Review: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

15201408The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is a fictional interpretation of a biblical family. Narrated by Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob and sister to his 12 sons, whose life is barely mentioned in the Book of Genesis, it is rich in stories and characters.

Vividly bringing the ancient world to life, The Red Tent is filled with dust and shepherds and caravans and slaves. Diamant shares the joys, sorrows, and traditions of women in the world of the red tent, a haven during their menses, illnesses, and childbirth.

Dinah is loved by her four mothers, sister-wives Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah; strong women who pass down all their secrets, talents, stories, and feminine gifts to her, along with the religious and sexual practices of the tribe. Like her beautiful mother-aunt Rachel, she learns the skill of midwifery, which is instrumental to her future. Her destiny is forever changed while attending the birth of a child in the king’s house, where she falls in love with Shalem, the prince. This meeting sets into motion the events that shatter and scatter Dinah’s family, bringing shame to Jacob’s tribe but also bringing her great joy through her son, who will be raised as a prince in Egypt.

The Red Tent shows how vital female relationships and family traditions are to women, how much they enrich our lives. Diamant’s words paint a brilliantly imagined, emotionally lush world, a fascinating portrait of biblical women and the lives they might have lived.

This novel was such a satisfying read; I feel like I’ve just finished a 6 course feast after weeks of eating nothing but snacks. In the 12 years since it first came out it has become a book club favorite, so I let The Red Tent sit on my shelf for two years, hoping my book club would pick it. So far they haven’t, but I didn’t want to wait any longer.

This is historical fiction at it’s very best. I would give The Red Tent my highest recommendation. I loved it.

imagesAnita Diamant’s new book, Day After Night, is based on the true story of the rescue of 200 prisoners from an internment camp during the Holocaust and is due out in September. Visit her website HERE.

And is it just me, or does Anita Diamant look an awful lot like Ellen Degeneres?  I wonder if she’s funny..

Review: The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum

cover-opposite-love-pb Julie Buxbaum’s terrific debut novel, The Opposite of Love,  is about 29 year old Manhattan attorney Emily Haxby.  The story begins as Emily breaks up with Andrew, her boyfriend of two years with whom she’s had a happy, comfortable, passionate relationship, just as he seems to be on the verge of proposing marriage.  

No one understands this; not her friends, not her family, and she can’t articulate it very well to anybody.  We soon learn it’s not about the awesome Andrew- it has everything to do with Emily; her fear of being left has forced her to push him away.  “You’re your own worst enemy,” her best friend Jess tells her.  “It’s like you get pleasure out of breaking your own heart.” 

Emily’s outwardly enviable life is a little messy just below the surface. Emily’s job for a high powered law firm is sucking the life out of her, and her married boss is harassing her.  She has trouble connecting with others-communication is not her special talent.  Losing her mother to cancer at 14, Emily and her dad grew apart and shut down emotionally.  Grandpa Jack stepped in to pick up the slack and became her sole support system, and now her beloved grandpa has been diagnosed with Alzhiemers. 

As her grandpa’s health declines and her career falls apart, Emily braces herself for more loss.  Her dad, the lieutenant governor of Connecticut, is too busy and too in denial to help care for her grandpa, so decisions about his care fall to her.  Motherless Emily needs guidance and she finds it in the form of Ruth, a wise retired judge and friend of her Grandpa Jack, who encourages her to live her life fully and take chances.  

Bottom Line:  I really liked The Opposite of Love!  I cared about Emily and related to her complicated mess of conflicted feelings.  The writing is solid and the story, while light in some ways, is not fluffy.  There are very funny parts, but it is the kind of humor I like best- wry and sarcastic and intelligent.  It has a lot to say about relationships, communication, love, and loss.  Book clubs would find a lot to talk about (discussion questions can be found HERE) and the author is available for Q & A’s via email or chats.

I can’t wait to see The Opposite of Love on the big screen next year starring Anne Hathaway as Emily (fantastic casting!).  It’ll make a really good movie, but read it first.  As they say, the book is always better.

Author Julie Buxbaum’s website can be found HERE and her new book, After You, comes out August 25th.

Review: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice finalStill Alice by Lisa Genova is the heartbreaking and terrifying story of 50 year old Alice Howland, a brilliant Harvard professor, wife, and mother of three who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.

