I’ve been reading, reading, reading. So many wonderful books. Here’s a few I enjoyed recently.

When I Lived in Modern Times, by Linda Grant

Palestine before it was Israel? Yes, please. It’s 1946 and London native Evelyn Sert, 20, is newly orphaned. Her late mother’s beau gives her money to emigrate. “Did he really see me as the future of Jewish humanity? Or was he just getting rid of me?” Evelyn arrives on a tourist visa and settles in Tel Aviv, where she discovers a new world of scents and sun and foods and sex. She fails at field work but thrives at a beauty parlor. Evelyn falls for Johnny, a bad boy on a motorcycle who’s a native of Jerusalem and a spy. This novel read like a memoir. I felt like Evelyn took me by the hand and showed me the beauty and terror of Israel as it was forming.

Foregone, by Russell Banks

Banks writes about American men and women like no other. (My favorites are Continental Drift and The Darling.) His latest is Foregone. It tells the story of Leonard Fife, an American who fled the country during the Vietnam War, for Canada, where he became a celebrated documentarian. A film crew is in his Montreal apartment with the aim of documenting his process. He’s dying: noisily, uncomfortably. Fife doesn’t want to talk about process, he wants to talk about his life. The film crew indulges him, so they (and we) hear Fife’s story, which may or may not be true. He’s drugged. Is he confusing his story with his wife’s? This is a tale of abandonment (country, wives, children) and renewal. Like all Banks’ work, this read is complex but accessible.

Corrigan, by Caroline Blackwood 

Lady Caroline Blackwood is best known for her singular beauty and many marriages, to the painter Lucian Freud (“Girl in Bed” is in the British National Gallery) and to the poet Robert Lowell. Blackwood says it was Lowell who encouraged her novel writing. Corrigan is her last. It tells the story of Mrs. Blunt, a grieving widow who takes in a poor Irishman confined to a wheelchair. Corrigan (and his cause) is the tonic Mrs. Blunt needs to live again. It’s fun to see dainty Mrs. Blunt succeed as a farmer and “picker” of antiques. Corrigan is scam artist. Does she know? Does it matter? 

I started this post just after the Oscars were announced. I saw many films last year (at home). These are the movies that stayed with me. They made me think. 

The Sound of Metal

Shiva Baby 

A Promising Woman



I’ve had a hard time reading and writing lately. Not sure why. Lockdown going into a second year? Probably. I’m bored with myself because there’s not enough going on. No dinner parties, no restaurant lunches, no movie dates. No travel. I’m grateful for my husband’s presence, especially in the late afternoon and evening. We watch the news, we talk, we drink wine and make dinner. He makes me laugh and think. (This is a photo of us before we married, in 1985.)

I have been reading, of course, and watching television. Here are some I recommend.

Trio, by William Boyd. I love just about anything set in the 1960’s. So much drama! The Vietnam War, student riots, the sexual revolution, mini skirts. Boyd sets his tale in 1968, on a Brighton movie set. The trio is the film’s producer, its American starlet, and the director’s novelist wife. Each has a rich private life — I felt like I knew them intimately — that wound up unexpectedly. Talbot, the producer, is a World War Two veteran clumsily making his way of the closet. Anny, the movie star, is addled by uppers and downers and in love with her sexy co-star. Trouble for her arrives with her on-the-lam ex-husband, who’s wanted by the FBI and CIA. The novelist Elfrida is a drunk; her recovery surprises. GQ blurbed it best: “a diverting read that’s…raucus, charming, and eccentric.

What You Have Heard is True, A Memoir of Witness and Resistance, by Carolyn Forché. Sometimes I pick up a book from my piles because it’s in paperback. This is one of those. I’m glad I did. Forché, a poet, tells an astonishing story of her involvement with a revolutionary who lures her to El Salvador. This is not a romance. Leonel chooses her to tell the story of a country on the verge of civil war. This is a heart-stopping, sobering, unforgettable read. 

