By Anderson McKean, Page & Palette Bookstore
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Perseverance. Such a huge word both in letters and meaning. For me, reading books about those who have conquered adversity is a humble reminder of the awesome power of the human spirit. In this issue, our author interview and selection of novels feature extraordinary stories of people from all walks of life, brave individuals driven by grit and determination to protect and defend, and most importantly, to overcome. I hope you are equally awed by these unforgettable stories of strength, courage and resilience.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
THIS BOOK. I just don’t know if words can do it justice. It is raw. Unflinching. Brutal. Tender. Heartbreaking. Hopeful. It is a story of survival and sacrifice; resilience and retribution; faith and forgiveness. Jeanine Cummins boldly exposes the depths of determination, strength and perseverance that we are capable of. During the treacherous border crossing of Lydia and her son Luca, readers witness the unfathomable lengths we will go to protect those we love, and honor the memories of those we’ve lost. American Dirt engulfs you from page one, consumes you with each chapter and lingers for weeks after you finish. It is a critically important novel that every American should read.
Dragonfly by Leila Meacham
Meticulously researched, fast paced and beautifully written, Leila Meacham’s Dragonfly is a riveting WWII story set in Paris during the German occupation. Meacham seamlessly weaves the mystery and intrigue of espionage with fascinating historical detail, resulting in a book I could not put down. It follows the brave journey of five civilians – a fly fisherman, track & field coach, engineer, fashion designer, and fencer – recruited to serve their country as OSS agents. Undercover and embedded behind enemy lines, these remarkable individuals are fiercely loyal to each other and to their mission, and are simply unforgettable.
Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Erin Morgenstern’s lush, descriptive writing is unparalleled; she creates unique, magical worlds for readers to get lost in. Her luminous debut, The Night Circus, blew me away from page one. Her long awaited second novel, The Starless Sea, was worth the wait. It is an imaginative, wholly immersive story that seamlessly weaves together fact and fiction, myth and legend. It is a book lover’s dream, taking you deep into an underground library, filled with stories guarded by individuals who take an oath to keep, protect and preserve. It is an epic literary journey unlike any other, one that only Morgenstern can tell.
Author Q&A With Marie Benedict
Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years’ experience as a litigator at two of the country’s premier law firms. While practicing, Marie dreamed of a fantastical job unearthing the hidden historical stories of women—and finally found it when she tried her hand at writing. She embarked on a new, thematically connected series of historical novels with The Other Einstein, Carnegie’s Maid and The New York Times bestselling The Only Woman in the Room. Ms. Benedict took time to talk to PORTICO about her latest novel, Lady Clementine.
Lady Clementine tells the story of Clementine Churchill, an extraordinary woman who played a critical role during World War I and World War II. What inspired you to write about her?
“As I researched my prior book, The Only Woman in the Room, which takes place during World War II, I kept encountering the legendary statesman, Winston Churchill. I began to wonder about the women in his life. Did Churchill undertake his famous work alone? Where was his wife of over three decades during the fabled events of the war? These questions began to plague me, and I became intrigued by the idea of Clementine Churchill and went down the rabbit hole of research,discovering her amazing personality and the incredible scope of her role.”
What is it about Clementine that you most admire? What are some traits Clementine shares with the women featured in your other novels, such as Hedy Lamarr and Mileva Einstein?
“Despite the fact that Clementine was a complex, often difficult woman, she had tremendous qualities that allowed her to undertake many critical endeavors during her marriage. Of them, I suppose I most admire the fact that she had to overcome her natural reticence and quiet to become a formidable public force as she carved out an unprecedented role for herself. In this manner, she is quite similar to Hedy Lamarr and Mileva Einstein who had to swim against the current of narrow preconceptions about women and their capabilities in order to utilize their unique talents and impact history.”
Who are some other women over looked by history whose stories remain untold?
“Over the years writing these connected novels, I feel as though I’ve developed an antenna for important historical women who’ve made key contributions about which we should be aware. I literally find these women everywhere—they’re hidden in plain sight—and I’ve created a long list of the ones about whom I’d like to write. To that end, I have several other books planned, including a novel releasing in January of 2021 about Agatha Christie and the manner in which her own disappearance gave rise to her legendary work.”
What books are currently on your bedside table?
“My nightstand literally teeters with the weight of books stacked upon it! Currently the following fiction books can be found there: Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, The Overstory by Richard Powers, and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, along with a heaping pile of research materials for my upcoming books.”
ABOUT THE BOOK
Lady Clementineis a riveting story of Clementine Churchill, the brilliant and ambitious woman who sat alongside—not behind—Winston Churchill. Benedict’s impeccable research reveals a partner who did not flinch during the darkness of war, who would not cower to conventions or critics, and who boldly shattered expectations to play a pivotal role in her husband’s administration, and in history.
For more book recommendations, click here.