Monday, 20 November 2017

Jones, Edward P. "The Known World"


Jones, Edward P. "The Known World" - 2004


The story about a black farmer and slave owner at the time of the civil war.

One of the few Pulitzer Prize winning books that I didn't enjoy very much. Not because I dislike the subject in general, on the contrary, I believe we need to know about it as much as possible. I have read many books about slaves and slave owners etc. and most of them were highly interesting. But this book is not a novel but it also isn't non-fiction, it is blobs of non-fiction - and nothing new really - thrown together in order to look like a novel.

It reads more like a history book where you have to learn a lot of dates that are not related to each other.

I wold certainly not recommend it to anyone who wants an "easy read".

Honestly, I have no idea why this book received the Pulitzer Prize. Maybe a black author was "due" again and so they chose this one. If you want a good and unique book about slavery, read last year's Pulitzer Prize winner, Colson Whitehead. "Underground Railroad" is certainly better. A lot better.

From the back cover:
"In one of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, Edward P. Jones, two-time National Book Award finalist, tells the story of Henry Townsend, a black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in Manchester County, Virginia. Making certain he never circumvents the law, Townsend runs his affairs with unusual discipline. But when death takes him unexpectedly, his widow, Caldonia, can't uphold the estate's order and chaos ensues. In a daring and ambitious novel, Jones has woven a footnote of history into an epic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all of its moral complexities."

Edward P. Jones received the Pulitzer Prize for "The Known World" in 2004.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Koch, Herman "The Dinner"



Koch, Herman "The Dinner" (Dutch: Het Diner) - 2009

Our latest book club read, a story about two couples going for dinner but everything seems to go wrong.

While this is a good book to discuss, I didn't actually enjoy it a lot. I didn't like any of the characters, well, I felt a little sorry for the wives but no, I really didn't like any of them. They were not just shallow, they were calculating, only out for their own gain. Another member said she got so angry but we did agree that it was a good book to talk about.

I enjoyed the description of the waiter, of the whole "star restaurant". I have been to a few restaurants like that myself where you seem to pay for the whole plate and therefore don't get much on it ... but everything is somehow "special". I rather go to a nice little restaurant that still cooks everything from fresh ingredients but also makes sure their customers don't leave their place with a hollow stomach.

I found the characters racist or fascist or whatever you might call people who just dislike someone for having less money than they do, Just the type of people I would not want to call my friends. Whatever happens, I don't want to spoil it for anyone like this, I would not do "anything" for my children out of love, I would like to keep them out of trouble before something happens.

The question is, do we want to live in a society determined by these kind of people?

The book has been made into a movie. I'm not sure whether I want to watch it.

We discussed this in our book club in November 2017.

From the back cover:
"A summer's evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the delicate scraping of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of politeness - the banality of work, the triviality of holidays.

But the empty words hide a terrible conflict and, with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened... Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. Together, the boys have committed a horrifying act, caught on camera, and their grainy images have been beamed into living rooms across the nation; despite a police manhunt, the boys remain unidentified - by everyone except their parents.

As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children and, as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love."

Friday, 10 November 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"What I like about black-and-white photographs is that they're more like reading the book than seeing the movie." Robert Heinecken

"It is both relaxing and invigorating to occasionally set aside the worries of life, seek the company of a friendly book … from the reading of 'good books' there comes a richness of life that can be obtained in no other way." Gordon B. Hinckley

"There's nothing wrong with reading a book you love over and over. When you do, the words get inside you, become a part of you, in a way that words in a book you’ve read only once can’t." Gail Carson Levine

"Books are like friends to me. Words come alive on the page." Beverly Lewis

"Books give me an escape from reality even if it’s only for a few minutes.” N.N. [If anyone can tell me the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.


Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Scott, Mary "Days that have been"



Scott, Mary "Days that have been" - 1966

A reread of Mary Scott's auto-biography. She has written many funny stories about her life in New Zealand on a remote farm about a hundred years ago.

I have loved all her stories and red every single one that I could get my hands on but this is probably my favourite. Not as funny as the other ones but you can see where she gets her humour. A lovely account of a woman who had to endure many hardships, who lived a life long forgotten, at least in our part of the world. Born in 1888, she was a little older than my grandmothers but I know from their stories (and those of my parents) that times were about the same, no electricity, no technology, no cars etc. And since none of them has written a book, this is also a sort of getting together with those from my family who have been gone for a long time now. One of my favourite books by one of my favourite authors.

Unfortunately, Mary Scott's books are out of print and only available second hand. I have heard in the meantime, that you can buy some of them as eBooks.

I have not read any of her crime stories or her early and later books "Barbara Bakes", "The Prisoner Escaped" and "The Unwritten Book" and would be grateful if anyone could let me know how I could obtain a copy.

