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Larkspur - 100 Years

Book Club Title List and Literary History
Winter - Spring 2012 Book Titles and Descriptions

  • Wednesday, January 11th - Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
"Cleopatra stood at one of the most dangerous intersections of history: that of
women and power," writes Schiff in this excellent, myth-busting biography. It is
that intersection that interests Schiff rather than romance. Cleopatra was no
great beauty, we learn/ But the Egyptian queen (69-30 B.C.E.)-who was actually
a Greek Ptolemy-was charismatic, intelligent, shrewd, and ruthless, concerned
less with love than with maintaining her kingdom and Ptolemaic grandeur,
threatened by Rome's civil wars. Caesar and Antony were seduced by her most
alluring feature-her fabulous wealth, which Rome desperately needed. Schiff,
author of the acclaimed A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of
America, faces a dearth of documentation on Cleopatra, as well as unreliable
portraits by Plutarch, Dio, and others, forcing her often to speculate about
Cleopatra's feelings and motives. But Schiff enters so completely into the time
and place, especially the beauty and luxury of the "great metropolis" of
Alexandria, Cleopatra's capital, describing it in almost cinematic detail. And
though we all know the outcome, Schiff's account of Cleopatra's and Antony's
desperate efforts to manipulate their triumphant enemy, Octavian, make for
tragic, page-turning reading. No one will think of Cleopatra in quite the same way
after reading this vivid, provocative book. Publishers Weekly Review

  • Wednesday, February 8th - Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas
Eleonora Cohen's mother dies after giving birth to her in the Romanian city of Constant-a on the Black Sea in 1877. The child is raised by her doting father, Yakob, a rug merchant, and her cold and calculating aunt. By the time she is four, it is evident that Eleonora is a child prodigy; she reads and speaks several languages. When her father leaves for a trip to Stamboul (as Istanbul was then known in the Ottoman Empire), Eleonora, age eight, stows away on the ship. In Stamboul, Eleonora and her father visit her father's business partner, Turkish aristocrat Moncef Bey, and then tragedy strikes again. Meanwhile, Eleonora's extraordinary genius has come to the attention of the sultan himself, who invites her to his palace and seeks her advice. Soon rumors of the child's powers are flying around the city, and Eleonora has to make a very adult decision. VERDICT This first novel by a promising young writer is both vivid historical fiction and a haunting fable. It will appeal to a wide range of readers.-Library Journal Review

  • Wednesday, March 14th: The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough
This is a highly readable and entertaining travelogue of a special sort, an interdisciplinary treat from a tremendously popular Pulitzer Prize-winning historian. McCullough (John Adams) tells of the many American writers, artists, political figures, etc., who traveled to Paris during the period from 1830 to 1900. Travel was a "wild novelty" to them as they sought to bask in the inspiration of Paris's culture and heritage. McCullough has unearthed the reminiscences and reflections of an amazing array of prominent Americans, including Margaret Fuller, Mary Cassatt, Henry Adams, Edith Wharton, Mark Twain, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Charles Sumner, with results valuable both as a record of personal experiences and, more importantly, for the revelations about the intersection of French and American history in these years, encompassing the French sympathy for the Confederacy, as well as how American ingenuity (the light bulb, telegraph, telephone, even the soda fountain) captivated the French. While McCullough has relied on the letters and journals of many superb writers and cultural figures, his most valuable find for students of political history is the detailed diary kept by diplomat Elihu Washburne during the tumultuous days of the Paris Commune. Verdict Highly recommended and sure to captivate general readers and generalist scholars alike.  Library Journal Review

  • Wednesday, April 11th: Crooked Letter Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas "32" Jones were boyhood pals. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the county - and perhaps Silas most of all. His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town. More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they've buried and ignored for decades.

  • Wednesday, May 9th: Paris Wife by Paula McLain

A young Miss Hadley Richardson, with high spirits and lovely auburn hair, meets a handsome aspiring writer named Ernest Hemingway. They marry and make their way to Paris, living in a squalid apartment and spending time in cafe society with fellow expatriates Gertrude Stein, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Sylvia Beach. Though the post-World War I years offer a great deal of creative freedom for these idle Americans, self-indulgence is the code of the day. Will Hadley choose to step aside as literary success-and another woman-come to take their place in Ernest's life? In her second novel (following A Ticket To Ride), McLain creates a compelling, spellbinding portrait of a marriage. Hemingway is a magnetic figure whose charm is tempered by his dark, self-destructive tendencies. Hadley is strong and smart, but she questions herself at every turn. Women of all ages and situations will sympathize as they follow this seemingly charmed union to its inevitable demise. Verdict Colorful details of the expat life in Jazz Age Paris, combined with the evocative story of the Hemingways' romance, result in a compelling story that will undoubtedly establish McLain as a writer of substance. Highly recommended for all readers of popular fiction. Library Journal Review



Previous Titles

Fall 2011

  • Farm City by Novella Carpenter
  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  • The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
  • Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Winter/Spring 2011

  • Major Pettigrew Takes a Stand by Helen Simonson
  • Perfectionists by Tom Rachman
  • Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
  • Tinkers by Paul Harding

Fall 2010

  • Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  • The Help by Kathleen Stockett
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Winter/Spring 2010

  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
  • Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier
  • Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
  • Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Fall 2009

  • The Lemon Tree: an Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Winter/Spring 2009

  • Suite Francaise by Louise Nemirovsky
  • Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
  • Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
  • What is the What by Dave Eggers
  • Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo

 For more information, contact Reference Librarian and Book Club Leader, Teresa Capasso at  or by calling the Library at 415-927-5005.