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, by Peter Cameron. I was impressed with Cameron’s “What Happens at Night” so I decided to read some of his earlier novels. This is a coming-of-age story set in post 9/11 Manhattan. High school senior James Sveck works in his mother’s Chelsea art gallery, lovingly spars with his co-ed sister, puts up with his distant father, and adores his grandmother. (Each character is well drawn.) James is very bight but doesn’t like his peers. He got into Brown but doesn’t want to go, because he’d be with people his age. The pain of figuring out oneself, at eighteen, is beautifully and hilariously explored.

Simone Weil, by Francine du Plessix Gray. Wowza. What a life story. Simone Weil (1909- 1934) was a French philosopher who literally died for her country. A precocious child, Weil grew up in privilege that she would later politely disdain. (She would pay her parents for the small amount of food she consumed.) Weil wrote and published and lived an alternative life, including factory work that nearly killed her. This excellent biography charts Weil’s asceticism, anorexia, dysmorphic clothing, patriotism, thinking and writing, as well as her struggle to allow herself to be baptized in the Catholic Church. (Also, her humor and generosity as a teacher.) She was influenced by Pascal’s Pens´ees. In turn, her writings influenced the philosopher and author Albert Camus. 

Nomadland, written and directed by Chlo´e Zhan, starring Frances McDormand. Is this a story about the road? Women? I think it’s a story about grief. McDormand’s Fern is newly widowed. She outfits a van and takes to the road. She’s not homeless, she tells a former student, she’s houseless. Fern takes seasonal jobs at Amazon, in the fields, cleaning bathrooms, cooking fries. Another traveler has his eye on her but we don’t know why. (The only fault in an otherwise perfect film.) Fern is prickly. She doesn’t want to be wanted. This is a beautiful, slow moving film. It has stayed with me. 


It’s the end of 2020! Goodbye, good riddance. 

Two — no, three — nice things happened before lockdown in March. First, I turned 60 in January and had a fun dance party with friends and family. That would be the last carefree time of the year. At the end of January, we got a puppy. His name is Ziggy. He is a very beautiful English Cocker Spaniel. He’s willful but sweet. It’s nice to have a dog again. Finally, beginning in January, work began on our new kitchen. It had been a year’s worth of planning, measuring, purchasing. Work finished just as lockdown began. 

I don’t want to sound tone deaf. I know that many are suffering because of the pandemic. One of my sons is a fashion photographer in New York; that industry shut down. He was fortunate to find work as a carpenter. Too, he had Covid in March. We spoke to him nightly but worried terribly, as he had very high fevers that left him hallucinating. Too, it took him weeks to feel well again. 

I’m grateful for the roof over our head, neighborhood grocers, Zoom yoga, distance cocktails this summer, long walks along the lakefront with friends. 

One plus of going nowhere is the amount of writing and reading and watching and drawing/painting I’ve done. Also, piano playing. 

My favorite new-ish eads of the year are these, in the order I read them.

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, by Robert Kolker 

Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. by Joyce Carol Oates

My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli

The Equivalents: A Story of Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s, by Maggie Doherty

A Burning, by Megha Majumdar

What Happens at Night, by Peter Cameron

Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell

Just Like Us, by Nick Hornby

The Lying Life of Adults, by Elena Ferrante 

Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction, by David Enrich

Squeeze Me, by Carl Hiaasen

The Undying, by Anne Boyer

Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart 

I wanted to love Don DeLillo’s The Silence, but did not…

These are my favorite “old” books I read this year, and recommend:

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith (1948)

A Feather on the Breath of God, by Sigrid Nunez (1995)

The Ordinary Seaman, by Francisco Goldman (1998)

The Stories of Alice Adams, by Alice Adams (2002)