I can’t read about any disease, however unlikely or impossible, without starting to feel like I have it myself. Lyme disease, lupus, swine flu, prostate cancer- it doesn’t matter what it is. If it says something about fatigue (hmm, I’m tired), frequent headaches (hey, I had a headache yesterday!), flu-like symptoms (I’m hot- well it is summer), or mental confusion (where did I put my glasses??), I convince myself I must have it.

Such was the case with Still Alice. In the first 100 pages or so, I was practically panicked thinking I needed to see my doctor immediately. Thankfully I calmed down enough to finish the book and realize that maybe I’m ok after all.

This is a great book told from the point of view of the sufferer rather than a family member or caregiver. I was so completely engrossed in the story I felt like I was going through everything right alongside Alice. If you ever wondered what it was like to have Alzheimer’s- what it really feels like to be the person with the disease- to understand the fear, confusion, panic, and dread- read this book. Genova is able to realistically take the reader through the progression of the disease and the changes it brings on for both Alice and her family.

Initially Alice’s mental hiccups are the same variety as anyone might have. Blanking on a word, misplacing keys, that sort of thing. We all do it. Alice attributes it to middle age, impending menopause, stress. Except, she’s not feeling stressed, and she hasn’t gone through menopause yet.

One day while out for a run near the home she’s lived in for 25 years, she gets inexplicably turned around and can’t figure out how to get home. That’s a lot harder to explain away, so she sees the doctor and soon has this awful diagnosis. Through genetic testing she learns she carries a mutated gene responsible for EOA, which means her children could have it, and so could her future grandchildren. Just the thought of it is devastating.

But even as the disease is robbing Alice of her memories, she retains her sense of humor. There is a scene where she is struggling to put on a sports bra so that she and her husband can go for a run. Finally she screams and her husband runs into the bedroom.

“What’s happening?” asked John.

She looked at him with one panicked eye through a round hole in the twisted garment.

“I can’t do this! I can’t figure out how to put on this fucking sports bra. I can’t remember how to put on a bra, John! I can’t put on my own bra!”

He went to her and examined her head.

“That’s not a bra, Ali, it’s a pair of underwear.”

She burst into laughter.

“It’s not funny,” said John.

She laughed harder.

“Stop it, it’s not funny. Look, if you want to go running, you have to hurry up and get dressed. I don’t have a lot of time.”

He left the room, unable to watch her standing there, naked with her underwear on her head, laughing at her own absurd madness.

-from page 199

Alice compensates for the holes in her memory in all kinds of ways. Her Blackberry helps her to remember appointments, and she becomes a great list maker, although she can’t always make sense of her lists. She devises a way early on to gauge how she’s doing, and a back up plan in case she’s not doing well, a letter she has written to her sicker self. She keeps the letter in a file labeled Butterfly on her computer. However, by the time she needs the back up plan, she can’t retain the information long enough to put it into place.

Later in the book, when her symptoms are more severe, when she’s lost so much, I cried. I pretty much cried through the last third of the book- not horrible sobbing but a constant river of tears. This is a devastating disease that takes everything away. Everything-and at breakneck speed. But I never felt manipulated by Still Alice. It is by no means a sappy tearjerker. It’s just very tragic, compelling, and real, but hopeful too.

I loved Still Alice and can’t recommend it highly enough. It offers such insight and would make a wonderful gift for anyone touched by this devastating, incurable disease in some way. It speaks volumes about love and compassion. It would be especially good for book clubs because there is so much to discuss. I read it for my own book club and can’t wait to talk about it.

Very Highly Recommended!

I was surprised to learn that Lisa Genova self-published her book first, before it was picked up by Simon & Schuster. Read more about Lisa Genova and her amazing debut novel HERE. Discussion questions can be found HERE. And for an excerpt, click HERE.

Summer Reading Series Kick-off!

Mari from Bookworm with a View contacted me recently about organizing an online book club with her for the summer. After several emails back and forth, our Summer Reading Series plans started to come together and take shape. We’re excited with what we’ve come up with, and we hope you will join us in the next few months to share some great beach reads!

cholton929-390-beach_trip_coveBecause Mari’s site focuses on women’s lit (book reviews, news, and she also runs the Manic Mommies book club) and Books on the Brain focuses on book clubs and all things books, we thought our blogs would be the perfect combination for hosting an online book club. We’re teaming up to connect our readers, share ideas and more.

