Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Observations

Flower, Good News!

I have had a perfect storm of reading. I had nothing I had to do, the day was cold and overcast, there was the cozy chair, the blanket, and the book. A fantastic book. Why had I not read this book before? This was a Read It Or Remove It title I pulled out from stack 437B. I remember getting it. I remember looking forward to reading it. I do not remember what prevented me from reading it. Oh well. Water under an important bridge. The book is a debut novel by Jane Harris, The Observations.

The Observations is the story of a footloose and one step ahead of the law young woman named Bessy Buckley, formerly Daisy O'Toole. It's 1863 and Bessy is eager to improve her station and maybe to lay low for a bit as well. On her way to Edinburgh she comes across the once grand Castle Haivers. The mistress, Arabella Reid, hires Bessy as a scullery maid. Bessy thinks she has charmed Arabella into employment but maybe Arabella has an agenda of her own? Arabella spends her time secretly working on her opus, Observations on the Habits and Nature of the Domestic Class in My Time (I love that!) and demands that Bessy keep a diary of her servitude. It isn't long before there is as much to worry about at the Castle as there was in any of Bessy's other more licentious occupations.

The Observations is Victorian Gothic with a devious twist of delicious humor. Jane Harris has provided me (And you all too!) with glorious storytelling and my new favorite fictional character, Bessy Buckley. To be honest I can't remember if I had a fave before I met Bessy but if I did they have been supplanted. My Mother would have described Bessy as "no better than she should have been". She is a streetwise, cynical, uneducated, brilliant and kind hearted survivor.

The book within a book conciet has been done and done but when it's done well as it was in The Observations it is a joy. Congrats to first time novelist Harris for pulling it off so well. Now where is book #2 Ms. Harris?

What did not I adore about this book? hmmm....nothing except that it ended.

P.S. The cover? All wrong. Not attractive and not right for this novel.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire

I could have picked up The Last Prince of Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo because of the lovely cover but I didn't. It was the title. It has a magical quality. I took it to be a metaphor for something because I was unaware of Mexico ever having had a prince. Chalk that up to my weak education and the Prince not being mentioned in the movie Juarez. The sum total of my knowledge of Mexican history comes from that movie so I was all over the Prince's parents: Emperor Maximilian and his wife Carlota having seen them portrayed by Brian Aherne and Bette Davis but the powers that be or rather were in 1939 chose not to mention any princes in that flick.

In 1864 His Imperial and Royal Highness Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, Prince Imperial and Archduke of Austria, Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia and his wife, Princess Marie Charlotte Amélie Augustine Victoire Clémentine Léopoldine of Belgium, became Emperor Maximilian I and Empress Carlota of Mexico. Prior to this they had not ruled a nation so this was a bit of a career change for them. From what I understand installing a royal family in Mexico was a plot cooked up by Napoleon the III of France with the support of Great Britain and Spain in order to make Mexico pay off loans on which it's President, Benito Juarez, had suspended payments. Maximilian, Carlota and some French troops were sent off to replace President Juarez and resume the payments but all under the guise of liberty. There was a small group of supporters of Maximilian within Mexico made up of conservatives and members of the clergy but this was really an invasion.

Those are amazing bones for a historical novel aren't they? You can add to them Carlota's madness, Maximilian's righteous beliefs in his own liberality and entitlement and we haven't even mentioned the Prince yet. What riches.

The Prince is two year old, half American Agustín de Iturbide y Green. A year into his reign the childless Emperor Maximilian adopts and/or buys Agustín and makes the boy his heir presumptive. Agustín's parents are at first somewhat enamored by the new royal court but soon after signing away their son they are desperate to get him back. Maximilian has them exiled. This on top of everything else going wrong in their kingdom have Maximilian and Carlota in the middle of an international scandal.

Have you thought "you can't make this stuff up" yet? There is obviously no shortage of plot to stuff into The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. Mayo manipulates all of these elements like a professional juggler. She alternates the narrative between Maximilian, Carlota, and Agustín's parents always keeping them believable. We see all sides of the custody battle, the coming revolution in Mexico and the geopolitics that have set this epic debacle in motion. It's very impressive that Mayo can present all this material and infuse it with immediacy and color without it either spiraling out of her control or becoming a laundry list of events.

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is unbelievable fact wrapped up in grand storytelling. C.M. Mayo started with one hell of a of little known chapter in history and made it even more captivating.


