Sunday, November 28, 2021

Book Reviews - Who is Maud Dixon? Alexandra Andrews - These Precious Days: Essays; Ann Patchett and Trust; Domenico Starnone


Well we made it through a wonderful Thanksgiving gathering with family and everyone was healthy (we hope).  A few COVID scares in the granddaughter's classrooms but, they have each received their first booster and remain healthy - thank goodness.  For those of you who were able to be with family and friends - wasn't it special? It felt so good to be together, even the turkey seemed like one of my best (LOL).  We celebrated my son's birthday which always falls around Thanksgiving.

This weeks - Reading

I finished (3) books over the past week - all worth reading IMO.

Who is Maud Dixon?; Alexandra Andrews
Little Brown & Co - 2021
(library download - 9 hours 11 min)

Maud Dixon is a pen name for an author whose first book was a success but, just who is this very private author? 

Florence Darrow wants to be a novelist but, that dream seems unlikely especially after being let go from her job at a New York publishing house.  Suddenly, Florence seems to get the opportunity of a lifetime. She is hired as a writing assistant to "the Maud Dixon"...A.K.A.  Helen Wilcox.  Florence sees this as a chance to learn from real talent and Maud/Helen is only a few years older than Florence as well.

When Florence learns that the two of them will be traveling to Morocco she goes along with the idea, after all she is single and this seems like a dream opportunity.  From this point on the story that started out slow picks up speed and takes on a darker and sometimes even a comical turn. This was a wild read, both women were unlikeable characters but, I liked the unexpected twists and enjoyed the ride, even if I had to suspend belief from time to time. The audio read by Therese Plummer was excellent.

Rating - 4/5 stars

These Precious Days; Ann Patchett
Harper and Harper Audio - 11/2021

Ann Patchett is an author I automatically read. This recent release is a series of personal essays made me feel like the author was a close friend by the time I fished the final offering. 

My favorite essays in the collection were: Three Fathers: this was a touching story ~ her father who wanted her to be a dental hygienist and a step father who supported her writing aspirations.  I also enjoyed: How Knitting Saved My Life, Twice - A story about how this knitting helped her to kick a smoking habit as it's pretty hard to knit and smoke at the same time. (Knitting - was also key to my own daughter quitting smoking about 10 years ago). My Year of No Shopping was another essay that resonated with me because I tried this and failed miserably after a month. Don't we all have much too much stuff and don't we buy things that we already know we have but sometimes can't find? There is also an essay about moving from Montana to MA for a writing fellowship at Ratcliffe.  In There Are No Children Here - we learn about her decision to remain childless.  For me the most powerful essay is the title essay: These Precious Days. In this story she and her husband Karl invite Tom Hank's publicist, Sooki, into their home just pre-COVID as she was undergoing pancreatic cancer treatments in TN.  This story tells so much about the type of person the author is.

I really enjoyed this collection.  One or two of the essays felt slightly familiar to me like I may have read them before - perhaps in magazine. The author comes across as a caring partner and friend, the kind of individual that finds the good in all people and, don't we all know we need more people like this around? The take away for me after finishing this collection was: make sure you make good use of the time we have left as we never know what time we have left.

I had both the audio and eGalley. The audio is read by the author and although it was fine, I switched to the eGalley which, for me, was preferable.  

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

The eGalley was provided to me free of charge by Harper Publishing and Edelweiss and the audio was downloaded from by public library system.

Trust; Domenico Starnone
Europa Editions - 3.5/5

I enjoyed (2) previous books by this author: Ties (2017) and Trick (2018) so I was so looking forward to the latest release.  Pietro Vella and Teresa Quadraro are a couple who met when he was a teacher and she a former student.  They were in one of those love/hate relationships; one day they are hot for one another, then they fight, they break up and they get together again.  One day to help solidify their commitment to one another they agree to share a deep, dark secret about themselves that neither has shared with anyone else.  This turns out to be a huge mistake since as soon as they do this they break up for a final time.  

