Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Prince of Mist"

 

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Prince of Mist" (El príncipe de la niebla) - 1993

What a fantastic ghost story, very mystical, very exciting. Initially written as a youth book, this has been rereleased after the author's great successes with "The Shadow of the Wind" and "The Angel's Game".

A family moves from the city to the beach in order to flee from the war. They move into an old house whose previous owner died. As soon as they arrive, strange things start to happen. Then the son meets another boy and his grandfather and the mystery starts to unravel.

Quite a short story, only 202 pages, read them in a day. Wonderful.

Find more books about this great author here.

From the back cover: "1943. As war sweeps across Europe, Max Carver's father moves his family away from the city, to an old wooden house on the coast. But as soon as they arrive, strange things begin to happen: Max discovers a garden filled with eerie statues; his sisters are plagued by unsettling dreams and voices; a box of old films opens a window to the past.

Most unsettling of all are rumours about the previous owners and the mysterious disappearance of their son. As Max delves into the past, he encounters the terrifying story of the Prince of Mist, a sinister shadow who emerges from the night to settle old scores, then disappears with the first mists of dawn . . .

Originally published in Spain as a young adult novel, THE PRINCE OF MIST is a mesmerising tale of mystery, romance and adventure.
"

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Angel's Game"




Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Angel's Game" (El juego del ángel) - 2008

If you enjoyed "The Shadow of the Wind", this is the book for you. Another book about books, history, mystery and the fabulous town Barcelona. It has everything, it's a love story and a crime story. This time, a writer brings us back to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and the Sempere & Sons bookshop on another quest for the author of a book.

I just love Carlos Ruiz Zafón's style of writing, the way he gets you to wonder what will happen next, how you try to figure out what is behind the story, you're almost there but never quite reach it. His unravelling of the thread is stunning, extraordinary. Can't wait for his next work. His novels make me want to learn Spanish better so I can read them in the original.

Find more books about this great author here.

From the back cover: "In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man - David Martin - makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books, and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city's underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner. Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love.Then David receives the offer of a lifetime: he is to write a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realises that there is a connection between this haunting book and the shadows that surround his home..."

Monday, 28 March 2011

Oates, Joyce Carol "The Gravedigger's Daughter"



Oates, Joyce Carol "The Gravedigger's Daughter" - 2007

Joyce Carol Oates belongs to my favourite authors. She didn't disappoint me with her latest novel, either. A story of new beginnings and good-byes, of violence and murder, a search for identity, "The Gravedigger's Daughter"  is a gripping, very exciting book you just cannot put down.

From the back cover:
"In 1936 the Schwarts, an immigrant family desperate to escape Nazi Germany, settle in a small town in upstate New York, where the father, a former high school teacher, is demeaned by the only job he can get: gravedigger and cemetery caretaker. After local prejudice and the family's own emotional frailty result in unspeakable tragedy, the gravedigger's daughter, Rebecca, begins her astonishing pilgrimage into America, an odyssey of erotic risk and imaginative daring, ingenious self-invention, and, in the end, a bittersweet-but very 'American'-triumph. 'You are born here, they will not hurt you' - so the gravedigger has predicted for his daughter, which will turn out to be true.

In '
The Gravedigger's Daughter', Oates has created a masterpiece of domestic yet mythic realism, at once emotionally engaging and intellectually provocative: an intimately observed testimony to the resilience of the individual to set beside such predecessors as 'The Falls', 'Blonde', and 'We Were the Mulvaneys'"

Find links to all my other Joyce Carol Oates reviews here.

Oates, Joyce Carol "The Falls"



Oates, Joyce Carol "The Falls" - 2004

"A man climbs over the railings and plunges into Niagara Falls. A newlywed, he has left behind his wife, Ariah Erskine, in the honeymoon suite the morning after their wedding."


This is how the story begins. The "Widow Bride" starts a new life but her past catches up with her.

My third Joyce Carol Oates novel. Liked it just as well as the other ones. Her characters are so alive. As she describes every single person, you have sympathy with all of them because you can see everybody's point. I really thought I knew everyone. And, yet, you can never tell what would happen next, everything comes so unexpectedly.

The novel left me devastated. Great read. My wish, award JCO the Nobel Prize for Literature.

From the back cover:
"A novel of tremendous sweep and pace about the American family in crisis and a tale of murder, loss and romance in the mist of Niagara Falls. It is the crowning achievement of Joyce Carol Oates's career to date. newly-wed, and his bride has been left behind in the honeymoon suite the morning after their wedding. For two weeks, Alma, the deserted bride, waits by the side of the roaring waterfall for news of her husband's recovered body. During her vigil, an unlikely new love story begins to unfold when she meets a wealthy lawyer who is transfixed by her strange, otherworldly gaze. So it all begins, in the 1950s, with the dark foreboding of the Falls as the sinister background to the tragedy. secrets and sins; of lawsuits, murder and, eventually redemption.As Alma's children learn that their past is enmeshed with a hushed-up scandal involving radioactive waste materials, they must confront not only their personal history but America's murky past: the despoiling of the American landscape and the corruption and greed of the massive industrial expansion of the 1950s and 1960s. crisis -- but also about America itself in the mid-20th century. This book alone places Joyce Carol Oates definitively in the company of the Great American Novelists."

Find links to all my other Joyce Carol Oates reviews here.

Oates, Joyce Carol "Middle Age"


Oates, Joyce Carol "Middle Age" - 2001

"Middle Age portrays a uniquely contemporary phenomenon: the propensity of the affluent middle-aged in America to reinvent themselves romantically when the energies of youth have faded or they have become disillusioned."

A man dies and all of a sudden all his skeletons come out of the closet. A very interesting story about life in a small town and how everyone tries to hide everything from each other. Everybody knows everyone and everybody knows everyone's secrets, yet, everyone tries to pretend they don't. Sounds familiar? If not, you have probably lived in a large town all your life.

You find everyone in this novel, the nice one, the evil one, the shallow one, the deep one, the deceptive one, the caring one. As I said, interesting story. Good to read, JCO has a wonderful way of describing her characters and the situations they get into.

From the back cover:
"In Salthill-on-Hudson, a half-hour train ride from Manhattan, everyone is rich, beautiful, and -- though they look much younger -- middle-aged. But when Adam Berendt, a charismatic, mysterious sculptor, dies suddenly in a brash act of heroism, shock waves rock the town. But who was Adam Berendt? Was he in fact a hero, or someone more flawed and human?"

Find links to all my other Joyce Carol Oates reviews here.

