The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian, NYT bestselling author *****
This riveting novel, set in and around Florence, Italy, during World War II and ten years later centers on love, betrayal and the unimaginable losses suffered by a noble Tuscan family at the hands of the Nazis.
From the book jacket: “A breathtaking story of moral paradox, human frailty and the mysterious ways of the heart.”
From the Washington Post: “brilliantly crafted…utterly compelling.”
Mary Doria Russell’s A Thread of Grace, another unforgettable novel about WWII and Italy, and one of my favorites, inspired author Chris Bohjalian.
Can’t let the passing of the last of the Andrews Sisters–Patty, yesterday at age 94, go by without commenting on how much I enjoyed their music. And I’m not the only one–the sisters sold 75 million records!
My favorite Andrews Sisters tune is the old Yiddish song, Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen, whose lyrics Sammy Cahn brilliantly re-worked. It was a huge hit during World War II, and to this day is still one of the most hummable songs ever. I dare you to listen to it and not be singing it for the next week (it’s on YouTube). Pay attention to the delightful lyrics.
I always thought the sisters were Jewish but come to find out they were of Greek and Norwegian descent.
“Malaise,” by Nancy Lemann gave me severe case of malaise. I couldn’t figure out what in hell the author was talking about for the first ten chapters and by Chapter 11 I didn’t care. And oi vey–the repetitive narrative—as if the heroine was senile! Maybe Lemann was trying to be funny by using redundancies (a trick I often employ when writing humor) but it was annoying. Damn annoying.
I enjoyed Alice Steinbach’s “The Miss Dennis School of Writing: And Other Lessons from a Woman’s Life,” a golden oldie book of humorous essays that premiered in 1996. However, I quickly became bored because Ms. Steinbach covers the same material I’ve written about for years in my “Udder Nonsense” column and “Madcap Mary” books. The only difference: she’s a world famous, wealthy Pulitzer Prize winning writer. And I am not.
“Lost in Shangri-La” by Mitchell Zuckoff is a breathtaking true adventure story set in Dutch New Guinea during the waning days of World War II. It involves a plane crash, handsome daring heroes, warring cannibals, and a beautiful party girl. Meticulously researched, “Lost in Shangri-La” is a great read. Can’t wait for the movie.