20 Books of Summer update–Half Way! 10 Books Finished

20 Books of Summer 2019

 

My Three “Musts” from my 20 Books of Summer post

1. Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy (reading this for another challenge)   FINISHED! My Review is here

2. Age of Desire by Jennie Fields  Still in progress

3. Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis Haven’t started

Others Finished

4. Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters by Jennifer Chiaverini. My review is here.

5. As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner. My review is here.

6. The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy by Anne De Courcy . My review is here.

7. The Pioneers by David McCullogh . My review is here.

8. The Guest List by Lucy Foley. My review is here.

9, The Authenticity Project . My review is here.

10. Passage to India by E.M. Forster. My review is here.

What I’m Reading Now

I’m listening to a post-war British novel. I’m reading a novel for my Reading the World project from a country I haven’t “done” yet. I’m also reading the 6 Degrees of Separation book for July but am nowhere near finishing it on time! I’m avoiding a few Net Galley ones I’m not as interested in reviewing now. I’m waiting for my pre-order of Fast Girls a novel about some of the U.S. women in the Berlin Olympics, to hit my Kindle. And, my enjoyment of planned reading is returning to my normal feeling of doom. It is back to feeling like homework. It was fun while it lasted though!

 

Spanish Literature Month

Winston’s Dad’s Blog is hosting this and has posted some helpful links to book lists. I know I just said I was “over” assigned reading, I’m back “on” for this! #SpanishLitMonth

My Book

 

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This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets

Blanca is forty years old and motherless. Shaken by the unexpected death of the most important person in her life, she suddenly realizes that she has no idea what her future will look like. To ease her dizzying grief and confusion, Blanca turns to her dearest friends, her closest family, and a change of scenery. Leaving Barcelona behind, she returns to Cadaqués, on the coast, accompanied by her two sons, two ex-husbands, and two best friends, and makes a plan to meet her married lover for a few stolen moments as well. Surrounded by those she loves most, she spends the summer in an impossibly beautiful place, finding ways to reconnect and understand what it means to truly, happily live on her own terms, just as her mother would have wanted.

Short Story

The Survivor, a short story, by Sonia Hernandez, is available free in English in The Guardian.

 

What I’ve Read Already translated into English from Spanish

 

Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. 

Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra. My review is here.

Havana Real by Yoani Sanche [nonfiction]. My review is here.

 

Books Set in Spanish-speaking countries or Spanish-speaking main characters but written in English

How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alverez. My review is here.

House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisnero. My review is here.

Dominicana: A Novel by Angie Cruz. My review is here.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. My review is here.

With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo. My review is here.

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton. My review is here.

When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton. My review is here.

Halsey Street by Naima Coster. My review is here.

Have you read any good novels translated from Spanish? Leave me a comment or a link to your review!

Review: A Passage to India, a classic just right for today

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My Interest

Never mind that I chose to finally read it because it is a classic. It is as much about today as it is about early 20th Century India. For minorities, even when they are the true majority in a country, real justice is often hard come-by. The British rule over India enforced a Western sense of order, justice, and manners and morality. But was that justice as fair to one group as to the British themselves? This is a very timely topic. In the United States, justice for Blacks has always been a problem, though as a nation we pride ourselves on an independent judiciary.  Reading Passage to India, if you substitute an American location, Passage to Indiana if you will, could as well be written about a white American woman and a Black American or Mexcian-American man. No difference.

The Story

“The issues Miss Quested had raised were so much more important than she was herself that people inevitably forgot her.”

“God who saves the King will surely support the police.”

A trip in a mixed (English and Indian) group to the Maranbar Caves has newly-arrived Miss Adela Quested sure she has been molested by the Indian host, Dr. Aziz. The Echo. The subsequent arrest and trial of Aziz bring out the worst in the rulers. The plotting, obfuscation, and outright lying would be right at home today in any court in the U.S.A. not trying the rape case of a top white, wealthy, collegiate swimmer. Miss Quested is treated like an imbecile (also still common today in rape cases anywhere in the world). But the predictable does not end predictably. In this case, justice prevails, but only in court. Aziz must remake his life elsewhere. Miss Quested returns home never to venture out of the UK again. Damages? A civil suit? No, no, no, move on, nothing to see here. The more things change the more they stay the same, eh?

My Thoughts

“The conversation had become unreal since Christianity had entered it. Ronny approved of religion as long as it endorsed the National Anthem, but he objected when it attempted to influence his life.”

“Ronny’s religion was of the sterilized Public School brand, which never goes bad, even in the tropics. Wherever he entered, mosque, cave or temple, he retained the spiritual outlook of the fifth form, and condemned as ‘weakening’ any attempt to understand them.”

First of all, I had a problem keeping two Ronnies straight. Ronnie Heaslop, the City Magistrate and putative fiancee of Miss Quested and the other Ronnie of the Raj–Ronnie Merrick of Jewel in the Crown–a story that also involves “fraternization” between a British woman and an Indian man, and which I enjoyed more, likely because I read it pre-cell phone attention span. I loved the miniseries, too, but then, back in the 80’s I loved the movie of Passage to India, too.

This book reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird even though it predates TKAMB by many years. The vivid portrayal of racism, the proceedings in court, the emotions generated. All were very much alike, only set in different countries and cultures.

Confession: I was not expecting an Indian voice to narrate the audio! #WhitePrivilege strikes again.

Note: This book was published in the 1920s. There are racial slurs in use at the time in this book that would not be used today. I think there were two such instances. Do not let that stop you from reading this impressive work that deserves its reputation as a classic.

My Verdict

4.5

 

New Pool Books for 2020

swimming-symbolWhen it’s 90 + degrees in the shade the idea of jumping into a swimming pool sounds great. Some people really love swimming–like my Mom and my brother. Then there are people like me who swim like rocks. I’d rather go to the dentist than to a public swimming pool. Reading about swimming is a perfect compromise! Crank up the AC to about 69 degrees and dive into a great new pool book!

Fiction

 

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Breathless by Jennifer Niven j is included here as it has a  swimming pool on the cover, but it is that modern [and to me appalling] right of passage that is key to the story: having sex for the first time. A coming-of-age story in the 21st century with much more to the story. I’ve got this one on my TBR.

Thank you to blogger Emily Talks About Books for introducing me to this book.

 

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Members Only: A Novel by Sameer Pandya. What can one racist joke do? In this members-only club–a lot!

I’ve pre-ordered this–it drops on July 7th.

 

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What better to read poolside than a who-done-it with a drowning while “sea bathing” [swimming]? Deadly Primrose by Suzette A. Hill.

 

Nonfiction

 

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Admit it, this cover now scares you to death, right? Where are their masks? Why aren’t they social distancing? Should that pool even be open? Lido: A Dip into Outdoor Swimming Pools by Christopher Beanland

 

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I love this cover!! Splash! 10,000 Years of Swimming By Howard Means is perfect for an introvert like me who despises going to public swimming pools!

 

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Why We Swim is propelled by stories of Olympic champions, a Baghdad swim club that meets in Saddam Hussein’s palace pool, modern-day Japanese samurai swimmers, and even an Icelandic fisherman who improbably survives a wintry six-hour swim after a shipwreck.” [Amazon]

Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui

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When Elizabeth Beisel watched the Olympics on television for the first time, she was seven years old in her parents’ living room. She decided right then and there she would compete at the Olympic Games one day. Eight years later, she made her first of three Olympic Teams as a fifteen-year-old. (Amazon)

Few people spend more time in the pool than Olympic swimmers! Had the 2020 Tokyo Olympics not been canceled, this book would have gotten a lot more attention, I’m sure.

Silver Lining by Elizabeth Beisel

For Children of All Ages

 

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Pool Party! at Farmer Brown’s! But will the cows join in? I love the Click, Clack books!

 

Want to add more titles? Leave me a comment with the new pool/swimming books you’ve come across. Or link to your review!

 

For more pool and swimming books, see:

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The Three-Year Swim Club by Julie Checkoway. My review is here (scroll down to see the review).

 

 

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Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch. My review is here.

 

 

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Diving Pool: Three Novellas by Yoko Ogawa. My review is here.

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday looks at the new books coming in late summer.

 

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My top pick

I’ve pre-ordered this one! I never do that. I hope it lives up to my expectations. July 7, 2020.

 

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Royal fiction is always a draw for me, but too often I can’t enjoy it due to the silly mistakes. I’ve already DNF-ed one new royal novel I got from Net Galley this summer. We’ll see how this goes with a wider cast of characters. The Women Before Wallis: A Novel… by Bryn Turnbull. July 21. 2020.

 

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All The Devils Are Here by Louise Penny is book #16 in the Cheif Inspector Gamache series. Coming September 1, 2020. I listen to this series, I’ve never read one in print or on Kindle.

 

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How to Raise an Elephant by Alexander McCall Smith. No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency book # 21. I also only listen to this series. Lisette Lecat is the superb narrator.

 

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Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley comes out December 1, 2020.

 

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Daughters of Yalta by Catherine Grace Katz is expected out on September 28, 2020. I will likely buy this one.

 

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Anxious People: A Novel by Fredrik Backman, comes out on September 8, 2020. He is a must-read for me these days. I’ve only tossed back his book, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry. I’ve loved the others.

