In Bowen’s Enchanted August, Lottie and Rose are New York mothers of young children, dissatisfied at the way their lives are working out. Lottie’s husband seems to have lost interest in her. Rose’s husband is writing thrillers under a pseudonym, but her poetic talent has been overshadowed by her maternal role. The two women meet at the bulletin board of their children’s preschool, both drawn to a notice about a Maine cottage for rent for August.
California writer Lorraine Devon Wilke presents her new novel, Hysterical Love, from a man’s point of view. Men have been writing from women’s points of view for centuries, not always effectively or convincingly. Entering the heart and mind of a character from a group to which one does not belong is always a challenge and Wilke deserves praise for daring to do it.
Noxon’s gift as character creator compels us to believe in the slightly zany, uber LA Plus One leader of the pack Huck whose apparent ease with all things, comfort with this moment’s offering appeals to the protagonist, Alex’s character. Marked by a Woody Allen type of insecurity and running commentary of self-doubt Alex emerges as a kind of “all man” in a surprising way.
In Chewed Confession, Cheryl Kerwin’s Indie Excellence Finalist Book Award book, characters are connected in a straight-forward linear manner. In this case, the characters in these stories are often friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances. Thus the main character of one story might casually call a friend or family member and this friend becomes the main character in the following story. This is generally the pattern throughout.
Breadth of vision and the ability to construct tension from the first page maintains the drama as the events wind and twist through each step taken toward the inexorable truth about Perla, her parents, her lineage and her country. It is a journey well worth taking.
The discussion of film elevates the novel above and beyond category romance. Alain’s Uncle Bernard liked films that “had an idea… moved people…[and] gave them a dream to take with them” – all elements necessary for a good story, whether on film or in print. Through Alain, Nicolas Barreau lists the “golden rules” of good film comedy: “a chase is better than a conversation”; “a bedroom is better than a living room”, and “an arrival is better than a departure.” Barreau uses these storytelling principles to good effect in One Evening in Paris.
Small Blessings touches on issues like the consquences of adultery, along with alcoholism and drug abuse, but uses them as devices rather than serious themes. At the end of Small Blessings we find Rose crossing her fingers, “hoping against hope that life really might be that simple.” Unfortunately, real life isn’t as simple as it is presented in this feel-good romance.
Moyes’s novel reminded me of The Middle Ground, a 1980 work of fiction by Margaret Drabble, which centres upon a single mother and shows the disparity between the comfortable classes and the struggling ones. Moyes’s plot is also akin to that of Jane Eyre, in centring on an intelligent woman with a strong sense of fairness, who meets a rich man. Like Mr. Rochester, Ed must be humbled by misfortune before he can fully appreciate Jess – though there is no madwoman in the attic and no fire in One Plus One.
Baldwin combines a breezy, easy to read writing style with years of classroom experiences to produce a well written work filled with short to a little longer sketches that offer a peek into the life of teachers and parents. While not every offering is meant to be humorous, the ones that are do bring a smile to the lips and giggles during the read.
Conversations are convincing, dialogue is used to enhance and move the narrative forward. Characters are well fleshed. Settings are authentic. The reader is drawn into the narrative slowly at first, but completely, and is held fast in the grip right to the last paragraph. The tale is well plotted, the ending is not predictable or formulaic, but is satisfying as well as a bit bittersweet.