by Julie HaleDecember 2009
New paperback selections
Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life
By John Adams
The genius whose complex works altered the course of modern classical music, Adams has written a fascinating memoir about his development as a composer. Adams, who made his name with the innovative operas Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer, grew up in New England and started writing music at the age of 10. He studied composition at Harvard University, eventually trading his Ivy League lifestyle for a more freewheeling existence on the West coast. In California, Adams taught at the San Francisco Conservatory and experienced the upheaval of the 1960s. The cultural shifts taking place during that tumultuous decade led him to experiment with electronic and atonal music—the styles upon which he would build his reputation as a groundbreaking composer. Adams’ successful career brought him into contact with major musical figures, including Leonard Bernstein, John Cage and Philip Glass. Throughout the narrative, Adams touches lightly on personal matters and stays focused on his artistic life. He proves an eloquent and expressive writer, and he offers valuable reflections on what it means to be a composer in the digital era. This is a subtle and compelling memoir that provides readers with an in-depth look at his creative evolution and at the groundbreaking works that have earned him five Grammy Awards and a Pulitzer Prize.
The Private Patient
By P. D. James
The grande dame of crime fiction presents her 18th novel, another fast-paced whodunit featuring Commander Adam Dalgleish. Now in his 80s and with the prospect of marriage before him, Dalgleish plans to retire from Scotland Yard. But before he can depart, he’s faced with another mystery—this time in Dorset at a medical clinic called Cheverell Manor. Rhoda Gradwyn, a tenacious investigative journalist, was murdered after undergoing surgery at the facility, once a majestic Tudor mansion. With the help of Inspector Kate Miskin and Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith, Dalgleish sets out to investigate the killing and to comfort Dorset’s frightened inhabitants. At Cheverell Manor, ominous possibilities unfold as Dalgleish and his team question George Chandler-Powell, a famous plastic surgeon, and the clinic’s staff. When another dreadful death occurs at the mansion, the case takes on new proportions. The murder mystery is paralleled by Dalgleish’s poignant personal story—by his sense of himself as an aging investigator on the brink of domesticity, an awareness that gives the narrative a conclusive quality and leaves the reader to wonder if it might not be the final installment in James’ sensational series. Although she’s 88, James’s artistic abilities do not seem to be waning. All of the qualities readers have come to expect from her—a clever plot, a sure sense of timing and the use of telling details—are on display in this suspenseful tale.
An Irish Country Christmas
By Patrick Taylor
This charming entry in Taylor’s Irish Country Doctor series takes readers back to the village of Ballybucklebo and continues the story of Dr. Barry Laverty. Barry relishes the prospect of the holidays—his first in the pretty pastoral hamlet he now calls home. But when he discovers that Patricia, his girlfriend, can’t make it to Ballybucklebo for Christmas, his enthusiasm for the season flags. Yet there’s work aplenty to distract him, and he shares the duties with his senior partner, Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly. O’Reilly is faced with his own romantic conflict, as he questions the wisdom of falling in love with spirited Kitty O’Halloran. Both doctors are taken by surprise when a rival comes to town and threatens their thriving practice. A physician of questionable integrity, the new doctor is a fraud whose methods seem to do more harm than good to patients. But the good will of the season prevails, as the doctors attend Rugby Club parties and the annual Christmas pageant, and assist a single mother and her sick child. Christmas magic, the folks in Ballybucklebo learn, may be more than just a myth. Filled with delightful details and wonderful dialogue, Taylor’s latest is a true holiday treasure—a well-crafted novel that will warm the hearts of readers.