Posts Tagged ‘Families – Fiction’

Book to TV – Flowers in the Attic

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

V. C. Andrews’ 1979 novel, Flowers in the Attic (Find this book in our catalog) has been adapted as a Lifetime movie, to air on January 18. Ellen Burstyn is cast in the role of the evil matriarch.

Click here for trailers.

Here’s what it says about the book in our catalog:


“The four Dollanganger children had such perfect lives — a beautiful mother, a doting father, a lovely home. Then Daddy was killed in a car accident, and Momma could no longer support the family. So she began writing letters to her parents, her millionaire parents, whom the children had never heard of before.

Momma tells the children all about their rich grandparents, and how Chris and Cathy and the twins will live like princes and princesses in their grandparents’ fancy mansion. The children are only too delighted by the prospect. But there are a few things that Momma hasn’t told them.

She hasn’t told them that their grandmother considers them “devil’s spawn” who should never have been born. She hasn’t told them that she has to hide them from their grandfather if she wants to inherit his fortune. She hasn’t told them that they are to be locked away in an abandoned wing of the house with only the dark, airless attic to play in. But, Momma promises, it’s only for a few days….

Then the days stretch into months, and the months into years. Desperately isolated, terrified of their grandmother, and increasingly convinced that their mother no longer cares about them, Chris and Cathy become all things to the twins and to each other. They cling to their love as their only hope, their only strength — a love that is almost stronger than death.” (Simon and Schuster)


Longbourn : a novel by Jo Baker

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Longbourn: a novel by Jo Baker (Find in our catalog).  “If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.”  Thus thinks the housemaid at Longbourn to herself as she watches Miss Elizabeth Bennet set off on her muddy walk across the park to Netherfield.  This delightful and absorbing story is much more than a clever twist on the classic, Pride and Prejudice; it is, according to its editor,  “a beautiful, fully realized work of fiction that casts its spell on its own terms.”  The new novel gives back to Jane Austin fans beloved figures such as Elizabeth and Jane and Mr, Darcy, and also delightfully echoes Pride and Prejudice with well-remembered Austin epigrams.  The plot of Pride and Prejudice runs all the while in the background; however, Longbourn is an entirely new story.

Longbourn takes us into the gritty particulars of the life faced by the lower classes in Regency England, particularly the people in domestic service.  Sarah, the housemaid is our heroine.  She is just out of her teens and increasingly restless.  She feels the injustices of her position keenly and longs to escape by travelling off into the world.  The rest of the domestic help is made up of the cook-housekeeper, Mrs. Hill and her husband, the butler.  There is a maid of all work, Polly, who is a mere child hired from the poorhouse.  Into their settled life of drudgery comes James, a mysteriously reticent footman.  Just as the coming of the Militia to the town raises longings in the breasts of the young ladies of the house, so the coming of James to below-stairs raises complex and secret emotions, not only in Sarah but all the staff.  We see that the lives of the staff are dramatically different from their masters’, and yet the aspirations of  masters and servants remain the same.  It’s when the two worlds cross one into the other that life gets messy.

This is not merely a pastiche of Austen.  The characters are new, genuine and engaging, the the observation is true, the setting absorbing.  The reader plunges in to the book - almost literally into a boiling copper of lye soap suds for the Monday wash-day.  We come to know very quickly what a life of drudgery it is to be a maid, as Sarah’s chilblains crack under the assault of the scalding water and the cold pump handle.  And yet we see that even in these circumstances humanity wins through: in the kitchen there is laughter to be had, and love.


Juliet by Anne Fortier

Friday, May 13th, 2011

The Abingdon Library Book Group read Juliet for their May meeting.  Anne Fortier takes a new look at the story of Romeo & Juliet in this delightful novel. The lives of twin sisters Julie & Janice change when their aunt dies. Orphaned at a young age they were rescued by their aunt who brought them from Italy to their new home in America. They know little of their Italian roots. Julie decides to travel to Siena to find out what happened to her parents & to discover a treasure that her mother may have left her. Once in Siena Julie unearths secrets & conspiracies, & a family curse. Her story connects to that of the “real” Juliet set in 1340, & the narrative passes between the historic & current periods. Shakespeare’s story is ever present, yet Fortier sets the historical action in Siena (as does a version by Mascuccio Salernitano prior to Shakespeare) rather than Verona. Her descriptions of the city make it glow. The pace speeds up towards a tense conclusion involving armed baddies, danger and romance. As might be expected there are many coincidences, but don’t let these put you off reading this very entertaining book.