Oates, Joyce Carol "Dear Husband"


Oates, Joyce Carol "Dear Husband, stories" - 2009

I'm not a fan of short stories. Or crime stories. But I love Joyce Carol Oates and therefore had to read her latest book. Anyway, I enjoyed it. The stories are very different, different outcomes, none of them very nice, though. A lot of mother-son problems. I don't have those kind of problems but - as a mother of two teenage sons - could relate to a lot of them.

"A gripping and moving new collection of stories by Joyce Carol Oates, which reimagines the meaning of family—by unexpected, often startling means

With the unflinching candor and sympathy for which Joyce Carol Oates is celebrated, these fourteen stories examine the intimate lives of contemporary American families: the tangled ties between generations, the desperation - and the covert, radiant happiness - of loving more than one is loved in return. In
Cutty Sark and Landfill, the bond between adolescent son and mother reverberates with the force of an unspoken passion, bringing unexpected consequences for the son. In A Princeton Idyll, a woman is forced to realize, decades later, her childhood role in the destruction of a famous, beloved grandfather's life. In Magda Maria, a man tries to break free of the enthralling and dangerous erotic obsession of his life. In the gripping title story, Oates boldly reimagines the true-crime story of Andrea Yates, the Texas mother who drowned her children in 2001. Several stories - Suicide by Fitness Center, The Glazers, and Dear Joyce Carol, - take a less tragic turn, exploring with mordant humor the shadowy interstices between self-awareness and delusion.

Dramatic, intensely rendered, and always provocative,
Dear Husband, provides an unsettling and fascinating look into the mysterious heart of America."

Find links to all my other Joyce Carol Oates reviews here.

Oates, Joyce Carol "We Were the Mulvaneys"


Oates, Joyce Carol "We Were the Mulvaneys" - 1996

"You will not read a novel more enthralling, more moving, more unforgettably illumined by profoundly human truth than this story of the rise, the fall, and the ultimate redemption of an American family."

True, the Mulvaneys are a happy family, a special kind of family, they are rich, beautiful, have a fantastic live, a wonderful home, own a huge farm and everybody envies them. Until that event on Valentine's Day after which the whole world changes An interesting story about how one incident can destroy someone but how determination can bring them up again.

This was my first first novel from this author (but her 26th) and I liked it so much that I was looking forward to reading more of her. I don't ever read them quickly one after the other, though, I think it spoils the enjoyment.

Anyway, I really liked this novel. The characters are well described, the story is flowing well. You can imagine being there. Some parts might be a little too American but I can still imagine something like that happening over here, especially in the seventies when this story happened.

I have enjoyed all the other Joyce Carol Oates books and it's hard to pick a favourite but if I really had to, this would be the one. 

From the back cover:
"The Mulvaneys of High Point Farm in Mt. Ephraim, New York, are a large and fortunate clan, blessed with good looks, abundant charisma, and boundless promise. But over the twenty-five year span of this ambitious novel, the Mulvaneys will slide, almost imperceptibly at first, from the pinnacle of happiness, transformed by the vagaries of fate into a scattered collection of lost and lonely souls.It is the youngest son, Judd, now an adult, who attempts to piece together the fragments of the Mulvaneys' former glory, seeking to uncover and understand the secret violation that occasioned the family's tragic downfall. Each of the Mulvaneys endures some form of exile- physical or spiritual - but in the end they find a way to bridge the chasms that have opened up among them, reuniting in the spirit of love and healing."


Find links to all my other Joyce Carol Oates reviews here.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Bryson, Bill "Down Under"


Bryson, Bill "Down Under/In a Sunburned Country" - 2000

I love Bill Bryson, so I loved this one. My favourite of all is "Notes from a Small Island" though I don't share that feeling with most Brits. I lived on the gorgeous British Isle as a foreigner, same as Bill Bryson and loved this country and its inhabitants, same as Bill Bryson. Therefore, I probably thought it was the best.

I have never been to Australia but having read his book I feel I almost have. Bill Bryson is hilarious, as always. His almost phobic-like fear of all Australian animals just adds to the account of his adventures in the different parts of the country.

If I hadn't had any interest in going to Australia before, I surely did after reading Bryson's account of this "sunburned country", as he calls it in the US edition of his descriptive book.

From the back cover:
"As his many British fans already know, bearded Yankee butterball Bill Bryson specialises in going to countries we think we know well, only to return with travelogues that are surprisingly cynical and yet shockingly affectionate. It's a unique style, possibly best suited to the world's weirder destinations. It's helpful here: Bryson's latest subject is that oddest of continents, Australia.

For a start, there's the oddly nasty fauna and flora. Barely a page of
Down Under is without its lovingly detailed list of lethal antipodean critters: sociopathic jellyfish, homicidal crocs, toilet-dwelling death-spiders, murderous shrubs (yes, shrubs). Bryson's absorbing and informative portrait is of a terrain so intractably vast, a land so climatically extreme, it seems expressly designed to daunt and torment humankind. 

This very user-unfriendliness throws up another Aussie paradox. If the country is so hostile how come the natives are so laid back, so relaxed? As Bryson shuffles from state to state, he seeks the key to the uniquely cool Australian character and finds it in Australia's tragicomic past, her genetic seeding of convicts, explorers, gold diggers, outlaws. This is a country of lads and mates, of boozy gamblers--nowadays mellowed by sunshine and sporting success.


Down Under is a fine book. So it may not be quite as deliciously malicious as Bryson's
The Lost Continent, nor as laugh-out-loud funny as Neither Here Nor There. But so what? A Bill Bryson on cruise control is better than most travel writers on turbodrive."

I love all of Bill Bryson's books. Find a link to my reviews here.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Bush, Catherine "Claire's Head"


Bush, Catherine "Claire's Head" - 2004

I was given this book by a Canadian friend who knows how often I get a migraine. If you have never experienced one, this book will tell you all about it, even though it is a novel. And if you suffer from them, you will find that somebody finally was able to describe the kind of pain you get and that you are never able to describe yourself to someone who doesn't know what you are going through.

Claire is the youngest of three sisters. Two of them suffer from migraine, it's in their family, same as in mine. They remember their childhood in dark bedrooms and with a lot of restrictions in life. When her older sister gets reported missing, Claire goes on a journey not only to find her sister but also to understand her headaches better.

I really like this book. If you have any interest or know someone with migraines, you should read this book.

From the back cover:
"On a quiet June morning, Toronto cartographer Claire Barber receives a phone call telling her that her sister Rachel, a freelance medical journalist living in New York, seems to have vanished. Last heard from while on assignment in Montreal, Rachel cancelled a trip to visit her six-year-old daughter, who lives with Claire’s middle sister, in Toronto. Among the many fears that haunt Claire as she begins to track Rachel’s whereabouts is that Rachel’s worsening migraines have pushed her beyond her limits.

