Saturday, April 24, 2021

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."



This is probably the saddest book I ever laughed out loud all the way through. The heartbreaking story of this brilliant and genius dysfunctional family of performance artists is told in such a clever and satirical voice, it's impossible not to snicker and breakup at their weaknesses, cruelties, and deeply ingrained failings. It is so extravagant and extreme and thoroughly enchanting, when it finally begins to spiral completely out of control it doesn't even seem too outrageous to be true!

The best recommendation I can give for this book comes from a short conversation about it I had in bed with my better half:
"I thought you wanted me to read this book...?"
"Oh, I do!"
"Then why are you reading almost the entire thing out loud to me?"

For people who love art; for people who hate art; for people who never considered what goes into making art; for people who find performance art both pretentious and precious; and for every person who has spent ten minutes in a food court in an American shopping mall: this is a gotta read!

"Kids kill art. No. Art kills kids."
You gotta be there. 

I don't know what about this book kept me engrossed for almost a straight-through day and night. The characters - though completely believable - aren't particularly pleasant, and usually I need at least one person to root for in a book. But, there was something about the writing and the story which kept me up until I finished it!
Basically it's a family saga of a completely dysfunctional Irish show-business family (a couple of performers, a film producer, a talent agent). It's written from the point of view of three of the family members (the three brothers), and often the same incident is retold from a different perspective. No one is faultless and without blame for the fall-out which often/always occurs, yet there is something that intrigued and kept me turning pages.
If you have penchant for dark, twisted, quirky and sometimes bizarre characters, I heartily recommend this one! It's not a particularly light read, as it has quite an emotionally dangerous undertow to it; however, it's also not a deeply philosophical narrative nor a pretense of a psychology lecture. It's a good quick read, mainly because you'll want to keep reading it straight through meals! I have to add, if you're a fan of sunshine, rainbows, children's smiles and heart-warming Hallmark movies, I would say skip this one!

I enjoyed this multi-generational family saga. A young couple from Germany leaves for America - not speaking English and not having any real money to speak of - in order to escape her disapproving family who feel that the man is beneath her daughter's station. From there we follow the family through the adult years of their grandchildren.
It's a gentle, quiet story. There are certainly many emotional moments and chapters of intrigue; but, they are handled in a very realistic way and not in a thriller/suspense novel way. And, of course, a major surprise at the end of the book which I genuinely was not expecting.
And, the nice thing about this - and the reason I chose to read the book at this time - is many of their decisions in life are made with the thought of their patriotism and love for America and all the good things it's meant to stand for.
I would recommend this to anybody who would like an unassuming, well-written, thoughtful, loving story of an uncommon common family with all the joy, tragedy and skeletons-in-the-closet that involves.
I should add, this was written by Alex George, who wrote The Paris Hours - a book that I was totally enamored of a couple months ago. Obviously, I really enjoy his writing and his way with a tale!


I'm so glad you stopped by Enchanted Revelries today ... and I hope your interest was piqued to search out a book you didn't know about before!

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan



Saturday, April 17, 2021

A Quartet of Beauties ...

 This week I am sharing four of my favorite novels of the 21st century (so far!) with you ...


I don't remember who recommended this book to me (I should keep a list of these things - but, then I'd have to keep a list on my desktop of where the list is being kept, and then - well ... anyway), however, I am so glad they did! I also don't know how this book published twenty years ago escaped my attention; obviously, I wasn't paying attention!

Some authors have the unique gift of writing in a way that makes poverty - especially Great Depression poverty - seem almost beautiful. Truman Capote, Carson McCullers, Toni Morrison were/are all able to create a private, secluded world of hard scrabble and destitution that existed in a bubble of familial love and compassion and comraderie. Joe R. Lansdale, the author of The Bottoms, is that kind of author. Though the characters in this novel are dirt poor and the plot line is squalid and grubby on the surface, the author has put a 'spit shine' on the whole thing and it has sparkle and romance to it that perhaps it doesn't deserve, but, nonetheless it's there and it's a joy to live through. As Tom says in the opening of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, "The stage magician gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion."

The book is a narration by a very elderly man in a nursing home, as he reminisces about his youth in a small town in East Texas. It's a coming of age tale that involves family history and discovery, awareness of Jim Crow racism, violence, rape and alcoholism, and finally a serial killer. Though the serial killer follows the story through the entire book, it is - in no way, shape, or form - a thriller. It's no more a serial killer book than To Kill a Mockingbird is about child abuse. It's a strategic part of the narrator's history - but it's not the focus of the author.

