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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

March 17, 2019

Women In Charge: Korean Saga of Matriarchy and Friendship; True Story of Heroic WWII Spy Leader
 
The Island of Sea Women  by Lisa See. Drawing on her Chinese-American family roots, the prolific See has written bestselling historical novels set both in China and in America. Her books feature strong female characters and a nice sense of culture; her last novel, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane,  tells the story of a mother and daughter who are part of the tiny Akha hill tribe known for the tea leaves it grows.
 
With her newest book, See has shifted her focus to Korea for a sweeping family saga centering around two lifelong friends. It's an Indie Next pick for March, and the bookseller review offers a nice summary of the plot:
   
"Off the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula, Jeju Island is home to generations of haenyo - women who take their living from both land and sea and call the shots in their matriarchal society. Young-sook and Mi-ja are best friends in the 1930s, learning to dive with their all-female collective while their island suffers under Japanese colonialism. Lisa See follows them as they grow up under Japanese rule, into WWII, to the Korean War and its devastating aftermath, and into the 21st century. The Island of Sea Women is not only a story of friendship found, lost, and found again, but also a richly detailed picture of a unique culture of women in a world spinning out of control. Amazing detail and presence."   
- Janet Rhodes, BookPeople of Moscow, Moscow, ID
   
 
Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler by Lynne Olson. Author Olson is no stranger to writing about World War II, with titles like Last Hope Island and Citizens of London on her impressive resume. This time out, she tells the little-known but inspiring true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, a 31-year-old Frenchwoman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France. In 1941, the strong-willed, independent Fourcade - born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour - became the leader of a vast intelligence organization, the only woman to serve as a chef de rĂ©sistance during the war.
 
No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence - including providing American and British military commanders with a 55-foot-long map of the beaches and roads on which the Allies would land on D-Day. The Gestapo pursued them relentlessly, and Fourcade herself was captured twice by the Nazis. Both times she escaped - once by slipping naked through the bars of her jail cell - and continued to hold her network together even as it repeatedly threatened to crumble around her. Quite a story, no? 
   
Among the many fans of the book is Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who said, "Much like Madame Fourcade herself, Olson goes to great lengths to unearth truth and preserve dignity for those who lived and died during Hitler's reign of terror - and for that, both the author and her daring subject deserve high praise."
Accomplished History of The Troubles in Northern Ireland
 
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by   Patrick Radden Keefe . New Yorker staff writer Keefe  uses a notorious killing in Northern Ireland and its devastating repercussions as the jumping off point to a compelling (albeit sobering) review of decades of The Troubles. The book has resonated with critics and readers, shooting to the top of independent bestseller lists almost immediately.

In December 1972, Jean McConville, a 38-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the I.R.A. was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would speak of it. Then in 2003, five years after an accord brought an uneasy peace to Northern Ireland, a set of human bones was discovered on a beach. McConville's children knew it was their mother when they were told a blue safety pin was attached to the dress - with so many kids, she had always kept it handy for diapers or ripped clothes.

Reviewing Say Nothing in The New York Times Book Review, noted Irish author Roddy Doyle wrote: "Patrick Radden Keefe's great achievement is to tell Northern Ireland's 50 years of conflict through personal stories - a gripping and profoundly human explanation for a past that still denies and defines the future."
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WHY THE COLUMN?
Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I work as a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, California.

My goal with this newsletter is to keep readers up to date about new books hitting the shelves, share what indie booksellers are recommending in their stores, and pass on occasional news about the book world.

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