Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests








Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck - A Novel - 2012- 338 Pages


 




Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck - A Novel - 2012- 338 Pages


Hemingway’s Girl, a marvelous work of historical fiction, is set in The Florida Keys and Bimini from 1935 to 1961


This is fifth work by Erika Robert I have so far read.


My first four were 


The Invisible Woman - 2021 - set largely in occupied France during World War Two


Sisters of Night and Fog -2022.  Set also largely in France during WW Two


Fallen Beauty - 2014. Set in upstate New York in the 1920s and 1930s - focusing in part on the poet Edna Saint Vincent Millay


Receive Me Falling. - 2009- Set mostly on the Sugar Cane Plantations on the Caribbean Island of Natal.  Shifting from the 1830s to the 1990s.


Ernest Hemingway (1899 to 1961) won The Nobel Prize in 1954.  He was married to Pauline Pfieffer from 1927 to 1940, she has a central role in Hemingway’s Girl. In the 1930s he lived mostly in Key West, where his fame and powerful personality made him into a local celebrity  and a tourist attraction.  


Key West in 1935 was in the Middle of

the impact of The Great Depression, a ten year down turn in America. Jobs were very hard to get.  Maribelle is about 16 when we meet her.  Her father was very recently killed on his fishing boat.  Her mother was Cuban.  Her mother Eva is emotionally distraught.  Maribelle supports her and her two much younger sisters through work as a waitress and other various jobs.


Through a contact she gets a job as a maid for the Hemingway family.  There is also a cook and a governess for two young sons.  Mrs Hemingway is very much in charge as well as being quite possessive of her husband.


Hemingway, portrayed as ultra-macho, invites her to go to Sloppy Joe’s Bar with him.  She begins to become infatuted.  Her mother warns her.  Much of the story line follows Maribella’s developing relationship with him, his wife, and others in the Hemingway household.


In the mean time she meets a World War One Veteran, Gavin, working on the highway linking the Keys. He falls in love with her.  This relationship is kind of in competition with the one with Hemingway.


There are exciting developments in every chapter.  The depiction of the 1935 Hurricane that killed thousands is very powerful.  Anyone who ever lived through a powerful tropical storm will be mesmerized, as I was.  


There is a fishing trip to Bimini which was a lot of fun to read about.  There are Prize fights, lots of heavy drinking, exciting fishing episodes, great food, unexpected romances and much more.  Key West in the 1930s is vividly brought to life.


Hemingway’s Girl is a fast moving work.  The charaters are very brought to life..  Hemingway readers will have their own reaction to his depiction.


There is great emotional depth in Hemingway’s Girl.


Erika Robuck is the national bestselling author of The Invisible Woman, Hemingway’s Girl, Call Me Zelda, Fallen Beauty, The House of Hawthorne, and Receive Me Falling. She is also a contributor to the anthology Grand Central: Postwar Stories of Love and Reunion, and to the Writer’s Digest essay collection Author in Progress. In 2014, Robuck was named Annapolis’ Author of the Year, and she resides there with her husband and three sons.


I hope to read her The House of Hawthorne in June.


Mel Ulm














Sunday, May 15, 2022

Educated by Tara Westover- A Memoir- 2018. 381 pages


 


Educated by Tara Westover - 2018- A Memoir - 381 pages



A New York Times Bestseller 


Over four million copies sold


“NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW • ONE OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR • BILL GATES’S HOLIDAY READING LIST • FINALIST: National Book Critics Circle’s Award In Autobiography and John Leonard Prize For Best First Book • PEN/Jean Stein Book Award • Los Angeles Times Book Prize”


Educated way exceeded my very high expectations.


Tara Westover was born into a family of survivalists in Idaho who believe a civilization destroying apocalypse is imminent. They see anything connected to government as part of a conspiracy to enslave the population.  They do not trust doctors.  Tara did not set foot in a public school until she was 17.


Her father totally dominated the family.  He was a self appointed preacher.  Their isolation meant there was no one to protect her from the violence of one of her brothers. When another of her brothers gets into college, there were seven children, Tara begins to work to get herself into Brigham Young University.  (Her family were Mormons.)


From here we follow Tara’s incredible journey onto Cambridge University where her brilliance wins her a scholarship and eventually a PhD in history.  Tara shows us her difficulties fitting into college society.The family becomes quite wealthy through the mother’s sale of herbal medicine.


There are numerous terrible accidents from working in the father’s businesses and driving in the snow.  The father sees any interaction with non-survivalists as contacts with what he calls the “Illuminati”. 


It must have taken a lot of courage to tell this story.


