1950s -- fiction
Beginning-to-be-eleven-year-old Portia and her little brother Foster are excited to be visiting their relatives in the countryside for the summer in Elizabeth Enright’s Gone-Away Lake. Besides seeing their favorite aunt and uncle, there is Katy the boxer dog who has just had a litter of puppies “with flat faces like pansies, and ears that felt like pieces of silk, and claws like the tips of knitting needles”—but best of all for Portia is having time to hang out with her cousin Julian, he of the hundred-thousand freckles. Closer than a friend and nicer than a brother is how she thinks of him. Julian is interesting and interested in everything that goes on around him.
Rural 1950s Arkansas is the setting for John Grisham’s Southern thriller, A Painted House. It’s the beginning of a summer full of sweltering days, acres of cotton to pick, dangerous desire, and deadly secrets to keep.
Have you met Flavia de Luce? The girl genius/sleuth, whose adventures began with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, finds her young and eventful life in discord after the events of Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd. In the latest mystery, The Grave's a Fine and Private Place, Flavia, her family, and her faithful, brilliant, and PTSD-stricken family retainer Dogger, whilst taking a lengthy boating outing complete with picnic hamper, snag something utterly unlike the fish they hoped to enjoy for dinner. No, indeed, their catch is a young man—or, was a young man—dressed in tights and wearing one red silk slipper.
I started listing adjectives to describe My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante: visceral; violent; passionate. This is the first in a series of four Neapolitan Novels by an elusive Italian author who writes under a pseudonym. Elena and Lila’s friendship is full of envy and love as they claw their way out childhood into adolescence in a poverty-stricken quarter of Naples in the 1950s.
With a mother who tries to be prim and proper and a daddy who dreams big but has sorrowful, often hilarious runs of bad luck trying to make his way in the world, young Daisy Fay—with a chipped front tooth, brave heart, and clever mind—finds the 1950s a spectacularly exciting time to come of age. As in her other best-selling novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, Fannie Flagg’s Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man overlays its sometimes somber situations with such absurdities as to have readers laughing out loud.
Sisters Pearl and May Chin are “Beautiful Girls”—artists’ models in 1930s Shanghai. They live in amazing times in a modern city, dancing at nightclubs, dining at expensive restaurants, buying new outfits, and having lots of admirers. Neither college-graduate Pearl nor everyone’s darling May give much thought to their futures. They think they can go on like this forever, marrying as they choose, if they choose. Unfortunately for these Shanghai Girls, they are quite mistaken.
Leo Stepanovich Demidov, a war hero and rising star in the MGB--Stalin’s state security force, is proud of his country. Yes, he has to do some unpleasant things, such as supervising the torture of suspected persons—and there are many suspected persons, the list growing daily. But all of that is surely necessary to protect post-World War II’s Russia in Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44.
“We laugh and we cry.”
In Tamar Myers’ The Girl Who Married an Eagle, there is a lot of both.
Julia Elaine Newton has come all the way from Ohio to the Belgian Congo to save souls and teach English to young girls who are runaway child brides. She’s really quite pleased with herself and thinks she knows what she’s doing. It’s 1959, and her spotless cotton circle skirt is just the thing to wear in Africa, comfortable and fresh, or it is until it becomes blood-soaked while she tends a future student who has been attacked by hyenas. Exquisite, brilliant, ten-year-old Buakane has run away on her marriage night from Chief Eagle, a man nearly four times her age. She is his 23rd wife.
In Long Lankin, by Lindsey Barraclough, it’s 1958, and Cora and her small sister Mimi have been taken from their London home and dumped in the middle of the English marshes where something is waiting for them.