The Manor (1967) and The Estate (1969), by I.B. Singer 

Reviews of all books, above, can be found at www.annemoore.net

This was a year we needed to laugh. Schitt’s Creek (I know, I’m late to the party) makes us howl. Yes, the first few episodes are not great. Get through those, and you’ll be hooked. We’re watching Bridgerton, a steamy mashup of Gossip Girl and a Jane Austen novel. It’s fab. I watched The Undoing and wish I hadn’t, but if you need a New York City glam fix, it’s your show. Haven’t finished but liking The Queen’s Gambit. Skip Industry – it’s ridiculous. I loved I Know This Much is True, even though it’s heartbreaking. Fourth season of The Crown, yes yes yes. I loved every single minute of Mrs. America for its story, acting, fashion. Unorthodox had me on the edge of my seat. 

Here’s to a better new year.


Book grief is my term for a read that gripped me and won’t let go. Once finished, its rich characters linger in my mind. Think Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, Dorie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, I. B. Singer’s Enemies, A Love Story. 

Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain gave me book grief. It’s the story of Shuggie, 16 and orphaned when we meet him. How did he end up alone, at that age, in Glasgow? This book is that story. It’s not a memoir but Stuart has said it hews to his life.

Agnes Campbell Bain is the boy’s mother. Agnes, a beauty, is an unforgettable character: elegant, witty, fun loving, fierce. Also a danger to herself and others. She drinks herself to death, driving away Shuggie’s father, sister, brother, suitors. We stick with her because Shuggie does. He guards his mother from suicide, drinking buddies, AA friends, “uncles”. His devotion is understandable, especially after Agnes noisily “frees” him from his father’s home. 

Two of my friends put down Shuggie Bain down after a few chapters. I get it — it’s a sad story. I’m glad I reached its end, and saw Shuggie blossom into his own person. 


Another hard read I savored is The Undying, by Anne Boyer, which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, in 2020. My son the bookseller pressed it on me. Thank you, Evan.

Boyer is a poet and essayist. Her subject is cancer, death, the literature of illness, treatment, the for-profit U.S. healthcare system. Her suffering made me outraged on her behalf.

The Undying is unlike any book I’ve read. The poet knows this: “After cancer, my writing felt given its full permission.” 


After that, I needed the nuttiness of a Carl Hiassen tale. Like his others, Squeeze Me is set in Florida. Angie Armstrong, a wildlife wrangler, is called to a private club in Palm Beach to remove a giant python. Inside the python is the socialite and Trump supporter Kiki Pew, whose disappearance causes a chain reaction that wrongly imprisons an immigrant — catnip for Trump and his supporters. A delicious side story is Melania’s affair with a secret service agent…

Hiassen never disappoints. A diverting read, when I needed it most. 


Another Trump book? Dark Towers, by David Enrich, is the story of Deutsche Bank’s spectacular fall from respectability. Trump is a minor player in this engrossing tale. When no other bank will loan to Trump (because he defaults), he borrows money from Deutsche Bank, and when he can’t repay it, he persuades them to loan him more money to repay the original loan. I know. My head is spinning, too. There’s much more to this “bank gone bad” story, and Enrich tells it like a thriller.


I liked Elena Ferrnate’s “Neapolitan Quartet,” so I looked forward to her latest, The Lying Life of Adults. Ferrante’s characters are so rich, so flawed, so educated, so passionate. (As my friend Deb says, with her hands, “They’re sooooo Italian.”) This novel is told by the teenage Giovanna, who lives a comfortable life in Naples. A cruel comment by her father puts Giovanna on a path to find an estranged aunt. Why are the siblings so different intellectually? Why is her aunt so poor? What drove them apart? That’s one thread of the story. Another is her parents’ divorce and recoupling with others. Also, Giovanna’s inappropriate longing for a young man betrothed to another. Like the “Neapolitan Quartet,” Ferrante takes us into the emotionally-charged life of a girl. Richly told.


After listening to it on audio, my friend Jen recommend Just Like You, by Nick Hornby. (Thanks, Jen.) I’ve liked his books, on and off, since High Fidelity. They’re smart, funny, of-the-moment reads. 