From the back cover: (translated)
"Mary Scott, the farmer's wife and best-selling author from New Zealand, has retold her own life in this book - from her childhood, from her school and university days, from her honeymoon 'on horseback' to living on a farm in the New Zealand bush, isolated and far away from culture and civilization.
As Mary Scott, an almost perfect countrywoman and mother of four children, begins to write between cooking, sewing and milking (for chronic money shortage, by the way) and comes to world fame with her optimistic novels - that itself reads like a cheery novel. Only this time he is not invented by Mary Scott, but experienced."

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Guo, Xiaolu (郭小橹) "Language"


Guo, Xiaolu (郭小橹) "Language" - 2017

The story of a Chinese girl who moves to England.

I found this little book at the till when paying for another book (or two or three ...) and it sounded interesting. It really is only an extract from another book, "A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers" which certainly must be interesting, as well. Anyway, our Chinese girl has learned some English but she really doesn't know much when she first comes to England. It must be quite daunting living in another country and not knowing the language, especially if you are from a completely different culture. I have lived in several countries in my life but always knew the language and the cultures between some Western European countries are not all that different.

The book is written like a diary of the young girl who comes to England and at first, her English is rather limited. But you can tell by the time you get to the end that she gets better all the time. I quite liked that.

Anyway, I have learned more about the Chinese customs in this book than about the English language and that is exactly what I like. Nice short read.

From the back cover:
"Have you ever tried to learn another language? When Zhuang first comes to London from China she feels like she is among an alien species. The city is disorientating, the people unfriendly, the language a muddle of dominant personal pronouns and moody verbs. But with increasing fluency in English surviving turns to living. And they say that the best way to learn a language is to fall in love with a native speaker…
Selected from the book A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo"

Friday, 3 November 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



How to Read More:
1. Throw your phone in the ocean (or keep it in airplane mode).
2. Carry a book at all times.
3. Have another book ready before you finish the one you're reading) make a stack of books to-read or load up your e-reader).
4. If you aren't enjoying a book, stop reading it immediately (flinging it across the room helps provide closure).
5. Schedule one hour a day for reading on your calendar like you would an important meeting (try commutes, lunch breaks, or getting into bed an hour early).
6. Keep a reading log and share it (people will send you even more good books to read).
Austin Kleon
*
Most of them work for me, especially #s 2, 3 and 6.
 
"The books that help you the most are those which make you think the most." Theodore Parker

"There’s no book that absolutely everyone loves." Carolyn Parkhurst

"It is when we are faced with death that we turn most bookish." Jules Renard

"Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all." Henry David Thoreau

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Fforde, Jasper "Shades of Grey. The Road to High Saffron"


Fforde, Jasper "Shades of Grey. The Road to High Saffron" - 2009

A dystopian novel about a future where colour perception rules the world. I like colours, I like Jasper Fforde's style I read a few of his "Thursday Next" books (The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book), so I couldn't resist when I saw this book even though the title surprised me a little. When my son saw it on my reading pile, he looked at it curiously and I said "It's not 50 Shades of Grey", and he laughed and said "I wouldn't think you'd step that low". Oh, my kids know me so well. ;)

Anyway, I think dystopian novels (or "disturbian" as my husband likes to call them) are great. They show our society in a different way. What kind of fears are there, how do we imagine the world would look like if some of them came true. Or something else happened that made us give up the ways we live now.

In this case, Something (always capitalized) happens and the world changes, the people change. Everyone is only able to see certain kinds of colour and even there is a difference in how well they perceive "their" colour. Families even have their last names showing what colour they can see, like our hero Eddie Russett, who - obviously - belongs to the Reds. Then there are the deMauves, the Ochres, the Magnetas, Mr. Yewberry, Mrs. Lapis-Lazuli, etc. The Greys don't see any colours and are therefore just given a number.

But here's the thing, people manage to get racism even into this, you are not judged by the colour of your skin but by the colour you can see. The ultra-violets are the highest, the Reds come second last, just above the Greys.

What I liked about this novel is not just the author's style, he does write interestingly and his novels always contain a lot of humour, but the way it makes you think about how we really perceive this world. That is my favourite part not just about this novel but of any dystopian one.

From the back cover:
"Hundreds of years in the future, after the Something that Happened, the world is an alarmingly different place. Life is lived according to The Rulebook and social hierarchy is determined by your perception of colour.
Eddie Russett is an above average Red who dreams of moving up the ladder by marriage to Constance Oxblood. Until he is sent to the Outer Fringes where he meets Jane - a lowly Grey with an uncontrollable temper and a desire to see him killed.
For Eddie, it's love at first sight. But his infatuation will lead him to discover that all is not as it seems in a world where everything that looks black and white is really shades of grey . . .
If George Orwell had tripped over a paint pot or Douglas Adams favoured colour swatches instead of towels . . . neither of them would have come up with anything as eccentrically brilliant as Shades of Grey."

According to Wikipedia: "Fforde's books contain a profusion of literary allusions and wordplay, tightly scripted plots, and playfulness with the conventions of traditional genres. His works usually contain elements of metafiction, parody, and fantasy."