Welcome to Jane's recommendations! Jane's life long passion for reading has blossomed into over 20 years of bookselling! As a bookseller, Jane's best moments, are helping readers connect with an unclaimed literary treasure that either will be perfect for book club reading, or will just fit the right occasion for a child's special event, or will perhaps be a title that a reader recommends to her, which, of course, she loves all things British! And lives by the words of Cicero: "A room without books is like a body without a soul."
Check out what Jane has been reading below!
Who has not passed by their childhood home and "scrolled through the years,” recalling impressions that bring to mind the universal questions of family identity, complete with its losses, forgiveness, hope, and love? An intimate journey into the heart of the Conroy family, whose dream it is to live the perfect life in a suburban Philadelphia mansion, Dutch House, is shaken when Mrs. Conroy abandons her husband and children, 10-year-old Maeve and 3-year-old Danny. Layering the past with the present over five decades and three generations, readers will come to care for this family, recognizing that the powerful grip that connects them to the Dutch House has the pull to not only divide them but to also unite them. This is Ann Patchett at her brilliantly insightful best. Destined to be my favorite read of 2019!
The harshness of World War I's Eastern Front serves as the backdrop for the story of an all consuming love between a young Austrian medical student assigned to an isolated church-turned-field-hospital in the frozen Carpathian Mountains and a young convent nurse who is the only trained medical person remaining after the doctors have deserted their post. Treating patients with only the most basic of medical equipment and procedures, Lucius and Sister Margarete come to depend on each other and an attraction begins. The arrival of the 'winter soldier,' a mostly catatonic, severely shell shocked patient without any visible sign of physical trauma changes the focus of the story. In his desperation to treat the patient, Lucius makes a decision that will freeze him into an emotional 'winter' of his own, costing him all that matters most deeply. A well researched and vividly constructed story, Daniel Mason writes an insightful and moving addition to the literature of the Great War that readers who value historical fiction will long remember. Surely one of my favorite reads of 2018!
Set in London during the Blitz, depicting both heartrending scenes of nightly bombing raids and heartwarming portraits of indomitable wartime friendships, this is the story of young, idealistic Emmeline Lake, who aspires to become a Lady War Correspondent. Encouraged by her best friend Bunty, Emmeline accepts a job in journalism only to be assigned as a junior typist at Woman’s Friend magazine to the demanding advice columnist, Mrs.Henrietta Bird, who ignores any women’s letters of “Unpleasantness” topics. Sympathetic to “The Confused’ and “In A Muddle” letters from women writing for help, Emmeline secretly sends replies and signs the name of her boss. Will Emmeline’s misplaced benevolence be offset by her consoling offer of hope at a time when the stiff upper lip of the British is beginning to twitch? For those readers who loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, this is your next read. Perfectly capturing the moments of normalcy amid wartime chaos for the women left behind, this is a debut novel that will touch every reader’s heart. WELL DONE YOU, AJ Pearce!
Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
A Russian aristocrat, living under Bolshevik rule, is on trial for subversive writings and is sentenced to live out his life under house arrest. Moving from a luxurious apartment in Moscow's Hotel Metropol, Count Alexander Rostov is forced to live in a 100 sq foot attic room of the hotel, knowing that if he leaves the building he will be shot. Over the next 30 years, as Rostov moves within the confines of the hotel, he encounters a vibrant cast of characters, that will lead him to live a more expansive life than he could have imagined despite his reduced circumstances. Richly atmospheric, masterfully plotted and elegantly written, this is a story to be savored! It was my favorite book of 2016!
Stephen, an 18 year old Chinese art student, suffering from tuberculosis is sent to his family's Japanese summer home to rest and recuperate. He is under the watchful care of the family's master gardener, Matsu, a man who embodies the chivalrous soul of the samurai tradition, finding beauty and kindness in a cruel world under threat by political unrest. Stephen not only regains his physical strength, but becomes all the more self-assured under the gentle care of Matsu's profoundly wise and spiritual insights. Gracefully poetic writing and beautifully evocative storytelling, this is one of my all-time favorite books that becomes all the more meaningful with every re-reading. To be cherished!
Beautifully written story contrasting the beauty of the South African landscape against the harsh reality of 1976-77 apartheid. With the alternating voices of a black mother in search of her daughter who has vanished during a student uprising and a nine year old white girl orphaned by the death of her parents, Bianca Marais's book 'hums' a poignantly emotional song of familial hope.
Set against the backdrop of post Civil War Texas, war veteran turned itinerant news reader, Captain Kidd, makes his living going from one remote town to another, reading out-of-town newspapers in public halls informing his audience about what is going on in parts of the world beyond their reach. The last thing he needs to do is escort a 10 year old girl, who was held captive by the Kiowa tribe after her parents were killed in an Indian raid, across Texas to live with her aunt and uncle. Reluctantly, Kidd accepts the challenge and so begins a story of two unlikely souls overcoming not only the physical dangers along the trail, but also the cultural obstacles that Johanna carries within her because she see herself as more Kiowa than white. Bonding throughout the journey, by novel's end Johanna refers to Kidd as her "Keh-pan" which is the Kiowa word for "grandfather." This is a heartwarming story that well deserves recognition as a finalist for the National Book Award.