As Claire disrupts her orderly life to follow news of Rachel to Montreal, to Amsterdam, to Italy, and, ultimately, to Las Vegas and Mexico in the company of Rachel’s ex-lover, Brad, she enters a world of neurologists and New Age healers. Struggling with her own headaches, Claire embarks on what becomes an emotional journey, one that brings to the fore her parents’ sudden death eight years earlier. It also reveals the heightening tensions in her relationship with her partner, Stefan, portraying along the way long-held secrets from the past as well as the uniquely complex and irreplaceable bond between sisters. What Claire comes to discover will set her life on a new course.

Taking place over one summer, but delving back into the past, Claire’s Head provides both a layered, engrossing story and a meditation on how we live with pain and what we will give up to be free of it, written with all the insight, intelligence, and storytelling artistry for which Catherine Bush’s fiction has come to be known. With this, her third novel, she has once again proved herself to be one of Canadian fiction’s most striking and original voices.
"

See also my list of "Migraine Books"

Ilibagiza, Immaculée "Left to Tell"


Ilibagiza, Immaculée with Erwin, Steve "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust" - 2006

After having read "Shake Hands with the Devil" where General Roméo Dallaire gives a most horrendous account of the genocide in Rwanda, I didn't say no when a friend offered to lend me this book of a young girl who survived the holocaust.

This was an even more earth-shattering tale as Immaculée Ilibagiza doesn't just tell how she survived (cramped with seven other women into a tiny bathroom for 91 days with hardly any food and having to be absolutely quiet the whole time, how they learned to communicate without speaking), she also tells about losing all her family and friends, hardly anyone she knew survived, most of them were killed most brutally. The most miraculous part of her story is her triumphal survival and her faith that never left her.

An amazing story of a remarkable young woman.

Immaculée Ilibagiza has her own homepage, "Left to Tell". I also read another book of hers "Our Lady of Kibeho".

See the book featured in my "Photo ABC". 

From the back cover:

"Immaculee Ilibagiza grew up in a country she loved, surrounded by a family she cherished. But in 1994 her idyllic world was ripped apart as Rwanda descended into a bloody genocide. Immaculee’s family was brutally murdered during a killing spree that lasted three months and claimed the lives of nearly a million Rwandans.

Incredibly, Immaculee survived the slaughter. For 91 days, she and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor while hundreds of machete-wielding killers hunted for them.

It was during those endless hours of unspeakable terror that Immaculee discovered the power of prayer, eventually shedding her fear of death and forging a profound and lasting relationship with God. She emerged from her bathroom hideout having discovered the meaning of truly unconditional love - a love so strong she was able seek out and forgive her family’s killers.


The triumphant story of this remarkable young woman’s journey through the darkness of genocide will inspire anyone whose life has been touched by fear, suffering, and loss.
"

Dallaire, Roméo "Shake Hands with the Devil"


Dallaire, Roméo "Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda" - 2003

Tough read. But worthwile. General Dallaire was the UN commander in Rwanda during the genocide in 1994 (the year my son was born). It is incredible what happened. Roméo Dallaire describes everything in detail. Certainly not easy to remember all the abbreviations. Thank God for the glossary in the back.

Highly recommendable if you are interested in the problems going on in this world. The book made a big impression to everyone, it felt very important.

First of all, the author is not a novelist. He is a general, a military man who tries to describe the events in 1994 when his task was to bring peace to Rwanda. The book is an account of what was happening, a chronological list, if you will, of his experiences. His accounts are filled with abbreviations, acronyms, names. Granted, there is an impressively huge list of all those in the back, one with all the pages every single person in the book, the other one with the description of all those abbreviations, a short explanation as to the people etc. But, you can't go back to those lists all the time, otherwise you lose track of the events. So, it's hard to follow and it's not a book you would read in a couple of days, especially considering its 592 pages (even without the appendix).

However, it is still worth reading!! The war this poor guy had to fight - not with the Rwandans but with bureaucracy - the people who sent him there to prevent a war. And then he had to stand by watching two peoples killing each other, well, mainly one killing the other, one of the largest genocides in history, without being able to do what he considered necessary to prevent this. It must have been heart-wrenching. Well, it was. This war didn't just destroy the lives of probably a million Tutsis and Hutus, it also destroyed General Dallaire's and his family's life since he was unable to live with it. I can see how you are never able to return to your former life after any kind of war or even 'conflict' but having to stand by and just watch … well, read the book. It's worth it!

We all achieved great respect for the man, what he went through, it takes a particular kind of person. We were very impressed with him, what is he made of, how did he persevere and survive? We found him very sympathetic, very heroic. Someone said, if  she was to be a soldier she would like to be under a command of a person like him. He never expected anything from anyone what he wouldn't go through himself.

We had a talk about genocide/holocaust and how difficult it must have been not to take part. According to a study, 10% will refuse to take part in it. 80% will take part, 10-15% become harmed in the process, they become killers. People often cave under social pressure.

In any case, we must make sure it will never happen again.

We discussed this in our book club in August 2009

From the back cover: "On the tenth anniversary of the date that UN peacekeepers landed in Rwanda, Random House Canada is proud to publish the unforgettable first-hand account of the genocide by the man who led the UN mission. Digging deep into shattering memories, General Dallaire has written a powerful story of betrayal, naïveté, racism and international politics. His message is simple and undeniable: 'Never again.'

When Lt-Gen. Roméo Dallaire received the call to serve as force commander of the UN intervention in Rwanda in 1993, he thought he was heading off on a modest and straightforward peacekeeping mission. Thirteen months later he flew home from Africa, broken, disillusioned and suicidal, having witnessed the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans in only a hundred days. In
Shake Hands with the Devil, he takes the reader with him on a return voyage into the hell of Rwanda, vividly recreating the events the international community turned its back on. This book is an unsparing eyewitness account of the failure by humanity to stop the genocide, despite timely warnings.

Woven through the story of this disastrous mission is Dallaire’s own journey from confident Cold Warrior, to devastated UN commander, to retired general engaged in a painful struggle to find a measure of peace, reconciliation and hope. This book is General Dallaire’s personal account of his conversion from a man certain of his worth and secure in his assumptions to a man conscious of his own weaknesses and failures and critical of the institutions he’d relied on. It might not sit easily with standard ideas of military leadership, but understanding what happened to General Dallaire and his mission to Rwanda is crucial to understanding the moral minefields our peacekeepers are forced to negotiate when we ask them to step into the world’s dirty wars.

