Books in a Time of Quarantine

nurseAs I write this on March 27, 2020, the world is in the midst of a pandemic. The novel virus Covid-19 has to date, affected 584,110 people worldwide and caused 26,862 deaths. In my state of Kentucky, we are being asked to stay #HealthyatHome and restrict our socializing to on-line.

Seems like a GREAT time for some QUARANTINE reads. One can either go all in and read about other quarantines, or possibly escape the world altogether. I have a few suggestions for both types of reads.

51YCzUi5OJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A Gentleman In Moscow. This treasure is number one on my list of quarantine reads. Count Rostov, the protagonist of Amor Towles’ fantastic novel, is himself quarantined, committed to the interior of the Hotel Metropol by the Bolsheviks during the revolution. There are worlds within the Count’s world, and he finds them with the help of a precocious young lady named Nina who has somehow procured a pass key to all the rooms of the Metropol and uses it to great effect. But the Count finds not only the Metropol’s wine vault, silver room, and lost and found, he also finds love, friendship, and a life far fuller than one would imagine could be found within the confines of one hotel, however luxurious, for more than thirty years.

Love in the Time of Cholera. While the choleric anger of petty rage inflames ego-driven love cholerawars to ravage the countryside and population of an unknown Central American nation, a doctor, his wife and the man who has loved her for decades spend their days involved in their own lives.  Sheltered from the country’s wars by wealth.  Suffused with longing.  Having an astounding amount of sex.  Love in the TIme of Cholera, published in 1985 by Pulitzer-Prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is at times a study of frustration, devotion, persistence, ambition, betrayal, forgiveness, obsession.  It is a novel of life and yet the author warned readers of Love, “not to fall into my trap.”  He also told the New Yorker that the book is based on the love story of his own parents.

Station-Eleven1

Station Eleven. One of the most haunting books I’ve ever read. This is the final line of the first chapter: “Of all of them there at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city.” Emily St. John Mandel’s apocalyptic vision of a post-worldwide flu epidemic did not let it go for the two days it took me to finish reading the novel, despite the near hopelessness of the narrative in Station Eleven. All I’ll say more is: that plane.

Room. In Emma Donoghue’s horrific novel, Room, five-year old Jake lives in a room withroom his mother, Ma.  He has games and toys; a television that he believes is a direct connection depicting reality on another planet; a wardrobe where he sleeps when “Old Nick” comes to make fearsome noises with Jake’s mother. When Jake and Ma are rescued due to Ma’s ingenuity in faking Jake’s death, Jake leaves the only world he has ever known and Ma return to the world she left more than seven years ago.  The departure is violent, disturbing, upheaval in lives previously confined to four walls and eleven by eleven foot space.

YearOfWonders-webYear of Wonders. It is 1666 and a bolt of cloth infested with the black plague is shipped from London to a small Derbyshire village. Geraldine Brooks’ best-selling novel from 2002 follows a housemaid named Anna Frith who becomes a healer and a hero. Inspired by the true story of Eyam, a village in the rugged hill country of England, Year of Wonders is a best-selling novel by the highly-acclaimed, 2006 Pulitzer-prize winning novelist and a richly detailed evocation of a singular moment in history.

 

The Little Prince. I suppose The Little Prince contemplates isolation as well as Littleprincecompanionship as the aviator at its center lands in the middle of a desert and must survive alone for a time. But I think of the novella as a contemplation of friendship between a fox, a prince, and other lonely souls who gather. It may be considered a children’s book but it is a profound work written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry after his experiences as a pilot in World War II.

 

JeanRhys_WideSargassoSea Wide Sargasso Sea. The lives of one of literature’s most famous shut-in is reimagined in Wide Sargasso Sea. Jean Rhys’ magnificent, sensual, masterpiece Wide Sargasso Sea, Mr. Rochester of Jane Eyre is no romantic hero.  Rhys contemplates how Mr. Rochester may have obtained the wife who so infamously dashes the chaste Jane’s dreams of marriage by her nightmarish presence in the Rochester attic, placing him in Spanish Town, Jamaica to receive a bride and 30,000 pounds in dowry with no provision made for his bride:  Antoinette, the beautiful, mulatto daughter of a deceased mad woman.