P.S. The real Maximilian and Carlota

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

97 Orchard: An Edible History of 5 Immigrant Families in 1 New York Tenement


Oh Happy Day! It's an Eve which is my favorite part of any holiday and the most difficult part of my Christmas shopping is done. If you could see me at this moment you would know that I am dancing a little jig of happiness.


I love shopping. For me shopping is exploring. It makes me feel like Magellan. I tend to Christmas shop all year. This way I get to prolong my holiday shopping, find terrific deals and have plenty of time to stew over the eight people I find it hard to buy for. These special eight aren't the they have it all already types nor are they people who can go buy whatever they want themselves. They are hard to please people. None of them likes Stuff and they are all a bit frugal. Gifts for these beloveds have to be practical, stimulating and worth having. Nothing silly, trendy or that they will only get a years worth out of need apply.

Often I get books for my eight. OK. Often I get books for 98% of the people I give gifts too, but these guys especially. Books for my eight have to be well thought out books. No guessing and no fiction. Yikes. I'm great at fiction but nonfiction requires more work. However. This year on November 24th the deed is done. I have found the book and purchased eight copies of it from my local independent bookstore where I found the book in the first place. Oh yes. An independent to the rescue. I didn't find this book browsing at a chain or online where you can't browse anyway. This book was on display at my local!

The book is 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman. The title says it all. How interesting does this book sound? I know right! I read the first chapter in the bookstore but only because it was so interesting. Before I got to page three I already knew that this book was the one.

This is what the publisher, HarperCollins has to say about 97 Orchard:

In 97 Orchard, Jane Ziegelman explores the culinary life that was the heart and soul of New York's Lower East Side around the turn of the twentieth century—a city within a city, where Germans, Irish, Italians, and Eastern European Jews attempted to forge a new life. Through the experiences of five families, all of them residents of 97 Orchard Street, she takes readers on a vivid and unforgettable tour, from impossibly cramped tenement apartments down dimly lit stairwells where children played and neighbors socialized, beyond the front stoops where immigrant housewives found respite and company, and out into the hubbub of the dirty, teeming streets.

Ziegelman shows how immigrant cooks brought their ingenuity to the daily task of feeding their families, preserving traditions from home but always ready to improvise. While health officials worried that pushcarts were unsanitary and that pickles made immigrants too excitable to be good citizens, a culinary revolution was taking place in the streets of what had been culturally an English city. Along the East River, German immigrants founded breweries, dispensing their beloved lager in the dozens of beer gardens that opened along the Bowery. Russian Jews opened tea parlors serving blintzes and strudel next door to Romanian nightclubs that specialized in goose pastrami. On the streets, Italian peddlers hawked the cheese-and-tomato pies known as pizzarelli, while Jews sold knishes and squares of halvah. Gradually, as Americans began to explore the immigrant ghetto, they uncovered the array of comestible enticements of their foreign-born neighbors. 97 Orchard charts this exciting process of discovery as it lays bare the roots of our collective culinary heritage.

97 Orchard will be doing me a world of good gift giving wise and it will be my go to recommendation for the hard to shop for, people interested in their family's past and the intellectually stimulated. So...brother H, stepmother R, aunt L, aunt A, friend K, friend R, friend P and neighbor E are all getting a copy. Which one will I borrow a copy from? Thank you Jane Ziegelman!

Happy. Happy. Happy.

Company of Liars

Almost Happy Thanksgiving Flower!

How about this Flower, Company of Liars. What a great title. That title tells you to be ready to trust no one. I like that. It might also be a bit of foreshadowing for Thanksgiving dinner.

This company is a marvelous mix of Canterbury Tales meets The Seventh Seal meets And Then There Were None---or Ten Little Indians. I never know what that book is really supposed to be called.

Anyway you get the idea. In 1348 a group of nine travelers brought together by chance and are trying to out run certain death. The Black Plague is everywhere. It will ultimately be responsible for 100,000,000 deaths between 1340 and 1400 across Europe and Asia. At each stop the group makes they are in just as much danger of getting sick as they are from the locals looking for someone to blame for the disease or for the over abundance of rain that is destroying the crops. The only good news is that the locals do not know the extent of the secrets, agendas and schemes that each member of the band harbors or they would have even more reasons to feel threatened by them. However it isn't only the threats from without that could destroy these travelers. They are not so united a unit that they might not just kill each other.