Excerpt from
Shake Hands with the Devil
'My story is not a strictly military account nor a clinical, academic study of the breakdown of Rwanda. It is not a simplistic indictment of the many failures of the UN as a force for peace in the world. It is not a story of heroes and villains, although such a work could easily be written. This book is a cri de coeur for the slaughtered thousands, a tribute to the souls hacked apart by machetes because of their supposed difference from those who sought to hang on to power. . . . This book is the account of a few humans who were entrusted with the role of helping others taste the fruits of peace. Instead, we watched as the devil took control of paradise on earth and fed on the blood of the people we were supposed to protect.'"

Read also the story of a surviving girl:
Ilibagiza, Immaculée with Erwin, Steve "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust" - 2006
Roméo Dallaire has also written a second book "They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children" where he "provides an emotionally daring and intellectually enlightening introduction to the child soldier phenomenon, as well as concrete solutions for its total eradication." I have read it in the meantime and thought it was also brilliant.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Mary Scott


Mary Scott writes about New Zealand

I'm sure every one of us has a book or a series of books they loved and adored when they were young. Mine led me to New Zealand, to the outbacks in the first half of the last century. The characters were mainly farmers with no money who struggled to build a life in the middle of nowhere. Mary Scott knew what she was writing about, the characters were modelled on herself and her family and friends. She got through all the hardships of a life like that with the help of her loving husband and some wonderful friends she met out there. Who wouldn't want to meet the people and the country they live in?

Her books were translated into German (therefore I could read them all at the time) and seem to have been most popular in Germany, even more than in her own country. Anybody I met or talked to from New Zealand doesn't' seem to have ever heard about these lovely little books.
Susan and Larry Series:
"Breakfast at Six" (Frühstück um Sechs. Ich und Paul und Tausend Schafe) - 1953
"Dinner Doesn’t Matter" (Mitttagessen Nebensache) - 1957
"Tea and Biscuits" (Tee und Toast) - 1961
"A Change From Mutton" (Und abends etwas Liebe) - 1964

"Turkey at Twelve" (Truthahn um Zwölf) - 1968
"Shepherd's Pie" (Geliebtes Landleben) - 1972
"Strangers for Tea" (Fremde Gäste) - 1975
"Board, but no Breakfast" (Übernachtung - Frühstück ausgeschlossen) - 1978
Freddie-Trilogy:

"Families are Fun" (Fröhliche Ferien am Meer) - 1957
"No Sad Songs" (Kopf hoch, Freddie!) - 1960
"Freddie" (Wann heiraten wir, Freddie?) - 1965
Others:
"Yours to Oblige" (Na endlich, Liebling) - 1954
"Pippa in Paradise" (Es tut sich was im Paradies) - 1955
"One of the Family" (Onkel ist der Beste) - 1958
"The White Elephant" (Zum Weißen Elefanten) - 1959
"The Long Honeymoon" (Flitterwochen) - 1963
"It's Perfectly Easy" (Es ist ja so einfach) - 1963
"What Does It Matter" (Macht nichts, Darling) - 1966
"Yes, Darling" (Ja, Liebling) - 1967
"Strictly Speaking" (Das Teehaus im Grünen) - 1969
"Haven't We Met Before?" (Hilfe, ich bin berühmt!) - 1970

"If I Don't, Who Will?" (Oh, diese Verwandtschaft!) - 1971
"First Things First" (Verlieb dich nie in einen Tierarzt) - 1973
"It Was Meant" (Zärtliche Wildnis) - 1974
"Away From It All" (Das Jahr auf dem Lande) - 1977
Autobiography:
"Days That Have Been" (Das waren schöne Zeiten) - 1966
Books I didn't get to read:
"The Unwritten Book" 1957
Crime Novels written with Joyce West:
"Fatal Lady" (Tod auf der Koppel) - 1960
"Such Nice People" (Lauter reizende Menschen) - 1962
"The Mangrove Murder" (Das Geheimnis der Mangrovenbucht) - 1964
"No Red Herrings" (Das Rätsel der Hibiskus-Brosche) - 1964

"Who Put It There?" (Der Tote im Kofferraum) - 1965 

Some information on Mary Scott, her life and her books.
The New Zealand Novel

A list of all my reviews.

Moore, Christopher "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff"


Moore, Christopher "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal" - 2002

A friend of one of our members had recommended this book, she is an art gallerist and we told our member not to forget to thank her for this.

We quite liked the book. We would have preferred to have someone there who didn't like the book (that's always so much better for a discussion) but everyone present agreed. However, I did have a comment from a former member who said she doesn't often get upset with books (which is true) but found this one very sacrilegious and rude. Obviously, she didn't care much for it at all.

As for the rest of us, we found it quite amusing, entertaining, relaxed, enjoyed it but were afraid some very devout people might not like it. We got into the spirit of it, laughed hysterically. We  liked the book, it was funny, well written, interesting, timeless. It was showing the human side, described a touching friendship. We liked the sarcasm, it's cheeky, very humorous, an original combination of religion and fantasy.

I usually don't like to read "sequels" written by other authors. There have been a lot of attempts on this one but I don't think any of them has gone into it in such a way. We found the author respected Jesus. Great was the idea of friendship, loyalty, sacrifice, treat others the way you want to be treated. It was also nice to hear more about different other religions, the way the author brought in all the other, older religions, and also tried to put in events of Jesus' life that we have found out (or tried to find out) through artefacts, events, etc.

If you've been to Israel, you enjoy in particular the accuracy of details. He inserted forgiveness, kindness, comparison, humility and moderation. The book encourages you to be more like Christ. We also agreed that it was a little OTT sometimes and that this book should not be taken seriously. One remark of one of the members was, if this challenges your faith, you have some more praying to do.

One of my favourite quotes ever: "There's no such thing as a conservative hero".

We discussed this in our book club in February 2010.

From the back cover: "The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his 30th birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years - except Biff, the Messiah's best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story in this hilarious, yet heartfelt work."

White, Colin & Boucke, Laurie "The UnDutchables"


White, Colin & Boucke, Laurie "The UnDutchables: an observation of the Netherlands, its culture and its inhabitants" - 1989

Two Americans who had lived in the Netherlands for 22 years together published the first edition of this book in 1989, it has been updated every other year since then and is a huge bestseller both in the Netherlands and many other countries.

The book was meant to be a humourous view about living in the Netherlands, mainly the Holland part. The authors don't just laugh with the Dutch about anything that's different here but also give some useful tips for expatriates living in the country. I wish somebody would have given this to me before I moved here. And I wasn't the only one, our book club members (all expatriates at the time) couldn't agree more.

