Book update! I have a goal of 30 books this year. These are the ones I’ve completed so far.
The premise of this book is unique. Jean Perdu is a bookseller who owns a floating bookstore in Paris. It is called the Literary Apothecary and he ‘treats’ his customers with prescriptions of books based on their troubles. He has spent 20 years doing this, hiding from his own grief over a lost lost and finding an unread letter by her when she left him. This letter sends him on sort of a reawakening of his feelings by sailing his book barge down the Seine and meeting many different people on the way to answer the letter. There are a lot of great quoteable moments in the book. I loved how the book started, but I did start to skim a little about 3/4 of the way through because it started to seem repetitive, but the book was satisfying in the end. It was really about the complex relationships between people and learning to let yourself feel emotions.
The basis of this book is about gardening, so of course you know I was all over that. The story takes place in 1949 Malaya. The main character, Yun Ling, is a retired judge who was held in a Japanese prisoner camp as a young girl along with her sister. She was the only survivor from the camp and wanted to build a garden in her sister’s honor. She became the apprentice of a Japanese master gardener, Arimoto. Fast forward to 1949 after her judge career prosecuting Japanese war criminals and she has returned to the master’s gardens after learning she is ill. Then she writes her memories down and we learn what happened in the camp and how she survived and what secrets it held. This was definitely a good book. Yun Lin is full of anger and a lot of the book is her coming to terms with this. This was a good book. Hard to read at times, but the writing was really beautiful. I loved the imagery the author created.
When I started reading this book, I didn’t realize that it was the basis for the movie The Ninth Gate with Johnny Depp, which we had seen. The interesting thing is that the movie focused on the smaller story in the book. The book was much more interesting than the movie. If you love old books and book history, this has all of that. Lucas Corso is sort of a mercenary who deals in antique books and authenticating them. He is drawn into finding and matching copies of an ancient book and its possible connection with an unknown manuscript by Alexandre Dumas, while at the same time scenes play out that mirror The Three Musketeers with a lot of intrigue and all that. It’s quite the mystery with a lot of red herrings in there and the ending is somewhat different than the movie, and I’ll just leave that there.
I was waiting and waiting for this book to become available at the library. It’s the second book by McClain, the first being The Paris Wife, which I enjoyed very much. This time she writes about the early life of Beryl Markham. Beryl was a woman way ahead of her time. She was English born, but raised by her father in Africa and spent most of her life there. She became the first woman to hold a training license for race horses and the first woman pilot to cross the Atlantic. The book covers the time from her early childhood through the 1930s or so. It was a very engaging book, although I think the problem lies in that Beryl herself wrote her own autobiography called West with the Night, which is highly praised as fantastic writing (and on my wait list). So, this book is a fictionalized telling of the same story, but with more focus on the relationship she had with Denis Hatton. In my mind, Beryl didn’t seem the sort to be mooning over a man. She was much more forward and independent. Her life was marked with a lot of scandal because she did what she wanted. I admire a really strong woman who will buck convention. This was a good read, especially if you don’t know anything about Beryl Markham.
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