Our June selection is Beach Trip by Cathy Holton, and what better choice to throw into your beach bag this summer? E-mail me to enter the drawing for a free copy of the book (we have 20 books to give away). Put “Beach Trip” in the subject line, but please only request the book if you are interested in coming back for the discussion! Click here to read a full description of the book. Beach Trip will be in stores tomorrow, May 12th, and the Beach Trip discussion will take place here on June 16th – with the author participating ‘live’ for an hour! I will post details for the discussion about a week before along with an email reminder to those who’ve won the book.

26317027Our July book selection is All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, written by Janelle Brown. To enter the drawing, send Mari an email with the book title in the subject line. Mari will be hosting this discussion at Bookworm with a View on July 14th.  Click HERE for a full description and author interview.

Our August selection, which will include an author call in via Skype, has been finalized, and you can read all about it HERE!

flower summer seriesMore details will follow in the upcoming weeks. We know it’s a little early to be thinking about summer, but we want to get these books into the hands of readers asap so that you’ll have plenty of time to read, and so we can have a great discussion next month!

We hope you’ll read with us!

UPDATE:  THANKS for all the emails.. all the giveaway copies of Beach Trip and Everything We Ever Wanted was Everything have been claimed!   Stay tuned for an announcement about August (coming soon!) and regular updates about our June and July discussions.  I LOVE SUMMER!

Interview: Catherine Brady, author of The Mechanics of Falling

catherine-brady

Today I welcome the lovely and talented Catherine Brady, author of The Mechanics of Falling and Other Stories (reviewed HERE).  I wanted to find out more about her after reading her outstanding collection of short stories, and she thoughtfully answered all of my nosy questions for your reading pleasure.


BOTB: Where were you born and where did you grow up?

CB: I was born in Evanston, Illinois, and grew up in a suburb just a little further north from Chicago, Northbrook.

mofBOTB: When did you start writing? How did you get interested in it?

CB: I started to write just about as soon as I learned to read. I’m not sure that counts, though! I started to get serious about writing when I was in college, and then only because a writing teacher drew me aside and encouraged me to apply to a graduate writing program. I grew up in a working class, immigrant family, and it was hard for me to feel that I could dare to be a writer.

BOTB: Along with short stories, you’ve also written a biography. Which type of writing do you prefer? Which is more difficult?

CB: I prefer to write fiction, because I think it uses every resource you have. Writing about fictional characters is rooted in an effort to empathize—to try to see into someone else’s heart, to try to make sense of the mystery of other people. And then you have to strategize how to make a story both convincing and surprising, and you have to think about using language that is both precise and suggestive. It’s like playing a game where you can’t say what you actually want to say but have to give only clues, so that the reader is the one who says, ah, that’s what’s going on here. So you have to use your analytical mind, your creative mind, and your heart, which makes writing fiction the most completely satisfying.

bbok_eb_oThat said, I really enjoyed writing the biography, because I had to learn so much in order to even attempt it. The book is about molecular biologist Elizabeth Blackburn, whose research has important implications for human health (including cancer treatment), so I had to attempt to understand the science. But what really captured my attention was how to find a dramatic arc for her life story, and I was so curious about how she has managed to succeed in such a competitive field when she is such a modest, deferential person. If you met her, you would not imagine what she has accomplished. On the other hand, if you talked to her about science, you’d quickly realize there is a steely mind underneath that sweet exterior. So writing the biography was something like writing a novel, with the difference that my main character was alive and well and fully able to contradict my assumptions or interpretations.

BOTB: Is there a novel in you waiting to come out?

CB: I am working on a novel right now, and I’m really enjoying it. I think that writing the biography has really helped me to think about a character’s life in terms of this longer arc.

BOTB: When you write your short stories, do you start with an idea about a character, an incident, a place, or something else?

CB: Different stories start with different triggers. Usually, a story comes from a glimmer in the corner of your eye. A detail that is just an aside in a story someone else tells you or an image that interests you for reasons you don’t understand. I began The Mechanics of Falling & Other Stories when I saw one of those flyers people post when they’re looking for a room-mate. This one had a spelling error: Looking for a Female Tenet (instead of “tenant”). That slip in language really interested me, and it was only after I wrote a story with that title and a few more stories in the book that I realized there was a thematic issue that really encompasses all the stories in the book. I’m fascinated by the mistakes people make, how much they reveal about what is at the core of a person, and I’m especially interested in the mistakes that we just refuse to admit are mistakes in the face of all kinds of pressure. What you won’t surrender to practicality or reality says so much about what you most need to believe.

