All branches of the Marin County Free Library will be closed on Monday, September 1 for Labor Day.

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This installment: 3 novels. Technology brings the dead to life (kind of; a contentious relationship between a chaperone and her rebellious charge, set in the ‘20’s; and a British drama in which a subtle, driven woman bags a literary lion.

 

   Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel

What a wiggy idea: since technology's so clever, why not harness it to bring back deceased loved ones in an interactive cyber-simulation that might comfort their grieving relatives. Sam, a techie for an internet matchmaking service, first comes up with a sure-fire dating algorithm which connects him with Meredith (a coworker, as it turns out). But her beloved grandmother dies and Sam recreates her electronically via email, texting, and Sky-ping trails. The concept catches on and spirals into complex, dramatic turns of events. Charming, full of rueful contemporary humor.

   The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

Another period novel, set in the early 1920's. 15 year old Louise Brooks (yes, the film actress) goes to NYC from Wichita to train with the exotic modern dance troupe, Denishawn. She needs a companion and I immediately wondered why Cora, a well fixed matron with handsome husband and college-bound twin sons, signs up so readily. And why she has so much freedom as a married woman of that era. Louise considers Cora a prude and a drag. Cora sees Louise as a spoiled, wanton brat. But it turns out Cora has her own reason for the trip. She's engaged in a search, and we learn how much people are willing to sacrifice to preserve the status quo. The destinies play out with surprising solutions, full of compromise as well as resolution. Absorbing storytelling.

   Alys Always by Harriet Lane

Familiar ingredients found in so many British novels: the literary world, the summer house, the great writer and the quiet, ambitious woman. But this one starts with a bizarre event in the woods: a single car accident and only one witness. Frances has come across dying Alys Flyte, they have a brief exchange of words, and that's what connects her with Alys’ husband Leo and the rest of the family. From there she plots a scheme with great watchfulness and hidden strategy. Usually a novel this gripping has me rooting for the protagonist, but in the case of Frances, I was often ambivalent.  Each finely wrought sentence led me further into the subtle twists of plot and increasing psychological suspense.

 

Back next Monday

 

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Posted by: Neshama

Neshama works at the Fairfax Library.

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