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Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53211

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Boswell Book Club Newsletter               August 8, 2018, Day 3415

We've had a great year already with book club friendly writers. Lisa See visited the UWM Golda Meir Library and taught us all about pu-erh tea (and thank you to Rishi for the sample tea cakes). Tayari Jones was in conversation with Jim Higgins at Boswell, and in an event that we'll long remember, Pulitzer Prize winners Jennifer Egan and Andrew Sean Greer were in conversation with each other. This was a one-of-a-kind event that only happened at Boswell. We visited the Elm Grove Public Library and the Frank L. Weyenberg Library in Mequon with Kathleen Rooney, who discussed Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk after a presentation of book club selections from Daniel, Paulette (Elm Grove), and Rachel (Weyenberg). 

Such great books! We're particularly excited about Lillian Boxfish and what a great book club selection it is. We just put together a "What to read after A Gentleman in Moscow*" table, which has proven to be quite popular. It includes novels inspired by Russian history, fiction with hotels at the center, and stories about perseverance. When we discussed this concept with Rooney, she noted how many readers had told her the books were a great match. So onto the table Lillian went.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk is inspired by the real life of Margaret Fishback, an advertising copywriter - the most successful woman in advertising in the 1920s, who nonetheless was paid far less than her male colleagues and was forced to resign from R.H. Macy and Company when she became pregnant. Fishback's touch with light, humorous verse not only transformed Macy's ads but was extremely popular in the magazines of the day. She had a number of successful books as well. The story is told through the framing device one New Year's eve, when Boxfish, at 85, decides to go out to dinner at Delmonico's and winds up taking a ten-mile journey. It's a classic flâneuse story, and so, while you're thinking about this, please consider  Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London, by Lauren Elkin. It's a great companion book, and one of Jane's picks. 

*No, it's not currently scheduled for paperback.
Why I Love Amy Stewart's Historical Novels, and Why I Think You Will Too - Event August 22, 7 pm, at Boswell

If you've visited Boswell, you might have seen a display for Amy Stewart's Kopp Sisters historical series with recommendations from no less than four Boswellians - Anne, Jane, Jen, and Daniel.  We're hosting Stewart on Wednesday, August 22, 7 pm, at Boswell. Tickets are $17 at and you can pick any of the three novels - Girl Waits with Gun, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, or Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions, or you can upgrade to the forthcoming Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit for just $24, including all taxes and fees. But if that didn't convince you, here's an essay from Jen Steele on why she loves these books. 

"I admit it. The first time I saw Amy Stewart's book Girl Waits with Gun, I judged it by its cover. In fairness, though, it's an eye-catching cover. This thing pops. Plus, I'm a total sucker for historic novels, especially starring strong women who refuse to conform to the expectations of their time. Constance Kopp is the middle sister of three real women who lived at the beginning of the twentieth century, and she is just the kind of woman I love to read about. She was strong in a time when women were expected to be meek. She was a trailblazer, the kind you never hear of or find in history books. Add on top of all that an engrossing, mysterious tale, and I could not put this book down.

"It's 1914 and the world is changing fast. Yet Constance and her sisters, Norma and Fleurette, live a quiet life out in the country. They tend to their farm animals and chores and go into town only when supplies are needed, until one ordinary day, when an automobile crashes into their buggy while in town. The reckless driver turns out to be Henry Kaufman, an ill-behaved Industrialist, the spoiled brat heir to a local textiles fortune, armed with his very own gang. Following the crash, his constant threats and harassments shatter the Kopp sisters' quiet existence.

"Constance could easily have backed down and hid out on the family farm until the whole thing had been forgotten. But she won't let her family be taken advantage of. Still, Henry Kaufman runs with the wrong crowd, and soon bullets are flying and bricks are crashing through the Kopps' windows.

"Constance does not back down. Instead, she learns how to shoot and intends t o use her gun, if needed, to protect her family. All Constance wants is justice for the car accident. But as she chases after justice, a whole new world is opened up for her. Once she has a taste for making things right, she can't stop.

"I am not a big mystery reader. I definitely gravitated to this book more because of its historic angle, though I can see how some will classify it as a kind of light noir, or perhaps even fit it in with the cozies, though to me it doesn't feel like that's the heart of the novel .  Rather, it's this funny, quirky world based around the sisters' relationships to the town and to each other that drew me in. There's Constance's homing-pigeon loving older sister Norma, who marches to the beat of her own drum and has no time or interest for anything going on in town. And then there's Fleurette, Constance's younger sister who wants to be a star - she's pretty, feminine, a wannabe actress in love with the theater and all the gossip around it. And then there's Constance, who I can best describe as the Bea Arthur type (there's a great scene of her beating up a quite unsuspecting tough guy) whose strong will drags all of them into the center of attention in town.

