Recap of our Block Book Club March 2013 meeting
Recap of the titles we shared [synopsis from Goodreads.com].
1) The Russian Revolution,
by Marcel Liebman (1929-1986) (written in French in 1967, published in the US in 1970) 389 p. The French subtitle translates as origins, steps, and meaning of the Bolshevik victory. [presented by P]
I could not find an online synopsis. Paul said this was a bit biased, as it was written by a Communist writer. The author is not Russian, but Belgian. Paul thought that was a good presentation anyway of the 2 different Russian revolutions.
2) Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot
by Bill O’Reilly, Martin Dugard (2012) 325 p. [presented by B]
A riveting historical narrative of the shocking events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the follow-up to mega-bestselling author Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln
More than a million readers have thrilled to Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln, the page-turning work of nonfiction about the shocking assassination that changed the course of American history. Now the anchor of The O’Reilly Factor recounts in gripping detail the brutal murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy—and how a sequence of gunshots on a Dallas afternoon not only killed a beloved president but also sent the nation into the cataclysmic division of the Vietnam War and its culture-changing aftermath.
In January 1961, as the Cold War escalates, John F. Kennedy struggles to contain the growth of Communism while he learns the hardships, solitude, and temptations of what it means to be president of the United States. Along the way he acquires a number of formidable enemies, among them Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and Alan Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In addition, powerful elements of organized crime have begun to talk about targeting the president and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
In the midst of a 1963 campaign trip to Texas, Kennedy is gunned down by an erratic young drifter named Lee Harvey Oswald. The former Marine Corps sharpshooter escapes the scene, only to be caught and shot dead while in police custody.
The events leading up to the most notorious crime of the twentieth century are almost as shocking as the assassination itself. Killing Kennedy chronicles both the heroism and deceit of Camelot, bringing history to life in ways that will profoundly move the reader. This may well be the most talked about book of the year.
by Stephen King (2011) 849 p [presented by M]
If you had the chance to change the course of history, would you? Would the consequences be what you hoped?
Jake Epping 35 teaches high school English in Lisbon Falls, Maine, and cries reading the brain-damaged janitor’s story of childhood Halloween massacre by their drunken father. On his deathbed, pal Al divulges a secret portal to 1958 in his diner back pantry, and enlists Jake to prevent the 11/22/1963 Dallas assassination of American President John F. Kennedy. Under the alias George Amberson, our hero joins the cigarette-hazed full-flavored world of Elvis rock n roll, Negro discrimination, and freeway gas guzzlers without seat belts. Will Jake lurk in impoverished immigrant slums beside troubled loner Lee Harvey Oswald, or share small-town friendliness with beautiful high school librarian Sadie Dunhill, the love of his life?
4) Pearl of China
by Anchee Min (2010) 278 p [presented by P]
It is the end of the nineteenth century and China is riding on the crest of great change, but for nine-year-old Willow, the only child of a destitute family in the small southern town of Chin-kiang, nothing ever seems to change. Until the day she meets Pearl, the eldest daughter of a zealous American missionary. Pearl is head-strong, independent and fiercely intelligent, and will grow up to be Pearl S Buck, the Pulitzer- and Nobel Prize-winning writer and humanitarian activist, but for now all Willow knows is that she has never met anyone like her in all her life. From the start the two are thick as thieves, but when the Boxer Rebellion rocks the nation, Pearl’s family is forced to leave China to flee religious persecution. As the twentieth century unfolds in all its turmoil, through right-wing military coups and Mao’s Red Revolution, through bad marriages and broken dreams, the two girls cling to their lifelong friendship across the sea.In this ambitious and moving new novel, Anchee Min, acclaimed author of Empress Orchid and Red Azalea, brings to life a courageous and passionate woman who loved the country of her childhood and who has been hailed in China as a modern heroine
5) The Painted Girls
by Cathy Marie Buchanan (Jan 2013) 357 p [presented by me]
A gripping novel set in Belle Époque Paris and inspired by the real-life model for Degas’s Little Dancer Aged Fourteen and a notorious criminal trial of the era.
Paris. 1878. Following their father’s sudden death, the van Goethem sisters find their lives upended. Without his wages, and with the small amount their laundress mother earns disappearing into the absinthe bottle, eviction from their lodgings seems imminent. With few options for work, Marie is dispatched to the Paris Opéra, where for a scant seventy francs a month, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work—and the love of a dangerous
young man—as an extra in a stage adaptation of Émile Zola’s naturalist masterpiece L’Assommoir.
Marie throws herself into dance and is soon modelling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her
image will forever be immortalized as Little Dancer
Aged Fourteen. Antoinette, meanwhile, descends
lower and lower in society, and must make the choice between a life of honest labor and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde—that is, unless her love affair derails her completely.
Set at a moment of profound artistic, cultural,
and societal change, The Painted Girls is a tale of two remarkable sisters rendered uniquely vulnerable to the darker impulses of “civilized society.
Please see my review, with links to the art works presented in the book:
6) Justice: Crimes, Trials, and Punishments
by Dominick Dunne (2002) 448 p [presented by R]
For more than two decades, Vanity Fair has published Dominick Dunne’s brilliant, revelatory chronicles of the most famous crimes, trials, and punishments of our time. Here, in one volume, are Dominick Dunne’s mesmerizing tales of justice denied and justice affirmed. Whether writing of Claus von Bülow’s romp through two trials; the Los Angeles media frenzy surrounding O.J. Simpson; the death by fire of multibillionaire banker Edmond Safra; or the Greenwich, Connecticut, murder of Martha Moxley and the indictment—decades later—of Michael Skakel, Dominick Dunne tells it honestly and tells it from his unique perspective. His search for the truth is relentless.
7) The Sense of an Ending
by Julian Barnes (2011) 150 p [presented by J]
Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life.
Now Tony is in middle age. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove
8) Catch Me (Detective D.D. Warren #6)
by Lisa Gardner (2012) 400 pages [presented by J]
In New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner’s latest D.D. Warren thriller, the relentless Boston investigator must solve a coldly calculated murder–before it happens.
In four days, someone is going to kill me . . .
Detective D. D. Warren is hard to surprise. But a lone woman outside D.D.’s latest crime scene shocks her with a remarkable proposition: Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant believes she will be murdered in four days. And she wants Boston’s top detective to handle the death investigation.
It will be up close and personal. No evidence of forced entry, no sign of struggle.
Charlie tells a chilling story: Each year at 8:00 p.m. on January 21st, a woman has died. The victims have been childhood best friends from a small town in New Hampshire; the motive remains unknown. Now only one friend, Charlie, remains to count down her final hours.
But as D.D. quickly learns, Charlie Grant doesn’t plan on going down without a fight. By her own admission, the girl can outshoot, outfight, and outrun anyone in Boston. Which begs the question, is Charlie the next victim, or the perfect perpetrator? As D.D. tracks a vigilante gunman who is killing pedophiles in Boston, she must also delve into the murders of Charlie’s friends, racing to find answers before the next gruesome January 21 anniversary. Is Charlie truly in danger, or is she hiding a secret that may turn out to be the biggest threat of all?
In four days, someone is going to kill me. But the son of a bitch has gotta catch me first.
HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THOSE?
WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE?