Book Review: Homer’s Daughter by Robert Graves (Four Stars)


Book Review: Homer’s Daughter by Robert Graves

(Four Stars)

“On the whole, I have respected the truth because, not being a born liar, I find wanton invention confusing; though I do exaggerate at times, like everyone else, and must adapt, disguise, shift, diminish and enlarge incidents to square them with the epic tradition. I have, indeed, kept as closely as possible to my own experience.”

A 1955 romp through a familiar ancient saga with Continue reading

Book Review: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (Four Stars)


Book Review: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

(Four Stars)

“Like any Manhattanite of means, she had identified a need and paid to have it serviced. In its own perverse way, her purchase of a young man’s favors was perfectly in keeping with the unapologetic self-possession that made her so impressive.”

New York City in 1938 as seen through the eyes of an idle rich wannabee. Based on the concept that NYC was (and is) the center of the universe, and that life should be lived as if there’s no yesterday or tomorrow. The protagonist is from the working poor but strives to become one of the idle rich by getting as close to them as possible. There’s a price.

“In moments of high emotion—whether they’re triggered by anger or envy, humiliation or resentment—if the next thing you’re going to say makes you feel better, then it’s probably the wrong thing to say.”

Loosely referential to George Washington’s “Rules of Civility” with other high-concept literature. Lots of philosophic reflection; not that it interferes with the hedonistic lifestyle. Not a bad story, but the sum is somehow less than the total of the parts.

“I think we all have some parcel of the past which is falling into disrepair or being sold off piece by piece. It’s just that for most of us, it isn’t an orchard; it’s the way we’ve thought about something, or someone.”

Towles draws the reader right into the imagined world. Idiosyncratic punctuation; easily mastered. Quotation marks are generally abandoned in favor of dashes at the beginning of dialogue.

“Old times, as my father used to say: If you’re not careful, they’ll gut you like a fish.”



Book Review: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (Three Stars)


Book Review: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

(Three Stars)

“Provided that nothing like useful knowledge could be gained from them, provided they were all story and no reflection, she never had any objection to books at all.”

Not published in Austen’s lifetime. The Victorian’s loss is our gain. A pleasant enough story enhanced by insights given into Austen learning her craft as a writer.

“She was so far from seeking to attract their notice, that she looked back at them only three times.”

I enjoyed this more than my first reading almost a decade ago. I greatly appreciated Austen’s character and plot building. Most readers will have wearied of Catherine’s fair-weather friends long before she does herself, but that’s the point. We are taken deep into the hopes and fears (and what passes for thoughts) of our protagonist to see how she grows.

“To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.”

Not only aware of literary conventions of her time, Austen pauses occasionally to analyze them.  Several times she breaks the fourth wall by addressing her readers in the first person.

“You know, my dear Catherine, you always were a sad little scatter-brained creature; but now you must have been forced to have your wits about you.” said her mother.

That Austen couldn’t sell this manuscript in her lifetime enhances rather than degrades our impression of publishers of her day. Frankly, this isn’t very good; it is fascinating for its revelations of Austen’s first efforts. Other fragment, we are told, were even worse. But that a seclude young woman of limited means could see, understand and communicate so well, speaks for her singular talent.

“The anxiety, which in this state of their attachment must be the portion of Henry and Catherine, and of all who loved either, as to its final event, and hardly extend, I fear, to the bosom of my readers, who will see the tell-tale compression of the pages before them, that we are all hastening together to perfect felicity.”

Book Review: Pride’s Children: Purgatory by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt (Four Stars)


Book Review: Pride’s Children: Purgatory (Book One of the Trilogy) by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

(Four Stars)

“Make God laugh. Tell Him yer plans.”

Wow. This is really good. Regular readers know I warn against rating books in genres I avoid. I’m breaking that rule here because the author asked for my thoughts and the book is that good. Naïve readers pass over this as Chick Lit; it most assuredly is not. This is a deep and real dive into the lives of several people with wants and needs which sometimes coincide and sometimes conflict. Well-developed and well-told.

“I forgave him a long time ago.” “Why?” “Because it only hurts me not to? It took longer to forgive myself.”

It’s the characters who make the story work. Good inner focus and dialogue and self-depreciating humor. Feels real. The reader comes to care about even those whose motives and methods are Continue reading