It’s September! Savor the glorious weather while it lasts and enjoy the recommended titles below.
Sue – Circulation
Calvary starring Brendan Gleeson, New DVD Calvary
Brendan Gleeson shines in this powerful story that explores the effects of trauma on innocent lives. The movie opens with Father James, a kind-hearted and sensible Catholic priest in a small Irish village, in the confessional box. A parishioner tells the father that he was raped by a priest when he was a child and that he is going to murder the father in a week’s time as retribution. The movie then follows Father James through the remaining week, leading up to the stunning finale. We meet the colorful and troubled residents of the village and see what a good man Father James is and that his influence does truly help people.
Though dealing with a dark topic and the serious themes of forgiveness and redemption, the movie has a lot of humor and warmth in it and does a fine job of showing us life in all its aspects – parts of it are very funny, parts are heart-breakingly sad, and parts are horrifically violent. I found it deeply moving and thought it was one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time with a magnificent performance by Gleeson.
Shadows Over Paradise by Isabel Wolff, New Fiction Wolff
This novel tells the story of two very different women – both of whom suffered a similar traumatic loss in their childhoods that have shaped their adult lives. Jenni is a London-based writer in her 30s who specializes in writing memoirs for others. She is reserved and does not like to draw attention to herself. Living with her boyfriend, their relationship is facing difficulties. Klara is a farmer of Dutch origin living in Cornwall whose family was interred by the Japanese on the Pacific island of Java during World War II. As her 80th birthday approaches, she decides to record the memories of her life and hires Jenni to write them for her. This is how the two women are brought together. Klara’s family moved from the Netherlands to Java in the Dutch East Indies to work on a rubber plantation when she was a child. At that time, the now independent country of Indonesia was under Dutch colonial rule. When the Japanese invaded, they interred all the Dutch colonials living there as the Netherlands had declared war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Though the book is fiction, the author researched the history of the Japanese occupation and the internment camps and spoke to survivors, so the book is historically accurate in its depiction of life on Java during the war. As Klara shares painful memories from her war years, Jenni gradually releases her long- hidden anguish over a childhood trauma. The book was very emotional and moving, dealing with such gut-wrenching issues as war atrocities and the untimely death of loved ones and the guilt over such losses. I have read much about the German concentration camps and the horror and suffering inflicted on people in those camps, but I was not as familiar with the Japanese internment camps for the Dutch/European residents of the Dutch East Indies. The book was a compelling read while also educating the reader about an important event in world history that has not been documented as well as the camps in the West.
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, New Fiction George
This book celebrates life following loss. Its characters suffer loss, but also experience healing and find hope for the future and a renewed sense of purpose to their lives. The story opens with fifty-something Jean, a Parisian bookseller whose bookstore is situated on a barge moored on the banks of the Seine River. Jean doesn’t just sell books, though. He fancies himself a literary psychologist – matching the right book to the right person. He even refuses to sell a book to a person when he thinks it is the wrong book to address that person’s need. Jean lost his love 20 years ago, but has not allowed himself to mourn, so he has been stuck all this time, just existing, not really living, unwilling to take any chances. This inertia gets shaken from him when he reads a letter from his lost love he’s left unopened for 20 years and he sets out on his barge to her hometown. The book then follows his travels along the river, picking up first one, then more passengers on his journey into the heart of southern France. As Jean’s journey continues and he begins to heal from his loss, his life opens up to him and he is able to find joy in living again. Reading the book is a pleasure, with lush descriptions of the southern French countryside and Provencal food and wine. The book is full of life and healing, with romance, literature, magnificent landscapes, loyal friends, wise advise, and good food and drink. As a charming addition to the book, it also includes some authentic French recipes and a list of titles recommended by Jean and the ailments they will help cure.
Chris – Technical Services
Ashes Under Water: the SS Eastland and the Shipwreck That Shook America by Michael McCarthy, New Nonfiction 977.311 McC
July 24, 1915, the overturning of an excursion steamer on the Chicago River near Clark Street is a story of a horrible tragedy that killed 844 men, women, and children. Twenty-two whole families were wiped out and who was to blame? A true tale of Chicago politics, the Great Lakes shipping industry, a possible cover-up, and a courtroom drama with attorney Clarence Darrow.
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott, Nonfiction 973.785 Abb
A true story of four women, two pro-Confederacy and two pro-Union, all determined and willing to risk liberty and life for their cause.
Melissa – Technical Services
The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, Nonfiction 614.57 Pre
The Hot Zone by Richard Preston is simultaneously fascinating and terrifying. The term “hot zone” (in the biology field) means an area that is rampant with a virus. This book delves into the history of ebola outbreaks in Africa in the 80s and 90s, as well as its spread to the United States. Readers learn about how ebola is studied in laboratories, how it manifests itself in victims, the location of the first outbreak, how the virus migrated across continents, and what the four known strands do to the unfortunate people who catch them. The book reads like a thriller. Each new “character” that is introduced plays a key role in the research regarding ebola, and yet readers can’t help but wonder which researchers will die at the hands of the virus. At the close of the book, readers are left in awe of the world we inhabit. Despite all the technological and medical advances, there are still the most basic life forms yet undiscovered that can devastate the human race.
Brigitte – Circulation
Melancholia starring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, DVD Melancholia
Melancholia tells the story of Justine and Claire, two very different women faced with the end of life on Earth. While their personal relationships blossom and fail, a meteor races through space, ready to destroy the world. Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, is a smart but generally anxious woman who is constantly at odds with her sister Claire, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg. Claire has her life together, but with the impending doom of Earth her life falls apart. This movie is visually stunning and sure to leave you breathless.
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, New Nonfiction 306.7 Ans
Modern Romance by comedian Aziz Ansari explores dating in the modern age. Known for his stand-up comedy as well as his breakout role as Tom Haverford on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, Ansari questions how modern technology is impacting the dating lives of the single people of 2015. Funny and sweet, this book is a healthy mix of facts, advice, and comedy.
Hubbell – Circulation
Citizenfour produced and directed by Laura Poitras, New DVD 327.127 Citizenfour
Citizenfour, winner of the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary, chronicles the story of ex-CIA whistleblower Ed Snowden. While working as an analyst for the CIA in 2013, Snowden leaked a trove of documents detailing the NSA’s warrantless collection of Americans’ phone calls, emails, and other communications. This documentary follows Snowden from his first meetings in Hong Kong with the journalists who broke the story, Glenn Greenwald and the film’s director Laura Poitras, to his eventual asylum in Russia. After several secret clandestine meetings, Greenwald wrote the first of many revelatory articles and Snowden became the target of an international manhunt. This first-hand account of Snowden’s decision to reveal the government’s controversial spying program is simultaneously riveting, emotional, and thought-provoking.