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. My penultimate suggestion is a laugh-out loud novel of a Oliphantcommitted introvert. Since she moved into her solo apartment nearly a decade ago, Eleanor has had few guests. A total of two in fact. The meter reader and a social worker who checks on her about once a month. That is fine with Eleanor as well . . . until the night she encounters rock star-wannabe Johnnie Lomond who immediately impresses her as the type of man her mother would find acceptable because he buttons the lower button of his vest while performing in a local music venue. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is a debut novel by a post-40 year old author. Gail Honeyman worked in the British Civil Service and as a university administrator writing her debut novel during lunch and after work. She entered Eleanor in a fiction competition, didn’t win, but an agent signed her and the novel became the subject of a bidding war,  was named 2017 Book of the Year at the British Book Awards, and the film rights have been optioned by Reese Witherspoon.  Talk about a Cinderella story.

ATR COVERFinally: this novel has nothing to do at all with isolation! My debut novel, After the Race is now available. Alexandra was raised to be the next Jackie Kennedy. Just as her mother intended, Alexandra’s summer internship on Capitol Hill results in the perfect fiancé, a future job, and D.C. political savvy. But when Alex returns to college for her final year and falls in love with a handsome, blue-jeaned bike champion, she must choose between the two men and the lives they represent, and decide whether she can defy her mother’s designs to fulfill her own dreams. Ultimately, Alexandra must find within herself the power to confront the one unplanned event that could derail everything. After the Race is available from rabbithousepress.com, amazon.com and at Joseph-Beth booksellers.

Happy Reading and Stay Safe!

The Nominees on the Page

the oscarsTomorrow is Oscar night and so many of this year’s nominees owe their origins to some brilliant novelists. Here’s a look at the novels I’ve reviewed that will be center stage on the red carpet. Each review includes a book club novel-inspired menu, playlist of songs and sometimes my own movie cast.

David Ebershoff’s gorgeous love story, The Danish Girl, is nominated for:danish girl book

actor in a leading role, Eddie Redmayne

best actress in a supporting role, Alicia Vikander

costume design, Paco Delgado

production design, Eve Stewart

Here’s a link to my review: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/08/04/call-me-lili-the-danish-girl-by-david-ebershoff/

the martian book

The Martian, originally self-published by Andy Weir chapter by chapter on his blog, is nominated for:

best picture

actor in a leading role, Matt Damon

production design, Arthur Max

sound editing

sound mixing

visual effects

best adapted screenplay, Drew Goddard

My review: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/edge-of-the-seat-algebra-in-space-the-martian-by-andy-weir/

A charming little book by Jonas Johansson called The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a 100 year old man bookWindow and Disappeared is a Forrest Gump-like view of the 20th Century. I’d love to see the movie but it hasn’t made it to either Netflix or my city yet. Nominated for:

makeup and hairstyling

My review: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/age-is-just-a-number-the-100-year-old-man-who-climbed-out-a-window-and-disappeared-by-jonas/

roomRoom by Emma Donoghue is nominated for:

best picture

actress in a leading role, Brie Larson

directing, Lenny Abrahamson

writing, adapted screenplay, Emma Donoghue

My review: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/room-reality-v-fiction/

I haven’t read Brooklyn by Colm Tobin but I’d love to; the movie was beautiful.