There is an interesting website about the book with a message board and further links; The UnDutchables
They also published a second book: Dear Henry - Letters from the Lowlands

We discussed this in our book club in November 2005.

From the back cover: "A hilarious yet profound and revealing look at the Dutch, their customs and their mentality. This exquisite satire explores the most diverse aspects of daily Dutch life, from coffee to child rearing, from train travel to the toilet.
Learn why the Dutch believe, 'It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it,' and why it's so hard to learn the Dutch language: 'The more you try to learn Dutch, the more the Dutch refuse to speak Dutch to you and the more they complain that you haven't learned it.'
Other topics include Dutch moralizing & criticizing, cozy Dutch homes, flowers & plants, money & thriftiness, work ethics, welfare, commercial cunning, telephone habits, the national passion, rules for shopping, driving, Dutch customs, bikes, language, gay community, food, sex, drugs, phobias, the Dutch abroad and the 1995 flood disaster.This book is a must for anyone with Dutch connections and who enjoys wit and humor. A perennial bestseller in Europe, and an increasingly popular book in North America.
"

Friday, 18 March 2011

Letts, Billie "Where the Heart is"



Letts, Billie "Where the Heart is" - 1995

One of our first book club reads. A seventeen year old girl ends up pregnant with no support at all and has her baby in a Wal-Mart in Oklahoma. She gets taken in by some well-meaning people and starts a real life with her baby.

A nice easy book you might want to read if you want something light. If I remember it well, everyone quite liked it. Not necessarily a huge message but it provoked a good discussion.

We discussed this in our book club in October 2001.

From the back cover: "Talk about unlucky sevens. An hour ago, seventeen-year-old, seven months pregnant Novalee Nation was heading for California with her boyfriend. Now she finds herself stranded at a Wal-Mart in Sequoyah, Oklahoma, with just $7.77 in change. But Novalee is about to discover hidden treasures in this small Southwest town - a group of down-to-earth, deeply caring people willing to help a homeless, jobless girl living secretly in a Wal-Mart. From Bible-thumping blue-haired Sister Thelma Husband to eccentric librarian Forney Hull who loves Novalee more than she loves herself, they are about to take her - and you, too - on a moving, funny, and unforgettable journey to . . . Where the Heart Is."

Aitmatov, Chinghiz "Jamila"




Aitmatov, Chinghiz "Jamila" (Russian: Джамиля - Jamilia) - 1958

This is a very interesting story by a writer from a country we don't know that well, he is from Kyrgyzstan but writes in Russian, as far as I know. I read the translation ;-)

The novel describes village life in Central Asia and the disappearance of Central Asian cultural traditions in the USSR. The main character is a painter who had painted a picture at the time that his sister-in-law, Jamila, and Daniyar, a village outsider, had fallen in love and left the village. He remembers and describes the summer of 1943, when he lost both his friends.

This is one of the best love stories I ever read. It's not a very long one and I read it quite a while ago, yet, I still recall the feeling the story invokes. Great novel!

From the back cover: "Jamilia's husband is off fighting at the front. She spends her days hauling sacks of grain from the threshing floor to the train station in their small village, accompanied by Seit, her young brother-in-law, and Daniyar, a sullen newcomer to the village who has been wounded on the battlefield.

Seit observes the beautiful, spirited Jamilia spurn men's advances, and wince at the dispassionate letters she receives from her husband. Meanwhile, undeterred by Jamilia's teasing, Daniyar sings as they return each evening from the fields. Soon Jamilia is in love, and she and Daniyar elope just as her husband returns.

Translated by James Riordan."

Smith, Ali “The Accidental”



Smith, Ali "The Accidental" - 2004

This book was shortlisted for the Booker prize. Everybody praised it. I think, the first one probably didn't want to admit that he/she didn't understand the novel and therefore praised it and then it went on and on like that ... I didn't like the book at all. It was boring, weird, nothing that really tempted me to ever touch a novel by this author again.

Ali Smith was shortlisted for "The Accidental" in 2005. 

From the back cover: "Arresting and wonderful, 'The Accidental' pans in on the Norfolk holiday home of the Smart family one hot summer. There, a beguiling stranger called Amber appears at the door bearing all sorts of unexpected gifts, trampling over family boundaries and sending each of the Smarts scurrying from the dark into the light. A novel about the ways that seemingly chance encounters irrevocably transform our understanding of ourselves, 'The Accidental' explores the nature of truth, the role of fate, and the power of storytelling. This book will change you."

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Dutch and French Books

From time to time, I read a French or a Dutch book. I prefer to read a book in its original language because with a translation there is always a third person in the conversation, the translator. Unfortunately, I don't speak all the languages I would like to and therefore have to rely on translations from time to time. These are the books I managed to enjoy (or not) just like that.


Word cloud made with WordItOut

DUTCH
Abdolah, Kader "Het huis van de moskee" (The House of the Mosque) - 2005
- "Spijkerschrift" (My Father’s Notebook) - 2000
Brijs, Stefan "De engelenmaker" (The Angel Maker) - 2005
de Loo, Tessa "De Tweeling" (The Twins) - 1993
de Man, Herman "Het wassende water" [The Growing Water - not translated] - 1925
de Winter, Leon "De Hemel van Hollywood" (The Hollywood Sign) - 1997
- "Zionoco" (dto.) - 1995
Dorrestein, Renate "Een hart van steen" (A Heart of Stone)- 1998
Durlacher, Jessica "Het Geweten" (The Conscience) - 1998
Eggels, Elle "Het Huis van de Zeven Zusters" (The House of the Seven Sisters) - 1998
Frank, Anne "Het Achterhuis" (The Diary of a Young Girl) - 1942-44
Hirsi Ali, Ayaan "Mijn Vrijheid" (Infidel: My Life) - 2006
Koch, Herman "Het Diner" (The Dinner) - 2009
Linthout, Dik "Onbekende buren" [Unknown Neighbours - not translated] - 2002
Mak, Geert "De goede stad" [The Good Town - not translated] - 2007
- "Hoe God verdween uit Jorwerd. Een Nederlands Dorp In De Twintigste Eeuw" (Jorwerd: The Death of the Village in late 20th Century)- 1996
- "In Europa: Reizen door de twintigste eeuw" (In Europe. Travels through the twentieth century) - 2004
Mulisch, Harry "De Ontdekking van de hemel" (The Discovery of Heaven)- 1992
Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker) "Max Havelaar of de koffiveilingen der Nederlandsche Handelmaatschappy" (Max Havelaar, or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company) - 1859
Münstermann, Hans "Het gelukkige jaar 1940" [The Happy Year 1940 - not translated] - 2000
Poortvliet, Rien "De tresoor van Jacob Jansz. Over het vermoedelijke leven van een gewone man voor de 80-jarige oorlog in 1566" (Daily Life in Holland in 1566) - 1991
't Hart, Maarten "De zonnewijzer" (The Sundial) - 2002
Verhoef, Esther "Erken mij" [Acknowledge me - not translated] - 2009
Westerman, Frank “De graanrepubliek” [The Grain Republic - not translated] - 1999

