Tag Archives: Artist

Book Buzz: Little Fires Everywhere

Book Buzz: Little Fires Everywhere

As I raced toward the explosive conclusion of Little Fires Everywhere, I simultaneously couldn’t wait to find out what happened but dreaded finishing this extraordinary read. You know that feeling, right?

I loved Celeste Ng’s debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, with every fiber of my being. It was a captivating story of race and prejudice and family dynamics, and it went on to win a ton of awards and made Ng a respected new voice in fiction.

Patiently, I waited for Ng’s sophomore novel to be released.

The wait was worth it, people.

Little Fires Everywhere is, well, brilliant.

Book Buzz: Little Fires Everywhere

 

Little Fires Everywhere

The story of two families in Shaker Heights, Ohio — Mr. and Mrs. Richardson and their four children, the “haves,” and Mia Warren and her daughter, Pearl, the “have nots,” whose lives intersect for a brief period of time and everything changes collossally for both families.

Elena Richardson is the matriarch — a Shaker Heights native whose expectations for her life followed a prescribed formula, just as the community itself had been one of the first planned communities in the U.S.

All she wanted was marriage, children, career, and a lovely home. And it pretty much worked out that way.

But then, Mia and her teenage daughter Pearl arrive on the scene. Looking for an affordable place to live, they rent a small house owned by the Richardsons. Mia is an independent thinker, an artist on the side; she needs to work several low-paying jobs to make ends meet. Pearl is a shy but friendly girl,  and is embraced by the Richardson family and spends most of her time hanging out with them.

In short order both mother and become more than tenants: each of the four Richardson children is drawn to these women, and Elena Richardson employs Mia as a part-time housekeeper.

Elena  is curious about Mia’s past, and feels prompted to nose around when Mia becomes intimately involved in a child custody case involving a friend Mia has met at one of her jobs.

The friend is a Chinese mother, Bebe, who abandoned her infant during a time of duress. The infant is given to the McCulloughs, friends of the Richardsons, who had struggled with infertility for years and were on an adoption waiting list. Now the baby is a year old, and the McCulloughs have assumed this child will be theirs forever.

But then Bebe reappears, and wants her daughter back.

The case divides the community, as well as the Richardson family. I won’t say more, because I don’t want to spoil it. Coincidentally, the novel I reviewed last week, Lucky Boy, had the same theme. In both books it is dealt with so compassionately and even-handedly. I admire both authors for being able to find compelling voices on both sides of an emotional issue.

Ng’s characters are so well drawn, each unique and credible, and truly, Shaker Heights itself must be counted as one of the protagonists. Shaker Heights, Ng’s hometown, was  planned with the best intentions and idealism, and although successful in some areas, it nonetheless is beset with the same race and class issues faced just about everywhere else.

I am sure that Little Fires Everywhere will have the same phenomenal success of Ng’s previous novel. Already, Amazon has named it a “Best Book of September 2017.”

And I sure hope Ng is working on her third.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Little Fires Everywhere. To enter this giveaway, click on the Books is Wonderful Facebook page and leave a comment. US addresses only, please. The winner will be randomly selected.

 

I received a copy of Little Fires Everywhere from Penguin Press for an honest review, which is is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: The Ecliptic

Writer’s block. The two words that can make a writer shudder. Or any creative person who produces, produces, produces and then — bump — hits a wall.

Book Buzz: The Ecliptic

I suspect we’ve all encountered this at some point or another. For promising artists on the rise, however, who have achieved some level of success, the public scrutiny can only exacerbate the problem, creating a vicious cycle of self-doubt and creative paralysis.

The Ecliptic

In Benjamin Wood’s novel The Ecliptic, a group of gifted but stalled artists is voluntarily sequestered on the Turkish island of Portmantle to have the time and space to be inspired to complete their work.

To become a part of this artist’s colony is actually a gift; one needs to be sponsored by a wealthy benefactor to even apply. Once there, the artist is free to stay as long as it takes, as long as the benefactor continues to provide support. In exchange, the artists agree to give up all ties to the outside world, including their own names;  they are assigned new names upon their arrival. They also surrender their passports.

The story is narrated by Elspeth Conroy, or Knell as she is named, a talented but insecure, even tortured Scottish painter who has achieved some renown in the London art world. She struggles to finish a mural featuring the ecliptic – the sun’s journey through the heavens as seen from Earth. She has been on the island for ten years. Her companions are Quickman, who was struck with writer’s block when his only novel became a classic, MacKinney, a playwright, and Pettifer, an architect who obsesses over the cathedral he has yet to create.

