Archive for October, 2010

Secret Daughter

Secret Daughter: A Novel by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (published by HarperCollins) has been on the best seller list for ages. It is one of those surprise hits.  It’s the story of 2 families, one in India, one in the USA, brought together by the adoption of an Indian baby girl named Asha by an American family in California. Growing up entirely American (but with an adopted father who was born in India), Asha eventually travels to Mumbai on a fellowship from Brown University as a journalist to do an article on children in the slums. This gives her a wonderful opportunity to connect with her Indian relatives, her father’s side of her adopted family, whom she’s never met. And of course, while there, she decides to try and find her birth parents. As Asha ages her American mother, Somer, has trouble dealing with the fact that she’s the only one in the family who has no connection to India and this eventually leads to a falling out of sorts between mother and daughter. And her birth mother, Kavita, has trouble dealing with the fact that she handed over her daughter to the adoption agency when she was 3 days old, and knows nothing about her since that heart-wrenching day. Is she still there, has she been adopted, is she even still alive? The book is full of emotion and feelings (“the emotional terrain of motherhood” as the back cover says), the trials of being an adoptive parent, and the loss of having to literally give away a baby. Gowda is a reat writer and her book is well worth reading.

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The House at Riverton

I’ll tell you right off the bat that I picked up this book because it was cheap, and I’d heard rumblings that it was a good book. For $9.99 I was willing to take a chance. And I certainly got my money’s worth. It’s terrific! House at Riverton, The by Kate Morton (published by Washington Square Press) is one of those cosy British stories about the priviledged part of society who live upstairs, and their servants who live downstairs (kind of like the book version of the very popular TV series Upstairs, Downstairs). Fourteen year old Grace Bradley is sent into service at Riverton, the glorious English estate of the aristocratic Hartford family. She becomes lady’s maid to Hannah, one of the two Hartford sisters. The other being younger sister Emmeline. Tragedy strikes in 1924 at a glittering society party at Riverton, sending the story on a different path entirely from the cosy-feel-good path it started out on. The story unfolds over decades and eventually Grace, at the age of 99, is asked to recollect her years of service for a film that is being made about events that took place there that summer. Morton is a wonderful writer as evidenced  at the very beginning of the book… “Face paint restored some life to my cheeks, but I was careful not to let Sylvia overdo it. I am wary of looking like an undertaker’s manequin. It doesn’t take much rouge to tip the balance.”  I just knew the book would be good after reading that. There wasn’t a single moment when I though I wanted to stop reading (and it’s 468 pages). It’s well worth buying, even if you can’t get it for $9.99 as I did.

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Oops… mea culpa from the publisher – again

It seems that there are 50,000 copies of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom floating around out there that are typographically flawed. What’s with the publisher?!! I have a copy of his previous best-seller The Corrections that apparently is also flawed. When I bought it, it came with an insert which says “We have discovered that the text on pages 430 and 431 were reversed in this printing.  i.e. page 431 should be read before page 430. We apologize for this error.” I found this very funny that a book called The Corrections comes with corrections. Now here we go again with another screw up in his latest book.

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Freedom

Well – what can I say… Freedom: A Novel (Oprah’s Book Club) (published by HarperColllins) by Jonathan Franzen is the talk of the town in the book world. This summer certainly has seen it’s share of hype in the publishing field. Freedom is an Oprah pick (as you can see), and Franzen’s had his photo on the cover of Time magazine, which I guess is a big deal for a writer these days. He previously wrote The Corrections (which I LOVED!) but that was 10 years ago so his new release has been much anticipated. It’s quite the book. The reason I’m saying this is that I can’t, even now, decide if I liked it or not. It’s that kind of book. I guess if it provokes discussion and comments, it’s a hit. It’s the story of the Berglund family, Patty, Walter, and their 2 kids Joey and Jessica. It spans at least 50 years I think. It’s your all-American, middle class disfunctional family, with a capital “D”. I went from loving the first few pages… how can you not think positive thoughts about what’s to come when someone writes “For all queries, Patty Berglund was a resource, a sunny carrier of sociocultural pollen, an affable bee.” . Then there were approx. 200 pages that had me thinking “hey, can we please get to the main part of the book” (200 pages! – that could be an entire book!), then some of it I just thought was downright yucky (you’ll know when you read it!) and then I couldn’t put it down because I had read so much (it’s a whopping 560 pages total) that I really wanted to know how things ended. So there. The last 100 or so pages I think are the best in the book.  It’s definitely a good book to be discussed in book clubs or even over coffee with friends. But is it worthy of all the hype and publicity … hmmm…

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