Barefoot Bookclub: A Review of my Summer Reading

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Criticize if you like, but I am winding down my Summer Reading, ready for Fall, ready to transition from Kentucky to Florida book-wise and otherwise. Plus I have to prepare for my 52nd High School Reunion which falls midway in the transition period. Fortunately transitioning from Kentucky to Florida does not require packing away my sandals…so Barefoot Book Club continues.

What I read (and am currently reading) Summer 2015:

Set in the USA South:

The Bone Tree (Greg Iles)–For the people unfamiliar with this author and his books, especially the ones set in and around Natchez, Mississippi or his protagonist, Penn Cage…this is not the book to start with. However, his books are well worth the read or the listen. There are times when reading his books the intensity and reality require shutting down to absorb. He looks at the underside of the government and Southern culture, the complexities of race relations, and the beauty of Natchez and family intertwined. My suggestion is to read The Quiet Game first.

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)–Iconic Pulitzer Prize winner that was long thought to be the only novel written by Lee. Set in Alabama in the 1930’s the book is told in first person by 7 year old Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Perhaps it is because it is told from a child’s perspective that the book became wildly popular in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. For me at my first reading in my late teens it helped develop my sense of justice and an understanding of prejudice…even my own. Reading it again this summer galvanized my thinking, but it also revealed to me in every character the tendency to keep people in an accepted natural order, not just in accordance to race. For example, when Scout is asked to explain her classmate’s refusal of lunch money from the teacher, she stands up, says, “He’s a Cunningham.” and sits down. Being a Cunningham or a Finch or a Robinson defined your place, your actions, and your potential.

Read it again if you have read it. Read it, if you haven’t, you will not regret it.

Go Set a Watchman (Harper Lee) is the prequel/sequel of Mockingbird. Written before Mockingbird, but set in the midst of Supreme Court rulings, the Civil Rights Movement and told in third person not first. I reviewed this book earlier, but as an additional thought this book contains material unexpected by readers of Mockingbird, but in a sense Mockingbird needed to come first, because of the need to understand the relationship between Scout and her father Atticus. Worth the read.

Set in France, Germany, World War II:

All the Light We Cannot See (Andrew Doerr) is the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner. I reviewed and did extensive research as I read this book and the next one on this list. Really a story about Blindness…physical, mental, spiritual, and societal…failure to embrace light, obstacles to light and so on. The stories of Marie-Laure and Werner appear parallel, but while widely separated by geography, language, politics and personal circumstances they are destined to intersect as a point of Light in this novel.

While there were some reading continuity issues in the construction of this novel, I am delighted I read it and recommend if you want a deeper read to get it.

The Nightingale (Kristen Hannah) is set in France in the same era as All the LIght, with some scenes such as the mass evacuation of Paris in advance of the Nazi negotiated invasion, highlighted in both books. Since I read All the Light immediately before Nightingale, my imagination peaked as I considered Marie-Laure and her father perhaps bumping shoulders, scrambling for cover from air attacks together with Isabelle and the resistance fighter, Gaetan, with whom she falls completely in love.

Nightingale follows two sisters, Isabelle the younger and the older Vianne as the Nazis invade, down too seemingly different paths as Isabelle becomes a part of the underground French Resistance Movement and Vianne tries to protect her daughter, wait for her husbands return from a Nazi prisoner of war camp, and stay alive while a Nazi officer is billeted in her home. Of course there are sibling issues, father issues compounded by decidedly different actions in the midst of occupation and war.

This was one of those books, that I read into the night…hated to put down even as my eyelids grew heavy.

THE BEST BOOK I READ THIS SUMMER and the LEAST EXPENSIVE ($2.99 for Kindle on Amazon):

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics (David James Brown) spans a period of time in the World during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl years of the USA , while in Germany Hitler’s Nazi Party is escalating their agenda while building an elaborate propaganda stage surrounding the 1936 Olympic Games. The author as evidenced by the lengthy end notes at the conclusion of the book researched the people, history, and rowing exhaustively. Were it only that, it would still be a worthy read….BUT it is so much more.

It is a book of concentric stories centering primarily on Joe Rantz, a farm kid with a good head, strength and perseverance carrying a boat load of baggage, including losing his mother at the age of three, being sent away, brought back home only to be abandoned by his father and stepmom as they packed up their belongings and left him to fend for himself as a young teen. The circle widens to include the people who helped him, the girl he gave his heart to and never looked back. Another circle includes the Washington University Crew, rowing team shell builder, coaches, and team mates. Another yet the sport of rowing, the teams and people who had made it great while another circle involves the 1930 era of depression and dust in the United State. And then there is the World Circle that centers on the advancement of Nazism in Germany, the image and propaganda campaigns that for a long time, way too long, fooled much of the outside world. All these stories spiral into the Race for Gold at the 1936 Olympics.

The book is an incredibly easy book to read which given so many side tracks is amazing in itself. I admit I love stories of adversity, courage, and triumph, many which are rooted inJoe Rantz’s generation.

All I can say is go to the library, download, or purchase the paperback or hard cover of this book. I give it 5.5 stars out of 5….so A+.

Currently I am reading The Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Francis but am not into it enough to review.

Also, having traveled a number of miles this summer, we have listened to some books, which I will talk about later.

So kick off the shoes, get a cup of coffee, glass of wine, lemonade, iced tea (sweet or unsweet) or soda, find a comfortable spot with good light, curl up and open a good book.

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