The setting shuttles back and forth between the isolated island and the London art scene, where we see Elspeth establish herself as an artist of promise, only to fall into despair when her creativity dries up.

The book is divided into four parts: the first, an introduction to life on Portmantle. The second section reveals Elspeth’s backstory, her rise in the art world and the concomitant struggles, internally, romantically and commercially. In the third part we return to Portmantle where mysteries  begin to unfold and there are rumblings of discontent following the untimely death of a newcomer to the island. Elspeth is becoming disenchanted with her stay and contemplates leaving. In the last section, well, I can’t say too much because of spoilers, but there are plot twists that will surprise or possibly disappoint you. But I’m not going to give it away!

Part fantasy, part mystery, part expose, The Ecliptic is a compelling read about the life of an artist, the day in, day out struggle to maintain one’s creative muse. Wood is a skillful, imaginative writer who brings these likeable, conflicted characters to life and gives us a bird’s eye view into their world.

 

One lucky reader will receive a copy of The Ecliptic. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be selected randomly. USA addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of The Ecliptic from Penguin for a honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: About Women

Is there anything more soul satisfying than a deep, meaningful and uninterrupted conversation with someone you like and admire?

We don’t often have that luxury. With our busy lives, conversations are often limited to a quick how-are-you in the carpool line or grocery aisle.

I’m talking about the conversation that is honest and leisurely, meaningful but lighthearted. Secrets may be revealed. Wine may be consumed.

Book Buzz: About Women

About Women

Such is the nature of the conversations between two fascinating and accomplished women — one a French painter, the other an American author — as they share thoughts about life, romance, war, culture, work, fashion, religion and more in the intimate and lovely About Women: Conversations Between a Writer and a Painter.

The women, French painter Françoise Gilot and American writer Lisa Alther (yes, that Lisa Alther, author of  the bestseller Kinflicks, a huge favorite of mine) have been friends for 25 years and the conversations are culled from many over the course of their lives.

Coming from different countries and generations – Gilot was born in post-World War I Paris and Alther was born in Tennessee during World War II – their backgrounds are vastly different. Gilot, who happens to be the former partner of Pablo Picasso, had an upper class Parisian upbringing surrounded by cultural amenities. Alther grew up in Appalachia on a farm and later moved to small-town Vermont.

But what they share is a creative sensibility, an intellectual curiosity and an open mind. The  women muse about the influences that guided them as they developed their artistic passions. Sharing memories of parents and grandparents, of wartime losses, of school and fashion and religion, they are able to obtain insights into themselves as well as each other. And sometimes they just have to agree to disagree.

They have opinions on everything.

French and American customs, for example. An American woman resents hearing a wolf whistle on the street, Alther says, while according to Gilot a French woman takes that as a compliment. Alther says, “I think women react badly to comments int he street here because they’re often delivered with the intention of demeaning.” Gilot says, “Either that or you’re imagining that that’s the intention.”

Gilot claims that is is considered “extremely impolite to say thank you” and Alther counters that “Here it’s considered rude not to say thank you.”

About fashion, Alther says, “The attitude here is often to wear something so appropriate that you will fit in and not be noticed. Whereas the attitude in France seems to be to make an individualized statement that will make you stand out.” Gilot agrees.

They compare the genesis and trajectories of their careers. Alther says, “The odds against my ever getting published were staggering. I wrote fiction for fourteen years without getting published, and I collected 250 rejection slips.”

That is always encouraging to us unpublished authors, so thank you for that, Lisa.

It is timely that I have read this book just before attending the annual Pennsylvania Conference for Women this week where I will happily soak up wisdom from a bevy of stimulating presenters, all speaking to issues pertinent to women: health, personal finance, leadership, finding a balance, just to name a few.

Book Buzz: About Women

It is always reassuring to hear women speak about finding empowerment and fulfillment.

Just as Alther and Gilot did in About Women.

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I am happy to offer one of my readers a copy of About Women. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be selected randomly. USA addresses only, please.

I received a copy of About Women: Conversations between a Writer and a Painter from Doubleday for an honest review, which is the only
kind of review I write.

If you like my blog post, please share it!
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