FRENCH
Bâ, Mariama "Une si longue lettre" (So Long a Letter) - 1979
Betancourt, Íngrid "Même le silence a une fin" (Even Silence has an End: My Six Years in the Jungle) - 2010
Camus, Albert "L'étranger" (The Stranger/The Outsider) - 1942
- "La Peste" (The Plague) - 1947
- "Le premier homme" (The First Man/Der erste Mensch) - 1994
Cinquin, Marie-Madeleine = Sœur Emmanuelle avec Duquesne, Jacques; Cayrol, Annabelle "J'ai 100 ans et je voudrais vous dire … Sa dernière confession" [I'm 100 years old and I wanted to say ... Her last confession - not translated] - 2008
Dai, Sijie "Balzac et la Petite Tailleuse Chinoise" (Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress) - 2002
- "Par une nuit où la lune ne s’est pas levée" (Once on a Moonless Night) - 2007
Deforges, Regine "La Bicyclette Bleue" (The Blue Bicycle) - 1981
Delacourt, Grégoire "La liste de mes envies" (The list of my desires/My Wish List) - 2012
Denuzière, Maurice "Louisiane. Trilogie" (Louisiana. Trilogy) - 1977
Dugain, Marc "La Chambre des officiers" (The Officer's Ward) - 1999
Ferri, Jean-Yves; Didier Conrad, Didier "Le Papyrus de César" (Asterix and the Missing Scroll) - 2015
Hugo, Victor "Les Misérables" (Les Misérables) - 1862 
Gavalda, Anna "35 kilos d’espoir" (95 pounds of hope) - 2002
- "Je voudrais quelqu'un m'attende quelque part" (I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere) - 1999
- "Ensemble c'est tout" (Hunting and Gathering) - 2006
Hessel, Stéphane "Indignez-vous!" (Time for Outrage!) - 2011
Ionesco, Eugène "Rhinocéros" (Rhinoceros) - 1957
Le Clézio, Jean-Marie Gustave "L'Africain" (The African) - 2004
Lafayette, Madame de (Marie-Madeleine) "La Princesse de Clèves" (The Princess of Cleves) - 1678 
Levy, Marc "Mes amis mes amours" (London Mon Amour) - 2006
Maalouf, Amin "Samarcande" (Samarkand) - 1988
Modiano, Patrick "La Place de l'Étoile" (Place de l'Étoile) - 1968
Navarre, Marguerite de "Heptaméron" (Heptameron) - 1578
NDiaye, Marie "Rosie Carpe" - 2001
Némirovsky, Irène "Suite Française" (Suite Française) - 2004
Saint-Exupéry, Antoine "Le Petit Prince" (The Little Prince)  - 1943
Satrapi, Marjane "Persepolis. Vol 1" (Persepolis. The Story of a Childhood) - 2000
Satrapi, Marjane "Persepolis. Vol. 2" (Persepolis. The Story of a Return) - 2000
Schmitt, Éric-Emmanuel "Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran" (Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran) - 1999
- "Oscar et la dame rose" (Oscar and the Lady in Pink) - 2002
Sthers, Amanda "Chicken Street" (Chicken Street) - 2006
Wiazemsky, Anne "Sept Garçons" (Seven Boys) -  2002
Wiesel, Elie "La Nuit" (Night) - 1958

Stewart, Sheila “Lifting the Latch”


Stewart, Sheila "Lifting the Latch" - 1987

"For eighty years Mont Abbott lived and worked on the land in Oxfordshire. In this record by Sheila Stewart, Mont 'lifts the latch' and takes us into a forgotten world of roly-poly puddings and street fairs, describing his lost skills of carting and shepherding to the joys of singing in the church choir, and the loyalty of a rural community."


I met Sheila Stewart on a talk she gave at our local W.I. when she talked about her other book "Ramlin Rose". I read it and loved it, so had to get this one, as well.

I grew up in a rural area myself but quite a bit later than Mont Abbott. Sheila Stewart doesn't just describe the life of this remarkable man but also draws a great picture of how life was about a century ago. People led a hard life, lots of work, very simple, but people cared for each other. With Mont we see the arrival of the first cars, the introduction of technology and hence change of farming life, we learn about the organization of farms, the hierarchy of life, traditions and ceremonies that were kept. Mont also survived two world wars. What a life!

Sheila Stewart managed to draw a picture of all that with lots and lots of information again with a great sense of humour and sensitivity toward a man who told her the story of his life.

What can I say, I loved this book.

From the back cover: "In this extraordinary piece of social history, Sheila Stewart takes us into the life of Mont Abbott, who for nearly eighty years has lived and worked on the land near the parish of Enstone in Oxfordshire. Constructed from a series of taped conversations, Lifting the Latch is a record of the joys of a country life that no longer exists and of the memorable cast of characters who took part in it, as well as a document that paints a grimmer picture of personal tragedy and rural hardship before the existence of the welfare state."

Stewart, Sheila "Ramlin Rose"


Stewart, Sheila "Ramlin Rose" - 1993

"Drawing on extensive interviews with boatwomen born and bred on the Oxford canal, this book is a story of courage and resilience, capturing a vanished way of life. From the turn of the century to the late 1950s, horse-drawn narrow boats were a familiar sight on Britain's canals."

When I lived in England, I was a member of the local W.I. (Women's Institute). We had talks about different topics every month. For me, one of the most exciting was when author Sheila Stewart came to see us. She talked about her life as an author, how she had started writing. She was a very interesting person and her then pretty new book sounded interesting, so I bought and read it.

This book tells the story of women whose story is never told, women who were born and raised on the narrowboats on the English canals and who then also had children and raised them there. Most of them had seen a school only from the outside, none of them could read or had a link to the outside world. Sheila Stewart had written another book "Lifting the Latch" about rural life in general and the life or a farm worker in particular. The man she interviewed mentioned the women and families living on the narrowboats and so Sheila started her investigation. She interviewed several boatwomen and then put them together in one character.