 

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Empress Alexandra

Empress Alexandra: The Special Relationship Between Russia’s Last Tsarina and Queen Victoria by Melanie Clegg. Net Galley says September 30, but Amazon says January 2, 202. This is nonfiction, not a royal novel.

 

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Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce arrives on November 24. I loved The Music Shop and the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye (but not it’s “other half”–The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy so I’m looking forward to this one very much.

 

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I’ve read about a Black inner-city polo team, so when I saw this book I knew I’d want to read it. A Most Beautiful Thing by Arshay Cooper is available TODAY.

 

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Check out the rules at That Artsy Reader Girl and join in next week!

Review: The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

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The Story

Aging artist, Julian, starts the journey of a green exercise book he titles “The Authenticity Project,” by writing his own “authentic” story of his current life and leaves it in a local cafe. It travels a bit, in the neighborhood, and much farther, and is sometimes helped along on its journey by the latest author. Some well-intentioned ‘social engineering’ takes place by those who have read the entries and easily identify the author’s who have signed their work and are in the neighborhood of the cafe. But is all the authenticity really authentic?

My Thoughts

This is a sweet, fun book, that makes you wish you lived in that neighborhood! I especially liked the story of the Instagram Mommy-Influencer and that of Julian’s late wife. This is a perfect poolside read or a behind-your-mask [PLEASE] beach read.

My Verdict

3.0

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

P.S.

I’d like Rod Stewart! to play Julian in the movie.

Books With Matchbooks or Matches on the Cover

With the world on fire right now, how about some books to start that fire? Well, ok, not really start the fire, but books featuring matches or mathcbooks on the cover!

 

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Hotels of North America: A Novel by Rick Moody. This is the hardback cover.

 

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State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel

 

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. This is the British cover.

 

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 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This is the 50th Anniversary cover.

 

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Playing With Matches: A Novel by Hannah Orenstein

 

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The Match King by Frank Partnoy

 

I have skipped all the books on collecting matchbooks, even though some had covers that fit the bill.

 

Here is blogger Vicky Who Reads’ take on this topic–all different from mine! I’d rather link and give her the glory than use the same titles. So much more fun and everyone can enjoy a new blog, too.

Classics Club Spin #23: Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy

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#ccspin

The Classics Club helps make reading the classics more fun! What is a Spin? Read all the fun details here. In April we made our lists, the wheel was spun, and we were told to read number 6 by June 1st. You can read my list here. Number 6 was a kindle bargain book I got a while back–The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy, whose Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, I read too early in my life, in the literature of self-discovery–my freshman lit/writing class first semester in the Fall of 1980. The world was very different then–Ronald Regan was about to become president. Fast-forward more years than I like to say and I read and loved her novel, The Group. I’ve always planned to read her backlist, so this is my start at that goal.

 

The Story

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The Story

Imagine teaching today at a very liberal Liberal Arts college and proclaiming your affiliation with Donald Trump? But not really–just saying you loved him. There you have the premise of this novel set in progressive Jocelyn College during the McCarthy era. Published in 1952, during the reign of Senator Joseph McCarthy, this novel has stood the test of time fairly well. In a few ways–too well.

The book opens with Henry Mulchay, an instructor who was

“…he was intermittently aware of a quality of personal unattractiveness that emanated from him like a miasma;” [Kindle location 57]

reading a letter telling of his position not being renewed. The book then showcases the machinations of Mulchay and other members of his department in concocting a narrative around the letter, including Henry’s outing himself as the Communist he never was.

McCarthy, described once as

“...earnest, and empty Liberal with no sense of how complicated it is to be human.” (Leslie A.Fiedler)

wrote this book following her own experience at progressive Bard College and another college, so it sparkles with subtle wit, making fun of the academic life and its many trivialities. Like many who have read and reviewed this book, I found the little things to be hilarious. That colleges nearly 70 years on are still debating stuff like:

whether, for example, students in the dining hall, when surrendering their plates to the waiters, should pass them to the right or to the left…at an all-college meeting…compulsory for all...”[ Kindle location 780]

Another superb example was whether it is acceptable to drop the Latin diploma. Honestly, this stuff is still going on!

Many reviewers have loved the poetry conference–the ultimate send-up of academic pretensions. The will of the participants in ignoring the time-table, the egos that must be accommodated, the manners, the utter ridiculousness of the program–it is all there, beautifully written. I’ve helped with academic conferences. She nailed it, believe me.

“He had a style of old-fashioned, elaborate compliment, in which there could be detected the flourishes of an antique penmanship and the scratching for a bookkeeper’s quill.” [Kindle location 3224]

My Thoughts

My first impression was: “Wow! They had it good back then!” Instructor Henry Mulchay (“the only Ph.d in the Literature Department,” but only an “instructor” still) complains:

“How was he expected to take care of forty students if other demands on his attention were continually being put in the way?”

