Monday, March 26, 2018

Me Before You

I decided to read this book because I've seen the author's name a lot (Jojo Moyes) and readers like her stories.  I was not disappointed!  This book is the first in a series about a young woman, so if you like her after this first book you can continue to follow her adventures.  I haven't done that, but only because I have so many other books to read by authors who are new-to-me. 

For example, Elizabeth George.  We just got a big fat book written by her and I said to Mel, have you ever read anything by this author?  And she said nope.  Turns out EG's characters are Inspector Lynley and Barbara Havers!  Who knew?  I watched the Inspector Lynley series of murder mysteries (we have the whole collection of DVDs here at the BoB) from Masterpiece Theatre, AGES ago.

And speaking of movies, a movie was made from this book Me Before You. 

Anyway, the story is about a young woman who has good people skills and is happy with her waitressing job, but she loses the job when the restaurant closes.  Her family is poor so she really needs to get another job, any job!  She ends up caring for a quadriplegic.  She knows nothing about this type of work but the "quad's" mother hires Lu because of her happy upbeat nature.

I enjoyed the book in part because Lu often said or did things I would not have said or done in her place.  Also there was a little bit of a mystery about her past to keep you guessing, which affects her behavior and choices in her current situation (happens to all of us right?).  It also increases one's awareness (as my sister might say) of what people in wheelchairs have to confront when in public.

So.  Lively characters, good story, sequels!

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah has a new book out, The Great Alone.  After we received it from the publishers I realized I hadn't read any of her books, so I checked out The Nightingale.  What a great story!  If you read and liked All the Light We Cannot See you'll like this book too.  It takes place in occupied France during World War II, and follows a family whose members are, each in his or her own way, members of the French Resistance.  As with so much historical fiction, this book brings the reader into a world that is unlike anything she or he has ever encountered (hopefully!).  We all know the basics about WW2, but I at least knew very little about all the things the Resistance did, especially the women.

Actually, I'd be interested in reading a novel about the French collaborators, but it's harder to see them in any sort of heroic light so I'll probably be waiting for a while before I encounter such a story.  Have you ever noticed that you can rarely find stories about the "bad" people of the world (unless it's a thriller)?  For example, we have quite a few children's books about kids who are bullied, and how they cope, but it's hard to find anything written from the bully's point of view.  Particularly an unrepentant bully. 

One of the images I especially liked in The Nightingale was that of an apple tree in the farm yard.  In the beginning of the story it is healthy and bears sweet red apples, but as the story (the war) progresses the tree dies.  One of the heroines uses its branches to hang pieces of fabric in remembrance of her loved ones and, as time goes by, the tree carries more and more of this new and sorrowful kind of fruit.  Cool idea.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Beau Death, by Peter Lovesey

This is a detective story that caught my eye because 1) it takes place in Bath, England, which I have visited; and 2) one of the "characters" (the possible murderee) is Beau Nash , whose name I recognized.  A Beau, my dear, is the term given to a handsome fashionable young man in late 17th century England. Ever heard of Beau Brummel?  Since you are currently online you can look him up! 

This is a good mystery so I can recommend it for that reason alone, but if you are an Anglophile, or a Bathphile, or a Beauphile, or even a Peter Diamondphile, you'll enjoy it even more!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Radium Girls

Written by Kate Moore, this fascinating work of nonfiction tells the story of the girls and young women who worked as watch dial painters in the early part of the 20th century.  The paint they used was luminous, and what made it glow in the dark was... radium. 

The work was considered skilled labor and paid top dollar.  Painters felt they were lucky to have the jobs, especially after the stock market crash.  They went out dancing together after work, bought stylish clothing, tried to get jobs at their factories for family members and friends, and were generally admired and envied. 

The girls were taught to stick the paint brushes in their mouths to make a fine "point" for number painting.  They were told that the radium was "good" for them, a common misconception of the element in those days. The fine powder hanging in the air and the paint splashed on their clothes got all over their bodies, making them look especially alluring in the dark clubs.

But then of course, as the years went by, the women began to get dreadfully ill.  Radium poisoning was unknown until more and more dial painters visited the same doctors and dentists, and a few clever medical people began to see the pattern.  The company managers, of course, denied that any illnesses were related to dial painting.

Eventually those companies were sued by some of the women, and there was a huge battle for workers' rights and compensation for industrial poisoning.  Over the years, radium girls even helped researchers learn more about radium and its long-term effects on the human body.

This is a fascinating story with elements that are still relevant to today's world.  You'd be amazed and maybe a bit horrified by how much.