Just Like You is a delight. It’s set in London as the people of England decide to stay in or leave the European Union. Lucy, who wants England to stay, is the newly single mother of two video-gaming, potty mouthed — but very sweet — young boys. (Lucy’s ex is an alcoholic who has broken their hearts.) Lucy hires Joseph, a 22 year old black man, to babysit while Lucy tries, and fails, at dating. (Very funny.)

Joseph and the boys bond. Joseph and Lucy fall in love.

And yet… Joseph can’t possibly bring Lucy to a dance club. Joseph can’t possibly introduce her to his family. Joseph can’t possibly stay faithful. Until he can, and does. 

I loved this read. Race, inequity, unlikely families, Brexit, Trump figure in the story. Its ending is perfect. 



This has been a summer like no other. There’s been no trips to our summer place in Quebec, no Bastille Day party with dear friends in Michigan. No outings to movie theaters. Instead, I’ve been walking our beautiful lakefront, parks, and historic neighborhoods. I’ve been swimming laps at our recently re-opened health club. (Bliss, even indoors.) Streaming movies and tv series. When I read, I’m in my urban back yard, listening to the chatter of birds, the bells of St. Michael’s. For this, I’m grateful.

Here are the books I recommend: 

Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. By Joyce Carol Oates. This book is more than 800 pages, and I didn’t want it to end. It tells the story of the McClaren family. (The title is from a Walt Whitman poem.) Patriarch Whitey (no joke) is grievously wounded when he interferes in a police attack on a man of color. As Whitey fades, then dies, we come to know his wife and adult children, all of whom have been damaged, in some way, by Whitey’s standards. His wife, whose aching grief is beautifully and deeply explored, eventually becomes involved with an artist of Hispanic heritage. (The daughters think he’s out for their mother’s money.) Son Thom seeks justice for his father’s death but bungles a workplace situation and beats (to death? We don’t know) one of the cops. Daughter Beverly is an unbearable busybody until we’re in her head during Thanksgiving dinner, where, for a late night course she’ll serve her husband divorce papers. Or will she? Her sister Lorene is a high school principal undone by outrageous misdeeds. (I love a train wreck.) A New York Times reviewer said it best: this is a book “in conversation with this moment.” I loved it. 

Hamnet, A Novel of the Plague, by Maggie O’Farrell. Did I need to read a book set during a 16th century plague? Yes, as per my friend Jennifer, who said its ending astonished her. I’m glad I took her advice, though it’s a hard read to describe. Here goes: We are in the household of William Shakespeare, his parents, his siblings, his wife and their three children. We are most often in the company of his wife Agnes, a healer most comfortable in the woods. When their daughter Judith in near death, they send for Shakespeare. By the time he arrives, from London, Judith has recovered but her twin Hamnet has died, age 8. This is the story of the family’s grief, and how that grief made its way into the making of “Hamlet”. It’s an intimate telling of a family, a marriage, the healing arts, twinship. And Jennifer was right: the ending astonishes. 

What Happens at Night, by Peter Cameron. A New York couple gets off a train in a snowy landscape and makes their way to a grand, faded hotel in an unnamed foreign city. The wife is exhausted by the journey and heads to bed; her husband goes to the hotel bar. There, things are weird. Or is it jet lag? Are the patrons there to help or harm? In the morning, the couple sets out for the orphanage, where they’ll meet the baby they’ve come to adopt. But the taxi takes them to the home of a famous healer. The wife, who’s suffering from terminal cancer, declares herself healed in the man’s presence, and won’t leave. Her intransigence presents a problem: both parents must be present to “take possession” of the baby. (Cue the bar patrons.) This is a dreamy novel that took me far, far away. (It’s also very funny.) It’s a testament to Cameron’s skill  that I cared deeply for the man, the woman, and their marriage during their odd journey.

