Thursday, July 5, 2007

Summer Reading

Vacation is almost over and I'm ashamed to say that I've only managed to read two books - both very light fare - but each entertaining in its own way. Summer Reading by Hilma Wolitzer began slowly for me. I kept getting this author confused in my mind with Meg Wolitzer, whom I've thought of as a little meatier in both subject and style, so I kept waiting for the book to get deeper.
Angela Graves, ostensibly a typical spinsterish retired English professor, actually has a rather lurid past which she chases through her relationships with the wealthy young air heads who attend her book discussion groups on lazy, summer afternoons in the Hamptons.
She despairs of reaching any of these women with the exception of Lissy, a lonely newlywed trying too hard to be accepted by Long Island's old guard. Lissy struggles to read the books Angela chooses to discuss. One surmises that she may suffer from dyslexia. But she does at least attempt to look outside her own shallow life and is moved, after reading Villette, to connect with the most interesting character in the book, her part-time housekeeper, Michelle.
I've been told that Diane Rehm had a lively interview with Ms. Wolitzer and then used her monthly Readers Review forum on NPR to discuss Villette, a lesser known Bronte novel. Listen and learn at:

They say you never should, but I often do choose a book by its cover. The Sidewalk Artist by Gina Buonaguro and Janice Kirk is a delightful little novel - yes, there was a photo of Venezia on the book jacket - set in Paris, Florence and Venice. The authors deftly weave two intertwining tales, one set in contemporary times and the other during the height of the Renaissance, surrounding the artist Raphael and the mysterious woman who was thought to be his muse and true love.
Tulia Rosa, a budding novelist with writer's block, not to mention a cheating boyfriend back home in New York, who has subsidised her six week European sojourn to make way for a new gal, leisurely strolls the streets of Paris searching for elusive inspiration. She feels an instant attraction to the young chalk artist whose representations of Raphael's angels grace the sidewalks. As they talk and share a bottle of wine it becomes obvious that Raffaello, this young man with the coin filled beret and paint stained fingers, knows Tulia better than she knows herself. Their connectedness has a depth that belies the brief time they've known eachother and their affair, while all encompassing and fulfilling, is tinged with a sad and mysterious tenuousness.
You can see where this is going, I'm sure, but that's OK. The writing is lyrical, the characters are charming and the outcome is satisfying. Why not give it a go?

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