Spanning the decades from 1939-1959, the lives of three women of different nationalites intersect and follow the course of World War II and beyond. Young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, ambitious to secure a position in medicine, is assigned to 'treat' the inmates of Ravensbruck concentration camp. Polish teen, Kasis Kuzmerick, courier in the underground resistance movement, is arrested and sentenced for 'reeducation' at Ravensbruck.
American socialite Caroline Ferriday, volunteer for the French consulate in New York, generously works to secure care packages for the orphans of war. Once Hitler invades Poland and Ms. Ferriday learns the plight of Ravensbruck's women prisoners, she tirelessly re-dedicates her efforts to their rescue. Told in the alternating voices of Herta, Kasis and Caroline, this is a story of not only incredible suffering and loss, but also of ultimate freedom and second chances. Based on the actual life of Caroline Ferriday, as extensively researched by the author, readers will be touched by this extraordinary story of women who symbolize the lilacs that survive the hardships of winter only to bloom again in the spring. Historical fiction at its best!
The tranquility of the 1914 British summer gives way to escalating tension as the echoes of war on the continent begin to reach the Sussex coastal town of Rye. More immediately to the townspeople is the crisis of who will fill the position of the school's Latin teacher. Societal tension ensues when a very qualified applicant arrives in town on a bicycle and it's a woman! Beatrice Nash, an independent woman, highly educated and widely traveled, is in need of a job and she becomes the center of controversy. Supported by the eccentric Agatha Kent, the town's progressive voice of change, Beatrice rents a cottage and sets up a classroom on her own. Yet, when war breaks out, the citizens of Rye pull together as their dreams and ambitions change in the face of patriotic duty. Written with the same wise and witty attention to period detail that Simonson gave her debut bestseller, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, readers will not be disappointed in this engaging portrayal of a world destined to be forever changed.
"Reimagined slice-of-Thomas Hardy-life focusing on the complicated relationship with his obsessive second wife and the ingénue actress portraying Hardy's most infamous heroine 'Tess.' Creatively curious and illuminating novel that will send readers back to the Hardy'esque landscape titles on their bookshelves!" --Jane
"Set along Cornwall's winding coast, Loeanneth, the lake house estate of Eleanor and Anthony Edevane and their four children, holds the answer to the mysterious 1933 disappearance of the youngest child, Theo, during the family's annual Midsummer Eve party Devastated, the Edevanes abandon their beloved lake house and live their remaining years in London. Seventy years later, Alice Edevane, Theo's sister and successful writer of suspense novels, realizes that she can no longer escape the inexplicable secrets of her family's shattered past. Momentum gathers when London Sgt. Det. Sadie Sparrow, on administrative leave, retreats to her grandfather's house in Cornwall and discovers an overgrown path leading to the neglected Loeanneth. Gradually, she unravels the tangled threads of the Edevane's multigenerational fabric of betrayal and deception, challenging everything Alice has ever known about her family ties. With each long-held secret exposed and the realization of harm heedlessly inflicted, the plot-ending twist's revelation of the final truth will completely intrigue readers. This is author Kate Morton at her best with masterful storytelling to be savored on lingering warm summer days or during long chilly winter nights!" --Jane
"Parisian bookseller, Jean Perdu, is proprietor of the Literary Apothecary bookshop, housed in a converted barge on the Seine. He believes that the selection of just the right book is the remedy to mend the broken hearts of his patrons -- recommends Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog as an effective cure for "if such-and-such-happens-isms," George Orwell's 1984 to curtail gullibility and apathy, Elizabeth von Arnim's Enchanted April to overcome indecision, etc. Jean, however, is unable to cure through literature the heartbreak he suffers from losing his true love, Manon, who suddenly left 20 years ago, leaving behind a letter that Jean has never opened. Friendships with Max, a bestselling author going through writer's block, and Catherine, a woman displaced by an abusive relationship, prompt Jean to finally read Manon's letter. Inspired to resolve his relationship with Manon, Jean, along with Max, lifts anchor and steers the Literary Apothecary south on the waterways of France to Provence. Jean's quest will take him into the quaint riverfront villages where he sells books for food and encounters an unpredictable cast of characters, all confirming his belief in the transformative power of reading. A captivatingly beautiful story of a man's quixotic literary journey from loss and grief into new friendships and unsinkable optimism. C'est le livre pour les amateurs de livres! This is the book for booklovers!" --Jane
"Resonating from remnants of the author's own curious life, this is the elegant story of an eccentric group of barge dwellers moored on the shore of the Thames at Battersea, London. Prompted by a leak on the Dreadnaught barge just as it is going up for sale, readers come to realize how fully this community, who live neither on land nor sea, are anchored to each other in friendship and self sacrifice. Winner of the 1979 Man Booker Prize, and reprinted to coincide with the recent highly acclaimed Fitzgerald biography by Hermione Lee, this is a literary gem of the 20th century that is an endlessly yielding reading experience!" --Jane
