What Oscar Observed

When I had a hankering recently for The Importance of Being Earnest, I hastened to the library and grabbed-up an audio collection entitled The Oscar Wilde Collection. Listening to it brought me a relaxing day.

The cd includes The Picture of Dorian Gray, Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband, and The Importance of Being Earnest. Two of the plays were new to me and I enjoyed all five. My favorite was A Woman of No Importance.

Oscar Wilde was a master at writing satirical observations of life in the Victorian era. His humorous plays remind me of Monty Python. Even though his stories tell of days long past, they remain timeless because human nature remains the same.

If you have the time and inclination, I recommend a comfortable chair, a glass of wine, and an evening with Mr. Wilde’s collection. I think you will be delightfully entertained!

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Collaborator

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure is a World War Two novel which I found captivating. Published in 2013, I came across this book while perusing the library shelves for books on my lengthy to-read list. This book was not on the list, but I am grateful to have stumbled upon it because I think it is terrific!

The suspenseful story takes place during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Its focus is on an out of work architect who accepts a commission to design a building for the Nazis which will be used to manufacture armaments for the Reich. In order to obtain the work and much needed income, he also agrees to design a hiding place for a Jewish man who’s wanted by the Nazis. Obviously the projects are at cross purposes, but in order to win the factory commission, he must agree to design the hiding place. A wealthy Frenchman is the person making him the offer. The architect Lucien isn’t at all interested in saving Jews, but his overwhelming desire to practice his craft leads him to accept the offer.

One thing leads to another and this page turner finds Lucien more deeply entangled than he ever imagined in the French resistance and ever closer to the Gestapo’s hunt for the man who is designing ingenious hiding places for Jewish refugees.

I read this book non-stop — even held my breath and gasped through a large portion of it. It’s an incredible story. Parts of the it are gruesome because they describe torture so prepare youself. Still in all, I loved this novel.

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Omens

The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George is an ambitious attempt at retelling the history of an infamous emperor whose legacy was more than previously depicted in literature and film.

Remembered as a mentally imbalanced leader who fiddled as Rome burned, George depicts a very different young leader interested in the arts and dedicated to the citizens of the vast empire over which he presided.

As in most historical fiction, much of the novel is conjecture. However, I found it interesting particularly because the author chose to tell the story looking through Nero’s eyes. Having little to work with by way of ancient texts, I think she did a fine job.  The story is engaging and enlightening.

Be advised this is the first of two books about Nero and ends at the outbreak of the disastrous fire in Rome. If you are interested in ancient history, I think you will enjoy this novel.

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Lost

A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley is the memoir upon which the recent movie Lion was based.

This beautifully touching memoir is about Saroo’s experience as a young boy from a poor family in India and the life-altering consequences which occurred after he became lost while waiting for his older brother in a train station.  After living on the streets of Calcutta and many harrowing experiences, he is eventually adopted by a loving couple in Australia. Many years later, against all odds, Saroo searches for and finds his biological family in India.

This is an eye-opening memoir which made me happy and sad. Happy because Saroo survived the traumatic ordeals in his life and sad because it highlights the need for protective solutions for children at risk around the world. I had a difficult time listening to the story.

As a weird April Fools Day side note, one of the cds I was listening to was incorrectly recorded. The chapters were recorded backwards! Instead of Chapter 5, 6, 7, etc., they were in reverse order 7, ,6, 5… I thought I was losing my mind!

I don’t intend to see the movie. The book was emotionally draining enough. It is well-written and inspirational; a truly miraculous story.

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Jump


Britt-Marie Was Here is the second book I have read by Fredrik Backman. He is an incredibly gifted writer with the ability to capture and convey the human spirit in a way I admire.

The novel takes place in a small town in Sweden which is rapidly declining due to a downturn in the economy. Enter Britt-Marie, a middle-aged woman who has left her husband of many years after discovering he was having an affair. She is a persnickety woman with unique mannerisms. She likes everything “just so”. Told in the omniscient voice, we get to know Britt-Marie from the inside-out and her character is flawed and complex. Overly concerned about appearances, Britt-Marie struggles to change the way in which she reacts to others when she takes a position as the manager of a recreation center for three weeks in the remote dying town.

She is a lost soul with obsessive compulsive tendencies trying desperately to reinvent herself amid a group of young adults who love to play and watch football.

There are many interesting characters in this novel. All are well-defined and memorable. There is so much more I could say about the book, but I think it is best to lead you to it rather than to ruin it for anyone. I became emotionally invested in this book to the extent that I felt like I was holding my breath as I read toward the conclusion. It is amazing, and in my opinion, one of the best books I have ever read.

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Resurrection

To the Stars Through Difficulties by Romalyn Tilghman is a new fiction release slated for April. The book’s title is also the Kansas state motto. Knowing the tendency for tornadoes in this part of the U.S., it makes sense. Remember Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz?

This novel is about a number of tornadoes — literal and figurative. It is also a story about libraries and the importance of them. Much of this book contains interesting information about libraries across America funded by Andrew Carnegie and his background.

Told through the eyes of a few female characters in Kansas, all adrift in their own way, the story highlights what great accomplishments can and have been achieved by women united by a common cause.

I enjoyed the many historical references to Carnegie libraries. Overall, I think book and art lovers will appreciate this story. I am sorry to report I did not feel connected to any of the characters. I thought the book needed more “showing” and less “telling”. I do however, believe it has merit and would be a good choice for book discussion groups; especially because of all the group participation contained in the plot and the focus on the importance of books.

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Miss Holmes

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley is a Sherlock Holmes type mystery series which just crossed my path. I am hooked!

What a delight this story is! The main character, Flavia de Luce, is a 12-year-old English girl with an interest in chemistry and a knack for solving crimes. Although I once again entered a “series” mid-stream, it was fairly easy to understand without having read the previous books. I will however, add them to my list of books to read in the future.

As the story begins, Flavia has just returned from Canada where she was sent in punishment for bad behavior. She arrives home to discover her father, a widower, is gravely sick in the hospital. Left to her own devises while he is absent, Flavia becomes embroiled in the solving of the murder of a local wood carver. Much like Holmes, her powers of deduction and keen observation skills lead her on a treacherous journey. She’s one brave little girl; much wiser than her years.

If you enjoy Holmes, you will fall in love with Flavia. It’s elementary!

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