A slim, ornate, leisurely memoir of the author’s time at Caramoor.

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I REMEMBER CARAMOOR

A MEMOIR

Meyers (My Mad Russian, 2015, etc.) tells of his time as a servant at a historic mansion in this memoir.

In 1970, 17-year-old Meyers began working as an underbutler at the Caramoor estate near Katonah, New York. Built by the theremin soloist Lucie Bigelow Rosen and her lawyer/banker husband, Walter Tower Rosen, the mansion was a hodgepodge of European high culture populated by a colorful assortment of butlers, maids, gardeners, valets, and their families. The Rosens were deceased by this point; Caramoor was the seat of their Foundation for the Arts and the home of its executive director, Michael Sweeley. Meyers spent his days dusting artifacts and bringing Sweeley his tea, setting it “on the bureau beside his big oaken 16th-century bed, opposite the mantelpiece bearing bronze John Harvard bookends and an inscribed photograph of Gina Bachauer.” In his free time, Meyers had access to the estate’s 100 acres of wooded paths, its extensive library, and some of its art, which he was allowed to hang in the cottage he inhabited on the grounds. The annual Caramoor Summer Music Festival brought musicians, whom Meyers had to discipline when they tried to misuse antique furniture. Meyers was able to meet celebrated artists and performers like Julius Rudel, Maureen Forrester, Andrea Velis, and New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. When the house opened as a museum, Meyers gave tours to visitors, pointing out unique features and collections. Meyers’ prose, ornate and slightly mannered, befits the memoir’s formal and anachronistic setting: “The Rosens’ taste was very good, but didn’t seem to extend past about 1800. I expect that both consciously rebelled against the Victoriana they were raised amidst, but from there their tastes went backwards, not forwards.” This is a slim volume, which works in its favor. Neither a strong narrative nor strong emotions ever arise over the course of the author’s reminiscences. Instead, the account mirrors a leisurely walk through Caramoor’s house and property, with Meyers pausing to acknowledge a particular room or object, a ritual associated with a certain hour of the day, or a person and some brief anecdote associated with him or her. What the book lacks in narrative momentum, it makes up for in the way it successfully summons not just a place, but the energy of that place. This is a work dedicated to an earlier era, during which time the author was employed at an estate dedicated to an even earlier era. It isn’t nostalgia that characterizes Meyers’ words so much as appreciation for a tiny enclave dedicated to finery away from the larger conflicts and trends of the modern world. To read this book is to escape briefly into a mindset where high tea and fine art are all one needs to forget one’s problems. Meyers’ brief time at Caramoor and the shortness of this work are a testament to the unfortunate fleetingness of such sentiment.

A slim, ornate, leisurely memoir of the author’s time at Caramoor.

Pub Date: June 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63492-416-0

Page Count: 108

Publisher: Booklocker

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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