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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

GUEST COLUMN: A lot of good books out there

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 12, 2017 12:01 am

It’s book time.

Do you realize the Harry Potter magic is 20 years old? Harry made his appearance in Great Britain in June of 1997 and became an indelible member of our society. Yes, I was one of those waiting eagerly for the next book to be written and published and never was I disappointed. I only marveled at the writing, the imagination, the creativity, the genius of Ms. Rowling. And it seems as though it is a series for a second generation now, too. Often when I’m interviewing someone for the Page Turner column, I’ll hear, “Oh, yes, I’m reading the Harry Potter books with my children, too.” Parents who read it as kids are now reading it with their kids! Can you imagine how J. K. Rowling must feel? Oh, to have such an impact - a healthy impact.

There is still some good writing out there. I thoroughly enjoyed “The Fortunate Ones, ‘ by Ellen Umansky. I don’t mean to imply it has the weight or excellence of the Potter books; I only mean it is a well-written novel.

Here we have two women generations apart, beautifully drawn by the author. She reminds the reader of Kindertransport, the name given to the time when parents sent their children away from Hitler-infested country to live with families in England and grow up in supposed safety. She reminds us of the rape of art by the Nazis, placing her emphasis on a Chaim Soutine painting. That painting was first commandeered during the Hitler regime, and then later was stolen from a private home. And we mourn its loss through the eyes of the two women. So here is a novel where history is important and writing is excellent. Enjoy!

I also thoroughly enjoyed Martin Cruz Smith’s latest book. It’s “The Girl from Venice” and again history plays an important role. The novel is set in World War II Italy, in occupied Venice and Salo.The protagonist, Cenzo, is a skilled fisherman who rescues a floating body which turns out to still have some life in it. The body belongs to a beautiful young woman - an educated, privileged young woman, who becomes a skilled assistant in the fishing business. While we read about Mussolini’s attempts at escape with his mistress and read the signs of Hitler losing power, we get wrapped up in this unlikely developing love affair. The author knows how to write. He has proven this to us before, in other books. You won’t be disappointed (I think).

Then there is “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.” It is by that marvelous Neil deGrasse Tyson. I hope you have seen him on television: he is charming, very well informed, very aware that thousands of us don’t understand the language of his field - quarks, black holes, etc. etc. etc.,and he magically educates us. Hey, this book is already on the best seller list!

I pored over many of his statements. I tried to envision life on earth and in that vast space and what genetic differences have resulted in, all enhanced with Tyson’s wit. What a teacher! This is a small book compared to today’s long tomes - 222 pages including the index. Try it.

In looking back over what I’ve written, I see I’ve liked what I’ve read and I hope you do, too.

Betty E. Stein is a retired teacher and resident of Fort Wayne.


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