Today I am sharing two books that couldn’t be more different from one another. On tap is a psychological thriller that will knock your socks off and a slow-burn historical mystery with a few dead bodies floating around. Let’s take a peek at these spring 2022 releases, shall we?
Cleopatra’s Dagger was a delight to read. Lawrence immediately transported me to New York City circa 1880. Her writing is rich in detail and showcases a feminist journalist way ahead of her time. A serial killer, mysterious dead bodies, and an Egyptian flair fill the pages of this book. I went into this novel anticipating gruesome details and an unsettling storyline; however, I found her writing more intriguing than disturbing. There were twists along the way that kept me guessing and a “whodunnit vibe” present throughout the book. I believe that historical fiction and mystery lovers will equally enjoy this slow-burn historical mystery.
“New York, 1880. Elizabeth van den Broek is the only female reporter at the Herald, the city’s most popular newspaper. Then she and her bohemian friend Carlotta Ackerman find a woman’s body wrapped like a mummy in a freshly dug hole in Central Park–the intended site of an obelisk called Cleopatra’s Needle. The macabre discovery takes Elizabeth away from the society pages to follow an investigation into New York City’s darkest shadows.
When more bodies turn up, each tied to Egyptian lore, Elizabeth is onto a headline-making scoop more sinister than she could have imagined. Her reporting has readers spellbound, and each new clue implicates New York’s richest and most powerful citizens. And a serial killer is watching every headline.
Now a madman with an indecipherable motive is coming after Elizabeth and everyone she loves. She wants a good story? She may have to die to get it.”
An Honest Lie is my second Tarryn Fisher book, and what can I say…I am a fan. This novel is a story of survival, redemption, and everything in-between. It is written in two different timelines with a horrific cult as the backdrop. I adored the complexity of Fisher’s characters and was captivated by each messy layer that was slowly unpeeled. I was pulled in many directions, which kept me briskly turning the pages to see what happened next. One minute I was lingering in sadness, and the next minute I felt like I was on an over-the-top roller coaster ride. Most importantly, though, Fisher kept me wildly entertained while I basked in the sun poolside over spring break.
“Lorraine–“Rainy”–lives at the top of Tiger Mountain. Remote, moody, cloistered in pine trees and fog, it’s a sanctuary, a new life. She can hide from the disturbing past she wants to forget.
If she’s allowed to.
When Rainy reluctantly agrees to a girls’ weekend in Vegas, she’s prepared for an exhausting parade of shots and slot machines. But after a wild night, her friend Braithe doesn’t come back to the hotel room.
And then Rainy gets the text message, sent from Braithe’s phone: someone has her. But Rainy is who they really want, and Rainy knows why.
What follows is a twisted, shocking journey on the knife-edge of life and death. If she wants to save Braithe–and herself–the only way is to step back into the past.”
It’s that time of the month again. Katie @basicbsguide and I have decided on our April #dearbasicbuddyreads Backlist Buddy Read and we are thrilled to announce that our pick is 𝘚𝘢𝘭𝘵 𝘛𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘦𝘢 by Ruta Sepetys. We will be reading this YA Historical Fiction novel the month of April and will have a fabulous discussion ( as always 😉) at the end of the month via a private Instagram chat. I can honestly say… I have only heard great things about this book and I am wicked excited to dive in with everyone! If you want to join our lively group for this read, please reach out to me on Instagram @dearmrhemingway and I will add you to April’s group chat. Check out the synopsis below! xoxo, Kelly
𝐒𝐲𝐧𝐨𝐩𝐬𝐢𝐬 “World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety. Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival. ”
I have three books for you today and they are all so very different from one another. These three works of fiction each have their own unique vibe and I am thrilled to share them with you. I am offering up a man in search of his soul, a courtroom drama set way into the future, and a mystery around some Nazi stolen artwork. I can honestly say that I was swept away by all three of the books below. I was shocked, entertained, made to think, and above all…simply wowed by these three authors. I do believe there is something for everyone in today’s round-up. Happy reading and listening!
Until next time dear friend!
