i just finished reading The New York Times best selling memoir, Educated by Tara Westover. More on that in a moment, but first I transgress too when I first read the classic novel Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe. Why? When Wolfe’s heralded novel was first published some literary critics charged that it was not in fact a novel but rather an auto-biography. Some accused Wolfe with telling his life story, an autobiography, rather than creating an original manuscript. When Look Homeward Angel was published in 1929 the term Memoir was not part of the general descriptions of literary work. Autobiography covered that category.
Now, back too Educated, a memoir. Tara Westover’s life story is so incredulous that this reader was tested on page after page as to whether I was reading a novel or a memoir. My thoughts were the flip-side of Look Homeward Angel as I observed , “This can’t be a novel it must be true.” I mean to offer no criticism of Educated or Westover for telling of her remarkable story. Having read many, many excellent memoirs ( search gordonsgoodreds.com ), I have no problems with memoir authors adopting the necessity of some literary license in bringing a story to life. If you read the memoir The Glass Castle , by comparison, you may find Educated a story that in places boarders on disbelief. I make that observation not as criticism but in awe of Westover’s survival and success.
Turn the pages and enjoy.
Julie Orringer is back with her second Novel titled The Flight Portfolio. The theme is similar to her first in one aspect, escape from the Nazi’s. In that Novel, The Invisible Bridge, Orringer chronicled the escape of the protagonists grandparents from Hungary. ( See gordonsgoodreads.com). The Flight Portfolio tracks the courageous adventure of Varian Fry, a young American in Marseilles, France seeking to help famous artists and writers escape Nazi tyranny. Among them are Chagall, Hannah Arndt, and Max Ernst. Fry works under the auspices of an American funded philanthropy, The Emergency Rescue Committee. Orringer makes clear that the Varian Fry part of her book is in fact a well researched work of non-fiction.
In the midst of the daring intrigue of Fry’s daily work, Orringer introduces a parallel story line. A former Harvard classmate, Elliott Grant, and unconventional lover of Fry’s is also in Marseilles, himself seeking to save the son of yet another individual from the hands of Nazi’s. The story line becomes tense as Fry’s homosexual relationship with Grant complicates the mission.
Julie Orringer’s writing is splendid and enjoyable. Her work is always intricately researched and clearly presented. A novelist who will certainly provide her readers with much future enjoyment.
How To Swim Underwater, short stories by Julie Orringer. Wonderful.