BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE CHAPPAQUA PUBLIC LIBRARY STAFF
Ames, Jonathan. Wake Up, Sir!
"Very funny and altogether elegant, this tale of an endearing drunk and his unflappable
manservant is a love story of sorts, but with an American twist. Here, a valet is just a
friend one pays." Sarah Vowell
Bail, Murray. Eucalyptus.
Murray Bail is one of our great imaginers and most timeless storytellers. Eucalyptus has
an uncanny, displacing beauty-seductive, haunting, inimitable. Bail overlaps with no
other contemporary writer-he's utterly an original.
Baldwin, Shauna Singh. What the Body Remembers.
"In What the Body Remembers, with her sharp focus on women in such turmoil,
Baldwin offers us a moving and engaging look at 20th-century India's most troubled
years." Ron Carlson, The New York Times Book Review
Banks, Russell. Rule of the Bone.
"Like our living literary giants Toni Morrison and Thomas Pynchon, Russell Banks is a
great writer wrestling with the hidden secrets and explosive realities of this country. In
Rule of the Bone he courageously explores the frightening new world of American young
people." Cornel West
Belfer, Lauren. City of Lights.
A gift for social nuance and for authoritatively controlled narration shapes this
compelling debut, which sets one young woman's extraordinary fate against the
backdrop of the political struggles over the burgeoning electric industry as it began
to harness the power of Niagara Falls at the turn of this century.
Boyle, T. C. Riven Rock.
Riven Rock resembles The Road to Wellville in its send-up of medical quackery in the
early years of the century, but here the fact-based love story takes precedence over
satire. This affecting and surprisingly mature novel is Boyle's best book since Water
Music. Library Journal
Boyle, T. C. World's End.
"A triumph; resonant, richly imagined and written with unfailing eloquence,"
exclaimed Publishers Weekly of this saga of the Van Wart and Van Brunt families,
which limns and links the Hudson Valley's early Dutch settlers, the Indians they
displaced, and their descendants in the McCarthyite 1940s and wild 1960s.
Carey, Peter. Illywhacker.
Boldly inventive, irresistibly odd, Illywhacker is further proof that Peter Carey is one
of the most enchanting writers at work in any hemisphere."A book of awesome
breadth, ambition, and downright narrative joy.... Illywhacker is a triumph."
Washington Post Book World
Cheever, John. The Wapshot Chronicle.
Based in part on Cheever's adolescence in New England, the novel follows the destinies
of the impecunious and wildly eccentric Wapshots of St. Botolphs, a quintessential
Massachusetts fishing village. Here are the stories of Captain Leander Wapshot,
venerable sea dog and would-be suicide; of his licentious older son, Moses; and of
Moses' adoring and errant younger brother, Coverly. Tragic and funny, ribald and
splendidly picaresque, The Wapshot Chronicle is a family narrative in the tradition of
Trollope, Dickens, and Henry James.
Crace, Jim. Being Dead.
"It's not clear to me why Jim Crace isn't world famous. Few novels are as unsparing
as this one in presenting the ephemerality of love given the implacability of death,
and few are as moving in depicting the undiminished achievement love nevertheless
represents." Jim Shepard, The New York Times Book Review
De Bernieres, Louis. Corelli's Mandolin.
"Dazzling... a fabulous book in the tradition of Tolstoy and Dickens...So joyous and
heartbreaking, so rich and musical and wise, that reading it is like discovering anew
the enchanting power of fiction." San Francisco Chronicle
Doerr, Harriet. Stones for Ibarra.
"Harriet Doerr has waited 73 years, perhaps even prepared herself for 73 years, to
give us a remarkable picture of a declining Mexican village of one thousand souls.
It's a charming circumstance and a charming book." Anatole Broyard
Doyle, Roddy. The Woman Who Walked Into Doors.
Doyle's novel about a battered, working-class woman, Publishers Weekly wrote in a
starred review, displays "a perception that is rare....a compassion that is scorching."
Dufresne, John. Louisiana Power & Light.
