Monday, September 21, 2009

Guest Review

Remember Loreen Niewenhuis? If not, check last week's post. Loreen has generously found time between writing, searching for a publisher, and walking around Lake Michigan, to send us this review. Thanks, Loreen.

I originally ordered this book for the store for our Brendo, who raised two lovely hedgehogs, Cleo and Chloe. What a pleasant surprise for us to find that this choice has been on many bestseller lists for weeks.

Review by Loreen Niewenhuis

This is not a book I would have plucked off the shelf, so I'm glad that a writer friend of mine recommended it to me. The title is intriguing, but the cover image is of a young girl, so I figured it was for a younger age set. Between the pages, though, I found one of the most engaging novels that I've come across in quite some time.

The main characters could not be more different: a 12-year old girl, Paloma (daughter in a very rich family), and the 50+-year -old woman, Renee, (who works as a concierge of the Parisian apartment house where Paloma lives). Nor could they be more alike. As a means of self-preservation, the both strive to hide their true, intelligent selves from the world. The interplay between these characters' thoughts, questions and longings opens up new world even before their friendship grows.

The voice of Paloma and Renee are well developed and Barbery masterfully peels back layer after layer to expose them to their very core. The apartment house is filled with interesting characters (and pets) to round out the story. This novel is rare thing, a book that is driven primarily by ideas. And, as Paloma searches for perfect, beautiful moments in order to realize that life is truly worth living, and Renee questions the merits of various philosopher's approaches to life, these ideas mesh together and expand the thoughts of the reader.

It is a true testament of a novel's power if the reader finds themself wondering about the characters long after the book has been finished. I find myself thinking about the many floors of that apartment house. what is everyone doing right now?

*****What am I reading? After closing the cover on The Club Dumas, I moved on to Dan Brown's new blockbuster, The Lost Symbol. Some of you may be disappointment that I boarded the popular bandwagon, but Dan Brown's subjects fascinate me. The Masons, in particular, have long piqued my curiosity. But, alas (another word we all should campaign to resurrect) after the mental fatigue brought about by the Perez-Reverte book, "Symbol" was just too heavy. Literally and figuratively. I will wait a year for the paperback, I guess, or for whirlwind in my brain caused by the intensity of the Dumas gaming to subside.

Instead, this week's title will be A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes. Any novel with an intro by Francine Prose has to be fine. To top that, The Modern Library named this book "one of the best novels of the twentieth century." Here's a snip from the back cover...."...Richard Hughes tells the story of a group of children accidentally thrown upon the mercy of a crew of down-at-the-heel pirates. A tale of seduction and betrayal, of accommodation and manipulation, of weird humor and unforeseen violence, this classic of twentieth-century literature is an unequaled exploration of the nature, and limits, of innocence."
Oh boy... have I made the right choice, here? I'll give it a shot, but may wind up reverting to some palatte cleansing young adult suff instead...perhaps the second installment of The Mysterious Benedict Society would be a better choice.

This is trade show weekend...days of getting lost on the endless one-way street in Minneapolis, lugging pounds of ARCS, catalogues and comp books to my car, and trying to hold back tears when I get overwhelmed at meeting some of my favorite writers. Full report in two weeks. In the meantime, my blog-saver, Steve, struck again with a impeccably timed post for next Monday.

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