More unreviewed books from Borie: Part 2

Continuing my series of great books I couldn’t graduate without reviewing, I have a few more selections for your enjoyment.

“Fall on Your Knees” by Ann-Marie MacDonald was inducted into Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club in 2002. This novel is a complex family drama spanning four generations of the troubled Piper family in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. James Piper falls in love with 13-year-old Materia Mahmoud and elopes with her despite her family’s disapproval. They have a string of daughters, the oldest of whom, vivacious and beautiful Kathleen, is an aspiring singer and her father’s favorite.

The story is couched in mystery, a nonlinear storyline and shifting points of view, keeping the facts obscured until the final act. Parts of the story are known only by Materia, some are revealed in Kathleen’s diary and still others are revealed years after the deaths of everyone else in the family by Lily, the youngest. Secrets, crimes and race relations are large themes in this novel, which is a tragic examination of human frailty.

“The Brontë Project” by Jennifer Vandever is a fun satire of academia, Hollywood and single culture. This book follows doctoral student Sara Frost as she searches for lost love letters of Charlotte Brontë and deals with the frustrations of daily life at her university after her fiancé leaves her.

Sara, a shy and reserved scholar, is often pitted against flamboyant Claire Vigee, who teaches Diana studies (the feminist study of the life of Princess Diana), and a series of film industry bigwigs who want to use her research to write a movie about Brontë. Humorous and over the top, this is not a perfect novel but it’s worth a read.

“White Oleander” by Janet Fitch is an engrossing and luminous novel. It begins with Astrid’s account of life with her mother, poet Ingrid Magnussen. When Astrid is 12, her mother becomes obsessed with her lover and later murders him. With her mother in prison, Astrid is sent to a series of foster homes where she grows up — at turns abused, neglected and abandoned — all the while trying to make peace with the way her mother treated her.

A deeply emotional novel, “White Oleander” has one of the most absorbing literary voices I’ve encountered in my time as a reader. It is not a book for the easily upset, since it contains many troubling elements that may be disturbing to some.

“One Day” by David Nicholls is a love story following friends Dexter and Emma through their lives. It uses the device of narrating only one day out of every year, July 15. The story line follows Dex and Em through their lives as they make romantic missteps and career choices. Now a film starring Anne Hathaway, this book takes readers on a truly fantastic journey. Be warned, however; any life story inevitably contains death, and the intimate nature of this novel ensures that it is an intense experience.

After a brief break for finals, The Rambler returns for its final issue in May term, where I’ll have my last column, a final list of great reads.


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