Book Reviews

A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks (1945) — Two Reviews

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917 – 2000) was just twenty-eight years old when her first book, A Street In Bronzeville, was published in 1945. Following are two original reviews from 1945 of A Street in Bronzeville, which are typical of the universal praise it received.

The title of this poetry collection, whose title was a reference to  Chicago’s South Side where the poet grew up, was very well reviewed and led to her winning a Guggenheim Fellowship. 

Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetic work included sonnets, ballads, and blues rhythm in free verse. She also created lengthy lyrical poems, some of which were book-length. Each poem is an exquisitely crafted portrait of fictionalized (but true-to-life) characters and landmarks of the community.  Read More→

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Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (1933)

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (1893–  1970) has endured as this British author’s best known work. A memoir on how her life, and that of her generation, were forever marked by the losses endured as a result of World War I, it is indeed a touching testament.

Brittain’s brother, Edward, and her fiancé, Ronald Leighton, were both killed during the war. As a result of the these losses, and the suffering she personally witnessed as a volunteer nurse, she became a pacifist and remained a dedicated member of the peace movement for the rest of her life. Read More→

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The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne by Lesa Cline-Ransome

The story of Ethel L. Payne (1911 – 1991), the American journalist and correspondent, is a portrait of persistence, passion, and determination. Award-winning author Lesa Cline-Ransome has told her story in an inspiring book for younger readers. We’ll get to that after a brief introduction to Ethel Payne’s life and work.

Ethel grew up in a working-class African-American family in Chicago.  She was a diligent student and avid reader, and showed an early interest in writing.

Pursuing the dream of becoming a reporter was no small feat for a black woman of Ethel’s era. A trailblazer from the start, she set her own path, which began in Washington, D.C. during World War II and in post-war Japan. Her experiences in both places shaped her as a journalist and activist. Read More→

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The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch (1978)

The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch (1919 – 1999) was the prolific British author’s nineteenth novel. Following is a review and analysis from 1978, the year in which it was published.

The story of Charles Arrowby, a self-involved and egotistical retired theater director begins as he is setting about to write his memoir. To focus on this task, he secludes himself in a house, not surprisingly, near the sea. He muses: Read More→

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Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen (1934)

Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen (1885 – 1962) is a masterful collection of short stories by the Danish author best known for Out of Africa (1937), a now-controversial memoir of her life as a coffee plantation owner in the colonized Kenya of the 1920s.

In 1931, the plantation’s fortunes collapsed, and she returned to her family home in Denmark from Kenya. Karen Christenze Dinesen was the author’s original name, and she was known as Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke, or simply Karen Blixen, during her disastrous marriage.

Upon her return to her home country, she began writing in earnest. In 1934, Seven Gothic Tales, a collection of stories she had written in English, was published. Read More→

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