Saturday, January 29, 2011

"More Than You Know"

Beth Gutcheon is a new author for me. I picked up her More Than You Know novel in the clearance section the last time I was in Half-Price Books in DM. I would categorize this read as a "dark" telling. Hannah Gray is an old woman when she decides to write the story of her life. At first it seems to be about her first "true love" and while it does evoke the transience of youthful romance, it also delves into the way love and hatred shapes lives.
The book is set in a small coastal Maine town and an inhabited island off the mainland. I would read more of Gutcheon's works if they were available at our library or when I run across them elsewhere. (Interesting that I unintentionally read two books this month which were set in New England coastal towns.)

I had almost forgotten what a treat M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin is! Revisiting the Cotswold's in The Potted Gardener makes me wish I could go there in person. (Something I've wished since first reading about the Cotswold's years and years ago.)
Agatha returns from a long holiday to learn she has a new, gorgeous, neighbor in Carsely. Not only does everyone seem to adore the newcomer, Agatha's bachelor neighbor, James Lacey (the man Agatha wants for herself), is having an affair with the new woman in town.
Naturally, the lovely lady is soon dispatched in a most unbecoming fashion. And even though she is warned by the area constabulary to "leave the investigating to us", Agatha can't resist questioning all her neighbors about how they really felt about the murder victim. Seems the new woman in town wasn't as well-liked by everyone after all.
These little mysteries are a treat. Agatha Raisin is such a jewel. What's not to love about a middle-aged, over-weight, antagonistic amateur sleuth?

Anita Shreve is one of the best storytellers. I've read all her books, including, now, her newest, Rescue. Peter Webster is a rookie paramedic when he pulls a young woman from her totaled car - an act that begins a lifelong tangle of love and wreckage. Sheila is streetwise and tough-talking. Peter is as straight an arrow as they come.
The book is mostly about the love between single parent, Peter, and his daughter, Rowan and what happens when Sheila comes back into their lives when Rowan is a 17-year-old high school senior. Shreve's writing is so true to life. Her description of the only apartment newlyweds Peter and Sheila could afford reminded me of the place I began married life in fifty years ago.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is one of the absolute best books I have ever read. This was the second time I read it. It was just as good on the second reading as on the first.
This book was Mary Ann Shaffer's first and only - something I hadn't realized before. Ms. Shaffer worked as an editor, a librarian and in bookshops. Her love of books shines through this novel. Her life long dream was "to write a book that someone would like enough to publish."
Sadly, she died before that happened. Her niece, Annie Barrows, helped her finish the book and saw it through to publication. It seems so sad to me that Mary Ann Shaffer could not have lived long enough to see how many people loved her writing. Nor that she isn't around to treat us to more books of hers.

I know the first time I heard of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I thought, "What kind of title is that?" The book was already getting a lot of buzz, so as soon as it became available at the library, I checked it out.
The novel is set in England at the close of WWII. It relates, in epistolary form, the hardships, horrors, and losses of war. It also elates us with its tales of friendship, endurance, courage, hope and human connection.
Previously, I've passed on owning this book, but after reading it twice, I know it is one that I should have on my bookshelves permanently.

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