Monday, May 28, 2018

Green Dolphin Street (Book Review) #1944Club

The 1944 Club is a theme in which two prolific bloggers, Simon from Stuck in a Book and Karen from Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings, promote a specific year of published books. Anyone can join in by reading and reviewing a book published in 1944 and adding a link to that book's review in the comments on Simon's blog. 1968 1951 and 1977 have also been promoted recently.   
Title: Green Dolphin Street
Author: Elizabeth Goudge (pronounced Goozh, per the dust jacket)
Publication: Hardcover, 1944
Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot: Set on the remote English Channel Island of St. Pierre in the mid-19th century, Green Dolphin Street is the story of two unusual sisters, Marianne and Marguerite, and William Ozanne, the neighbor both love. Many years ago, Sophie Le Patourel and Edmond Ozanne were in love but Edmond went to London to study medicine and married someone else. Sophie mended her broken heart, made a good but not romantic marriage, and has brought up her daughters to be respected members of their community. When Dr. Ozanne, now a widower, returns to St. Pierre with his son, William, they arrive on Green Dolphin Street near the Le Patourels. William is an uncomplicated youth of 13, happy to make friends with brilliant but difficult Marianne, three years his senior, and lovely, uncomplicated Marguerite, who is several years younger than he. As they grow up, Marianne stage manages William’s career and helps him join the Royal Navy; by now both sisters love him and each believes he will return to her. Much later, William has staked a claim in New Zealand and finally claims the sister dearest to his heart. This dramatic request changes the lives of both sisters, setting in motion both tragedy and heart-felt emotion.

I wouldn't say 'wanton'!
Audience: This book was a big bestseller in its day and will appeal to readers of sweeping epic novels such as Frances Parkinson Keyes, Charles Dickens, Daphne DuMaurier, Sinclair Lewis (I realize this takes in a lot of territory!).

My Impressions: I read most of Elizabeth Goudge’s books from my library growing up just outside Boston but somehow never got to this one. I remember my mother getting Linnets and Valerians for me, although it was The Little White Horse that I liked best (just like J.K. Rowling!). Some of them are overtly religious but Goudge also venerates the natural world and creates incredibly vivid descriptions settings that make it easy to visualize the settings. Green Dolphin Street has both: quiet faith in God and memorable descriptions of the Channel Islands and of untamed New Zealand. Reading this book is like watching an accident take place in slow motion – as author Judy Blundell noted recently good novels are often about bad choices. The story has a sense of inevitability that makes compelling reading!

When I first started working for Penguin, it had recently published Garden of Lies by Eileen Goudge, a bestseller about two babies switched at birth (also, forgive the spoiler, in love with the same man). Viking held a party for her second book and I had to ask to be invited (one of the annoying things about book publishing was that people who actually read the books were rarely included in such events, and I was not considered part of Viking because I sold the NAL paperback books). I recall that first book was entertaining but predictable and the second less memorable than the first but at the party I was able to ask her if she was related to Elizabeth Goudge. She was surprised by the question but said yes, distantly. As Elizabeth was an only child and was unmarried, I suppose it might not even be true, although the name is unusual.
Green Dolphin Street was made into a popular movie in 1947 starring Lana Turner as Marianne, the elder sister, Donna Reed as Marguerite, and May Whitty as the Mother Superior of the convent in St. Pierre. It was MGM’s most popular movie that year and won an Academy Award for best visual effects. I hope that Goudge benefitted financially!
from my April 2018 visit to Ely Cathedral
About the Author: Elizabeth Goudge (1900 – 1984) was the daughter of a distinguished English clergyman. I associated her with Wells, where she was born, and did not remember when I visited Ely Cathedral last month that she had also lived there as a young woman. Her mother was a native of Guernsey and told her daughter stories about the Channel Islands, which inspired the vivid descriptions of St. Pierre in this book. Goudge wrote a number of adult and children’s books, of which the best known are Green Dolphin Street and The Child from the Sea (about Charles II’s mistress, Lucy Walter).
Interior of Ely Cathedral

The Little White Horse, for which she won the Carnegie Medal, England’s equivalent of the Newbery Award, achieved new popularity several years ago when J. K. Rowling said it had been her favorite growing up. It is still in print – look for a copy!

Source:  I got this book from the Boston Public Library.  Annoyingly, my copy was missing pages 21-52!  But when I returned it (with note to its home branch), the staff there bonded with me over the book and movie, which was fun.

Timing:  I admit that I cheated by reviewing this in May because I suspected I would not have time in October...

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Hate U Give (Book Review)

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Publication: Balzer & Bray/Harper Collins
Genre: YA
Plot: Starr Carter is a teen inhabiting two worlds: the poor minority neighborhood of Garden Heights and the privileged world of Williamson Prep, where her parents send her and her siblings to protect them from gang violence. When childhood friend Khalil offers her a ride home from a party near home, Starr learns he has started selling drugs. Before she figures out how to respond to this, they are stopped by the police and during the resulting confrontation a nervous police officer shoots Khalil in the back as Starr helplessly witnesses his death. In the aftermath of this tragedy, Starr begins to question everyone around her – the detectives and media who portray Khalil as a dealer to justify his death, the school friends who don’t understand her new interest in social justice, the loving parents who want her to be safe, and neighbors who just want to live peacefully in their community – as she decides whether she should preserve her own anonymity/safety or speak out to tell the world what really happened that night.

Audience: Written for teens, The Hate U Give is also popular with adults. Acclaimed upon publication, it has won the National Book Award, the William C. Morris Award (for the best debut YA; Morris worked in Children’s books at Harper so he would have been happy to see it go to a Harper Collins book), a Printz honor book, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award and more.

My Impressions: This is a compelling story, inspired by the many recent police shootings, and was impossible to put down. However, what really makes the story is the incredible characterization of everyone in the book from Starr’s mother, a nurse; her father, a reformed drug dealer; and her white boyfriend Chris, who isn’t afraid to say they’re dating or to follow her to her neighborhood which at least one of her school friends calls the “ghetto”; her classmates at Williamson Prep and the black headmaster who doesn’t want to challenge the affluent white parents; and the Garden Heights neighbors.

In the last few years, I have read about many black parents having variations of this conversation with their children:
When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and the bees . . . . The other was about what to do if a cop stopped me.
Momma fussed and told Daddy I was too young for that. He argued that I wasn’t too young to get arrested or shot.
“Starr-Starr, you do whatever they tell you to do,” he said. “Keep your hands visible. Don’t make any sudden noises. Only speak when they speak to you.”

There is a lot of fiction inspired by headlines and sometimes it comes across as forced. This book was inspired by the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant and feels very authentic and should create many opportunities for discussion and, one hopes, enlightenment.   I will say I usually can't stand books written in the present tense but I stopped noticing pretty early on.
Debut author Angie Thomas
Tupac: The title is based on Tupac’s Thug Life: The Hate U Give Little Infants F---- Everyone, which the author explains as, “When these unarmed black people lose their lives, the hate they've been given screws us all. We see it in the form of anger and we see it in the form of riots.”

Source: My copy came from the Boston Public Library. As part of the Roslindale Library’s Race and Inclusion programming, I led a book discussion on May 17th.  I highly recommend, even if or particularly if it is not your usual read.  Click here for an excerpt.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Penguin & Tiny Shrimp Don't Do Bedtime (Book Review)

Title: Penguin & Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime
Author: Cate Berry
Illustrator: Charles Santoso
Publication: Hardcover, Balzer & Bray/Harper Collins, May 2018
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Plot: Penguin and Tiny Shrimp DO NOT have a bedtime story to share with you.

There are no soft beds or cozy covers here. There are fireworks! And shark-infested waters!!

This book will never make you sleepy. Not at all. Not even a little. . .

Enjoy their adventures while they avoid bedtime!

Audience: Toddlers – and their bedtime story readers! Fans of my favorite, Bedtime for Frances.

My Impressions: As the aunt of eight children who never want to go to bed, I found this book very charming. It begins with Penguin in PJs and Tiny Shrimp sporting a night cap but they make it clear they are not interested in bedtime. And yet, when they say there is nothing in this book about big soft beds or super-squishy pillows . . . then they test out the bed and exclaim, “Ohhhhhh, squishy pillows.” I must say, this was my favorite line in the book – every night I procrastinate about going to bed (sometimes doing quite valid things like cleaning bathrooms) but when I slide into bed it is so delicious that I wonder why I waited until 1 am to do so!

This is a debut picture book, full of humor that will appeal to the reader and the child, from the talented duo of Berry and Santoso. The quirky illustrations perfectly complement the text. I don’t understand how the Penguin and Tiny Shrimp became friends so would have liked a little more story but maybe we’ll find out in the future - I hope this will be a series and they will have more adventures in the future. In the meantime, the book would be a great gift for a baby shower or a preschooler in your life.

