The Best Books I’ve Read This Month

It’s hard to believe April is already over – the month went by so fast! I read several really great books this month, including these from an earlier post in April. Below are some more April reads that I haven’t shared yet.

 

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

Publisher’s Description: 

In an enthralling new feat of historical suspense, Ariel Lawhon unravels the extraordinary twists and turns in Anna Anderson’s 50-year battle to be recognized as Anastasia Romanov. Is she the Russian Grand Duchess, a beloved daughter and revered icon, or is she an imposter, the thief of another woman’s legacy?

             Countless others have rendered their verdict. Now it is your turn.
 
Russia, July 17, 1918: Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed. 

Germany, February 17, 1920: A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia. 
     
Her detractors, convinced that the young woman is only after the immense Romanov fortune, insist on calling her by a different name: Anna Anderson. 
     As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre, old enemies and new threats are awakened. With a brilliantly crafted dual narrative structure, Lawhon wades into the most psychologically complex and emotionally compelling territory yet: the nature of identity itself.
     The question of who Anna Anderson is and what actually happened to Anastasia Romanov creates a saga that spans fifty years and touches three continents. This thrilling story is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.

Lawhon is on my list of favorite female authors, and I loved her last book, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress. Her other novel, Flight of Dreams, is on my TBR. In both of the novels that I’ve read, Lawhon has amazed me with her grasp on historical events and her willingness to speculate where facts can’t always be found. This was a fascinating book, with an ending that some might find controversial, but I thought was perfect. If you were ever a little girl wishing you were secretly a princess who would one day be royalty again, this is the book for you.

 

White Houses by Amy Bloom

Publisher’s Description:

Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt’s first presidential campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, “Hick,” as she’s known to her friends and admirers, is not quite instantly charmed by the idealistic, patrician Eleanor. But then, as her connection with the future first lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love, and a life that Hick never expected to have. She moves into the White House, where her status as “first friend” is an open secret, as are FDR’s own lovers. After she takes a job in the Roosevelt administration, promoting and protecting both Roosevelts, she comes to know Franklin not only as a great president but as a complicated rival and an irresistible friend, capable of changing lives even after his death. Through it all, even as Hick’s bond with Eleanor is tested by forces both extraordinary and common, and as she grows as a woman and a writer, she never loses sight of the love of her life. 

From Washington, D.C. to Hyde Park, from a little white house on Long Island to an apartment on Manhattan’s Washington Square, Amy Bloom’s new novel moves elegantly through fascinating places and times, written in compelling prose and with emotional depth, wit, and acuity.

Although this is fiction, it’s written like a memoir and therefore was slower reading for me. I liked it well enough but did find the timelines confusing, as the author went back and forth many times to different periods in the main characters’ lives.

 

 

Saints for All Occassions by J. Courtney Sullivan

Publisher’s Description: 

A sweeping, unforgettable novel from The New York Times best-selling author of Maine, about the hope, sacrifice, and love between two sisters and the secret that drives them apart.

Nora and Theresa Flynn are twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America. Nora is the responsible sister; she’s shy and serious and engaged to a man she isn’t sure that she loves. Theresa is gregarious; she is thrilled by their new life in Boston and besotted with the fashionable dresses and dance halls on Dudley Street. But when Theresa ends up pregnant, Nora is forced to come up with a plan—a decision with repercussions they are both far too young to understand. Fifty years later, Nora is the matriarch of a big Catholic family with four grown children: John, a successful, if opportunistic, political consultant; Bridget, quietly preparing to have a baby with her girlfriend; Brian, at loose ends after a failed baseball career; and Patrick, Nora’s favorite, the beautiful boy who gives her no end of heartache. Estranged from her sister, Theresa is a cloistered nun, living in an abbey in rural Vermont. Until, after decades of silence, a sudden death forces Nora and Theresa to confront the choices they made so long ago. A graceful, supremely moving novel from one of our most beloved writers, Saints for All Occasions explores the fascinating, funny, and sometimes achingly sad ways a secret at the heart of one family both breaks them and binds them together.

 

I bought a signed copy of this book last year at RJ Julia’s bookstore, in Madison, CT, and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it. I really enjoyed it; books that cover the entirety of a character’s life and the history of the world around them are right in my wheelhouse. I’m really glad I read this one.

I read nine books this month, which I realize for many people is a lot of books! However, for me it’s less than usual and this has been a trend I’ve noticed over the past few months. Even though I’ve read some really great books, I’ve also abandoned quite a few others and have found myself in a bit of a reading rut. I do think I’m coming out of it though and hope to have many more books to share with you in May.

Please let me know what you’ve been reading lately!

 

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