kiowa Indians after her family was killed in a raid, but Johanna was now released and needed to be returned to her aunt and uncle. She didn't know who they were, and they didn't know her.

NEWS OF THE WORLD flows beautifully as we follow Captain Kidd and Johanna on their 400-mile journey that Captain Kidd regretfully had accepted. He had to deal with no language communication except for a few words and sign language as well as Johanna's numerous attempts to escape.

NEWS OF THE WORLD was an enjoyable read because the writing was marvelous, the story line was interesting, and the characters were authentic and likable. Johanna grew on you. Mrs. Gannet was charming. Captain Kidd was a perfect gentleman, a wonderful father, and an all-around good guy.?

I enjoyed the historical aspect of how there were folks who went from town to town reading the news. I loved the descriptions of the undeveloped country and am happy I didn't live back then. It was difficult to imagine there were no paved roads. We readers even get to be in the middle of a gun fight.

NEWS OF THE WORLD is filled with beautiful, descriptive writing that pulls you in I truly enjoyed NEWS OF THE WORLD mainly because of the characters and definitely the warmth and kindness of Captain Kidd.

If you need a quick, enjoyable, heartwarming read, NEWS OF THE WORLD fits the bill along with a history lesson. 4/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation from the publisher in return for an honest review.

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Jan 12, 2020
100 Novels That Shaped Our World: Identity
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Jan 04, 2020

Sally Rooney’s screenplay, Hilary Mantel’s final Thomas Cromwell novel … what to look out for this year

Continue reading...
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Dec 29, 2019
Graham Greene special
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Dec 22, 2019
Highlights of 2019
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Dec 15, 2019
Benjamin Markovits, PG Wodehouse, Family rows in novels and child prodigies
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Dec 08, 2019
2019 books, André Aciman and David Bowie
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Nov 28, 2019

With many of us staying indoors for longer periods of time at the present moment, what could be more morale boosting than playing a great game with partners and family? From Dobble to Downton, here is our selection of top card and board games to enjoy.   

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Nov 26, 2019
Comedian Russell Kane and novelist Sarah Perry talk favourite books with Harriett Gilbert
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Nov 24, 2019
Lee Child and Pat Barker explore the heroic protagonist. Hanne Orstavik's novel, Love
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Nov 19, 2019
Nemone Metaxas and Raymond Antrobus talk favourite books with presenter Harriett Gilbert.
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Nov 17, 2019
Ben Lerner, Women's auto fiction and Ian Rankin
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Nov 13, 2019
The Romany writer and broadcaster Damian Le Bas and author Amy Liptrot choose a good read
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Nov 10, 2019
Kathy O'Shaughnessy talks to Mariella about her novel charting the life of George Eliot.
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Nov 05, 2019
Comedian Stewart Lee and DJ author Dave Haslam choose their good reads
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Oct 30, 2019
Lisa Jewell and Aditya Chakrabortty talk all about books with Harriett Gilbert.
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Oct 29, 2019
Books worth reading chosen by actor John Gordon Sinclair and singer Kerry Ellis
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Oct 27, 2019
Andrew Michael Hurley talks to Mariella Frostrup about new folk horror novel Starve Acre
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Oct 20, 2019
The University of East Anglia's Creative Writing MA turns 50.
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Oct 15, 2019
Poorna Bell and Tony Law join Harriett Gilbert to talk about their favourite books.
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Oct 13, 2019
Emma Donoghue discusses her new novel Akin, plus a discussion of the best fiction spies.
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