On July 21, 1899, a baby boy was born to a couple named Clarence and Grace Hemingway in Oak Park, Illinois. Named after Grace’s father, the young boy was called Ernest Hemingway, and he would grow up to become one of the greatest American writers of all time.
As one of the most notorious names in literature, Hemingway arouses a multitude of feelings among readers: some praise his genius, others detest him, while others just think he’s plain boring. Like him or not, however, you have to admit that Hemingway has left a profound impact on the way we think, write, and read literature. In honor of Hemingway’s 117th birthday this Thursday, I’ve put together a list of books for those who wish to celebrate the day by reading about the man himself, or just for those folks looking for a good bit of scandalous literary history (and let’s be honest, Hemingway’s life was full of scandal). Continue reading “A Hemingway-Inspired Reading List”
Released on April 5th, 2016, Jennifer S. Brown’s debut novel Modern Girls is a historical fiction piece set in 1930s New York City and follows the lives of Rose and Dottie, a mother and daughter who both become pregnant at the same time. Part social commentary, part family history, Modern Girls is an incredible story about growing up, second chances, and the power of new beginnings. If you’re interested in reading my full review of Modern Girls, click here. To hear more about Brown’s writing process, the books that inspire her, her time at The Debutante Ball, and if there is any possibility of a Modern Girls sequel, keep reading for my full interview with the lovely Jennifer S. Brown. 🙂
1. First thing’s first: congratulations on Modern Girls! Publishing a book is such a major achievement in any regard, but I know Modern Girls is your debut novel and to have it come out to such spectacular reviews must be a dream come true. How are you feeling now that Modern Girls has been out for a couple of months?
If anything, it feels crazier than it did than when it first came out! Because now people have read it. For so many years, Dottie and Rose existed only on my page. Now they exist on the page for anyone. It’s like my imaginary friends are now being shared with others. I’m completely excited, but a little freaked out. Continue reading “Author Jennifer S. Brown on Writing, Feminism, and the Importance of Having a Support Group”
I’m in denial that I’m writing this post, because that would mean I have to acknowledge that we’re actually over halfway through 2016 and that’s something I refuse to do. 🙂 But, deny it all I want, we are in July, so I thought that now would be the perfect time to write my mid-year reading wrap-up. Continue reading “Mid-Year Wrap Up: My Favorite Books of 2016 Thus Far”
Title: Modern Girls
Author: Jennifer S. Brown
Publisher: New American Library
Summary (from back of book): In 1935, Dottie Krasinsky is the epitome of the modern girl. A bookkeeper in Midtown Manhattan, Dottie steals kisses from her steady beau, meets her girlfriends for drinks, and eyes the latest fashions. Yet at heart, she is a dutiful daughter, living with her Yiddish-speaking parents on the Lower East Side. So when, after a single careless night, she finds herself in the family way by a charismatic but unsuitable man she is desperate: unwed, unsure, and running out of options. After the birth of five children – and twenty years as a housewife – Dottie’s immigrant mother, Rose, is itching to return to the social activism she embraced as a young woman. With strikes and breadlines at home and National Socialism rising in Europe, there is much more important work to do than cooking and cleaning. So when she realizes that she too is pregnant, she struggles to reconcile her longings with her faith. As mother and daughter wrestle with unthinkable choices, they are forced to confront their beliefs, the changing world, and the fact that their lives will never be the same…
Happy Fourth of July to all my fellow Americans! 🙂 I apologize to those of you who read this blog and don’t like historical fiction set in the first half of the 20th century, because that seems to be all I’ve been reading lately. Even if you aren’t a fan of historical fiction, however, I think you’ll find something to enjoy in Jennifer S. Brown’s debut novel, Modern Girls, because it’s just a really fantastic piece of fiction. Continue reading “Modern Girls – A Novel About Life, Second Chances, and the Importance of Family”
Title: The Paying Guests
Author: Sarah Waters
Publisher: Virago Press
The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters’ sixth and most recent novel, is set in the early 1920s and tells the story of Frances Wray, who lives with her elderly mother in a large house in the London suburb of Champion Hill. In order to bring in some extra income after the death of her brothers (in the war) and her father (from a stroke), Frances and her mother decide to take in lodgers. These “paying guests,” as they are referred to throughout the novel, turn out to be Lilian and Leonard Barber, a young couple from the so-called “clerk class.”
Now, this was my first Sarah Waters’ novel, and it’s actually her lowest-rated book on Goodreads. If you talked to a Sarah Waters fan, they would probably recommend that you start with Tipping the Velvet or Fingersmith, however I picked up a copy of The Paying Guests while I was in England (you can find my full English book haul here) last summer primarily because I’m instantly intrigued by any book that takes place in the 1920s. I can’t speak to whether or not this is the best place to start with Waters’ bibliography, however I can tell you this: I thoroughly enjoyed The Paying Guests. Continue reading “Brit Lit: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters”
Title: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Summary (from inside flap): When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant. Before long, Zelda has fallen for him, even though no one else believes that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. When Scott sells his first novel, she optimistically boards a train to New York, to marry him and take the rest as it comes. What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald legends in their own time. In New York City, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera, they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein. Everything seems new and possible, but not even Jay Gatsby’s parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous – sometimes infamous – husband? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda’s irresistible story as she herself might have told it.
It seems that for the past couple of weeks all I’ve wanted to read is historical fiction set in the first half of the 20th century (see my review of A Touch of Stardust here), and Z has been sitting on my shelf since Christmas, so I decided that now was as good a time as any to pick it up. Z, as it says in the summary I’ve included above, is a historical fiction novel that follows the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, from her early years as belle of the ball in Montgomery, Alabama, to the endless parties of Lost Generation Paris alongside her rather famous husband, novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. This novel is often compared to The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, which many of you may know is one of my favorite books, so I was worried going into this that it wouldn’t live up to my high expectations. I am very, very happy to say that I was wrong. This book was utterly, completely, 100 percent fantastic. Continue reading “Fitzgerald Follies: Z by Therese Anne Fowler”
Title: A Touch of Stardust
Author: Kate Alcott
Publisher: Anchor Books
Summary (from back of book): Julie Crawford left Fort Wayne, Indiana, with dreams of being a Hollywood screenwriter. Unfortunately, her new life is off to a rocky start. When she is fired by the notoriously demanding director of Gone with the Wind, she’s lucky to be rescued by Carole Lombard, whose scandalous affair with the still-married Clark Gable is just heating up. As Carole’s assistant, Julie suddenly has a front-row seat to two of the world’s greatest love affairs. And while Rhett and Scarlett – and Lombard and Gable – make movie history, Julie is caught up in a whirlwind of outsized personalities and overheated behind-the-scenes drama…not to mention a budding romance of her own.
‘Movies teach us how to do that,’ Carole had confided. ‘Create a set, sprinkle a touch of stardust. Who gives a shit if it’s real? Just make it good enough to believe.’
Like many other readers, one of my goals for 2016 was to finally read Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, a sheer beast of a book and Civil War historical epic. Though it took me over a month to read, I did complete this goal and finished GWTW back in March. I was utterly captivated by the story, the writing, and the world of Rhett and Scarlett, and ever since March I have been hungrily searching for everything GWTW-related that I can get my hands on. So, you can well imagine my delight when I stumbled across A Touch of Stardust, a historical fiction novel that takes place on the set of GWTW, sitting on a table at my local Barnes and Noble. This book promised glamour, romance, and an insider’s look at one of my favorite movies: my hopes were very, very high. Continue reading “Classic Hollywood Lit: A Touch of Stardust”