Read more about author Anne Fortier at her website

Book Groups find reading group questions on Oprah’s website

2010 Midwest Booksellers’ Choice Awards

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

The winners of the 2010 Midwest Booksellers’ Choice Awards, sponsored by the Midwest Booksellers Association and chosen by member bookstores, are (books for adults):

  Fiction: A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore (Find this book in our catalog)

“Moore turns her eye on the anxiety and disconnection of post-9/11 America, on the insidiousness of racism, the blind-sidedness of war, and the recklessness thrust on others in the name of love. As the United States begins gearing up for war in the Middle East, twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin, the Midwestern daughter of a gentleman hill farmer, whose “Keltjin potatoes” are justifiably famous, has come to a university town as a college student, her brain on fire with Chaucer, Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir. Between semesters, she takes a job as a part-time nanny. The family she works for seems both mysterious and glamorous to her, and although Tassie had once found children boring, she comes to care for, and to protect, their newly adopted little girl as her own. As the year unfolds and she is drawn deeper into each of these lives, her own life back home becomes ever more alien to her: her parents are frailer; her brother, aimless and lost in high school, contemplates joining the military. Tassie finds herself becoming more and more the stranger she felt herself to be, and as life and love unravel dramatically, even shockingly, she is forever changed.” (from our catalog notes)

  Nonfiction: The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women & a Forty-Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow (Find this book in our catalog)

“Meet the Ames Girls: eleven childhood friends who formed a special bond growing up in Ames, Iowa. As young women, they moved to eight different states, yet managed to maintain an enduring friendship that would carry them through college and careers, marriage and motherhood, dating and divorce, a child’s illness and the mysterious death of one member of their group. Capturing their remarkable story, The Girls from Amesis a testament to the deep bonds of women as they experience life’s joys and challenges — and the power of friendship to triumph over heartbreak and unexpected tragedy. The girls, now in their forties, have a lifetime of memories in common, some evocative of their generation and some that will resonate with any woman who has ever had a friend. Photograph by photograph, recollection by recollection, occasionally with tears and often with great laughter, their sweeping and moving story is shared by Jeffrey Zaslow, Wall Street Journalcolumnist, as he attempts to define the matchless bonds of female friendship. It demonstrates how close female relationships can shape every aspect of women’s lives – their sense of themselves, their choice of men, their need for validation, their relationships with their mothers, their dreams for their daughters – and reveals how such friendships thrive, rewarding those who have committed to them. The Girls from Amesis the story of a group of ordinary women who built an extraordinary friendship. With both universal insights and deeply personal moments, it is a book that every woman will relate to and be inspired by.” (from our catalog notes)

McFaul Center Book Group found Lace Reader too convoluted

Friday, April 24th, 2009

The McFaul Center book group read The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry (Find this book in our catalog) for the month of April. This is what the group facilitator reported about their discussion:

“Not many of us liked it and several didn’t even finish it. Just as lace can do, I found that the book completely unraveled at the end and left loose threads that made me feel that it wasn’t worth the time that I spent reading it. Instead of being mysterious, I found it convoluted. I have no idea how the author managed a 2 million dollar sale of this book (along with book 2 whatever it may be). All of us were just shaking our head.”

Check the Harford County Public Library catalog entry for this book to see a couple of magazine reviews. Why not check out the book and see what you think?

The Lace Reader: a Novel by Brunonia Barry

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

This morning I am going to be yet another person blogging about this extaordinary book. For a while this was something of an underground success, catching on by word of mouth and hand-selling by booksellers. Actually, Brunonia Barry first published The Lace Reader herself just in the Salem area where she lives. Now, having been published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, it has been lionized in the mainstream media.