Purchase LinksHarperCollins * Barnes & Noble * IndieBound * Amazon

Author: Watch author Cate Berry read this book aloud. Visit her at www.cateberry.com to learn more about her. You can follow her on Twitter, @cberrywriter. You can also follow illustrator Charles Santoso: @minitreehouse and the publisher, @balzer+bray and @harperchildrens.
Source: I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and TLC Book Tours for review purposes. You can visit other stops on the tour and read the reviews by clicking below:

Tour Stops

Tuesday, May 8th: Instagram: @jackiereadsbooks
Tuesday, May 15th: Wining Wife
Thursday, May 17th: Time 2 Read
Friday, May 18th: Instagram: @thepagesinbetween
Tuesday, May 22nd: Instagram: @_literary_dreamer_
Wednesday, May 23rd: Instagram: @theliteraryllama
* Image above copyright to HarperCollins

Saturday, May 12, 2018

My Blog's Name in Childhood Favorites

Desperate Reader spelled out the name of her blog from her collection of Virago Modern Classics and Simon from Stuck in a Book used books from his TBR but I thought I would do it from some of my favorite children's books:

S - I started reading Edward Eager at my elementary school library.  It's hard to pick a favorite but Seven Day Magic could be it, with a great first sentence, "The best kind of book," said Barnaby, "is a magic book."
T - Looking inside this book I see it actually has a bookplate with my sister Andrea's name!  Sorry, Sissy, do you want it back?  I worry that the Green Knowe books are too tame for children brought up on Harry Potter.  A librarian in Mt. Vernon, NY (while I was visiting an aunt who brought me to her library) introduced me to the series.  This is book 2, which made a huge impression on me: to recover lost treasure, a character is commanded to sew a picture of Green Knowe using hair from everyone present when the jewels were stolen.
A- Katie Rose Belford, heroine of this series, is not as well known as Lenora Mattingly Weber's Beany Malone but I think about her a lot because she has such memorable flaws: she hates wearing hand me down clothes, terrified that the donor will see her and recognize the garment; she longs for slice and bake cookies instead of the cracked eggs her relatives bring from the farm; and she yearns for handsome Bruce (although Miguel is worth a dozen of him).
I - I love Barbara Willard's Mantlemass series!  Willard does not shy away from harsh realities of history - this is a bleak orphan story in which orphaned 15 year old Lilias suddenly has to find her own way in the world and there is no easy happy ever after in 16th century England.   I consider this the fifth book in the series.
R - Ruth M. Arthur is another beloved English author, best known for her very scary A Candle in Her Room, which is almost too unnerving for a reread!  Requiem for a Princess is about a girl who feels lost after learning she is adopted.  Ravel's Pavane for a Dead Infanta and the long ago story of a Spanish girl shipwrecked in Cornwall help Willow mature and recognize how much her family loves her.  Artist Margery Gill is another favorite.

C -  I received The Book of Three on my tenth birthday, and for a long time that was the only one I owned.  Then I found this beautiful set in 1999 at Barnes & Noble.  The Castle of Llyr (book 3) is about Eilonwy facing, as Lloyd Alexander says, the ordeal of becoming a princess.  I met him very briefly at Books of Wonder and amazingly this is the book he signed for me.  He was exactly like Fflewddur Fflam and it was such thrill to talk to him!

A - The All of a Kind Family series is another I started reading at the John Ward School.  Much of what I knew about Judaism as a child came from these books, set on the Lower East Side about an affectionate family that lived frugally but managed to make everything fun, from dusting to midnight snacks to borrowing your sister's dress (don't try this at home!).  Like Betsy-Tacy, these stories were based on the author's life, and I remember how thrilled I was to learn my (now deceased) friend Rachel Rose had met Sydney Taylor at summer camp!
SSwallows and Amazons is one of many series to which I was introduced by my mother.  It is about four children who are allowed to go camping alone in the Lake District - and yes, it's surprising how much I enjoyed the adventures of these intrepid sailors and campers when I don't even like being outside!  Even their picnics sounded appealing (chicken, gooseberry tarts, and pemmican) although I would not have liked the freshly caught fish!
E - I also found the Flambards series in the John Ward School.  Christina Russell is yet another intrepid orphan I found at the library.  When she goes to live at Flambards (which is the first book), she is introduced to hunting, which is her uncle and cousin Mark's passion.   In The Edge of the Cloud, she has gone to London with her cousin Will, who is obsessed with airplanes.  Note the wonderful Victor Ambrus cover.

