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There is a special joy in seeing a new release by an author with whom you have earlier established a good fit. That zippy anticipation with any new book is more of a cosy feeling when it’s by an already favourite writer. Some universally “favourite” writers are emerging with new books in the coming months and I wanted to be sure you didn’t miss a beat. Jot these down and get ready to read! Let us know if you’ve discovered any favourite writers with a new work.

Edward Rutherfurd – Paris, April 23rd

I raved about Rutherfurd’s New York a few summers ago and I also enjoyed his London before that. In a style comparable to that of James Michener, Rutherfurd explores the history of a place – social, geographical, and beyond – by introducing readers to a fictional family and then following its members’ endeavours for a number of generations. I’m a big fan of these big books – truly sagas – and am delighted the next setting is Paris. Ooo la la!

Colum McCann – Transatlantic, June 4th

I can’t imagine narrowing down favourite book choices to a top 10 list but if I were forced to, Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin would be guaranteed a spot; definitely one of my favourite reads in recent times. I am therefore tickled pink that a new McCann read is on the horizon. As with Spin, this story weaves together several story-lines, some true-to life, and relates them in unexpected ways. While Manhattan was the setting in his last tale, this one connects North America with Ireland. Can’t wait – and love that cover!

Khaled Hosseini – And the Mountains Echoed, May 21st

There are very few shelves around without a copy of The Kite Runner. Its enormous success and popularity was followed by another winner, A Thousand Splendid Suns. Hosseini skillfully, and sensitively, introduced a generation of us to the realities of modern Afghanistan through his compelling characters and their stories. His novels also illuminated the universal ties of family across generations and this new one will explore this theme as well, from Kabul to Greece to the U.S. By all early-reader accounts, this one’s another keeper for the shelf.

Isabel Allende – Maya’s Notebook, Just published (April)

Isabel Allende is another family saga specialist with almost twenty popular fiction and non-fiction works to her name. Famously hailing from Chile, Allende writes novels that feature themes of the Latino experience – immigration, political upheaval, balancing South and North American identities, and the evolution of family and place over generations. Her latest book, just released, is more of a contemporary tale than some of her historical ones and blends the Chilean and American experiences in an engaging way.

Jeannette Walls – The Silver Star, June 11th

A sentimental favourite for her startling, and riveting, memoir The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls shared more of her family’s unique story with Half Broke Horses. Both were un-put-downable. The Silver Star is a novel, rather than memoir, and so follows a fictional arc.  The themes are familiar – extraordinary families, resilience, and ultimately, triumph.

Joseph Boyden – The Orenda, September 2013

A Canadian favourite, Boyden is known for his award-winning Three Day Road, and Through Black Spruce – beautifully evocative writing and emotionally-charged stories from the Native Canadian experience. His new novel is still a wee wait away but worth anticipating. This time, the setting begins in very early Canada and explores the meeting of traditional and emerging approaches to social, political and spiritual thought. Guaranteed good methinks.

Lauren Weisberger – Revenge Wears Prada, June 4th

This will appear in shops just as you’re busting out your beach bag so be sure to save room. The Devil Wears Prada had us all feeling titillatingly voyeuristic as the shocking behind-the-scenes dynamics of a famous fashion magazine were revealed – all fiction, of course. Substantial sport followed in imagining the true-life inspiration for the antics, just the same.  I’m always a champion of book over movie, but Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Emily Blunt shall always vividly remain the personification of Weisberger’s written characters. They’re back on the page in Revenge so buckle up for more hijinks.

Amy Tan – The Valley of Amazement, November 2013

Remember The Joy Luck Club? I think it was one of the first real book club favourites when it was released in, brace yourself, 1989! Tan followed her first novel with other successes, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, The Kitchen God’s Wife, and several more. This new story will similarly pursue the experience of several generations of Chinese women in China and North America – the intriguing world of Courtesans being the feature this time.  “Spanning fifty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement is a deeply moving narrative of family secrets, the legacy of trauma, and the profound connections between mothers and daughters.” (goodreads) While you’re waiting, you might want to read Amy Tan’s  biographical notes – her personal story is a wild tale unto itself.

