I have read most all of Jeff Shaara’s historical novels and his ability to use the medium to awaken history sets a high standard. ( search gordonsgoodreads).
His latest, THE OLD LION, is a great overview of Teddy Roosevelt’s lifetime. Unlike the great biographies by Edmund Morris or David McCullough THE OLD LION moves quickly through the highlights of TR’s career.
This book is a good choice for a first round study of TR from his sickly childhood to the Rough Riders charge up San Juan Hill. After retirement from the presidency Roosevelt’s epic adventurous trip on the headwaters of the Amazon are captured by Sharra.
When i flipped the first pages of Gabrielle Zevin’s novel TOMORROW TOMORROW TOMORROW I hesitated. Why would I be interested in a young group of MIT stereotypes creating video games? The answer came quickly. The novel is MUCH MUCH MORE! Life is complicated and even more so among a group of brilliant young high achievers. There are love stories among the code writers and keyboard clicks that follow convoluted paths of happiness and sadness. My guess is that like me, you will be quickly drawn in by Zevin’s characters.
Put TOMORROW TOMORROW TOMORROW on your list. You won’t be disappointed.
As I finished the last chapter of Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel DEMON COPPERHEAD, I reflected sadly that this could well be a work of nonfiction. Demon Copperhead ( David Copperfield of another generation) is born and raised into the institutional poverty that to this day prevails in southern Appalachia.
Kingsolver spares no evils of abject poverty upon the young. Children abandoned, often times at birth, through death and despair. Those surviving ( Demon Copperhead) face the blight of Foster Care, a failed educational system, ineffective social services, bad choices of relationships and the pervasiveness of the drug epidemic that today sweeps through the hills and hollers of the backcountry.
The New York Times review was correct in writing, Kingsolver creates images that stay with the reader.
No happy endings and no joy in this read but the NYT was on the mark about Kingsolver’s lasting images.
Colson Whitehead’s novel, NICKEL BOYS is the real story of a 111 year old State of Florida “Reform School. ” Colson’s characters live the story of the NICKEL ACADEMY, which is actually a chamber of horrors, brutality, sexual abuse and racism. Children disappear into a hidden cemetery located behind the what is in reality a children’s prison.
Elwood, a black youth abandoned by his parents and raised by his grandmother is a teenager with great potential. He becomes a NICKEY BOY by inadvertently riding in the wrong car as he heads off to college. But Elwood is a reformer, a believer that things can change even from inside an abusive and racist ” Reform School.” He must first survive and then set about his work.
Colson weaves reality into an enormously compelling and emotional narrative as can only be accomplished by a great novelist. From within the decadence of NICKEL ACADEMY and the plight of those incarcerated there comes a glimmer of hope for reform from a determined Elwood.
Colson’s novel is representative of numerous ” Reform Schools” operating throughout America during the early to mid twentieth century. Fortunately most were closed but the stories of hundreds of “missing” youths remain to be discovered.
Netflix has made a great new series titled Transatlantic based the novel The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer. The streaming service has done an excellent film creation of this WWII story by staying close to the book. The seven part series released in April 2023 stars Cory Michael Smith as Varian Fry and Gillian Thomas as Madeline. Great casting!
Check our our overview of The Flight Portfolio and our review her novel The Invisible Bridge right here at GGR.
I always felt that The Invisible Bridge was also worthy of a screenplay but thrilled to see The Flight Portfolio now streaming. Orringer is a terrific writer.
HOW THE WORD IS PASSED. It is all in the telling and by whom. The Lost Cause myths remain. According to his travels and the first hand experiences author Clint Smith uncovers misinformation and obfuscation in the re-telling of the history of slavery in America. Deliberate distortion remains throughout the nation including at some of the most prominent historical sites but there is some good news in the efforts of a few to set the record straight.
Smith’s book is all about RECKONING and the nations failure to digest the accurate history of slavery. Smith visits the Whitney Plantation, Blandford Cemetery and the Angola Prison in Louisiana. His interviews include Galveston Island, Texas where Juneteenth was born, New York City and Goree island in Africa home to The House of Slaves and the infamous The Door of No Return.
Among the most potent of revelations in the book is Smith’s interviews and observations at Jefferson’s Monticello. He lays bare any illusions or myths about Jefferson’s deep and vile relationship with slavery. He exposes the hypocrisy of Jefferson’s life in facts and figures.
I urge those who wish to see the urgency of America reckoning with its history of slavery and who feel the need to undo the harm in perpetrating the Lost Cause to not miss a page of HOW THE WORD IS PASSED. You may also wish to search Ibram Kendi here in Gordons Good Reads.
The book title says it all! Maggie Haberman’s CONFIDENCE MAN THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP AND THE BREAKING OF AMERICA is another outstanding example of excellent journalism from this Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalist.
CONFIDENCE MAN is exactly what one would expect from Haberman, thorough unbiased reporting. Very little drama, all facts. Another piece of scholarly reporting. She tells the story better than anyone so I will not make an attempt to do so.
The title THIS IS HAPPINESSspeaks for itself. The title of Niall Williams‘ book aptly describes a wonderful GOOD READ.
The author transports the reader to the smallest of villages in Ireland and quickly the characters and imagery flow from the pages to create a page turning narrative. A tentative seventeen year old studying for the priesthood returns home and circumstances there cause great reflection. Add to the story the coming of electricity to this forgotten outpost bringing with it a search for a long lost love and a cross generational endearing friendship.
Clear the decks for this great novel. It will indeed bring happiness.
A fabulous scholarly work by Pulitzer Prize Author Stacy Schiff. At last Samuel Adams is catapulted into his proper and deserved Revolutionary Role! Step aside Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere and make way for the the person who with brilliance of action and pen united the Colonies and made them ready for the Declaration of Independence.
“Why would a people living in the finest climate under the mildest government blessed with land and religious liberty, protected by the greatest power on earth, viscously defy a parent state that had “nursed their tender years”? Samuel Adams blamed that “ancient republican spirit” which the first settlers had planted and which had flourished in the New England soil. ” Samuel Adams had at his disposal a single weapon: the word : liberty.”
When I finished reading The Revolutionary Samuel AdamsBroadway’s Hamilton flashed in my mind. Lin Manuel Miranda might find an equal or better subject in Samuel Adams.