Shelf Life Blog
2017 falls during the 100th anniversary of World War I, and The Summer Before the War is the perfect novel to remind us of the world-changing conflict’s impact. In the novel, England is in the midst of fighting the Great War. For the small town of Rye in Sussex, all of the moral complexities of that war are realized. Helen Simonson is a master of gentle and sometimes fierce satire in this comedy of manners, as she was in her first novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.
The first three parts of The Summer Before the War have a lighter tone as the characters are gently satirized for their foibles. There is nostalgia for the Edwardian innocence still left in the town of Rye, but cruel prejudice and gossip also reside in the town. All the characters seem like good people, but Helen Simonson cleverly reveals their flaws. Beatrice Nash enters the scene as the first female Latin “master” for the local grammar school. Beatrice has recently lost her father, whom she idolized, but she will not bow to the dictates and restrictions of how her family and society want her to lead her life, so she must earn her way.
Three young sisters with a thieving past, Botille, Plazensa and Sazia were wanderers, surviving by any means necessary, moving from place to place once they wore out their welcome. The three sisters and Jabau, Sazia’s father, traveled to the French seaside town of Bajas, where for once they put down roots and became if not quite respected, still valuable residents. They open up a tavern and use their individual talents to bring in extra money. The observant and quick talking Botille becomes the town’s matchmaker; Plazensa puts her feminine wiles to use; and Sazia possesses her deceased mother’s ability to tell fortunes. In Bajas, they finally feel secure and content with their lives.
Dolssa is a noblewoman from Tolosa, who speaks of her beloved "Jhesus" to her family and friends who gather in crowds to hear her. But this is a very troubling time in the 13th century, shortly after a holy war has ravaged the countryside, dealing death to those judged as heretics as well as their enemy, the established Church. So, for Dolssa to have unsanctioned discussions about God and her personal relationship with her beloved Jhesus is reckless and does not go unnoticed. Dolssa is condemned as a heretic by Friar Lucien and is sentenced to death.
This readalike is in response to a customer's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids. You can browse the book matches here.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.” ― Offred, The Handmaid's Tale
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules. (catalog summary)
The Handmaid's Tale is an upcoming American television series based on the book. It has been ordered by streaming service Hulu with a straight-to-series order, with the production beginning in late 2016. Atwood will serve as consulting producer.¹ Elisabeth Moss will star in the series, along with Joseph Fiennes, Alexis Bledel, and Madeline Brewer. It will premiere on April 26, 2017. There has been two movies based on Atwood's book: 1990's The Handmaid's Tale, and 2016's The Handmaiden. See the first trailer below book suggestions.
If you enjoyed the dystopian themes of this novel and would be interested in similar works, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
1984 by George Orwell
Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell's chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell's narrative is more timely that ever. 1984 presents a "negative utopia," that is at once a startling and haunting vision of the world—so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of entire generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions--a legacy that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time. (catalog summary)
This bright picture book is a great introduction to how nature works for rather young children. If You Love Honey traces the connections between the wild world and its inhabitants from honey to honeybees to dandelions to ladybugs to goldenrod to . . . well, you get the idea.
Cathy Morrison’s detailed illustrations give kids a friendly look at the natural world. The animals and plants that rely on each other to thrive might be found every day in your neighborhood park, but the vivid colors and sharp lines put them in the spotlight for story time.
Pants are warm. Pants are soft. Pants are for pandas? No, absolutely not, according to the adult panda in Panda Pants, by Jacqueline Davies. But baby panda desperately wants a pair of pants—with pockets, please!
As parent and child wander through the bamboo forest debating the merits of pants, sharp-eyed readers may notice the tell-tale signs of danger stalking the pair. When a leopard attacks, will it be the end of our pandas? Or, can quick-thinking baby panda save the day . . . with a little help from a pair of pants?
Moon Juice was created by Amanda Chantal Bacon, a world-renowned chef and overall health nut. In 2011, Amanda Chantal Bacon, a fine-dining chef and overall health nut, opened Moon Juice, a Los Angeles-based shop for healthy foods and beverages.
As darkness falls, Marjorie hopes the children will not come again. With their taunts and rotten turnips for throwing, they harass her as much as they can, and there isn’t anything the princess, hanging in the filthy cage in the monastery courtyard, can do about it. To them, Marjorie is simply The Girl in a Cage.
This readalike is in response to a customer's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids. You can browse other book matches here.
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
Mary Beth Latham is first and foremost a mother, whose three teenaged children come first, before her career as a landscape gardener, or even her life as the wife of a doctor. Caring for her family and preserving their everyday life is paramount. And so, when one of her sons, Max, becomes depressed, Mary Beth becomes focused on him, and is blindsided by a shocking act of violence. (catalog summary)
You wanted a match to Every Last One by Anna Quindlen. Some other titles that have some elements of family dysfunction include:
After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman
Set in the past and the present, it tells the story of five women whose lives are changed forever when the man they love mysteriously disappears. (catalog summary)
William Shakespeare is considered to be one of the most influential playwrights in literature. Over four hundred years ago, he lit up the stage at the famous Globe Theater in 16th- and 17th-century England with his lavish histories, comedies, and tragedies.
The charred remains of Shedrick Thompson had not yet been cut from the tree from which he had been hanged before the controversy over his fate began. Thompson’s 1932 death was ruled a suicide by white authorities in rural Fauquier County, where Thompson lived and died. However, the local Fauquier population, white and black, knew that he had been lynched and his body torched. Thompson was the prime suspect in the severe beating of Henry and Mamie Baxley, a prominent local couple and Thompson’s landlords, who were viciously attacked in their home while their young son slept in the next room. Henry was knocked out cold by his attacker, and Mamie was dragged from the home and marched in the dead of night across several fields and into the woods where the assault continued. After the attack, Thompson vanished, most likely into the nearby foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where he had grown up. Despite numerous manhunts, his whereabouts would remain a mystery until two months later, when he died at the end of a rope on Rattlesnake Mountain.