This installment: art and grief on a small southern island (f); a contemporary graphic rendering of Jane Eyre (f); and making ice in Florida (f).
Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin
Marcus has to move in with his eccentric great aunt after his mother dies. She’s a landscape painter who lives on a small island in the south. He’s 11 and finds himself gravitating to the eponymous ruin where he encounters the ghost of a boy who was killed in a hurricane a half century ago. A local character, Lachicotte, provides some perspective and guidance but it’s a lonely time for a grief-stricken, displaced kid. This is delicious storytelling and just the ticket to a rich, atmospheric journey.
Jane by Aline Brosh McKenna
What a construct: a contemporary retelling of Bronte’s classic in graphic form. This Jane flees New England to become an artist but has to take a job as Adele’s nanny. What is Adele’s father, this Rochester, up to? He’s rich, saturnine, and ultimately seductive. Jane hangs in there for Adele and then for Rochester until the flaming finale. She makes it as an artist and reconnects—yes! Drama galore.
The Ice House by Laura Lee Smith
Ahh—an absorbing novel (at last). In Florida Johnny, once from Scotland, is running his now-demented father-in-law’s business: making ice. The plant is falling apart, the crew is lax, and OSHA is freaking out over a toxic leak. Meanwhile he learns his son from the first marriage is now clean after years of serious addiction and saddled with a baby daughter. And did I mention the brain tumor? He hies back to Scotland a week before the scheduled operation to make peace, or at least connection, bringing along Chemal from next door to act as driver. (Chemal is a delicious, surprising character.) Atmospheric, detailed, witty—what else can you ask for?
Back next week.