1. The Patriot, by Pearl Buck  4+
  2. George Washington, by Paul Johnson, NF  5
  3. The Last Lion: Alone (Vol. 2), by William Manchester, NF 5
  4. Persuader, by Lee Child                                       4
  5. Bad Luck and Trouble, by Lee Child               5
  6. Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowery*
  7. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner P 1972                                                                                       3
  8. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammet 4
  9. The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy                          2
  10. The Razor’s Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham 5
  11. Atonement, by Ian McEwan               3
  12. Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart               5
  13. The Wife Upstairs, by Rachel Hawkins 5
  14. And Then She Was Gone, by Christopher Greyson 2
  15. A Burning, by Megha Majumdar 4
  16. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving             5
  17. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm,

1940-1965 by William Manchester and Paul Reid, NF                                        5

  1. I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith     4+
  2. The Small Rain, by Madelaine L’Engle 4

*Did not finish

P=Pulitzer + year

B=Booker + year


  1. The Patriot, by Pearl Buck 4+

Enjoyed it very much. Buck is an underappreciated writer of the 20th century, and she was prolific. I had not realized the extent of her literary corpus. She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1938). She also garnered the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. This book covers roughly 12 years after the death of Sun Yat-sen and the collapse of the Republic to about 1938, a period in which communists and Chiang Kai-chek’s revolutionists realized that for the time being, they needed to focus on resisting the Japanese. The history is fascinating, and yet the story line is strong and viable. Buck’s knowledge of China and Japan (she lived in Japan for at least a year) is, of course, extensive. The book was published in 1939. I was not happy with the ending. Seemed abrupt; felt like there was more to the story than she had time to tell.


  1. The Last Lion: Alone (Vol. 2), by William Manchester, NF 5

A harrowing tale of a nation with their head in the sand for a decade (1930s), no doubt a reaction to the horrors of the Great War, a memory only 15 years old. Germany could have been stopped in its tracks on numerous occasions. But France and England temporized. They could not believe that what they’d just experienced 20 years earlier was about to thrust upon them again, and by the same agressor. Neville Chamberlain, an accountant and administrator, not the right person for this time in England’s history. Fortunately, there was such a man, and fortunately, England turned to him. It was almost too late. Wonderful book, and I shall now order the last in the three-volume set.


  1. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner 3

The enjoyment level was mild, three stars. I lost interest while they were in Mexico, and some of the longer letters failed to grab me. There are two story lines. The first is the story of the aging and para-lyzed Stanford professor of history. He is researching the story of his grandparents, especially his grandmother. And that is the second storyline. One problem is that the fictional charater of this woman, Susan Burling Ward, is based on a real woman and the letters in the novel are letters that the real historical woman wrote. This resulted in some unfortunate misunderstandings, and lawsuits I believe. I did very much like the metaphor of “angle of repose.” I am going to quote from the Wikipedia article on it:

The angle of repose, or critical angle of repose, of a granular material is the steepest angle of descent or dip relative to the horizontal plane to which a material can be piled without slumping. At this angle, the material on the slope face is on the verge of sliding. The angle of repose can range from 0° to 90°. The morphology of the material affects the angle of repose; smooth, rounded sand grains cannot be piled as steeply as can rough, interlocking sands. The angle of repose can also be affected by additions of solvents. If a small amount of water is able to bridge the gaps between particles, electrostatic attraction of the water to mineral surfaces will increase the angle of repose, and related quantities such as the soil strength.

When bulk granular materials are poured onto a horizontal surface, a conical pile will form. The internal angle between the surface of the pile and the horizontal surface is known as the angle of repose and is related to the density, surface area and shapes of the particles, and the coefficient of friction of the material. Material with a low angle of repose forms flatter piles than material with a high angle of repose.

The term has a related usage in mechanics, where it refers to the maximum angle at which an object can rest on an inclined plane without sliding down.


Stegner uses this in the novel because his protagonist’s grandfather was an engineer. But it is also a metaphor for the marriage. It had a very high angle of repose, and the secret to the stability of the marr-iage is that they had discovered their angle of repose and come to terms with it. It was as it was. They were apart as long as 18 months at a time. It’s possible that they never experienced romantic love with each other. But they found their resting place.

There are many who could not be satisfied with simply finding the point at which everything comes crashing down. But, I found it a helpful illustration of that toward which a successful marriage is pointed. A point where you know intuitively what the other wants, where you shoulder responsibilities without being told and without fussing about what the other person is doing. It is a repose that doesn’t intrude, that knows when silence is needed or when speaking up is required. So I liked that, and I underlined several passages that spoke to me. But on the whole: 3 stars.


  1. The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy   2

I had a marg and a cigar and finished reading The Moviegoer, a book which was not at all what I thought it would be, and for which I did not care one bit. This is two in a row that perhaps succeed brilliantly as literary works of art, but fail miserably as stories worth reading. This one, like Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano, has a thin, red thread of a storyline stitched through the novel, which, if culled and placed together in a linear way would occupy a mere handcloth of narrative. Instead, what we have here is a patchwork quilt of a novel in which the storyline is so light as to be almost invisible. Percy is often funny, but this first person stream of consciouness is too Falk-nerian or Jocycean. And perhaps the book, (which incidentally, is not about somebody who goes to the movies), is in fact, about the protagonist’s search for God and meaning, but the reader has to care. I absolutely didn’t care if Binx Bolling found God, Kate, or Sharon. … Percy didn’t make me interested in anything Bolling was saying. Most of the novel is a detour. Think of a map of Old Jerusalem. That’s how this book reads. This was Percy’s debut novel and it won a Pulitzer Prize, as did Lowry’s Under the Volcano. Draw your own conclusions.


