mardi 6 octobre 2009

Our night with Janet

As we thoroughly enjoyed Moonlight in Odessa, we were all very much looking forward to our event with Janet Skeslien Charles tonight and I'm happy to report that it was a great event! Janet started the reading with a quiz for our rapt audience about mail order brides and I dare say, we learned quite a few interesting things. For example, I didn't know that mail order brides were already present in the US as early as 1620 or that they were originally called Tobacco Brides!

Check out our audience who more than did well in the quiz...

After the fun quiz, Janet explained to us the process she underwent to bring her book to the public. And then she read a few choice passages from her book. It was quite a treat to hear Daria come to life through her reading and it was like rediscovering the pleasures of the book all over again!

Of course after the reading we all queued to have Janet sign our copies of her book!

dimanche 4 octobre 2009

Event at the RWB

One of the year's most exciting debut novels was written by a good friend of RWB and we are very proud to invite all of you to a reading with Janet Skeslien Charles at the RWB on the 6th of October at 7PM. She will be reading from her wonderful new book Moonlight in Odessa. This is the story of Daria, beautiful and smart who longs for something more than what she can have in her beloved native Odessa. And her all elusive search takes her to the world of mail-order brides and marriage. I won't give away the plot, as half the fun is discovering the plot as you read along but this book is one we truly enjoyed reading. Its funny and wise with great characters that will keep you hooked till the last page. We can't wait till Tuesday and we hope to see you all there!

vendredi 18 septembre 2009

Guess who came by RWB today? Steve Toltz, writer of A Fraction of the Whole which was longlisted last year for the Man Booker Prize! Always some sort of excitement going on at RWB.

lundi 14 septembre 2009

Its the rentree but we have a pile of great new books that are just begging to be read....

New in Fiction Hardcover/Trade Edition
1. Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
2. Moonlight in Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles
3. Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
4. Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
5. Summertime by J.M. Coetzee (shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize)
6. The Quickening Mae by Adam Foulds (shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize)
7. Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby
8. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
9. The Gourmet by Muriel Barberry
10. Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd
11. The Infinities by John Banville
12. Small Wars by Sadie Jones

New in Fiction Paperback
1. The Queen's Necklace by Antal Szerb
2. The Assassin's Song by M.G. Vassanji
3. An Expensive Education by Nick McDonell
4. Touching Distance by Rebecca Adams
5. 2666 by Roberto Bolano
6. A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven by Karl O.Knausgaard
7. Generation A by Douglas Coupland
8. Hustle by Will Fergunson
9. Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman
10. The Way Things Look to Me by Roopa Farooki

Books I've been reading lately seem to be similarly preoccupied with certain themes though not necessarily of the same time frame. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan is not the usual historical fiction that I normally pick up to read but it sounded intriguing so I didn’t hesitate too long before starting it. The Frank in the title is Frank Lloyd Wright, the celebrated architect whose work revolutionized architecture and ushered in the field’s modern age. The book deals with a rather scandalous episode of his life when he and the wife of a client, Mamah (pronounced May-muh) Borthwick Cheney fall madly in love after he is commissioned to build their house. The lovers flee to Europe and leave their respective families. Needless to say, their affair wreaks havoc on their respective home lives, Wright’s career and virtually destroys Mamah Cheney’s reputation. The book details the trajectory of their relationship until its ultimately tragic ending.

Such a subject matter could have easily turned mawkish and overly sentimental if not for Horan’s careful portrait of Mamah. She doesn’t overly deal with sentimentality or emotion. Instead she paints a portrait of a woman who is constrained by the roles imposed on her by society. During the early years of the 20th century, women were supposed to be wives and mothers but not much else. It was a time of great agitation for greater female emancipation and participation in society, lead by such stalwarts as Charlotte Perkins Gillman, Emma Goldman and the Swedish feminist Ellen Key. Mamah with her husband and children was an aberration of those times because she wasn’t content with her lot. Though as her sister Liz, later acidly points out, “she had the kind of life most feminists would dream of having.” And the price Mamah pays indeed for daring to break free of the mold and insist on a kind of self-realization was a high one. At the end of the book, Horan leaves it up to us to decide whether such her act was worth the price exerted on her.

Rebecca Miller’s new novel The Private Lives of Pippa Lee opens with Herb and Pippa Lee moving into Marigold Village a rich retirement community. At 80 years old, Herb is tired and wants to be free of the stresses of a rich and wealthy life, so the house in Sag Harbor and the apartment in Gramercy Park are sold along with the rest of their possessions. Pippa,at 50 is the youngest person in the community. However outwardly perfect, serene and put together she seems to be she’s not quite ready for the retired life and her life soon begins to unravel. How she comes to this point takes the rest of the story to tell. I don’t dare give more away as it is quite a tale and a good part of the pleasure of reading this book is seeing how it unfolds.

Miller’s novel focuses on the quest for personal identity and how this quest is shaped, opposed and nourished by family and circumstances. Pippa’s story is that of an outsider struggling to find her self and consequently her place in the sun and surely, this is one of the most universal of themes. Granted, a few of Pippa’s experiences seem to be more out of the ordinary than what most of us know but then again, who knows what lies beneath the most seemingly ordinary person’s façade. Miller’s great strength is her intelligent and sensitive prose that carries even the most extraordinary episodes. At times, the story seemed to push the limits of credibility but her ability to ground her prose in carefully chosen details saves the tale. Some details stay with you even after you’ve turned the last page. I don’t know why I should have been surprised, she is her father’s daughter after all.

Miller’s central concern for the search for identity becomes an even more poignant question when this search is coupled by an overwhelming desire, a need even, to belong. Pippa, as we all do, wants to belong. But at what point does the need for belonging overthrow your real self?

mardi 25 août 2009

We got a lot of great new books and we couldn't resist putting them in our window! Don't you just love it?