From Russia with love – Biography picks for March

Many readers loved Elena Gorokhova’s A Mountain of crumbs – her account of growing up in pre-Perestroika Russia. Now they can read of her new, longed-for life in the United States, and her reunion with her remarkable mother. This is a story which is both funny and touching.
Also received this month were new books by Diana Athill, Joan Bakewell and Marian Keyes. You are spoiled for choice!

Syndetics book coverRussian tattoo : a memoir / Elena Gorokhova.
“From the bestselling author of A Mountain of Crumbs, a “brilliant and illuminating” (BookPage) portrait of mothers and daughters that reaches from Cold War Russia to modern-day New Jersey to show how the ties that hold you back can also teach you how to start over.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMaking it up as I go along / Marian Keyes.
“‘Fabulous shoes, my badly made stews, an Antarctic cruise and ten pounds to lose. Having to schmooze when I’d far rather snooze. Skin care and bad hair and what should I wear? All kinds of views, which I hope will amuse…’ Welcome to the magnificent Making It Up as I Go Along – aka the World According to Marian Keyes. A bold, brilliant book bursting with Marian’s hilarious and heartfelt observations on modern life, love and much, much else besides.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIn other words / Jhumpa Lahiri ; translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein.
In Other Words is a revelation. It is at heart a love story: that of a writer for another language. For Jhumpa Lahiri, that love was for Italian, which first captivated and capsized her during a trip to Florence after college. Although Lahiri studied Italian for many years afterward, true mastery always eluded her. Seeking full immersion, she decides to move to Rome with her family. There, she begins to read and write solely in Italian. In Other Words investigates the process of learning to express oneself in another language, and describes the journey of a writer seeking a new voice. Presented in a dual-language format, this is a wholly original book about exile, linguistic and otherwise, written with intensity and clarity.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAbout women : conversations between a writer and a painter / Lisa Alther and Françoise Gilot.
“Lisa Alther and Françoise Gilot have been friends for more than twenty-five years. Although from different backgrounds (Gilot from cosmopolitan Paris, Alther from small-town Tennessee) and different generations, they found they have a great deal in common as women who managed to support themselves with careers in the arts, while simultaneously balancing the obligations of work and parenthood.” (Provided by publisher)

Syndetics book coverAmelia Earhart : beyond the grave / W.C. Jameson.
“This well-researched book is a biography of the life–and disappearance–of Amelia Earhart, the pioneering aviator who was the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic in 1928. But did Amelia’s plane really crash and sink in 1937, or was her fate entirely different?” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAlive, alive oh! and other things that matter / Diana Athill.
“What will you remember if you live to be 100? Diana Athill charmed readers with her prize-winning memoir Somewhere Towards the End, which transformed her into an unexpected literary star. Now, on the eve of her ninety-eighth birthday, Athill has written a sequel every bit as unsentimental, candid, and beguiling as her most beloved work.”(Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStop the clocks : thoughts on what I leave behind / Joan Bakewell.
“Joan Bakewell has led a varied, sometimes breathless life. In Stop the Clocks, she muses on all she has lived through, how the world has changed and considers the things and values she will be leaving behind. Stop the Clocks is a book of musings, a look back at what she was given by her family, at the times in which she grew up. She talks of the present, of her family, of friends and literature – and talks too of what she will leave behind.” (Syndetics summary)

A good one in another part of the library:
Syndetics book coverM train / Patti Smith.
“Following Smith’s bestselling and critically acclaimed book Just Kids, this essay collection creates a map of the singer-songwriter’s peripatetic journeys to cafes, cemeteries, hotels, and train stations around the world. She is the perfect guide, revealing the mysteries in the shadows, the little bits of life people often take for granted-such as a good cup of coffee, a familiar coat, or the “transformation of the heart”.” (Syndetics summary)

Margaret Forster (1938–2016), noted novelist and biographer
It is with great sadness that we recently learned of the death of this well-loved author, of cancer at the age of 77. Although best known for her novel Georgy girl, Margaret Forster was the author of 14 biographies, among them the prize-winners Elizabeth Barrett Browning: a Biography and Daphne du Maurier: The Secret Life of the Renowned Storyteller. A feminist who recognised that the pioneering women who went before her had paved the way for her own success, she wrote Significant sisters: the grassroots of active feminism 1839-1939 in 1984.

Her last work of non-fiction, an autobiography entitled My life in houses, was published in 2014.

Syndetics book coverMy life in houses / Margaret Forster.
“Margaret Forster takes us on a journey through the houses she’s lived in: from the council house in Carlisle where she was born in 1938, to her beloved London house of today – via the Lake District, Oxford, Hampstead, and a spell in the Mediterranean. This is not a book about bricks and mortar, but a book about what houses are to us, and the effect they have on the way we live our lives. It is also a very personal inquiry into the meaning of home.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Rest in peace Margaret. You have brought much reading pleasure to many people.