Your Biggest Fan,
First up is The Selfless Act of Breathing by JJ Bola. All I can say is that I absolutely LOVED this book. Bola’s writing knocked my socks off, that is for sure. His main character Michael truly lost his way and my soul literally ached for him. His journey is beyond profound and left me with a feeling of sadness that was hard to shed. I was mesmerized by his introspection and oftentimes found myself drifting off into my own world of ruminating and reflecting on life, love, and loneliness. The connections with the people he met along the way truly highlighted his internal needs and fears and I was in absolute awe of how Bola could take on the heavy themes of suicidal thoughts, race, culture, and family using a poetic tone. The Selfless Act of Breathing is a raw and powerful read and I highly recommend it.
“Michael Kabongo is a British-Congolese teacher living in London on the cusp of two identities. On paper, he seems to have it all: He’s beloved by his students, popular with his coworkers, and the pride and joy of a mother who emigrated from the Congo to the UK in search of a better life. But behind closed doors, he’s been struggling with the overwhelming sense that he can’t address the injustices he sees raging before him—from his relentless efforts to change the lives of his students for the better to his attempts to transcend the violence and brutality that marginalizes young Black men around the world.
Then one day he suffers a devastating loss, and his life is thrown into a tailspin. As he struggles to find a way forward, memories of his father’s violent death, the weight of refugeehood, and an increasing sense of dread threaten everything he’s worked so hard to achieve. Longing to escape the shadows in his mind and start anew, Michael decides to spontaneously pack up and go to America, the mythical “land of the free,” where he imagines everything will be better, easier—a place where he can become someone new, someone without a past filled with pain.
On this transformative journey, Michael travels everywhere from New York City to San Francisco, partying with new friends, sparking fleeting romances, and splurging on big adventures, with the intention of living the life of his dreams until the money in his bank account runs out.”
Next up is Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr. Run, don’t walk to grab yourself a copy of this literary gem. The dazzling art world, high-stakes journalism, and the history of Nazi stolen artwork during the Second World War are well framed in this remarkable literary mystery. Barr’s story is teeming with intricate details and a chic background that pairs well with her multi-layered and quite juicy characters that undeniably lit up the pages of this book. The combination of unparalleled research weaved into modern-day fiction was THE creme de la creme for me. Every luscious page I read made me more ravenous for the next because I simply had to know what happened next. I refused to cease my reading adventure until I reached the wicked satisfying ending the Barr so meticulously delivered. At the end of the day, there is nothing better than being immersed in a world where the past meant everything and secrets kept everyone in the game. Woman on Fire was an absolute pleasure to read.
Lisa Barr’s stunning creation is the true work of art here and SHE is… The Ultimate Woman on Fire!
“After talking her way into a job with Dan Mansfield, the leading investigative reporter in Chicago, rising young journalist Jules Roth is given an unusual—and very secret—assignment. Dan needs her to locate a painting stolen by the Nazis more than 75 years earlier: legendary Expressionist artist Ernst Engel’s most famous work, Woman on Fire. World-renowned shoe designer Ellis Baum wants this portrait of a beautiful, mysterious woman for deeply personal reasons, and has enlisted Dan’s help to find it. But Jules doesn’t have much time; the famous designer is dying.
Meanwhile, in Europe, provocative and powerful Margaux de Laurent also searches for the painting. Heir to her art collector family’s millions, Margaux is a cunning gallerist who gets everything she wants. The only thing standing in her way is Jules. Yet the passionate and determined Jules has unexpected resources of her own, including Adam Baum, Ellis’s grandson. A recovering addict and brilliant artist in his own right, Adam was once in Margaux’s clutches. He knows how ruthless she is, and he’ll do anything to help Jules locate the painting before Margaux gets to it first.”
Last but never ever least is The Prynne Viper by Bianca Marais. Marais, author of Hum if You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh is back with something 100% fresh. This time around she is not writing about South Africa, the Apartheid, or the Soweto Uprising. Instead, she wowed me with a short story offered as an Audible Original.The Prynne Viper is a futuristic tale (yes, you heard me correctly) that left me thinking long and hard about the fate of humanity if left in the hands of some crazy predictive software. I was transfixed by this terrifying world and the idea that mankind could be predetermined by a courtroom jury haunted me for days. Don’t let the length of this story fool you though. Marais’ magnificent storytelling, the full cast of narrators, and an extremely pleasing ending all neatly fit into a unique two-hour listen. Marais’ ability to switch writing gears by seamlessly transitioning to a completely different genre was wicked impressive and she will forever be an auto-buy author for me.
