The Mastermind by David Unger
First published on April 5th 2016
Akashic Books Source: I bought it
“By all appearances, Guillermo Rosensweig is the epitome of success. He is a member of the Guatemalan elite, runs a successful law practice, has a wife and kids and a string of gorgeous lovers. Then one day he crosses paths with Maryam, a Lebanese beauty with whom he falls desperately in love . . . to the point that when he loses her, he sees no other option than to orchestrate his own death. The Mastermind is based on the bizarre real-life story of Rodrigo Rosenberg, a Guatemalan attorney who, in 2009, planned his own assassination after leaving behind a video accusing Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom of his murder. (In April 2011, the New Yorker published an article by David Grann about Rosenberg which has been optioned by Matt Damon for his directorial debut.) This is a fascinating depiction of modern-day Guatemala and the corrupt, criminal, and threatening reality that permeates its society.” Source: Akashic Books.
The Fox Was Ever the Hunter by Herta Müller
First English Translation
by Philip Boehm on May 10, 2016
Macmillan Source: I bought it
“From the winner of the Nobel Prize hailed as the laureate of life under totalitarianism, a haunting early novel of surveillance and paranoia. Romania—the last months of the Ceausescu regime. Adina is a young schoolteacher. Paul is a musician. Clara works in a wire factory. Pavel is Clara’s lover. But one of them works for the secret police and is reporting on the rest of the group.” Source: Macmillan.
Perhaps I was expecting a bit much of this book in imagining it would touch my soul in a most profound and resonating way. See, The Fox Was Ever the Hunter is the story of a teacher’s life (1) during the last few year’s of Ceausescu’s communist regime (2; 1980s – place and decade of my birth), and moreover, it’s written by a Romanian, also an emigre (3). Considering that’s 3 for 3, I naively assumed this would somehow be the story of my life, the conundrum of my dual-identity explained, the nostalgia for a horrific yet clearer, more certain time expressed in all its contradictory complexity. (more…)
A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock
Published May 3, 2016
Source: theReadingRoom Advanced Readers Program ARC
“Set in the glamorous 1920s, A Fine Imitation is an intoxicating debut that sweeps readers into a privileged Manhattan socialite’s restless life and the affair with a mysterious painter that upends her world, flashing back to her years at Vassar and the friendship that brought her to the brink of ruin. Vera Bellington has beauty, pedigree, and a penthouse at The Angelus–the most coveted address on Park Avenue. But behind the sparkling social whirl, Vera is living a life of quiet desperation… Vera faces an impossible choice–whether to cling to her familiar world of privilege and propriety or to risk her future with the enigmatic man who has taken her heart. A Fine Imitation explores what happens when we realize that the life we’ve always led is not the life we want to have.” Source: Penguin Random House.
“He who is subjected to a field of visibility… inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own [subjugation]” ~ Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish
Basically, what Foucault was referring to is that pervading sense we feel to act in prescribed ways – to discipline ourselves into conformity. We subscribe to the dress-code at work, for example, we observe rules of decorum in our interactions (well, most of us try to), we may even get married and have kids because that’s what’s always been ‘expected’ of us (not least of all by our parents, whom many of us also try to please in various other ways as well…) (more…)
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
Published on May 3, 2016
Simon & Schuster Source: theReadingRoom Advanced Readers Program ARC
“London, 1939. The day war is declared, Mary North leaves finishing school unfinished, goes straight to the War Office, and signs up. Tom Shaw decides to ignore the war—until he learns his roommate Alistair Heath has unexpectedly enlisted. Then the conflict can no longer be avoided.
Set in London during the years of 1939–1942, when citizens had slim hope of survival, much less victory; and on the strategic island of Malta, which was daily devastated by the Axis barrage, Everyone Brave is Forgiven features little-known history and a perfect wartime love story inspired by the real-life love letters between Chris Cleave’s grandparents. This dazzling novel dares us to understand that, against the great theater of world events, it is the intimate losses, the small battles, the daily human triumphs that change us most.”
Source: Simon & Schuster.
When WWII comes to London, young Mary greets it enthusiastically; determined to prove her independence from her family and from society’s expectations of a girl of her “status”, Mary enlists in the war effort, at first teaching, then driving an ambulance. While teaching, she meets Tom, an official from the school district who has been exempted from serving in the armed forces because of his position. (more…)
The Midnight Watch: A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian by David Dyer
Published on April 5, 2016
St. Martin’s Press Source: ARC from St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley
“As the Titanic and her passengers sank slowly into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, a nearby ship looked on. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting idly a few miles north, saw the distress rockets that theTitanic fired. He alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was sleeping in the chartroom below, but Lord did not come to the bridge. … The Midnight Watch is a fictional telling of what may have occurred that night on the SS Californian, and the resulting desperation of Officer Stone and Captain Lord in the aftermath of their inaction.” Source: St. Martin’s Press.
So we’ve all heard the story of the sinking of the Titanic (even if our only exposure was through Kate & Leo)- but did you know that the historical record shows that many more lives could have been saved if only a nearby ship, the Californian, had responded to the Titanic‘s distress signals?