I read this book in almost one sitting. The Lace Reader is extraordinarily original: Ms. Barry actually invented a method of fortune-telling by reading pillow lace. First heard of in this book, it is a method that has apparently been adopted already by modern-day witches in Salem, Massachusetts. The story just draws you in. The atmosphere of Salem where the book is set is unforgettable – I’m sure tourism to the area will increase after people have read this book.
The Lace Reader is the story of a youngish woman, Towner Whitney who returns to Salem where we assume she grew up. She spent at least part of the time living with her grandfather’s second wife, named Eva. Much of the details are hazy – we learn that Towner has had to reconstruct many of her memories after a spell in a mental hospital. Towner had left Salem for California after the death of her twin sister Lyndley. We don’t know why, but she says it was the only way she could feel safe. She has only returned because Eva has disappeared. She returns and lets herself into the empty, rambling, and crumbling former sea-captain’s house that belongs to Eva and to her family. The descriptions of the house are so evocative, I felt I was walking through the rooms with Towner. The house and the town and the sea around the rocky shore are as much part of the story as the characters and I loved it!
When Eva’s body is found in the water, for some reason that is not exactly clear in the beginning, Towner is convinced the death has something to do with Cal, a bogus evangeligal preacher and his cult members. We slowly learn more details of Cal’s connection with Towner’s family, including her aunt and her reclusive mother, May, who live on a rocky island in Salem harbor, which is inhabited by wild dogs and accessible only by small boat. There are great descriptions of children’s games and boating there in the summers. Towner is helped in finding out what happened to Eva by Rafferty, a policeman recently arrived in Salem looking for the simple life.
Nothing, however, is simple in this story! Getting to know Rafferty and trying to solve the mystery of Eva’s death provokes Towner into recalling more and more of her past. Among the many layers of the story we learn that the women in Towner’s family can all see into the future by reading patterns in pieces of lace. One of the beauties of the book is the lace-making lore that the reader learns. Towner also has the psychic gift but refuses to acknowledge it. Eventually the patterns in the lace will play an important part in Towner’s search for answers.
It is hard for Towner and the reader to sort reality from dreams, but clearly at some time in the past she suffered severe emotional trauma. Just what that trauma was, and just what the mystery is in her family, you will have to read the book to find out. There are lots of hints along the way. Have fun seeing if your conclusions are right!

Jhumpa Lahiri adds Frank O’Connor Prize to her honor role of awards

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth Find this book in our catalog US$55,055 Frank O’Connor prize for a short story collection, according to the Guardian newspaper on July 5, 2008, which reported that the contest’s jurors chose to dispense with “the ritual of issuing a shortlist” because Lahiri’s work “was so plainly the best book.” Click here to find out about the Frank O’Connor award.

This is what it says about Unaccustomed Earth in our catalog: “From the internationally best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a new work of fiction: eight stories that take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they enter the lives of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers.” “In the title story, Ruma, a young mother in a new city, is visited by her father, who carefully tends the earth of her garden, where he and his grandson form a special bond. But he’s harboring a secret from his daughter, a love affair he’s keeping all to himself. In “A Choice of Accommodations,” a husband’s attempt to turn an old friend’s wedding into a romantic getaway weekend with his wife takes a dark, revealing turn as the party lasts deep into the night. In “Only Goodness,” a sister eager to give her younger brother the perfect childhood she never had is overwhelmed by guilt, anguish, and anger when his alcoholism threatens her family. And in “Hema and Kaushik,” a trio of linked stories – a luminous, intensely compelling elegy of life, death, love, and fate – we follow the lives of a girl and boy who, one winter, share a house in Massachusetts. They travel from innocence to experience on separate, sometimes painful paths, until destiny brings them together again years later in Rome.”

Sons of Fortune by Jeffrey Archer

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

This evening the Joppa Evening Discussion Group will be discussing Sons of Fortune by Jeffrey Archer. Joppa Group, I would love for you to leave a comment on this blog on how your discussion went and what you thought of the book!

Sons of Fortune was published in 2003

Find this book in our catalog.

This is what Publisher’s Weekly 01/13/2003 said about it:
“Veteran novelist and British politician Archer (Kane and Abel) is currently serving a prison sentence for perjury, so readers can perhaps forgive him if this latest effort falls short of his usual standard. The implausibly plotted novel follows fraternal twin boys separated at birth by a bizarre set of circumstances. Nat Cartwright and Fletcher Davenport are born in Hartford, Conn., in the early 1950s. A meddlesome nurse sends them home with different families. Nat is raised in a lower-middle-class household, attends the University of Connecticut, serves heroically in Vietnam and goes into banking. Fletcher, the wealthy Yalie, becomes a lawyer and a politician. The men are repeatedly thrown into competition with each other, whether for admission to college or in their professional lives, their rivalry culminating when they both run for governor of their home state. The characters are too thin, and their respective worlds too littered with cliches, to offer a satisfying portrait of the baby boomer generation. Contrived plot twists offer little distraction, while the dialogue sometimes reads like a set of photo captions-information without emotion. “When you think about it, they are the obvious predator,” says Nat about a takeover threat. “Fairchild’s is the largest bank in the state; seventy-one branches with almost no serious rivals.” Archer is usually a skillful storyteller, but he drops the ball here. Forecast: Archer, who has had to resign from political office three times because of financial and sexual scandals, usually draws reliable sales, but this weak offering may break the mold.”
Conversation Starters:

“Much of Archer’s popularity stems from his skill as a storyteller.”

