Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Two Book Reviews:

Can You Ever Forgive Me? By Lee Israel
Coming back from South America, I saw the movie based on this memoir on the plane. I really loved the movie, so I read the book. 

Before turning to the criminal life, running a one-woman forgery scam out of an Upper West Side studio shared with her tortoiseshell cat, and dodging the FBI, Lee Israel enjoyed a celebrated reputation as an author. When her writing career suddenly took a turn for the worse, she conceived of the astonishing literary scheme that fooled even many of the experts. Forging hundreds of letters from such collectible luminaries as Dorothy Parker, Noël Coward, and Lillian Hellman -- and recreating their autographs with a flourish -- Israel sold her "memorabilia" to dealers across the country, producing a collection of pitch-perfect imitations virtually indistinguishable from the voices of their real-life counterparts. Exquisitely written, with reproductions of her marvelous forgeries, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is Israel's delightful, hilarious memoir of a brilliant and audacious literary crime caper.

This turns out to be one of those rare books where I find the movie so much more satisfying than the book. It was a rather dull read. The book offered little that the movie didn’t provide, and the movie did it so much better. I did finish the read, but only because it was a short memoir. The only thing I found in the book that I didn’t catch in the movie was the sheer volume of forgeries she perpetrated—over 400 forged letters. Amazing. She said in the book she thought her illegal letters were her best writing. After reading the book, I’d be inclined to agree.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan 
This is another movie I saw and loved, and then read the book after. This time, as brilliant as the movie was, the book was equally as good if not better.  This one is going on to my favorites shelf, and I will reread it often. Ian McEwan is a master of presenting detail of the inner experience of his characters. 

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge who presides over cases in the family division. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude, and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.

At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: Adam, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, is refusing for religious reasons the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents echo his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely expressed faith? In the course of reaching a decision, Fiona visits Adam in the hospital—an encounter that stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.

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