Monday, March 21, 2011

4 Books in 4 Days

I took a day off last week with plans to start my garden seeds indoors on the windowsill, but instead I got some kind of virus which ko'd me for 5 days. I read every book I had checked out of the library plus a paperback from my emergency paperback pile:
Herewith, very brief summaries of books for waiting out a stomach virus, with links to longer reviews:
The Postmistress, a novel by Sarah Blake. The hype on this book, it was being compared to The Help and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which I liked, made me eager to read it. This story of a radio war correspondent during the London Blitz intertwined with the story of a small town on Cape Cod before the U.S. joined the war passed the time pleasantly. I would not rate it as highly as The Help and Guernsey, but it would make a pretty good book club pick because of its "discussable" qualities. Read the NYT's somewhat negative and snarky review here

Sherlock Holmes and the Shakespeare Letter by Barry Grant. The premise here is that Holmes had been frozen since his early 20th century demise and then defrosted and reconstituted in present day. Holmes's new Watson is journalist Wilson and Inspector LeStrade's grandson is his contact at Scotland Yard. I recommend this for all Sherlock fans and liked it much more than this reviewer from the Cleveland Plain Dealer did.

Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt. I had started this book before I got sick and set it aside, but being desparate, as only the thought of endless daytime television can make you, I picked it up again. The premise, or conceit, here is that what Winston Churchill referred to as the 'black dog' of depression that plagued him all his life, is in fact a real dog. So real that he answers an ad that a House of Commons librarian puts in the paper to rent out her spare room. "Black Pat" the dog takes the room and so the lives of the librarian and Winston Churchill who lives nearby are interwoven. I found the idea of depression as a big, drooly, clumsy, insistently intrusive dog disturbing but effective. I'm glad I finished this short, first novel and it piqued my interest in reading more about Churchill. Don't wait to get sick to read this one. I liked this review from the Telegraph, partly because it uses the word "twee" which is not alowed on this side of the pond.
That brought me to the bottom of my library pile, so I turned to my emergency back-up pile of paperbacks and found The Ghost by Robert Harris. "Ghost" refers to a professional ghostwriter who is chosen to write the memoirs of a recent British Prime Minister who is retired and living on Martha's Vinyard while lecturing all over the U.S. where he is much more popular for his support of the previous U.S. president and the Iraq war than he is at home. I assume the P.M. is mostly Tony Blair, but have not read the reviews yet. This book was one of those un-put-downable bestsellers, perfect for airplanes, beaches and, yes, being sick in bed. Here is a brief NPR interview with the author. For some reason while reading the Ghost, knowing the P.M. was Tony Blair, I kept picturing Gordon Brown, because the physical description seemed to fit him better. In either case, is it just me, or do British politicians seem smarter to Americans than to their compatriots if only because of their accents and their sense of humor?

So then, I was getting tired of reading and finding it hard to choose what to read next from my sludge pile, so I read one chapter of Moby Dick and skimmed Mutant Message Down Under, but I'll save that for another day along with a list of library DVD's that are good for sick, or well, people.

image of  B.R.A.T. diet foods from N.I.H.

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