What an interesting account of an unusal account we hardly ever hear about. Her writing style is both informative and exciting. It was so realistic, I felt I really knew the characters. And, even though those women led a hard life, the story contained quite a bit of humour, as well. I loved this book same as "Lifting the Latch" which I read later.

From the back cover: "From the turn of the century to the late 1950s, horse-drawn narrow boats were a familiar sight on Britain's canals. Carrying a wide variety of cargoes to such destinations as the Potteries, the textile mills of Lancashire, the papermills of London, the colleges of Oxford, they struggled on against increasing competition from rail and road traffic to maintain their place in the country's economy. Yet, little has been recorded about the lives of the canal families, and in particular, the women."

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Newsham, Brad "Take me with you"


Newsham, Brad "Take me with you" - 2000

A travel book with a twist. An American travels around the world, 100 days backpacking. The twist? He invites one of the people he meets to visit him in America. Someone who could never travel anywhere.

Interesting and very informative description of several countries, he stays in the Philippines, in India, then Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and finally South Africa. With every person you try to guess whether he will take this one back home.

I love travel books, that way I can travel the world without spending more than about 10 Euros for the book. What I love about this one is, that the author doesn't just visit the most famous places, he also takes the time to really get to know the people. Whether his decision is the "correct one", I don't know. I probably would have invited someone else but I believe they all would have deserved it.

From the back cover: "'Someday, when I am rich, I am going to invite someone from my travels to visit me in America.'

Brad Newsham was a twenty-two-year-old travelling through Afghanistan when he wrote this in his journal. Fourteen years later, he's a Yellow Taxi driver working in San Francisco. He's not rich, but he has never forgotten his vow.

Take Me With You is the compelling account of his journey through the Philippines, India, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa as he searches for the right person - someone who couldn't afford to leave their own country, let alone holiday in the West. Newsham's story will change the way you think about your life and the lives of those you meet when you travel.

Who does he invite home? Read
Take Me With You and find out..."

Mercier, Pascal "Night Train to Lisbon"



 Mercier, Pascal "Night Train to Lisbon" (German: Nachtzug nach Lissabon) - 2004 

A Swiss Professor of ancient languages happens to meet a Portuguese woman and finds a book in Portuguese, so he gives up his whole life and goes to Lisbon to find the author. He is going on a quest, tracking down the origin of the book and the life of the author. But in the author he also finds himself.

This is a philosophical book, someone tries to find himself. It's also almost like an epistolary Victorian novel. But it is also historical, informed us about the resistance during the dictatorship in Portugal (1933-74). A book about finding yourself. These two men are leading a parallel life: friends, family, failed marriages, everything seems to mirror the other one's life. Also a lovely description of language, how you can be a different person in another language and culture..

Some of our readers found the language difficult, we thought that might have been the translation. However, quite a few liked it also in the English translation. Quite a few of the readers said they will probably read it more times (I've read it twice so far.). It brought up so many questions. Somebody said the book makes a difference in her life.

The author paints some very visual imagines for us. This is a full, active book, it requires you to be an active reader. The story is very deep and intriguing.

One of our overseas members said it seemed very European, a person trapped in their role in life, in order to step out they had to change completely.

A Czech proverb says: Learn a new language and get a new soul. (I love that proverb, very true.)
People who travel find another world.

I love history, I love languages - and I love books. So this was the perfect recipe for a book. And most of us could find a lot of resemblances to our lives. After all, the protagonist leaves his country and goes somewhere else.

We discussed this in our book club in March 2010.

From the back cover: "A huge international best seller, this ambitious novel plumbs the depths of our shared humanity to offer up a breathtaking insight into life, love, and literature itself. A major hit in Germany that went on to become one of Europe’s biggest literary blockbusters in the last five years, Night Train to Lisbon is an astonishing novel, a compelling exploration of consciousness, The possibility of truly understanding another person, and the ability of language to define our very selves. Raimund Gregorius is a Latin teacher at a Swiss college who one day - after a chance encounter with a mysterious Portuguese woman - abandons his old life to start a new one. He takes the night train to Lisbon and carries with him a book by Amadeu de Prado, a (fictional) Portuguese doctor and essayist whose writings explore the ideas of loneliness, mortality, death, friendship, love, and loyalty. Gregorius becomes obsessed by what he reads and restlessly struggles to comprehend the life of the author. His investigations lead him all over the city of Lisbon, as he speaks to those who were entangled in Prado’s life. Gradually, the picture of an extraordinary man emerges - a doctor and poet who rebelled against Salazar's dictatorship."

Friday, 11 March 2011

Wiesel, Elie "Night"



Wiesel, Elie (Eliezer Vizl) "Night" (French: La Nuit/Yiddish: Un di Velt Hot Geshvign)  - 1958

Elie Wiesel wrote this novel as a report about his life in the concentration camps Buchenwald and Auschwitz/Oswiecim.

Seldom did we agree more on a book than this time. We thought it was shocking and unbelievable. The enormity, the plans, everything was so calculated. Horryfying to see what people are able to do. We could understand that people wouldn't believe it at the time because it is hard to believe even now.

There was a lot of denial going on but also misinformation. The concentration camp Terezín (Theresienstadt) in the Czech Republic was a showcase where they were demonstrating that they only got the Jews together.

We were not sure what to think about these people's beliefs. Some of them praying to the bitter end, others, like the author, believing God is dead.

We noticed that people who are degraded to animals loose their human touch. The thing they could do to your mind, how people can accept cruelty as a fact and accept this.

We also agreed that we have to keep reading this so we can believe it. This is especially important now, we have to keep the story going because a lot of the witnesses keep dying.

Another subject: elections. If the ordinary voter doesn't take up his right, the extreme parties will gain more percentage. We cannot let this happen. We blame the media for bad information, but other than in the thirties of the last century, we can get the information, but we often choose not to.

We didn't agree, though, that twelve year olds should read it in school. That might be a little too early both to understand the whole background and to get to terms with the impact such a book has on someone.

We also talked about the fact that religion is often used as an excuse for conflicts that usually have quite another reason, often money and power.

Does Elie Wiesel still believe in God? Only he can answer that question and we couldn't find that he did that anywhere. He said in his speech that we are all orphans. Is that because God is dead?

I have read quite a few accounts of survivors of the Nazi time and some of them of victims from the concentration camps. I think he really deserves the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in 1986 since he tries to remind people about what happened without just throwing the other stone. He doesn't excuse his tormentors (why should he?) but he doesn't blame it all on everybody either. (If you don't have good nerves, you probably shouldn't read this as every account of any Jew from WWII has to be horrible.

