BIG MAGIC: A Review

This 2015 self-help book by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, is proof the author has still “got it.” As a matter fact, I liked this non-fiction exploration of “Creative Living Beyond Fear” much more than her earlier bestselling hit. In Big Magic, Gilbert discusses her own creative processes and her life as she expresses the wonder and joy of Creativity. She has written many “pieces” for magazines, novels, and non-fiction books, so she is definitely the one to consult concerning “Creativity.” She insists everyone has the ability to “make something”–create.

In her last section, “In Conclusion” she writes:

“Creativity is sacred and it is not sacred./ What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all./We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits./ We are terrified, and we are brave./Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege./Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us./Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise–you can make anything.”

THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE by Melanie Benjamin: A Review

This is an engrossing novel based on a true relationship, that of Truman Capote and the matrons of New York society during the 50s and 60s.  It deals with Capote’s greatest scandal among the “beautiful people” who adopted him as their “pet”, protege, and latest fad. Capote brought glitz and glamor wherever he went, as did the fifth avenue circle, his “Swans.”  When Truman courted these glamorous women, specifically Babe Paley, a unique fashionista and trend setter ,the wife of CBS magnate, Bill Paley, he was the talk of the town. He was constantly found among this group of friends, inspiring them to confide their most private secrets to him. Although their relationship was purely platonic, Babe considered Truman her “True Heart” and Truman received the unconditional love and praise he had been refused by his mother and had never found from another person.

It was said about Capote, however, “…once a storyteller, always a storyteller–even when the stories aren’t his to tell,” and since the fame and praise from writing In Cold Blood dried up and the well of sources for stories ran dry,  he wrote a scandalous “tell all” story which betrayed all his “Swans” had confided in him. Truman’s fall from “sought after” to “shunned” is chronicled in this novel, and his life’s end was as sordid and sad as it had been beautiful and happy when he was the favorite of his “Swans.”

This book, a 2016 publication was a New York Times bestseller and was not only popular in New York where the names were known and the settings familiar, but with all of us readers who wanted a peek at the lives of the rich and famous.

COMMONWEALTH by Ann Patchett: A Review

This 2016 bestseller ties for second place on my list of ” Favorite Books Published in 2016″ (ties with The Swans of Fifth Avenue), after Gentleman in Moscow (reviewed in an earlier post), which still claims first place.  It was so good that I made time to read it and finished in two days.  The book begins in California and is also set in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the states where I was born and raised in, respectively.  Maybe it was because of this “personal connection”, or more likely the denseness of characters and plot  that I became hooked by the end of the first few chapters.

We meet Beverly and “Fix” as the novel opens with the “…dissolution of their marriage and the joining of two families.” This connecting of families through marriage and caused by divorce creates a “tribe” of children, four girls, two boys, the Cousinses and the Keatings, and the book carries these characters through the next fifty years. There is much intertwining of plot and relationships, and this intrigues the reader as he/she progresses through the novel. All of the characters are memorable; I couldn’t choose a favorite because the author makes me feel attached to and care about every one of them.

Perhaps I enjoyed Commonwealth so much because I am especially fond of character-driven novels, but I suspect the main reason was because of Patchett’s great writing abilities.  I highly recommend this novel.

THE CITY OF MIRRORS by Justin Cronin

This is the last book in Cronin’s trilogy, and it successfully and effectively sums up an impossible ending to write. Cronin’s trilogy includes: The Passage, The Twelve, The City of Mirrors.

Again,as in The Twelve, The City of Mirrors opens with a prologue that allows the reader to “plug in” anywhere along the trilogy. The Passage  at 800+ pages was a slow trudge, brutal at times but always intriguing as well as completely original.  The Twelve is not to be missed in its entirety. It is action-packed and violent, yet frequently poetically beautifully phrased.

City of Mirrors begins (spoiler alert) after the Twelve have been destroyed, and all we have left to deal with is Zero, the most impressive incarnation of Evil ever imagined by any author. “The Girl From Nowhere,” Amy, first seen in The Passage, is the Adversary for Good.

As the cover says, “One last time light and dark will clash, and at last Amy and her friends will know their fate.”

This book is well worth your reading time.