Katie @basicbsguide and I are so excited to announce our September book selection for #DEARBASICBUDDYREADS. We will be reading and discussing 𝘠𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘞𝘪𝘧𝘦 by Sadeqa Johnson.
Here is the scoop…𝘠𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘞𝘪𝘧𝘦 has been rated over 31,000 times on GOODREADS with an average rating of 4.4 😮. And honestly, I have only heard rave reviews about it from the book community. “𝘈 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘯𝘨𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘢𝘶𝘵𝘪𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘵𝘰𝘭𝘥… 𝘠𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘞𝘪𝘧𝘦 𝘥𝘰𝘦𝘴𝘯’𝘵 𝘱𝘶𝘭𝘭 𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘱𝘶𝘯𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘵𝘴 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘱𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘧𝘶𝘭 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘰𝘥 𝘪𝘯 𝘈𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘩𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺. 𝘏𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳, 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘢 𝘤𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘭 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘪𝘴 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 𝘶𝘱 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘢𝘴𝘬, 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵-𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘷𝘰𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭-𝘱𝘢𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘢𝘭𝘦 𝘣𝘳𝘪𝘮𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘨𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦.”–𝐍𝐏𝐑 Weighing in at 278 pages, this Historical Fiction novel is the perfect September read! As always, we will be reading at our own pace and then discussing via a private Instagram chat at the end of the month. You do need to have an Instagram account to join in. DM me over on Instagram to join. xoxo, Kelly 𝐒𝐲𝐧𝐨𝐩𝐬𝐢𝐬: “Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the estate’s medicine woman and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world. She’d been promised freedom on her eighteenth birthday, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half Acre, a jail in Richmond, Virginia, where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailer’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.”
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Today I am incredibly psyched to share four books that depict women living in the 1950s & 1960s. I will NEVER NOT be fascinated with this period in our history. I adore being a wife and a mother, but I also enjoy my opinions and ways of doing things that most definitely do not match up with the era I bring to you today. Some women were complacent with their expected roles as wives and mothers. Others rebelled or suffered from undiagnosed mental illnesses. My book selection shows the superficial glamour of these times for women and the limitations and repercussions of such an oppressive era. Yes, women could vote, but they were still second to their male counterparts in everything else…except child rearing, vacuuming, and making dinner. Enjoy these four splendid books and wicked remarkable and courageous leading ladies! I sure did!
Oh, my fabulousness….𝘓𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘊𝘩𝘦𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘺 by Bonnie Garmus is an absolute delight! It not only lived up to its incredible hype but exceeded all my expectations. Leading lady Elizabeth Zott is a chemist in a man’s world. She is more intelligent than most men in her field and will only bend so far to conform to her expected role as a woman in the 1960s. Garmus’ book is not only the perfect mix of clever & crisp but also delivers a witty & thought-provoking storyline. The cast of characters is perfection, and Elizabeth Zott…an absolute trailblazer. Quite frankly, 2022 could use a splash or two of her grit and passion!
“Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results. But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo. “
I have been DAZZLED! On Gin Lane by Brooke Lea Foster is the quintessential summer read. Glitzy characters in Southampton…YES PLEASE! Foster’s atmospheric tale centered around leading lady Everleigh (Lee) Farrows and her dishy fiance Roland. Foster explores one of my FAVORITE periods as of late, the 1950s. A handsome fiance, a trust fund in her name, and a glamorous life in Southampton are everything a woman could dream of during this period, but it’s simply not enough to quench Lee’s thirst. Lee’s desires soar way beyond a suburban homemaker galore, and she refuses to be shaped by society’s expectations.
While I admired Foster’s exploration of Lee’s advanced grit and desires during this time, I was pretty enamored by the buried secrets and family drama that not only propelled her story forward but had me turning the pages at a rapid pace. And let’s not forget the New York pizzazz and sun-soaked Southampton atmosphere that had me yearning for my high heels and a day at the beach. Chef’s Kiss!
“Everleigh “Lee,” Farrows thinks she finally has life all figured out: a handsome fiancé named Roland, a trust in her name, and a house in Bronxville waiting for her to fill it with three adorable children. That is, until Roland brings her out to the Hamptons for a summer that will change everything.
Most women could only dream of the engagement present Roland unexpectedly bestows on Lee—a beachside hotel on the prized Gin Lane—but Lee’s delight is clouded by unpleasant memories of another hotel, the Plaza, where she grew up in the shadow of her mother’s mental illness. Shaking off flashbacks, Lee resolves to dive into an unforgettable summer with poolside Bellinis, daily tennis matches, luncheons with her Manhattan circle, and her beloved camera in tow. But when tragedy strikes on the hotel’s opening weekend, the cracks in Lee’s picture-perfect future slowly begin to reveal themselves, and Lee must look deep within herself to determine if the life she’s always wanted will ever truly be enough.”
