By February 15, 2012 0 Comments Read More →

Meeting the Best, Pt. 2

Here’s the second set of books discussed at a recent meeting of the Williamsburg Regional Library staff group. The meeting was devoted to some of the best books of 2011.

Barbara had Clara and Mr. Tiffany, Susan Vreeland’s latest historical novel. It’s about Clara Driscoll, the woman behind the success of Louis Comfort Tiffany, and her struggles to find recognition and personal happiness in a time  that made that difficult for women. The book is a treat for fans of the Gilded Age or Tiffany glass (although you won’t look at its namesake with as much admiration after reading it).

Connie from our Outreach Division had three interesting titles. The first was Alexandra Fuller’s follow up to Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. She returns to her African childhood with Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness, this time putting the focus on her parents, particularly her eccentric mother. While Connie didn’t love this quite as much as the first book, she still enjoyed the way that it captured the Happy Valley era in East and South Africa with its mix of bravery, style, frivolity, and cruel colonialism.

Her second book was Margaret Leroy’s The Soldier’s Wife. Like the book group favorite The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society it takes places on Guernsey in the Channel Islands during WWII and mixes historical fiction with a bit of romance, a bit of melodrama. Leroy’s tone is perhaps slightly more serious, but it doesn’t disappoint, delivering particularly when considering the question of how regular people should behave when they are caught up in war and expected by their countries to do things that violate their private moral code.

Finally, Connie introduced us to Kyung-Sook Shin’s Please Look after Mom. The book, a sensation in Shin’s native Korea, is the tale of a family’s search for their mother, who goes missing in the subways of Seoul. Each chapter is narrated by a different child or the father, and concerns both the search for the mother and family memories. During the search, they come to realize both how important their mother has been to them, and how little they understand her as a person. The mother, who is suffering from dementia, narrates the last section. It’s an emotionally powerful book guaranteed to bring up personal memories and feelings about family in most readers.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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