“The Novel Habits of Happiness” by Alexander McCall Smith

novelhabitshappinessAlexander McCall Smith is well-loved for his series of books, starting with the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series set in Africa, and followed by the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs, the Scotland Street series and the Corduroy Mansions series.

Just out is a new Isabel Dalhousie story.  She is the philosopher who lives in Edinburgh with her husband, Jamie, and young son, Charlie. Isabel spends part of her time editing The Review of Applied Ethics, with articles from all over the world. As well as that she is often approached by friends who have a mystery they can’t solve right in Edinburgh. Isabel can’t resist these problems and this book tells the story of a small boy who insists he had an earlier life and knows exactly what island off the coast of Scotland was his home. Isabel meets his mother, and also makes the trip to the island with her own family.

She gently uncovers the mystery and we get to spend time in kindly, sociable (and beautiful) Scotland, with a writer, unlike many today, who watches for the upbeat and leaves us happy. McCall Smith is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh. He was born  in what is now known as Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He now lives in Scotland.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

“A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety” by Jimmy Carter

jimmycarterJimmy Carter, one-time President of the United States, has already written 28 books on his life before, during and after that special time. In this one, as he turns 90, he sums up some of the highlights of what he rightly calls a full life.

He grew up in a small community near Plains, Georgia, where his family were the only white people, but racism was almost unknown. His father was a successful farmer and merchant and Jimmy pitched in and learned to love the life. He joined the Navy, however, and nearly lost his life twice serving on submarines. He returned to civilian life, picking up his father’s work, selling peanuts, and getting into local and state politics, eventually becoming Governor  and then deciding to run for President.

The section on the White House is full of amusing anecdotes and also contains the odd poem which he enjoyed writing. The book also contains watercolours by Carter. He writes, “my efforts to woo the news media were not successful.” He did not win re-election, but returned to Plains. Here he and his wife founded The Carter Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of people around the world. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

“Go Set A Watchman” by Harper Lee

gosetwatchmanThere’s a lot of discussion about Harper Lee’s new book, Go Set a Watchman, and no wonder.

The fact is, it was written decades before Lee’s famous To Kill a Mockingbird of l960, but wasn’t discovered until much later. The author apparently considered it a draft version of the later prize-winning novel, and put it away.

The new book tells what happened 20 years after the events described in Mockingbird. While we all loved Atticus Finch, Scout and Jem, I think the real reason for Mockingbird‘s success is that we were satisfied with what we learned about them at the time and don’t really need upgrading to the story.

In the new book there continues a brilliant up-close picture of Maycomb Junction in the South. Harper Lee was born in l926 in Monroeville, Alabama. It brings back the values that get thrown into doubt, both then and still today. Harper Lee’s writing remains precise and wise.

Maybe Go Set a Watchman should be sold to schools and colleges with English departments, teaching writing, as an illustration of how a first draft can be developed into a best-seller.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

“The Festival of Insignificance” by Milan Kundera

festivalinsignificanceThe Franco-Czech novelist, Milan Kundera, has long been loved for his sly, witty books on modern life, some of the best-known being: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Ignorance,  and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It’s 15 years since his last book and critics suggest this may well be his final summing up.

The new book is the story of the friendship between four men living in Paris.  They are an odd collection: Ramon is in his 60’s and retired from teaching in a university; Charles is in his 40’s and caters for parties; Caliban is an actor looking for work; Alain is younger and still trying to reach his mother, who abandoned him in childhood. The women are mostly absent and pretty unappealing. But for the men, their friendship is sacred and Kundera, a famous ironist, is completely sincere when he writes about this.

There are a couple of heavy dream sequences but on the whole the book is short, without the eroticism of Kundera’s earlier novels but rather a look at a bruised male unease. The point is really summed up by Ramon’s hymn to insignificance, the world that is just itself  “in all its obviousness, all its innocence, in all its beauty.”