The Lunar Housewife, my first book by the fabulous Caroline Woods, is set in the 1950s in NYC with leading lady Louise, trying to make her mark in the male-dominated literary world while being in a sparkly relationship with a publisher of a brand new magazine. Wood’s book is a page-turning historical fiction novel that reads like a mystery. She nailed the period’s cold war vibes, stylish scenes, and depiction of women and their limited choices. She braided into her historical mystery the CIA’s use of American arts as propaganda with perfection and even had controversial writer Ernest Hemingway in a small supporting -role. Louise’s interview and “friendship” with Ernest Hemingway were the cherry on top for me! Lastly, Woods cleverly incorporated Louise’s science fiction love story she was drafting in-between chapters. It was wicked fun to draw parallels between the two different worlds with similar tales. Please make this book happen.
“New York City, 1953: Louise Leithauser’s star is on the rise. She’s filed some of the best pieces at her boyfriend Joe’s brand new literary magazine, Downtown (albeit under a male pseudonym), her relationship still makes her weak at the knees, and the science fiction romance she’s writing on the side, The Lunar Housewife, is going swimmingly. But when she overhears Joe and his business partner fighting about listening devices and death threats, Louise can’t help but investigate, and she quickly finds herself wading into dangerous waters. As Louise pieces together rumors, hunches, and clues, the picture begins to come together–Downtown‘s strings are being pulled by someone powerful, and that someone doesn’t want artists or writers criticizing Uncle Sam. Meanwhile, opportunities are falling in Louise’s lap that she’d have to be crazy to refuse, including an interview with America’s most famous living author, Ernest Hemingway. Can Louise stand by and let doors keep opening for her, while the establishment sells out and censors her fellow writers? As her suspicions and paranoia mount, Louise’s novel, The Lunar Housewife, changes shape, colored by her newfound knowledge. And when Louise is forced to consider her future sooner than she planned, she needs to decide whether she can trust Joe for the rest of her life.”
𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘢𝘴𝘵 𝘊𝘰𝘯𝘧𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘚𝘺𝘭𝘷𝘪𝘢 𝘗. By Lee Kravetz is one of the most magnificent debut novels I have read in a long time. I LOVED IT! This story is centered around Sylvia Plath’s novel, 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘉𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘑𝘢𝘳, and is told from the perspective of Estee (our present-day POV who discovers Plath’s original manuscript for 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘉𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘑𝘢𝘳), Dr. Ruth Barnhouse (a psychiatrist who treated Plath in the early 1950s at Mclean Hospital after a suicide attempt), and Boston Rhodes (a literary rival from the late1950s). I was captivated by how well Kravetz combined three time periods into a clever literary mystery while giving Plath’s life-changing novel a HUGE nod. He showcased the 1950s from a woman’s viewpoint that revealed the struggles of being a wife, mother, and writer in a “man’s world.” He offered an inside peek into the mind of Plath during some of her darkest hours. But most importantly, he blended the beautiful yet devastating life of Plath with a swirl of fiction in a way that celebrates this cherished writer in a highly satisfying manner.
“A seductive literary mystery and mutigenerational story inspired by true events, The Last Confessions of Sylvia P. imaginatively brings into focus the period of promise and tragedy that marked the writing of Sylvia Plath’s modern classic The Bell Jar. Lee Kravetz uses a prismatic narrative formed from three distinct fictional perspectives to bring Plath to life–that of her psychiatrist, a rival poet, and years later, a curator of antiquities.
Estee, a seasoned curator for a small Massachusetts auction house, makes an astonishing find: the original manuscript of Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, written by hand in her journals fifty-five years earlier. Vetting the document, Estee will discover she’s connected to Plath’s legacy in an unexpected way.
Plath’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ruth Barnhouse, treats Plath during the dark days she spends at McLean Hospital following a suicide attempt, and eventually helps set the talented poet and writer on a path toward literary greatness.
Poet Boston Rhodes, a malicious literary rival, pushes Plath to write about her experiences at McLean, tipping her into a fatal spiral of madness and ultimately forging her legacy.
Like Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, and Theresa Anne Fowler’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, The Last Confessions of Sylvia P. bridges fact and fiction to imagine the life of a revered writer. Suspenseful and beautifully written, Kravetz’s masterful literary novel is a hugely appealing read.”
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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