I recently heard from blog reader, Monica G, an ardent and enthusiastic book lover. Monica's suggestions are always unique and timely and The Syringa Tree by Pamela Gien is a good example. Originally a Broadway Play (2001) it was the recipient of many awards and accolades. Author Pamela Gien actually appeared in the production.
Monica G's other recommendation is Address Unknown by Katherine Kressmann Taylor. This small book became a sensation when it was first printed. Author Taylor's inspiration was a Jewish art dealer who grew up in pre-Nazi Germany bidding farewell to his longtime friend and business partner, who returns to Germany and becomes a Nazi.
Here are Monica's comments about THE SYRINGA TREE .....
"Have you ever bought a book and read it a year later? I did just that. With the passing of Mandela it suddenly seemed so relevant. The Syringa Tree by Pamela Gien is a beautifully written book about South Africa and the beginning of Apartheid .
The book is told through the eyes of a 6 year old, Elizabeth Grace. You feel the love she has of the land and especially of her Xhosa Nanny. It is both a portrait of the time, yet a personal story.
She paints a wonderful portrait of the countryside, the people, the unrest, personal ties and how the politics of the time tear people apart and turn lives upside down. The book pulses with rhythms of Africa and its people and brought me to tears.
Author Pamela Gien is from South Africa, which probably explains her vivid portrayals of the scenery and the people. This is her first novel."
ADDRESS UNKNOWN by Katherine Kressmann Taylor
Monica G. said....
"I just read Address Unknown by Katherine Kressman Taylor. It was originally published in 1938 and banned in Nazi Germany. It created quite a buzz at the time...
The book was reissued when the author was 91 years old and was dubbed "an American literary classic."
ADDRESS UNKNOWN was written as a series of letters between a Jewish Art Dealer living in San Francisco and his business partner who had returned to Germany in 1932.
NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW of THE SYRINGA TREE
After its debut in Seattle, "The Syringa Tree," a one-woman play by the South African actress Pamela Gien, opened in Manhattan in the fall of 2000 at Playhouse 91, an intimate theater in Yorkville.
The early response did not overwhelm; one night, 17 people made up the entire audience. But Gien's virtuoso performance in all the roughly two dozen roles she had written began to attract attention.
Oprah attended and sent flowers backstage. Rosie O'Donnell became a cheerleader. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward showed up, as did J.D. Salinger, the father of the show's producer, Matt Salinger.
Eventually, "The Syringa Tree" and its author/star collected a sheaf of Off Broadway awards, including an Obie for best play.
Both books can be ordered directly from this blog. Click on the Amazon Search Box in the Sidebar. A percentage goes to Vineyard House, a home for people in recovery on Martha's Vineyard.