Smith College Alumnae Reading Suggestions

From Julie Iatron '97, Literacy Program Director, Pollard Memorial Library, Lowell, MA

book cover The Dinner by Herman Koch

The Dinner by Herman Koch
"It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse -- the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.  Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love."

Your reaction to these characters will change completely from the beginning to the end of this dark novel.  What starts out as a seemingly normal dinner date becomes something much more twisted by the last page.  I finished the book and then had to reread the last two chapters to make sure I understood how things had ended--definitely a "Wait a minute, what just happened?!?!?!" kind of ending.

book cover The Good House by Ann Leary

The Good House by Ann Leary
"Hildy Good is a townie. A lifelong resident of an historic community on the rocky coast of Boston’s North Shore, she knows pretty much everything about everyone. Hildy is a descendant of one of the witches hung in nearby Salem, and is believed, by some, to have inherited psychic gifts. Not true, of course; she’s just good at reading people. Hildy is good at lots of things.  A successful real-estate broker, mother and grandmother, her days are full. But her nights have become lonely ever since her daughters, convinced their mother was drinking too much, staged an intervention and sent her off to rehab.  Now she’s in recovery—more or less.  Alone and feeling unjustly persecuted, Hildy needs a friend. She finds one in Rebecca McCallister, a beautiful young mother and one of the town’s wealthy newcomers. But not everyone takes to Rebecca, who is herself the subject of town gossip. When Frank Getchell, an eccentric local who shares a complicated history with Hildy, tries to warn her away from Rebecca, Hildy attempts to protect her friend from a potential scandal. Soon, however, Hildy is busy trying to cover her own tracks and protect her reputation.  When a cluster of secrets become dangerously entwined, the reckless behavior of one threatens to expose the other, and this darkly comic novel takes a chilling turn."

This book is hysterically funny, thoughtful, and terrifying--sometimes all at once.  The North Shore setting rings true, the character descriptions are wonderful, and you will sympathize and empathize with Hildy as many times as you will want to shake some sense into her.  I reached a point in this book where I knew I couldn't stop reading and stayed up late into the night because I HAD to know how it ended.

book cover Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell
"Thomas De Quincey, infamous for his memoir Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, is the major suspect in a series of ferocious mass murders identical to ones that terrorized London forty-three years earlier.
The blueprint for the killings seems to be De Quincey's essay "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts." Desperate to clear his name but crippled by opium addiction, De Quincey is aided by his devoted daughter Emily and a pair of determined Scotland Yard detectives."