"In this first novel, the author of a critically acclaimed story collection (The Way That
Water Enters Stone, Norton, 1991) distills high comedy from intense pain,
philosophical insight from bayou murkiness. Dufresne enlarges his comedy by using
the Monroe Library Great Books discussion group as a perceptive but highly eccentric
community chorus and by offering a delightfully acerbic satire of Louisiana politics
("kakistocracy," or "government by the worst") as backdrop." Library Journal
Dufresne, John. Deep in the Shade of Paradise.
"Imagining John Irving, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor or Max Shulman (or all
of the above at once) on peyote juice only begins to evoke the dimension and energy
of the seriocomic fantasies of Dufresne at his freewheeling, frenetic best. In his
latest, a sequel (of sorts) to his 1994 debut novel Louisiana Power & Light, this
talented writer creates rambunctious fun tinged with melancholy as he revisits the
oddball and grotesque characters and exotic trailer park and plantation landscapes of
the Louisiana bayous and byways." Publishers Weekly
Faber, Michel. The Crimson Petal and the White.
"Faber's bawdy, brilliant third novel tells an intricate tale of love and ambition and
paints a new portrait of Victorian England and its citizens in prose crackling with
insight and bravado. Using the wealthy Rackham clan as a focal point for his
sprawling, gorgeous epic, Faber, like Dickens or Hardy, explores an era's secrets and
social hypocrisy." Publishers Weekly
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Extremely Loud & Incredibly
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has been one of the most discussed, acclaimed,
and debated novels in recent memory. And with good reason as the Atlanta Journal-
Constitution noted, "Jonathan Safran Foer has done something both masterful and
absolutely necessary: he has written the first great novel about September 11." Foer
confronts a subject few writers have dared approach, and what he discovers is solace
in that most human quality, imagination.
Frayn, Michael. Headlong.
The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani
It is a story that enables Frayn to showcase his own gift for satiric farce.... a novel
that turns out to be as entertaining as it is intelligent, as stimulating as it is funny.
Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. Love in the Time of Cholera.
While delivering a message to her father, Florentino Ariza spots the barely pubescent
Fermina Daza and immediately falls in love. What follows is the story of a passion
that extends over 50 years, as Fermina is courted solely by letter, decisively rejects
her suitor when he first speaks, and then joins the urbane Dr. Juvenal Urbino, much
above her station, in a marriage initially loveless but ultimately remarkable in its
strength. Florentino remains faithful in his fashion; paralleling the tale of the
marriage is that of his numerous liaisons, all ultimately without the depth of love he
again declares at Urbino's death. In substance and style not as fantastical, as
mythologizing, as the previous works, this is a compelling exploration of the myths
we make of love. Library Journal
Gardam, Jane. The Queen of the Tambourine.
Eliza, a bit outre because of her lack of children and abundance of imagination,
becomes obsessed with Joan, her enigmatic neighbor. We know this because we're
privy to some very patronizing letters Eliza writes to Joan just before Joan ditches
husband, children, and, yes, dog, and sets out on an arduous journey to such
unvacationy places as Bangladesh. Joan's abrupt departure coincides with the
disintegration of Eliza's marriage. Eliza slips into a rather mad frame of mind, which
we learn about solely through the hilarious and poignant letters she continues to
write and not necessarily send to the ever-elusive Joan. Gardam, recipient of two
Whitbread Awards, strikes an unusual balance between wit and sweetness, creating
a smart but gentle novel that seems to be from a far less explicit era than our own.
Gilbert, Elizabeth. Stern Men.
The novel takes place on the remote Maine island of Fort Niles and its neighboring
twin, Courne Haven. For years, the residents of these islands have been lobster
fishermen constantly at war with one another for control of the waters. Ruth Thomas
is born into this community, but she is not quite of it. This is a beautiful novel, funny
and moving at the same time and populated by some quite memorable characters.
Gold, Glen David. Carter Beats the Devil.
Gold's first novel, set in the 1920s, follows the exploits of Carter the Great, a
magician who is under suspicion by the Secret Service in the death of President
Harding, who is decapitated in one of Carter's performances, then eaten by a lion.