BOTB: Do you think a short story collection would be a good choice for a book club, and if so, why?

CB: I think book groups are sometimes reluctant to tackle short story collections, for two reasons. One is that people worry that stories are going to be literary, difficult, and not deliver that basic satisfaction of storytelling and intimacy with a character that you can get from so many novels. But I think good short stories always deliver that, and anything literary is an extra that can intensify this sense of connection, even if you don’t particularly want to analyze it. The second reason that story collections are difficult for book groups is that it’s hard to discuss all the stories in a book at one meeting. Each one offers a whole different set of characters and different themes. But if you realize that you can “browse” a story collection, picking out just a few stories for longer discussion, instead of reading and discussing the book straight through the way that you would a novel, you can have a lot of fun reading story collections. If you discuss even a few of the stories in more depth, it gives you a sense of what’s working in the book as a whole, how these different life predicaments might be connected.

BOTB: Have you had the opportunity to talk with book clubs about The Mechanics of Falling? If so, what was that experience like? Were you surprised by any observations or comments made at a book club meeting?

book_cbl_oCB: I haven’t spoken to book clubs about Mechanics, but I have done so with my previous book, Curled in the Bed of Love. It’s always fun to hear what other people saw in the stories; your readers bring their own experience to the book, so they are always adding something to the meaning –showing you something you couldn’t even have anticipated. My stories are largely concerned with the lives of women who juggle work and family, who aren’t so sure we’ve come a long way, baby, and aren’t so sure they’ve made the “right” compromises in their lives. So if I’m talking to a book club that is largely women in my own age range, we’re talking about ourselves, our lives.

BOTB: What do you like to do in your free time?

CB: Read. And hike.

BOTB: Read any good books lately? Anything you’d like to recommend?

I was just rereading Alice Munro’s story collection, The Love of a Good Woman. Like so many writers, I love her work. And I recently read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which is a wonderful novel, told in such an amazing vital voice.

For more information about Catherine and her work, please visit her website.

Many thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for coordinating this tour and another big THANK YOU to Catherine Brady!!

Review: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

51a7mjkefwl_sl500_aa240_Shanghai Girls by Lisa See is the tale of two sisters.   The book opens in Shanghai in 1937, where Pearl and May are “beautiful girls” who model for an artist and whose faces appear on calendars and advertisements selling everything from soap to cigarettes.  They make money, but it all goes into supporting their expensive lifestyle.  They are sophisticated, educated girls who wear gorgeous clothing, stay out late, go to clubs, and take full advantage of their status in this cosmopolitan city.  They are blissfully ignorant of the rapidly changing political climate and the war with Japan looming on the horizon. 

At home, they are just girls, albeit girls living a privileged life, with cooks and servants and lovely furnishings.  Daughters are worthless in China except for their value as marriage material.  Pearl, however, is in love with her “beautiful girl” artist ZG, and May loves Tommy.  They’ve made a modern assumption that they will marry for love, as they do in the west, and are shocked when their father announces that their marriages have been arranged, to help the family. “Baba”, a wealthy businessman, has had a reversal of fortune.  His gambling debts are mounting and he sees no other way out but to marry off his daughters to the highest bidder. 

dsc0325824 hours later, the girls are married women.  Their new husbands, Sam and Vern (only 14!), and their family live in Los Angeles.  The plan is that the girls will tie up loose ends, take a boat to Hong Kong to meet their new husbands, then travel with them to Los Angeles.   Pearl and May, still in denial, never get on the boat for Hong Kong.  Baba is upset but thinks, “What can I do?”  Life goes on pretty much as before, with the girls adjusting their lifestyle only slightly and trying to make more money. 

But then the war breaks out.  They get caught up in the bombings but manage to escape Shanghai.   Threatened by collectors of Baba’s debt, they flee.  Leaving the city proves extremely difficult, and as they make their way out of the country, they are broken both physically and spiritually.  They finally arrive in Los Angeles after much hardship and make a life with their husbands and extended family as immigrants in Chinatown.  Pearl and May, with their love of western clothing and sensibilities, are made to wear the traditional clothing of China for the tourists and must stay within the confines of the community.   Pearl works and works, harboring little resentments against the more carefree May.  They struggle with everyday life, and nothing is as they expected it to be.   