I love me a tv series I can watch every night, ‘cuz there’s no place to go during this pandemic. Among the ones we’ve enjoyed, and highly recommend: Mrs. America, which chronicles the fight for, and against, the Equal Rights Amendment, in the 1970s. What a cast! Cate Blanchett plays Phylis Schlafly, Rose Byrne is Gloria Steinem, Tracy Ullman is Betty Friedan. John Slattery, Sarah Paulson, James Marsden and others bring this era to life. We also loved Unorthodox, the true story of an Orthodox girl who flees an arranged marriage. It’s a present-day period-piece thriller. Dr. Thorne, a 2016 series (three episodes) is a bon bon. Another we liked is Immigration Nation, which is hard to watch, but necessary. Finally, check out Zero Zero Zero. It’s a violent tale about the global drug trade. Each episode was as rich as full-length movie.


Black lives matter. These are among my favorite reads — novels, plays, poetry, nonfiction — about Black lives in America and overseas. Each is illuminating, infuriating, heartbreaking. 

Native Son, by Richard Wrignt (1940)

Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison (1952)

The Street, by Ann Petry (1946)  

Random Family, by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003) 

A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry (1959)

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, by Ntozake Shange (1976)

Harlem, by Langston Hughes (1951)

We Real Cool, by Gwendolyn Brooks (1959)

Season of Migration to the North, by Tayeb Salih (1966), which ends, “Help! Help!”

During this pandemic and rightful unrest, I read books that made me think about oppression, migration, motherhood and creativity, and showing up for those we love. I am so much at home, still. I read in my city garden, on my sunny deck, and in a favorite spot beside some open windows. 

Here’s what I can recommend: 


A Burning, by Megha Majumdar

Jivan is a young Muslim woman on her way to a better life than her indigent parents. She is educated, speaks English, works retail. After hours she unwinds with a cigarette — such a luxury — in a Kolkata public square. There she witnesses a train bombing, which kills nearly 100. Police do nothing to help its victims, trapped by flames. Later that night, Jivan posts on Facebook the notion that government, in its inaction, is equal to the terrorists. 

Swiftly, Jivan is jailed, tried, convicted, sentenced to death. 

Hers is one of three stories in this quickly paced tale. PT Sir is a phys ed teacher at the school Jivan attended. He’s annoyed that she dropped out, after he’d been kind and encouraging. PT Sir, also upwardly mobile, does favors for a political party and rises in its ranks, eventually allowing him to leave teaching. In his new post, can he save Jivan?

There’s Lovely, a hijara, who dreams of a film career. Jivan had tutored Lovely in English, and Lovely — a man who presents as a woman — testifies on her behalf. As Lovely’s star rises, will she save Jivan?

This read took me deep into a world I barely knew. I loved the story, and admired its telling. 

The Ordinary Seaman, by Francisco Goldman

I admit to picking this up because a reviewer said it contained one of the best sex scenes ever written. Half way in — the story concerns sailors attached to a ship that’s not seaworthy, docked in a Brooklyn port — I thought, did I get this right? There’s a sex scene? And then our hero, Esteban, dreams of his dead novia, La Marta. Wowza. It’s only a page or two but rivals Joyce’s Molly soliloquy.

That said, this book is so much more than a great sex scene. Esteban and his mates, all from South America, are marooned. (The ship’s owners visit, bring food, assure them that once the ship is repaired, they’ll be on their way.) These seamen have no rights, they speak no English. When they venture off the boat, they are robbed and beaten. 

Interwoven stories of the ship’s owners — yes, you’ll want to strangle them — and a Ship’s Visitor liven the read. 

Eventually, Esteban dares to leave the boat alone, at night. In a neighborhood of immigrants, he finds kindness, love, friendship, hope. 

A great read, published in 1997. 

The Equivalents, by Maggie Doherty

Mid-career women artists, poets, writers, scholars were invited, in 1960, to apply for  paid fellowships at Radcliffe College at Harvard University. (A kind of “room of own’s own,” with others.) 

