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Enlightenment in September

This month (September, 2011) the Falmouth Public Library Fiction Book Club read Enlightenment by Maureen Freely.  It is a tale about Jeannie, an American girl, who spends the year (1970) between high school and college living with her estranged father, an American spy in Istanbul.  Jeannie quickly makes friends with a group of young people who are accused of murder and of belonging to a Maoist cell that poses a threat to the local government.  Years later, after 2001, Jeannie’s husband is taken into custody by homeland security in New York and she seeks help from an old friend of his to bring him home.  It is part suspense, espionage, coming-of-age, romance and national pride.  It was chosen for its setting as the book club is starting a six month session called “Around the World in 180 Days”.  Vivid descriptions of Istanbul and the Bosporus are sprinkled throughout the book and play a vital role in the plot. 

Despite the fact the book got several good reviews, both sessions of the book club were unanimous in their vehement dislike of it!  They found the plot and the format confusing, the characters only somewhat believable and the lack of political and historical background unhelpful.  On the bright side, everyone enjoyed the descriptions of the city and lifestyle, finding them beautiful and evocative.  Readers who have been to Istanbul said the descriptions were spot on and those who haven’t, said they would like to go now that they have read the book.

It is no wonder that the physical descriptions were so successful, the author is an American who grew up in Istanbul.  She has a very similar background to a character in this book and in other novels she has written.

Next month, the Fiction Book Club will read Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  This book “recreates the 1960s struggle of Biafra to establish an independent republic in Nigeria, following the intertwined lives of the characters through a military coup, the Biafran succession, and the resulting civil war.” Pick up a copy at the reference desk and come to one of the two discussion groups:  Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 7pm or Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 10 am.  Come journey with us!

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