Books Read in 2018

White Houses: A Novel by Amy Bloom
While the author claims this is a novel, I think it is better classified as historical fiction.  I have read a lot about the years-long lesbian relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt (our first--that we know of--lesbian first lady) and reporter Lorena Hickock (as well as FDR's romantic liaisons during the same period) to get the sense that she used the existing information as a diagram on which to add fictional dialog, situations, etc.  It's a beautiful book written in Hickock's voice, which covers her (Hickock's) background and Roosevelt's background before they met in 1932, while Hickock was reporting on FDR's first presidential campaign.  It was that blissful time before everyone's private life became public fodder and reporters looked the other way at dalliances in the White House because there was more important news to report, and because they respected the president (when was the last time that situation existed??)  Though the situations and dialog come from Bloom's imagination, they read so beautifully that who can tell they didn't actually happen that way?  Many bits, I'm sure, came from Eleanor's letters to Lorena (Lorena destroyed any remnants of her letters to Eleanor), many of which have been published elsewhere. 

We learn a lot about FDR's polio, its aftermath, and how it was handled privately and publically.  We also learn of his great love, Missy LeHand, his secretary for more than 20 years, and his unending depression following her stroke and death (as well as his shameful treatment of her, ignoring her completely, after she became disabled).

We see how Lorena's love and support gave Eleanor the self confidence to become the great stateswoman that she was, and how even after the end of their affair, Eleanor was there for Lorena, allowing her to live in the White House for many years with her new partner because she was unable to get a job.

There is much joy in this novel, there is pathos and great sadness.  But mostly it is the story of an enduring love which was, for a time, physical, but which lasted long after the physical part ended.  It was interesting reading this book while at the same time watching Ken Burns' story of The Roosevelts.  I also think it's an important part of American history which I am glad has now come to life.


No Second Chance by Harlan Coben
Dr. Mark Seidman wakes up in the hospital.  He has been shot, his wife killed, his six month old daughter abducted.  Police investigations yield no clues to finding the perpetrators and Seidman is ready to give up until he reads a mysterious note demanding a $1 million ransom.  This leads to a year-long chasing after the child and uncovering a baby selling ring, rediscovering an old love, and a series of set backs and deception.  We "read" this over a few months as an audio book and spent the last 15 minutes driving aimlessly around Davis waiting for the end to come.

Coben does go on and on and on with descriptions of the smallest details until you want to fast forward to the actual plot, but otherwise this is a great read.


Dark Sunshine by Dorothy Lyons
Continuing my escapist reading, getting away from the heavy political books I"m reading, I took time out to read this book, one of my favorite girl-tames-horse books when I was growing up.  Blythe, who is recovering from polio, rescues a wild young mare trapped in a valley, tames her, trains her, and the two end up saving each other.  Not as good as I remember it being when I read it as a kid, but there wasn't ONE single mention of Donald Trump, which was wonderful.



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