“In a futuristic world where predictive software can map out the lives of every living person and their descendants, Naomi Prynne is on trial. The charge: endangerment by way of a pregnancy.
Thirteen jurors will determine whether Naomi is allowed to carry the pregnancy to term, but the jurors are also all plaintiffs, the software having predicted how Naomi Prynne’s child will affect each of them in life-changing ways. Among them: a history professor who has given up on her own dreams for the sake of the greater good; a student participating in his first-ever trial who’s about to discover an earth-shattering truth; and a former mathematician, who knows all too well the dark machinations of the state, but is prohibited from speaking out against them. The future of the Prynne Viper – an acronym for “viable person” – is in their hands.
But this Prynne Viper is unlike Naomi’s other pregnancies. This time, Naomi Prynne is carrying a secret, one with the power to alter the future into something incalculable, and therefore, unpredictable.”
Today, I am over the moon to share with you Kerri Maher’s latest creation, The Paris Bookseller. Maher brings to life the extraordinary Sylvia Beach. Beach is known for her famous English language bookstore and lending library, Shakespeare and Company which she opened in 1919 in Paris. But what many may not know is that she (Shakespeare and Company) was the first to publish the book, Ulysses by none other than Irish writer, James Joyce. Beach was THE champion for Joyce’s highly controversial book and made it her life’s work (at the time) to not only get it published by Joyce’s 40th birthday (February 2, 1922) but to fight for its seriousness in America where it was banned for so long. Beach was a force to be reckoned with leaving a huge literary stamp on the world for women, writers, and book lovers everywhere.
January 11, 2022
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
You are the gentleman I need to talk to, that’s for sure. I was giddy with delight when I ran into you in Kerri Maher’s book and equally excited to get to know your friend Sylvia Beach a bit more. I am very sure you remember her. After all, you were there from the very beginning of her literary adventure. You helped Sylvia move boxes when her new store, Shakespeare and Company was just born in Paris. You spent time with her reading, drinking, and even writing in her shop with fellow expatriates. You watched her work herself to the bone while trying to keep her business afloat while at the same time publishing her first and only book, Ulysses by James Joyce. You, my friend, are known for “liberating” her famous shop in person in 1944 when Paris was finally freed from the Nazis and the Second World War. How’s that for a greeting?
Everyone who knows me must realize by now that I have developed an absolute fascination with the writers and artists who make up “The Lost Generation”. You, of course, F. Scott Fitgerald, Ezra Pound, John Dos Passos, Gertrude Stein, and of course Silvia Beach. It doesn’t stop there though. The literary scene in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s was frothing over with artistic goodness. So many writers and book enthusiasts made their mark during this era and Sylvia Beach was one of the big ones. Because of this I instantly fell in love with Maher’s new book.
Maher dropped me directly at #8 Rue Dupuytren in Paris, the first home to Beach’s Shakespeare and Company. Her story follows Beach opening her shop and her fraught journey working with James Joyce and publishing Ulysses. Every great book needs a stellar backdrop and Maher delivers just that by illuminating the pages of her book with atmospheric prose that made me experience sitting in Shakespeare’s oversized chair amongst the dusty bookshelves and smoke-filled air. I love how alive Sylvia and the cast of characters felt as they engaged in the liveliest of conversations, drank countless cups of wine, and shared effortless Parisian fare. While Maher’s description of this grandiloquent time period set the overall vibe for this story, it was her portrayal of Sylvia Beach that not only stole the show but won my heart forever.
I was so delighted that Maher introduced her readers to Sylvia Beach the PUBLISHER. Yes, Shakespeare and Company was her first baby, but Joyce’s Ulysses was equally important to her. Beach was an American woman ahead of her time. Instead of marrying young and starting a family like so many women her age, she fell in love with a woman and started a small business in Paris. She fought with every breath in her body for Joyce’s work to be read. She painstakingly worked with him and his uneven personality and diminishing eyesight to make unremitting changes to his book. She went to bat for him countless times with printers, booksellers, and the US naysayers of his work to assure them that his words were truly innovative and worth the read. She drained her account for his mistakes, her personal life with Adrienne took a hit, and like so many of us modern-day women, she struggled greatly to find the ultimate work-life balance. Beach prevailed though and delivered the first published edition of Ulysses to Joyce.
