July took me to London England to teach a drama course. A terrific time was had by all. I can’t go on a plane without having books to keep me company. Also, during down time (!) from seeing 13 plays, I looked forward to relaxing and reading during the london trip, and after. The list below outlines two titles under different categories which summarizes ten books I read in July.
TWO BRITISH NOVELS
THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS by Ruth Hogan
An intriguing title and an intriguing premise. Short story writer, Anthony Peardew (!) has collected lost objects throughout of life, but upon his death he leaves all his belongings to his assistant Laura who has been given the mission to return all the objects to their owners. The narrative flows fairly smoothly even though the story switches back and forth in time, switches from real-life events to incidents with a ghost and is interrupted by short short stories about different objects. I rather enjoyed the book but my engagement wavered with the varying story elements.
THE MUSIC SHOP by Rachel Joyce
After reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (one of my favourite books this past decade), I seek out any writing by this British author. Frank owns a music shop, not just any music shop, but one that is restricted to only vinyl. When Ilse a woman in a pea-green coat faints one day in front of Frank’s store, they mysteries of both character’s pasts gradually unfold. Will they fall (and stay) in love is the big question, but bigger still is the challenge of overcoming odds, staying true to one’s convictions and dealing with life’s adversities and having hope make this a mostly engaging read. Music itself is an important character in this novel. Didn’t love the last quarter of the book (where the novel skips forward to a couple of decades into the future. Good enough book. Not as good as Harold Fry.
INSOMNIAC CITY: New York, Oliver, and Me
This book documents the authors life and observances when he chose to come to New York after grieving over the death of his partner. When he falls in love with Oliver Sachs, writer and neurologist he encounters a deep and endearing relationship with Sachs, who came out at the age of 75. Together the two authors face illness and death when Sachs is diagnosed with cancer. Hayes is honest in his sharing of his love as it unfolds. He pays tribute through photography and words to New York streets, buildings, characters and conversations that certainly make you (me) wanna be a part of it. Beautiful book. I wept.
BIRDS ART LIFE by Kyo Maclear
Kyo Maclear is known to me as a picture book author and illustrator (Spork, ). In this memoir, the author shares her experiences of birdwatching within the environs of Toronto. This memoir is more than respecting and celebrating the world of wings. Maclear shares insights into being a daughter, wife, parent, artist, an urban citizen, and a lover of nature. A philosophical tone permeates and references to history and literature add to the author’s thoughts. Photographs and drawings are interspersed throughout the book. A worthy companion to H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.
TWO SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS
ONCE UPON A PLACE compiled by EOIN COFLER; illus. P.J. Lynch
No, not “Once Upon A Time,” but “Once Upon a Place” in this collection of short stories and poems by 16 Irish writers. A range of stories, mysterious, adventurous, grim, funny each capturing a sense of place (a park, the sea, a garden, a tower, a library). As short story collections go, enjoyed some better than others but I always am intrigued with how the Irish do tell a story quite differently than others (that’s a good thing).
SEEDFOLKS by Paul Fleischman
Fleischman presents thirteen different voices in thirteen different stories in abookcentred on a garden that transforms a neighbourhood. Each of the voices, young and old, convey a sense of what it means to be a member of a community, what it means to be an immigrant (or neighbours of an immigrant) and what it means to have hope to thrive and to belong. Seedfolks will be presented as a play at the New Victory Theatre in New York and I certainly look forward to seeing it.
TWO CHILDREN’S NOVELS
BUBBLE by Stewart Foster
Joe is not allowed outside the London hospital room that he’s been living in since infancy. He longs to let the bubble burst to see the outside world. Will he? Should he? And whatin the world will he choose to experience? The book certainly inspires compassion in the reader, but for this reader I was often perplexed about the adventures Joe chooses to take and the character who is responsible for risking Joe’s life. despite sincere and earnest intentions to be a guiding spirit for they eleven year old boy. Bubble was first published as The Bubble Boy in the United Kingdom.
POTTYMOUTH AND STOOPID by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
From the book jacket: “I can’t give away the whole story, but here’s a hint: it involves a TV show, a funeral, an evil cheerleader, and a couple of delicious McFlurrys.” Patterson and Grabenstein have written a funny book (What again!?) filled with a stew of comical adventures.
THE FERRYMAN by Jez Butterworth
I was fortunate to be able to get a ticket for this ‘hot’ West End Play by Britain’s hot playwright. The play takes place in a farmhouse in Ireland and with 21 characters we are presented with a story cloth woven with regret, revenge, loss, secret love and turmoil during the time of “The Troubles”. Flawless acting top to bottom. Reading the script afterwards offered the opportunity to dig deeper into the rich storytelling of Irish folk.
TWELFTH NIGHT: A Shakespeare Story by Andrew Matthews; illus. Tony Ross
Technically, this isn’t a script but this book in a series by Orchard Classic Books of Shakespeare plays told economically, comically and clearly. I went to a terrific production of the play at The Globe Theatre and enjoyed reading this delightful book on the tube ride back to the hotel. Recommend any title in this series to make Mr. Shakespeare accessible for young people.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME: A memoir by SHERMAN ALEXIE
This title is sure to be on my top ten list of great books for 2017. In this memoir, Sherman Alexie is given a forum to deal with the demons of the complex relationship he had with his mother. The book also is a staggering account – told in pr and poetry formats – of the native writer’s history of belonging to a family, living on a reservation, being a husband, a father, a writer and a Native American.