50.-53. Four Good Novels

I know that sounds a bit like faint praise.  I was going to write Four Great Novels, but then that soundes like “Great Books” which isn’t what I meant.  Rather these are four relatively recent novels, each of which I enjoyed and recommend.  (I’ve already made my mom read two of them, so there you have it.)

50. The Nest, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

I found this compulsively readable.  It’s about the Plumb family, Melody, Beatrice, Jack and Leo - compulsively charming Leo, who has gotten himself into a great deal of trouble.  And to get him out of it, their otherwise cold mother, spends “the Nest.”  The Nest (always in capital letters), is a trust fund that was to be split among the children once they all turned forty.  Instead, their mother buys Leo out of his difficulties, and the Nest is gone.  

Yes, there is an uphill climb to sympathize with a bunch of adults who have (boo-hoo), lost some money they never earned.  But Sweeney knows that, and the book is in part of a satire of how the Nest has arrested the development of all of the Plumb children (it is not spoiling much to tell you that they find themselves once they free themselves of the Nest).  It’s a dynamic look at a dysfunctional family figuring themselves out, a but, and a realization that there is hope for change no matter how old you are.  And it’s funny - and Leo is a person you will looooove to hate.  Great read.

51. Amy Snow, Tracy Rees

“Aurelia Vennaway held her breath as she tiptoed from the stuffy parlor and stole along the hallway.”

Amy Snow is an Victorian orphan, found outdoors as an infant on a cold, windy day.  Aurelia Vennaway is her patron - a wealthy and titled eight year old girl who insists that the family take the infant in.  As time passes, Aurelia and Amy become close friends, despite their differences in station, and despite Aurelia’s parents disapproval..  When Aurelia dies, young, Amy is left alone to figure out her place in the world.  But a posthumous letter from Aurelia sets her off on an adventures that eventually changes her life.  This one is a fun quick read. Not great literature, but  if you like your historical fiction on the romantic side you’ll like this. For fans of Georgette Heyer, for sure.

52. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender


“It happened for the first time on a Tuesday afternoon, a warm spring day in the flatlands near Hollywood, a light breeze moving east from the ocean, and stirring the black-eyed pansy petals newly planted in our flower boxes.”

This one has a touch of magical realism.  One day, nine year old Rose Edelstein bites into a lemon cake her mother has made her, and in doing so can taste the emotions her mother had when baking it (SPOILER ALERT - not good emotions).  From then on, every thing she eats gives her insight into the chef - which not only makes her life quite difficult, but leads her to understanding  and exploring family secrets that she’d rather ignore.  The premise is a bit crazy - if you don’t like magical realism you will not like this book (particularly the ending, which I found to be maddening, in a good way).  But if you have the patience for it, it’s a interesting tale of a young girl growing up and finding, eventually a place in the world.  And if you are a sucker for family stories (as I am), you’ll enjoy it as well.

53. The Other Daughter, Lauren Willig

“‘Can we go look, can we go look, can we go look?' Eight-year-old Amelie tuggest at Rachel’s hand, pulling her towards the stairs.”

This was my favorite of the four, by far.  Rachel has been raised in genteel poverty by her mother.  While working in France as a governess she learns that her mother has died - and at the same time learns that her father, who she believed died when she was young, is in fact alive, an earl, and married with another family (hence the title).  This rocks Rachel to her core - and she decides to do something about it - to infiltrate society and learn more about her secret family.  Ooooooh, this was so good and juicy! Family secrets, high society in Britain, lords and ladies, people getting their comeuppances.  And, of course, learning at the end that all was more complicated than it seemed.  SUCH a fun read if you like this sort of book.  Loved it. 

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017