Hope you have a frosty bev’g nearby because you’ll want to settle in to read this — my raves about the books that have me on a summer-story spree! Oh and hey: call us to RSVP for our Champagne & Maple Leaves book review bash on September 16th, 11:00 a.m. — we’ll be making a really fun announcement …
I hope you too are finding spaces in your calendars to READ – between weddings, get-aways, kids and grands underfoot, plus all the other summer (cooking, gardening) things you love to do. Those of you who’ve known me a good long while know that my inclement weather-loving self (sweaters! fireplaces!) struggles with summer because as a child my dear mother, along with all the neighbor mothers in the 1970’s, um … strongly urged us kids outside whenever the weather was anything but a tornado. Meaning that most days I was shooed outside and away from my favorite reading corner; meaning that now I have a rather dread-full relationship with warm weather. Add to this fact that the phrase I remember most from those warm sunny days is “that didn’t hurt,” uttered to stop little me from running home crying and telling tales as I tried to keep up with the older kids in sports and outdoor shenanigans. Like trying to jump straight off the neighbor’s trampoline into their pool. Where were our parents, anyway??
40 years on, I face a lovely summer day much conflicted— cozy reading nook or outdoor adventure? I often compromise and bring my book outside to my patio, and nowadays I don’t have to scramble to tie my shoes to avoid getting left behind by the gang — what bliss! Of late, my sunshiney read is “The Improbability of Love” by Hannah Rothschild, and boy has it captured my fancy. Rothschild shines as she introduces us to an ensemble of well-drawn characters, their stories threaded together because of a very valuable piece of art that has gone lost for 300 years. Annie McDee finds the dusty-dark and smudgy painting in a secondhand shop and adventure ensues. She’s a chef (huzzah – great food described) but she’s recovering from a broken relationship and now her damaged but supportive mother has moved in with her. Mom “has a feeling” about Annie’s painting — it reminds her of those in a collection at a nearby museum, so the two head over and meet a pretty cute employee named Jesse. He’s from an art-expert family, and he’s interested in sleuthing the painting. Naturally, there are others – lots – who are very interested in getting their hands on it. It’s a divine summer read: page-turning plot packed with accessible art history, adventure that is too intelligent to devolve into silly caper + whimsy/romance. A great escape from the latest nonfiction newspaper headlines that can bring me down if I let them.
The winner for the year’s most gorgeous cover, “The Keeper of Lost Things” by Ruth Hogan is also a winning fairy tale of a book. It’s about Anthony Peardew, a celebrated but lonely British author who has spent a lifetime collecting and cataloging little things left behind by others, hoping somehow to reunite them with their owners. The aging Peardew imagines terrific tales about the objects - writing for example the rest of the story behind a particular jigsaw puzzle piece he’s found, or a lime-green plastic flower-shaped hair bobble. Peardew advertises for a secretary/housekeeper for his Victorian mansion (Hogan really shines when describing surroundings) and our hero, Laura, needs the job quite a bit while she soothes herself after a rotten divorce. Peardew’s enchanting home —restful and lovely — is like balm for her soul and Laura is shocked when he dies and leaves it and everything to her, insisting only that she try to find the owners of his precious lost things. This is just the job she needs to rejoin life and with the help of a (yes) peevish ghost, a girl named Sunshine with Down Syndrome and seemingly mystical powers, and Freddy, the (yes) handsome gardener, she sets about her task. Laura’s story is interwoven with that of the equally charming Eunice, another British assistant who lived 40 years prior. This is good old-fashioned storytelling and besides — it will look great in your beach bag or on your hammock.
I’ve spoken before about my addiction to Audible books; I love how I can have my stories read to me while I drive about or walk in the woods behind my house. When my mind is futsy and thoughts are popcorning about, nothing compares to popping in my earbuds and letting a tale take over. Listening to “The Heirs” by Susan Rieger this week felt like sitting across from a new friend telling me the story of her life and family, and this friend is really good at telling stories -- complete with well-remembered places and deep conversations between people. See, Eleanor Falkes is New York family-wealthy, elegant, composed and generous and she marries British orphan Rupert who has made very very good in his adopted America. They have five sons and this is their story. While money is never a concern, it does not take center stage — at center is Rupert and his childhood and then Eleanor and hers and then their lives together and then their life with their boys. It’s just so dang interesting! They are a loyal clan, drawn even closer together when a claim is made by an unknown woman that her two sons are Rupert’s heirs as well. Yes, this is a perfect poolside read, but one that is deliciously witty and intelligent. Loved this one!
“Daddy-Long-Legs” by Jean Webster is often called “one of the great novels of American girlhood” and boy does it deserve that praise. Written in 1912, it begs to be made into a movie — oh wait it was, but there is NO WAY Fred Astaire was a good casting choice to play DLL. Let me explain: our hero, Judy Abbott, is an irreverent and irrepressible 18 year-old just about to be cast out of the orphanage she’s lived in. A wealthy trustee she’s only glimpsed but that she knows is tall with very long legs — decides to bestow upon her a college scholarship as she has shown great promise as a writer and has captured his attention with her strong-minded sass. Making him her only family. The only condition is that she write regularly to him, and so Webster tells this wonderful (and thoroughly modern, even feminist, in many ways) tale through Judy’s witty and spirited letters to her benefactor. Through her writing, we watch Judy grow into a remarkable woman over her four years at college. Here is a favorite of mine from one of her early letters to DLL:
P.S. I know I’m not to expect any letters in return, but tell me, Daddy, are you awfully old or just a little old? ARE YOU BALD? (Is your) mouth a straight line with a tendency to turn down at the corners? Oh, you see, I know! You’re a snappy old thing with a temper.
Indeed he is not so very old, or bald, making Fred Astaire a terrible choice for Leslie Caron in the 1955 movie “Daddy-Long-Legs.” I am thinking Orlando Bloom (picture a young David Niven). Read it and let me know who should be cast in the 2017 movie. This is a treasure of a book — maybe even one to read alongside your daughter or granddaughter.
Hope you come in and pick up these reads — and RSVP for our Champagne & Maple Leaves bash! Call the store today, (630)765-7455!