"I've read along as the series has continued. Stewart's Kopp Sisters continue to chronicle women who, just by being themselves, rather than what they are told, broke into the boy's clubs of nearly a century ago. Like the journalist Constance meets in the second book who's trying to get out of writing a paper's 'women's interest' column and into the hard news on the front page. Or the paralegal who wants to become a lawyer, definitely not a woman's job. The Kopp Sisters series is a great alternative look at history and the women who decided to live their lives the way they want!

Don't forget, Stewart's at Boswell on Wednesday, August 22, 7 pm. More info at
What's Happening at the Lynden? Jenna Blum, Kelly O'Connor McNees, Kate Moore

Summer is a great time to see an event at the Lynden Sculpture Garden. Enjoy a stroll around the grounds before the wine reception at 7. The Women's Speaker Series latest guest is Jenna Blum, best known for the beloved novel Those Who Save Us. She'll be discussing her latest book, The Lost Family, on Thursday, August 9, 7:30 pm. Tickets are $32, $27 for Lynden members, and include admission, an autographed copy of Blum's new book, and light refreshments. Visit blum for more information.

Here's a great review from  Alana Mohamed in The Village Voice: " Peter is a German Holocaust survivor who's dedicated his life to running Masha, an Upper East Side restaurant named for the wife he lost in the war. When he meets June he thinks he can finally love again, but his refusal to examine his psychological scars only begets more trauma for his new wife and their teenage daughter, Elsbeth. Readers are granted rich descriptions of decadent foods and New York nightlife through the ages, alongside brutal descriptions of self-sabotage. The novel spans three decades, from the Sixties to the Eighties, but Blum's sense of tension and mystery drive the plot forward at a delightful pace. She takes on the difficult task of rendering generational trauma visible, and does it with such humor and empathy, you can't help but be swept along for the ride."

September's featured author at the Lynden Sculpture Garden is Kelly O'Connor McNees for her new novel, Undiscovered Country: A Novel Inspired by the Lives of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok. McNees visited Boswell for The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, and she was very engaging. Her talk will focus on the real-life story behind her novel, which was also the subject of Amy Bloom's most recent novel, and was earlier brought to light in Blanch Weisen Cook's three volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. Tickets are $30, $25 for Lynden members, and are available at

Undiscovered Country was reviewed along with Amy Bloom's White Houses in The New York Times, where reviewer Sylvia Brownrigg called McNees "an adept historical novelist." For another take, we quote writer Renee Rosen, a former Lynden Sculpture Garden guest: " Kelly O'Connor McNees is simply a beautiful writer. I have adored all her novels and have eagerly been awaiting the release of Undiscovered Country. She has a way of capturing characters and setting that stay with you long after you've turned the last page. I can't wait to see what she does next!"

And finally, Milwaukee Reads has just booked a terrific event for Thursday, October 11. You've read about  The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women. You've seen it on The New York Times bestseller list. You've heard author Kate Moore on NPR's Weekend Edition. We're excited to announce that Kate Moore will be visiting the Lynden on Thursday, October 11, 7 pm reception, 7:30 talk, to discuss this important work of history. You'll get your book on October 11, so now's the time to schedule your book club discussion for November or later. We expect this event to sell out, so don't wait to get your tickets, which are $24, $19 for Lynden members (and of course features a reception at 7 pm and a 7:30 talk). Visit
Rebecca Makkai in Conversation with Mitch Teich at Boswell on Tuesday, August 28, 7 pm

The Great Believers is a dazzling novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy, set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris. Author Rebecca  Makkai will be in conversation with Mitch Teich, the award-winning Executive Producer of WUWM's Lake Effect.

Here's proprietor Daniel Goldin's recommendation: "In mid-1980s Chicago, gallery executive Yale Tishman tries to help an elderly woman stage an art show that includes her obscure lover. Thirty years later, Fiona Marcus, connected to Yale through her long-deceased brother Nico, sets out to find her missing daughter Claire in Paris, last seen living as part of a Colorado cult. Makkai's third novel is a tour-de-force exploration of a group of friends during the AIDS crisis, and how the epidemic casts its shadow more than a generation later. 

