Mary Renault, The Nature of Alexander. I have long been a fan of Renault’s historical novels set in ancient Greece — The Last of the Wine, The King Must Die, Fire from Heaven among others — but this is the first biography I have read. It is a measured account of an extraordinary life, with careful attention to the contemporary accounts.
Evelyn Waugh, Officers and Gentlemen. This novel is the middle book of Waugh’s trilogy about the adventures of Guy Crouchback during World War II. I read the first book, Men at Arms, but too long ago, so I had trouble keeping the many characters straight. Vintage Waugh, in which the capers of the officers come up against the realities of the evacuation of Crete.
Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic. Their voices rise in a chorus together, yet each separate voice can also be distinguished. The speakers are the “picture brides”, the women who came to the United States from Japan to marry men they had seen only in pictures.
Susan Cheever, Treetops: A Family Memoir. The daughter of writer John Cheever tells the story of three talented and complicated families. Treetops is the summer place in New Hampshire where they gathered to love and to fight and to remember.
Yoko Ogawa, The Housekeeper and the Professor, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder. A short, sweet novel about the relationship between a mathematics professor, his housekeeper and her young son. Due to a brain injury, the professor’s memory is limited to 80 minutes and all new experiences must fall within that time frame.
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women. This is my first complete reread of the 1868 classic after many years. I am preparing a course on Louisa May Alcott and will be posting extensively on this, her most popular book in July, as I participate in A Year of Feminist Classics.
Herman Melville, Moby Dick. I finished rereading Melville’s great classic about the struggle between mad Captain Ahab and the White Whale. This time around, my sympathies are with the whale and all of his persecuted companions. Some read the novel as the struggle between good and evil. I read it as the insanity of man, abusing this world which provide so much if we take its gifts in moderation.
Louisa May Alcott, Little Men. This is the sequel to Little Women, written three years after it. It continues the story of Jo March, no Josephine Bhaer. With her husband she runs Plumfield, a school for boys. It continues the spirit of fun of Little Women, but we now find Jo in a warm maturity, reminiscent of Marmee.
Caroline Stoessinger, A Century of Wisdom. Subtitle: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor. A pianist, Alice Herz-Sommer survived Theresienstadt to create a new life for herself and her son in Israel and England. This book is a tribute to survival, but also to a cheerful old age and, most of all, to the power of music.