Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Review: Belle Cora by Phillip Marguiles

This was a really good book. Excellent historical fiction.

I love it when a book is well-written, the characters are complex and feel real, AND I learn something about a place and time that I previously had little familiarity with. I picked this book up from the new fiction shelves at the library based on the cover blurb. Over half of the books that I find this way end up going back unread.

I started this one with hope, but much trepidation due to the nature of the main character, a famous San Francisco madam. I was very quickly sucked in by the story and the writing. The writing in this book stays out of the way. First-person narratives often feel forced, but this never did. Written in the form of a memoir by the elderly main character, looking back over her life, the writing carried the story beautifully. As I was reading it, I kept thinking, "Unless something changes, this is a five-star book." Nothing changed. Five stars.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book Review: Embers by Sandor Marai

What makes one book better than another? What makes you finish a book feeling satisfied, glad that you have read it?

Whatever those are, Embers has them. From the publisher's description:
 In a secluded woodland castle an old General prepares to receive a rare visitor, a man who was once his closest friend but who he has not seen in forty-one years. Over the ensuing hours host and guest will fight a duel of words and silences, accusations and evasions. They will exhume the memory of their friendship and that of the General’s beautiful, long-dead wife. 

I read a couple of reviews that complained that nothing happens in this book. This is almost true, however, at the same time, so much has already happened. We get the story in layers. Thin piece by thin piece pulling away, revealing what lies underneath.

The writing is simple and beautiful. I will certainly look for other works by Marai. This book has also made me determined to seek out more works by other European authors.

I gave this book four stars. I'm not sure why I didn't give it five, but I went with what my gut said when I finished it. I wish I could give half stars. Wait! I can! Not on Goodreads, but here on my own blog, I can give half stars. Four and a half stars.