  1. The Razor’s Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham   5

This book is perhaps his best book, although Of Human Bondage ranks high. Strong story combined with excellent writing, ingenious devic-es, good characters. He frequently addresses the reader, and he him-self is a character in the book. Early on he writes: “I want to be read and I think I am justified in doing what I can to make my book readable” ¾ a sentiment clearly not shared by Malcolm Lowry or Walker Percy.


  1. Atonement, by Ian McEwan   3

I didn’t enjoy it much. Similar complaint: too little story, too much essaying. I did not want to read about three soldiers tramping their way to Dunkirk during World War 2. Didn’t seem to be relevant to the story line as thin as it was. And the title boldly seems to announce the theme, yet I don’t think there was any atonement whatso-ever¾only guilt, anger, remorse. Perhaps Penance would have been an apter title.


  1. Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart 5

I finished Shuggie Bain and enjoyed it, although it is a sad, sad book, and I believe it is highly autobiographical. It describes the life of a little boy and covers his life for a 10-year period. He’s clearly aware that he’s not like other boys, and the reader knows that he’s a kid who’se gay but doesn’t understand what gay is. He’s tormented by other students and often misses school. But the bigger problem in his life is his alcoholic mother and a father who’s abusive and leaves the family. But, although everyone else leaves his mother, in-cluding his sister and older halt-brother, he stays with her, taking care of her when she’s in a drunken condition which is most of the time. This book would make a great Academy Award film, but it is so sad that if moviegoers read the book first they would not want to watch the film. But, a clever director and a good script could result in a good ending, because when the book closes, Shuggie is with Leanne, also young, about Shuggie’s age, and they become friends because she’s a lesbian, she understands Shuggie and they connect with each other, and she also has no father and an alcoholic mother.


  1. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 by William Manchester and Paul Reid, NF        5

Read more than 900 pages of the 1100 page tome. I stopped after the Allies gained Berlin, Hitler dead, and so on. As I said, at this point I was past page 900, and Manchester/Reid covered the last 20 years of Churchill’s life in a mere 200 pages. I may come back to it someday, but probably not.

The book, indeed, the entire trilogy was fabulous and I highly recommend it. And it neatly described the disintegration of Britain’s empire and the rise of both the Soviet Union, but especially the Unit-ed States as the preeminent world power. I was amused by Roosevelt and Churchill’s troubles with de Gaulle, and also with the relation-ship between R and C after they finally entered the war. I had not been aware of the tension between the Pacific theater and the Euro-pean theater. When the U.S. first entered the war, Churchill didn’t know if Roosevelt would go to war against Germany or against Japan. In the end it was both. I was also surprised how long it took the US to ramp up and start providing some actual help. I also did not realize how effective the Axis U-boat campaign in the Atlantic had been and for how long. The importance of decoding Axis com-munications was again reinforced. Amazing stuff. Excellent read.


  1. I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith             4+

An English family, fallen on hard times, have a 40-rent lease on a falling down castle, where the live in abject poverty, waiting for their mad genius of a father to replicate the brilliance of an earlier work, Jacob Wrestling, the success of which had him touring in the United States. That was 12 years ago, and after a three month stint in prison for attacking a man, and the death of his wife and the children’s mother, he’s not the same man. The novel is redolent (by design) of Austen and the Bronte sisters. But the ending, while not a sobbingly sad one, was not the Bronte or Austen ending I was hoping for, analogies which Dodie Smith herself uses in the book. But, that said, it was a delightful story with some hilarious scenes. In the ends Cassandra, the 17-year-old narrator, fails to capture the heart of the one she loves, and she rejects the one who loves her, so no one is happy except Neil and sister Rose who surprise everyone in the end. The father’s writing project seems goofy and hopelessly made up.


  1. The Small Rain, by Madelaine L’Engle 4

Enjoyed it a lot. The ending was not entirely satisfying. Although she salted the last chapter with hints, the unstated or unspoken outcome was by no means certain. One reason for this is because perhaps she herself didn’t know. She may not have planned to write a sequel I shall now read the sequel, The Suspended Wasp, written about 30 years ago and 30 years after TSR. TSR is well-written, a Bildungsroman that offers an impressive display of L’Engle’s knowledge of the Shakespearan corpus for one so young and a first novel, but of course she was an aspiring actress in NY as well as an aspiring writer, and writing in time prevailed. Her protagonist, Katherine Forrester is 12-19 years old from beginning to end, and L’Engle perhaps attributes to her more wisdom that one would expect of an adolescent.

Still much of the novel is autobiographical, yet this doesn’t interfere with the narrative. One can read more online about this. I’ve read nothing of L’Engle including the work that brought her international acclaim, A Wrinkle in Time.