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Morris has commented on (8) products.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Marriage Plot

Morris, November 15, 2011

The Marriage Plot by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jeffrey Eugenides is one of the "big" novels to come out this fall. Eugenides' previous works include The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex.

The novel is a throwback (a classic love triangle, all about marriage, set in the 1980s) and yet quite modern in its approach. The story is set in the 1980s. Madeleine Hanna, an English lit major, graduates from Brown University. Madeline, a daughter a small university president and part of an upscale family, completes her senior thesis on the "marriage plot" that was the centerpiece of many classic novels (e.g., Jane Austen). With the descent and decay of the institution of marriage, the import of the novel declined as well. Madeline becomes deeply involved with Leonard Bankhead, a complicated and brilliant manic depressive. Meanwhile, Madeline also has a relationship with her admirer, Mitchell Grammaticus, who decides to forgo divinity graduate school for a spiritual search through Europe into India. The three characters contend with the challenges of coming-of-age, marriage, spiritual searches, mental illness, feminism, parental involvement, divorce and even careers. Eugenides begins the story with the characters' college graduation, constantly back-filling the story as he slowly moves the plot forward. The story does not move more than a couple of years post-college.

The writing is top notch. In some ways, stylistically, Eugenides reminds me (positively) of Jonathan Franzen although The Marriage Plot is a more tightly-focused and far less expansive work than Freedom. One of the treats about this novel for literature lovers is that Eugenides pours literary references liberally throughout the book. It is quite humbling.

I enjoyed (but did not love) this novel. Because the novel was so tightly focused, at points, the plot was weighed down by its details, nearly coming to a halt. I also felt that the placement in the 1980s (cultural references and all) felt a bit forced. Perhaps dropping the story into the pre-Internet, cellphone, Facebook/Twitter age simplified some of the social interactions; but, it felt unnatural. With all of that said, the novel was not one I found I had to fight to get through. It was enjoyable, well written and well executed.
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The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz
The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel

Morris, November 7, 2011

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz is a new Sherlock Holmes novel, which is the first officially sanctioned take-off of Sherlock Holmes by the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate. For the Sherlock Holmes lover, this is a must read. For everyone else, I'd highly recommend it.

Anthony Horowitz is a famed writer of young adult action novels (the Alex Rider series) and also an acclaimed writer of the PBS series Foyle's War (a must see for mystery lovers/WWII buffs). His connections to Sherlock Holmes and the Canon were not as established.

Conan Doyle had a distinct writing style (somewhat sparse on detail of Victorian life but more than enough to fill the canvas) and created vivid and memorable characters. Although Holmes solved his share of murders, he also solved all kinds of other crimes and mysteries. Creating the perfect pastiche requires echoing Conan Doyle and remembering that Holmes was not a superhero (as he is portrayed in the Robert Downey, Jr. movies).

In The House of Silk, Horowitz gets it right on all counts. The tone, the writing, the characters and even the plotting matches up beautifully with Conan Doyle. Horowitz also brings back other minor characters from the Canon for non-distracting cameo appearances, which is a delight for lovers of the Canon. Yet, Horowitz makes Sherlock his own, creating a story with a bit more action than Conan Doyle gave us, which will keep you glued to the book. The story is a classic tale of Holmes and Watson, with Watson as the narrator. Watson writes the story after Holmes has passed away and seals it away for one hundred years because the story is to explosive to be shared during their lifetimes. From there, the story unfolds with two unrelated story lines, the action builds and Horowitz captures your imagination. If like mysteries at all, this is one not to miss. If you love Sherlock Holmes, this is a must read.
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The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz
The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel

Morris, November 7, 2011

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz is a new Sherlock Holmes novel, which is the first officially sanctioned take-off of Sherlock Holmes by the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate. For the Sherlock Holmes lover, this is a must read. For everyone else, I'd highly recommend it.

