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PURITY: A Political Novel ~Jonathan Franzen

Monday, July 10th, 2017

PURITY is a marvelous story by Jonathan Franzen and it was on my holiday wish list in 2015.  It had already been out for a while, but with my reading schedule it was the first time I could clear a space to savor this read.   I like Franzen’s entire writing list and have read them even before one became an Oprah selection.  They are dense reads with great detail and the development of the characters is outstanding; one is certain that they know the individuals.  When you mix in the personal look at history that the characters share with the reader, the books become a truth to build perspective upon and enjoy.

PURITY was not an exception to the writer’s rule and it took me a full 18 hours to get from cover to cover and I had to put it aside several times to find enough time to truly understand the story and the lessons about life and political reality.  The story line is such amazing separate pieces that resolve into an integration of the character’s lives and a remarkable conclusion.   There was an incredible amount of sexual tension to the story as if sexuality was the subtext of the wholeness of the story.

Pip is the first focus and she wanders through the maze of other’s lives until she connects all the folks into a reunion that shines the love through the timeline and allows for it to manifest in a healthy manner.  She is a computer expert in a demeaning job saddled with $130,000 of education loans.  Her mother is “weird” and lives in a cabin in rural California and works as a grocery store checker.  Pip is learning about people, work, and how to get along with others – maybe?    She is also the focus of political intrigue and lessons, which match up with her self-protection, sarcasm, and ability to discern what is real. Pip does not know who she is or her roots.

Andreas is the political operative and the founder of an organization that is similar to WikiLeaks – ‘The Sunlight Project’.  He grew up with his parents a part of the Communist regime in East Berlin and yet for most of his youth he led a life of privilege and wealth.  He is well detailed and he starts his own revolution by speaking out at University and working against the grain.  He is there for the falling of the ‘Wall’ and he continually tries to ‘help’ people, particularly teenage girls, as a counselor at the mission church where he lives and hides.  He ends up developing a secret community of hackers and ‘truth tellers’ in a remote location in Bolivia.

The reader is pulled into the extraordinary wealth of a family in the Midwest of the USA.  The daughter is rebelling and trying to escape the life of the rich and yet her mental health is not so stable.  She is rebellious and a ‘hippie’ protestor/artist in her youth and she also becomes an exile as she hides from her family and takes on the role of being poverty.

Each section of the book, I had to read without putting the book down it was so compelling and detailed and fascinating.  One needs to wonder what the rebellion of youth will bring us and how we will live out our values within the confines of the life we are living.  How do we escape the political ramifications of our circumstances and be in touch with our values?  What do we reveal about ourselves and how is it that we learn to achieve our destiny to arrive at our own home; find the love we need?     Whew!  PURITY is the perfect length and yet still can take our breath away.

As always Franzen does not disappoint making the mind work with good story telling skill and focus.    A noteworthy read- PURITY


Jonathan Franzen is the author of four other novels, most recently FREEDOM and THE CORRECTIONS, and five works of nonfiction and translation, including FARTHER AWAY and THE KRAUS PROJECT, all published by FSG.  He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the German Akademie de Kunste, and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

“Purity is a grand story of youthful idealism, extreme fidelity, and murder. The author of The Corrections and Freedom has imagined a world of vividly original characters–Californians and East Germans, good parents and bad parents, journalists and leakers–and he follows their intertwining paths through landscapes as contemporary as the omnipresent Internet and as ancient as the war between the sexes. Purity is the most daring and penetrating book yet by one of the major writers of our time.”(Cover)

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The Antigone Poems ~Marie Slaight (Illustrated by Terrence Tasker)

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

“I deem this a holy book – written in ecstasy and the madness of genius.” – Grace Cavalieri

I am in the grip of a striking pain in my spine and I think I can’t make one more minute of breath. Then I remember the story of Antigone, a Greek tragedy, and I am reminded I need to read a new book of poems.

THE ANTIGONE POEMS is a stunning book of art and words based on the Antigone tragedies. We are right there with the King, losing his entire family, and yet gaining wisdom. My pain breaths in and out with the concise brutality of the drama written in the words. Slaight has a mastery in writing of rebellion and anger and confusion, a revolution into incredible words. Each section is illustrated by Terrence Tasker’s drawings, masks really. So a Greek tragedy comes to life in new form. My pain is divided with each stanza into small molecules. Now appealing, I open and close the book to drop into the reading and the release of my physical pain.

