Book Clubbers (01/07/2021): The Last Collection

The Last Collection (cover)

The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin

An American woman becomes entangled in the intense rivalry between iconic fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in this vivid novel from the acclaimed author of The Beautiful American.
Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli are fighting for recognition as the most successful and influential fashion designer in France, and their rivalry is already legendary. They oppose each other at every turn, in both their politics and their designs: Chanel’s are classic, elegant, and practical; Schiaparelli’s bold, experimental, and surreal.
When Lily Sutter, a recently widowed American teacher, travels to Paris to visit her brother, Charlie, he insists on buying her a couture dress for her birthday—a Chanel. Lily reluctantly agrees but wants a Schiaparelli, not a Chanel. Charlie’s beautiful and socially prominent girlfriend begins wearing Schiaparelli’s designs as well, and soon much of Paris is following in her footsteps.
Schiaparelli offers budding artist Lily a job at her store, and suddenly, Lily finds herself increasingly involved with Schiaparelli and Chanel’s personal war. Their fierce competition reaches new and dangerous heights as the Nazis and the looming threat of World War II bear down on Paris.


Next Meeting:
January 7th @ 7:00 PM at Virtual Library

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Book Clubbers (12/03/2020): The Paragon Hotel

The Paragon Hotel (cover)

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

A gun moll with a knack for disappearing flees from Prohibition-era Harlem to Portland’s Paragon Hotel.

The year is 1921, and “Nobody” Alice James has just arrived in Oregon with a bullet wound, a lifetime’s experience battling the New York Mafia, and fifty thousand dollars in illicit cash. She befriends Max, a black Pullman porter who reminds her achingly of home and who saves Alice by leading her to the Paragon Hotel. But her unlikely sanctuary turns out to be an all-black hotel in a Jim Crow city, and its lodgers seem unduly terrified of a white woman on the premises.

As she meets the churlish Dr. Pendleton, the stately Mavereen, and the club chanteuse Blossom Fontaine, she understands their dread. The Ku Klux Klan has arrived in Portland in fearful numbers—burning crosses, electing officials, infiltrating newspapers, and brutalizing blacks. And only Alice and her new Paragon “family” are searching for a missing mulatto child who has mysteriously vanished into the woods. To untangle the web of lies and misdeeds around her, Alice will have to answer for her own past, too.

A richly imagined novel starring two indomitable heroines, The Paragon Hotel at once plumbs the darkest parts of America’s past and the most redemptive facets of humanity. From international-bestselling, multi-award-nominated writer Lyndsay Faye, it’s a masterwork of historical suspense.


Next Meeting:
December 3rd @ 7:00 PM at Virtual Library

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Book Clubbers (11/05/2020): The Gown

The Gown (cover)

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

From the internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France comes an enthralling historical novel about one of the most famous wedding dresses of the twentieth century—Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown—and the fascinating women who made it.
“Millions will welcome this joyous event as a flash of color on the long road we have to travel.”
—Sir Winston Churchill on the news of Princess Elizabeth’s forthcoming wedding
London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.
Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?
With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.


Next Meeting:
November 5th @ 7:00 PM at Virtual Library

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Book Clubbers (10/01/2020): Good Omens

Good Omens (cover)

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

The world will end on Saturday. Next Saturday. Just before dinner, according to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies written in 1655. The armies of Good and Evil are amassing and everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except that a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist.


Next Meeting:
October 1st @ 7:00 PM at Virtual Library

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Book Clubbers (09/03/2020): Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows (cover)

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Nikki lives in West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community, preferring a more independent life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a ‘creative writing’ course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community. Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected, and exciting, kind.


Next Meeting:
September 3rd @ 7:00 PM at Virtual Library

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Book Clubbers (08/06/2020): Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy (cover)

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy by Anne Boyd Rioux

The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters

Since its publication on September 30, 1868, Little Women has been one of America’s favorite stories. While we now think of it as a girls’ book, it was initially read by both boys and girls, men and women of all ages. Professor Anne Boyd Rioux, who read it in her twenties, tells us how Louisa May Alcott came to write the book and drew inspiration for her story from her own life. Its Civil War-era tale of family and community ties resonated through later wars, the Depression, and times of changing opportunities for women, even into the twenty-first century. Rioux sees the novel’s beating heart in its honest look at adolescence and its inspiring vision of young women’s resilience and hope. In gauging its reception today, she shows why it remains a book with such power that people carry its characters and spirit throughout their lives.