Author Karen Maitland has ratcheted up the creepy quotient in Company of Liars to an intense level. She has also done the research to back up what she writes about her characters day to day struggles and the historical events of the time. Maitland's characters are the disenfranchised of their day. Her pilgrim's (emphasis on the grim part) flight from death and superstition to at best an only slightly safer fugitive existence than they have at the book's start is historical macabre at it's best. Forget the plague, even healthy life in this middle age was no jaunt through silk skirts and pageantry. There are no amount of talismans or charms to keep you safe from devouring this entertaining novel.

P.S. I do like the U.S. cover but I like the U.K. cover better. It's more dangerous and has a more just pulled out of a manuscript from the Middle Ages feel.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Ice Road

Brrrrrrr Flower!

There is not a warm enough climate on the face of the Earth for you to read The Ice Road in my Friend.

Leningrad is in the grip of winter. Winter with a capitol W. In The Ice Road, by Gillain Slovo it is always winter. The winter of 1933 brings more than the usual grumblings about food and fuel shortages, politics in whats left of the revolution's aftermath and what your neighbor might possibly be up to. When the city's feared and respected leader, Kirov is assassinated, the already vicious and corrupt Stalin government spins out of control. Over the course of the next ten years, perpetual outsider Irina views this, a disastrous expedition to the Arctic and then still more winter, the Siege of Leningrad. She also watches the fate of the Aleksandrovich family. Upper middle class and as safe as anyone can be in this Russia the Aleksandrovich family and their friends have little choice but to do anything to survive.

Slovo's mastery of these historical events is striking. She has recreated a world where the weight of the cold is a feather compared to that of the oppressive government. The heartfelt rendering of the lives of the ordinary people that she constructs makes this novel powerful and harrowing. The everyday minutia of life, the struggle to survive in so inhospitable a season and regime is perfectly captured. Irina is a wonderfully fearsome character. It is her forceful voice in The Ice Road that Slovo uses most effectively to move through the lost souls of idealism to the brutal power grabbing kingpins who finally inherited the revolution.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Distant Hours

Flower, my buddy!

I was raised on mini-series and multi-generational novels. If it was a chubby saga that covered a minimum of forty years I was all over it. I am author Kate Morton's demographic. With The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden Morton established herself as the go to girl for Gothic adventure. She has set a new standard for the long suffering heroine. It's all very enthralling: long hidden secrets, lies, betrayals, misplaced loyalties, lovers torn apart, unwanted pregnancies, class structures and the letter that would have changed everything that never got there. Ah. It's the classics that keep you wanting more.

Morton's outstanding new novel, The Distant Hours follows daughter Edie as she pursues the dark secrets her mother, Meredith, has kept for most of her life. Meredith was evacuated as a child from the London Blitz to Millerhurst Castle. At that time the castle was home to Raymond Blythe the author of a classic children's novel and his three daughters. Sixty years later the tenants of the now decrepit Millerhurst Castle are still there and yet not all there... Edie has vague memories of being at that castle as a child and she know that is where she will uncover the truth.

Morton had this reader gobbling up every revelation, every dastardly deed and every bittersweet victory. Don't think however that this novel is one long, over the top soap opera. It is unashamedly dramatic but it is grounded in Morton's ability to explore relationships believably. Mothers and daughters, siblings the dynamics are all dissected. The Distant Hours is enormously satisfying. It's a twisty ride up the mountain for 300 pages and a breathtaking plunge to the bottom at the end.

P.S. And you know the lovely covers don't hurt either.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Half Brother

Ah my Flower.

Just about the time when Scandinavian mystery novels were starting to set the world on fire, a regular old non-mystery and therefore under the radar Norwegian novel, The Half Brother was published here in the U.S. This wonderfully chubby (really it's uber chubby at almost 800 pages) novel, winner of the 2001 Nordic Prize, is the story of 4 generations of an extended Norwegian family. The Oslo's are a family of drunks, con-artists, mutes and charmers all able to stumble through life seemingly only because of their ability to lie and accept lies.

Author Lars Saabye Christensen excels at continually bringing both the family's and Norway's past into play in their present. Over the course of fifty years big events, odd coincidences, things that barely register to the reader at the time come back later to reek havoc on the various members of the bedeviled Oslo family. At the heart of this sprawling family saga is the relationship between brothers Fred and Barnum. These men are outsiders even within their family but they are wholly devoted to each other in their own ways.