This book is a keeper. I don’t imagine it as a gift and yet, for anyone working through pain or hard decisions, it certainly is a guide. I thank TLC book tours for having the authors send this beautiful tome in a timely manner. As I heal, I am keeping it by my side as reference – the breath heals, the words ameliorate the incision.

MARIE SLAIGHT (1954 – ) has worked in Montreal, New Orleans, and Buenos Aires as a writer, producer and performer for film, theatre and music. Her poetry has appeared in American Writing, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Poetry Salzburg, The Abiko Quarterly, New Orleans Review and elsewhere. Slaight is currently the director of Altaire Productions & Publications, a Sydney-based arts production company.

Terrence Tasker (1947 – 1992) was raised in rural western Canada and went on to become a self-taught artist and filmmaker. He co-founded and built the original Studio Altaire, a 90-seat theater and visual art gallery in 1980’s Montreal. He made a series of short films, worked as a set builder in theater and film and held various jobs in construction, mining, finance and industrial installations.

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SCENT OF BUTTERFLIES: A novel of betrayal ~Dora Levy Mossanen

Monday, February 16th, 2015

“This is all a butterfly’s life amounts to.  Evolving from egg to worm to adult, with nothing better to do than obsess over a quick sip of nectar so as to get on with the senseless frenzy of mating.” (Page 59)

SCENT OF BUTTERFLIES was just the perfect read for a rainy day, knowing that the camellias were blooming and the bulbs pushing upward out of the ground.  Mossanen has written quite a story that includes the garden and the fragrances surrounding not only the flowers but the people as well.  The nose knows and having a very sensitive smelling instrument it was lovely to identify with this trait.

Soraya is a woman of Iran and she was in school during the revolution and the rise of the Mullah controlled society.   She is a tall, blond Jewish woman, the only child of a very, very wealthy family.  Her life includes a father, mother, and a wise old Grandmother – Emerald, who was the jeweler to the Shah and his family.  Her life is as she wishes and includes a best friend who she protects because this friend lost her family and is being cared for by an abusive aunt.  Soraya’s father covers her Parvaneh’s expenses including the private school they both attend.  At age 13-14 Soraya falls in love with Aziz and they are married when she is 15 and of age.  The story begins when they have been married for 20 years and do not have children.  Soraya is a photographer, limited by the mullah’s rules for women in Iran.

With a warning from her Grandmother, Soraya discovers how she has been betrayed and with her safety net in place she leaves Iran for the United States to plan her revenge.  She purchases a mansion in Los Angeles and develops a butterfly garden and a trap for those who betrayed her.   She is aware that she can never go back to Iran and although this upsets her she forges ahead in preparation.

Lots and lots of secrets in this story and Soraya is so in love with Aziz she does not see as clearly what is happening nor that her obsession and perception is controlling an extremely limited view of relationship and adoration.  She is changing to be like the butterfly as she lives in her anger.

The writing was the true gem of this story.  The author states that this story took her years to write, is written and re-written, and is her most personal.  It was just a pure pleasure to read this story and about a different culture.  It had enough fantasy with the incredible wealth involved and yet the fine details were not to be missed.  The political nuances were very descriptive and assisted the reader in finding a way to identify with the characters and understand how the situation created change and new coping skills.  It is valuable to know the story behind the world news headlines.

I say thank you to TLC BOOK TOURS  for sending this book to me for review and to the author for creating a story that I am able to highly recommend.

About the Author (from the book cover)

Dora Levy Mossanen was born in Israel and moved to Iran when she was nine.  At the onset of the Islamic revolution, she and her family were forced to leave Iran and settle in Los Angeles.  She has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of California-Los Angeles and a master’s in professional writing from the University of Southern CA.

Dora is the bestselling author of the widely acclaimed novels HAREM, COURTESAN, and THE LAST ROMANOV, translated into numerous languages. She is the recipient of the prestigious San Diego Editors’ Choice Award and has been featured in various publications and media outlets, including SH’MA, LOS ANGELES TIMES, KCRW, Radio Iran, Radio Russia, and numerous television programs.  In 2010, Dora was accepted as contributor to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

She blogs for the HUFFINGTON POST and reviews fiction for the JEWISH JOURNAL.  She is working on THE VISIONARY, her fifth novel.

