Monthly Archives: November 2010

Stacy Schiff, “Cleopatra”

I don’t read a lot of biographies, but if more of them were like Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra, that would change. On the other hand, it’s hard to know how there could be more biographies like this, because what Schiff does … Continue reading

Posted in best seller, biography, scholarly | Tagged | 5 Comments

Under the Tree

Just in time for Black Friday — which falls on Thursday this year, I’m told? — I’m thinking about Christmas shopping. Naturally lots of my friends will be getting books. For some of them, I’ll pick presents from the latest … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Jane Gardam, “God on the Rocks”

To me, “on the rocks” means on ice, so this title skews flippant. But I don’t think that’s what Jane Gardam intends. Those rocks are literal, since God on the Rocks is set in an English coastal resort with a … Continue reading

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Elinor Lipman, “The Family Man”

Elinor Lipman is one of my favorite authors, but the problem is that I’ve read all of her books. Sometimes I eye them on the book shelf and mentally test myself — am I ready to reread this one or … Continue reading

Posted in contemporary fiction, funny | Tagged | 3 Comments

Julia Spencer-Fleming, “A Fountain Filled With Blood”

Oh, well. So much for the thrill of discovery. I was really excited when I read In the Bleak Midwinter, Julia Spencer-Fleming’s first mystery in this series. The character of the Reverend Clare Fergusson, rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church … Continue reading

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Ivana Lowell, “Why Not Say What Happened?”

I’m not very happy with myself. I just gulped down Why Not Say What Happened with unseemly haste and for all the wrong reasons. Ghoulishness, schadenfreude, voyeurism — that about covers it. Not a pretty cocktail. But oh, while we’re … Continue reading

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William Dean Howells, “Indian Summer”

The jacket copy calls Indian Summer “one of the most charming and memorable romantic comedies in American literature,” so I took the bait, despite skepticism. I have read  William Dean Howells before and he wasn’t charming. But for once the … Continue reading

Posted in classic, funny | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Caroline Blackwood, “Great Granny Webster”

I’ve always been fascinated by the combination of glamor and emotional mess that seems to surround the Guinness clan of Ireland and England. Reckless marriages, feral parenting arrangements, and stunning looks seem to be pretty reliable family markers. All were … Continue reading

Posted in anglophilia, literary fiction, memoir, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Sylvia Townsend Warner, “Summer Will Show”

In other hands, this premise would have been clumsy. Sophia Willoughby, an upright well-bred English matron, finds herself liberated when she is caught in Paris during the 1848 Revolution. Her personal sloughing-off of class limitations, her eager lurch toward love … Continue reading

Posted in anglophilia, classic, French | Tagged | 5 Comments

Stendhal, “La Chartreuse de Parme”/”The Charterhouse of Parma”

Ooooh, Fabrice. That’s what all the ladies think when they see him. And now that I know that Gerard Philipe played him in a 1948 film, I’ve got a face to put to the name — Fabrice del Dongo, the … Continue reading

Posted in classic, French, funny | Tagged , | 3 Comments