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

July Newsletter

peternewsletterThere was a wonderful service for Peter Dawson several weeks ago and all the wonderful comments about Peter from friends and supporters of Books on Beechwood were very much appreciated. We shall certainly miss Peter’s guidance and humour at the bookstore.

As Peter would have wished, Books on Beechwood will carry on the tradition of serving the nearby communities of New Edinburgh, Vanier, Lindenlea, Rockcliffe, Manor Park and Sandy Hill as well customers from further afield, both inside and outside of Ottawa. We thank you for your ongoing support and we hope to be serving book-lovers as an independent bookstore for book-lovers for many years to come!

gosetwatchmanThe exciting release of Harper Lee’s book Go Set a Watchman is set for 14 July 2015.  This book was written by Harper Lee before she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird and it has been described as its ‘parent’ or ‘sister’ book:

“Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch—Scout—struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.

Exploring how the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are adjusting to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America, Go Set a Watchman casts a fascinating new light on Harper Lee’s enduring classic. Moving, funny and compelling, it stands as a magnificent novel in its own right.”

You can pre-order Go Set a Watchman before its release date by calling Books on Beechwood or by dropping in at the bookstore.

winterfamilyClifford Jackman will be at Books on Beechwood for a signing of his new book, The Winter Family, on Saturday, 11 July 2015 from 1:00 to 3:00pm.

 

“… The Winter Family is a hyperkinetic Western noir and a full-on assault to the senses. 

From the 1860s to the 1880s, the outlaws known as the Winter Family roam the harsh frontier, both serving and battling the fierce advance of civilization. With its haunting, hard-edged style, The Winter Family is a feverishly paced meditation on human nature, violence and the deep contradictions of progress.”

Clifford Jackman was born in Deep River and raised in Ottawa. He is currently practising law in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

The 10 best-selling books at Books on Beechwood for June 2015 were:

  1. losingsignal“Losing the Signal” by Jacquie McNish & Sean Silcoff
  2. “Dispatches from the Front” by David Halton
  3. “I Woke Up With the General Too!” by Ken Grant
  4. “The Ascent of Women” by Sally Armstrong
  5. “Matrons and Madams” by Sharon Johnston
  6. “The Children Act” by Ian McEwan
  7. “The Green Road” by Anne Enright
  8. “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins
  9. “The Arrogant Autocrat” by Mel Hurtig
  10. “Punishment” by Linden MacIntyre

Now that summer has (really!) arrived, come in and check out all the great new summer reads at the bookstore!

—Brian, George and the staff at Books on Beechwood

Clifford Jackman Signing “The Winter Family”

winterfamilyCome by the store on Saturday, June 11 to meet debut author Clifford Jackman. He will be here from 1:00pm to 3:00pm signing copies of his new book The Winter Family.

From the jacket:

“After [the Winter Family’s] actions during the Civil War lead to a court martial, the group of hardened Union soldiers recasts themselves as outlaws, finding that the disorder of Reconstruction allows for a sort of savage freedom. From service as political thugs in a brutal Chicago election to their work as bounty hunters in the deserts of Arizona, there’s a hypnotic logic to [their leader’s] grim borderland morality that pulls the group into a whirlpool of unrestrained violence.

With its haunting, high-octane style, The Winter Family is a feverishly paced meditation that takes deadly aim at human nature and the dark contradictions of progress.”

Reviews:

“Clifford Jackman is a promising young author who grew up in Ottawa. His new book begins with a rogue band of psychopaths and social outcasts acting as foragers for Sherman’s army near the end of the civil war in the United States and describes the atrocities they begin to commit in the name of progress and the addiction to violence that ensues. It has episodes following their trek westwards at intervals over the next 30 years as civilization and the rule of law push them towards a final deadly end in Oklahoma. The book is fast-paced, authentic and gripping but be prepared for lots of violence.”

-Peter Dawson (quoted from Books on Beechwood Summer Reading Suggestions in the June issue of the New Edinburgh News)

We look forward to seeing you all on Saturday!