Introducing Mr. & Mrs. ...

After finishing the category entitled "The Wives Between Us", I thought to entertain myself by adding a dash of the male perspective and came up with my next category--Mr. and Mrs. I started with the cleverly transitional title "Mr. Emerson's Wife". It was an ambitious reading list that started April 2019 and finally finished in August 2019. I probably would have finished earlier but I had three late additions and plumped up the total read to sixteen books. Not bad!

I would like sum up by sharing some of the unintentional commonalities of my choices. I enjoyed the Mrs. titles way more than the Mr.'s but I do consider this a category well read.

Six of my choices featured war as a backdrop. Both Mrs. Dalloway and A Star for Mrs. Blake examined life immediately following WWI albeit from completely different perspectives and the authors Richard Feynman IRL, Susan MacNeal, and AJ Pearce all took very different looks at WWII. There is an element of more recent American wars in My Mrs. Brown.

Four real life histories and at least six books took past history as a back drop for their stories. Several were written and set in past decades such as 60's era London and 90's era United States. Three books were blasts from my reading past with mixed results, some books became favorites but some genres are perhaps best left back in the past.

The books featured a range of characters--from those who ran at the upper stratosphere of their selected societies all the way to a fairly large group of characters who definitely spent their lives skirting on the fringes. 

War, death, murder, injury, poison, kidnapping, evil intent---all told violence in its many insidious forms was a near constant character in the vast majority of these reads. Indeed it is very hard to escape--it pervades society. 

SO PLEASE ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MR. AND MRS. ...

Mr. Emerson's Wife by Amy Belding Brown

A fictionalized biography of Lidian Jackson Emerson-the wife of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I admit I chose this book more for the charm of its cleverly transitional title than I did for the subject matter. But I also thought it would interesting to read about the wife of such an iconic American writer. It left me a little dismayed. I had to fact check.

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

This novel is set in London during WWII and features a young woman who dreams of becoming a war correspondent but inadvertently becomes a secret advice columnist instead. A look into women's lives in wartime Britain. Once I got used to the writing style employed by the author (she likes capitalization and exclamation points) I really enjoyed this book. It helps one imagine what courage it took every day to remain and live in London during the Blitz. It took the development of very stiff upper lips.

Mr. Murder by Dean Koontz

A big house. A beautiful wife. Two happy and healthy children. It’s a nice life that writer Martin Stillwater has made for himself. But he can’t shake this feeling of impending disaster. One bad moment on an otherwise fine day has put Marty on a collision course with a killer—a man with a mere shadow of an identity who is desperately searching for something more...Martin’s home. Martin’s family. Martin’s life.

Mrs. Palfrey At The Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor

Another late addition to this category and another book I couldn't resist digging into. I never heard of Elizabeth Taylor, the author, until I joined Twitter @DebbieVignovic and found @JacquiWine - she has proved a treasure trove of #TBR. A recent heatwave has caused a spike in my reading. Rest assured I will be reading the rest of Elizabeth Taylor's novels.

This story is set in 1960's London and revolves around the unexpected friendship that develops between the recently widowed Laura Palfrey and a young struggling writer Ludo Myers. After the death of her husband Mrs. Palfrey makes the decision to move from Scotland to London to be near her 26 year old grandson. She takes up residence in the Claremont Hotel and is quickly surrounded by a group of other elderly residents.

The Wonderful Mr. Willughby: The First True Ornithologist by Tim Birkhead

If you haven't figured it out by now--I will pretty much read anything. This is the biography of Francis Willughby, the man who pulled the study of birds out of the dark ages and formed the foundation of modern ornithology. He lived in 17th century England--a thrilling period of scientific history. This was a dense information packed read and it took me a while to get to the end. Even so this was still my favorite Mr. out of the group--I was totally surprised to come to this conclusion but over the years I have truly come to love reading history. I especially enjoyed the style and tone in which the author told the tale, he took what could have easily been dry dusty history and turned it into a very readable look at a fascinating corner of history.

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

In 1929 the United States Congress passed legislation to fund travel for mothers of fallen soldiers of WWI to visit their son's graves in France. The press for this book promises expert storytelling, memorable characters, and beautiful prose. The novel features a group of grieving mothers as they travel to France--a timeless story set against a little known footnote of history.

This book lived up to the press. It was one of my favorite reads in this category. If I have to have a complaint it is that the author tried to cobble together too many themes and storylines in her effort to give a complete picture of what life was like both in America and France at this moment in time but it is hard to take to task a book that is so well written for a little quibble like that.

The Complete Novels: After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie by Jean Rhys

A late addition for the this category--I couldn't resist dipping in. The other day at #HalfPricedBooks I picked up a copy of the complete novels of #JeanRhys for $8. Quite a bargain it turns out-- I just noticed this title going for $48 on Amazon. I spent most of my weekend in front of a fan with my nose in this book escaping the heat. I always love finding a popular author whose work is new to me. So far, I have only read After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie as it neatly fit into this category. It is a dark and quite stark read from an author who is proclaimed as one of the truest voices of the 20th century. 

Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante: A Maggie Hope Mystery by Susan Elia MacNeal

This is the 5th book in this mystery series, it features Maggie Hope, a British special agent, who travels to America with Winston Churchill in 1941, just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She infiltrates Mrs. Roosevelt's inner circle when one of Eleanor's aides is mysteriously murdered.

