Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen: Witty and wily tale of the experiences of the post-college-age daughter of Vietnamese immigrants living in the Midwest. A wicked look inside “Asian” restaurants, sibling rivalries, college lit degrees and what it’s like to be born in the U.S. but not look “American.” All of it filtered through the lens of the Little House on the Prairie books and the lives — literary and hidden — of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. A brilliant concept and beautiful writing.
My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead: This caught my eye at B&N on my way to buy my favorite UK magazine. I have owned a copy of Middlemarch since 1994. I continually think "I should read that," when I'm not wondering if I should donate it to the library sale. I loved the Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of the book and have watched it many times over the years. But the book has always seemed forbidding until now. Author Rebecca Mead has been reading Middlemarch since she was a teenager and talks about what she saw in the book at differing ages up to middle age. Her book is the equivalent of a semester devoted to the Middlemarch with discussions of characters, motivations, other books and authors at the time Eliot was writing as well as how her life influenced the book. Mead also provides an excellent biography of Eliot, with updates and asides on the many bios and critiques of Eliot that have appeared over the years. A totally satisfying and enjoyable read and perhaps what I've needed to spur me to read Middlemarch itself.
Wake by Anna Hope: Excellent novel of WWI with three interconnecting stories whose characters move in and out of each other’s lives. And a fourth recurring segment describing the search for and burial of the unknown soldier at the 11/11/1920 Cenotaph dedication. The author is a surprisingly young woman who understands — and can movingly describe — a broad group of characters, ages and social strata. Finally a current novel that lived up the reviews.
Molly Fox's Birthday by Deidre Madden: Two of my favorite book bloggers liked this one so I decided to give it a try, and am glad I did. Here'a a link to Book Snob's take on it.
Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn: When I commented on one of my favorite books, An Uncommon Reader, displayed on the counter at Arcadia Books in Spring Green, they suggested I might like Mrs. Queen. It's as funny and charming in its way as "Reader" but with a wider story and cast of characters. Kuhn has written a number of non-fiction works about the monarchy and knows how to deftly speculate about life behind the scenes as well as poke gentle fun at the woman who is queen of all she surveys but hasn't a clue about real life and real people. What happens when she wanders off the Palace grounds wearing a hoodie and carrying her trademark handbag is the perfect summer read.
And I'm giving up on Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination, The Pope and Mussolini, and Not I by Joachim Fest. These are winter books and the garden is calling.