Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Very Picture of You by Isabel Wolff

Once again, Isabel Wolff and her chick lit do not disappoint.  Yes, it’s light.  Yes, it’s predictable.  But, it’s fun.  And Wolff is a strong author who can create strong characters and semi-believable tales.  This one finds the main character Ella Graham as a popular portrait painter in London’s inner circles.  Her newly-engaged sister commissions a portrait of her fiancé and Ella encounters problems when she finds herself attractive to the fiancé.  Other fascinating storylines stem from the different clients Ella is assigned to paint, but the main focus is Ella’s woes with her sister’s fiancé.  Wolff combines just the right combination of wispy prose with heartfelt stories and quality writing for this to be a perfect weekend read! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Featuring three Brown University seniors in 1982, The Marriage Plot captures the coming of age, apprehension and indecisiveness of timeless college graduates.  Eugenides, a Princeton professor and Brown graduate, writes with knowledgeable authority about the college setting.  Mitchell Grammaticus loves Madeleine Hanna and Madeleine Hanna loves Leonard Bankhead, rather unique names in an all too familiar college love triangle.  Madeleine is writing her senior thesis on Victorian novels and has been rejected by Yale graduate school, Mitchell is a religious studies major who plans a graduation trip to India, and Leonard has accepted a biology research fellowship on Cape Cod. As these three seniors make decisions concerning their future it seems that all three are struggling in their own way to find goodness and do the right thing. Madeleine falls in the female trap of confusing love with a need to save and mother a man. Mitchell confuses love with destiny,  and Leonard rejects love under the paralysis of manic depression.  Quite realistic in the characterization of the three students, their parents, and friends, the novel changes between the voices of the three students as the novel progresses. There is an art to capturing the right texture and rhythm of dialogue and Eugenides excels.  His affection for the characters is evident and he interjects humor throughout the novel to lighten the serious moments.

Nightwoods by Charles Frazier

Written in lush and lyrical language complimenting the North Carolina forest setting, the novel is a thriller, romance, and character study. Luce is a spunky loner who has abandoned social interactions and lives as a caretaker for an abandoned summer lodge miles from town. Her solitary existence is drastically interrupted as a social worker delivers the children of her murdered sister. The children are mute and unresponsive. Without any experience in the care of children, she must be their protector and savior. Meanwhile the father is lurking in the background freed from the murder of his wife and trying to find hidden sums of money. If Luce is the heroine, Bud the father, is the villain of the narrative. In capturing the mind, motivations and self-pitying justifications of this psychopath, Frazier’s words glow.  Luce cares for the children, a stranger visits and a romance begins. As the action advances, Bud, the children, and Luce become entwined in fearful suspense. Providing the welcome escape that readers crave, Frazier journeys to another time and place. Lovers of Cold Mountain will not be disappointed with Nightwoods.