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BELLAGRAND: A Novel by Bestselling Author of The Bronze Horseman ~Paullina Simons

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

“As CHILDREN OF LIBERTY concludes with a stunning ending – the story is just beginning.  BELLAGRAND follows Harry and Gina after the Happily Ever After.  After their whirlwind romance, Gina and Harry must learn what it really takes to mesh their families and their cultures.  Readers will be delighted to see exactly how these characters fit into the BRONZE HORSEMAN legacy.”

BELLAGRAND is quite the read, if you like historic fiction, family saga, romance, and Russian Novels you will fully enjoy cozying up to this one.   The book is quite enjoyable even without reading the first and/or upcoming third of the trilogy.  It is fascinating to look at American history through the eyes of an Italian immigrant and the Russian author’s viewpoints.

In the first book, Harry – the son of a wealthy family in Massachusetts falls in love with a young woman arrived from Italy – Gina.  BELLAGRAND is a detailed accounting of their marriage over 25 years and how they worked with differing cultural differences and political ideologies.  For Gina, she is also working on returning her husband to favor from his family and re-connection.

The book is divided into three parts.  The first section is about the relationship as it is caught up in the workers strikes at the Woolen Mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts.  Gina is attempting to work 5 or 6 jobs mending and also volunteering in order to keep the family in food, clothing and shelter.  They live with her Mother.  Harry was getting his doctorate at Harvard in Economics and going to teach there, but decides against work and joins the revolutionary Workers movement.  He is increasingly hostile to wealth and affluence, and goes to strategy meetings with the Communists, Workers Party, and those who support the Russian Revolution; wanting to emigrate.

Part two is a coming together of the remaining family members of both families, because a baby is expected to this couple.  Harry has been arrested so many times that his father arranges a house arrest in Juniper, Florida at the mansion his mother has left to him – BELLAGRAND.   The three years that they reside at this elegant house they live a relaxed and casual style. Harry’s sister and Father come to spend time with the family, savor the warmth and beauty and grow healthier in the obvious joy of this Grand Son – Alexander.

Part Three sends the family back to Boston, fine schools, an affluent lifestyle, and an attempt to finish the doctorate.   There is an abundance of society and family conflict.  Harry still does not work for money.

The historic events in this time period are dense and thorough.  The Panama Canal, Gold Coast Housing boom and crash, a hurricane, and the dynamic individuals of this time in US history are detailed and heavily integrated into the story line.  The Scopes Trial, Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s daughter Rose, and many book titles and newspapers are quoted and touch base with this story.

I believe that BELLAGRAND will be a bestseller and there will be a large following of the folks who enjoyed the first book and clamor for the third.  Harry is inflexible and remains in rebellion against his family, and Gina makes so many poor decisions, topped off with the many arguments and make-up sex moments in this novel, I just got tired of reading all 550 pages.

When I was 5 years old I read Dr. Zhivago with my mother writing down the characters and their numerous nicknames on a piece of paper so I could keep track.  With this book, I had to write down characters on a 3×5 card and a few ideas to get myself back into the read, each time I had to set this book down.  I have read lots of Russian Novels and the redundancy was okay; my best guess is that this novel was the wrong time of the year for me.  A good author helps you feel the feelings and BELLAGRAND did just that – I felt a lingering sense of hopelessness even as I awoke this morning.    It is the transition book in a saga trilogy, it does a good job; I so enjoyed the look at history from a different perspective.

tlc logo TLC Online Book Tours and William Morrow Publishing sent me an uncorrected proof copy of BELLAGRAND.   It was quite an experience to read this book and it was a fine read without having read the first book Children of Liberty in the The Bronze Horseman trilogy.  I appreciate the opportunity.

“Paullina Simons is the author of the acclaimed novels TULLY, RED LEAVES, and ELEVEN HOURS.  Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, she graduated from Kansas University in Lawrence, Kansas and has lived in Rome, London, and Dallas.  She currently lives near New York City with her husband and three children.”   Wikipedia

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