The president, of course, reappears onstage moments later, smiling and unscathed,
but when he suddenly and mysteriously dies just hours later, the entire country
wonders just what Carter did to him during the show. Peppering his fiction with
obscure historical facts, Gold follows the early life of Charles Carter, chronicling the
story of his interest in magic and his early struggles to become well known and
respected. His travails introduce a wonderful cast of characters, including
bootleggers, pirates, an ill-tempered and vindictive rival, a beautiful but volatile
assistant, a mysterious blind woman who seems to know everything about Carter, a
brilliant young scientist, an eccentric millionaire, corporate spies, and a federal agent
determined to get his man.
Kennedy, A. L. Everything You Need.
Nathan Staples is a successful middle-aged novelist who feels that he has
squandered his talent writing thrillers. He also regrets having abandoned his wife and
daughter many years ago. When Staples discovers that his daughter is now an
aspiring writer herself, he secretly arranges for her to win a fellowship to study with
him on Foal Island, a writer's colony off the coast of Wales. This hugely ambitious
novel has an edgy, post-punk surface that only partly conceals the old-fashioned
family values at its core. Library Journal
Kluger, Steve. Last Days of Summer.
"April 9, 1940. I have decided to turn to a life of crime." Thus begins a riotous novel-
in-letters to and from 12-year-old smart aleck Joey Margolis, a Brooklyn boy in
search of a hero. Joey's hatred of the Brooklyn Dodgers inspires him to strike up a
correspondence with the New York Giants' rookie third baseman, Charlie Banks.
Reluctantly, Charlie grows fond of the little scam artist, and the two become friends.
But when the war intervenes, Joey must learn what it takes to be a man. Library
Kotzwinkle, William. The Bear Went Over the Mountain.
In Kotzwinkle's merry send-up, the author of the hit novel "Desire and Destiny" is a
bear, a real bear, who after finding the manuscript under a spruce tree and attaching
his nom de plume, Hal Jam, becomes rich and famous overnight. Obtuse editors,
star-hound agents, and a right-wing televangelist and Presidential candidate all
warm to Hal's warm, bearish honesty without bothering to read his book--or to
notice that he's an animal, for that matter. It's an old gag turned by a canny author
to amusing, if not always compelling, purposes.
Lodge, David. Therapy.
Therapy slides nicely into the mold of the classic midlife-crisis novel, but is infinitely
better than most. The reasons are simple: it's easy to read (call me a philistine, but I
consider this the highest compliment) and it is very, very funny. The hero and
sometime narrator is Laurence (Tubby) Passmore, who writes a hit television sitcom.
Uh-oh, I thought, strike one. Novels about people who write television shows are
generally where I draw the line. But the novel is set in Britain, where television is
portrayed as so genteel that it resembles a provincial theater company. And besides,
the career aspects of the plot take a back seat to Tubby's love life -- or, since this is
a midlife crisis, the lack thereof. Robert Plunket, New York Times
Mones, Nicole. Lost in Translation.
"A complex portrait of a woman in search of herself . . . that reveals as much about
character and cultural differences as it does about a search for priceless, long-lost
fossils. Mones succeeds in integrating archeological history, spiritual philosophy and
cultural dislocation into a tale of identity on many levels." Publishers Weekly, starred
Morton, Brian. Starting Out in the Evening.
Starting Out in the Evening is a sad story, but its prevailing wit--in a number of
senses--works toward affirming and enhancing life. As a piece of writing, it's nothing
less than a triumph. New York Times Book Review
Newman, Sandra. The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done.
When Chrysalis Moffat and her brother, Eddie, inherit a mansion on the coast of
California, Eddie hatches a plan to fleece credulous Californians of their cash by starting
the fraudulent Tibetan School of Miracles. But something else is happening. Through
Chrysalis's reunion with her brother, she begins to discover her adoptive father's secret
past, causing her own identity to unravel. As Chrysalis lays down the facts of her life, she
gambles her identity against the contradictions, half-truths, and fables of her past, leading
her ultimately to question what it is we can truly know and whether it is fate or chance
that dictates our lives.
O'Brien, Edna. The House of Splendid Isolation.
