June book picks!
This month’s selections run the gamut from historical to political to personal.
From the realm of family history comes “The Beneficiary” by Janny Scott. She is a news journalist and descends from an illustrious Main Line family. Her great grandmother was likely the inspiration for the Katherine Hepburn character in “The Philadelphia Story”. Her family amassed an immense fortune long before there were income taxes and this book describes the accumulation and dissipation of that legacy. It is reminiscent of another book I enjoyed by the New Yorker writer Tad Friend called “Cheerful Money”. It, too, recalls a fortune made and eventually lost, mainly due to lack of ambition and excessive alcohol. Subsequent generations stumble trying to sustain fortunes handed down too easily. Both are fun and honest reads.
For a sharp change of view, “Exit West” by Moshin Hamad tells the story of two young people thrown together by civil unrest and turmoil in their Middle Eastern country and their decision to flee leading to drastic new lives for both.
“The Island of Sea Women” by Lisa See is set on the Korean island of Jeju beginning during Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and proceeding to the current era. The story imparts the trials of the native women who free dive to collect sea urchins, octopus, eels, and other creatures to support their families and the political changes that shape their lives. Korean political history is complicated and often brutal (remember Pachinko?). The physical demands of open diving in frigid waters will chill you on a steamy day.
For more escapist fare, “Fall Back Down When I Die” by Joe Wilkins is set in contemporary Montana mixing land rights, wolf hunting and a young ranch hand. The writer Peter May is new to me, but his political thrillers are superb.
“The Man With No Face” by Peter May was originally published in 1979 but he has updated it and republished it as it is so relevant in 2019. Brexit, political subterfuge, politicians making money on the side, you get it.
Because I cannot get enough of our local history- “Dawson’s Fall” by Roxana Robinson reveals the story of her great grandfather Frank Dawson, editor of The News and Courier paper here in Charleston. He used his platform for equality in the late 1800s only to fall victim to Southern man code.
“The Cigar Factory” by Michele Moore brings us to the years of the World Wars and social and political conditions in our city focusing on workers at the cigar factory – the building on East Bay which now houses Mercantile & Mash and other businesses. This book won the award for American Historical Fiction and conveys the racism, sexual harassment and worker exploitation of the time without becoming histrionic.
Becky Bechhold is a Daniel Island resident who describes herself as “a voracious reader.” Prior to moving to the island, she was part of a book club that had met for over 20 years. She has a record of all the books they read!