Books I am reading

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Blanche White Series: Two Books (and counting) of Excellent Intrigue

 Blanche on the Lamb is the beginning of a sassy new series. Blanche White is an intelligent, middle-aged, African-American domestic worker in North Carolina. She is The Help in current time, with attitude. In this book, one of her employers stiffs her with a bad check which cause her checks to bounce, so she lays low by working for a rich family at their country estate. The only member of the family who seems humane and caring is the family's slightly mentally challenged Cousin Mumford. None of the others are worth the air they breathe.  The murder and subsequent antics of the family seem silly and at times comedic, against Blanche's commentary on race relations in Southern America. If you enjoy southern Gothic with attitude, you will love Blanche.

 Blanche Among the Talented Tenth tackles the ugly truth of discrimination among people of color. Her children are attending an elite private school in Boston, and are beginning to bring home uppity attitudes that Blanche does not like one bit. when the kids are invited to an exclusive Maine resort for wealthy blacks, Blanche decides to allow this romp through exclusive, black America. When one guest commits suicide, and another death leads to complicated questions, Blanche is dragged into finding the truth. This idyllic resort is littered with deceit, snobbery and generations of history, along with a bit of romance.
     Blanche is her usual sassy self, with wit and insight that uncovers secrets and a long history of racial discrimination. I cheer for Blanche once again, and for her integrity and her courage to face heart-wrenching decisions. I can't wait until the next volume is published!

Vanessa and Her Sister

 The story of Vanessa Stephen Bell and her sister Virginia Stephen Woolf is a story of love and madness, talent and privilege, young people breaking convention and plagued by guilt. The story is told through journal entries, and postcards and letters. 
     The novel is compelling and kept drawing me in, even though I don't like the format of journal entries, etc. If you are a fan of Vanessa's art and Virginia's writing, this is an intriguing look at their very private lives. I disliked Virginia and felt she was a spoiled, manipulative brat. But my view is from the 21st Century where mental health support is much more enlightened and treatment more successful than ever imagined in 1905.
     The lives of Vanessa and Virginia are intertwined with their brothers and friends who loosely form a bohemian and intellectual group that meet regularly to discuss the art scene in London and Paris. All these young people go on to fame as their careers mature.
     This novel is an intriguing look at 1905 privilege and creative young talent. If you enjoy art, writing and historical insights, you will enjoy Vanessa and Her Sister.