Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Stranger by Harlan Coben

THE STRANGER by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben never fails to keep you turning the pages as fast as you can to see what will happen next.  This novel is no different.  The lives of a normal suburban couple are turned upside down when a stranger appears and tells the husband something about his wife that he did not know.  Without spoiling the story, it is difficult to go into too much detail.  Suffice it to say that the wife disappears, and the husband spend the rest of the novel frantically trying to find her.

In some ways, this novel is more ominous that Coben's usual fare. The stranger is able to turn lives upside down with a little persistent digging on the Internet.  It is a cautionary tale for the modern era.  The edning was, t me, a bit disappointing, but that is a small thing compared to how riveting the book is.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Set in France during the second world war, The Nightingale tells the story of two sisters who are very different but both heroic in her own way.  Vianne, married with a young daughter, experiences the war as a villager whose husband has gone to fight the Germans.  Her sister, Isabelle, becomes involved in the French resistance.  The story begins with a modern day event of an elderly woman moving out of her home and into assisted living.  her son is helping her move and is surprised when she insists on taking an old trunk from the attic.  This trunk is full of momentos from the era, things (and events) which her son knows nothing about. The reader does not find out until the end of the book which sister is still alive to tell the tale.

Narration switches from Vianne to Isabell. Their perceptions of each other are often vastly distorted.  Vianne thinks Isabelle is simply headstrong and rash, never thinking before she acts.  Isabelle believes Vianne is simply a coward.  The trials they must survive during Nazi occupation are often horrific for both sisters.

This book, like All the Light We Cannot See, provides an important viewpoint of the war that is not often discussed: how it affected simple people who had to endure occupation and fighting.  I highly recommend this book.
The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg

The Dream Lover

The Dream Lover is a fictionalized account of the life of George Sand.  The novel skips back and forth between Sand's past and her present, which can, at times, be jarring; however, these multiple storylines help the reader understand why George Sand might have acted as she did.  She is a passionate woman who is eternally looking for real love, from her family, from men, and from a woman.

The writing is delicious, creating the time and the feel of the settings and making characters come to life.  The problem I had with this novel, however, is that I grew tired of the main character.  Aurore Dudevant takes the pen name George Sand, partially to make her novels sell better and partially because she envies men and the power their sex gives them.  She takes to wearing men's clothing at least some of the time.  The irony of this situation is that, in spite of all of her talk of equality, she is willing to sacrifice herself and her children for a man.  There is such a string of men in her life that one becomes tired of the endless parade and of what she gives up for these men who, on the whole, are not deserving of her love.

She is involved with the major literary and artistic characters of her day, some as lovers and others as friends. The love of her life is an actress, Marie Dorval.  They share one passionate night together, but George is never able to recover from her love of Marie.  She does become involved with a number of other men after this relationship, but it is the memory of Marie that sustains her.

Perhaps the novel stretches too far, trying to include all of the events of her life.  For me, it was simply too much.