Maher illustrated everything Beach endured with perfection. Beach’s passion for Adrienne seeped through the pages. I could vividly see her nicotine-stained fingers and teeth. I could feel her heart rate increase every time she met with Joyce. I related to her emotional strain of trying to “do it all” with only finite minutes in a day. I cheered for her taking on a male-dominated world when she was the one DOING ALL THE WORK. But most of all Maher introduced me to Beach’s ceaseless love for all things books and writing. At the end of the day, Sylvia Beach was the ULTIMATE BOOK INFLUENCER, and I am so very thankful for her.
Until next time my friend!
Your Biggest Fan (and Sylvia’s too),
P.S. If you need more of Sylvia, James Joyce, and Ulysses in your life, be sure to check out what I had to say about Nora: A Love Story of Nora and James Joyce by Nuala O’Connor RIGHT HERE!
***I received an advance reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!
Jim Joyce is my love, but he’s also a bother to my heart and a sore conundrum to my mind. I don’t think the day will come when he’ll grow to be the man he should be.
October 11, 2021
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
There is something about you writers from the early 20th century that fascinates me. Especially all of your juicy personal lives. I obviously started this journey with you and your four wives, then quickly became obsessed with F.Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda (click here to see my favorite book about these guys). Today, I can’t get enough of Irish writer James Joyce and the lovely Nora Barnacle. The love, the lust, the writing, the atmosphere…I need to know it all. Nora: A Love Story of Nora and James Joyce by Nuala O’Connor is my latest historical fiction read. O’Connor’s book opened my eyes to a whole new woman for me to explore. Let’s take a look.
James Joyce first met his future wife, Nora Barnacle on June 16, 1904, in Dublin. Their first encounter was definitely memorable and a little on the “risque” side. I’ll let the first two pages of O’Connor’s book fill you in on all the juicy details. This date also marks the start of Joyce’s book, Ulysses, for which Barnacle was his muse, and Bloomsday, which is celebrated every year in Ireland to celebrate Joyce’s writing. Though they were not married until much later in their relationship, they lived like a married couple and had two children together.
Don’t cry, Nora, when we reunite, I want your eyes to glow. Take me in your arms, feel tenderness for me, and lead me right. Look well for me, dear-have your hair clean and free ofashes, it’s not right to look slovenly at twenty-five young years! Have something warm to eat ready for us, won’t you? Let me feel happy from the moment I arrive, dearest. I shall want a good cup of coffee in a nice little cup. Have a salad for me, but don’t let onions or garlic into the house. And, Nora, don’t, in your first words to me, mention money or debts, please.
James Joyce (often referred to as Jim) was a tall order if I do say so myself. Like so many, he lived for his writing and was determined to make it big, no matter the cost. Nora was a Saint in my opinion. She endured moving around Europe with their two kids to accommodate his writing. She dealt with his constant drinking and financial irresponsibility. She stayed by his side through all of his eye surgeries and health issues. She embraced the fame from his writing while managing her growing children. She struggled with her son’s marriage and her daughter’s mental illness. However, even though she and Joyce didn’t always see eye to eye, they had some fiery chemistry that was hard to deny and I believe they truly loved each other.
Before reading O’Connor’s book, I didn’t know much about James Joyce, let alone Nora Barnacle. I even visited the James Joyce Centre in Dublin in my 20s and found his writing super boring. I am quite a bit older now and would be willing to give his work another shot after reading O’Connor’s book. She really brought to life Nora and James’ relationship in her story. From Ireland to Trieste, to Zurich, to Paris, I felt like I traveled all over Europe with these two. I particularly enjoyed bumping into Silvia Beach at her beloved bookstore, Shakespeare and Company in Paris. Just saying. O’Connor had me consumed with Nora and Jame’s life, beset with their family unit, and in awe of Nora’s constant strength and perseverance, even during the darkest of times. There is a zero percent chance that James Joyce could have reached literary success without Nora by his side. He was blessed to have her.
I loved, loved, loved this book to pieces. I literally gave it the biggest hug when I finished it. My only regret is not reading it sooner. It is everything and then some and will always have a permanent spot on my bookshelf. I am now on the hunt to find out more about Nora Barnacle and her darling Jim Joyce. Wish me luck.
Your Biggest Fan,
P.S. Did I mention that I ran into your first wife Hadley in this book. If I am not mistaken, it was at Peggy Guggenheim’s party. I feel bad saying this, but the talk of your behavior wasn’t all that great that evening. Nevertheless, it was a brief encounter so no need to dwell on the past.