The Half Brother is superbly constructed. It leads you eerily full circle showing how history runs in families. Author Christensen's picturesque characters and haunting narrative are a great mix of tragedy and black comedy. If you like your families odd in a good, twenty years ago John Irving kind of way, your novels fleshy and dexterous in a Henry James kind of way and your landscape Scandinavian then The Half Brother will bring you much happiness. However if you only like novels that are monstrously well written then The Half Brother will bring you much more happiness.

Happy am I

Sea of Poppies


Amitav Ghosh is one of those writers whose books I eagerly wait for. Usually, there is about a four year drought in between his books but then you have to add a few years to that if, like me, you are really waiting only for his novels. When Sea of Poppies was released in 2008 (and nominated for the Man Booker that year!) I was lucky enough to get an ARC of it! Thrilling! It's historical fiction! I'm practically panting! And then...the let down. Sea of Poppies is the first in a planned trilogy about the opium trade lead by the British through India and China in the 19th century. A trilogy? That is wonderfully exciting news but that means that in all probability part three wouldn't be in my hot little hands until 2019. 2019. What's a girl to do? I decided to exercise my patience and wait to read #1 until at least #2 came out.

Yeah. That was the plan. Now I have a new plan. The new plan is that I read Sea of Poppies last week and that I read #2 (no release date yet) when #3 is published. That is a much better plan. I am completely on board with the new plan.

Sea of Poppies is old fashioned historical fiction. There is a group of desperate characters: sailors, coolies, Princes, landlords, merchants, addicts, mothers, children, mistresses and working girls all coming together in a time of crisis and potential profiteering. This cast of thousands is also a bit of a United Nations jamboree as well with Indians, Chinese, British, American and French populating northern India in 1838 just prior to the start of the Opium Wars. The initial common thread for all of these characters is the schooner, the Ibis and her amusingly motley crew. The Ibis is a former slave ship that has come to India from America. It becomes the controlled environment in which Ghosh can let loose his magnificent creations as well as his endless research on this time period.

Ghosh freely uses the colloquial speech and the antique slang of his diverse group. This gives the novel immediate realism but it can also be difficult to get through. A dictionary in the back of the book would have been very nice but that said my lack of linguistic knowledge didn't diminish my intense enjoyment of this novel.

Amitav Ghosh is a consummate storyteller and with Sea of Poppies he has a lot of different stories to tell. He's married up Dickensian intricacies and eccentric characters, the adventure and intrigue of Dumas to the natural realism of R. K. Narayan in a magnificently addictive novel about colonialism, capitalism and culture. All the classical historical fiction adjectives apply to Sea of Poppies: epic, vast, visionary, breathtaking, dramatic, sweeping, panoramic, etc. but Ghosh doesn't sacrifice the intimacies of everyday life and struggles in order to paint a grand canvas.

It's quite restful reading a novel that you know won't end at the last page. No farewells to anticipate when you are 20 pages from the ending. Sea of Poppies works as a free-standing novel and that's terrific but I immensely happy that it's part one of three.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Lesson


There is an almost endless supply of novels about college friends: Brideshead Revisited, The Group, The Secret History, The Line of Beauty, The Emperor's Children and at last count 83,477 others. They all use the same basic formula: desperate people make intense friendships more by virtue environment than choice and are led by the most charismatic of the bunch into making bad decisions and the same basic characters: the snob, the innocent, the addict, the rich one, the charity case, Thelma and Daphne. In order to stand out within that huge pack a novel needs to be at the very least excellent. Enter The Lesson.

The sun of this group of collegiates is the flamboyant and impossibly rich Mark. The satellites are: James, Simon, Emmanuella, Jess and Franny. A lifetime of reading has already taught you that there will of be affairs, changing partners, tested loyalty, betrayal, financial success, financial ruin and tragedy. The author, Naomi Alderman brings nothing new to the plot of The Lesson but then the plotline for this kind of novel was established long before she was born. What Alderman does bring in spades is freshness. From the experience of going from high school graduation and being the master of your universe to being a little fish in a intimidating pond once you get to college to discovering that real life is less than exciting, Alderman makes this all new again.

