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Check It Out

Courier Article by Pam Locker
Sunday, July 17, 2005

Summer Sun Still High Enough to Get in Favorites

If we view Labor Day as the end of summer, we still have seven weeks of leisurely reading to look forward to. I've combined my recent favorites with several recommended by friends, and here are some suggestions.

FICTION

The Bright Forever by Lee Martin (Shaye Areheart Books, 2005).

The fact that this mesmerizing novel's setting is summertime in a small Central Indiana town adds Midwest resonance to the Lovely Bones type plot about the disappearance of a young girl. I learned from a co-worker who's a writer that Martin, who teaches in the in the creative writing program at Ohio State University, had been a guest writer at the 2003 New Harmony RopeWalk Writers Retreat. He was born in southern Illinois and is a former Evansville resident. He deserves an audience.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (Little, Brown and Co., 2005).

This "European historical trivia/literary vampire/Da Vinci Code" bestseller is the breakout novel of the year. It earned its first-time author, a Yale graduate with an MFA from the University of Michigan who spent 10 years writing it, a record $2,000,000 publishers' advance. If you loved "The Da Vinci Code," you'd probably like this. If you love Anne Rice, don't bother. The pace is slow, and the bloodletting rather bloodless.

Saturday by Ian McEwan (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2005).

One of the most discerning readers I know had touted this British author. When I finally sampled his short 1998 Booker Prize winning satire Amsterdam, I wondered what the fuss was about. Now I know. In Saturday we walk in the shoes of a London neurosurgeon – on his day off – as he navigates through and reflects on the post-9/11 world he inhabits. It's remarkably well written.

Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2005).

The Pulitzer Prize winning author has penned another great work. Like The Hours, it is an intricate story that beautifully moves through time, weaving together the lives and concerns of seemingly unrelated people and time periods. Walt Whitman's epic verse work, Leaves of Grass, is one common thread, as is the environmental danger faced by modern civilization. One friend called it "spectacular," and I find I must agree.

Sudden Death by David Rosenfelt (Mysterious Press, 2005).

A co-worker calls this mystery author a "male version of Janet Evanovich." In this fourth witty and clever mystery, New Jersey defense lawyer Andy Carpenter represents a New York Giants running back who is accused of murdering a fellow player.

BIOGRAPHIES AND AUTOBIOGRAPHIES

Vindication: a Life of Mary Wollstonecraft by Lyndall Gordon (HarperCollins Publishers, 2005).

After reading acclaimed literary biographer Gordon's life of the 18th century British feminist author of the Vindication of the Rights of Women, a friend emailed me, "It's unbelievable what women 'suffered' in the 1700s. Makes one pause and count blessings."

The Lost German Slave Girl by John Bailey (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2005).

Two Oaklyn Library customers whose evaluations I trust both found "fascinating" this true mid-19th century New Orleans courtroom drama of a long-lost German immigrant girl purported to have been wrongfully enslaved by a Southern planter.

My Life So Far by Jane Fonda (Random House, 2005).

Jane Fonda inspires strong feelings in people. There's no doubt that between her acting, her politics, and her fitness empire she became one of the most influential women of the 20th century. Those who admire her will find her introspective and revealing biography fascinating. Those who loathe her probably won't bother to read it.

Take Big Bites by Linda Ellerbee (G.P. Putnam's Sons, c2005).

Until sampling Ellerbee's collection of essays, I didn't realize that the veteran print and television journalist was a solo worldwide traveler. Armed with a can-do attitude and a backpack, she has taken trips to places that most of us wouldn't dream of visiting without a busload of fellow travelers and a pre-planned itinerary. Since she always eats the local food, she ends each chapter with a favorite recipe.

Pam Locker is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.