June's Literary Blog

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Monday, August 20, 2018

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”.

Now, Cressida, 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 [2016], 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.

This 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!

5:50 pm edt          Comments

Friday, August 3, 2018

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…

The 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!

3:25 pm edt          Comments

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June 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, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
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 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



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.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,