3 Favorite Books Read in February
Though I didn't read as many books in February (I read 10), my three faves are pretty outstanding reads!
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
Genre: Historical Fiction
Award: ALA Alex Award
Published March 2021, 621 pages
Excellent, well written story about three very different women who become fast friends as various parts of a code breaking British team composed predominantly of women during WWII. Their friendship is front and center but shows the life and loves of each and how war impacts their hearts' desires. The writing is almost lyrical sometimes, yet also clearly establishes the era and the British influence.
“Mab felt a grin hook itself nearly behind her ears.”
“If he doesn’t love me in a boiler suit, he’s not worth dressing up for in the first place.”
"Such a light kiss, to leave her so pinned in place."
There's Osla, a wealthy debutante who wants to prove she's more than arm candy; Mab, a poor girl that has definite plans to marry up and improve her standing; and Beth, a timid, mother-dominated young woman who thinks she's worthless. They each end up in the code breaking center by very different paths, but all eager to help the war effort. The development of the unlikely friendship between these women is so beautifully written and it's contrasted with the ugliness, uncertainty and tragedy of war.
Death, tragedy, deception, betrayal. Strong women accomplishing amazing, unrecognized feats. Great storytelling....I was invested in each and every main character! Another winner from Kate Quinn.
The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published January 2022, 336 pages
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the based-on-true story of Sylvia Beach, founder of the famous Shakespeare and Co bookstore in Paris. Maher did a great job setting the era and tying together all the famous people and authors who frequented her shop and befriended her. Names like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and maybe most notably, James Joyce. There was a LOT of name dropping and quite a few that I didn't know, but that didn't hinder the story. The role Sylvia played in getting Joyce's novel Ulysses published is extraordinary - banned in the US before even being published, she tackled it on her own because she felt it was an important, new type of storytelling. What an extraordinary woman.
The view of Paris of the 1920s presented by Maher is quite different than Hemmingway's book The Sun Also Rises, but similar in that the group of authors were apparently quite the partiers and Sylvia sometimes struggled to keep up. I enjoyed the tasteful exploration of Sylvia's long term relationship with Adrienne, a French bookseller. The way these two strong, independent women supported and encouraged each other is inspirational, especially considering the times.
For me, the reason for a 4 instead of 5 was the preponderance of names/characters and trying to keep track of them as they popped up here and there through the story. But, definitely a fascinating read about a fascinating time and woman. Be sure to read the Author's Notes at the end as she explains her research, where she fictionalized, and what happened to the Bookshop after the point the book ends.
The Institute by Stephen King
Genre: General Fiction / Paranormal
Published 2019, 561 pages
Another great read this month! Though, trigger warning, there is some child abuse described. Roughly, the story is about a secret organization that kidnaps kids who show any psychic affinity and take them to the Institute where all kinds of tests are run, some quite unpleasant. Kids come and go fairly frequently, but we get to know the core group and how they all want to go home.
Enter Luke. He's SUPER smart - at 12 he was testing to get into two colleges simultaneously before he was kidnapped. Briliant! I loved Luke; he's funny, homesick, caring ..... a real boy with the full gamut of emotions of that age. All the kids are great in one way or another.
“Luke Ellis was the guy who went out of his way to be social so people wouldn’t think he was a weirdo as well as a brainiac. He checked all the correct interaction boxes and then went back to his books. Because there was an abyss, and books contained magical incantations to raise what was hidden there: all the great mysteries. For Luke, those mysteries mattered. Someday, in the future, he might write books of his own.”
There were too many adult caretaker names bandied about and I couldn't keep track of them all but I got the main players, which I guess is all that's necessary. Because the action moved right along, I never felt the length of the book to be a detriment - long time King fans will enjoy it, but since there really isn't a horror element (except the way the kids are treated), it will suit a wider audience as well. A good, appropriate ending. Definitely recommended.
Did you have a good reading month? What's on the agenda for March? Let me know if you've read any of these books and if you agree with my enthusiasm????