Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler

Thanks to Stieg Larsson, Swedish fiction is enjoying huge popularity. His Millenium Trilogy became some of the past decade’s best-loved and most-read fiction. Some of Larsson’s many fans are enjoying Lars Keplar’s new book, The Hypnotist.

In the book, Detective Inspector Joona Linna investigates a triple homicide. It seems that it is only a matter of time before the eldest daughter of the murdered family will be killed as well. The lone witness to the crime is a small boy who survived the brutal attack, but is in no condition to answer questions. The detective is desparate and enlists the help of a hypnotist who in turn hypnotizes the child. This unleashes a terrifying series of events that puts an entirely different group of people in danger, including his own son. The twists and turns of the plot will keep the reader up until late into the night.

This novel, currently on the bestseller lists, is one example of the growing popularity of, and the demand for, Scandinavian fiction. There are many more coming in the near future, and hopefully fiction readers will discover a new author within this growing genre.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

A recommended summer read is Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. The novel is well written, fast paced, and speaks of issues shared by many women around the world.
At the centre of the story is a baby, born to Kavita, whom she secretly gives up for adoption in order to save the baby’s life. In her culture only male children were kept and girl babies were murdered by their male family members. It was thought that a son would support his parents, and girls were just more mouths to feed. On the other side of the world is Sommer, forced to come to grips with infertility. Her husband is from Mumbai, India, and he is in favor of adopting one of the abandoned girl babies. Sommer reluctantly agrees and it doesn’t take long for the daughter they adopt to become the centre of their lives.
The narrative alternates between the two women – one enjoying a life of privilege, the other of poverty. When the daughter becomes an adult she returns to India.
The descriptions of the beautiful silk saris, tastes of spicy exotic foods, and the smell of the despair of the slums, jump off the page of this novel. Several copies are available at the library.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The movie, The Help has just opened in theatres. As is often the case, the movie is based on a bestselling novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett.

Eugenia, “Skeeter” Phelan has just returned home after graduating. She is bored with the “country club” of “white” Jackson, Mississippi and longs to be a writer. Encouraged by a New York editor to “write about what she knows”, she decides to write a book about the experiences of “the help”. It is the early 60s and the mainly black servants have much to tell – if Skeeter can persuade them to talk. Jobs are not that easy to find in Jackson, Mississippi, especially if you’re black. They meet secretly and we learn a great deal about what life was like. Black servants were trusted to raise the white children but, in some cases, were not allowed to use the same bathroom as their white employers. Eventually, the book is published and causes upheaval in white society.

One comment I’ve heard is that the book delves much deeper into the gritty details of life in the south than the movie does. The library owns several copies of The Help, so reserve one today.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Imagine, if you will, being told, that, just because you were born female you could only appear in public completely covered and only when accompanied by a male family member. You could not attend school, and you are not allowed to work outside the home. This is exactly what happened to Kamila Sidiqi when the Taliban seized control of the city of Kabul. After her father and her brother were forced to flee, Kamila is faced with the problem of how to look after her five siblings. Determined to keep her family safe and together Kamila begins a dressmaking business in her own home.
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, tells the incredible story of how Kamila and her sisters manage to create a thriving business that not only provides for her family but the whole community as well. All of this takes place within the stringent, barbaric rules of the Taliban.
The author, a former ABC news reporter, takes us to an Afghanistan we have never seen before. It is a story of war, but, it is also a story of sisterhood and incredible courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

What do authors James Feminore Cooper, and Mark Twain; artist and inventor, Samuel Morse; medical student Oliver Wendell Holmes; Elizabeth Blackwell, America’s first female doctor; pianist Louis Moreau Gottshalk all have in common? The answer can be found in a new bestseller by David McCullough, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. These and a great many more now famous Americans travelled to Paris, The city of Light between 1830 and 1900.

It was in Paris, that Samuel Morse first thought about the telegraph. Paris was considered the medical capital of the world, and Oliver Wendell Holmes and Elizabeth Blackwell were to use what they had learned to change the practice of medicine in the United States. Charles Sumner enrolled at the Sorbonne where he saw black students learning alongside whites and he would return home to become one of America’s most powerful voices for the abolition of slavery. This book is filled with one inspiring story after another.

A staggering amount of research has gone into this book. McCullough’s description of nineteenth century Paris provides the background for each American’s story. In this book he tries to discern what it was about Paris in the 19th century that made the Americans want to travel there. McCullough writes, “Not all pioneers went west”. The Americans used their experiences in Paris to change the course of American and world history.