“Tara Westover is an American author. Raised in Idaho by a father who opposed public education, she never attended school. She spent her days working in her family’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother, a self-taught herbalist and midwife. She was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. After that, she pursued learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude from Brigham Young University and subsequently winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. In 2014 she earned a PhD in history from Trinity College, Cambridge. Westover was Fall 2019 A.M. Rosenthal Writer in Residence at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard Kennedy School. She was selected as a Senior Research Fellow at HKS for Spring 2020. Educated is her first book”. 


https://tarawestover.com/bio


Mel Ulm







Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck - A Novel - 2021 - 353 pages


The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck - A Novel - 2021 - 353 pages 


The Invisible Woman is largely set in France during World War Two


This is the fourth work of historical fiction by Erika Robuck I have so far read 


My prior works  by Erika Robuck read 


Sisters of Night and Fog -2022.  Set also largely in France during WW Two


Fallen Beauty - 2014. Set in upstate New York in the 1920s and 1930s - focusing in part on the poet Edna Saint Vincent Millay


Receive Me Falling. - 2009- Set mostly on the Sugar Cane Plantations on the Caribbean Island of Natal.  Shifting from the 1830s to the 1990s.


The Invisible Woman centers on Virginia Hall, an American woman working as an agent for the British OSS.  Her mission is to support French resistance fighters in German occupied France.  In addition to courage, loyalty, and endurance she has a prosthetic half left leg.  She is in her mid-thirties, speaks passable French and dresses as a much older woman in case her real pictures fall into German or Vichy hands.  Most of the resistance fighters are under twenty.  


Robuck vividly creates the terror of the war, the misery of wasted lives, the terrible cruelly of the Germans.  Virginia is involved in training the French fighters in sabotage and sneak attacks.  The numerous characters are very well developed.  Food is a very important concern.  There is an interesting romantic element.


Virginia’s activities can put her and others in danger if things go wrong.  There is a lot of tension in the events.  Virginia gets close to people even though this is contrary to OSS training. 


I found The Invisible Woman kept me more and more interested as I came to love the resistance and hate the Germans.


I endorse this book with no reservations to all into World War Two literature.



Erika Robuck is the national bestselling author of The Invisible Woman, Hemingway’s Girl, Call Me Zelda, Fallen Beauty, The House of Hawthorne, and Receive Me Falling. She is also a contributor to the anthology Grand Central: Postwar Stories of Love and Reunion, and to the Writer’s Digest essay collection Author in Progress. In 2014, Robuck was named Annapolis’ Author of the Year, and she resides there with her husband and three sons.


I hope to next read her Hemingway’s Girl.


Mel Ulm











 

Monday, May 9, 2022

The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michelle Richardson - 2022 - 364 pages- a sequel to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.


 



The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michelle Richardson - 2022 - 364 pages- a sequel to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.


I, along with much of the book blog world, loved The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.


Set in the 1930s up to 1941 in the very impoverished Appalachian region of Kentucky, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek follows Cussy Mary, a packhorse librarian bringing books, newspapers and magazines to the often struggling to feed their families people of Troublesome Creek.  Through the WPA President Roosevelt the Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project brought books and employment to mostly women riding often long difficult routes, Cussy rides a mule you will grow to love.  


The Book Woman’s Daughter begins in 1953.


Like her mother, Honey suffers from a genetic disease that can make her skin appear blue.  Many look with scorn on her as a “colored person” or a witch.  It was illegal for whites and “colored persons” in Kentucky in the 1940s to marry. When we meet the Book Woman’s daughter, at about age 14 her parents are in prison for an illegal marriage of a white and a blue, as Honey and her mother, were called.  Honey at 16 becomes a Book Woman, bringing material to people in very rural Kentucky on our favorite mule.


As she travels she becomes very good friends with a woman  fire ranger, a bit older than Honey, in a job normally held by men.  Honey is in danger of being sent to a home for orphans which is pretty much a prison until she is 18.  An older lady on her route is appointed by the court as her guardian saving her from this.


The savagery of life in the coal mines is made very real.  We see the brutal way the few women working the mines are treated.  Contrasted with this is the kindness of others.  As in The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Richardson marvelously describes the natural beauty of Kentucky.


The Book Woman’s Daughter is a master work, historical fiction at a very high level.  You should read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek first if possible.


I found this book very moving.  It made me feel grateful to the near endless supply of books available to me and our three daughters.


NYT and USA TODAY and L. A. TIMES bestselling author, Kim Michele Richardson resides in her home state of Kentucky. She is the author of the bestselling memoir The Unbreakable Child. Her novels include Liar’s Bench, GodPretty in the Tobacco Field. The Sisters of Glass Ferry and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. Kim Michele latest novel out May 3.2022 is The Book Woman's Daughter, both a standalone and sequel to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.