I'm not going to write more about it, because I'm afraid that I will spoil it for anybody who decides to take my prodding recommendation and reads it. This is one terrific book.


Locked down and isolated on a long cold dark winter's afternoon? Have I got a book for you! Tana French's The Searcher was a welcome surprise as my first book of 2021 - and I'm taking it as an omen of good literary things to come in the coming year!

When you get right down to it, the advertising blurb for the book is quite misleading. It reads like an ad for a conventional murder mystery thriller. And, perhaps it is that superficially, but it's so much more than that. There is a murder mystery on which the story is hung; however, the story is one of loneliness, self-redemption, survival and compassion. Cal and Trey and Mort are three loners - all making their way with various degrees of psychological success for different reasons. As the murder mystery unfolds (and, trust me, the thriller part is non existent), they find each other, circle and learn to either trust - or not - each other.

The book is what I believe is called a slow burner ... it definitely has a forward thrust and energy; but, it's not hurried or given to leaps over logic to get to the next chase scene (spoiler: no chase scenes). It kept me completely engaged, but not through the artifice of the murder mystery (which is quite believable in itself). Rather, I found myself wrapped up in the people involved and interested in how each of their personal stories would resolve (or not).

I don't believe this was a best seller or got a lot of press coverage in book reviews which is a shame. It should have more readers who are less partial to pulp genre novels and more prone to books about the human condition. 


One of the most evocative and engrossing books I've read in a long while. If you follow my reviews, you know I rarely give 5-star reviews - to me, a 5-star review signifies an almost perfect book and there are
darned few of those around. This, I found to be one.

I will admit, it took me 50-75 pages to get really intrigued by the premise. There are lots of characters, disparate locations and time eras - and until your mind clicks in on who is who and when and/or where they are living it can be a bit of a challenge to keep up. But, once, all comes together, it's quite easy to bridge the time and geography and protagonists' leaps.

What is is it about? Well, it's about the small things in life: war, love, life, art, ambition, loyalty. In this book, those words are not contranyms. All of these things make up the lives of the people in "The Muse," and yet, they - as major plot points - remain in the background.

What we learn about are the sudden and unimportant joys and the exquisite and ultimate horrors and supreme disappointments of the characters. When first starting the book, I found myself doing what I do in all books - deciding who is good, who is bad, who is suspect, who is possibly dangerous out of ignorance. But by the middle of the book, I cared for each of them. They did not all have "good" traits - but neither did they try to be exploit their bad ones. They simply tried to get through their lives as well as they could.

When reading this book, I would encourage readers not to "think" too much - let the book engulf, encircle, and wash over you. I had figured out who one of the main characters was long before it was revealed in the book - but, I was so wrapped up in the story-telling, it didn't stop me from crying when the author chose to divulge it.

Ms. Burton's "The Miniaturist" was one of my favorite books of 2016. Now, this book, though written in 2002, has become my favorite thus far of 2021

For those able to allow a book to spill over them, rather than race to get through it, I can't recommend it highly enough. Although I have been known to tear up at Folger's Coffee Christmas tv commercials, I'm not really one who is easily brought to tears. This book made me cry several times - not out of sorrow or because something sad happened - simply because the beauty of the language overwhelmed me.

I opened this book with no expectations. As I am a fairly fast reader, I was halfway through it when I realized: whoa! This is something special. Something not to be glossed over. This is something to be savored. So I started over, and read slowly, relishing every delicious word combination and whimsical improbable possibility.

I only wish I had discovered Duchess long before the book was written and I was made aware of her. She is a magical, enchanting, and devilishly clever wordsmith who has the ability to envelope her reader in genuine love and compassion and the care that would come if the reader were one instead of one of thousands.

I can't even begin to say what this book is. It's not a novel. It's not a biography. It's not a roman à clef. It's not a book of humor. It's not a self-help book. It's not a celebrity expose. It's not the story of survival and emotional courage. However, it's all of those things.

If treasures like "Sometimes I tie your words in linen with a little lavender and mint and use them as a poultice for my weary old heart" and "If you find yourself feeling embittered, roll around in a barrel of kosher salt until encrusted, and then set yourself in a collander to drain" or "A lot of people go very Martha Graham when dancing on their enemies' graves. Me, I like flamenco. I want the souls of the dead to feel it" excite and thrill you and make you smile, rush out and get this book!

It's less than 200 can easily read it twice in once sitting. And, when you read it, you will want to read it again!

It wouldn't be fair to complete this without thanking Geri Degruy for recommending this book to me. It is definitely my favorite book of the year thus far!  

