Caroline's January 2023 pick
The Ingenue is the story of a woman (Saskia), whose mother (Evie) recently has died. When she returns home for the funeral, Saskia and her father learn that her mother has left their family home to a colleague (Patrick) who also is a former lover of Saskia's. Both Saskia and her father question the bequest, as their home has been in the family for generations with an understood tradition of leaving it to the oldest surviving child.
Although Saskia is hurt by her mother's bequest, she wonders if there were reasons for it other than those provided in her mother's will. She is not certain her mother even knew of her affair with Patrick, which began when she was fourteen and he was in his thirties. Prior to her involvement with Patrick, Saskia had been a piano prodigy who was destined for Juilliard, but through the story we discover how Saskia's relationship with Patrick derailed her entire life.
Although the subject matter is tragic, the story is wonderfully engaging as each chapter begins with an excerpt from Evie's book, Fairy Tales for LIttle Feminists, which consists of retellings of classic fairy tales wherein each heroine saves herself, rather than allowing a male hero to save her. The author follows Saskia's investigation into her mother's reasoning behind the changes to her will and masterfully provides the reader with insight into Saskia's thought processes and self doubt, which clearly arose from the abuse she suffered at Patrick's hands.
This book certainly is worth your time - not only for the characters, but for the surprising resolution. I am hopeful that Kapelke-Dale will publish a version of Evie's Fairy Tales for Little Feminists for us all to add to our bookshelves.
The Personal Librarian is a fictional account of the time Belle da Costa Greene spent as J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian in the early 20th century. Although Belle’s achievements would be considered amazing even today, at the time, curators were in awe of her success because she was a woman. What they did not know, was that she was a black woman.
Belle was born in Washington, DC and her family moved to New York, where they presented themselves as white. Belle’s father was a Harvard graduate and spent his life working to achieve equality for black folks. Belle worked at the library at Princeton University, where she befriended J.P. Morgan’s nephew, Junius, who recommended her to his uncle as his personal librarian.
The story is told from Belle’s point of view. She frequently worries that others will realize she is black and tell Mr. Morgan, but for the most part, others simply are impressed with her knowledge regarding the artifacts she procures for Mr. Morgan’s library and the acumen with which she procures them. Because of her secret, Belle enjoys few close, lasting relationships; however, her love for her family drives her and their welfare gives her the incentive to proceed with the life she has chosen.
While I found the deception in the story somewhat stressful, I greatly enjoyed the descriptions of Belle’s travels and the generation of Pierpont Morgan Library.
Caroline's October 2022 pick
Everything Everything is a surprising story of a young girl (Maddy) with an immune deficiency that requires her to stay inside and away from others. Against all odds, she befriends and eventually falls in love with Olly, the boy next door. When their feelings for each other render it impossible for Maddy remain isolated, she and Olly embark on an adventure that causes her to discover some truths about herself and her family. I really enjoyed the story and the characters. I can’t wait to read more by this author.
Caroline’s September 2022 pick
The Last Lecture was produced by Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Randy Pausch upon his retirement due to terminal cancer. The lecture provides the reader with a sense of Professor Pausch's dreams and parting words to all interested in reading them - and they certainly are worth reading. Professor Pausch's lessons are timeless, interesting and often amusing. For example, under the heading "People Are More Important than Things", Dr. Pausch recounted the time he poured out a can of soda in the back seat of his new car so his niece and nephew would not worry about making a mess. Every lesson and example is more endearing and useful than the one before. Sadly, Dr. Pausch died not long after the lecture was presented; however, his lessons live on and truly stand the test of time.
Caroline's May 2022 pick
Many Gibson's customers love Louise Penny, so I decided to give her a try. I'm quite pleased that I did. The fictional town of Three Pines in Quebec is a place I would like to visit. Penny beautifully develops the characters, all of whom are different and interesting. The story centers around the investigation of the murder of a beloved resident of Three Pines. Inspector Armand Gamache leads the investigation and we learn about the relationships within the community and the reasons each suspect might have for committing the murder in question. I found the mystery enthralling and did not figure out the solution until it was presented at the end of the story. I look forward to continuing to visit Three Pines through Penny’s many subsequent novels.