It always comes back to Paris. I’m not going to lie. It is truly one of my favorite cities and I often catch myself daydreaming of going back there one day. Cappuccino scented cafes and cobblestone streets were the backdrop for so many stories, so many glorious works of art in the1920s. A time when an artistic vibe pulsed through the veins of all the young dreamers. You and your “Lost Generation” were some of those dreamers during Paris’ sweet time, between the Wars. The Wars of course cast a dark cloud over the City of Lights for many years. It wasn’t until the late 1940s, when legendary French fashion designer, Christian Dior designed a new line of women clothing that put the dazzle back into post war-stricken Paris. Alexandra Joel takes on this time in history in her debut novel, The Paris Model. A strong woman discovering her family secrets, passionate affairs and some always needed Parisian flair fill the pages of this historical fiction delight. Plan on falling in love with this gem. Let’s take a look.
In 1948, Grace Woods leaves Australia and farm life, hits pause on her loveless marriage and travels to post-war Paris to work as a glamorous mannequin for THE Christian Dior. Her journey to a new country isn’t all work though. Grace is taking time to re-evaluate her role as a “dutiful” wife, with dutiful roles in the kitchen and her passionless bedroom. As she enjoys her time modeling the clothes of a fashion guru and discovering that fiery love most definitely exists, she gets herself tangled in her lover’s political endeavors, while discovering the depth of her family’s secrets.
What I loved about Joel’s book is that it is based on a true story. She did a fantastic job depicting a woman “stuck” in her role as a wife and desperately questioning her own hopes and dreams, while taking on the politically charged streets of Paris Because of this book, I have been feverishly googling the life and times of Christian Dior. From his abundant use of luscious fabric, to the revival of fashion in the most glamorous city in the world, this French gentleman was anything but ordinary. I adored all of the modeling and designer clothes in Joel’s novel, but especially loved the family component. Grace’s self-discovery was a journey that I took pleasure in as a reader. Layers of love, loss and sacrifice filled the pages of Joel’s book. I was extremely fulfilled with the ending as so many questions were answered and loose ends tied up. That always makes me happy.
I hope you enjoy this exquisite read as much as I did!
Until next time my friend!
Your Biggest Fan,
P.S. Catherine, Christian Dior’s sister, worked for the French Resistance during WWII. She was arrested by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbruck, a concentration camp for women until her liberation in 1945. In 1947, Dior named his first perfume Miss Dior, in honor of her.
I can’t believe it is September! Where did summer go? Well, summer may be on its lasts legs, but we are still going strong over here on Dear Mr. Hemingway. I am happy to announce our September 2020 “Ernest”Chitter-Chatter Book Pick. This month, we will be reading and discussing Fiona Davis’ latest historical fiction book, The Lions of Fifth Avenue.
There are two ways to join in. The first is to participate in a private instagram chat (spoilers and all) with me and the book group after reading the book. The second option is to read the book, then join in on an EXCLUSIVE ZOOM with me and Fiona Davis! You can also participate in both options. Check out the details below….
October 1, 2020 7PM EST~ Zoom with me, Fiona Davis and YOU!
The Lions of Fifth Avenue Synopsis
“It’s 1913, and on the surface, Laura Lyons couldn’t ask for more out of life—her husband is the superintendent of the New York Public Library, allowing their family to live in an apartment within the grand building, and they are blessed with two children. But headstrong, passionate Laura wants more, and when she takes a leap of faith and applies to the Columbia Journalism School, her world is cracked wide open. As her studies take her all over the city, she is drawn to Greenwich Village’s new bohemia, where she discovers the Heterodoxy Club—a radical, all-female group in which women are encouraged to loudly share their opinions on suffrage, birth control, and women’s rights. Soon, Laura finds herself questioning her traditional role as wife and mother. But when valuable books are stolen back at the library, threatening the home and institution she loves, she’s forced to confront her shifting priorities head on . . . and may just lose everything in the process. Eighty years later, in 1993, Sadie Donovan struggles with the legacy of her grandmother, the famous essayist Laura Lyons, especially after she’s wrangled her dream job as a curator at the New York Public Library. But the job quickly becomes a nightmare when rare manuscripts, notes, and books for the exhibit Sadie’s running begin disappearing from the library’s famous Berg Collection. Determined to save both the exhibit and her career, the typically risk-adverse Sadie teams up with a private security expert to uncover the culprit. However, things unexpectedly become personal when the investigation leads Sadie to some unwelcome truths about her own family heritage—truths that shed new light on the biggest tragedy in the library’s history.”