The Institute for Independent Study was the brainchild of Radcliffe president Mary Ingraham Bunting, who felt that the U.S. asked little of its women outside the home. It was “a climate of unexpectation,” at a time when women in the Soviet Union were 30 percent of its engineers and 75 percent of its doctors. The U.S., she declared, was wasting a precious resource: educated women.

With the Institute, Bunting sought to kick start the careers of scholars and artists who had been sidelined by motherhood. Most fellows had advanced degrees; if not, they were deigned “equivalent.” 

Among its first class was a group whose lives and work would thereafter be entwined: poets Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, writer Tillie Olsen, artist Barbara Swan, sculptor Marianna Pineda. 

Doherty captures the time and place, the personalities, the work, the place of women in society and education. She explores the competing desires of motherhood and creativity. This is nonfiction at its finest. Bravo, Maggie Doherty.

The Motion of the Body Through Space, by Lionel Shriver.

I’m a fan of her work because no matter the subject, Shriver provides a fluid read, typically about intelligent people doing questionable and sometimes awful things. This book is not as searing as, say, We Need to Talk about Kevin, but this is still a Shriver.

Serenata (ugh, that name) is the book’s unsympathetic narrator. (That’s a skill, to get and keep a reader invested in an unlikeable person.) Her recently retired husband Remington decides to train for a marathon. Wait: extreme exercise has always been her thing! Remington hires a sexy trainer and joins a group with the same goal. With her bad knees, Serenata is sidelined, reduced to spectator and provider of snacks. Also in the mix: the couple’s newly evangelical daughter and her many children. Also their drug dealer son. 

This is delicious satire. It’s fun to see this couple fall apart and find each other again. It’s set in beautiful Duchess County, New York, an area I know and love. 


Lockdown continues. Me and mine are safe and well, so no complaining allowed. Here’s what — and where — I’ve been reading and watching.

Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli. When this novel was first published I didn’t want to read it because it sounded too “of the moment” — a family travels to the Southwest and becomes involved in the child migration crisis. But I read it after a recommendation from my son (who had worried about the same.) I’m glad I did. This is an assured work of fiction. The author gives us a cobbled family: a man and his son, his newish wife and her daughter. The couple met documenting sound in New York City. (That alone grabbed me.) The husband has a grant to document sound at the graves and lands of Native Americans. The wife, the boy, the girl travel with him, by car, from New York to Arizona. This is a richly told story of a family and children lost, found, lost. It’s trippy in parts because the narrative is woven into texts about child migration. I loved this read.

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. How did I miss this one? A true heir(ess) to Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, Smith gives us the lush English countryside between the Wars and a once prosperous family in financial ruin. (First published in 1948.) How bad? They have no furniture left to sell, their clothes are ragged, they go to bed hungry. Our narrator is Cassandra, 17, who “captures” the story in her journal. (Much of the book is about writing.) Beautiful older sister Rose says she will do anything to improve their lot. The story takes off when two American men, heirs to the castle, arrive. I was smitten from Page One, and didn’t want this tale to end. And what an ending. 

Hidden Valley Road, Inside the Mind of An American Family, by Robert Kolker. Six schizophrenics in one family? Sounds like a nightmare, and it is. But this story is so much more. We learn the theories (nurture) and science (nature) of the disease. (Of course it’s the mother’s fault.) I’m half way through but confident this is a worthwhile read about an American family, an ambitious couple, their 12 children. The well ones suffer, too, especially the girls. This is narrative nonfiction at its best. Very impressive.

Speaking of schizophrenia, I’m watching I Know this Much is True on HBO. It’s the story of twin brothers, one of whom is schizophrenic. Mark Ruffalo plays both parts. The story is obvious and treacly at times but the acting! Oh my. Juliette Lewis steals the show playing a snobby academic who turns into a sad flirt. Kathryn Hahn is luminous as a grieving mother. Rosie O’Donnell — have I ever liked her in anything?— is solid as an administrator/advocate. Archie Panjabi plays a smart, calm psychiatrist. Mmm. 

