A big fiction hodge-podge

Spool-of-Blue-ThreadAnne Tyler is one of my favorite authors because of her keen observations and her extraordinary ability to find the nobility and worthy stories within ordinary families. Her book A Spool of Blue Thread is no exception. The novel is delightful and funny, but also a poignant exploration of what goes on beneath the surface in families. The complexities of long-term marriages, the push and pull of rebellious and distant children, simmering sibling relationships,and the reality of growing older are just some of the topics Tyler explores in the book.  As the family’s story unfolds, the reader is reminded how little we understand the depth and motivations of those around us–even our closest family members–and the need to extend grace and forgiveness wherever we can.  Highly recommended.

tsarThe Tsar of Love and Techno is a really strong collection of interwoven short stories by the author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. I don’t always love short story collections because they don’t satisfy like a novel, but Marra’s decision to layer his stories in a connected way made for an excellent read. Set in different generations in Russia and Chechnya, the stories remind the reader how connected our actions are to others’ lives, and how even the most lonely and seemingly reprobate individual can be loved and redeemed.

leaving berlinI highly recommend Joseph Kanon’s excellent spy mystery Leaving Berlin. Set in post-World War II Berlin during the airlift, when the Soviets and Germans and Americans and everyone else were running agents and able to travel more or less freely between the city sectors, the book is fast-paced and the mystery is really well plotted.  Apart from one entirely gratuitously detailed bedroom scene, the book is otherwise well-written and super interesting from a historical perspective as well as being entertaining.


the lake houseI’ve enjoyed Kate Morton’s previous books and so I gobbled up The Lake House at an astounding rate.  Morton just nails mysteries and combines them with historical fiction and (usually) English country houses.  It’s a compilation of genres that works, and Morton is an expert. I only figured out part of the mystery before it was revealed, which made me happy.  This would be a PERFECT book for your end of year reading, assuming you have some free time between Christmas and New Years.  You’ll need the time, because you won’t put this book down.

8484 Charing Cross Road is a darling set of letters between the author and a British book seller.  The author, an impoverished bibliophile at the outset and a successful writer at the end, gets to know the charming staff at the London book shop she enlists to find the books on her list.  Eventually she becomes part of their lives, sending care packages during World War II shortages and rationing and always planning a visit that never transpires.  This short book would also make a good break week read.


THE CATS TABLEI felt I should have liked The Cat’s Table. The author also wrote The English Patient and the subject matter could have been interesting, but instead I was deeply bored and only pushed through because one of my book clubs was reading it.  And then I missed the meeting anyway. Overall the events in the book seemed random and pointless, and the characters weren’t very compelling, at least to me.  Let me know if you’ve read this and think I missed something critical!


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6 thoughts on “A big fiction hodge-podge

  1. We missed you at book club. We all had the same response to The Cat’s Table. The book felt disjointed and just didn’t stir any connections or interest, even though I had thought it might be of interest since it detailed a ship voyage to England from a young boy’s perspective.

  2. Thanks for these recommendations– great fireside reading for this time of year! I love that we share a love of Anne Tyler. As with her other works, A Spool of Blue Thread sounds very apropos, so I will look for it soon at the library!

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