As in Lisa See’s earlier novels, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, there is a major misunderstanding between the main characters that threatens to destroy their relationship and propels much of what happens in the book.  May and Pearl, like all siblings, view their shared past differently.  The revelatory moment, when they each see things clearly and understand the others’ perspective, comes late in the novel.   

I’m a huge Lisa See fan and was completely swept away by Shanghai Girls. This is a book about survival and just how much a person will endure for the people they love.  It is also a captivating history lesson about the difficulties faced by our immigrant population.  The book is so rich in detail, lush in its descriptive language.  Lisa See is an expert at describing and exploring women’s relationships, making this a natural choice for a book club.  My only complaint is the cliffhanger ending.. but then, maybe that leaves the door open for a sequel.  I hope so!  

Shanghai Girls will be released on May 26th.  Many thanks to Random House for sending me an advanced readers copy.  

For more information on Lisa See, please visit her website.

Book Clubs- What are you reading?

I’m always looking for discussable books to present to my book club, so it’s endlessly interesting to me to find out what other clubs are reading these days.  I asked some blogger friends what their clubs were reading, and thought I’d share the answers here:

imagedb-1cgiMeg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters:  The Wednesday Sisters Book Club is reading Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

Suey from It’s All About Books:  The Third Thursday Book Club is reading The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Melanie at Lit Chick Cafe:  We are reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova in April, then A Golden Age  by Tahmima Anam in May.

9781594483547lJulie at Booking Mama:  The Preschool Moms Book Club is reading The Ten Year Nap in April and The Help in May.

Author Laura Fitzgerald:  The Desert Chicks are reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates.

Heather from A Lifetime of Books:  Stories delle Sorelle (italian for Stories of the Sisters) is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz in April, Queen of the Road by Doreen Orion in May (including a chat with the author!), and Little Bee by Chris Cleave in June.

imagedb-2cgiJen at Devourer of Books:  The Wine and Book Club is reading Expecting Adam by Martha Beck

Gayle at Every Day I Write the Book Blog:  her online book club is reading Buffalo Lockjaw by Greg Ames

Tara at Books and Cooks:  The 8 is Enough book club is very organized and plans ahead for the whole year.  Their list is HERE.

Beastmomma:  Her club is reading Ali and Nino by Kurban Said (she adds that it is very interesting but tough to get through!)

16227538Kristen of Book Club Classics:  Her club is reading Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence.

Jessica of Barney’s Book Blog:  Her club is reading The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamont

Stephanie of Stephanie’s Written Word:  Her club is reading The Big Girls by Susanna Moore.

Lesley of Lesley’s Book Nook:  Her group is reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

AND last, but not least, Trish at Hey, Lady! was embarrassed to tell me that her club is reading My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult.  I told her not to be embarrassed- I loved that book!

Have you read a book recently that you could not wait to discuss?  Or one that you were embarrassed to admit that  you were reading (and possibly even enjoying)?  Leave me a note and tell me what it is!  I must know!!

Book Club Wrap Up: Book Clubs as Cheap Entertainment

Sheri, our bartender 

 

Sheri, our bartender

With our economy in the gutter, I’m looking for ways to have fun on a budget. Spring break is coming up and we have no plans to go anywhere, so we’ll be riding bikes, having picnics, going to the library, using coupons for free games of bowling, going to the beach (free for us) and anything else that doesn’t cost a lot of money. I’m constantly dreaming up bargain ways we can enjoy ourselves.  Cheap is good, free is better.  

And so it is with the book club.  For the price of a bottle of wine or, in the case of last week, a pan of chicken enchiladas, I get two to three hours of lively, inspiring conversation in a room full of adults.  We laugh, catch up with each other, eat, and talk- a lot- about that month’s book, but also about whatever else is going on, all in a relaxed, cozy, kid-free atmosphere.  Friendships with these other women have a chance to grow over time into something unlike other relationships in our lives, because we have this common bond.  The food is always delicious, and sometimes, there are margaritas.  That’s a lot of bang for my buck. 

