Monday, May 19, 2014

Lady at the O.K. Corral by Ann Kirschner

The Woman Behind the Legend  (Book Club)

Lady at the O.K. Corral by Ann Kirschner delves into the lesser-known history of Wyatt Earp’s third common-law wife, Josephine Marcus Earp.  From the shadows of her famous husband of almost 50 years, Kirschner brings to life the emotional and financial struggles as well as the triumphs of life with the famous lawman at the O.K. Corral. In the book we learn of their nomadic lifestyle after the shootout, which included time in another exciting piece of American history—the gold rush in Nome, Alaska.  For decades
Josephine remained in the background of Wyatt Earp as a devoted collaborator, who would be the champion and protector of her husband’s reputation and their shared secret in the whitewashed version of his biography and later Hollywood fame.  A beauty, an adventure seeker, and a loyal wife, this book is a fascinating, in-depth look at the woman behind the legend—Wyatt Earp’s Josephine.

Most of my book club members were not fully enamored with this book. They thought it would contain more about Wyatt and Josephine's love affair, kind of along the lines of the movie Tombstone.  While it did give the basics, like most biographies, there was no dialogue or character thought process to draw you in.  It was a report on the facts, and that's not always as enticing as a historical fiction.  Even those who really liked the book got a bit bored with the big slice that was allotted to the construction of Earp’s biographiesa necessary though somewhat tedious portion. Still, we were all excited to discover that Wyatt was briefly in our area as he mined in Northern Idaho and was elected deputy sheriff of Kootenai County.

Happy Reading,


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Monday, May 12, 2014

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Behind the Ballet (Art)

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan brings the model of Degas’s statuette, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, to life. In this novel, Cathy Marie Buchannan takes us into the gritty world of three impoverished sisters in the unglamorous side of the Belle Époque. We see the foul Parisian streets where hunger, crime, ambition, degradation, and disappointment combine into a desperate amalgam.  The story alternates between narrations of the middle and older Van Goethem sisters. Marie is an aspiring ballet student at the Opéra. Antoinette was an actress who finds escape in love. But in this case love can be as harsh and chafing as the hands of a washerwoman—one of the jobs she has taken on to support her sisters and her useless, absinthe-soaked mother.

Still the money is never enough and they are always hungry.  Marie takes work in a bakery before her dance lessons.  She also earns money as a model for Edgar Degas, and is later immortalized in his statuette, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.  The original wax and later bronze-cast sculptures present a street urchin dancer described by a critic of the time as being “imprinted with the promise of every vice.” Was that a prediction of a grim lifestyle to come? You’ll have to read and find out.

I found this book fascinating! Buchanan has a skill for luring the reader on and on, deeper into the lives of the Van Goethem sisters. I also have a whole new understanding and respect for Degas’s ballerinas.  When I look at the images of his paintings now, I not only see the grace and beauty, but I can almost feel the determination, exhaustion, hardships, and twists of fate that brought the girls on stage.

I hope to have the privilege of seeing some of Degas’s paintings and the statuette of Marie Van Goethem in person.  And, while this novel is a fictionalization of her life, when I see the statuette, I will feel like I know this once anonymous dancer.   

A great read. 

If you like this book, you may also enjoy I Am Madame X by Gioia Diliberto, Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland, and Frida by Barbara Mujica.

Happy Reading,


What did you think of this book? Post a comment or email:

Monday, May 5, 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez Quiz

Goodbye Gabriel 

With the recent passing of the great and respected writer, I wanted to take a moment to honor Gabriel GarcÍa Márquez with this short quiz. The answers can be found in the “Quiz Answers” top tab.

1. Complete the title of one of GarcÍa Márquez’s famous novels, “Love in the Time of …”
a. Cholera
b. Desperation
c. Solitude

2. Complete the title of one of GarcÍa Márquez’s famous novels,  “One Hundred Years of…”
a. Cholera
b. Love and War
c. Solitude

3. GarcÍa Márquez was born in
a. Colombia
b. Argentina
c. Mexico

4. What prize did he win in 1982?
a. Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
b. Franz Kafka Prize
c. Nobel Prize in Literature

5. Gabriel was affectionately known as …

a. Marqo
b. Gabo
c. Papa

6. What city did he call home?
a. Mexico City
b. Bogota
c. Valparaiso

7. Which of the following novellas did GarcÍa Márquez not write?
a. Chronicles of a Death Foretold
b. Memories of My Melancholy Whores
c. The House on Mango Street  

Answers can be found in the “Quiz Answers” top tab.