Manfredi's novel is the saga of the Italian Bruni family, spanning three generations, two wars (WWI and WWII) and the nazifascist civil war. The Bruni...moreManfredi's novel is the saga of the Italian Bruni family, spanning three generations, two wars (WWI and WWII) and the nazifascist civil war. The Brunis are a family of farmers who have been working the land for a landlord for a hundred years. They are known for their generosity to itinerants --their barn is calls Hotel Bruni, the original title of this book--and the solidarity of their family.
The first third, as we learn to know the Brunis with its seven brothers, and as we follow some of the brothers through the horrors of WWI, is absolutely fascinating and captivating. They all miraculously come back but not unchanged: resentments build, the family dynamics change with the addition of wives, and the family slowly degrades, fueled by the rise of fascism and its violence against those who opposed them, and differing social and political views.
Unfortunately, I found the last two thirds of the book became more a vehicle for a history lesson than for the story of the family, perhaps because the narrator is third person removed and there is no one protagonist. The author meanders, adds characters who appear and disappear, jumps from Russia to Northern Italy, and we end up getting lost. The characters increasingly become props to describe the difficulties and the injustices of those times. The ending drags to a sputter.
Despite the flaws, Manfredi was able to paint a vivid picture of country life in Emilia-Romagna(near Bologna), where the twentieth century was slow to take hold, and where poverty and servitude where taken for granted. The translation (by Manfredi's wife)preserves the rhythm of the Italian language and gives the prose an alien beauty.
For those interested in history and Italy, the book is worth the read.(less)
I devoured this book. Joyce has been able to take two troubled very English people and have them rediscover their identity in this story of hope, rede...moreI devoured this book. Joyce has been able to take two troubled very English people and have them rediscover their identity in this story of hope, redemption, and forgiveness. The writing is sensitive without becoming maudlin and makes us believe in the miracle of second chances. Highly recommended.(less)
No one but a Jewish writer could have written this caustic, often acerbic and critical story addressing Antisemitism in our modern day and what it mea...moreNo one but a Jewish writer could have written this caustic, often acerbic and critical story addressing Antisemitism in our modern day and what it means to be Jewish today. Jacobson presents us with an array of characters, demonstrating that not all Jews are alike physically, politically, spiritually, or intellectually but that they share, fundamentally, a commonality that defines them. And that, because of that commonality, they are still persecuted today.
This is a very difficult book to read; although it can be extremely funny, it loses itself in meditation and meanders through the lives of fairly unlovable characters who are in turn self-satisfied and desperate. (less)
In learning that Emma Donoghue had be shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize, I had a feeling her book might be a difficult one to read, one that y...moreIn learning that Emma Donoghue had be shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize, I had a feeling her book might be a difficult one to read, one that you have to work at in order to get through it. I was completely wrong.
The story is grim, desperate, yet it is a testament to the love that exists between a mother and child and how freedom as a concept and freedom as a reality are two very different things. The story is told entirely from the point of view of Jack, a five-year-old, who was born in "Room," the space where his mother has been held captive for the past seven years. What he knows as real is what is in Room. Everything else is in Outer Space or in TV. When Jack's safety is threatened by his mother's captor, "Ma" conceives a plan for them to escape that hinges on the courage of her young son.
It is a testament to Donoghue's deft and clever writing that she is able to address complex concept in Jack's entirely believable voice. She does that by using a child's ability to ape without understanding, but also by using a child's often much clearer understanding of the world, because it is so much simpler for them.
Once started, it is impossible to put down Room. Jack's escape scene is particularly harrowing and emotionally difficult to read, but the "side effects" of freedom are equally fascinating and startling.
All in all, Room deserved to be nominated. Highly recommended.(less)
Buchanan's novel reads so well that it's easy to think it's written simply, but it's in fact an elaborate, rich, and lush story filled with complex ch...moreBuchanan's novel reads so well that it's easy to think it's written simply, but it's in fact an elaborate, rich, and lush story filled with complex characters and historical details. These details --from World War I era-- are what made the book for me. Buchanan made the setting (Niagara Falls) vivid and real, and the characters who lived in it all the more well-grounded
Even though the ending is somewhat predictable, The Day the Falls Stood Still is a must read.(less)
The Resurrectionist is the story of Sweeny, a father who desperately wants to find a way to re-awaken his comatose son, Danny. To that end, he arrives...moreThe Resurrectionist is the story of Sweeny, a father who desperately wants to find a way to re-awaken his comatose son, Danny. To that end, he arrives at the "Peck," a private clinic renown for its care of patients in a coma.
Interwoven into Sweeny's journey is the comic book story of Limbo, the journey of a troupe of "freaks" in search of a place in the world.
This book is strangely fascinating in a Kafkaesque way, and although I found it plodding at times, I was prodded into finishing it. The emotions are intense, but, except for Sweeny's, the characters' affects are flat and puzzling. The reasons for their behaviours are most of the time a mystery and there are many loose ends left at the end of the book.
Although overall I found the book well written, the story is so alien and bizarre, the characters so strange, and the ending so unsatisfying that I would not read another of O'Connell's books.
Note: The mention of comic book character may make you think that this is a young adult novel. It is not. There are passages of explicit sex that gives this book an adult rating. (less)
This was one of the most astonishing and riveting books I've read in a long time. Davidson's research is extensive, his characters, past, present, and...moreThis was one of the most astonishing and riveting books I've read in a long time. Davidson's research is extensive, his characters, past, present, and imaginary are fascinating, and the story is powerful. The parallels with Dante's Inferno makes the love story between the two main characters as much a tragedy as a romance. He manages to have the reader feel pain for the narrator of the story, a totally unlovable character at the start.
It's a story of discovery of the true self and of the purity --and intransigence-- of love.(less)
Family Matters is troubling, tender, disturbing, and 100% Rohinton Mistry. The title has, of course, a double entendre: family is important, but event...moreFamily Matters is troubling, tender, disturbing, and 100% Rohinton Mistry. The title has, of course, a double entendre: family is important, but events in a family have a impact on it. And that's what happens in this book: a father's past interferes with his children's present. It changes the way they see him, care for him. It is also about the inevitable descent into old age and its concurrent loss of dignity and the helplessness of the old. It is about morality... and the power (and corruption) of money.
Here is a summary of the story from the publisher:
Set in Bombay in the mid-1990s, Family Matters tells a story of familial love and obligation, of personal and political corruption, of the demands of tradition and the possibilities for compassion. Nariman Vakeel, the patriarch of a small discordant family, is beset by Parkinson’s and haunted by memories of his past. He lives with his two middle-aged stepchildren, Coomy, bitter and domineering, and her brother, Jal, mild-mannered and acquiescent. But the burden of the illness worsens the already strained family relationships. Soon, their sweet-tempered half-sister, Roxana, is forced to assume sole responsibility for her bedridden father. And Roxana’s husband, besieged by financial worries, devises a scheme of deception involving his eccentric employer at a sporting goods store, setting in motion a series of events that leads to the narrative’s moving outcome.
The only disappointing aspect of the book is the epilogue, which, in my opinion, is totally unnecessary and detracts from the rest of the story.(less)