An Eclectic Mailbox Monday (With a Give-Away Opportunity)

First up is one I eagerly anticipate reading the most: Freya by Anthony Quinn sent to me by Europa Editions. Have I read one book from them which hasn’t been stellar? No.

“The novel’s brilliantly realized characters, especially the vivid, maddening Freya, will live on long after the final line of this fine novel. Quinn has written an immersive story of female friendship and the self-discoveries that reveal the mysteries and delights of the heart.”

Up next is Peregrine Island by Diane Saxton, sent to me by She Writes Press. The author has been a journalist for Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, and Greenwich Review. Her novel “interweaves the stories of three generations of women, one valuable painting, the artist who created it, and those who would do anything to possess it.” It has been named:

2017 Winner of the National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Fiction: Northeast

2017 Distinguished Favorite in Literary Fiction by Independent Press Awards

2017 International Book Awards Finalist for Literary Fiction

2017 National Indie Excellence Award Finalist for Fiction

Then we have a Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, a novel I have never read despite calling myself literary. (And, having thoroughly enjoyed the presentation of it by PBS many, many years ago.) There will be a give-away of this fine book as soon as I read it, but if you would like to throw your name in the hat for a chance right now, feel free. The sooner, the better, as Penguin awaits a winner.

Finally, there is a Cuban Noir Novel sent to me by Akashic Books; its title is Havana Libre by Robert Arellano. This novel is a follow up to Havana Lunar which was a finalist for the 2010 Edgar Award. It follows Dr. Mano Rodriguez as he takes an undercover assignment to the most dangerous city in Latin America: Miami.

So there is the broad array of books from which I love to read, varying from friendships to mystery, children’s stories to crime, they all hold a certain appeal. Are there any which call particularly to you?

Find more books which arrived in other mailboxes at Mailbox Monday.

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A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles (and Give-Away)

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That sense of loss is exactly what we must anticipate, prepare for, and cherish to the last of our days; for it is only our heartbreak that finally refutes all that is ephemeral in love.

I can hardly describe the pleasure A Gentleman In Moscow  gave me. For once, the wealthy aristocrat is not the villain. Although there are plenty of people in 1920 Russia who would consider him one, to the reader he is a hero.

Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov was in Paris when the Hermitage fell, and returned after the Revolution. While we learn slowly of his story, we are under house arrest with him at the Metropol, the fine hotel in which he lives, for the authorities have forbidden him ever to leave lest he is shot.

How can one live in a hotel, no matter how extravagant it may be? Surely the rubles hidden in the legs of his grandfather’s table can afford him the luxuries to which he had become accustomed. But, life in Moscow passes him by as the streets and parks change without him ever seeing it first hand.

When actress Anna Urbanova falls from grace, after Stalin’s disapproval that the films she stars in refer too grandly to “waltzing and candlelight and marble stairs”, in other words nostalgically looking at times gone by, she and the Count unwittingly join the Confederacy of the Humbled.

Like the Freemasons, the Confederacy of the Humbled is a close-knit brotherhood whose members travel with no outward markings, but who know each other at a glance. For having fallen suddenly from grace, those in the Confedarcy share a certain perspective. Knowing beauty, influence, fame, and privilege to be borrowed rather than bestowed, they are not easily impressed. They are not quick to envy or take offense. They certainly do not scour the papers in search of their own names. They remain committed to living among their peers, but they greet adulation with caution, ambition with sympathy, and condensation with an  inward smile.

One day, the Count is paid an unexpected visit by a man named Osip Ivanovich Glebnikov, former colonel of the Red Army and an officer of the Party, who wishes to learn the Count’s secrets of being a gentleman. To develop certain diplomatic skills, for he has noticed that the Count is not reconciled to his position. Rather, he is resigned to it, with grace and style.

But these two characters are not my favorite. No, I am enchanted with Nina, the child whom the Count befriends, and with whom he plays, in the lobby of the hotel. Then suddenly Nina is grown up, and she comes back to leave her daughter Sofia with the Count. This little girl is now in his charge. She sleeps in his room on a mattress hoisted above his with cans of tomatoes stacked on top of each other. She invents a game with him called Zut (after the French phrase, “Zut alors!”) which is the only thing one can exclaim when one has run out of answers. They are utterly beautiful to read about, as Sofia grows up, and their relationship grows with them.

This novel is about Russia, and politics, and the time period from 1922 to 1954. But, it is mostly about the Count, and his friends, and life lessons seen from the interior of one hotel which somehow seems to encompass the whole world.

“I’ll tell you what is convenient,” he said after a moment. “To sleep until noon and have someone bring you your breakfast on a tray. To cancel an appointment at the very last minute. To keep a carriage waiting at the door of one party, so that on a moment’s notice it can whisk you away to another. To sidestep marriage in your youth and put off having children altogether. These are the greatest of conveniences, Anushka-and at one time, I had them all. But in the end, it has been the inconveniences that have mattered to me most.”

The publishers have granted me one copy to give-away, to a U.S. address only please, so if you wish to enter the drawing please mention it in a comment below. A winner will be drawn one week from today.

 

Thank you to all who entered! The winner of A Gentleman in Moscow provided by Penguin is Lesley of Prairie Horizons. Congratulations, Les!