The Dear Mr. Hemingway Book Discussion Group You All Have Been Waiting For…
July 10, 2020
Dear Lovely Readers,
I am excited to announce The Dear Mr. Hemingway Book Discussion Group….”Ernest” Chitter-Chatter With Kelly & Friends. My goal is to connect all of my readers (and me too) with a wide variety of fabulous books and incredible authors. Not only will you have the chance to discuss a monthly book with other book lovers from around the world, but you also will have the opportunity to connect with the author as well. All your burning questions can finally be answered by authors you know and love. Not too shabby.
As of right now, there are two parts to this group. You can choose to be in one or both parts. Part one is a private group chat on instagram with our DMH community on a specific date about one of the monthly book choices. The second part is a ZOOM with you, me and the author. Talk about fun!!!!!
𝐇𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐞-𝐮𝐩 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐚𝐥𝐥:
𝐉𝐮𝐥𝐲 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟎 (Still time to join for final conversation and ZOOM)
𝘊𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘔𝘦 𝘈𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘯 by Abdi Nor Iftin
Private Instagram Chat on July 9th & July 23rd
ZOOM~End of July…TBA
𝘛𝘪𝘯𝘺 𝘐𝘮𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘧𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 by Alli Frank and Asha Youmans
Happy Wednesday! I am thrilled to have Guest Writer Whitney Scharer on the blog today sharing one of her favorite books. Whitney’s debut historical fiction novel, The Age of Light (Little, Brown & Company), follows real-life Lee Miller, Vogue model turned renowned photographer/war correspondent. Click here to read what I had to say about this book.Whitney’s book was a 2019 Book of the Month Club pick and an IndieNext and Boston Globe bestseller. Parade, Glamour Magazine, and Real Simple Magazine all named The Age of Light, one of the best books of 2019. Pretty impressive, right?
I was so excited last year when I found out that Whitney was coming to Maine to talk about her book. The day before her event, I quickly discovered that my kids’ schedules trumped mine (always the way), and I was unable to make her reading. I decided to message Whitney explaining my dilemma and asked her to meet me over coffee to chat about her book (mind you, I am a complete stranger with a new blog and like two followers). I was pleasantly surprised when Whitney agreed to meet. Instead of coffee, we ended up having a spectacular brunch at The Press Hotel’s restaurant, Union in Portland, Maine. Whitney and I had a lovely meal and chatted all about her book, her writing process and the historical fiction genre. She is an absolute doll and wonderful to spend time with. I actually felt “cool 😎😎”” that day (hanging with an important author). It was such a pleasure and one I will always cherish.
I hope you enjoy her letter today to Mr. H.
P.S. Literary Whitney plays Scrabble EVERYDAY (wicked smart)! When she was in 5th grade, she won 5th place in the Colorado State Spelling Bee (😮😮). When Whitney isn’t spending time with her husband and daughter, she is snuggling with her 3-month-old pup, Clementine. Let’s face it, she is probably snuggling all the time with this fluff ball. Clementine is also a fellow “Book Lover”…chewing books is love too❤️❤️❤️❤️!!!
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
I’ve always loved reading historical fiction based on real people. There’s something so wonderful about falling into the world of a book and then being able to go to the library or online and learn the “story behind the story.” I loved reading Wolf Hall and getting a new, intimate perspective on Thomas Cromwell, or devouring Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank and reacquainting myself with the architecture and genius of Frank Lloyd Wright. But the book that changed my thinking about what historical novels could do and how we make fiction out of fact was Lily King’s Euphoria.
Euphoria is loosely based on the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead. King happened across a biography of Mead in a small used bookstore and was captivated by her entire life and story, yet her novel is based on a slim twelve-page section of the biography that centers around a 1933 research trip to the Sepik River, in New Guinea, where Mead (called Nell in the novel) and her second husband briefly worked with a man who would become Mead’s third husband. The relationship between the three anthropologists is passionate, both physically and intellectually, and King’s meticulous research and incredible scene-setting bring the world and love affair to vivid life. From the very first page of the book, when an angry tribe member tosses a dead baby at Nell’s head, and we learn that her husband may have intentionally broken her glasses, I felt completely immersed in this intense, violent world.
