Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James
Veteran mystery writer P.D. James, 91, brings the world of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice back to life with a sequel. Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy are happily married, with two young sons, and visit regularly with Jane and Mr. Bingley. Darcy’s sister Georgiana has two suitors, Henry Alveston, a young lawyer, and Col. Fitzwilliam, who is now heir to an earldom.
Preparing for an annual ball at Pemberley, they are startled by the sudden arrival on a stormy night of Lydia Wickham, Jane and Elizabeth’s sister, claiming that her husband is missing, and possibly dead, in the Pemberley woods. Darcy and Elizabeth have a challenging time dealing with the night and its consequences, from cancelling the ball to a murder trial.
Splendid entertainment for mystery and Austen fans.
Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
Hillenbrand’s book is the extraordinary tale of Louie Zamperini’s life – from track and field star of the 1930s, participant in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, survivor of a B-24 crash into the Pacific Ocean in May 1943 followed by 47 days adrift in shark-infested waters, to a hellish and brutal existence in a Japanese POW camp. After the war he experienced years of suffering from what is now referred to as post-traumatic stress syndrome. Eventually he finds inner-peace by forgiving his WWII captors, especially the exceptionally cruel Corp. Mutsuhiro Watanabe. If you are interested in a gripping story that is destined to become a classic of narrative nonfiction, then this book is for you. Highly recommended. For more about Louie, visit the author’s web site.
Hemingway’s Boat, by Paul Hendrickson
This book concentrates on Ernest Hemingway’s life from 1934 to 1961. It has a unique angle in that instead of focusing on the famous author, it involves his fishing boat, the “Pilar”. The book initially talks about where the boat was built, who built it, what materials were involved, how much Hemingway paid for it, etc. But it is about so much more than that. It talks about Hemingway’s love of deep sea fishing and the huge blue marlins he catches from the Gulf Stream. He entertains many famous guests aboard “Pilar” and was clearly happiest when he was at sea. Hemingway’s Boat also talks about the people in Hemingway’s life, such as a drifter who became his apprentice for a summer, and his youngest son, who was most like him but also the most troubled. You see Hemingway’s physical and mental decline after he could no longer fish aboard his beloved boat. A great book for Hemingway buffs; extraordinarily well written.
Prague Cemetery, by Umberto Eco
“I hate, therefore I am” describes the main character Simonio Simonini in this historical novel set in mid-nineteenth century Paris. Simonini, as well as his alter ego Abbe Dalla Piccola, is a talented forger and conspirator who seems to be behind numerous slanders concerning Jews, Jesuits, Freemasons, the Illuminati, and other groups lurking behind government and heads of state, all trying to subvert the body politic with their schemes for world domination. Simonini hates the Germans, the French, the Italians, the British, and just about everyone else. He is phobic about women and values fine cuisine. The novel is about his escapades during the Franco- Prussian war and his involvement in “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and the Dreyfuss affair.
I like Eco’s writing because he is funny and erudite, but it is an acquired taste. This book is not for everyone as it shows the rampant anti-Semitism present in Europe at that time. The Prague Cemetery takes conspiracy theories to the ultimate level, and is recommended for fans of conspiracy thrillers.
Ysabel, by Guy Gavriel Kay
A historical mystical fantasy with Celtic elements and a harrowing love story; Ysabel, by Guy Gavriel Kay, has been called astonishing. It swept me away. Winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2008 and a Locus Award finalist.
See the author’s web site to find out more about Ysabel.
The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies, by Susan Wittig Albert
In 1930s Darling, Alabama, the ladies of the Darling Dahlias garden club garden, cook, sew, “make do”, and solve mysteries. Their first appearance was The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree. The latest excitement in town is the arrival of Nona Jean Jamison and her friend Lily Lake, come to stay with Nona Jean’s reclusive aunt. They are rumored to be the Naughty and Nice Sisters from the Ziegfeld Frolics, and are followed to town by a nosy man from Chicago, who may be an investigator or connected to Al Capone. Liz Lacy, along with Verna, Bessie, and Myra Mae investigate, while coping with domestic dramas along the way. The colorful characters seem real, as does the setting. The naked ladies turn out to be beautiful lilies that bloom above a naked stalk. For more about the Dahlias, visit their web site.
The Big Read is coming! The 2012 Big Read selection is The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain. A wide variety of programs and book discussions will be offered by 10 southwest suburban public libraries during March and April, 2012, with an author visit in May.
For more information, visit thebigread.org.