TUESDAY TEASER

The blogger at Purple Blogger hosts the meme Tuesday Teaser.  The idea is to take the book you are now reading and at random, copy a couple of sentences that might tempt another person to read the same book. I am still reading The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, and here is where I left off:

(1939) “Percy didn’t go home. Neither did she go on to the village hall to assist with the arrangement of corned beef tins. Saffy (her sister) would later accuse  her of forgetting to collect an evacuee on purpose, of never having wanted one in the first place; but although there was an element of truth in the latter accusation, Percy’s failure had nothing to do with Saffy and everything to do with Mrs. Pott’s gossip. Besides, as she always reminded her twin, everything had worked out in the end…”

Three old maids live in their author-father’s ancestral home, a literal castle, during WWII when London children were evacuated to the country towns to be saved from the bombings in London. Meredith, the evacuee who eventually ended up with the three women and their senile father, is involved in mysteries and family secrets that are not unravelled and revealed  until 1992 by Meredith’s daughter, Edie.  This generational tale of eerie settings, Mud Monsters rising from the old moat, young romance, friendships and betrayal is written in the most artful style imaginable.  Little clues, dropped here and there like breadcrumbs for the reader to follow make unraveling the quirks of the characters and the family secrets a pleasure.

Please look at what you’re currently reading and leave a teaser from it in the Comments box. Please remember to give title and author, and no spoilers, please.

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Reviewing LILAC GIRLS by Martha Hall Kelly (published 2016)

This debut novel is based on real events and real people.  It is set during WWII beginning with the invasion of Poland through the fall and liberation of France. It is not just another Holocaust story, but tells a broader tale. The author’s purpose seems to be to keep this period of women’s history alive as it explores several themes.

Kelly weaves together the lives of three extraordinary women and includes a “doomed wartime romance,” an ambitious career woman striving to make a way into a male dominated field, and the feelings and emotions of two closely attached  biological sisters. The writing is deeply moving and has beautiful, vivid descriptions.  The novel begins  with  and revolves around Caroline, based on a real socialite and employee of the French Consulate in New York City, who is not just “doing her part for the war effort,” but is dedicated to making a difference in people’s lives. The title comes from the lilacs planted at her Bethlehem, Connecticut, home, which today is a museum.  Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager who is sent to the notorious Ravensbruck Labor Camp along with her doctor sister  because she has been caught smuggling messages to the resistance is the second Lilac girl. A brilliant German doctor, Herta Oberhauser, makes up the third of the trio as she works with the Nazis, operating on the “Rabbits,” of which Kasia and her sister are a part.

One critic describes this fiction-based-on-fact novel as the story of “…unsung women and their quest for love, freedom, and second chances.” I loved the novel for its twists and turns in the plot, its excellently drawn characters, and the way it kept my interest through the final pages. I highly recommend this as a “darned good read.”

 

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA: A Review

This 1997 novel, on the NY Times Best Seller List for over a year, gives the perfect women’s point of view on a Japanese women’s institution, surprisingly written by a man, Arthur Golden. It was researched very thoroughly and is a PWR selection for this quarter.  It is sexy, expressed in a most polite Japanese way, and described by reviews of its day as “astonishing,” “breathtaking,” a “literary sensation”, “seductive,” and “an exotic fable.”  If it isn’t considered a classic, it should be.

The novel recounts the story of Sayrui, a fictional famous geisha, probably a composite of several famous geisha of Japan’s past. Born in a tiny, poor, fishing village, Chiyo ( her first name as a servant in the geisha house she is sold to by her father)/ Sayrui’s life reflects the difference between the life of a geisha and the life of a prostitute. Hatsumomo, a famous geisha of the same house is her nemesis, insanely jealous and revengeful motivated by feelings of jealousy, fear, insecurity, and mean-spiritedness. Chiyo’s only friend, Pumpkin, eventually betrays Chiyo/Sayrui, making Mamha’s job as Sayrui’s mentor/”Big Sister” all the harder.

Of course it is a romance, but much much more than that.  There is a well-described picture of Japanese life both before and after the WWII bombings. Sayrui’s life goes from rags to riches to rags again to…I’ll let you read the end of the story. The underlying theme of the book deals with how a woman’s life and destiny depended on a man. It is a worthwhile investment of your precious reading time that will keep you turning pages into the wee hours.