First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes murder…
My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry is outside of this book barista’s usual genres, but for some reason grabbed my attention. Call it a palette cleanser after tons of historical fiction. Call it the recommendation of a few of my library colleagues. The premise: the slippery slope of the white lie. The result: a clever psychological thriller.
“Two lies. Small white ones. Designed to make the other feel better. But that’s how some lies start. Small. Well-meaning. Until they get too big to handle.”
The plot has two related stories: There is young Carla and her mother. Carla is somewhat of an outcast at school, bullied for being Italian, poor, and from a single parent home. Her mother works at a department store perfume counter, and is having an affair with a married man. When he visits on Sundays, Carla begins staying with the newly married young couple in the apartment upstairs. That couple is Ed and Lily. Ed is a struggling, yet to be discovered artist who loves to sketch and paint Carla. His wife Lily is an attorney. She is defending Joe Thomas, accused of murdering his girlfriend. This is her first big name case, and a win will secure her place in the firm, help bring in more business, and help with a future class action suit.
12 years later, Carla is grown up and reconnects with Ed and Lily. 12 years of holding onto secrets is a long time, and it is here that the dark twists and turns began to take hold of this reader. Told from alternating points of view – Carla’s and Lily’s- My Husband’s Wife is a good debut novel. It isn’t grisly or graphic, and packs a few surprises. The tension builds steadily. Put a copy on reserve at the library, even if this isn’t the kind of book you typically read. And if it is, get ready to discover a great new author!
One of my favorite historical fiction authors is back with a new novel featuring two stories in two different eras, linked by an apartment building. We meet Geneva Kelly, a flapper from Maryland who frequents an illegal Jazz establishment called the Christopher Club. When the Club is raided and Geneva is arrested, she strikes a deal with the prohibition agent to help him catch her step-father, a major bootlegger in Appalachia. The second story features Ella Gilbert, a forensic accountant who caught her husband cheating and moved out…into the same building as the Christopher Club. Ella unravels the mysteries of the building and discovers her connection to Geneva, which will briefly harken back to characters from Williams’ other novels.
When I first read Beatriz Williams (her second novel: A Hundred Summers) it was on the recommendation of my fellow book barista, who has an uncanny ability to discover new authors I will love. I was hooked and began reading her books as soon as they were published. I liked The Wicked City, especially the portions taking place during the Jazz Age. This time period is definitely one of Williams strengths as a writer. Geneva’s voice is reminiscent of a good detective novel or show; she is tough, a little gritty, strong and brave. I kept picturing Phryne Fischer from the Miss Fischer Mysteries! I thought the Ella portions of the book were good, though not as “signature” for Williams. Really, each story could be developed into its own separate novel.
The Wicked City is the start of a new series, and there are plenty of loose ends for future books. Read knowing there is more to come.
The life of Margaret Wise Brown, known especially for writing the children’s classics Goodnight Moon and the Runaway Bunny, is the subject of Amy Gary’s new book. Gary discovered a trunk full of letters, poems, songs and manuscripts by Brown in Brown’s sister Roberta’s attic, and spent years cataloging and studying them. What she learned paints a broader picture of this famous children’s author, and certainly widened my lense.
Brown was born into a life of privilege, and attended prestigious boarding schools before enrolling at Hollins College in Virginia. At Hollins, her academic success was minimal and she ended up leaving. She entered the new field of children’s publishing, writing and editing children’s books in New York. I really did not realize the extent to which she was involved in publishing, and that she was a prolific author under a variety of pseudonyms. She was not a fan of children, but what she learned about their development and psychology, as well as testing stories on children she knew, created a knowledge base that made her a successful author and editor. There was some great information about these earlier years in publishing for children, and the history of Golden Books. I also loved her ties to Maine and to Vinalhaven.
Brown’s love life was not what I imagined for such a talented children’s author. It was complicated but exciting, and Brown rarely fell for people who were available and loved her. Prominent in this book were her relationships with William Gaston, a fisherman from Vinalhaven, Michael Strange (pseudonym for poet and actress Blanche Oelrichs and ex-wife of John Barrymore) and James Rockefeller.
In the Great Green Room reads like historical fiction. As a true biography, I think you have to take its message in total. Maybe a third of the way in I felt like too much was being skipped over, but by the end, I had a few good takeaways and a more thorough picture of the person Margaret Wise Brown was: passionate, creative, talented, strong, self-assured.