"A man will come and a child will go out," says a gypsy girl to Josie some time after
she first enters her husband's house, having returned to Ireland from America to
marry him. The man who comes in is an IRA terrorist on the run from the police who
invades Josie's house when she is living there alone as an old woman. The child had
been lost to an abortion early in Josie's marriage, at a time when she could not cope
with her uncouth husband and a life she had chosen in desperation. The two stories
are deftly woven together by the remarkable O'Brien, who manages to sum up a
century of Irish sorrow in this taut, lyrical novel, filled with scenes so vividly
rendered they seem captured in a flash of lightning. Library Journal
O'Brien, Tom. Tomcat In Love.
"Tomcat in Love is a wonderful novel, laugh-out-loud funny, one of the best books
I've come across in years. My advice...is that you waste no more time on this review.
Put down the paper. Go out and find a copy of Tomcat in Love. Now." David
Nicholson, Washington Post
Ondaatje, Michael. Anil's Ghost.
"Gorgeously exotic.... As he did in The English Patient, Mr. Ondaatje is able to
commingle anguish and seductiveness in fierce, unexpected ways." The New York
Patchett, Ann. The Magician's Assistant.
The Magician's Assistant sustains author Ann Patchett's proven penchant for crafting
colorful characters and marrying the ordinary with the fantastic. When Parsifal,
Sabine's husband of more than 20 years and the magician of the title, suddenly dies,
she begins to discover how she's glimpsed him only through smoke and mirrors. He
has managed to keep hidden the existence of a family in Nebraska--his mother, two
sisters, and two nephews. Sabine approaches them hungrily, as if they are a bridge
to her beloved husband and a key to the mysteries he left behind.
Pierre, D. B. C. Vernon God Little.
Every page is saturated with a humor that barely masks Pierre's contempt for the
media, the criminal justice system, and the rampant materialism of contemporary
culture. Scatological, irreverent, crass, and very, very funny, the novel is told at an
absolutely manic pace and will have readers wincing even as they laugh out loud.
Pierre is a comic anarchist with talent to spare. Booklist
Schine, Cathleen. The Love Letter.
What power could one anonymous love letter have on the life of an isolated
bookstore owner? Helen finds out: the letter asks how one falls in love, and Helen
comes to realize that the romance of her life is just around the corner. This isn't a
canned romance story; but a literary work of art which captures the cadence and
changes of one woman's life. Midwest Book Review
Shteyngart, Gary. The Russian Debutante's Handbook.
The Russian Debutante's Handbook is infused with energy and wit and a brilliant use
of language. Hilarious, extravagant, yet uncannily true to life, it follows the
adventures of Vladimir, a young Russian-American immigrant, whose capitalist
dreams and desires for a girlfriend lead him off the straight and narrow and into
Smith, Zadie. White Teeth.
The scrambled, heterogeneous sprawl of mixed-race and immigrant family life in
gritty London nearly overflows the bounds of this stunning, polymathic debut novel
by 23-year-old British writer Smith. Traversing a broad swath of cultural territory
with a perfect ear for the nuances of identity and social class, Smith harnesses
provocative themes of science, technology, history and religion to her narrative.
Tremain, Rose. The Way I Found Her.
Tremain takes risks in making the protagonist of her new novel a clever, precocious
and inquisitive 13-year-old boy, but this gifted writer (Restoration) succeeds
brilliantly in creating an intensely imagined and sophisticated story. This
mesmerizing and immensely affecting novel almost begs for rereading to fully
appreciate the subtlety with which Tremain ties the lessons of literature and life into
a haunting parable of innocence lost. Publishers Weekly
Trevor, William. Felicia's Journey.
Felicia's Journey is a simple tale told with a subtle complexity. Felicia is an Irish
country girl who has come to England to look for her jilted lover. Hilditch is a mild-
mannered, gentle psychopath who lures the helpless Felicia into his trap.
Interestingly, we see the story from each character's eyes when they are separate,
but from Hilditch's view when they are together. It is an unusual and effective device
that distorts the perspective and adds texture to a classic story. Trevor won a
Whitbread Prize for Felicia's Journey in 1994.
Winton, Tim. Cloudstreet.
Hailed as a classic, Tim Winton's masterful family saga is both a paean to working-
class Australians and an unflinching examination of the human heart's capacity for
sorrow, joy, and endless gradations in between. An award-winning work, Cloudstreet
exemplifies the brilliant ability of fiction to captivate and inspire.