You can visit her websites and learn more at:

www.kimmichelerichardson.com


Mel Ulm

Friday, May 6, 2022

Tea is So Intoxicating by Mary Essex -pen name of Ursula Bloom- 1950 -British Library Women Writers Edition 2020 with a Preface by Alison Bailey with an Afterword by Simon Thomas - 156 Pages




Tea is So Intoxicating by Mary Essex -pen name of Ursula Bloom- 1950 -British Library Women Writers Edition 2020 with a Preface by Alison Bailey with an Afterword by Simon Thomas - 156 Pages 



“Part of a curated collection of forgotten works by early to mid-century women writers, the British Library Women Writers series highlights the best middlebrow fiction from the 1910s to the 1960s, offering escapism, popular appeal and plenty of period detail to amuse, surprise and inform.”  From The British Library


There are currently 15 works in the British Library Women Writers Series.  I am hoping to read through them in 2022. Most are fairly brief  and all include author bios and expert commentaries.  The Kindle Editions are under $4.00.


British Women Library Women Series Works I have so far read


Strange Journey by Maud Cairnes -1935


The Love Child by Edith Olivier - 1927


Tea is So Intoxicating by Ursula Bloom (writing as Mary Essex)- 1950


In the two previous works in The British Library Women Writers Series as well as the early works of Barbara Pym from the 1950s sharing tea has served as a bonding agent bringing people together.  People were often judged by the elegance of their tea service.  Tea is So intoxicating centers on the chaos brought to a small English town when a couple newly moved there try  to start a tea shop catering to high class hikers and bike riders.


Tea is Intoxicating is just such a huge amount of fun to read, the characters all are very real, warts and all.


It would not be fair to potential readers to give away very much of the plot.  There are fist fights over a woman, a terribly spoiled teenage daughter, Duck, raised by her indulgent father after his wife leaves him. There are accidents, people are badly hurt, a woman we love to hate tries to stop the tea shop.  David was an accountant for a chain of tea companies and he is convinced he will make a fortune setting up shop in a house he has purchased.  His wife is convinced otherwise. She left her husband Digby, father of Duck, for David and wonders if this was a mistake.


Each chapter brings an exciting development and more character development.  New minor characters come on stage.


We see the obstacles of setting up a Tea Shop.  A cake cook, Mimi, from Vienna is hired.  She charms the men but the women hate her. The men see her as an innocent girl, but with great legs, the women as a potential man stealer. Slight spoiler, something really surprising comes out on her toward the end.  Her accent is really well done.  I found myself falling for her. Maybe with this novel published long after the others allusions to her figure catch our attention as not seen in earlier works.


We are in post war rural England.  There is still rationing,servants are hard to find and keep.  Divorce has just become legal.  Many of the men were in the war.  The rural aristocratic people, once very dominating, sees their world going downhill fast.


Mary Evans was one of the numerous pen names of Ursula Bloom, author of over five hundred works. Tea is So Intoxicating is considered her best work.




Born: 1892, Essex, UK

Died: 1984, Nether Wallop, UK


Mel Ulm









 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

The Doctor’s Daughter by Shari J. Ryan - 2022 - A Novel- 345 Pages



The Doctor’s Daughter by Shari J. Ryan - 2022 - A Novel- 345 Pages 



“THE DOCTOR'S DAUGHTER is Totally heartbreaking and completely unforgettable World War Two historical fiction” from the cover


In March of this year I read The Bookseller of Dachau by Shari J. Ryan.  Today I am posting on my second of her Holocaust fictions, The Doctor’s Daughter.


Sophia, 16, and her mother are Jewish, her father is not, he is a Doctor whose job it is to protect the health of SS officers at Auschwitz.  Under German Law, his wife and daughter have protected status because of him.  Sophia and his wife lose their respect for him as they see the horrors done by the SS. He tells them his job secures them a protected comfortable life on their property near the camp.  Inmates from the camp are sent to labor on the mother’s inherited Family farm.  Sophia watches them digging in the ground, a young man just a little bit older than her catches her attention.  In the meantime, her mother invites the SS men guarding the workers to lunch.  At great risk Sophia begins sneaking food to the inmates, telling Issac about it in a letter.  She and Issac deeply bond.


The narrative is told through three points of view, in alternating chapters, that of Sophia, Issac and Issacs 14 year old sister Olivia.


Olivia and Issac, along with their parents, were deported from Warsaw to Auschwitz.  At entrance, they were seperated from each other and their parents.  Through their narratives we see the horrors of camp Life.  Olivia has a considered good job sorting things taken from incoming Jews, working a a huge warehouse called “Kanada”.


There are so many surprises in The Doctor’s Daughter..  Issac becomes part of Family.  After the liberation of Auschwitz the plot line advances to 1963.  Sophia, Issac, and Olivia are living in New York City.  


I totally endorse The Doctor’s Daughter.  


The people in this work seem completely real.  The close was very gratifying to me .  It is an exciting very moving book.