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan




Friday, April 9, 2021

Good Neighbors and French Exit ... Two Winners This Week!


What a surprise this novel was! I didn't really know what to expect. I had heard some good comments about it and it was on sale, so I got it.


Razor sharp satire, biting social commentary, mournful heartbreak and desolate tragedy combined with a soupcon of science fiction create a book of startling humor and rage and awareness and, well, shock.

Set less than ten years in the future, the story takes place with America living through climate change unabated. It's not the keystone of the book - but, it's always in the background. And the way the environment is viewed, and traversed by the population ran incredibly true to American form for me. The characters were all alarmingly familiar - as I'm sure they'll be for anybody who grew up in the middle/upper middle class neighborhoods of the east coast.

I can't even say more because I feel that divulging any more details will spoil it for anybody who picks this I hope you do! I don't belong to a book club, but I want to join one just so I can discuss this book with others!

If you follow my book reviews, you know that I rarely give a 5 ☆☆☆☆☆ rating, as I consider that a next-to-perfect book. That's how I feel about this one. I can't imagine anything that would have been an improvement.

 This is a brilliant combination faery tale, comedy of manners, social satire, and character study wrapped up with a ribbon of dysfunctional family tragedy...or is it hope? I haven't yet sorted out my feelings about this intriguing and bewitching book about the most endearing, frustrating, irritating, charismatic and curious people I've run across in a novel in a good long while.

While I was completely captivated by it - in fact, I just finished it after reading through the entire night without sleeping to get to the last word - I realize that this book is not going to be to everybody's taste. In fact, I can even imagine being in a different mood and not caring for it myself. I'm so glad that I was in a receptive move last night, because I was rewarded for it! It is at various times hysterically funny, heart-rendingly sad, extraordinarily fanciful, razor-sharp perceptive, and forcefully passionate.

I'm not going to re-write a mini-synopsis of the story when the advertisement synopsis does a perfectly good job of it:

Frances Price – tart widow, possessive mother, and Upper East Side force of nature – is in dire straits, beset by scandal and impending bankruptcy. Her adult son Malcolm is no help, mired in a permanent state of arrested development. And then there’s the Prices' aging cat, Small Frank, who Frances believes houses the spirit of her late husband, an infamously immoral litigator and world-class cad whose gruesome tabloid death rendered Frances and Malcolm social outcasts.

Putting penury and pariahdom behind them, the family decides to cut their losses and head for the exit. One ocean voyage later, the curious trio land in their beloved Paris, the City of Light serving as a backdrop not for love or romance, but self destruction and economical ruin – to riotous effect. A number of singular characters serve to round out the cast: a bashful private investigator, an aimless psychic proposing a seance, a doctor who makes house calls with his wine merchant in tow, and the inimitable Mme. Reynard, aggressive houseguest and dementedly friendly American expat.

Brimming with pathos and wit, French Exit is a one-of-a-kind ‘tragedy of manners,’ a riotous send-up of high society, as well as a moving mother/son caper which only Patrick deWitt could conceive and execute

If you're in the market for a quirky, non-stop roller coaster ride, I can't recommend it highly enough. If you enjoy Coen Brothers and Wes Anderson films, this is the literature version! 
Thanks for stopping by - hope you've been given some good tips for a book that will make the coming week enjoyable!

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Four for the Price of One!

Four short reviews today ... keeping it quick and clean and moving on!

This book was recommended to me by a friend, so I just got it without even knowing what it was really about. Then I read a few reviews by people who really didn't care for it. They all seemed to have the same objection to the book: the characters were unlikable. I don't actually find that a valid reason to dislike a book. I don't "like" Fagin, or Bill Sykes or Mr. Bumble, but that doesn't mean I don't like the book Oliver Twist ... and I don't plan on having anybody like Scarlett O'Hara be my best friend, but that doesn't keep me from reading Gone With the Wind every couple of years! I don't need to best friends with the characters, as long as it's a good story and told honestly and unpretentiously (a little wit and humor never hurt either!).

So, that being said, I loved this book! You are forewarned about what you're getting into from the very first sentence: "Ivy Lin was a thief but you would never know it to look at her." Right off the bat, you are thrown off balance. There are many different kinds of thieves: from bank robbers to con artists to international secret spies to shoplifters. What kind is Ivy? I'm not telling you. If you're intrigued enough to find out, as indeed I hope you are!, you may be surprised. And at much more beyond. Ivy is a multi-faceted, many-layered, paradoxically lazy and industrious woman with an agenda. I will admit, there were things she was willing to do to achieve her agenda that surprised - even shocked - me. Yet, somehow, I was never turned off from reading her story - I wanted to know how it played out ... if she would succeed and if so, how. And, for some bizarre reason, this very unlikable woman got under my skin and I rooted for her to win - though what the prize was going to be I never really knew.

