Book Report

January 12, 2023

It is only January 10, and I have already read a book that for sure will be on my Favorite Books of 2023 list: The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell.

This is the first book I read in the new year, and it sets the standard high for my reading life this year. (An Aside: The second book was The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles and while it doesn’t surpass The Marriage Portrait, it is good, very good, indeed.)

Lucrezia is a young noble girl in 1550’s Florence, daughter of the grand duke, and she finds herself married to another duke after her older sister dies. She is intelligent, curious, an amazing artist, imaginative, active, not passive, but her role in life is to produce an heir. Her husband shows tenderness and care for her, but…

He bends at the waist and, sliding a hand around her neck, stoops and presses his lips to hers–a brief, emphatic pressure. It reminds her of her father, bringing is seal down on top of a document, marking it as his.

p. 138

The characters are well-developed, as is the setting. The writing is impeccable, and as for the plot, well, I felt my heart race as I read the last few pages.

I have read other books by O’Farrell, including her memoir I Am, I Am, I Am; Seventeen Brushes with Death, and she is a writer who clearly gets better and better with each book. I remember not being excited about reading her 2020 book, Hamnet, which was about Shakespeare’s wife and young son. That was probably because as a decades ago English major and teacher, I read so much Shakespeare, but the book was a gift and all the reviews were excellent, so…. Needless to say, I loved it. Now I think I will add Hamnet to my re-read list.

Now I am reading a fun palate cleanser, Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Rayburn.

An Invitation

What’s your first book of 2023? I would love to know.

19 thoughts on “Book Report

  1. I am reading in the midst of winter by Isabel Allende. I just started it for Book club. My book club is a group of teachers . We all liked Hamnet last year! February is the book Artic Fury because February is the coldest month. Film club this month is exploring the original movie Pinocchio to the new version. I love my book and film clubs

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  2. My first book was Impossible Us by Sarah Lotz. It was fuuny and quirky with a hint of science fiction, but reminded me of Jenny Colgan – a light romance.

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  3. My first book was Lessons by Ian McEwan. It takes place in parallel with the years of my life and was an excellent and thoughtful book to start the new year. The book that was a real favorite of mine in 2022 was Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng. “Some kept a running written list but most, wary, simply trusted to memory. An imperfect system, but the brain of a librarian was a capacious place. ” Also, “Librarians, of all people, understood the value of knowing, even if that information could not yet be used.” My life’s work articulated and used to very great import.

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  4. Solito: A Memoir (Javier Zamora): A 9-year-old boy migrates from El Salvador to “La USA”, mostly alone. This is his story. It is well-written, but IMO could have been a little shorter.

    A Field Guide to Getting Lost (Rebecca Solnit): These essays drift from one topic to the next, at times making me feel lost. Maybe that is the intention. The writing is distinctive; lyrical, reflective, and probing.

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    • I just went to the shelf where I have three books by Solnit, which I have read. A Field Guide to Getting Lost is one of them, and as I held it I could recall often being puzzled. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing and makes me wonder if I should revisit that book. Perhaps instead I should finally read Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness (2014) which awaits me on one of my TBR shelves.

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  5. I’m reading a novel in large print THE BURNING by New York Times bestselling authors JONATHAN and JESSE KELLERMAN:

    ” A raging wildfire. A massive blackout. A wealthy man shot to death in his palatial hilltop home. . . . “

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  6. My first book of 2023 is :The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams. I enjoyed this book although the characters had some tough challenges to deal with as the plot involved difficult twists and turns but also many uplifting moments. I especially enjoyed Mukesh, one of the main characters and his sweet friendship with Aleisha, a young woman working at the local library. The way the reading list is woven into the plot was imaginative and was one of many satisfying elements of the story. I recommend it and was very moved at the end.

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  7. My first read was non-fiction – This is What it Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says about You by Susan Rogers. The premise was good, but it didn’t live up to its hype. Author was too self-centered…I never did find out what the music I love says about me! Too scientific about music and the brain for the general reader, too. (The author and her co-author are scientists.)

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