I usually don't like to start books deep into a series but this one tied neatly in with this category so I couldn't resist. The author doesn't rehash a lot of the back stories, instead she supplies just enough detail to get a feel for how her main characters have developed over the arc of the series. If I had an infinite amount of time for reading then I am sure I would go back and start at the beginning. We will see. I will definitely be reading more about Mrs. Roosevelt.

Mr. Maybe by Jane Green

This title was a blast from my past reading life, typical of my tastes back in the day. Plus given all the above "heavier" reads I felt it was way past time for a lighter read: romance and a happy ending. I often think of this type of book as a palate cleanser. When I first read this book in the late 1990's I imagine I very much identified with the stream of consciousness delivery of the 27 year old main character back then. Now as I am reading it again -I find myself inwardly cringing at my self-adsorbed, fashion and relationship driven past self. Even more horrifying now that my own son is 30 I find myself commiserating with and feeling for the main character's mother--for whom the "heroine" of this tale gives nothing but ridicule and distain.

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City's Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case That Captivated a Nation by Brad Ricca

The true story of Mrs. Grace Humiston, the detective and lawyer who turned her back on New York society life to become one of the nation's greatest crime fighters during an era when women weren't even allowed to vote. This is the first-ever literary biography of the singular woman the press nicknamed after fiction's greatest detective. 

I found this to be a most interesting read even if it took me awhile to plow through. I primarily picked up this title to give Mr. Whicher his female equivalent. I ended up being amazed at her strength and the lengths she went to find justice for her clients. My favorite part of this book was at the end where Mr. Ricca provides short biographies of how all the major players spent the rest of their years. Something that Ms. Summerscale did as well--also one of my favorite parts of her book.

Mr. Mercedes (The Bill Hodges Triology) by Stephen King

It has been a long while since I read a book by Stephen King. I have read almost all of his early books--I burnt out on his writing after awhile--I think he did as well. I have only dabbled as of late reading Under the Dome (I liked the book but the TV series was awful) I really enjoyed 11/22/63 that revolved around time travel and the Kennedy assassination, my favorite however was "On Writing" a memoir about his life as a writer. 

My Mrs. Brown by William Norwich

This book is written by a well-known fashion writer and editor, and is a novel about a woman with a secret who travels to New York City on a determined quest to buy a special dress that represents everything she wants to say about that secret…and herself. I think that this novel was my favorite Mrs. title out of the whole category. It is simply written with spare prose and I was immediately drawn into the characters lives.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale

The dramatic story of a real life murder--nonfiction that reads like a Victorian thriller. (Its not quite that intense.) This is the murder that inspired the birth of modern detective fiction. (Which is a favorite genre of mine.) The Detective Inspector Jonathan Whicher was one of Scotland Yard's earliest and finest detectives. He investigated, often puzzling out the mysteries behind brutal crimes and his prowess eventually went on to inspire the fictional detective creations of such renowned authors as Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. 

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

A classic book and Ms. Woolf's most well known work. The book details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares to serve as hostess at a party in London after the first World War. This novel will also find itself in another category as one of my projects is to add a few classical titles to my reading repertoire- I am starting with the "W's"as authors such Woolf, Waugh, and Wharton have always intrigued my reading self. 

I picked up a used copy that was quite marked up. I was intrigued because this reader seemed to be pulling occult references out of Woolf's writing but alas she/he quickly lost steam and apparently interest in the book. Mrs. Woolf's novel actually turns out to be less about the party preparations than it is a "stream of thought" perspective from different POV of various characters as the narrative shifts from Clarissa to the minds of others both known and unknown to Mrs. Dalloway. The novel looks into the stream of consciousness of various men and women across many classes at a particularly challenging moment in British society as the nation struggled to recover from the first World War. 

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard P. Feynman and Ralph Leighton

A collection of stories and anecdotes about the Nobel Prize winning scientist, one of the minds behind the Manhattan Project--an eccentric, highly intelligent man with unlimited curiosity and a taste for outrageous adventures. I will admit it took me awhile to get through this book--especially the ones where he talks physics and math. If I work at it I can semi understand but numbers are not my strong suit. Interestingly enough, Mr. Feynman came to regret winning the Noble Prize, he did not enjoy the level of fame, and would rather be asked to speak about current ideas than speak about past projects.

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

This novel follows Amber Patterson an entitled twenty something girl who believes she deserves so much more-- in fact she believes that she is perfectly entitled to a life of power, wealth and recognition. As a means to gain entry into this society,  Amber selects as her target Daphne Parrish, the socialite and philanthropist, who is married to Jackson Parrish, a real estate mogul and then she hatched a meticulous plan to totally insert herself into their world.

It was a well laid plan and while Amber does succeed all is certainly not what it seems--this book hinges on a plot twist that I will not reveal here. I will admit to the fact that I saw most of it coming which always disappoints me somehow. It did however keep me turning pages. 

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

This book is mostly set in the San Francisco bay area and revolves around a recently laid off young man who takes the night shift job in a small 24-hour book store. Things are strange, very few customers, and the regulars stop by to borrow large obscure books hidden deep in the shop. It ends up being a much bigger story, the battle between digital and bound books. It morphs into a bit of a mystical adventure. I liked it, it is weird, I hope to get around to reading his next book. 

Hi! I'm Debbie. Here at Categorically Well-Read I give an extra layer to the reading life. Learn more about me, check out my current category of books, submit your own suggestion, or check out my latest post.