I belong to a Facebook Page called Global Girls Online Book Club and from that I find lots of new authors and book recommendations, so here are some of my favourite books this Autumn.
I have just finished The Keeper of Stories by Salle Page. A woman who thinks of herself as cleaner and collector of other people’s stories, married to a man who thinks of her as ‘just a cleaner’. I fell in love with Janice’s characters, from Decius, the fox terrier, to Adam a twelve-year-old boy who has lost his father to suicide, to Lady B, irascible, ninety plus years and a former spy and Euan, a bus driver who somehow reaches into Janice’s life as a real-life rescuer complete with bicycle as trusty steed. It’s a heart-warming book but with an edge. There are plenty of side characters too, all finely drawn. The author is an observer of people, of conversations and behaviour.
Next are two books by Amor Towles. Judging by both these books, he is a new favourite author. I would go out of my way to read anything by him.
First The Lincoln Highway. It’s an American road book, an adventure set in post-war America, it’s a modern Steinbeck. Again, the characters leap off the page. The main character, Emmett, is released from a young offenders’ institution, not aware that two of his mates have secreted themselves in the sheriff’s boot as he is driven home after the death of his father. Emmett, together with Woolly Martin and Duchess Hewitt and Emmett’s young brother set out on the search for Emmet’s mother and money owing to Woolly Martin. Emmett intended to drive west to California, but he is forestalled by the wily Duchess, a swindler out for revenge. This being the first book I have read by Amor Towles, I loved it and the story with its references to Ulysses and it’s Steinbeck setting. It was only the final chapter which left me unsure.
But then I read reviews which said that it wasn’t a patch on Gentleman in Moscow. Oh my, Gentleman in Moscow will live with me forever. In 1922, Count Rostov is spared death by the Revolutionary Tribunal and confined to The Metropol Hotel where he had a suite of rooms. He will leave it only on pain of death. His suite is denied him, instead he is shown a bare garret. Het can choose items from his belongings to sustain him through his life sentence in the hotel while observing the absurdities of the Soviet Regime from the grand dining room, where he eventually becomes head waiter. How can I describe this book? It’s humanity and love, its gentle comedic genius, it’s forbearance and making the best of one’s situation. It’s a masterpiece and I love that it uses descendants of characters found in War and Peace. It also has a very satisfying ending.