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Monday, August 20, 2018
5:50 pm edt
The Finishing School
I am a fan of the author Joanna Goodman because each of her novel endings are totally not what I expected
when reading the beginning and the middle. Three are so many compelling twists and turns, as well as subtle “tells”
in The Finishing School, that it was very difficult putting it aside to spend time with houseguests. But just an hour after
I once again had my home all to myself, I dove back into the intriguing mystery of Kersti Kuutz-Wax and her best friend, Cressida
Strauss who somehow manages to plunge off a balcony… into the abyss of yet another great novel from an author who pulls
no punches, spares no details, and is merciless when it comes to characters she seems to hate and loves to write about.
Kersti is more than just a bit out of her element when she is enrolled by her parents
in the Lycée Internationale Suisse, a bastion of European wealth and glamour. They can’t quite afford the tuition,
but her mother, an alumna, is insistent. Most of the students have boarded at the Lycée since they were seven or eight;
Kersti is not quite 15. A new student who is not sure what to expect. Until she is befriended by Cressida who literally takes
Kersti under her wing and shows her “the ropes”.
a character well-defined by Goodman, is quite beautiful. As well as smart. And is not bound by rules or the strictures of
conventionality. While Kersti admires this latter trait in her new best friend, she is intimated by its consequences and,
as the novel alternates between the past [1990s] and the present , she tries, narrating in the first person to come
to grips with all that transpires during her years at the Lycée and afterwards as a moderately successful novelist,
married to Jay Wax, and striving to become a mother. How Cressida from her past is interjected into Kersti’s present
[and future] to profoundly affect it is masterfully crafted and written.
is an earlier literary offering of Goodman who gave us four prior novels and The Home for Unwanted Girls afterward.
[I reviewed the latter on this Blog on April 19th of this year.] And like her other novels, it is not one to miss.
My only codicil is that it’s for “mature audiences only” and not, by any means, meant for young adult readers.
There are some passages and inferences that, while adding great depth and meaning to the narrative, would shock and offend
the less stalwart adult readers among us.
Regardless, it’s a great,
eye-opening novel and I, once again, as I do just about everything published by HarperCollins, highly recommend it.
Enjoy the read!
Friday, August 3, 2018
3:25 pm edt
The Secret Garden
You’d think in all my years
of being an avid reader and purveyor of all things literary, I would have read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. But, alas, while I am quite familiar with the story from seeing the various television versions
and movies – most especially the 1993 film starring Kate Maberly and Maggie Smith – I have not had the pleasure
of actually reading the original book. Until this past month…
Harper Design [an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers] publication of
an illustrated and inter-active
edition of this timely and timeless classic is a very beautiful as well as great read. Especially, if like me, you
enjoy a good book all the more by its look, feel, and, yes, smell. You laugh, but a light scent of clean ink emanating from
the pages evokes feelings and, often, memories. As did this rendition of Burnett’s third novel for children first published
in 1911. [The first novel was Little Lord Fauntleroy, published
in 1885–1886 and the second was A Little Princess, published in 1905. Oh, to be back in those early last-century halcyon days when all one need worry about was if little
spoiled Mary finds the key and is able to help heal Colin…
I am sure
most of you know the story, so I won’t repeat it here. But in the hands of Harper Design and its talented staff of editors,
the narrative takes on a whole new dimension. Or, dimensions, if you will. For inside the pages of the light orange gilded
gold covers are lavish illustrations by the talented artistic duo of Minalima [Eduardo and Miraphora Lima, who also illustrated
the Harry Potter series] and a wealth of interactive elements that literally bring Burnett’s novel alive. There
are a pop-up red robin that hides the ornate key to the garden; a quart-fold map of the garden; a coiling snake; a rotating
wheel to ascertain the growing season of certain flowers… Just to name a few. All coordinated together to make this
not only a feast for the mind, but a demonstrative experience for all the senses.
If you read about Frances Hodgson Burnett at wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Hodgson_Burnett, you will learn that she
enjoyed socializing and lived quite a lavish lifestyle. Not only was she a novelist for adults as well as children, she was
also an accomplished playwright and, in later years, the host of salon in Washington, D.C. attended by both politicians and
members of the literati. Reading about her interesting life and learning these facts made my [finally] reading The Secret
Garden all the more enjoyable. And given her eclectic tastes, I am sure she would proudly revel in this latest rendition
of one her favorite literary endeavors.
If you haven’t had the pleasure
of meeting Mary Lennox, Dickon, and Colin… If you are in the least bit curious about the garden and its almost miraculous
restoration at the hands of a once spoiled child… If you have a few summer afternoons to wile away, then might I suggest
you “disappear” into the pages of this edition? It is, indeed, a treat. A gift to and for one’s own heart
and soul. And, most assuredly, a gift to give others that will always be treasured.
Enjoy the read!
J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is
an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations,
volumes of poetry, stories
for children (of all ages) and
a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Colonial Theatre: A Novel
of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of
Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She
is currently working on her sixth novel.