Book Review: That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

Author: Richard Russo
Title: That Old Cape Magic
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2009)
ISBN: 0739318926

Previously read by the same author: Empire Falls

Summary/Review:  This is a book about a middle-aged man who had awful, unloving parents and his only good thing in his childhood were annual trips to Cape Cod that are highly romanticized in his memory.  As an adult he learns that he is more like his parents than he realizes and desperately tries to shake his attachment to them (comically so in that he literally carries their ashes in his car being unable to dispose of them).  His marriage falls apart, his daughter marries, and chaos ensues at the wedding.  This book features some really awful, irredeemable people as characters and cringe-worthy hijinks, but in many ways is very human in all the flaws of humanity.  It wasn’t a great book, but was okay to listen to as an audiobook for my book club.

Rating: **

Book Review: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Rereading my 100 Favorite Books: #57

Author: Esther Forbes
Title: Johnny Tremain
Publication Info: 0395900115
ISBN: Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

Summary/Review: Having listed my 100 Favorite Books of All Time, I want to make the effort to reread these books and see if my opinion changes for better or worse. Instead of reading these by rank I’m going to start by going way back and reading a book I last read 25 years ago.  I was in 7th grade and Johnny Tremain, a story about a boy in Boston during the American Revolution won me over.

So how does it stand up?  I remembered the basic plot well – Johnny is a promising silversmith apprentice, he burns his hand while working on the sabbath, loses his position, befriends another apprentice in the printing trade, and gets involved in revolutionary activities.  Other things I didn’t remember as well such as how much of an arrogant tool Johnny is at the start of the novel and his injury is a great humbling.

Despite this obvious moralistic tone, I think the novel holds up well.  Esther Forbes has a keen sense for colonial Boston and its people and doesn’t make any grave errors in historical accuracy.  The story has a good mix of adventure, inspiration, and thoughtfulness and a whole lot more moral ambiguity than I’d expect of a children’s book about the American Revolution written almost 70 years ago.

Recommended books: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Andersen
Rating: *****