Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Still Point

Amy Sackville's, The Still Point, is this Brit's first novel. I almost did not read this split novel describing the last days of an Arctic explorer and one sweltering summer day in the life of his great-grand-niece one hundred years later.
Julia has inherited the rundown Mackley mansion where she lives with her husband, Simon. While the wayward Simon is at work, Julia is attempting to sort and archive the journals, letters and artifacts (including stuffed polar bears) from Edward Mackley's expeditions.
Edward and Emily were only married a few weeks when he left on his final attempt to be the first to reach the North Pole. (The title refers to that still point of our spinning world.) Edward has promised to return and Emily has promised to wait for him. It is this faithful waiting which captures Julia's attention as she reads the romance of Edward and Emily's short time together. Julia begins living Emily's life in her mind while her own marriage unravels. (Intended or not, I thought Julia was descending into madness.)
It is only a chance visit from a distant cousin that uncovers the secret from Emily's lonely life that releases Julia from her dream world and opens the door to renewing her own marriage.
Did I like this book? Yes. Do I feel I would have missed out on a good book if I hadn't finished reading it? Probably not.

Empire Falls is Richard Russo's 2002 Pulitzer Prize winning novel about small town life in a blue collar town. Miles Roby has been running the Empire Cafe for twenty years -waiting patiently for the ownership the cafe's owner has promised him so he can sell it and leave the dying factory town. Miles is the epitome of Mr. Nice Guy. He keeps taking it on the chin, putting up with the idiosyncrasies of Russo's wide cast of secondary characters including Roby's soon-to-be ex-wife, his ne'er-do-well father, his younger brother, his daughter, the former classmate turned town cop and the aforementioned, controlling cafe owner. How much will this guy take before blowing his top?
This was a very satisfying read. All the characters were finely drawn and fully fleshed-out. I always wanted to see the 2005 HBO movie starring Paul Newman and Ed Harris based on this book. I think I would like it as well as I did the book.

Over Here, Over There is the biography of The Andrews Sisters during WWII written by Maxene Andrews and Bill Gilbert. It is an affectionate, nostalgic look at a country at war and the talented men and women who entertained the troops who were fighting it.
I've always liked the music from that era - the big bands and the individual singers. So I enjoyed reading this book. As usual, when I read, I always learn something I didn't know before - like $59 billion dollars was raised from the sale of war bonds to help finance the war; eight Nazi saboteurs (four in New York and four in Florida) were landed with bombs, forged draft and social security cards, and cash for expenses and bribes with the goals of blowing up bridges, rail lines, manufacturing plants, the New York water supply system and the Niagara Falls hydroelectric power plant.
I was familiar with rationing from having Mom show me my own ration book and explaining it to me. I had heard the story of when I was born during the war - how Dad drove her the twenty-five miles to the hospital in Creston, stayed with her until I was born before driving back home then not coming back again until we were released from the hospital ten days later. That seemed rather uncaring until I read in this book that gasoline was rationed at the rate of three gallons a week. The fifty-mile round trip would have used almost all of one week's gas! No wonder he didn't visit us during the hospital stay.
It was fun to read this book and be reminded of so many of the old songs and the entertainers from that era. I hadn't appreciated the importance of the USO canteens and shows before.

Other reads this time were some more Anne Perry's - another Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novel, Paragon Walk, and the next two Monk novels: Funeral in Blue and Death Of A Stranger in which Monk at last regains his memory. It looks like our library has four of the last five books in this series. I'll have to see if I can find the missing one next time I'm at Half-Price Books. (Or maybe finally start ordering books online?)

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