American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

I recently came across American Wife: A Novel at the library. I had heard of this book, but it hadn’t peaked my interest. I knew it was loosely based on the life of Laura Bush and personally, I like Laura Bush. I had the opportunity to meet her at a fundraiser and found her to be intelligent, compassionate, and charming. I didn’t want to read a book that might change my opinion of her!
However, I really like Curtis Sittenfeld’s writing. So I thought I’d give it a try. To my delight, I really enjoyed this book. It paints a picture of “Alice Lindgren” as a very human, very compassionate, sensitive human being.

This book is divided into four sections, named for the addresses at which she lived: one covering when Alice is young and growing up in Wisconsin. One covering when she is an adult working as a children’s librarian and first meets “Charlie Blackwell”, one covering when she is a young wife and mother with her husband still not in politics, and one when she is living at the White House. I definitely liked the part when she is young and growing up best. So much of who she became as a person was shaped from her childhood and the events, some tragic, that occurred then. I also loved reading the section when her daughter was young. However, the ending section of the book, while they were in the White House, bored me. It moved into the first person from the third person narrative (tense changes like that often throw me) and became more of Alice’s thoughts and ruminations on her husband’s work and decisions and reconciling those with her own beliefs.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy reading novels that cover a person’s life, but I would suggest that you not try to spend too much time wondering what was based in fact from Laura Bush’s life and what wasn’t (or you might interrupt your reading flow). For that, you could pick up a biography!

Cutis Sittenfeld is a great storyteller, so I give this book 4 Stars!

And just a note — we’ve been on vacation without Internet, so I am seriously behind in posting this review! My apologies to my readers!

Author Interview with Trilby Kent

I am thrilled to report that I recently had the opportunity to ask my friend Trilby Kent (whom I have known since she was a young girl!) a few questions about her novel “Medina Hill”. So, I give you, my first “mini author interview”!

(Me) How did you get the idea for “Medina Hill” – and how long did it take to write?

I’d been interested in T.E. Lawrence since the age of 14 or so, but it was over a weekend in Cornwall, where my boyfriend and I stayed in a house that had once been part of an artists’ colony, that I had the idea for a story about a boy who couldn’t speak. It took me about a month to come up with a first draft (extremely speedy, by my standards!) and several weeks more to get it into presentable shape.

(Me) Did you base any of the characters on anyone you know?

Yes – but I can’t say who! What I can tell you is that Uncle Roo and Sancha are the only major characters that had no real-life inspiration…

(Me) What is your best advice for aspiring writers?

Read, read, read. Read widely, and read deeply in the genre in which you intend to write. Don’t send out your work until it’s really, really ready. And try not to take rejection personally (I know, this can be hard – but if there’s one thing writers need to develop alongside their writing, it’s a thick skin!)

(Me) What are you working on now?

My agent is currently submitting my first novel for adults to publishers, so I’ve been spending a lot of time trying not to think about that! My second children’s book is now with my editors at Tundra, so with any luck I’ll be able to start working on revisions soon. In the meantime, I’ve started a PhD in Creative Writing, for which I’ll be producing another novel. Watch this space..!

Thank you, Trilby, for taking the time to share your answers with us! Happy Reading, folks!

REVIEW: Medina Hill by Trilby Kent

First, let me say that it is my great privilege to review my friend Trilby’s book today for my blog! I’ve known Trilby since she was a young girl, and I am so thrilled and excited to hold her first novel for young adults in my hands!

Medina Hill tells the story of young Dominic, an 11-year-old boy from working class London in 1935, and his younger sister, Marlo. Dominic’s mother has fallen ill and his father has lost his job. Dominic responds to the pressures of life by “losing his voice” and being mute among non-family members. His parents decide that it would be best to send him and his sister to their uncle and aunt’s house in Cornwall for the summer. While there, Dominic takes a keen interest in a book about Lawrence of Arabia and forges a friendship with a young Gypsy girl whose family’s caravan has evoked rage among the locals. Dominic’s adventures lead him from living in fantasy to finding his voice, and realizing the gift of true friendship.

Now, call me biased, but I just loved this book. I loved the characters of Dom and Marlo – and the eccentric cast of people they lived with in Cornwall – including the “clarivoyant” Miss Birdie and the widow Reverend Cleary. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and this was a time on which I hadn’t read a lot (between the two world wars in England). Trilby’s writing evokes the time and place so strongly, I felt I had been to Cornwall. I cheered for Dominic (and Marlo) and their young Gypsy friend. I can only say that I look forward to Trilby’s next novel!

This book was a nice aside from the current YA abundance of fantasy and vampires literature (at least here in the US). I haven’t seen it in bookstores here, but I have had it ordered for me through a local bookstore and also through Amazon. My copy for this post was purchased from Amazon.

Again, call me biased, but I give it 5 Stars! Nicely done, Trilby!

REVIEW: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Several friends had recommended The Elegance of the Hedgehog to me, so I got it through our inter-library loan. Translated from the French, this novel tells the story of the residents of an apartment building in Paris – particularly of Paloma, a 12 year old genius who plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday, and Renee, the concierge who hides her keen mind behind a facade of ordinariness. The novel is told through their alternating viewpoints – each with her own typeface.
When I began this book, I found it moving quite slow. It read more like a glimpse into two people’s diaries. I was enjoying it, but wondering if there was going to be a plot-driving dilemma. A good portion of the book occurs before Paloma and Renee even meet for the first time and strike up an unconventional friendship. Additionally, the coming of a new tenant, a wealthy Japanese businessman, further strengthens the friendship of Renee and Paloma, while lending an air of discovery and beauty to their every day world. After Mr. Ozu enters their lives, the pace of the book picks up and becomes more action-oriented, while still being their very personal stories.
The ending of this book is startling and sudden, but it left me feeling positive. I think this would be a great book to read if you were feeling rather down on life. It is beautifully written (I find I am always saying that about novels translated from Romance languages!) and celebrates the simple beauties of the preciousness of life.
I give this novel 4 Stars!