Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Dinner


This book takes place over the course of one meal; a dinner between two brothers and their wives. The narrator, Paul Lohman, tells the story from his dark point of view. His brother, Serge Lohman, asks his brother Paul and his wife Claire to join them for dinner to discuss something their 15 year old sons had done; a horrific crime that they have committed.

Initially, Paul appears so normal. He is a loving father and doting husband. He describes his family with affection. He does, however, describe his dislike for his politician brother. He describes him as egotistical; putting a bad taste in the reader's mouth... a ploy I soon discover. 

When the evening begins, the reader believes Claire and Paul have a loving marriage. The verbal conversation of Serge and his wife, Babette, is interpreted via eye contact and nonverbal messages between Claire and Paul. They sense discord and difficulties in their marriage and discuss it through looks, smiles, and smirks. As the course of the evening continues, the reader learns about Paul and Claire's back story; their marriage, their home life, their son's behavior, Paul's illness, and Claire's long term hospital stay.

Paul describes how he and Claire discovered what their son and nephew had done. The climax of the story comes to a head when they, as parents, decide what they are going to do about it.

I tore through this book in 2-3 sittings. I love stories full of dialogue, suspense, and psychology. This book is marketed as "A European Gone Girl" and now having finished it, I can see why. I gave this book 4/5 stars for readability, plot, and suspense. I read a few poor reviews of this book stating that none of the characters were likeable. I don't think that a book has to have likeable characters to have interesting characters. This is a book that will have many people talking. Definitely a great book club pick. Once you finish it you will immediately want to talk about it!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Where'd You Go Bernadette


Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

"Misplaced genius." I really like that description about Bernadette because that's what the whole story is about. Bernadette is one of those mothers that most teenage girls would be embarrassed to claim as their own. She doesn't cook, clean, or up keep their huge house. Bee doesn't care about any the image of her mother at all... it's the rest of the word that does. Her neighbors think she's crazy and her husband thinks she's lost her mind and needs psychiatric help.

 Much of the book is written through emails and faxes from mothers of the pretentious school district Bee attends, emails to and from Bernadette's assistant Manjula, doctor's reports, and parts are narrated by Bee.  The format was different that most books I've read recently. I listened to this one on audiobook, so it took me a disk or two to really get the flow of the book. This is probably a book that it better read than listened to. Once I got into it though, I loved it. 

Parts of this book literally made me laugh out loud. The emails to and from some of the mothers were just hilarious. Other parts were heartbreaking. Bee is only 15 years old, but she has been subjected to a lot of sadness. I enjoyed how the author described what had happened to her and how she comes to terms with it all. 

Bernadette's character was my favorite. The author did a great job of developing her story and describing how she got to her breakdown. She, too, had been through a lot of sadness which ultimately made her "go crazy" as everyone was saying.  She was heartbroken over many miscarriages and also over her broken career. Her husband never really understands what she's going through; however, I believe that he is the one who truly had a midlife crisis. I found myself wanting to shake him for how he spoke to both Bee and Bernadette and for how he reacted to a lot of the things that went on in the story.

Where's You Go Bernadette was a great read. I give it 4/5 stars for plot and character development. The format is different than a lot of novels which made it fun and readable. The book made me realize how important it is to make time to do the things that make you happy in life.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Invisible Bridge


This book is for the serious reader only. I listened to it on audio and it was 22 disks. When I looked it up on Amazon, it said it was over 600 pages. Normally I would not attempt a book like this during the school year, but I think I can tackle any book on audio. It took me a good month and a half to listen to it. Now that's over, I find myself missing the characters before and after work. I spent a total 28 hours with them!

The story starts off in 1937 when Andras Levi, a young Jewish man from Hungary, sets off for architecture school in Paris. Prior to his departure he is asked to carry a letter to a woman named C. Morganstern, but is not allowed to mention it to anyone. Soon after meeting C. Morganstern (Clara) he falls in love with her and learns about her mysterious past. She is living in Paris under an alias and Andras is determined to find out why. They have a whirl wind romance in the midst of Andras's first two years of school.

As the years go on, Andras and Clara's relationship continues. As 1939 and war approach, Andras learns that he must return to Hungary to renew his Visa. Clara has to decide whether or not to return with him... a very difficult decision considering her past (I'll leave the rest of this up to mystery).

Once Andras returns to Hungary, the war is almost in full force. He is sent to a labor camp with many other Jewish men. He is worked almost to death, given very little food, and is infested with lice. War devastates Andras's family and the rest of Hungary. The author did a fantastic job of developing the characters of the entire Levi family as well as the supporting characters throughout the story. I felt like I knew every one of them. I learned about being a Jew in Hungary during WWII... and how Hungary was an ally of Germany. I enjoy historical fiction based on WWII, so this book definitely held my interest and taught me many things I did not know about Hungary.

For those who enjoys historical fiction, beautiful and thorough character development, and a thick plot, this book is for you. I give this book 4.5/5 stars. My only complaint is that I wish there was more dialogue about some of the most interesting and heightened plot points. The author talked about many of the events in the past... I enjoy reading about events as they actually happen.