"Like so many other novels I'm drawn to, it's also about the legacy that parents pass on to their children. It's a story that draws guffaws in one moment and tears in the next and captures the friends-are-your-family ethos that was such an important part of LGBT culture. The Windy City setting is spot on too. One of my favorite novels of the year."

In their starred review, Publishers Weekly calls The Great Believers "a striking, emotional journey," that will "undoubtedly touch the hearts and minds of readers." And writing for The New York Times Book Review, Pulitzer-winner Michael Cunningham calls the book "an absorbing and emotionally riveting story about what it's like to live during times of crisis." Looking for paperback options? Rebecca Makkai is also the author of The Hundred-Year House, another wonderful novel that makes a great book-club selection. This event is free and there's no registration. Join us Tuesday, August 28, 7 pm.

Lots more book-club friendly events on our upcoming event page
What's Happening in Our Boswell-Run Book Clubs?

We have four Boswell-run book clubs. On the first Monday of each month, Daniel offers the In-Store Lit Group, where we read books of note, from award winners to the best-reviewed crowd-pleasers to eclectic titles that will expand your reading universe. Our last selection was Killers of the Flower Moon - up next is Sing, Unburied, Sing on August 27, in the rear of Boswell. Please note that the next three meetings have date or time changes, due to holidays or events. At this book club, everyone gets a chance to talk - we go around the room and each attendee offers a two-minute take before we dive in.

The second Monday of the month features the SciFi Book Club, run by our adult book buyer Jason. Their selections run from hard SF to more speculative outings, featuring new authors and lots of Locus and Hugo award winners and shortlisted titles. Some of the best new SciFi writing is Afrofuturism and books in translation. It's time to stop rereading Dune series over and over. Their next selection is Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar on August 13.

The Third Monday takes us across the street to Cafe Hollander for the Books and Brews Book Club, hosted by Jen. The focus is on genre-mashing titles, well-written books with something to say that are not afraid to entertain as well. And yes, you can enjoy a pint of beer or a glass of wine while arguing out the merits of our latest book for discussion, which is Francine Prose's Mister Monkey, on August 20. Books and Beer uses an unpatented five-star ranking, which you offer at the end of the talk.

Mysteries are front in center for Anne's book club, which meets on the fourth Monday. From traditional detective to noir to psychological suspense, with even an occasional stop in neo-cozy, Anne, a longtime reader of the genre, offers a round-the-world tour of whodunits. Their next selection is Death on Nantucket, the latest Merry Folger novel. They'll meet on August 27, in the magazine area. 

The book clubs generally start at 7, though note at least one In-store Lit Group meeting starts at 6 in November. We've got the whole schedule for you here. 
Did you know the Boswell book club flyer is right at your fingertips? The link is right here. Every season we look at new releases for books we've liked that are perfect for discussion. Of course we'd still love for you to visit Boswell to pick one up and browse our recommendations. Don't forget about our book club wall at the front of our store. It shows what registered book clubs around Milwaukee are reading next. 

And finally, here's one more book that we think every book club has to read. Hotel Silence was discovered by Boswellian Lynn, the first to write a recommendation. Friend-of-Boswell (and one-time Boswellian) Melissa saw the rec and book and convinced her book club to read it. The book club includes Melissa's spouse Jason, who also happens to be our adult buyer. He passed it to me. I passed it to Jane. Jane passed it to Jen. Now we've got a copy to Conrad. 

The story begins with Jonas's life in tatters. His marriage has ended and his ex-spouse tells him his daughter is not his own. He decides to end his life and takes a voyage to a war-torn country, partly because he won't know anyone and maybe also because nobody will notice. He travels light, ready to finish the job off with his tool box. But after settling in to Hotel Silence, it turns out that tool box is going to change the course of his life. We love that Isabel Berwick in The Financial Times says " Olafsdottir's writing is at once profoundly Icelandic - focusing the reader on all the particularity of life on that isolated island - and universal."

It's also on our A Gentleman in Moscow table, and it's got some shades of A Man Called Ove, and not just because it's translated from Icelandic with the original title Ör. Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir has written a short but powerful, sometimes funny novel about connectivity and finding purpose, no matter where you are in life. 
As always, thank you for your patronage,
Daniel Goldin with Aaron, Amie, Anne, Barb, Chris, Conrad, Dominique, Jane, Jason, Jen, Jenny, Kay, Lori, Lynn, Olivia S, Olivia V, Peter, Scott, Thom, and Tim