As a reader—and perhaps even more as a writer—the book blew me away. You could…do this? You could take a small slice of a real person’s life, fictionalize her name, infuse the story with your many hours of research, and make something that manages to capture a person’s essence while also feeling wholly, imaginatively invented? This, I realized, this is why I read historical fiction. To see how a modern writer’s brain can reinterpret history and make something that feels truer than fact.
Euphoria is a novel I can’t quit. I’ve read it seven or eight times. I’ve broken it down, outlined the structure, tried to understand the virtuosic way King tells the story. I’ve taught the first few pages in fiction writing workshops. I’ve recommended it at readings and given copies as gifts to more people than I can count. And just the other day, I received a delicious package in the mail: a galley of King’s new novel, Writers and Lovers, which comes out later this year. I can’t wait to read it.
Nice chatting with you, dear Mr. H—
P.S. Click on my book below to purchase from my local book store.
Click on the book picture below to purchase Euphoria (Grove Press)by Lily King.
Today is another fabulous day on the blog. It is the fourth week of the Dear Mr. Hemingway Guest Writer~Author Edition series. I am so thrilled to tell you about today’s author, Fiona Davis. Let me first start off by saying that Fiona is the National Best Selling author of The Dollhouse (Dutton),The Address (Dutton), The Masterpiece (Dutton), and most recently, The Chelsea Girls (Dutton). Whether she takes you through Grand Central Terminal, the Chelsea Hotel, a famous New York residence, or the glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, New York City is the heartbeat of her stories. Her books are filled to the brim with vibrant characters, stunning time periods, and very satisfying storylines. With sprinkles of glamour, hints of mystery, and a dollop of dazzle, Fiona’s books will not disappoint you. Be on the lookout for her upcoming historical fiction novel staring the iconic New York Public Library. The Lion’s of Fifth Avenue (Dutton) hits book stores in July 2020 🤗🤗🤗.
Before you read what Fiona has written to Mr. H., I want to thank her for participating in this project. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that she took time out of her very busy schedule to contribute to this Blog. I personally enjoy getting to know my favorite authors and what books they enjoy when they are not writing their own. Who doesn’t love a great book recommendation from a magnificent author!!!!!!!
I hope you enjoy Fiona’s letter. It is a good one!
Happy Reading Friends,
P.S. Did you know that before Fiona Davis began her writing career, she was an actress off-Broadway, in regional theaters, and on BROADWAY 😮😮😮!!! The cool factor here is pretty high.
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
What if you learned as a child that you were descended from a long line of witches, and had powers to envision the future? That’s how Augusten Burroughs’s memoir begins when as a young boy on a school bus he experiences a dark premonition about his grandmother. He arrives home just as his mother is getting the news that the grandmother has been in a car accident (luckily, she recovers). Augusten has a gift, explains his mother, just as she does, and as did many of their ancestors.
But Toil & Trouble is more than a witching tale, it’s also a love story about the relationship between Augusten and his agent/husband Christopher, as they move out of the city and settle in an ancient house where Augusten is certain that the towering maple tree in the front yard is out to get him (he’s not wrong). It’s a beautiful story of two men maneuvering through sickness and health, all while raising a trio of oversized dogs and putting down roots in the community. It’s about Eddie – a handyman who is as personally offensive as he is good as his job – and who winds up unexpectedly becoming one of Augusten’s favorite people.
One of the reasons I connected so strongly with this book was that I’d recently made a similar purchase, and was struck by the ways a house becomes almost like another member of the family. My home also has its own special quirks and demands and every so often groans like the Dowager from Downton Abbey after she’s had too much sherry. Is it a ghost from its past life as a farmhouse? Or just normal settling? Either way, I’m not going anywhere.
Toil & Trouble reminded me to listen to my intuition and made me laugh out loud with Burroughs’s twisted turns of phrase. The ending is astonishing, wrapping up the themes and plotlines with breathless abandon. This memoir won’t disappoint.
Yours in spirit,
P.S. To find out why I have such an affinity with buildings, check out my latest novel, The Chelsea Girls, which is set in New York’s iconic Chelsea Hotel.