Red Wheelbarrow Book Reviews

Renee Abigail Penelope Harold Meg

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Renée's Reviews




Night Train to Lisbon

by Pascal Mercier

A pedantic scholar of Classics suddenly has a slightly mad impulse to go to Lisbon in search of an enigmatic portuguese aristocrat whose book he had discovered in a second hand bookshop...Read the review

The Worst Thing I've Done

by Ursula Hegi

Annie, Mason and Jake live in a complicated web of relationships part erotic, part platonic, always in flux, always filled with excitement, passion, desire, envy and rage...Read the review

Diary of a Bad Year

by J.M. Coetzee

JC is a seventy-two year old man, living in Australia, contributing chapters to a commissioned book of essays called Strong Opinions. Essentially all the opinions expressed deal with power, the meaning of power and of its immoral uses in our world...This will become a classic. This is a book you will want to re-read, to own and to give to other thoughtful readers... Read the review


by Philip Roth

[Roth] tells the story of Zuckermann who, after eleven years as recluse in the Berkshires, after prostate cancer and a resulting permanent state of incontinence and impotence, takes a journey back to Manhattan for minor surgery to try to improve his state only to find that, once more, he is trapped... Read the review


by John Updike

Updike...this time around takes on terrorism, Islam and a young man thoroughly repelled by what he sees around him as his options in a society gone astray... Read the review

The Sea Lady

by Margaret Drabble

I have always liked Margaret Drabble’s work. She has a way of bringing you into the time and place that is so perfectly right on. You are wherever she wishes to place you or, in this case, you travel the decades of the fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties in a way that allows me at least, to review each period with perfect recognition... Read the review


by Ann Patchett

You pick up the book and you stay with it even though it is freezing cold, there is deep snow all over Boston, the cars are stuck, taxis won’t come and immediately you are taken to the scene of the accident... Read the review


by Amy Bloom

Lillian Leyb's family was killed in a particularly grim pogrom in Turov, Russia in the 1920's, but Lillian herself manages to escape and arrive in New York City thanks to an address someone had given her of an aunt who would, presumably, take her in... Read the review

The Woman in the Fifth

by Douglas Kennedy

“A book you can’t put down”, “A page turner” and on and on. Indeed, a true thriller beautifully, skillfully written and observed. A master craftsman who gets all the detail just right... Read the review

A Thousand Splendid Suns

by Khaled Hosseini

The author of the Kite Runner has written his second novel. I had loved that book: a beautifully written modern, moral tale of vast political and personal scope. The new novel is equally a political story, but played out over thirty years of Afghanistan history.. Read the review

Measuring the World

by Daniel Kehlmann
This book also get a thumbs up from Abigail!

This is the book to enjoy. This book will make you laugh out loud, will provide substance for intelligent conversation and will teach you to appreciate the end of the eighteenth century, give meaning to the term “Intellectual Enlightenment” in Germany... Read the review


by Allegra Goodman

Marion Mendelssohn and Sandy Glass are directors of a cancer research lab in Cambridge, MA in 1985 when the lab still had a great reputation but was seriously low on funds. Money, or rather the lack of it, is behind the drama unfolding before us... Read the review


by Abdulrazak Gurnah

This is a novel about identity and displacement. We are in colonial Africa, Zanzibar in 1899 when the country was under part British, part Ottoman rule. We are introduced to the story of Hassanali, a shopkeeper of mixed Indian and African descent who stumbles on a severely injured European... Read the review

Another World

by Pat Barker

Pat Barker, author of several novels devoted to the ravages of World War I, has, this time, created a different background but once more uses that terrible war to illustrate its devastation on its actors and on its survivors...A difficult and beautiful book... Read the review

On Chesil Beach

by Ian McEwan

McEwan tells us the agonizing story of Edward and Florence's wedding night, two young, educated virgins who lived at a time when sex was not a topic of conversation, when manners were more prudish and young people were not yet sophisticated and experienced before marriage... Read the review


by Juliet Barker
For English/French history enthusiasts!!

This is the story of the battle at Agincourt at which the commanded by Henry V defeated a vastly superior French force...How this army was victorious is the amazing stuff of the second and major part of the book... Read the review

One Way Tickets

by Renée Levine

...I wrote about my life from the perspective of a woman whose family, three generations of them, left home, never to return. Each was issued a one way ticket. All this more or less began in upper Silesia in the middle of the 19th century and it ended, with me, in Paris... Read the review

The Inheritance of Loss

by Kiran Desai
Winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2006

...this is a beautifully written book, wonderfully descriptive of both the land and the people. The mountain, the mists, the river are as important as the people in this tale. The reader feels the smells, the views, the poverty, the isolation of the landscape and yet the deep connection between the worlds described... Read the review

A Spot of Bother

by Mark Haddon

[T]his is a beautiful book, wise and funny, very english in its understatement, extremely tender with its characters, filled with the sort of detail you can never forget... Read the review

The March

by E.L. Doctorow

The march of this novel is that of the the Union army of sixty thousand men led by General William Tecumseh Sherman through the Confederate south across Georgia and through the Carolinas...All of this fierce military action is largely background to evolving personal stories...I found it beautifully conceived and written and deeply revealing of a particularly ugly part of the American Civil War... Read the review

Palliser novels

by Anthony Trollope

[For] any of you who are interested in democratic political systems and above all in parliamentary government, these books are a wonder and a delight...dip into the nineteenth century and discover the mirror replay of our times... Read the review


by Leila Aboulela

[T]he story of Najwa, a young Sudanese girl from a rich family, brought up in Khartoum during the 1980s. She is part of a western elite of Muslims who attend the university, live in huge houses, six servants, trips abroad, life of ease and luxury... Read the review


by Marilynne Robinson
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

The Rev. Ames is 77 years old and...feels a need to bear witness, to recount the spiritual journey of three generations of fathers and sons, all ministers of the Church. Marilynne Robinson can bring humor to this serious and beautiful book, written in a slow, measured prose reminiscent of the King James version of the bible... Read the review

Beyond Black

by Hilary Mantel

[This is] a book about Alison, a medium by trade who is almost strangled by her own horrible, frightening, devastating and cruel past. Alison has an assistant Colette and a large gallery of ghosts, specters, previous lives who inhabit her space at all time... Read the review

Alentejo Blue

by Monica Ali

Monica Ali has taken a holiday from East London and gone to rural Portugal...You will find yourself among the poor, the drunk, the weird. Among tourists and natives, expats mostly Brits... Read the review


by José Saramago

It is a political nightmare. It is a Costa Gavras movie. It is a thriller with an unhappy ending. It is the political world of today. And it is a sequel to Saramago's previous Blindness... Read the review


by Philip Roth

This book is about dying. The story is simple. It concerns a commercial artist, his two sons from a first marriage who despise their father, his beloved daughter from a second marriage, his older brother whom he has always admired, his parents and finally the third wife and various women he has loved or coveted. It is the story of his loneliness, his messy marriages, his love of his parents and his brother, but above all it is the story of the questioning of the meaning of the life lived... Read the review

Suite Française

by Irene Nemirovsky

I unabashedly loved this book written by a woman, originally from the Ukraine, born in 1903 in Kiev whose rich jewish family fled the Russian Revolution and settled in Paris to start a new life. ... Read the review

Banishing Verona

by Margot Livesey

The reviews of this book have almost all described it as a love story. But that is not true. It is the story of Zeke, a twenty-nine year old man who has Asperger's syndrome and who is trying to live his life...His greatest fear is of change. The struggle to try to live with change is the subject of this beautifully realized novel... Read the review

Maps for Lost Lovers

by Nadeem Aslam

Maps for Lost Lovers is the story of Pakistani immigrants in today's England and offers a sobering view of the difficulties faced by both societies...The story gradually reveals the complexities of a family life built on the absolute fanaticism of Kaukab who insists on strict religious values... Read the review

The Darling

by Russell Banks

[A] serious political history of a woman who has a radical past in the U.S., gets to be a member of the Weathermen, is on the FBI list of dangerous people for, in her case, marginal acts... Hannah Musgrave, the narrator, is the only real person in the book as she sifts through her past, trying to make sense of her life while working on her own organic farm in the Adirondacks... Read the review


by Ian McEwan

Henry Perowne is a neurosurgeon whose mind works with the same acute precision with which he performs his surgery...We see him stand by the window in the cold of a winter morning on the same Saturday in which the largest ever peace rally against the war in Iraq is going to take place... Read the review

The Double

by José Saramago

Like all [Saramago's] fiction, the suspense is almost unbearable. The theme is identity and the resolution leaves you with as many questions as you can possibly bear. The hero of the novel is a slightly depressed history teacher who suffers from irresolution and much personal confusion... Read the review

Seven Types of Ambiguity

by Elliot Perlman

Back to a Victorian novel of exploration, this is the story of a man obsessed by love. It contains psychodrama, social critique of the world of obsessive consumerism, courtroom scenes of high tension, all brimming over with moral and emotional dilemmas... Read the review


by Sybille Bedford

This is a book for people like me who love the literary gossip of the sophisticated Anglo-French during the twenties and thirties in France, Italy and England. They are all there with wives or husbands and or lovers... Read the review

Dog Heart

by Breyten Breytenbach

Not a coherent book, this consists of a series of chapters, without much order, which give an impressionistic as well as occasionally surrealistic view of life in South Africa after Apartheid... Read the review

One Tongue Singing

by Susan Mann
Vintage UK paperback

This is the book to read either before or after Breyten Breytenbach’s Dog Heart. It fills in the emotional lacunae left by that author. Mann is part of the rainbow generation of writers after the end of Apartheid in 94... Read the review

The Plot Against America

by Philip Roth
Vintage UK, paperback

I loved Philip Roth's Plot Against America. He does all the things there that he knows how to do best: He takes a place and a time which are his own and describes the community which was his own and then he mixes in his political values. Fascist America is not so unlikely any more. Lindbergh as President didn't happen. Roosevelt was re-elected, but where is the U.S. now? Many people are afraid of what they are currently seeing and Roth is perhaps a guide for those who are afraid of such a possibility.

The Translator

by Leila Aboulela
Polygon paperback

Leila Aboulela has a new book out now. I just finished reading The Translator, now in paperback, which brought me in touch with a woman whose faith in Islam is serious and essential to her existence. But her life is in a university setting in Aberdeen. The author portrays with great sensitivity a credible conflict between love and faith in our western world. I recommend the book highly.

Humboldt's Gift

by Saul Bellow
Penguin paperback

I felt embarrassed that I had read Saul Bellow so long ago and could no longer remember him. Now he is dead and I re-read Henderson the Rain King and must confess that I was bored by it. The humor no longer worked for me, but his more serious fiction is as good as ever. Try any.

Daniel Deronda

by George Eliot
Penguin paperback

And now for the best: Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. I had forgotten how marvelous it is to be in the 19th century where words mattered, where detail was of essence, where fiction dealt with human development. Here reading is slow and needs to be savored. This is not for the metro or the waiting room. You need time for real pleasure. You need time to discover the plot, the slow untangling of the mystery: Who is Daniel? What is the meaning of an "English gentleman"? Why is Gwendolen attracted to Daniel? But you could read any 19th-century English novel over the slow summer and have the same delight that I had with this book.


Them: A Memoir of Parents

by Francine Du Plessix Gray

The author tells the story of her mother, Tatiana, a glamorous blonde who arrived in Paris in the 1920s along with many other Russian emigrés...The book is full of names of those who were considered glamorous and famous in the art and magazine world...Eventually you get to find out that behind the glamor is much unhappiness... Read the review

The Story of a Life

by Aharon Appelfeld

The author is one of Israel's most distinguished writers from the refugee generation and with this book he tells his tale...Language, place and family play the central roles of this story which is the story of a boy born in 1932 whose mother was killed early on by the Nazis, he and his father were sent into the ghetto. The boy escaped to survive by hiding in the Ukrainian forests, eating and sleeping where ever his flight took him until he was rescued, at the end of the war, to continue a life in the camps set up for the survivors... Read the review

The Orientalist

by Tom Reiss

If you have often wished you knew where Baku is situated, if the Caspian and the Black Sea are only vaguely on your map, if Azerbaijan sounds romantic and you wonder why Montenegro wants to get its independence from Serbia, why the Turks refuse to admit to their genocide of the Armenians, if those are questions that are of interest to you, read The Orientalist...The book takes you on a most exotic journey from Baku, birthplace of Lev in 1905 across Azerbaijan to Ottoman Turkey, via the Caucasus to Austria, Berlin, Paris and finally to the site of his death in Positano, Italy in 1942... Read the review


by Hazel Rowley

It is the story of the marketing of two people by themselves to exploit their relationship to be admired and made famous. That was their talent...Chapeau... Read the review

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