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Posts tagged 'Relationships'

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

TowlesA Gentleman in Moscow. The setting is 1922 Moscow, and the main character, Count Alexander Rostov, is an “unrepentant aristocrat” sentenced by a Bolshevik Tribunal to a lifetime of house arrest in the Hotel Metropol.  Returning from the trial to the hotel, where he has lived the last four years, the Count finds that his valuable antiques and artwork have been declared “property of the people “ and have vanished from his sight.

The Count is ousted from his luxury suite at the hotel and moved with meager belongings to a 100-square-foot apartment on the low-ceilinged top floor, where he can barely stand up.  Determined to make the most of his circumstances, he sticks to his old routines of dining, barbering, and socializing, all within the confines of the hotel.  A breath of fresh air arrives in the form of 10-year-old Nina, also a “prisoner of the hotel” while her widowed father serves as a diplomat. Nina wears a master key to the hotel on her necklace, and together she and the Count explore the behind-the-scenes workings of the Metropol. A life-long friendship is forged, which will test the Count again and again. Although he clearly remembers being told “Make no mistake – should you ever step foot outside the Metropol again, you will be shot,” when an adult Nina asks a favor of him, it’s hard to say no.

This book has been described as “a masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history.” I would add that it is a good long saga, spanning four decades. The author has done a marvelous job of drawing the characters not only of the Count and Nina, but also of the supporting cast that works in the hotel.

Several subplots are woven in, each serving to forward the story and keep you turning those pages.  If I were going on a trip, and could only take one book, this would be it. Good writing, engaging characters, and some history all in one volume.

Russia  Relationships  Nancy's Picks  Literary Fiction  Historical Fiction  Historical

08/05/16
 

Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend

AmendThe focus of this intriguing novel is relationships, friendship, and survival – what it takes to maintain an enduring relationship and what is required to survive in difficult times and places. 

The book begins when octogenarians Frances Frankowski and Rosalie Mendler are residents ina care facility for seniors in California.Then the novel gives the backstories of their lives. Theygrew up as members of the small Jewish community in Duluth, Minnesota. Together, as teenagers, theyrunaway from home to work and live in Chicago. The pair remainedbest friends throughout their lives in spite of major disagreements, differences in lifestyle, and years in which they were separated. 

During the years she spent apart from Rosalie, and in her late 40’s, Frances meets Ainslie Conway. Ainslie is an intelligence operator, and Frances is a secretary of the Office of Naval Intelligence and11 years older. She becomes his wife so that they may go to the Galapagosas a married couple. Their secret mission, pre-WorldWar II, is as spies.

Enchanted Islands detailstheir relationship and their life on the islands. We read of all they must take with them and all they must do when living on the Galapagos to survive. The unique atmosphere and animals of the islands are a part of the book, although it is more about the relationships of the few people who live there. Survival is more than physical, as we learn of the intricacies of the married relationship of the Conways and the others with whom they interact. 

Relationships  Jewish Fiction  Historical Fiction  Gail's Picks  Friendships  Destination Fiction

05/25/16
 

Fredrik Backman's Britt-Marie Was Here

Backman BMWHHappily, here is the newest book (published May 3, 2016) from Fredrik Backman, author of <i>A Man Called Ove</i>.

The main character, Britt-Marie, was a minor character in Backman’s previous book <i>My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry</i>, and you don’t need to read them in any order. As the book opens, Britt-Marie finds herself at an unexpected turning point in her otherwise orderly and clean life.

When her husband Kent has a heart attack in his young mistress’s bed, Britt-Marie decides it’s time to move on.

She turns to the Swedish social services agency that helps people find work, and secures a temporary job at the community center in the tiny town of Borg. What exactly she is supposed to be doing there is unclear, so, when in doubt, Britt-Marie brings order by cleaning.

Swedish Literature  Relationships  Nancy's Picks  Literary Fiction  Humor  Fiction  European Literature  Drama  Contemporary

05/06/16
 

Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo by Boris Fishman

FishmanIn his latest novel, Fishman (A Replacement Life, 2014), once again delves into the problems inherent in acculturation, and he also examines the relationship of marriage.

Alex and Maya, originally from Belarus and Ukraine, respectively, meet in the States as her visa was about to expire. They marry and settle in New Jersey. Maya’s dream is to open a Russian-themed café; Alex’s goal is to explore new professional realms. Neither partner’s objective is fulfilled. Maya becomes a mammography technician, and Alex works at his father’s business. Alex’s parents loom large in the couple’s life. They abhor the idea of her son and his wife adopting after Maya is unable to become pregnant. To complicate matters further, Max, the child they adopt, comes from the most foreign of places—Montana.

Although he is an easy child, Max starts acting strangely at age 8. He has only one friend, collects and labels different grasses, and communes with deer. The family, all city dwellers, is horrified. Seeking answers to this odd behavior, Maya insists they take a cross-country road trip in search of the boy’s birth parents. As O Magazine’s book editor Dotun Akintoye writes in his review:

The quest to find out what’s wrong with Max is slowly revealed to be Maya’s journey to find out what’s wrong with her—why she can’t shake the feeling of being an outsider, why she feels stultified by the man she loves. Every step Maya takes to obtain answers about Max becomes an act of self-discovery. It is Maya who blooms like a wildflower ‘enlarged by the landscape.’

Travel  Sara's Picks  Relationships  Family Drama  Cross-Country Travel  Contemporary

03/30/16
 

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie

portable veblenWhether you appreciate economist Thorstein Veblen and his thoughts on conspicuous consumption (detailed in The Theory of the Leisure Class), or even if you have never heard of either him or his ideas, The Portable Veblen may be the book for you. 

 

The novel opens with a couple’s engagement. “Veblen Amundsen-Hovda, independent behaviorist, experienced cheerer-upper, and freelance self” becomes engaged to ”Paul Vreeland, MD, FAAN, FANA, FACNS (he loved the growing train following his name, all engines, and no caboose).”  Obviously, the two are very different from one another, but they are very much in love.  Veblen also loves nature and all things natural, and, in particular, a squirrel living in her attic, with whom she communicates.  Paul, who grew up with parents who were good hippies, does not love the squirrel and is trying to trap it.

 

Romance  Relationships  Humor  Gail's Picks  Family  Contemporary

02/19/16
 

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