Ellen Silverman’s Favorite Summer Reads
Ellen Silverman is a brilliant, warm, and intellectual New York City mother who also happens to be one of the world’s best food photographers. Check out the gorgeousness.
The following is a list of books that I have picked up and not been able to put down. In fact, some of them have caused me to miss my stop on the subway on more than one occasion. My favorite bookstore in NY is Crawford & Doyle, one of the last small, well-stocked, and personable book shops around. This is a place you can walk into and talk to any of the sales people, tell them what you like to read, and walk out with a stack of unbelievable reads. I imagine they could do the same over the phone.
This novel is set in Sicily in 1963. The author successfully evokes the mood of a small Sicilian town in the throes of a family crisis. It traces the history of one of the town’s most prominent families—unveiling all of their secrets. The author is brilliant at describing all of the nuances of life in this town. You feel the heat, smell the air, crave the gossip, and feel transported to Sicily. If you’ve been there you will appreciate the authenticity of the description, and if you haven’t you will want to go.
All three of these books are carefully researched works of historical fiction. From the first page, they are gripping tales of how girls and women cope in a very strict and traditional society. <em>Peony In Love</em> takes place in 17th century China and is based on a true story of a young girl who is arranged to be married. Much of the story takes place in the after-world and chronicles her journey to her final resting place. <em>Snow Flower and the Secret Fan</em> follows two young girls who are brought together at a young age to enter into a laotong relationship—”A laotong relationship is made by choice for the purpose of emotional companionship and eternal fidelity. A marriage is not made by choice and has only one purpose—to have sons.'” The story is set in China in the 19th century and describes in exquisite detail the intertwined path of their lives. I just started reading <em>Shanghai Girls</em>, which is set in Shanghai in 1937 and can’t put it down. Again, See creates an authentic and vibrant environment in which to tell the story of the lives of two sisters whose lives radically change when there father abruptly announces he is bankrupt and marries them off to pay his debts…
A beautiful, sad, and poignant excerpt of a diary written by a brilliant young Parisian Jewish woman. She chronicles her life between April 1942 and February 1944, writing about her life and that of her family and friends in Nazi-occupied Paris. She describes the changes she is forced to make in her life as the reality of the war takes hold. Amidst all of the fear and anxiety she is still able to find joy in reading, studying, playing the violin, falling in love, meeting with friends and family, and dreaming of her future as well as accepting that she may not live to see it. Although the ending is evident from the start it is an important read as it pays homage to the beauty of her courageous spirit.
In other words, any WWII spy novel by Alan Furst. Every one is a page-turner complete with well-researched history of Europe between 1933-1945, including: sex, intrigue, politics and well-developed characters. Each one has a main character who is from a different country; he uses this to explore and contrast the political situation which shapes each person’s views of the conflicts of this historical period. Furst is a master of this genre. If you get hooked, Furst recommends A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler.
The Josephine Bonaparte Trilogy: The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe and The Last Great Dance on Earth, by Sandra Gulland
Once you start reading this trilogy you will not be able to put it down. You become so immersed in the life of Josephine Bonaparte that you feel as if you are there with her. The books are written in diary format and trace her life from her birth in the islands through the French Revolution—chronicling not only her life before, during, and after Bonaparte, but providing rich solid historical information and beautiful detail regarding fashion, culture, and society during her lifetime.