W - You didn't think I could do a whole list without a Betsy-Tacy book, did you?  Unlike many BT fans, I read Winona's Pony Cart as a child because my grandmother's library in Chappaqua had a copy and I liked it.  While it does not have as much substance as Maud Hart Lovelace's other books, she does capture a child's preoccupation with birthdays (and with some parents' determination to invite the friends they want their child to have and not the actual friends).

I - Janet Lambert is best known for her series about Penny Parrish, older daughter in an army family who aspires to be an actress.  My fascination with the military began at Fort Arden when Penny and her family were stationed there and continued to West Point and Governor's Island.   I read everything I could about the U.S. Military Academy!   Introducing Parri is about her daughter, and was one of the first Scholastic Books I ever purchased.  Perhaps because they were so hard to find, I was obsessed with Janet Lambert, leading to some unorthodox acquisitions.
TTheatre Shoes is not as well known as Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes (although Pauline, Petrova, and Posy make cameos) but nearly as much fun, and a recent reread revealed an interesting look at life in London against the background of WWII.  Sorrel, Mark, and Holly go to live with their grandmother when their naval officer father goes missing, and learn they are part of a well known theatrical family and may have talent themselves!
I will properly review Theater Shoes later in the year!   This is my actual library copy from childhood - fortunately, it was discarded when I happened to be passing through...  Also, it was accidental but for those who thought I only read English books growing up, the books above are well balanced: six American authors and six British authors.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

England 2018, Day 12

There was about half a day left – just enough time for one last excursion!  First, we had tea and chocolate chip muffins for breakfast in our room, and checked our luggage with the extremely attentive staff. Then we strolled to the Gloucester Road tube and zipped down to Westminster. Ironically enough, it was a beautiful sunny day just as we were about to leave London.
This time we were armed with tickets as we approached the Churchill War Rooms. Two queues were already in place: one for people just hoping to get in and one for people with tickets. I guided Mother into the former and I moved into the ticket line, asking the friendly guard if I could be at the front so we could enter promptly at 11, our appointed time, or if he thought Mother might get there first. She was afraid I was going to make a fuss but I was just getting the lay of the land. He asked if I was in a hurry and I told him we were flying home that afternoon and, to my surprise, he said we could go right in. Hooray!
The civilian secretarial staff also signed the Official Secrets Act
The Churchill War Rooms were an underground bunker near Parliament where Churchill and his war cabinet were able to work during WWII without the distraction of bombing. The war rooms were opened to the public in 1984, almost exactly as they had been left at the end of WWII (one officer had left his sugar ration behind in his desk, not expected he wouldn’t return). In 2005, other nearby rooms were expensively turned into a museum honoring Churchill’s entire life. Two of the best anecdotes: that Churchill accidentally had his private secretary invite Irving Berlin to lunch at Chartwell, his country home in Kent, having confused him with a philosopher named Isaiah Berlin; and that he invited Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier to Chartwell on another occasion and was so taken with Vivien that he gave her one of his paintings, an unusual circumstance.
Perhaps my favorite part of the War Rooms were interactive displays featuring commentary from the young women who did the secretarial work for the officers. As you may recall, I have always been fascinated by women and war work (although it is annoying to think how much more they could have done if given the chance!). It was amazing to see the rooms in which everyone worked and basically lived, sneaking in and out so the Germans couldn’t target it for air raids (although wouldn’t they have been aiming for Parliament and Westminster anyway?), and smoking all the time with no ventilation.  Two of the rooms were of great significance: the Cabinet Room which in May 1940 Churchill decided he would use to direct the war, and the Map Room where every move of the British Army, Navy, Air Force was tracked and reports were prepared for the King, the Prime Minister, and Chiefs of Staff. We learned that although many spent the nights underground, Churchill only did so a very few times because he liked to take two baths a day and preferred his own bathtub!
Churchill's office/bedroom with chamber pot!

Is it really Big Ben under there?
For those interested in the period, I recommend Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson, my favorite nonfiction in years.   About 12:30 I tore myself away (allowing myself to buy a mug on my way out at the appealing gift shop).  The weather was by now warm and sparkling and Green Park was full of happy Londoners. We walked around the block and saw Big Ben covered with scaffolding, completely unrecognizable. I didn’t want to go but we returned to Hotel Xenia for our luggage, headed down Hogarth Road to the Earls Court tube station, then to Heathrow for our 5 pm flight home.

Goodbye, London, we’ll be back!
Re the Abdication - "Why shouldn't the King be allowed to marry his cutie?"

