Friday, July 23, 2010

Recommendations from Suzanne

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
This is very British and very charming! Major Pettigrew seems like a stodgy relic of the British colonial empire when you are first introduced to him, but perhaps he’s not as bound to tradition as he seems. He even surprises himself.

Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of the Mona Lisa
by R.A. Scotti
I recommend this nonfiction book to everyone who likes to read. When the Mona Lisa, the Louvre Museum’s most famous painting, disappears, the Paris police run around in circles, looking very much like Inspector Clouseau. They bring in Picasso and the poet Apollinaire for questioning. This is a romp, plus I learned a lot about da Vinci’s art and about the period in the which the crime took place. When the painting eventually turns up, the identity of the person who took the painting is a total surprise. This is a book about art that manages to be informative and funny at the same time.

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan
A man buys a shovel . . . and then the plot takes off and never loses its grip on you. This is one of the most original thrillers I’ve read. I literally did not know what was going to happen until the last page!

The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell
What does the brutal massacre of 19 mostly elderly inhabitants of a small hamlet in Sweden have to do with Chinese laborers who built the U.S. transcontinental railroads in the 1800’s? What do these two plots have to do with greedy Chinese capitalists, political corruption, the legacy of European colonialism in Africa and the withering away of youthful idealism? Mankell masterfully weaves all of these elements together into a web of intrigue that manages to be both credible and suspenseful. Mankell has created a fascinating and highly original mashup of a thriller combined with historical fiction. These two plots, the investigation of the murders and the historical story, are layered with Mankell’s probing examination of contemporary Swedish society and its values.
Hemming Mankell's website.

Short Girls by Bich Minh Nguyen
We read Bich’s memoir Stealing Buddha’s Dinner for one of our potlucks. Short Girls is her first novel, and it’s a winner. It’s the story of two sisters finding their way in life and dealing with their Vietnamese immigrant family. The book is touching, realistically told and positive in outcome.

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