CBE Book Group
November 23, 2015: "Dora Bruder" by Patrick Modiano
In 1988 Patrick Modiano stumbles across an ad in the personal columns of the New Year's Eve 1941 edition of Paris Soir: “Missing, a young girl, Dora Bruder, age 15, height 1 m 55, oval-shaped face, gray-brown eyes, gray sports jacket, maroon pullover, navy blue skirt and hat, brown gym shoes.” Placed by the parents of Dora, who had run away from her Catholic boarding school, the ad sets Modiano off on a quest to find out everything he can about her and why, at the height of German reprisals, she ran away from the people hiding her. There is only one other official mention of her name: on a list of Jews deported from Paris to Auschwitz in September 1942. What little Modiano discovers about Dora in official records and through remaining family members becomes a meditation on the immense losses of the period—lost people, lost stories, and lost history. Modiano delivers a moving account of the ten-year investigation that took him back to the sights and sounds of Paris under the Nazi Occupation and the paranoia of the Pétain regime. In his efforts to exhume her from the past, Modiano realizes that he must come to terms with the specters of his own troubled adolescence. The result, a montage of creative and historical material, is Modiano's personal rumination on loss, both memoir and memorial. Patrick Modiano was awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature and is one of the most celebrated French novelists of his generation. Dora Bruder has been translated worldwide in 20 languages.
December 21, 2015: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, National Book Award Finalist, New York Times Bestseller A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II, from the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr. Marie-Laure has been blind since the age of six. Her father builds a perfect miniature of their Paris neighbourhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. But when the Nazis invade, father and daughter flee with a dangerous secret. Werner is a German orphan, destined to labour in the same mine that claimed his father's life, until he discovers a knack for engineering. His talent wins him a place at a brutal military academy, but his way out of obscurity is built on suffering. At the same time, far away in a walled city by the sea, an old man discovers new worlds without ever setting foot outside his home. But all around him, impending danger closes in. Doerr's combination of soaring imagination and meticulous observation is electric. As Europe is engulfed by war and lives collide unpredictably, 'All The Light We Cannot See' is a captivating and devastating elegy for innocence.
January 25, 2016: Ali and Nino by Kurban Said Ali and Nino is the epic novel of enduring romance in a time of war. It has been hailed as one of the most romantic epic novels of all time. Ali and Nino, two lovers from vastly different backgrounds, grow up together in carefree innocence in Baku on the Caspian Sea. Here, where Eastern and Occidental collide, they are inevitably drawn into the events of the First World War and the Russian Revolution. Torn apart by the turmoil, Ali joins the defense of Azerbajan from the onslaught of the Red Army, and Nino flees to the safety of Paris with their child, not knowing whether they will ever see each other again. A sweeping tale, as romantic and gripping as Gone with the Wind or Dr. Zhivago, it portrays, against a gloriously exotic backdrop, the enduring love between childhood friends divided by their separate cultures. "One feels as if one had dug up buried treasure…one feels completely caught up in the novel's exotic setting…an epic of cultural change that seems more immediate than this morning's headlines." --The New York Times
The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life by Tom Reiss A thrilling page-turner of epic proportions, Tom Reiss’s panoramic bestseller tells the true story of a Jew who transformed himself into a Muslim prince in Nazi Germany. Lev Nussimbaum escaped the Russian Revolution in a camel caravan and, as “Essad Bey,” became a celebrated author with the enduring novel Ali and Nino as well as an adventurer, a real-life Indiana Jones with a fatal secret. Reiss pursued Lev’s story across ten countries and found himself caught up in encounters as dramatic and surreal–and sometimes as heartbreaking–as his subject’s life. “A wondrous tale, beautifully told . . . mesmerizing, poignant, and almost incredible. Reiss, caught up in the spell of Essad Bey, has turned around and worked some magic of his own.” The New York Times
Please note: For January, please read either one or both.
February 22, 2016: An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris National Bestseller, Winner of the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction A whistle-blower. A witch hunt. A cover-up. Secret tribunals, out-of-control intelligence agencies, and government corruption. Welcome to 1890s Paris. Alfred Dreyfus has been convicted of treason, sentenced to life imprisonment on a far-off island, and publicly stripped of his rank. Among the witnesses to his humiliation is Georges Picquart, an ambitious military officer who believes in Dreyfus's guilt as staunchly as any member of the public. But when he is promoted to head of the French counter-espionage agency, Picquart finds evidence that a spy still remains at large in the military—indicating that Dreyfus is innocent. As evidence of the most malignant deceit mounts and spirals inexorably toward the uppermost levels of government, Picquart is compelled to question not only the case against Dreyfus but also his most deeply held beliefs about his country, and about himself.
April 18, 2016: TBD
"The Moor's Last Sigh" by Salmon Rushdie
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