Wednesday, May 2, 2012

June Book Choices!

In June, we'll be reading historical fiction! Here are our options:

The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger | Paperback, 249 pages

Lady Duff Gordon is the toast of Victorian London. But when her debilitating tuberculosis requires healthier climate, she and her lady's maid, Sally, set sail for Egypt. It is Sally who describes, with a mixture of wonder and trepidation, the odd menage marshalled by the resourceful Omar, which travels down the Nile to a new life in Luxor. When Lady Duff Gordon undoes her stays and takes to native dress, throwing herself into weekly salons, language lessons, excursions to the tombs, Sally too adapts to a new world, affording her heady and heartfelt freedoms never known before. But freedom is a luxury that a maid can ill-afford, and when Sally grasps more than her status entitles her to, she is brutally reminded that she is mistress of nothing.

In 1862, the real Lucie, Lady Duff Gordon, a well known writer and hostess, traveled to Egypt with her maid. Her letters form the basis for this historical novel.

The Mistress of Nothing won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, one of Canada’s most prestigious literary prizes. It has a 3.52 rating on Goodreads.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain | Paperback, 392 pages

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

In addition to being a novelist, McLain is also a poet and teacher at John Carroll University. The Paris Wife has a 3.72 rating on Goodreads.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant | Paperback, 321 pages

Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that tell of her father, Jacob, and his twelve sons.

Told in Dinah's voice, Anita Diamant imagines the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood--the world of the red tent, the place where women gathered during their cycles of birthing, menses, and even illness. It begins with the story of the mothers--Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah--the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through childhood, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah's story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past.

Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women's lives.

Diamant is known for her works of non-fiction, guides to Jewish life. The Red Tent, published in 1997, was her first work of fiction. It is a perennial book club favorite. It has a 4.09 rating on Goodreads.

Natalie is hosting the June meeting.
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