I also liked Run on HBO, about college lovers who reunite. We’re watching Grant on the History channel. Also, classics I’ve never seen: What’s Up Doc? And All about Eve.

Isolation is hard, but it’s imperative to limit contact. My friend is an anesthesiologist in Chicago. She says that she and her colleagues are physically and emotionally exhausted — and still show up every day. Do your part to lighten their load. 

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Greetings from my stay-in-place perch. I’ve always worked from a home office, so that part of lockdown hasn’t been a change. I dress in the morning, eat breakfast, read the newspapers, walk, practice piano and French, and get to my desk by nine. I write until noon, have lunch, run errands — well, no more errands, because stores are closed. I go to the grocery store for dinner supplies. With a new puppy I’m enjoying long walks in my beautiful neighborhood. I used to enjoy long walks on the lakefront path, but it’s closed. I admit to a deep funk the day the city’s parks and walking trails were closed. That said, I admire our political leaders for the steps they’ve taken to mitigate transmission. 

I haven’t been reading as much — distracted by the virus? (Check out my new reading spot by the windows in my kitchen.) That said, I recommend Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe. As a granddaughter of Irish Republicans, I thought I’d read everything about the paramilitary IRA and its terror campaign to rid the island of British occupation. Turns out I hadn’t. Keefe is nimble in his telling of a generation of warriors who terrorized the British, “disappeared” its own, starved themselves. A sobering, thrilling read. 

I also enjoyed My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell. The story is told by Vanessa as a fifteen-year-old “willing” victim of a teacher’s advances, and by Vanessa as an adult struggling to make sense of that relationship, especially as it continues. When we first meet Vanessa, her former teacher has been accused of “sexual grooming” by several students; it’s all over the news, and reporters are reaching out for Vanessa’s story. But theirs was a different relationship, Vanessa believes. Theirs was love. At times, this reader wanted to shake Vanessa: wake up! But her story is believable and compelling. Will Vanessa understand what he did to her? Even if you get frustrated with this character — and you will — read to the end. It’s satisfying. 

I’ve begun Lily King’s Writers & Lovers. I’m hooked, though it’s unnecessarily confusing in the beginning. I loved her Euphoria, a love triangle set in the 1930’s among anthropologists. Teed up: Temporary, by Hilary Leichter, Circe, by Madeline Miller, Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America, by Conor Dougherty. 

If you’d like to help independent booksellers closed because of the virus, order from bookshop.org. Stores receive 30 percent of each sale. 

To fill an empty hour of each weekday (not having lunch with friends, or a manicure, or or or) I draw and do watercolors. I’m focusing on “doors of Chicago.” I’m learning what’s visually important and how to employ color. 

Stay home, be well, pray the end of lockdown is near. 


A holiday weekend made for a get-out-of-the city escape to a winter wonderland in Quebec. In mid January, we spent four days at Chateau Montebello, a Fairmont resort that’s a 90 minute drive from Montreal’s international airport. Truth is, we “had to” go there: it was the annual meeting of Club Lac Pythonga, where we spend summers. 

What a place to land! (Thank you, Marie Hélène Sevigney and Becca Baughman.) Chateau Montebello, built in 1930, is the largest log structure in the world. Every time I walked into its lobby, I gasped. It’s tall and spacious, warm and inviting. A perfect place for families and friends to gather and talk on their way to or from an adventure. Let me count them: swimming, spa-ing, squash, hiking, snow-shoeing, skating, sledding, cross-country skiing, dog sledding. Equipment — even outerwear — was lent, free of charge.

I can’t remember the last time I went to resort and didn’t want to leave.

On to books. I had four days to read at Montebello. Nothing to recommend.

Back at home, I was happy to receive a story collection by Alice Adams. I’m not a fan of short fiction because — I want more! Not so with Alice Adams. The blurb on the front, from Joyce Caro Oates, captures the experience: each story is “like a watercolor perfectly executed.” Adams’ stories feel complete at 20 or so pages; they’re unique, and memorable.