Last Sunday my book club descended on my house, a dozen women coming up my driveway in a wave of laughter, bearing food and drink and books.  Reading is solitary but book clubs are social, and I look forward to seeing these people all month.  We sat around my very long dining table enjoying our dinner and each other.  Sheri mixed up the margs and they were unbelievable (the key is fresh everything- including limes from her backyard).  We welcomed a new member (she was the only one who didn’t partake in the margaritas, so I hope we didn’t scare her off!), finished dinner, then moved into the living room to discuss Sara’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.  The book was universally enjoyed but, surprisingly, didn’t give us that much to chew on, which worked out well because this was a ‘voting’ meeting.  We needed to decide what to read this summer.  And that takes a while.

We voted on 2 new book selections from a list of 9 nominees.  Here’s the list: 

The Art of Racing in the Rain 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society 

Out Stealing Horses 

South Sea Tales 

Beneath the Marble Sky 

The Book of Bright Ideas 

Still Alice 

The Book Thief 

Life of Pi

After much discussion, we voted in Still Alice by Lisa Genova for July, a novel about a woman struck by early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, and Life of Pi by Yann Martel for August, a fable about the son of a zookeeper who finds himself in a lifeboat with several wild animals. 

Then some people had to leave, but others stayed for the ‘book club after the book club’ which was more informal (no discussion questions here!).  We had another drink and compared this months selection to last months, and found out which one people liked better, and why, and talked about what makes a book discussable, etc.  But then it was time to retrieve the kids from the neighbor’s house.  Sadly, our book club bubble was about to burst. 

My neighbor later said she enjoyed hearing our laughter (I guess we were a little loud!) and was surprised when she found out it was “just a book club meeting” (as opposed to some other kind of party) which proves my point.. book clubs are a great form of cheap entertainment!  

The Sunday Salon

tssbadge3It’s Sunday! Wonderful Sunday! I hope everybody had a good week.

Today my family is preparing to ship our oldest off to 6th grade camp in the mountains for a week. She is super excited. I’ve been giving the Sharpie a workout, writing her name on everything (“Does everything I own have to have my images-12name on it?” “According to your teacher, yes.”) Her biggest concern is that she won’t like the food and that she’ll be hungry, and I worry about that too since she is underweight to begin with and extremely picky. I told her she will just have to eat whatever is offered or go without. I’ve tried to adapt that rule at home but usually I cave in and let her eat something other than what the rest of us are having, just to get some calories in her. Yes, I’ve created a (finicky) monster. Maybe this week at camp will change that.

images3My book club meets today here at my house. I spent a good chunk of yesterday afternoon cleaning, and today I will spend a good chunk of my morning making chicken enchiladas for later. Sheri will be mixing up the margaritas (she claims to be a pro!) and then we’ll sit down to discuss Sarah’s Key. We’re sending the kids (hers and mine) and my husband across the street to another book club member’s house so the guys can watch March Madness while our kids babysit my neighbor’s 4 year old twins.

During my clean up for book club I had to move my pile of books waiting to be read and reviewed. NOT my huge TBR pile of books without deadlines, but the ones that I have committed to reviewing. I did some quick mental calculations (3 times 4, carry the 1… where the hell is my calculator???) and found that I need to read about 4,800 pages before the end of April. That doesn’t include my book for book club, to be discussed on the first Sunday in May, another 300+ pages. So that’s about 128 pages of reading daily. The problem is, I secret-keeperaverage about 50 ppd (pages per day), with occasional gusts of up to 200 ppd. But some days I don’t have time (or I’m too tired) to read at all. I think I need to start saying no to the review books for a while, before I crack under the pressure!

I signed a new client this week- Paul Harris and his book, The Secret Keeper, will be on tour with TLC beginning mid-May. I hadn’t heard about this book before, but it sounds really exciting!

This week I finished Sonata for Miriam by Linda Olsson (still need to write the review) and got about 2/3rds of the way through The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson. I hope to finish that tonight, unless Sheri is reeeeeeally good at mixing margaritas.

Enjoy your Sunday! What are you reading this week?

Book Club Q & A with Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah’s Key

tatiana-de-rosnayIn preparation for our book club meeting, we asked Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah’s Key, reviewed here, if she would answer a few questions for us, and she graciously agreed.  But beware- there are a few spoilers!


Lisa’s questions:
How did you originally find out about the Vel d Hiv roundup?  Did you know right away that you wanted to write a book about it?
  
Tatiana de Rosnay:  I found out through Chirac’s speech, the one I mention in the book. I knew very little about the round up. I was born in France in the 60’s and like many French people of my generation, we were not taught about this in school. However now, students are taught about it.
 
