Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky

August 23rd. 2011

I’m not sure where I bought this book, it had been sitting in my TBR pile for the whole summer, but the title intrigued me as I had no idea that two people would be friends–or as the back cover provides, lovers. This was a novel written by a screenwriter after the movie had already been produced–so, it read like you might imagine a movie playing out. Not an easy accomplishment and imminently readable. Though I’ve never been a big Coco Chanel fan, I do love classical music and read with interest the ins and outs of Paris life in the early decades of the 1900s. Those were weird times and Chris Greenhalgh covers them with finesse and detail. Coco was a self-made success story (to the detriment of her character and relationships) and Igor was a conflicted–and married–genius. I learned a lot about the mystique of Coco Chanel and the creation of her infamous perfume #5. And I also saw a modern-ish glimpse into the world of funding for the arts. This novel spans a relatively short period in the lives of two dynamic and famous people, but the additional timeline at the end, put a lot of things in perspective–namely how a person’s character is an unrelenting barometer of their behavior and how choices made have long-lingering consequences.

Next to Love

August 16th. 2011

“War .  . .next to love has most captured the world’s imagination.” Eric Partridge, British lexicographer, 1914. It’s from this seminal quotation that Ellen Feldman crafted one of the most superb novels about war, love, grief, resolution, and pain that I’ve ever read. Set in a town devastated by the loss of soldiers in the D-day invasion, Ms. Feldman weaves three couples together in a heart-breaking story of passion and survival. I’m not going to lie, this book will haunt me for a while, but in a good way. It reminded me why and I guess, how, the human spirit remodels itself to prevail against trauma. This is a story about scars. The things I so admire about this book are the simplicity of her writing, the eloquence of her plotting, and layers of her characters. Please read Next to Love as soon as you can.

The Gap Year

August 14th. 2011

Sarah Bird’s, The  Gap Year, enjoyed nice press in the Dallas Morning News a few weeks ago. Because I was a big fan of her essays in Texas Monthly magazine and owned a few other books of hers, I rushed out to buy this ode to a daughter’s last year in high school. Being in that same place  myself I thought it would be timely, what it was was depressing. Not entirely, parts were funny, but overall I find that writers who don’t have much hope, can’t offer much hope. Sadly, it just comes as a reminder to me that there’s a HUGE segment of the population who would read this novel and think this was a positive, optimistic world view–live and let live. Though I admire Sarah BIrd’s turn of phrase and her characters are always spot-on, I can’t tell you this is a book I would whole-heartedly recommend. Wry, yes. Poignant, definitely. Realistic, probably. Satisfying, no.