Only forty? What, per class? lol. The golden days of University life!

“Hen” as Mulchay is known, then goes on to speak suggestively, and in private, to a female student to whom he is “tutor” [in the Oxbridge sense of the word]! With that, the story instantly seemed to make sense to my #metoo era academic’s brain!

There were oh, so, many familiar things here! Suggestions of work being done for students to get them a diploma and get them out of someone’s hair–very today. The unforeseen idiotic comment that loses the college a huge donation from a “liberal lady.” The backbiting, in-fighting, turf-protecting, knowledge-siloing–all still there today. And, no tenure either–at least at schools without a union. All for the equivalent of Hen’s precious $3200 a year–and Hen the only Ph.D. in the department yet an instructor–not a professor. How prescient.

My Verdict

I enjoyed this book as you can see. I still think The Group offers more to the general reader. So much of what was funny in Groves of Academe was funny to me because I’ve worked in two Universities. Some of that would not be as funny to someone looking in from outside.

4.0

The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy

 

For other fictional and funny, looks at Academic life read

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Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. My review is here.

 

 

 

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Changing Places by David Lodge.  My mini-review is here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Redo! Ten Books To Read in About One Sitting II

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Somehow I missed the birthday part of this week’s TTT so I’m editing to include it!

Happy Birthday, TTT! Ten years and still running!

This week’s topic had three choices. I chose “pick a past TTT topic you’ve done and re-do/update it.” Here’s my first go at this topic–full of fun little books!

One Sitting Wonders!

 

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Modern Academe! Oh, the joys.

Dear Committee Members: A Novel by Julie Schumacher. My review is here.

 

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The women of WWII living the new peacetime life at The May of Teck Club in London.

Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark. My review is here.

 

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Blast from the past upsets rather odd man’s life.

Redhead by the Side of the Road: A  Novel by Anne Tyler. My review is here.

 

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Lust and the high school swim team Japanese style.

Diving Pool: Three Novellas by Yoko Ogawa. My review is here.

 

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The story of the devoted tutor’s life with the ill-fated children of Nicholas II.

The Romanovs and Mr. Gibbes by Frances Welch

 

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Commuting With the Past in France

The 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Philippe Blondel. My review is here.

 

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Essays With Sass, but Ladylike Sass

Southern Lady Code: Essays by Helen Ellis

 

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The Nazi Olympics in sound bytes.

Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August by Oliver Hilmes

 

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In which Hemingway and Fitzgerald ponder foreshortening.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.

I read this in college in the History of Paris & Berlin in the 1920s.

 

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Vacation romance circa The Gilded Age.

Daisy Miller by Henry James. I read this long ago.

 

 

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Check out the rules at That Artsy Reader Girl and join in next week!

Review: The Guest List: A Novel by Lucy Foley

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My Interest

Reece Witherspoon’s Book Club is reading  The Guest List this month,  so I decided to join them. She has announced a second,  topical pick for this month, I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown, which I bought for Kindle but have not started reading yet.

The Story

High-powered London online magazine creator and social media influencer Jules, is set to marry her perfect man–t.v. survival show hottie, Will. Jule’s secures a tiny island over Ireland for a new-to-the-world wedding venue. The dress is perfect, the venue is perfect, but, is the perfect man, really…perfect? A note slipped into her things tells her he’s not the man he appears to be. Should she worry?

Will is attended by a pack of posh Public school [private boarding school in England] mates all still pretty obsessed with the juvenile antics of their school–especially a sort of torture game called “Survival.” Secrets abound about their time at school, their Stag Party trip to another deserted island, this time off Sweden. What happened at the Stag, does it really have to stay on the Stag?

Then there is Hannah, wife of Jules’ “best friend”–yes, she’s so ultra-cool she has a married guy with a child as her bff. Jule’s need of Charlie leaves his wife mostly abandoned. So why is Hannah so drawn to Jule’s half-sister?

My Thoughts

This story rockets to a fireworks show of an ending! It is perfectly paced, the chapters are just enough, but never bog the story down in one of the bogs surrounding the wedding venue, aka The Folly. The last third of the story had my heart racing–I could not put it down till I got to the very end.

My Verdict

4.0

I will definitely go back and read her previous book The Hunting Party and maybe a few of her other backlist titles. The Guest List was compelling, I really hope they live up to it.

The Guest List: A Novel by Lucy Foley

 

 

My Reviews of Other Hello Sunshine Book Club picks:

 

 

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Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

 

 

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Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 

 

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Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

 

 

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Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

 

 

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

 

 

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