Book Reviews

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1956)

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith is a 1956 novel introducing Thomas Ripley, the sociopathic anti-hero who went on be the central character of four subsequent books. The five novels came to be known as “the Ripliad.” The first installment was followed by Ripley Under GroundRipley’s GameThe Boy Who Followed Ripley, and Ripley Under Water.  

Like many of Highsmith’s characters, Tom Ripley is a con artist and murderer. Highsmith described him as “suave, agreeable, and utterly amoral.” He’s cultured, charming, and often portrayed as likable, which puts the reader in a moral bind — just as the author intended. 

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Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy by Leslie Brody

It’s still so relevant—a writer with her mouth “open in horror all the time” at “the state of the world” and all the “social injustice, prejudice, and poverty” around her. That’s how Louise Fitzhugh describes feeling in the mid-1970s—toward the end of her life, in a letter to a friend—in Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy (2020), a biography by Leslie Brody.

In the five years following its publication in 1964, Harriet the Spy sold about 2.5 million copies; that number nearly doubled by 2019. Decades have passed, but she remains relevant: readers continue to freshly fall for—and renew their acquaintance with—Harriet. Read More→

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All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sydney Taylor — Jewish Joy, Family Ties

All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sidney Taylor (1951) is the first of a series of children’s books about the everyday lives of a tight-knit Jewish family at the turn of the 20th century. Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie are young sisters who live with their parents in the Lower East Side of New York City.

This story and its sequels smooth the rough edges of immigrant life, but the warmth and strength of the family unit sends the message that love and mutual respect can overcome many of life’s challenges. The girls occasional bicker, but their love and loyalty for one another is evident.

The five sisters love to do everything together, whether it’s going to the library to choose each week’s treasured books, interacting with peddlers in Papa’s junk shop on rainy days, or going on the rare outing with wise, patient Mama. Read More→

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Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry (1947)

Marguerite Henry (1902–1997) was an American children’s book author who wrote some fifty-nine novels inspired by true stories of horses and other animals. Her most famous novel, Misty of Chincoteague (1947), was the first in a series of six stories centered around a wild palomino pony named Misty.

Set in the island town of Chincoteague, Virginia, the novel stars Misty and her mother (Phantom) along with brother and sister Paul and Maureen Beebe. While the book is a work of fiction, the story is based on real people and ponies of Chincoteague Island.

In 1948, Misty of Chincoteague received the Newbery Honor Award and went on to become a classic children’s horse story, right up there with Black Beauty. The book was a bestseller, reprinted numerous times, and is still in print.

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All This, and Heaven Too by Rachel Field (1938)

All This, and Heaven Too is the evocative title of Rachel Field’s 1938 historical novel, based on the life of her great-aunt Henriette Deluzy Desportes. Though she passed away prematurely, Field manage to produce a prodigious array of works in several genres, including children’s books (notably the award-winning Hitty: Her First Hundred Years), poetry, plays, and novels.

If the title seems familiar, it may be in part thanks to the widely praised 1940 film of the same name starring Bette Davis in the role of the novel’s heroine. 

Originally published by the Macmillan Company, The Chicago Review Press republished the book in 2003, some years after it had fallen into relative obscurity. Here’s a brief description  from the later edition: Read More→

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