Irish writer on menu at April 22 library luncheon
By Jo-Ann Greene, Books Editor email@example.com
When USA Today ranks a book about the Holocaust alongside "The Diary of Anne Frank" and it tops a New York Times best-seller list, readers take notice.
And when Miramax makes a major motion picture from that book, everybody else takes notice.
So when the name of John Boyne, author of "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" -- set at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II -- came up, members of the libraries' author luncheon selection committee took notice.
What they noticed is that Boyne is no one-hit wonder. The Irish writer has turned out nine award-winning novels for adults, young adults and children that have been translated into 46 languages.
His substantial body of work is one reason they chose Boyne to address the April 22 author luncheon library fundraiser, said Mary Ann Heltshe-Steinhauer, community relations manager for the Library System of Lancaster County.
Boyne's books are set in different times and places in history, she added, and he's "courageous" in tackling controversial topics.
But the best reason of all: Boyne is master of his craft.
"I wasn't bent-over-backwards excited about this author -- until I started reading him," said committee member Karen Eby, of Bowmansville.
"Now I'm really excited!"
nBoyne seems to have written something for everyone: ghost story, "This House Is Haunted"; fairy tale, "Noah Barleywater Runs Away"; murder and suspense, "Crippen" and "Next of Kin." He offers fresh takes in his own version of "Mutiny on the Bounty" and on Buffalo Bill in "The Congress of Rough Riders." His children's book "The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket" has been compared to the work of Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket.
Eby said "The Absolutist," the story of a gay British soldier, contains "such timely subject matter" even though most of the action occurs during World War I.
"Crippen," which Eby called "grisly, but really good," uses a real-life drama based on the 1910 shipboard flight of American Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, accused of killing his wife in England. She described those two books as "period pieces" that show Boyne "does his homework" when it comes to research.
"Historical fiction was never my favorite, but this guy's going to convert me," Eby said.
"He has such a grasp of personal relationships," added fellow committee member Mary Haesch, who read "The Absolutist" and "Next of Kin." Eby also noted Boyne's skill with character, saying that's most important to her.
Not that Boyne neglects plot. His books kept Eby turning pages, she said, and they offer surprises at the end.
As the Irish novelist Colum McCann said, Boyne "brings a completely fresh eye to the most important stories. He is prepared to look at the dark, yet somehow manages to find whatever light was there in the first place. He guides us through the realm of history and makes the journey substantial, poignant, real."
nBorn in Dublin in 1971, Boyne studied English literature at Trinity College, Dublin, and creative writing at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Hennessy Literary Awards in Dublin last April.
Boyne will stop in Lancaster as well as in Chicago, St. Louis, Boston and Washington, D.C., on his tour following U.S. publication of "The House of Special Purpose." That novel looks at the Russian revolution from the perspective of a now-elderly man haunted by his involvement in it.
Boyne will speak at noon April 22 at Calvary Church, 1051 Landis Valley Road. Tickets, $40, are on sale now and include a paperback copy of "The House of Special Purpose" and an autographed bookplate. Contact Sue Newswanger at 354-8016 or firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets.
Event sponsors are the Council of Friends of Public Libraries, Aaron's Books and the Library System of Lancaster County. For more information, visit lancasterlibraries.org.