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Same Beach, Next Year (Book Review)

Title: Same Beach, Next Year
Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
Publication: William Morrow, Trade Paperback, April 2018 (originally published 2017)
Genre: Fiction
Plot: New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank returns to the Lowcountry of South Carolina in a warm story of marriage, love, family, and friendship that is infused with humor.

One enchanted summer, two couples begin a friendship that will last more than twenty years and transform their lives.  A chance meeting on the Isle of Palms, one of Charleston’s most stunning barrier islands, brings former sweethearts, Adam Stanley and Eve Landers together again. Their respective spouses, Eliza and Carl, fight sparks of jealousy flaring from their imagined rekindling of old flames. As Adam and Eve get caught up on their lives, their partners strike up a deep friendship—and flirt with an unexpected attraction—of their own.

Year after year, Adam, Eliza, Eve, and Carl look forward to their reunion at Wild Dunes, a condominium complex at the island’s tip end, where they grow closer with each passing day, building a friendship that will withstand financial catastrophe, family tragedy, and devastating heartbreak. The devotion and love they share will help them weather the vagaries of time and enrich their lives as circumstances change, their children grow up and leave home, and their twilight years approach.

Full of the richness of Dorothea Benton Frank’s appealing Lowcountry—the sunshine, cool ocean breezes, icy cocktails, and velvet skies—Same Beach, Next Year is a celebration of the infrangible power of friendship, the enduring promise of summer, and the indelible bonds of love.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins * Amazon * Barnes & Noble * IndieBound

Audience: Readers who enjoy Luanne Rice, Nancy Thayer, Mary Kay Andrews, and Barbara Delinsky will like this book, made for summer or beach reading.
Interior of Saint Spyridon, Corfu
My Impressions: Dorothea Benton Frank is a New York Times bestselling author and has a big following but I had not read her myself until her recent All Summer Long.  I liked this book much more.  The author’s descriptions of food were especially enticing!  It has the appealing Lowcountry setting (how did I spend two years at Duke without exploring this part of the world?) and a character-driven feel-good story that makes you want to know what happens next.  The pace was perhaps a little too relaxing and lulled the reader into thinking little was happening, which is not the case, but I think the author was trying to show the passage of time as she follows two couples and their families for 20 years.

The most moving moment of the story occurs when Eliza visits Corfu, a place I have always found fascinating (maybe it's time to plan my next trip - no, I need to unpack from England first).  After her mother died when Eliza was 11, she lost touch with that side of her family and I found myself almost tearful when she is reunited with her mother’s sister. Eliza also visits the shrine of Saint Spyridon in a 16th century church in Corfu which reminded me of one of my favorite Mary Stewarts, This Rough Magic.   Her heroine, Lucy Waring, is staying with her sister on Corfu and also is affected by Saint Spyridon.  Stewart wrote:


The Holy Reliquary of Saint Spyridon, Corfu
"Palm Sunday . . . is one of the four occasions in the year when the island Saint, Spiridion, is brought out of the church where he lies the year round in a dim shrine all smoky with taperlight, and is carried through the streets in his golden palanquin.  It is not an image of the Saint, but his actual mummified body, which is carried in the procession, and this, somehow, makes him a very personal and homely kind of patron saint to have: the islanders believe he has Corfu and all its people in his personal and benevolent care, and has nothing to do but concern himself deeply in all their affairs, however trivial…”

When Eliza touches the Saint’s foot, she feels a sense of benediction (well, she is not religious so compares it to LSD), showing Saint Spyridon is still a powerful presence both in Corfu and closer to home.  Interestingly, there are two Greek Orthodox churches named for St. Spyridon near me, a cathedral in Worcester, MA and one in Newport, RI.  
Source: I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and TLC Book Tours for review purposes. You can visit other stops on the tour and read the reviews by clicking below:

Review Stops
Tuesday, April 24th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Wednesday, April 25th: The Book Date
Thursday, April 26th: The Geeky Bibliophile
Friday, April 27th: Books and Bindings
Monday, April 30th: Instagram: @prose_and_palate
Tuesday, May 1st: Instagram: @booeneticsThursday, May 3rd: Time 2 Read
Monday, May 7th: Wining Wife
Tuesday, May 8: Jessicamap Reviews
Wednesday, May 9th: Bibliotica
Thursday, May 10th: A Bookish Affair
Monday, May 14th: bookchickdi
Tuesday, May 15th: Instagram: @Novelmombooks
Wednesday, May 16th: Broken Teepee
Thursday, May 17th: Always With a Book