Next Meeting:
August 6th @ 7:00 PM at Virtual Library

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Book Clubbers (07/02/2020): The Weight of a Piano

The Weight of a Piano (cover)

The Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander

In 1962, in the Soviet Union, eight-year-old Katya is bequeathed what will become the love of her life: a Blüthner piano, on which she discovers an enrichening passion for music. Yet after she marries, her husband insists the family emigrate to America—and loses her piano in the process.
In 2012, in Bakersfield, California, twenty-six-year-old Clara Lundy is burdened by the last gift her father gave her before he and her mother died in a terrible house fire: a Blüthner upright she has never learned to play. Now a talented and independent auto mechanic, Clara’s career is put on hold when she breaks her hand trying to move the piano, and in sudden frustration she decides to sell it. Only in discovering the identity of the buyer—and the secret history of her piano—will Clara be set free to live the life of her choosing.


Next Meeting:
July 2nd @ 7:00 PM at Virtual Library

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Book Clubbers (06/04/2020): Southern Lady Code

Southern Lady Code (cover)

Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis

Helen Ellis has a mantra: “If you don’t have something nice to say, say something not-so-nice in a nice way.” Say “weathered” instead of “she looks like a cake left out in the rain.” Say “early-developed” instead of “brace face and B cups.” And for the love of Coke Salad, always say “Sorry you saw something that offended you” instead of “Get that stick out of your butt, Miss Prissy Pants.” In these twenty-three raucous essays Ellis transforms herself into a dominatrix Donna Reed to save her marriage, inadvertently steals a $795 Burberry trench coat, witnesses a man fake his own death at a party, avoids a neck lift, and finds a black-tie gown that gives her the confidence of a drag queen. While she may have left her home in Alabama, married a New Yorker, forgotten how to drive, and abandoned the puffy headbands of her youth, Helen Ellis is clinging to her Southern accent like mayonnaise to white bread, and offering readers a hilarious, completely singular view on womanhood for both sides of the Mason-Dixon.


Next Meeting:
June 4th @ 7:00 PM at Virtual Library

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Book Clubbers (08/01/2019): Still Life With Monkey

Still Life With Monkey (cover)

Still Life With Monkey by Katharine Weber

Duncan Wheeler is a successful architect who savors the quotidian pleasures in life until a car accident leaves him severely paralyzed and haunted by the death of his young assistant. Now, Duncan isn’t sure what there is left to live for, when every day has become “a broken series of unsuccessful gestures.”

Duncan and his wife, Laura, find themselves in conflict as Duncan’s will to live falters. Laura grows desperate to help him. An art conservator who has her own relationship to the repair of broken things, Laura brings home a highly trained helper monkey―a tufted capuchin named Ottoline―to assist Duncan with basic tasks. Duncan and Laura fall for this sweet, comical, Nutella-gobbling little creature, and Duncan’s life appears to become more tolerable, fuller, and funnier. Yet the question persists: Is it enough?


Next Meeting:
August 1st @ 7:00 PM at Harnish Library

Book Clubbers (07/11/2019): Dear Mrs. Bird

Dear Mrs. Bird (cover)

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce

Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty are doing their bit for the war effort and trying to stay cheerful, despite the German planes making their nightly raids. Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent, and when she spots a job advertisement in the newspaper she seizes her chance; but after a rather unfortunate misunderstanding, she finds herself typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird, renowned advice columnist of Woman’s Friend magazine.

Mrs. Bird is very clear: letters containing any Unpleasantness must go straight into the bin. But as Emmy reads the desperate pleas from women who many have Gone Too Far with the wrong man, or can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she begins to secretly write back to the readers who have poured out their troubles.


Next Meeting:
July 11th @ 7:00 PM at Harnish Library