A Box of Darkness: The Story of a Marriage

From Catherine Given
author: Brady, Sally Ryder
A Box of Darkness: The Story of a Marriage
When I heard that this book was in the same vein as Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking”, I had to try it.  The two memoirs share many themes and are equally un-putdown-able.  In recounting the story of the Bradys’ lives, Brady smoothly carries us back and forth from her present-day fear and loneliness as a new widow, through her tumultuous 46-year marriage. Sally Ryder Brady’s intelligence shines through in a straightforward, easy style that rings true.  

As I blazed through A Box of Darkness, I felt that I was spending a weekend with a great new friend.   Like Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, the Brady’s were productive and distinguished writers.  Despite her husband Upton’s increasingly narcissistic and erratic behavior, Sally remains steady and calm.  She’s trapped by her love for a man so self-absorbed that he can only give the family negative attention.   She sticks it out with Brady, whom she calls her “Best Beloved,” but his alcoholism, unexplained disappearances and mercurial moods take a heavy toll. 

As they continue to socialize and conduct business individually and as a couple, they mix with famous people:  bicoastal writers, publishers, actors, producers, and restaurateurs.  Sally’s strength in the face of Brady’s mistreatment is all the more remarkable for her ability to retain her dignity and self-esteem  in these elite circles.

Like so many women of this era, Sally manages her large, active family’s life with vigor and grace, giving her children all she can, thinking little of her own needs.  When Upton dies at 76, she is simply bereft.  Worse, she soon uncovers troubling evidence of a secret life he was leading, and struggles to piece together who her “Best Beloved” really was.

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My life in France

From Charlene Muhr
author: Child, Julia
My life in France
After I watched the movie Julie and Julia, i wanted to know more about Julia Child, so I read My Life in France.  The idea for this book began in 1969, when Paul Child suggested that Julia write a book from the hundreds of letters that they both wrote to Charles Child (Paul’s twin brother) about their years in France.  On November 3, 1948, Paul and Julia arrived at Le Havre, France, aboard the SS America.  Paul would be running the exhibits office for the U.S. Informative Service at the American Embassy in Paris.  Julia couldn’t speak the language, even though she had studied French in school, knew little about the culture, and even less about French cooking.  But Julia was determined to learn about her new home and she came to love it and its people.  She shopped at local markets, became friendly with the merchants, and attempted to learn French cooking from an old fashioned cookbook.  Julia thought she had enrolled in a six-week intensive course at Ecole du Cordon Bleu but she had actually signed up for a year-long Annee Scolaire for $450.  It was here, through the guidance of Chef Bugnard, that Julia fell in love with French food and French cooking. Throughout the book, we learn about Julia’s many accomplishments, from her teaching, her famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, her television show, and her role in bringing classic French cuisine to the American audience.

The Big Short: inside the doomsday machine

From Rita Gross
author: Lewis, Michael
The Big Short: inside the doomsday machine
This book sheds light on the 2007-2008 crash of the real estate markets which resulted in our ongoing financial crisis. The author explains the development of the arcane derivative bonds whose collapse fueled the “great recession.”  He exposes the complicity of the brokerage, banks and ratings organizations that contributed to the fall.  The author follows a group of investors who foresaw the disaster- the “big short” refers to their bet against those derivatives which resulted in billions of dollars in gains for them

Murder in Passy

From Michele Lauer-Bader
author: Black, Cara
titl: Murder in Passy
Aimee Leduc, private investigator, is on the scene when the woman friend of her mentor, Morbier, is murdered. When Morbier becomes the prime suspect it is up to Aimee to find the real killer.  Her investigation uncovers police corruption and a radical Basque terrorist group, the ETA. This mystery takes the reader through the wealthy Parisian neighborhood of Passy which adds richness and fun to the story.

Murder in the Palais Royal

From Michele Lauer-Bader
author: Black, Cara
Murder in the Palais Royal
Aimee Leduc, private investigator, finds herself under suspicion after her partner Rene is shot. Every time she uncovers information that she thinks will clear her, it seems to point even more in her direction. 

Even Rene thinks Aimee may have shot him. This series does a great job of providing Parisian flavor. Aimee is a fashionista (from the second hand shops) and that only adds to her charm. This is the second book I have read in the series and they only get better.

The widower’s tale

From Michele Lauer-Bader
author: Glass, Julia
The widower’s tale
Julia Glass’ characters come alive in The Widower’s Tale. Percy Darling, recently retired, finds his life disrupted when he allows a local preschool to take over his barn. Things becomes more complicated when Percy falls in love with a younger woman, his one daughter leaves her husband and children in New York City and his beloved grandson, Robert, unwittingly gets involved in an eco-terrorist group. This contemporary story has unforgettable characters and poses big questions about loyalties, rivalries and family secrets.

Born Standing Up

From Charlene Muhr
author: Martin, Steve
Born Standing Up
 Born standing up is Steve Martin’s memoir that follows his career from his childhood through his work as a stand-up comic. The memoir reveals Steve’s dysfunctional relationship with his father and the anxiety attacks that plagued him for twenty years.  Steve was only ten years old when he got a job at Disneyland selling guidebooks.  For the next five years he worked at the magic shop in Disneyland. It was here where he developed his love for magic and it was his magic act that helped him “break into” show business.  Steve did stand-up at a café in San Francisco, and the Bird Cage at Knott’s Berry Farm.  At twenty-one, Steve began writing for the Smother’s Brother’s show, and guest appearances soon followed on the Tonight Show, the Steve Allen show, Saturday Night Live and many others.  Steve Martin’s success is attributed to his talent, hard work, and persistence.  This memoir is an easy, quick read that is very entertaining.