Books Read in 2018
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
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
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.
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
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.