At the same time, I was devouring the first half of a doorstopper, The Manor and The Estate, by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Why is this not a mini series? It’s a delicious story, set in Poland during the latter half of the 19th century. There, a Count returns from Siberia, exiled for his part in a failed uprising against Russia. His son Lucian, also exiled, flees to Paris, but not before he lures a Jewish girl to go with him. (Squalor, illness, imprisonment follow.) That girl is one of four daughters of Calman Jacoby, a devout Jew who has taken possession of the Count’s manor and land. I loved this saga because it detailed the lives of European Jews (and Gentiles) at a turning point in history. Characters question the strictures of religion, marriage, manners, domesticity. I’m looking forward to reading part two, The Estate. 

In the meantime, I picked up Say Nothing, a True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe. I’m only a few pages in. It’s very good. 

Happy New Year, happy trails, happy reading. 


I have no books to recommend. I’ve been reading, of course. I admired but didn’t love Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here, which I thought would be about women’s friendships (if so, we’re doomed as a gender), but was really about neglect. Before that, I read What Maisie Knew, by Henry James, the mother of all reads about parents behaving badly. 

Enough of that sort! 

I loved two books published in the past year: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (fiction) and Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill (nonfiction. Each broke my heart. I’m savoring the reissued poetry of Douglas Crase, The Revisionist and The Astropastorals. (Thank you, Evan Dent.)

These are my must-see movies, every one a gem: Parasite, Pain & Glory, The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…, Booksmart. You can skip Hustlers. Jennifer Lopez is fabulous but the story is muddled: too much apologizing for bad-ass thinking and doing. The Souvenir was pretty but disturbing, Rocketman was thrilling and tiresome. The Joker is visually interesting but extremely violent. 

TV. Fleabag, seasons one and two. The Crown, season three. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, all seasons. Jane the Virgin, which I somehow missed and just starting.

Art. I’ve been twice to Andy Warhol from A to B and Back Again. (I’d go again!) This is the most thoughtful, extensive exhibit of Warhol’s work I’ve ever experienced. I’d always been a fan; now I’m a disciple. At The Art Institute of Chicago, through January 26. In Paris, we caught a Francis Bacon period (1971 to 1992) show that focused on literature as a source for his work. Again, a deep, well curated show led me to a new appreciation of an artist. At Centre Pompidou, through January 20. Also in Paris, we visited the Musée Nissim de Camondo, an early 20th century mansion and its 18th century furnishings, on Parc Monceau. The house, its furnishings and the fate of its owners moved me to tears.

Cheering me: the reconstruction of Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. 

Meals. In Paris we adored the cozy, authentic Le Bon Georges. We’re still talking about the brie and lardons at Restaurant Paul, on lovely Place Dauphine. We happily lunched at Le Cambodge. As always, we had dinner at Le Bistrot Paul Bert, breakfast or lunch at Comptoir Poilane. In London, we had an elegant Indian lunch at The Cinnamon Club, housed in the former Westminster Library. In New York, I’m a fan of Faro, in Bushwick, for their inventive pastas and excellent service. In Chicago, I’m in heaven with the reopening of Bad Hunter, where I can eat well without eating meat. Funkenhousen is another treat: beer is served in glass boots, German fare is light and inventive. (Surely an oxymoron.) Fat Rice, if you can score a reservation, is divine. I’m a regular for lunch or cocktails at Three Arts Club of Chicago, now taking reservations.

Dance. The Joffrey Ballet’s Jane Eyre was the most thrilling ballet I’ve seen in years. I’ve read the book, seen the movies: surely this is the sexiest, scariest version. Rochester is fully alive; his insane wife is wildly present.

Travel: Paris, yes yes yes and a delightful day trip to London. (Do able for now — post Brexit?) See my earlier post on Morocco. Then, go!