The Lesson has all the readable delights of a richer than thou coming of age story and the intellectual grab of a documentary. You enjoy it all despite the train wreck you know is coming...or maybe it's because you know it's coming?


P.S. The Lesson is currently available in the U. K. I do not know if a U.S. edition is planned. If you're interested in this author you could try Alderman's excellent Disobedience.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Lambs of God

Hello Flower!

While I was reading The Convent I was reminded of a novel I read years ago, The Lambs of God. It is one of my favorite books. It's a novel about Nuns who tend sheep and knit. Seriously. They pray, they shear and they knit. How is that a novel you want to read?

In Lambs three leftover nuns on a remote island are suddenly confronted by the Church after decades of neglect. Sisters Iphigenia, Margarita and Carla have spent years in prayer and contemplation, tending their sheep and spending the endless nights knitting. Strangers are so rare that when a man arrives on the island, Sister Iphigenia can actually smell him before they ever see him. Father Ignatius has been dispatched to the island to--to what? He's going to shut 'em down. At least that is what the nuns think. These nuns made lead the simple life but they are far from simpletons. They are certainly capable to mounting their own campaign to take care of this intruder. The real reasons for Father Ignatius coming to the convent aren't very spiritual but then he didn't expect to find the convent still in use.

The Lambs of God was written by Marele Day. She does an excellent job giving Lambs a slightly fairy tale quality and at the same time keeping it realistic. The details of the Nun's daily tasks, religious lives, and inner lives are robustly drawn. She also creates a wonderful mix of humor and gravitas. The Sisters are her own version of Macbeth's witches. They know all, see all and maybe they control all.

I loved this novel! I was delighted reading it and it delights me still every time I think about it. I'm sorry to say that The Lambs of God is currently out of print. ~~sigh~~ Your local library might stock it or maybe a used bookstore. If you hunt it down it will be so very worth it!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Very Long Engagement

Bonjour Fleur!

I haven't done much in the last few months with my Read It Or Remove Program. Oh well. Let's face it I have bigger regrets than that so let's move on, OK?

Yesterday I needed a book to take with me to a swim meet. It had to be something easy to pull in and out of my bag (meaning not chubby) and most importantly grab my attention. I love going to the nieces and nephews activities and most of the time they are a couple hours of my day and that's that. The meets are different. They can last anywhere from 4 hours to all day. Having a book with me is a necessity. I didn't have a book already started and having to select a one with no chance of a do-over makes me a little nervous.

My choices were narrowed down to a few dozen by deciding to skip the waiting new releases and reader's copies. A Very Long Engagement popped out at me and looked as though it would fit the bill. I've had it here waiting to be read for at least ten years. I remember buying it. Years ago when the edition I have was going out of print to make room for the movie tie in edition we got some of that first edition in the store as remainders and I scooped one up.

When young, wheelchair bound Mathilde learns that the fiance, Jean, she has been mourning for five years may not have been killed in the trenches of World War I, she sets out to find him. Mathilde's obsession leads her to the court marshall for self-mutilation of Jean and five other soldiers. Undaunted and aided by a private detective, Mathilde is convinced that not only will she be able to find Jean alive but that he and his fellow soldiers are innocent. Discrepancies slowly pile up around deliberately misleading clues and despite Mathilde's fierce belief in Jean the Official Version seems incontrovertible.

Mathilde's quest is not the usual mystery novel stew of over the top violence, bad guys and damsels in distress. Mathilde, the mystery and the setting of a France still recoving from years as a battleground makes a haunting trifecta. The author, Sébastien Japrisot, has crafted a gorgeously taunt, psychologically suspenseful love story. The writing is precise, spare and packs a huge punch. You are anxious as Mathilde is as the evidence takes her on a one step forward and two steps back search. A Very Long Engagement is the best Alfred Hitchcock movie you will ever read.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Convent

Flower. Flower. Flower.

Convents, like colleges and country estates are perfect microcosms to play out Big Ideas in novels. Authors can full these snow globes up with characters and unleash the drama without a lot of real world constraints. These are controlled, understandable environments that are always knocked for a loop by the arrival of an outsider. We all bring a common knowledge of their workings so readers go in understanding that the outsider will threaten the status quo and in general bring out the best and worst in people. In The Convent by Panos Karnezis it is a baby left on the convent doorstep that is the catalyst for change.