I remember Julia’s shock at being a 45 year old woman living in Paris who knew nothing of the events.  Are Parisians as unaware of the involvement of the French during WWII as they seem to be in SK?  Has your book changed that?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  Some Parisians are aware and other are not. I’m surprised at the amount of  emails I get from Parisians who are shocked at what they have learned through my book and others who say they knew, but not to that extent. I think and hope my book may have changed things as I now have a million readers world wide !
 
What has been the reaction to your book in France?

Tatiana de Rosnay:  It has been very good. Especially from the Jewish community, which warms my heart. Another surprise is how much teens enjoy it.
 
The details of the separation of the children from their mothers was horrific- the beatings and the water being thrown on them.  Being a mother myself, that was hard to read, and I cried for those mothers and their children.  Did you interview survivors of Vel d Hiv while researching your book, or were those details something you’d read about in your research?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  I met two survivors during my research, and three after the book was published. Wonderful moments that I shall never forget. They told me that they went through exactly what I describe in the book.
 
Do you have any idea how many children were able to escape the camps in the French countryside?  Is there evidence that some had help from sympathetic members of the French police, the way Sarah and Rachel did?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  No, I do not have a precise idea. However, France is the country where the largest number of Jewish children were saved and hidden by French people, like Sarah and Rachel were. These people then became «Justs of the Nation».
 
Why did Sarah’s part of the narrative stop after the discovery of Michel?   I missed her!
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  That’s how I «felt» the story.  Julia’s quest to find her (or William) then becomes even stronger.
 
When will your new book be available?  What are you currently working on?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  I am about to publish Boomerang, my first love story ! It is out in France in a couple of weeks, and next year in the US. I am now researching a new book which takes place in 19th century Paris.
 
Valerie’s questions:
The whole issue with the late age pregnancy and Julia”s reaction suprised me. One, that she would have even considered the abortion at all…why?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  I have not gone through this, thankfully, but my closest friend has. Her husband refused to have the child. She chose the husband over the child. She still regrets it, ten years later…
 
 and then naming the girl Sarah? An attempt to give something back for such a great wrong being done or another reason?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  Because Sarah is dead and gone, bringing into the world another little Sarah is like lighting a candle for all the Vel d’Hiv children.
 
I felt like the ending alluded to a possible romantic relationship between Julia and Sarah’s adult son. Wishful thinking on my part or ??
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  I did not want a  soppy Hollywood ending, and I guess each reader can make up her own mind ! ( I personally think they get together, but I’m not totally sure !)
 
Was there one particular story, memory or incident about the Vel’ de hiv and its aftermath at the camps that most profoundly influenced and/or effected you and subsequently the story line of the book? Thanks! 
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  I had all the book planned out in my head before I even wrote it. I wanted to share the horror and disgust I felt when I found out about what happened. The  worst part for me is how the children were separated from the parents at  Beaune. It makes me physically ill.
 
Sheri’s questions:
How has the success of this book affected your life?  What has been the most positive impact of its reception and the most difficult?

Tatiana de Rosnay:  This book has changed my life. I had never written a best-seller before and I have published 8 books. I’m still trying to get used to the attention. I guess the most difficult part is finding time to answer all my readers !
 
Karen’s question:
Since France has so much anti Semitism, have there been any problems with Sarah’s Key being sold in bookstores, since many citizens are wanting to ban the Holocaust teachings in the French public schools and universities?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  I don’t think France’s anti-Semitism is to that extent ! I visit a school per week meeting students and teachers to talk about Sarah and the Vel d’Hiv. All bookstores here carry my book.
  
From Orchid:  
I‘ve visited France twice, and I thought based on stereotypes that the French might be rude, but I found them to be very helpful and kind to me, a tourist who didn’t know the language that well.  So my question is.. the French family in the book is portrayed as very private and somewhat arrogant.. did you embellish on stereotypes or did you find that to be actually true in your experience or research?
 
Tatiana de Rosnay:  The French family I describe is a typically high class, wealthy Parisian family, certainly not representative of all French citizens ! So are the Parisians that Julia pokes fun of! I am French myself, born in the Paris suburbs, and I think I know my country men well… 🙂

Many thanks to Tatiana de Rosnay for her openness and willingness to answer our questions, and for writing this incredible book!