The writing is clear, clean, with original uses of descriptions and a vision of a Chinese-American born to Chinese immigrants that we don't often read about or see in media.

Go ahead - give Ivy a try. She's worth the effort!


This was a delightful little surprise. A quick one-day read, thoroughly entertaining, this is a modern version of a period Agatha Christie murder mystery. It takes place in the roaring 20's - always good for period music, fashion, fads and political descriptions - at a posh Egyptian hotel almost at the foot of the Great Pyramids. The leading 'detective' is, of course, an amateur sleuth, who is daring and clever and amusing - oh, and a beautiful single woman. There is the usual assortment of supporting characters, villainous, virtuous, friend and foe. It's a fairly fast paced tale, told by the leading lady who is witty and judgemental and a quite good narrator. As I have read dozens (and dozens) of these murder mysteries I was sure I had it all figured out. Naturally, I was completely off the mark, and the guilty culprit was as much of a shock to me as it was to the detective!

If you like a good, almost-innocent, fun, fast murder mystery read, I heartily recommend this one.


Some of the most intriguing mystery/thrillers and complex characters I've read in the past few years have come from Scandanavia ... from the Dragon Tattoo series to the Nordic-noirs of Ragnar Jonasson and Kjell Eriksson. The Return of the Dancing Master by Henning Mankell is another to add to the ever-growing list of authors being translated for English readers.

I found this one particularly interesting as the horrible murder and the bizarre mystery that follows is based on a neoNazi group. It's very different reading about the descendants of the people who grew up in the Nazi 'neighborhood' written by a European, rather than by what American authors feel about it. Granted, it's not the main focus of this book, but the difference in the way the characters are written is quite evident.

The well-established tropes in modern Scandinavian crime writing are all in play here. A blood-splattered crime scene tells a seemingly simple story of a crime of passion, but the acute, gruesome details illuminate a richer, thornier backstory. And it requires the appropriately downtrodden loner detective (this time recently diagnosed with tongue cancer - tongue cancer?!) to decipher all the minutiae of clues, both direct and circumstantial.

The bleak winter landscape of rural Sweden is written about in stark, bleak language which brings it to life; reading about the cold in this book makes you shiver. The blistering torment of the inner monologue we're privy to in Detective Stefan Lindman's mind is in direct counterpoint to the quiet, reserved, reticent manner of his social discourse.

The only reason I couldn't give this book four ☆☆☆☆ is I truly believe it's about 50 pages too long. At almost 400 pages, it could have been shortened. Of course, this could be entirely the result of the translation and perhaps the original book wasn't quite this wordy - but, whatever - this is the one we're given to read. And it's really only an issue right towards the end. I was completely engrossed in the book until just about the last hundred pages, and almost as if a switch was flipped, I was waiting for it to wrap up.

I actually spent three nights reading this one. I took my time with it. It's not a fast read. But, it's a good one.

This had to be the most disappointing book I've read in a good long while. I (like everybody) have heard so much about it; read so many glowing reviews; read and watched so much discussion about the film, that I was quite anxious to dig into it. sigh. Dig is right. What a gully to slog through. First and foremost: a thoroughly unpleasant and self-interested and self-involved group of people. And this is not a short book, so we are with these people for a good chunk of time. Second, it's written in the first person (by one of the aforementioned unpleasant and thoroughly self-involved people), so there is no other point of view to be gained at any junction of the journey.

I did give it three stars instead of two because admittedly the final shocker(s) in the last several dozen pages was definitely a head spinner.

This was absolutely a case of my letting reviews get to me. If I hadn't known that this was a top NYTimes bestseller with glowing reviews from everywhere and that it was getting a glossy film adaptation starring Tilda (one of my favorite actors!) Swinton, I would have abandoned it within the first third of the book. I thought it was obnoxiously repetitious. I can't say too much about what was repetitious because it would be spoiling the plot for anybody who is crazy enough to pick this one up LOL. And, I know that a lot of people will. The subject matter is too controversial, the concept is too juicy, and the reviews are too splendid not to be intrigued. I get it. I fell for it. But, don't frown when I tell you that I told you so!

 That's it for today. Thanks for stopping by ... I hope you found something that sounds intriguing that you will read!

And ... have a lovely holiday weekend!

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan