“Lucy by the Sea” by Elisabeth Strout

Genre: Literary FictionLucy by the sea
Publisher: Random House
Pub. Date: Sept. 20, 2022

This is Strout’s third “Lucy” novel.  If not familiar with the Lucy tales, you can read this as a standalone book. Once again, Lucy shares her experiences and emotions that have shaped her life. This time, her ex-husband William persuades (almost bullies) her into leaving pandemic-stricken New York City for Maine. I’m sure the author wanted to illustrate why so many people were in denial when COVID first became apparently deadly, but I thought Lucy was written more as a naive, dimwitted person than as someone in denial. It was frustrating since Lucy frequently felt inferior due to her difficult childhood but never acted in such a manner.

Within this plot, Lucy’s narration jumps from subject to subject: her growing intimacy with William; his adultery while they were married; the marital and health problems of their two daughters; the unexpected reappearance of William’s half-sister; and memories of Lucy’s impoverished upbringing, strained relationships with her parents, and her ongoing issues with her sister.

Strout’s voice was so fresh and specific in “My Name Is Lucy Barton” (2016), was already sounding rather tired in “Oh, William!” (2021), and is close to being stale here. Still, the novel has pleasant moments such as when one visits with an old friend with nothing new to say to each other but, still happy to see one another.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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“Greenwich Park” by Katherine Faulkner

Genre: Psychological ThrillerGreenwich Park
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pub. Date: Jan. 25, 2022

Mini-Review

In this debut psychological thriller, what appears to be a growing friendship between two pregnant women leads to many unpleasant twists. The novel is filled with good levels of tension. My big issue with the story is that the protagonist is ridiculously unaware of the obvious. This does not mean that I guessed the twists, it just means that no one can be as naïve as our heroine, which the author should have realized.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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“A Hundred Suns” by Karin Tanabe

Genre:  Historical Fiction/Women’s FictionA hundred suns
Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date: April 7, 2020

This historical fiction has moments of greatness. The story is set in Indochina during the late 1920s and the early 1930s. If you are a history buff, you will be delighted to know that this reviewer learned much about Indochina, the French Colony in Vietnam. Unlike any schoolbook, Tanabe makes you feel as if you are there with the ‘coolies’ during their long, impossibly hard workday.   The anti-colonialist roots of communism are captured in the abject poverty of the Vietnamese and the abundance of wealth and luxurious living conditions of the French who ruled and lived in Indochina. The author gave me the gift of detailed knowledge. Thanks to “Suns,” I finally have a better understanding of how the Martin Sheen character in “Apocalypse Now” could go from fighting in the jungles of Vietnam to having an elaborate dinner there, while being waited on by servants, with a wealthy French family who insist that Vietnam is their home.

The tale revolves around an American wife who marries a Frenchman who is a member of the Michelin dynasty. The famous family is a major part of the story. In real life, the Michelin brothers organized two Indochinese rubber plantations in 1925, where they operated until the end of the Vietnam War. The author does a thorough job regarding less known information about the Michelins. Surprisingly, at least for me, the family is painted as part of the wealthy imperialists who cannot understand the pain of the underprivileged. The quality of life for their workers read as horrendous.  Since I have always smiled at the image of “The Michelin Man,” I looked for proof of Tanabe’s descriptions.  I found them to be true.  On just one Michelin-owned plantation, 17,000 deaths were recorded in the 20 years between the two World Wars. “Suns” is written so the reader will sympathize with the communist Vietnamese. The author has the ability to make one question what you learned in school. I will never again read a “Michelin-Star Rated Restaurant Guide” without thinking of how their rubber and money was made.

Turns out, the novel is also written as a psychological thriller regarding the American wife. She has a history of mental illness. The author presents this as an “Or does she?” type of situation.  I didn’t mind this component of the novel at all. It did not interfere with the history.  I actually found it intriguing. My issue is that romance finds its way into the plot. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice that this genre is historical fiction as well as women’s fiction, something I do not usually care for. So my disappointment is on me for not carefully looking over the genre before choosing the novel.  My only strong criticism is that Tanabe did not have endnotes. True facts make historical fiction feel authentic and give the author credibility.  However, this may be due to the fact that I read an Advanced Review Copy and the citations may come once the book is published.  Still overall, I enjoyed this novel very much and recommend it.  The entire plot revolving around the history of Vietnam during those years is powerfully written.  And the thriller part is clever.  Plus, if you enjoy women’s fiction this will be a win-win book for you.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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“Interference” by Amelie Antoine

 

interference

Pub. Date:  September 1, 2016

Publisher :  Amazon Crossing

I read this story in one night.  Not because I was so intrigued with the plot, but rather that this book is a very easy read.  We have three narrators, a deceased wife (that was interesting), her husband, and his potential new love.  Psychological thrillers are not my favorite genre but I can enjoy a good one that is well written.  The twists in this tale were simply not believable.  For me this was an okay read on a sleepless night, but I’m sure others might find the story-line of a not so perfect (perfect couple) a better fit for them.