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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »

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Customer Comments

SandyPP has commented on (24) products.

Land of Plenty by Robert Cantwell
Land of Plenty

SandyPP, September 9, 2014

Hemingway called Cantwell his "best bet" in American fiction and yet who has heard of him now? I found this novel by a very happy accident. Published in 1934, it's been reissued twice (just last year again) with a terrific introduction in the latest edition. I recommended it to my book club. One member said, "it's the best book we've read all year" (and we've read some excellent ones). Another said, "Every high school student should read it."

The funny (and wonderful) thing is the writing is not at all dated--very modern, in fact--very innovative!

It grabs you from the first sentence and puts you smack dab in the middle of a crisis in a sawmill/door factory on the Washington coast (Cantwell was from the Aberdeen, Washington area and had worked in a mill) feeling the noise, the danger and the oppression of the workers. The characters are well-drawn, real people dealing with big problems plus you get all their points of view. This is not a happy story but an authentic one; a proletarian novel of the 30's that's also great literature--the greatest novel of the Northwest of its time--or maybe any time.
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America America by Ethan Canin
America America

SandyPP, September 4, 2014

A compelling story of a working class teenage boy swept up in forces he doesn’t understand until adulthood--of wealth, power, fallibility, corruption and bad decisions despite admirable values and a desire to do good. Recalling the tragic events from thirty years later, Corey Sifter can finally understand what he couldn't at the time. Great characters and marvelous storytelling made this class consciousness tale one that I could hardly put down. A fine book from a fine writer.
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Home Below Hell's Canyon by Grace Jordan
Home Below Hell's Canyon

SandyPP, August 21, 2014

Living off the grid during the Great Depression, relying on neighbors, ingenuity and grit, Grace Jordon homeschools her children while cooking for dozens without electricity, scavenging for fat to make soap and trying to ignore the results of a bad fall. I shivered as they rode narrow ledges, bundled in blankets to travel out, enjoyed the companionship of neighbors at the makeshift Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and marveled at the creation of a bathtub. Fascinating for anyone but if you're going (or have been) to Hell's Canyon you'll love reading about the occupants of the Kirkwood Ranch in the 30s.
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Old Filth by Jane Gardam
Old Filth

SandyPP, July 20, 2014

Critic Maureen Corrigan calls Gardam the best British writer you've never heard of. I couldn't agree more except now I've heard of her and I'll keep reading. To my joy, I have now discovered this is the first book in a trilogy! Don't let the title turn you off--it means Failed in London; Try Hong Kong.

Old Filth is multilayered, wise psychologically and sucked me right in. I lived it in for the days I was reading (or perhaps I should say inhaling) it.

An elderly retired lawyer loses his wife, prompting him to open a long-sealed box of memories revealing not only pain but secrets. The story skillfully unfolds, moving from London, the British countryside, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Wales, and the high seas.

I love a book that introduces me to a world or phenomena previously unknown to me. Here it's Raj Orphans, children sent back to Britain at a very young age from the "colonies" to be raised by foster parents and boarding schools while losing their attachment to their parents.

Gardam is so good that what would be unbelievable coincidences for lesser writers turn out not to be. And I almost forgot to mention that it can be funny too.
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Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Salvage the Bones

SandyPP, June 6, 2014

This gets a 10 out of 5. My only problem now is finding something else to read because nothing measures up. The story is compelling--took me into an entirely new world--and the writing is gorgeous.
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