BOOK REVIEW: Warlight

WARLIGHT
Michael Ondaatje

In a narrative as mysterious as memory itself – at once both shadowed and luminous – Warlight is a vivid, thrilling novel of violence and love, intrigue and desire. It is 1945, and London is still reeling from the Blitz and years of war. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and grow both more convinced and less concerned as they get to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women with a shared history, all of whom seem determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand in that time, and it is this journey – through reality, recollection, and imagination – that is told in this novel.


The narrator writes “When you attempt a memoir, I am told, you need to be in an orphan state. So what is missing in you, and the things you have grown cautious and hesitant about, will come almost casually towards you. ‘A memoir is the last inheritance,’ you realize, so that during this time you must learn how and where to look.” This is a story about missing things: missing parents, missing pieces of a story, missing persons who leave or are left. And a good, good story at that. I only wish I’d saved it for a weekend read to allow for less interruptions in my reading. There are multiple time periods, subtle POV shifts, and many characters that are all best kept track of in a concentrated space of time. — Jen Payne

BOOK REVIEW: A Map of Days

A Map of Days
by Ransom Riggs

Having defeated the monstrous threat that nearly destroyed the peculiar world, Jacob Portman is back where his story began, in Florida. Except now Miss Peregrine, Emma, and their peculiar friends are with him, and doing their best to blend in. But carefree days of beach visits and normalling lessons are soon interrupted by a discovery….Now, the stakes are higher than ever as Jacob and his friends are thrust into the untamed landscape of American peculiardom….New wonders, and dangers, await in this brilliant next chapter for Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children.


I savored the idea of this book from the moment I heard about it until I finally opened the Amazon box—and it was worth every anticipatory moment! This series of books sets me right down in my own loop—circa 1970s, when reading was pure, delicious childhood pleasure and the adventuring kids were The Boxcar Children, and Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy in Narnia. I devoured the first three books and A MAP OF DAYS, too, which picks up seamlessly from the third and whoosh! whisks us right back into the lives of our favorite Peculiars. Despite a darkness that hits maybe a little too close to home sometimes (we live in dark days too, after all), I LOVED this book as much as the others, especially the new collection of oddball photos! Fair warning: you’ll realize about 2/3 of the way in that you’re going to finish the book soon and you’ll have to wait (again) for the next in the series to magically appear! Pace yourself.  — Jen Payne

BOOK REVIEW: The Course of Love

The Course of Love: A Novel
by Alain de Botton

We all know the headiness and excitement of the early days of love. But what comes after? In Edinburgh, a couple, Rabih and Kirsten, fall in love. They get married, they have children—but no long-term relationship is as simple as “happily ever after.” The Course of Love explores what happens after the birth of love, what it takes to maintain, and what happens to our original ideals under the pressures of an average existence. We see, along with Rabih and Kirsten, the first flush of infatuation, the effortlessness of falling into romantic love, and the course of life thereafter. Interwoven with their story and its challenges is an overlay of philosophy—an annotation and a guide to what we are reading.


This should be required reading. For everyone. Period. — Jen Payne

BOOK REVIEW: The Obituary Writer

The Obituary Writer
by Ann Hood

On the day John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, Claire, an uncompromising young wife and mother obsessed with the glamour of Jackie O, struggles over the decision of whether to stay in a loveless marriage or follow the man she loves and whose baby she may be carrying. Decades earlier, in 1919, Vivien Lowe, an obituary writer, is searching for her lover who disappeared in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. By telling the stories of the dead, Vivien not only helps others cope with their grief but also begins to understand the devastation of her own terrible loss. The surprising connection between Claire and Vivien will change the life of one of them in unexpected and extraordinary ways. Part literary mystery and part love story, The Obituary Writer examines expectations of marriage and love, the roles of wives and mothers, and the emotions of grief, regret, and hope.


I enjoyed this story. It wasn’t particularly edifying, but I think that’s why I liked it. An easy read to sink into when everything else is spinning. Comfort food in the form of a book. Again. Of course.— Jen Payne

A Guilford Poets Guild Trio: Juliana Harris, Jane Muir, Gordy Whiteman

Please join the Guilford Poets Guild for a special reading by three of its members: Juliana Harris, Jane Muir, and Guilford Poet Laureate Gordy Whiteman. This special Second Thursday Poetry Series reading will be held on Thursday, November 8 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Guilford Free Library.

Juliana Harris has contributed poetry to The New York Times, The Mid-America Poetry Review, The Best Times, Chicken Soup for the Soul and The Kansas City Star, among other publications. A native of Kansas City, Missouri, she has lived in Guilford since 1979 where she is a member of the Guilford Poets Guild. She has recently published a collection of her poems entitled Portraits. She is the author of two novels and is currently at work on her first mystery.

Poet Jane Muir says, “I was born six weeks before the Great Depression. It’s been all uphill since then, financially at least. I’ve seen the world change immensely. In my childhood, whenever a plane flew overhead the whole family would run outside to see it. Now astronauts have been to the moon. I graduated from what was then Connecticut College for Women; now it’s co-ed. I worked in publishing and advertising in New York City and after marriage was, as most women in those days, a stay-at-home mom. Don’t think that wasn’t work! Then I went to work at a local paper, a job I really loved. I moved to Guilford in the mid-nineties, took courses in poetry at Southern Connecticut State University, and joined the Guilford Poets Guild, where currently I’m the oldest member. In age, that is.” Muir’s new book, Bulletin from Suburbia, is due out before Christmas.

Gordy Whiteman was born to Guilford in 1929. He is a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and serves as its co-president with Jane Muir. He is the author of Whitfield Crossing, and Home Town Guilford. Whiteman is a founding member of the Connecticut Coalition of Poets Laureate and serves as Guilford’s first Poet Laureate.

Remember to bring your own poem to share during the Open Mic which is open to accomplished and aspiring poets of all ages wishing to present one original composition to a live audience.

The Guild’s Holiday Roundtable is scheduled for Thursday, December 13. For more information, visit guilfordpoetsguild.org.

The Guilford Free Library is located at 67 Park Street in Guilford. This program is free and open to all. Refreshments will be served. Please register by phone, in person, or online (203) 453-8282, guilfordfreelibrary.org.