News broke this morning that beloved Irish author Maeve Binchy had passed away, yesterday, at the age of 72.  A Binchy-Book will always be equated in my mind with a cosy and decadent descent into blissful and effortless reading.  Her novels were often set in busy little Irish villages populated with families, friends, neighbours and shopkeepers, going about their entangled every-days with challenges and successes, and yes, a little lurve here and there too. From Light A Penny Candle to the most recent, Minding Frankie, each was a delightful voyage, as a good story should be.

Maeve Binchy embraced her Irish homeland and shared the good-natured ways of its people with her readers. Donal O’Donoghue wrote the following in the RTE of Ireland describing a visit with Maeve:

“In the picturesque Dublin village of Dalkey, there’s a pretty cottage that looks deceptively bijou. That is until you step into its book-lined interior. Like C S Lewis’ wardrobe, this is a way into another world. Maeve Binchy, best-selling author and all-round good egg, lives here. Upstairs is her work room and you get there by a glass elevator. With her arthritis worsening and a dicky heart, Maeve is not as mobile as she once was. “But I hate people talking about their ailments and illnesses”, she says. My father had a great statement. He used to say that the words ‘how are you?’ is a greeting, not a question about your health.” So at 70 years of age, MB remains resolutely young at heart, a tonic and a trouper. “I have a great friend who is a retired judge now and whenever we meet, we say to each other: ‘what will we do when we grow up?'””

Maeve Binchy wrote some fifteen novels as well as short stories and plays. I’ve enjoyed all I’ve read. A special one on my shelf is her non-fiction guide for writers called: The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club. Her warmth and wit is just as evident when she’s offering guidance as when she is storytelling. Tried and true advice but in Maeve’s version of write-what-you-know she is quoted as saying,  “You see, I’ve never been at an orgy and I wouldn’t know where legs should be and arms should be.

While it is indeed sad to think Maeve won’t be writing any new stories to entertain and comfort us, the good news is she leaves us with one more to savour, A Week in Winter, to be published in October 2012. I can already anticipate a quiet week-end this winter, with a last precious Binchy-Book to warm my heart.

Some final words from Maeve Binchy – words that resonate:

The happiest moments of my life are connected with family and friends. There is a great comfort about being with people who knew you way back when. There is a mental shorthand, an easy-going feeling that life doesn’t have to be explained or defined; we are all in more or less the same boat. To have a community around you in a changing and unstable world is invaluable and nothing can beat the feeling that there will always be people out for our good.

More Maeve.

Nora Ephron

July 7, 2012

Nora Ephron (1941-2012)

 “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

You  know that question, who would you invite to your dinner party if you could invite absolutely anybody – real or fictional, dead or alive? Norah Ephron would be on my invite list. Sadly, at a youthful 71 years, she passed away on June 26th. Among her many movies, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail have become our generation’s comfortable favourites – like old friends we visit on occasion and then savour why we love them so: the witty humour, the poignancy, the frank authenticity. The writing is stellar and I know every one of you reading this can recite a line, or even several, or, let’s be honest, the entire script, from memory.  (“I’ll have what she’s having!” ) Nora’s mother advised her that “everything is copy” and “take notes” which perhaps contributed in a small way to Nora’s striking ability to capture pitch-perfect dialogue and scenarios so authentic, many thought she’d read their minds.

Nora was not just a screenwriter and movie director, she was a novelist and essayist as well, with titles like: I Feel Bad About My Neck, Heartburn, I Remember Nothing, Wallflower at the Orgy, Crazy Salad and Scribble,Scribble. She was also known to be a devoted reader. Here are a few of her thoughts on reading:

“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”

“… the state of rapture I experience when I read a wonderful book is one of the main reasons I read; but it doesn’t happen every time or even every other time, and when it does happen, I am truly beside myself.”

Arianna Huffington was a friend, and grateful to Ephron for her commitment to the Huffington Post. Read Arianna’s tribute and a collection of Nora Ephron’s HuffPo articles and blog posts here.

It has become abundantly clear that Nora Ephron was admired, respected and loved by many. So many wonderful articles have been written in her honour in recent weeks. In the words of Meg Ryan:

“Nora was an era. We pictured ourselves inside her dreams and they became ours. All wisdom, wit and sparkle lights, what a treat she was, what a blessing. I marvel again and again, what a life… To have created a simple happiness in people, to have added to the sum of delight in the world.” 

If you haven’t laughed your way through them yet, perhaps you’ll make room on your bedside table or in your beach bag for one of these recent collections:

   

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