Recap of our Block Book Club May 2015 meeting
Good books for your week-end!
Recap of the titles we shared [synopsis from Goodreads.com].
The Anatomy Lesson, by Nina Siegal (2014)
presented by P.
Set on a single day in the Dutch Golden Age, this engrossing historical novel brilliantly imagines the complex story behind one of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings
Commissioned by the Amsterdam surgeon’s guild, “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” was the first major work by Rembrandt to be proclaimed a masterpiece. The novel opens on the morning of the medical dissection, and, as they prepare for that evening’s big event, it follows several characters: a one-handed coat thief called Aris the Kid, who is awaiting his turn at the gallows; Flora, the woman pregnant with his child who hopes to save him from the noose; Jan Fetchet, a curio collector who also moonlights as an acquirer of medical cadavers; René Descartes, who attended the dissection in the course of his quest to understand where the human soul resides; and the 26-year old young master himself, who feels a shade uneasy about his assignment. Then there’s Pia, an art restorer who is examining the painting in contemporary times. As the story builds to its dramatic and inevitable conclusion, the events that transpire throughout the day sway Rembrandt to change his initial composition in a fundamental way. Bringing to life the vivid world of Amsterdam in 1632, The Anatomy Lesson offers a rich slice of history and a textured story by a masterful young writer.
Camille (Camille Verhœven series #3) , by Pierre Lemaitre (May 2015)
presented by P. and J. (they also talked about Irène and Alex, presented earlier)
In the highly acclaimed and award-winning novels Alex and Irene Pierre Lemaitre created a memorable character, Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven, who will seek justice at any cost. Now, in Camille, Verhoeven faces his most harrowing case yet, and the ultimate reckoning for the diminutive yet tenacious protagonist.
Camille–whose wife Irene was murdered by a sadistic serial killer–has at last opened his emotional lockbox for Anne Forestier, the new woman who has unexpectedly entered his life. But brutal history seems to repeat itself as Anne is violently attacked one day in what seems like a random instance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. As she recovers, Camille begins the investigation while keeping his relationship with Anne secret from his superiors.
When it becomes clear that whoever assaulted Anne is determined to finish the job, Camille hides her in his country home. But in spite of his perfect covering of their trail, the mysterious antagonist finds them. Though the attack fails, Camille starts to wonder if there is more to the situation than meets the eye–as there is no way they could have been followed or discovered without some leak of information.
Defying his superiors, Camille dives into the new, deeply personal investigation with all the fervor he can muster, uncovering increasingly shocking connections between Anne, the attackers, his trusted colleagues, his Irene’s murderer, and himself.
In Camille, Pierre Lemaitre expertly guides many narrative threads towards a white-knuckle conclusion that will leave fans of this unforgettable series thoroughly thrilled and satisfied.
Finger Lickin’ Fifteen (Stephanie Plum #15), by Janet Evanovich (2009)
presented by S.
Unbuckle your belt and pull up a chair. It’s the spiciest, sauciest, most rib-sticking Plum yet.
Receipe for disaster: Celebrity chef Stanley Chipolte comes to Trenton in a barbecue cookoff and loses his head – literally.
Throw in some spice: Bail bonds office worker Lula is witness to the crime, and the only one she’ll talk to is Trenton cop Joe Morelli.
Pump up the heat: Chipotle’s sponsor is offering a million-dollar reward to anyone who can provide information leading to the capture of the killers.
Stir the pot: Lula recruits bounty hunter Stephanie Plum to help find he killer and collect the moolah.
Add a secret ingredient: Stephanie Plum’s Grandma Mazur. Enough said.
Bring to a boil: Stephanie Plum is working overtime tracking felons for the bonds office at night and snooping for security expert Carlos Manoso, aka Ranger, during the day. Can Stephanie hunt down two killers, a traitor, and five skips, keep her grandmother out of the sauce, and solve Ranger’s problems and not jump his bones?
Warning: Habenero hot. So good you’ll want seconds.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson (2010)
presented by J.
In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.
Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.
Dante’s Inferno; Adapted by Marcus Sanders, by Marcus Sanders, Sandow Birk, Dante Alighieri (2013)
presented by R.
An extraordinary new verse translation of Dante’s masterpiece, by poet, scholar, and lauded translator Anthony Esolen
Of the great poets, Dante is one of the most elusive and therefore one of the most difficult to adequately render into English verse. In the Inferno, Dante not only judges sin but strives to understand it so that the reader can as well. With this major new translation, Anthony Esolen has succeeded brilliantly in marrying sense with sound, poetry with meaning, capturing both the poem’s line-by-line vigor and its allegorically and philosophically exacting structure, yielding an Inferno that will be as popular with general readers as with teachers and students. For, as Dante insists, without a trace of sentimentality or intellectual compromise, even Hell is a work of divine art.
Esolen also provides a critical Introduction and endnotes, plus appendices containing Dante’s most important sources—from Virgil to Saint Thomas Aquinas and other Catholic theologians—that deftly illuminate the religious universe the poet inhabited.
The French Sultana (The Veil and the Crown, #2), by Zia Wesley
presented by me
“Following a short period of drunken and confused deliberation about how to best eliminate the new favorite, Nuket Seza settled upon the plan she always chose. She would poison the girl’s food”.
Thus begins Zia Wesley’s newest novel, The French Sultana, a steamy continuation of the life and travails of Aimée Dubucq de Rivery, the innocent young convent girl abducted by corsairs and given to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and her cousin Rose, unknowingly destined to become Empress of France.
Really this synopsis does not give justice to the book. I highly recommend you read my own review