Would you agree that Archer drops the ball on this one?

Was the story weak? Were you, perhaps, drawn in by the rivalry of the twins, despite what the reviewer said?

“Though plot trumps characterization, Archer has created compelling and memorable characters..”

“Details fill all his novels.”

What do you think of the portrait of the baby boomer generation that Archer draws?

“Complex tales, filled with plot twists galore, fuel his novels.”

Is there an element of inevitability in the story despite the plot twists. Do you think this is deliberate or just weak storytelling?

“…action-packed tales of good versus evil, in which virtue is inevitably rewarded.”

About Jeffrey Archer: Official website, Preview the book

Other books about twins:

Blood Lies by Daniel Kalla Find this book in our catalog.

When drug addict Emily Kenmore is found with her neck slashed in her Seattle condo, Ben Dafoe, a doctor at a local hospital who’s worked as a police consultant, chooses not to tell the cops that he was once secretly engaged to Emily or that he had threatened the unidentified dead man found with her for supplying her habit. The discovery of Dafoe’s rare blood type at the scene of the double homicide prompts him to flee to Canada, in search of his twin brother, Aaron, a chronic drug user who shares the same blood type. Dafoe had believed Aaron had been dead for two years, but now suspects he’s still alive.

Twice Kissed by Lisa Jackson Find this book in our catalog.

The thrilling tale of a woman plunged into a world of scandal and shocking secrets as she searches for her missing twin sister.

Envy, a Novel by Kathryn Harrison Find this book in our catalog.

William Moreland, the 47-year-old New York psychoanalyst at the center of Harrison’s sixth novel, has a family that’s awash in betrayals. Will’s father, a retired veterinarian turned photographer, is having an affair with the owner of his gallery. Will’s brother, Mitchell, a long-distance swimmer with “a name as recognizable as that of, say, Lance Armstrong or Tiger Woods,” is estranged from the family. And ever since Will’s 12-year-old son died three years ago in a boating accident, his wife, Carole, has been emotionally and sexually distant. All these wounds pucker open when Will attends his college reunion and runs into a statuesque ex-girlfriend who left him 25 years ago when she may or may not have been pregnant with his child. That past betrayal becomes entangled with the others in Will’s life and leads to further transgressions and revelations.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

On Tuesday, October 16, 2007, Fallston Branch’s Critics Without Credentials will discuss Jodi Picoult’s fictional tale about a school shooting, called “Nineteen Minutes.”

I don’t want to preempt the group’s discussion by betraying too much about the book here, but I do hope one or two of them leave a comment afterwards about how the discussion went. I am sure it is a very timely book, and one perhaps difficult to read, but very rewarding.

I thought I might list here some suggestions for similar books:

A Theory of Relativity by Jacqueline Mitchard
Readers with a preference for observing how families in turmoil deal with shocking situations will appreciate this novel of grieving grandparents locked in an anguished custody battle for the sole surviving daughter of parents lost in a car accident.

The Buffalo Soldier by Chris Bohjalian
Jodi Picoult writes of hot-button issues as does Chris Bohjalian. This time the issue is the foster care system and mixed-race families. The devastating loss of their twin daughters in a flash flood turns the lives of Terry and Laura Sheldon upside down as their marriage is tested by grief, Terry’s brief love affair, and their growing relationship with their foster child, a ten-year-old African American boy.

While I Was Gone by Sue Miller
Years after a friend was brutally murdered, Jo Becker is now married with a grown family, but when an old housemate moves nearby, Jo rekindles a relationship that takes her back to the past and threatens her future. This book asks the question, “How well do we really know our friends and the ones we care for?”

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
In a series of letters to her estranged husband, narrator Eva Khatchadourian relates the stories of her son’s upbringing and tries to resolve an agonizing question. Two years before the opening of the novel, her son, Kevin, murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and the much-beloved teacher who had tried to befriend him. Eva is tortured by the question of who is to blame.