Each moves on in life - Pietro marries Nadia and fathers a daughter, Emma. He feels dissatisfied in his marriage and in his career as a literature teacher while Teresa becomes a success as a scientist and professor at prestigious MIT.  Despite the time that has passed Pietro remains haunted by the secret he confessed years earlier but, is it really the secret that leaves him distressed?  Surprisingly, Teresa holds a kind of power over Pietro despite the fact that their paths have only crossed a few times in decades.

The story is divided into three parts - Pietro's story is the most telling, we also hear from his adult daughter Emma and finally Teresa's voice.  The story was expertly translated from Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri and although I enjoyed this one, I was left wanting just a bit more.

The eGalley was provided to me by Edelweiss and Europa Books at no cost in exchange for my unbiased review.

Rating - 3.5/5 stars


  1. The books sound pretty good! You're right, this Thanksgiving was very special.

  2. The Ann Patchett short stories sound absolutely wonderful!

  3. I just finished These Precious Days today and completely agree with you! I ended up sticking with the audio, but had to listen at a faster speed.

    I read Ties by Domenico Starnone a couple of years ago and think Trust sounds interesting... even more so with Jhumpa Lahiri translating.

    1. Glad you enjoyed These Precious Days. Something about that collection made it hard to put down for me. Starnone is another one of the go-to authors for translated fiction. I also love that his books are fairly short.

  4. I can't wait to read These Precious Days. Ann Patchett is one of my favorite writers, and I feel like I've been waiting to read this book for a long time. I'm glad to see that you enjoyed it so much.

    Trust sounds like it is based on an interesting premise. How would something like that play out? What a risk, and how sad it is that it jeopardized their relationship.

    So glad you were able to enjoy a Thanksgiving with family!

  5. I too have These Precious Days on my list ... Maybe over the holiday season.

  6. I'm glad to see that the Patchett book is as good as I hoped it would be. I'm still number 16 on the wait-list and have only moved up a couple of spots in the last week, but I'm really looking forward to this one.

    I read Who Is Maud Dixon a while back and found it one of those books in which I disliked just about every character in it. Couldn't figure out who to root for in that one. :-)

    1. Well, what you write is true and although it started off slow until Morocco I was so curious to find out more. The audio narrator was awesome too - that helped as well.

  7. Maud Dixon does feature characters that you love to hate and I found the ending quite surprising. I'm hoping to read Ann Patchett's new book, although not sure just when I'll get to it. I just listened to her interview about it on the NYT book podcast.

  8. So glad you were able to get together with family and that your granddaughters' are staying healthy! This Thanksgiving was definitely different from last year and in the best possible way! Have a great week!

  9. Happy b- day to your son, and glad you had a nice Thanksgiving! It was nice being back together. And Covid is scary but at least vaccinations provide a little security... looks like a nice mix of books. Maud Dixon sounds interesting...

    1. The vaccinations did provide a little security (our littlest ones were also vaccinated so that was good). Maud Dixon started a bit slow but then it was quite addictive.

  10. Yes, Thanksgiving this year was wonderful! I loved spending three full days with my brothers and their families, who all traveled to Oregon to be with me, my husband and my mom. Such special memories for all of us. (And the turkey was fabulous, although I under-estimated the size and we barely had any leftovers!)

    I can not wait to get my hands on a copy of Ann Patchett's new book. It sounds like my kind of book, so I'll be sure to buy a copy for my keeper shelf (if I don't get it for my birthday or Christmas...). I'm so glad to hear that it was such a hit with you.

    1. So happy to read that you got to gather with so many relatives Les. It was such a good feeling be just be under the same roof. I think you will enjoy the Ann Patchett book (sample the audio before buying.)

  11. I really liked Maud Dixon which I listened to on audio over the summer. It is quite wild, yes! I'm really looking forward to the Patchett collection -- so glad you liked it. I always seem to like her nonfiction best. Glad your Thanksgiving was happy.

    1. I'm glad I read Maud Dixon - almost passed. I prefer Ann Patchett's NF as well but, I've read all her fiction and liked it as well.


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