The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

The Fortune Hunter is not a Pulitzer Prize winner. The plot is flimsy, the characters flat, the writing barely passable. I know what you’re thinking: Yeah, that’s what historical romances are like! They’re formulaic, but they’re fun. Innocent girl meets handsome rake, girl is compromised, rake reforms, everyone has lots of sex and all is right with the world. Right?

Almost right. The problem with The Fortune Hunter is that it is not accepting of its fate as a bodice-ripper. First of all, no bodices were harmed in the making of this book. Our heroine, Charlotte, stays decorously buttoned up the whole time. Second, one of the great joys of the historical romance novel genre is witty, period-appropriate repartee between the lovers (a la Jane Austen). While Charlotte has a bit of spark to her conversation, love interest Bay is taciturn and downright boring.

Five years ago, this book would not have been published, at least in its present form. Some editor would have demanded the author insert some seriously steamy sex scenes, or more likely just dumped the manuscript in the shredder. But the enormous success of Downton Abbey has created a space in the literary world for the Victorian daytime soap genre: not clever enough to be Austen, not risque enough to be Cinemax.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC GOODWIN)

Small Plates by Katherine Hall Page

Reviewed by Terry Zignego (Library Staff)

These 9 short story mysteries are delightful and appeal to a variety of moods and tastes. I especially enjoyed the quirky endings in several of the stories. Katherine Hall Page, author of the Faith Fairchild cozy mystery series, is an Agatha Award winner. I look forward to reading one of her full-length mysteries in the near future.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC PAGE)

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

Marina Keegan graduated from Yale University in May 2012 and died in a car accident five days later. Her stories and essays were collected into this volume by one of her professors and published with the blessing of her family. After reading the history of this book’s publication in the introduction, I was prepared to pity the author and appreciate her work for the glint of future brilliance her professor seemed to believe it held.

I was not prepared for what came next. The first story, ʺCold Pastoral,ʺ time-warped me back to college. It sounds cliche to say she writes like an adult looking back, but I’m not the writer she is, so I have to rely on cliches. Again and again throughout the stories section, Keegan achieves an authenticity of voice that astounded me. She writes an elderly woman, a civilian contractor in Iraq, and a doomed submarine crewman (in the gut-wrenching ʺChallenger Deepʺ) with a transparency Stephen King could envy.

The essays are not as polished as the stories, but they can still hold their own among the work of most essayists I have read. ʺWhy We Care About Whalesʺ in particular exemplifies the best type of essay: in which a specific event serves as a prism for exploring a larger theme. Marina Keegan was not just a gifted youngster with great things in her future. She was a powerful writer who had already produced world-class work–we just didn’t know it until she was gone.

Located in Adult Nonfiction (818.6 KEE)