Monthly Archives: September 2011


REALMS OF GOLD The Colorful Writers Of San Francisco 1850-1950 by George Rathmell
Infinity Publishing I SBN 0-7414-4537-9 $17.95 290Pages
I believe that in order to truly know a city one has to walk its streets and to know who walked those streets before you. George Rathmell’s book provides the visitor this opportunity as he takes the reader through the rich and exciting history of San Francisco as well as introducing the literati who both lived it and helped shaped its history.
From cover to cover, this book is an easy read as it is written in the vernacular. The book is obviously well researched and the attention to detail adds superb quality to the content. The book covers the period spanning 1850 to 1950 and follows both the timeline of San Francisco’s development as well as the stories of the authors who called the city home during this period and the roles they played in helping San Francisco become a literary mecca. The authors included Francis Bret Harte, Ina Coolbrith, Samuel Clemens, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Isadora Duncan to John Steinbeck, William Saroyan and Henry Miller, just to name a few. Rathmell provides such interesting and enlightening facts about the writers that I began to feel as though I knew them. And, in a sense, I did come to know them.
There were others who played dominant roles in the city’s development. Loeb (Levi) Straus came to San Francisco to sell tent canvas only to find the market saturated. By listening to the miners complaints about their clothes wearing out too quickly came his idea to construct a long lasting garment that eventually evolved into what we know as “jeans”. William Randolph Hearst, a Harvard dropout, who craved power. It is in San Francisco he began his quest with the newspaper, the Examiner, which he owned. “Young Hearst began a new kind of journalism that would build a chain of newspapers around the nation and fulfill his dream: to be the most powerful man in America.”
I don’t usually read history books. I have found them to be dry. This book is an exception as the author gives a lively depiction a place and its people. The flow of the text keeps the reader engaged and interested. I found myself wanting more information and I plan to seek it out. Should I ever find myself walking the streets of San Francisco I won’t feel that I am a stranger or that I am alone and that will be because I read this wonderful book.


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<a href=”” style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img alt=”Strangers at the Feast” border=”0″ src=”” /></a><a  href=””>Strangers at the Feast</a> by <a href=””>Jennifer Vanderbes</a><br/>
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For many families, being together Thanksgiving Day is nothing less than a challenge. Strangers At The Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes (Scribner, ISBN 978-1-4391-6698-7, 334 Pages, $16.00 US/$18.99 CAN) is a true testimony to that. The Olson family matriarch, Elinor is introduced in the prologue and her life is defined by her family. “She could happily buy the groceries and weed the garden because everyone she cared about was well.  But if someone were to try to threaten that? Was there a length to which a mother wouldn’t go?” And it is with these words that the reason for the story  becomes clear.

Each member of the Olson family is introduced in individual chapters. Eleanor’s husband, Gavin, is a Vietnam Veteran who returned from the war not the same person he left as. He became more complex and withdrawn but he perservered and made a life with Elinore and his children Ginny and Douglas. Ginny is a single woman and an academic. She returns from a trip to India with a 7-year-old mute child that she calls her daughter even though she has not formally adopted her. Douglas is married to Denise and they have three children. Douglas is a disappointment to both himself and to Denise. His family has endured serious financial losses due to his career choices and Denise now has to work full-time to make the mortgage payments on the palace like house that they live in. It is in this house on Thanksgiving Day 2007 that their lives intersect with Spider and  Kijo-two young men from a nearby housing project.

Vanderbes skillfully gives voice to each of the characters-so much so that I felt I knew them. Only to find out in the end, I didn’t know them well enough at all.

This is a story of haves and have-nots and it examines the inherent rights of each group. This is also a story of pride and the possible consequences. But most of all, this is a story family and what it is capable of.

I found this book to be a psychological thriller and I highly recommend it.

***I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads***

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