I greatly enjoyed this meticulously researched novel.


“Shari J. Ryan is a USA Today Bestselling Historical Fiction writer. Her desire to write stories revolving Jewish livelihood during World War II stems from being a descendant of two Holocaust survivors. After the passing of Shari’s grandmother, she pursued an active interest in learning more about the inherited stories she yearned to understand better.


Shortly after earning a bachelor’s degree  from Johnson & Wales University, Shari began her career as a graphic artist and freelance writer. She then found her passion for writing books in 2012. In 2016, Shari began writing her first Historical Fiction novel, Last Words, a story about a lifelong journey through the eyes of a Holocaust survivor. With two character related books to follow, Shari quickly found a new passion to share untold World War II stories with a fictional setting. “ from sharijryan.com


I hope to read more of her work soon.


Mel Ulm









 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

The Reading Life Review - April 2022



Row One


  1. Edith Olivier - UK. Author of The Love Child from The British Library Women Writers series.first appearance
  2. Maude Cairnes - UK - author of The Journey - from The British Women Writers Series - First Appearance 


Row Two


  1. Qian Julie Wang - China to USA - author of Beautiful Country - A Memoir. A very moving account of her and her parents emmigration from Bejing to New York City
  2. Nikolaus Wachsmann - USA- Author of KL- A History of The Nazi Concentration Camps - first appearance
  3. Louise Edrich - USA - Pulitzer Prize Winner


Row Three


  1. Ann Mah - USA - second appearance - Author of Mastering The Art of French Cooking and Kitchen Chinese
  2. Farah Ahmed - UK. Featured many times on The Reading Life
  3. Kurt Vonnegut- USA -first appearance 


The Reading Life is a multi-cultural book blog dedicated to the goals of literary globalism


Blog Stats


There have been 6,680,805 pages views since inception 


The top ten most viewed posts for April were all on short Stories 


Home Countries of Visitors 


  1. USA 
  2. India
  3. The Philippines 
  4. The Netherlands 
  5. Russia
  6. Canada
  7. Germany 
  8. The UK
  9. Denmark 


In April I read five books upon which I did not post


Two were non- Fiction - 


  1. The Wages of Destruction- The Rise and Fall of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze
  2. Bitter Chocolate by Carol Off


Two Were Novels


  1. The Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
  2. The Sleeping by Elizabeth Taylor


And one collection of poetry - Whispers of the Soul - New and Selected Poems by Patrica Greer






 












Friday, April 29, 2022

The Love Child by Edith Olivier - first published 1927 - British Museum Library Women Writers Edition 2021 with a preface by Alison Bailey and an afterword by Simon Thomas



 



The Love Child by Edith Olivier - first published 1927 - British Museum Library Women Writers Edition 2021 with a preface by Alison Bailey and an afterword by Simon Thomas


“Part of a curated collection of forgotten works by early to mid-century women writers, the British Library Women Writers series highlights the best middlebrow fiction from the 1910s to the 1960s, offering escapism, popular appeal and plenty of period detail to amuse, surprise and inform.”  From The British Library


There are currently 15 works in the British Library Women Writers Series.  I am hoping to read through them in 2022. Most are fairly brief  and all include author bios and expert commentaries.  The Kindle Editions are under $4.00.


British Women Library Women Series Works I have so far read


Strange Journey by Maud Cairnes -1935


The Love Child by Edith Olivier - 1927


Agatha is an unmarried woman in her early thirties.  Her father died long ago and her mother has now passed.  She has been left financially secure with several servants and a decent home. She has no close relatives, no friends, never a romantic interest.  As Olivier  makes painfully clear, Agatha is totally lonely.  Her father left a good library but she does not read.  She seems to have no passion for anything.  Her fondest memory is of an imaginary playmate, Clarisa, she shared her childhood years with.


At first I felt sorry for Agatha but not overly fascinated by her circumstances.  Then something very strange happens.  I at first think Agatha is hallucinating, letting her imagation fill the void in her life.  From this point on I was throughly entralled by The Love Child as a marvelously developed stranger  by the page sequences of events develop. Clarisa appears first in a fashion only Agatha can see then she becomes visible to all as an 11 year old girl.  The mystery is who is she, where did she come from?  


I do not want to spoil other readers expereiences by revealing much at all of what happens as Clarisa gets older.  It is both hilarious and heartbreaking.


The Family servants play  an important part giving us a view of  country households.  A chapter with a Policeman explains the name of the novel when we see Agatha display real spirit.


Edith Olivier





Born: December 31, 1872, Wilton UK 

Died: May 10, 1948, Wilton, UK


There is a very well done bio here which goes into her belief in the supernatural.



In May I hope to read Tea is So Intoxicating by Mary Essex


Mel ulm