Some of the concentration camps were also used for "medical research". You cannot understand how you can put people on different levels, treat them like they were even less than animals. Someone mentioned a "study" done in Tuskegee, Alabama. You can read more about that here.
In this connection, a famous sentence was brought up:
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" from the novel "Animal Farm" by George Orwell.
But this was not the first time this existed. Any kind of slavery does this, you can only treat a human being as your possession if you don't treat them like a human being. I had just found an interesting site about 200 years of slavery, looks like a series that was broadcast in the States, but the website is rather interesting, too.
There seems to be a series on PBS, looks very interesting, maybe they'll show it here, one day, or not …
The Terrible Transformation 1450-1750
Revolution 1750-1805
Brotherly Love 179-1831 
Judgment Day 1831-1865

Then there is the "famous" (infamous) Lebensborn (fount of life) which officially encouraged SS officers to have more children. But they also had camps where "Aryan" women had children with "Aryan" soldiers, so it was a real breeding programme. Read more about it here.

If you haven't got enough of reading about the topic of the Nazis, everyone of us seemed to know at least one other book worth reading, so here is a list of that literature.
Corrie Ten Boom "The Hiding Place"
(You can also get a short version in Easy English, maybe for your children: The Secret Room) (De schuilplaats), 1971
On Wikipedia and amazon.
Lois Lowry "Number the Stars" (youth book, 10-14 yrs) - 1990
Set in Nazi-occupied Denmark in 1943, this 1990 Newbery winner tells of a 10-year-old girl who undertakes a dangerous mission to save her best friend.
Jurek Becker "Jacob the Liar" (Jacob der Lügner), 1969
Websites: Wikipedia, amazon
Imre Kertész "Fatelessness" (older translation: Fateless) (Sorstalanság), 1975
Wikipedia, amazon  
Tessa de Loo "The Twins" (De Tweeling) - 2000
amazon
Todd Strasser (pen name: Morton Rhue) "The Wave" - 1988
Wikipedia, amazon
J.N. Stroyar "The Children's War" - 2001 - ONE OF MY FAVOURITE BOOKS EVER
What would have happened had the Nazis won the war. How would we live now? Quite shocking!!!
amazon  
Elizabeth Rosner "The Speed of Life" - 2001 - Another one of my absolute favourites.
How do Holocaust survivors and their children come to terms with their memories.
amazon   

We also talked about several movies covering our theme. The first one was about an orchestra that saved Jews who played in it. The only thing I could find was the girl orchestra from Auschwitz/Oswiecim. Read about it here: 
Schindler's List
based on the book by Thomas Keneally "Schindler's Ark"
Zwartboek - (The Black Book)
Band of Brothers
The Twins - movie made after the book by Tessa de Loo (which we read in this book club):

Then we mentioned other movies we thought worth seeing, these two on the life of the Germans in East Germany (the movie received the Oscar this year for best foreign picture): "The Life of Others" (Das Leben der anderen)
And "Goodbye Lenin", a funny, yet thought-provoking movie about a son who has to recreate GDR for his mother who was in a coma while the wall came down and now can't face any changes.

We discussed this in our book club in March 2007.

From the back cover: "In Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel's memoir Night, a scholarly, Orthodox teenager is wracked with guilt at having survived the horror of the Holocaust & the genocidal campaign that consumed his family. His memories of the nightmare worlds of Auschwitz-Birkenau & Buchenwald present him with an intolerable question: how can the god he once so fervently believed in have allowed these monstrous events to occur? There are no easy answers in this harrowing book, which probes life's essential riddles with the lucid anguish only great literature achieves. It marks the crucial first step in Wiesel's lifelong project to bear witness for those who died.
Original Yiddish title: Un di Velt Hot Geshvign/And the World Remained Silent"

Elie Wiesel received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986 as he "has emerged as one of the most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterise the world".

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Niffenegger, Audrey "The Time Traveler's Wife"



Niffenegger, Audrey "The Time Traveler's Wife" - 2003

As a start I have to say, I really don't like science fiction. My husband and boys don't watch any sci-fi movies with me any more because I always come up with logical explanations why something doesn't work, mostly the author isn't constant in their plot and then it all get's really illogical.

Anyway, I thought the story itself was well written, I liked the characters.

But the whole time-travelling thing really was too much. Everything was so weird, whatever seemed to be said in one part was contradicted in the next, there are many plots that really don't make sense, even if this chronological disorder would exist, which is - of course - rubbish.

Someone suggested to take the whole book apart and write it again in the time traveler's chronological order. And this is where it starts. Of course, you would have to be able to do this in "normal life" but here it doesn't work because he doesn't have a chronological order.

I certainly wouldn't have read this book if it wasn't a book club read but I have picked up others that way and really enjoyed them. Not this one, though. One of the worst books ever.

We discussed this in our book club in March 2006.

From the back cover: "A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare's passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger's cinematic storytelling that makes the novel's unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.

An enchanting debut and a spellbinding tale of fate and belief in the bonds of love,
The Time Traveler's Wife is destined to captivate readers for years to come."

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Wolfe, Thomas "Look Homeward, Angel"


Wolfe, Thomas "Look Homeward, Angel. A Story of the Buried Life." - 1929

This novel was mentioned several times in "The Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver which I really loved. So, I just had to read this one, as well.

I didn't expect it to be like Barbara Kingsolver's writing, however, I thought this might be another great American author. Thomas Wolfe has only written this one novel and I doubt I would have touched another one if he had.

The idea of the book was great, the writing style wasn't bad, either, but I think the novel would have gained so much if it had been written on 300 instead of 500 pages, a lot of unnecessary descriptions and thoughts that neither add to the story or are necessary for it nor was it so beautifully written that you read it just because it's almost poetry. Did I say I usually love long stories, prefer books to be longer than 500 pages over those that are around 200 only?

Not bad but definitely not one of my favourites, the title was a lot more promising.

From the back cover: "A legendary author on par with William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Wolfe published Look Homeward, Angel, his first novel, about a young man's burning desire to leave his small town and tumultuous family in search of a better life, in 1929. It gave the world proof of his genius and launched a powerful legacy.The novel follows the trajectory of Eugene Gant, a brilliant and restless young man whose wanderlust and passion shape his adolescent years in rural North Carolina. Wolfe said that Look Homeward, Angel is "a book made out of my life," and his largely autobiographical story about the quest for a greater intellectual life has resonated with and influenced generations of readers, including some of today's most important novelists. Rich with lyrical prose and vivid characterizations, this twentieth-century American classic will capture the hearts and imaginations of every reader."