"Living in a small insulated 1970's Irish town, a recently widowed 40'ish mother of four attempts to reshape her life, despite the best intentions of family and friends who consistently involve themselves in this effort. Facing the decisions to sell the beloved family summer house and to reluctantly return to her previous employment, Nora's journey toward widowhood, concurrently caring for her 2 younger children and working through her own grief. Ultimately, it is in accepting an invitation to audition for an opening in a semi-professional choral group that Nora slowly awakens from being an object of pity to finding, both literally and metaphorically, her own lyrically pitch-perfect voice. Authored by a master of the written word, readers will be inspired by this sensitively drawn portrait of a woman who finds renewed confidence and peace. This I an unforgettable reading experience!" --Jane
"I love books about books and this beautiful story is about how a small dying Midwestern town is regenerated with the arrival of Swedish bookseller, Sara Lindqvist, who has come to meet her bookloving pen pal, Amy Harris, only to find out that she has died. The townspeople of Broken Wheel, Iowa, in mourning for their beloved Amy, invite Sara to live in Amy's house. Rewarding this hospitality and honoring Amy's memory, Sara opens a bookshop, inventoried with Amy's vast collection of books. As Sara is determined that everyone who lives in Broken Wheel will be matched with just the right book, this community of diverse and engaging characters come to know the transformative power of living between the pages of books...and beyond! This is an inspiringly perceptive and heartwarming ode to reading that booklovers and book clubs will want to add to their list of favorites." --Jane
"Set against the social fabric of 1970's small town Ohio, this is a complex portrait of a Chinese American family living through the tragic death of their beloved 16-year-old daughter. As parents and siblings search for truth, they face coming to terms with the regret of 'never' honestly sharing their unrealistic ambitions for and deep resentments of each other. Is it too late for this shattered family to repair itself if they are willing to pick up the pieces? Beautifully written debut novel, with exceptionally moving character development that will provoke a variety of reader reactions. Perfect book club reading!" --Jane
This is a compassionately portrayed story of a young woman born with a rare genital disorder that renders her incapable of fulfilling the early 20th century feminine roles of marriage and motherhood. Though her parents are unable to fully cope with their daughter's condition, it is the steadfastly kind support of the doctor who delivered her that results in giving Jane the strength and freedom she needs to accept her limitations and choose the life she is meant to live. Inspired by the true story of the author's maternal great aunt, Miss Jane is an unforgettable literary heroine whose vivid sense of wonder, undaunted trust and generous love is the essence of this brilliantly written novel.
What happens to one blue collar African American family living in Detroit when their elderly widowed mother moves in with her oldest son and a decision must be made about what to do with the family's abandoned run-down home? The 2008 recession has hit and the house on Yarrow Street where Francis and Viola Turner raised their thirteen children since migrating from Arkansas in the 1940's has now depreciated to one-tenth of its mortgage value. As the adult children, scattered and living their separate lives, emphatically begin to voice individual opinions, told primarily by the oldest and youngest siblings, the complex family dynamics of shared memories and haunting divisive secrets will emerge. In this perceptive portrait of a family facing undetermined changes among themselves as well as that caused by the politics of the city where they live, it is the hopeful matriarchal wisdom of Viola that will ultimately define the true meaning of ‘family’ and capture the heart of every reader. I loved meeting the Turners!
"Published in 1929, this under-read American classic by one of the best Harlem Renaissance women writers depicts the life relationship of two friends of mixed-blood ancestry. Initially meeting in Chicago and reuniting years later in New York City, Irene remains close to her Harlem community while Clare has chosen to 'pass' for white. Consequences of both women's decisions come to an unexpected conclusion in the plot's ambiguous ending that continues to be the subject of endless discussions. Don't miss this profoundly moving novella that resonates with today's social scene!" --Jane
I am so impressed with the research and detail that author Bill Goldstein put into The World Broke in Two that I feel as though I've been transported back to 1922 on a literary journey where I'm sitting at a roundtable discussion with Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, T.S. Eliot and D.H. Lawrence as they share the intense struggles they're having in trying to break out of writer's ‘inanition’ and meet the war weary readership whose world has been changed forever. This is an engaging and enlightening view into the birth of modernism in literature and is the best nonfiction I've read this year.
Whether living in anticipation of becoming grandmother, experiencing it for the first time, or surviving as a veteran grandmother multiple times over, readers will be amused by the wit and insightful wisdom that prevails throughout this gem of a book. Quindlen shares her experiences since grand-baby Arthur arrived and expands beyond that moment to reflectively look at how grandparenting has changed over the years. Well done Nana Quindlen!
I love house stories. I’m fascinated by how the family dynamics shift in connection to the house site: how a family can have different reactions to a primary and secondary residence, and how social class can impact that perception; how succeeding generations create, disrupt, and restore; how proximity can affect intimacy and vice versa; and how a planner and a non-planner can come to loggerheads over important family decisions. The Second Home, Christina Clancy's heartfelt new novel, raises so many ideas in a book that’s positioned for summer escapism, making it perhaps the perfect book for reading group discussions. How can you not think about when Avery says, ‘I wish we could, like, sew our arms together’ and not think that this is what Edward and Connie wished for their family... as do all parents for their family!