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LitPicks Book Reviews—December 2014

Theme—Women Unboxed
This month's books look at women who defy convention and tackle careers traditionally reserved for the ones with the Y chromosome. They're women who think—and liveoutside the box.
 
Labels: A Lighter Touch

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Wildfire
Mary Pauline Lowry, 2014
288 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
December, 2014
What drew me to this novel was that the author herself had once been a "hotshot," the most elite branch of forestfire fighters. These are tough Navy SEAL types, often helicoptered in, who dig ditches at the edge of an oncoming blaze. It's extreme and dangerous work.

What would attract a woman to the hotshots? It's unclear what enticed our author, but her fictional stand-in Julie explains, "After my parents died, I started to set things on fire." When her pyromania gets snuffed out by a stern grandmother, she turns to bulimia. So fighting wildfires seems a perfect antidote to Julie's self-destructive urges.

 

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The Signature of All Things
Elizabeth Gilbert, 2013
512 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
December, 2014
In this enaging historical novel, Elizabeth Gilbert combines a period romance with a slice of scientific history—similar to, but larger in scope than, Tracy Chavalier's Remarkable Creatures. And in Alma Whittaker, Gilbert gives us a fascinating—though unlikely—heroine: brainy, six feet tall, and plain in appearance.

Alma is a prodigy, mastering the rudiments of botany at an early age and eventually becoming a specialist in mosses. Unglamorous, overlooked, and doggedly persevering, mosses and Alma are a perfect match. Of course, like many a wallflower, Alma has her secrets—though none are to be revealed in this review.

 

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The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville
Clare Mulley, 2012
448 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
December, 2014
It's a story straight out of Ian Flemming, except that Christine Granville was the real deal. Beautiful, clever, undaunted by danger, she was of Polish birth and one of Britain's top spies during World War II. Her exploits were so audacious she became a living legend.

Men and women alike found her irresistible; even ferocious Nazis dogs fell under her spell. Defying the odds—to say nothing of physical hardship—Granville survived the war only to be undone by a former lover. It was a sad and ignoble end to a glorious life.

 

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