Anthony Horowitz is a famed writer of young adult action novels (the Alex Rider series) and also an acclaimed writer of the PBS series Foyle's War (a must see for mystery lovers/WWII buffs). His connections to Sherlock Holmes and the Canon were not as established.

Conan Doyle had a distinct writing style (somewhat sparse on detail of Victorian life but more than enough to fill the canvas) and created vivid and memorable characters. Although Holmes solved his share of murders, he also solved all kinds of other crimes and mysteries. Creating the perfect pastiche requires echoing Conan Doyle and remembering that Holmes was not a superhero (as he is portrayed in the Robert Downey, Jr. movies).

In The House of Silk, Horowitz gets it right on all counts. The tone, the writing, the characters and even the plotting matches up beautifully with Conan Doyle. Horowitz also brings back other minor characters from the Canon for non-distracting cameo appearances, which is a delight for lovers of the Canon. Yet, Horowitz makes Sherlock his own, creating a story with a bit more action than Conan Doyle gave us, which will keep you glued to the book. The story is a classic tale of Holmes and Watson, with Watson as the narrator. Watson writes the story after Holmes has passed away and seals it away for one hundred years because the story is to explosive to be shared during their lifetimes. From there, the story unfolds with two unrelated story lines, the action builds and Horowitz captures your imagination. If like mysteries at all, this is one not to miss. If you love Sherlock Holmes, this is a must read.
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Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
Caleb's Crossing

Morris, June 28, 2011

Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks has written a fantastic new novel, Caleb's Crossing, that is one of the better novels of 2011.

The novel is set in the late 1600s on Martha's Vineyard. It is the story of Caleb Cheeshah-teaumuck, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. In the story, Caleb is befriended by Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of an English proselytizing minister. Like Caleb, Bethia, an exceptionally bright, young woman, searches for knowledge and must find a way to access it. They build a lifelong bond.

The title of the book is a bit misleading. The story, which is Bethia's diary from different phases of her life, is really about Bethia struggling in a male-dominated world to overcome the blind obedience demanded of women. Bethia first must take on her deceased mother's obligations, which include tending to the home and raising her infant sibling. Then, she is indentured as a housekeeper (i.e., looks a whole lot like slavery) to support her brother. Throughout her life, Bethia thirsts and searches for worldly knowledge. While listening to Bethia's quest through her diary, we watch Caleb cross from his Native American culture to the Christian culture and the costs he must bear.

The root of the story is true. There was a Caleb Cheeshah-teaumuck who graduated from Harvard. However, very little is known about his story. Brooks creates a gorgeous story and hangs it on this narrow historical framework.

I would add Caleb's Crossing to my list of top books for the year so far. It is an excellent book for discussion. The writing is gripping. Brooks writes the story in the language of the 1600s. Much like Twain's classics, once you adjust to the difference in language, the story flows. This book should have broad appeal. Brooks also paints a lively picture of Martha's Vineyard.
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The Great Frustration: Stories by Seth Fried
The Great Frustration: Stories

Morris, May 9, 2011

Seth Fried's short story collection, The Great Frustration, is funny, well-written and extremely difficult to put down. With this collection, Fried displays his imagination and skill.

In the first story, "Loeka Discovered," a group of scientists discover a prehistoric man, whose release from a deep freeze unfreezes emotions among the scientists. As the narrative of the prehistoric man's life changes based on further discoveries, the scientists' moods swing wildly, creating entertaining results. In the second story, my favorite, "Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre," a town wonders aloud why everyone attends an annual picnic that year after year ends with a massacre. In a third story, "Life in the Harem," an unattractive male clerk shares his tale of living in a sultan's harem. (A preview clip for this story is below).

Each story is creative, credible and engaging. This book (under 200 pages) is difficult to put down and will make you laugh out loud.

Fried has been published in several prominent literary journals (McSweeney's, Tin House etc.) Read The Great Frustration, laugh and enjoy.
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