Posts Tagged Viking

book review: Leaving Lucy Pear

llucy pear

Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon. Viking| July 2016| 319 pages | $26.00| ISBN: 9781594632655

 RATING: *****/5*

An engrossing and gorgeous work of historical fiction, this novel effectively weaves together issues of class, feminism, wealth, power, mental illness and motherhood. The setting: Cape Ann, Massachusetts, a working class fishing community as well as a lovely coastal summer getaway for Boston’s wealthy. In 1917, the unwed teenage daughter of a wealthy family abandons her newborn daughter under a pear tree outside her uncle’s estate on Cape Ann. A decade later, Beatrice finds herself  unexpectedly reunited with the Irish woman raising the determined and spunky Lucy Pear. Emma Murphy presents a business proposal to the local quarry owner and mayoral candidate, Josiah Story, and soon the mother of nine and wife to an alcoholic fisherman finds herself involved in an affair with this wealthy man. He sets her up with a job helping Beatrice take care of her elderly uncle. Beatrice is an activist but also dealing with mental illness. She married a gay man and chooses to spend the majority of her time with her uncle on Cape Ann instead of with her husband in Boston. Author Anna Solomon writes: “She lived with her uncle instead of her husband. She didn’t play piano. She hadn’t lasted a semester at college. She had abandoned her baby! She had failed to recover.” In many ways I could relate to Beatrice and this made for compelling reading. Solomon created characters with depth and fallibility– characters in which many readers should find commonality. Lucy decides to get work alongside her brothers at the quarry by dressing as a boy. She’s determined to raise enough money to escape her abusive adopted father and move to Canada where her older brother lives. With her dark curly hair, Lucy realizes she’s different than her siblings. Solomon writes: “Emma wondered if Lucy was dumb because then keeping Lucy could pass for a kind of selflessness. But Lucy turned out not to be at all dumb, only even-tempered and kind. She had the steady energy of a woman by the time she was eight, along with a boy’s knack for physical work, for pieces and parts and how they fit together, how things worked.” A native of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, Solomon effectively creates a distinctive sense of place. Leaving Lucy Pear is an outstanding novel.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Viking.

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book review: Jonathan Unleashed

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Jonathan Unleashed by Meg Rosoff. Viking| July 2016| 275 pages | $25.00| ISBN: 9781101980903

RATING: 3.5/5*

There’s an absurdist quality to this novel about a millennial taking care of his brother’s dogs and growing attached to them. Jonathan loses interest in his job and his fiancée, which he may never have been terribly attached to in the first place. Author Meg Rosoff finds much to say about ambling about mindlessly and figuring out one’s sense of place. She also adeptly and amusingly describes both millennials and hipsters. What I couldn’t bear was that the titular character Jonathan allowed things to happen around him and as a result to him without particularly caring. Excellent writing but not the best story I kept reading for the turns of phrase and superb vocabulary like “He never once mentioned the Byzantine quality of his dogs’ inner lives, the practical and spiritual difficulties of caring for other sentient beings..” also: “Once he took her out to lunch and tried to explain the ties that writers had with pens, how writing with a gel pen felt like slipping around in mud or transferring lines straight from brain to page, while a ballpoint indicated a frugal no-frills personality, someone you’d barely want to know.” Definitely worth reading for the high-quality writing.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Viking.

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book review: Dear Daughter

dear daughter

Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little. Publisher: Viking. Mystery/Thriller. Hardcover. 364 pages.

“Fortunately, I had some experience with this particular species. For the first fifteen years of my life I had been shuffled from tutor to tutor, learning all the things my mother thought ladies (or bastard children of petty nobility) should know—which as far as I can tell were gleaned directly from an Edith Wharton novel. I studied etiquette, music, antique furniture, napkin folding. I can spot a fake Picasso at a thousand paces; I dance the gavotte; I’m adept with a lemon fork, a butter pick, and a piccalilli spoon.”

When we meet Janie Jenkins she’s just out of prison after serving a decade for matricide. Did she do it? Apparently teenage Janie created quite the name for herself in Los Angeles where she moved with her mother after living in Switzerland. One of those famous for no real reason but being pretty and partying– celebrities like Nicole Ritchie [okay famous dad] or the Kardashians. Now she’s on the run from the paparazzi and determined to find out who killed her mom. She and her mom were not even close. She often vehemently disliked her mother. They disagreed on everything and constantly fought. Janie was not daughter-of-the-year framed for murder. It seems she could have killed her high-society wealthy mother.

“Any similarities between me and my mother had always been conspicuously absent. I’m blowsy blond, fox-faced, built like a ballerina but lacking the grace. My mother, on the other hand, looked like Marilyn Monroe—but carried herself like Grace Kelly. I wasn’t just the apple that had fallen far from the tree. I was the apple that had been eaten up by worms, too.”

A smart debut from Harvard graduate Elizabeth Little. The story’s told from Janie’s perspective. She may have once been the carefree party girl but now she’s battling for her reputation and a chance to redefine herself. Janie is cynical and savvy. In prison she spent tons of time in the library researching connections to her mother and the murder. She found a promising lead and heads to an isolated town in South Dakota to probe the details. There she meets a bizarre cast of characters. Little writes with dark humor and intrigue. She includes flashbacks to the murder and Janie’s life before prison interspersed with text messages between Janie and her lawyer as well as news from various gossip sites. Lots of twists. Salacious and intriguing details on both Janie and her mom and their damaged, treacherous relationship. The ending is a bit far-fetched for my liking but Dear Daughter is a solid thriller which grabs your attention from page one. Definitely one to pick up for a weekend or getaway read.

RATING: ****/5

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Viking.

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