Any predictions for winners? Oscar-statue

 

 

At the Movies

movieWatching the Golden Globes on Sunday night, I realized just how many current and recent movies began with books. This post highlights some of my reviews — I didn’t do too well with the movie casting!

danish girl bookThe Danish Girl by David Ebershoff. Still one of my favorite books of 2015, although I didn’t think the movie lived up to the potential of the book. It was beautifully shot, well-acted but somehow some of the feeling leaked away. I didn’t make any guesses in the casting department because the movie was already cast. So let’s call it 0-0 for now. https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/08/04/call-me-lili-the-danish-girl-by-david-ebershoff/

kiterunnerThe Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini. A book I found too painful to even consider watching the movie. I did see a nice theatrical production at Actors Theatre of Louisville. No Casting here either so still 0-0. https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/09/29/banned-books-week-flying-with-the-kite-runner-by-khalid-hosseini/

The Martian by Andy Weir. Loved the book. Loved the movie. Did not cast. 0-0. https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/edge-of-the-seat-algebra-in-space-the-martian-by-andy-weir/

Room 2Room by Emma Donoghue. The book was fascinating but I think I appreciated the movie even more thanks to Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay and Joan Allen (who should be nominated for Best Supporting Actress). https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/room-reality-v-fiction/

JamieIn the best television category, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I’m a long-time fan. Love the series. LOVE Jamie Fraser.  Can you blame me? https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/of-all-the-time-warp-standing-stone-mystical-circles-in-all-the-world-outlander/

 

 

There are some coming out this year that I will feature in another blog post. Till then, happy reading!

Room by Emma Donoghue

Image

“The man, Ariel Castro, 52, crossed the street to borrow a lawn mower on Monday afternoon from a neighbor to cut his mother’s postage stamp lawn, then left with a brother to spend the afternoon drinking, neighbors said.

“It was typical of the outwardly mundane life Mr. Castro led, which apparently included outings with a daughter he is believed to have fathered with one of the captives. Meanwhile, inside his house on Seymour Avenue, the three women, who last celebrated birthdays with their families about a decade ago, saw year after year perversely marked by Mr. Castro’s serving of a cake on each woman’s “abduction day,” according to one victim’s cousin.”
New York Times, May 7, 2013

In Emma Donoghue’s horrific novel, Room, five-year old Jake lives in a room with his mother, Ma.  He has games and toys; a television that he believes is a direct connection depicting reality on another planet; a wardrobe where he sleeps when “Old Nick” comes to make fearsome noises with Jake’s mother.

When Jake and Ma are rescued due to Ma’s ingenuity in faking Jake’s death, Jake leaves the only world he has ever known and Ma return to the world she left more than seven years ago.  The departure is violent, disturbing, upheaval in lives previously confined to four walls and eleven by eleven foot space.

As I’ve followed the situation unravelling in Cleveland, where Ariel Castro allegedly held three women and one child for 11, 10, 9 and 6 years (the child) in a basement, chained and repeatedly raped, I am haunted by the similarities to Room, Emma Donoghue’s Booker Prize-nominated, 2010 novel.  Jack loves Room — and Plant and Rug and Bed and Wall and Wardrobe– and after escaping longs to return.

In Cleveland, news reports, including one from the Daily Beast, inform us that “[w}hen Castro had guests over to his home on Seymour Avenue, he made sure they were invisible. “He would bring the women upstairs to the attic, tie them up, and tape their mouths,” reported Fox 8 Cleveland. The 52-year-old would then blast music throughout the house, silencing any attempts the women made to scream for help. According to one of DeJesus’s cousins, Castro further humiliated the women by forcing them to eat cake and “celebrate” National Abduction Day each year.”

In Room, Emma Donoghue explains “Old Nick has never gotten a good look at Jack or even really wanted one. What he wants is to visit Ma in Room, the soundproofed, lead-lined backyard shed where he has imprisoned her. Jack (who hides in a wardrobe at such moments) times the man’s visits by counting creaks of the bedsprings. And Ma accommodates her rapist in exchange for the supplies she needs to keep Jack alive.”

Ultimately, Emma Donoghue asks whether it is safer and more sane on the outside with the crush of media, psychiatrists and strange family members or inside Room.  Through the next few weeks, months and years, Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus may be asking the same questions.

God help us all.

UPDATE: A movie version of the novel will be released October 16, 2015. Here’s a link to the movie trailer: https://youtu.be/6C6fZ-fwDws