Top Ten Tuesday Shortlist

The Broke and Brookish suggestion to list books for a book club discussion had me reviewing my reading and thinking about what I would like to discuss.  One of my book clubs is about to reveal the list of books for 2017 at their annual luncheon in November; books are chosen by the person hosting the discussion but must be readily available in the library.  Another smaller group picks books bimonthly at the end of each meeting – sometimes newer books not yet in the library system and one none of us have read.  Constantly looking for another book to read, book lists are like candy to me.  I devour them instantly and want more.

Here is my short list (with links to my reviews)  but there are so many more…

Florence Gordon   by Brian Morton

The Many  by Wyl Menmuir

The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson

Homegoing  by Yaa Gyasi

The Door by Magda Szabó

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Florence Gordon

9780544309869_p0_v2_s260x420Brian Morton’s Florence Gordon may be someone you know – or, at least think you know. A retired New York City English professor and prolific writer of feminist essays, Florence is writing her memoirs. Surrounded by well-meaning friends, Florence is finding it hard to concentrate when her son Daniel returns from Seattle with his wife and daughter.

In the opening chapters, friends try to surprise her with a party, only to be politely rebuffed. Morton carefully creates an amalgam from stereotypes of strident feminist writers and intellectual English professors, then methodically destroys the image. A strong woman – like Brian Morton’s Florence Gordon – may seem impervious to critical snipes and create the aura of impenetrable independence but few would ever know who she really is – only her granddaughter Emily comes close.

Through Emily’s research for her grandmother’s book and with frequent detours into the lives of Florence’s family, Morton connects the reader to the recent past and examines the difference between now and then. Choices may not be as disparate as they seem, and Florence’s strong will is reflected in her granddaughter’s musings, her daughter-in-law’s indecision, and her son’s stoic facade.

But nothing really is controllable, as Florence discovers when an unanticipated health issue threatens her independence. Morton hints at how she will cope, and leaves the ending ambiguous but with a soulful promise of immortality.

Florence is irascible, independent, strong-willed – sometimes hard to like – but comfortable with herself and her decisions.  She likes her solitude.  The story is a reminder of how each of us influences others – but perhaps not how we think we do.

I bought this book in its hard cover state – I wanted to hold a book again in my hands and be able to turn down the pages without someone admonishing me.  Turns out this was the perfect book to exercise my will.  And some of the pages I turned down had these phrases:

“She was like the ambassador of Manhattan.  She seemed to believe that a life that took place elsewhere couldn’t truly be called life.  She probably held that it was all well and good for Parisians to live in Paris, and Londoners to live in London, but she could not comprehend how any thinking person from the United States could choose to live anywhere other than New York.”

“Am I she thought, one of those dreary people who won’t join any club that will have them for a member? She hoped she wasn’t.”

“Virginia Woolf had said that the task of a woman writer was to kill off the ‘Angel in the House’; the part of oneself that was trained to put the needs of others, in every situation, before one’s own.”