Our Lady of Mercy is a crumbling convent hidden away in rural 1920's Spain. It's a six person land that time forgot. Mercy is a close-knit, self sufficient community. Sister Maria Ines is the Mother Superior. When a novice finds an abandoned baby outside of the convent Sister Maria is determined to keep the child. In that baby she sees a sign of forgiveness from God for her sins of long ago. Is this a miracle? Is it an offer of temptation? Her desire/vision is not shared by everyone else at the convent. It isn't long before the interloper has divided the Sisters.

Karnezis tells the story of the Sisters in a straightforward style. The old deceptively simple straightforward style in beautiful language. As the left behind worldly emotions of these women intrude on their cloistered lives and the unraveling begins, Karnezis creates a fascinating and moody page turner. There are some details left unexamined, the baby's mother for instance, that keep The Convent from being the novel it could be but on the whole I was impressed. Karnezis is a strong storyteller who is adept at masking the heroes and villains and keeping the reader engaged.

P.S. I like the cover of the American edition. It captures the location of the novel and informs us that there is someone there who doesn't belong. The image is neutral enough though that you don't immediatley know if the baby will bring good or bad. 
What do you think of the Canadian cover? It too is a lovely image but to me this cover says that The Convent takes place in a far different time period that it really does. Doesn't this look like a historical novel that will take place 200 or 300 years ago? Despite the bridge to a walled away building this doesn't say isolation to me either. It reads more like a Medieval town.
How about the U.K. covers? These are the hardcover and paperback editions. Both wildly miss the mark. The hardcover image is unreadable to me and not in a good way. It's a mish mash of shapes and colors that hold no interest. The paperback creates a mood of evil yet to come but in a Stephen King way which is not this novel.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Three Sisters

Hi Flower!

Village life anywhere has always been tough and China in 1971 is no different. The opportunities to get ahead are few and the collective judgment of the populace is swift and brutal. In The Three Sisters, the Wangs are The Family in their small Chinese village. Father Wang Lianfang is a Party Secretary and as a result the family's prominence is assured. At the novel's start the family has a new reason to celebrate. After seven daughters a son has finally been born. The satisfaction the Wangs have in this most fortunate occasion and their social status are both destroyed when Father is caught philandering. Within moments of the scandal breaking they go from being the local Kennedys to the Kettles. It is devastating in terms of their day to day lives and their future prospects.

Author Bi Feiyu concentrates his talents on three of the seven sisters: Yumi, Yuxiu and Yuyang. The novel is physically divided into their overlapping stories but as a reader it's also divided into ancient China, life in the village where their stories start and Cultural Revolution China, life in the city where their stories end. The events of the sisters survival, their meager victories and epic defeats are too real to be read as soap opera fodder. Their struggles to get ahead, to escape the devalued position the scandal and China has placed them in have an inspirational quality about them. So while the setting and culture have so much that seem exotic, the search for respect is universal.

The Three Sisters is not a sentimental novel about poetic loses and against the odds achievements. It has more in common with the honest brilliance of the memoir Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China than the novels of  Lisa See.

Feiyu is completely successful in making Yumi, Yuxiu and Yuyang interesting and sympathetic. At times he piles on so much detail (As fascinating as they all are!) of the women's lives and China that it's work to keep the threads of the novel's plotline together. His reach for a sort of epic arch to the sisters experiences verses China's past and present is undermined by occasionally failing to grab a hold of their emotional lives. Flaws aside, I enjoyed reading Sisters. It was an enriching and involving novel.

P.S. One of the things that surprised me the most about Sisters ---and maybe this is a cultural thing---is that that it didn't follow the usual pattern of fiction about three women. The Sally, Irene and Mary scenario. That is where three woman all face difficult trials (often of a moral nature) and as a result there is a Good Girl who overcomes with purity intact and gets rewarded, a No Better Than She Should Have Been Girl who survives scathed having fallen prey temptation and is punished but there is a light at the end of the tunnel for her and the Bad Girl. The Bad Girl is the one who willingly chooses the lures offered her for gain and as a result receives the ultimate punishment.

Sally, Irene and Mary is considered one of the basic screenplay plots. It was originally a movie made in 1925 starring Constance Bennett, Joan Crawford and Sally O'Neil as chorus girls looking for love and fame. I don't know that even in 1925 this was a new idea but it has certainly been used time and time again since then.