Recently infatuated with southern lit I just had to give Ron Rash a try. With racism, poverty & superstition & the inclusion of an ill fated lRecently infatuated with southern lit I just had to give Ron Rash a try. With racism, poverty & superstition & the inclusion of an ill fated love affair, slot this one as ‘contemporary southern gothic.’ Yes, it’s melancholy and slow paced at the start but so superbly written that it’s a joy to read. Set at the end of WW1 and told through Laurel’s eyes, a simple tale of a birth-marked woman shunned by the locals as a witch –of her lonely life with only her brother Hank, a wounded WW1 veteran for company. (view spoiler)[ Loneliness that will turn to desperation with the news that he’s soon to marry, leaving her entirely alone. (hide spoiler)] Following the sound of a flute "It wasn’t so much a soaring sound but something on the song’s surface, like a water strider crossing a creek pool" leads her to a wounded man – and it begins. As for Laurel, look elsewhere if your preference is for passionate heroines, what she does have is an appealing resiliency, an understated strength. What develops is quietly muted – a love that deepens as slowly & gently as the river that runs through The Cove. With its raw beauty & pervading isolation, it’s The Cove itself that’s the heart of this novel "Nothing but shadow land, there wasn't a gloamier place in the whole Blue Ridge." That and the Appalachian people, brought to life by Rash’s use of simple dialect.“Not being able to talk, that’s got to be burdensome too. I’d think it could make you feel a lavish of aloneness. After my daddy died and Hank was over in France, I was here by myself and it was a hard row to hoe.” Cons: While most of the characters are well fleshed out the villainous Chancey Feith is a one dimensional caricature, bit of a bore. As far as plot goes it’s not particularly fresh, and it is a bit predictable. All is forgiven by the elegance of the writing, an atmospheric southern tragedy beautifully rendered - 4 ½ stars.
If you’re interested not a spoiler, just southern gothic defined: (view spoiler)[Common themes include deeply flawed, disturbing or eccentric characters, decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or coming from poverty, alienation, racism, crime, and violence. It is unlike its parent genre in that it uses these tools not solely for the sake of suspense, but to explore social issues and reveal the cultural character of the American South (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
One word - WAR and that doleful eye glaring out at you. Powerful cover, so’s the book. Picked it because it promised to get me inside the head of a sOne word - WAR and that doleful eye glaring out at you. Powerful cover, so’s the book. Picked it because it promised to get me inside the head of a soldier. An honest, no holds barred account of the day-to-day lives of soldiers serving in the intensely hot military zone of Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. Riveted from page one my mouth was actually hanging open reading this - seriously. It’s gritty and raw; it’s also pretty funny at times; these guys have a truly twisted appreciation of the absurd. Expected and it delivered stories of brutality, praise for the toughness & bravery of soldiers – didn’t expect “War is a lot of things and it’s useless to pretend that exciting isn’t one of them. It’s insanely exciting.” This book is SOAKED in testosterone, a bunch of cowboys on some kind of crazed adrenaline rush; half the time in abject misery, the other having literally a blast with guns. He covers it all, the atrocious living conditions “Summer grinds on: a hundred degrees every day and tarantulas invading the living quarters to get out of the heat” the terrain “too remote to conquer, too poor to intimidate” the mechanics of warfare, “the choreography of combat” - but it shone talking about the men…
Jones: “He roamed Restrepo like some kind of alpha predator, exuded a strange, sullen anger that never quite came to the surface. He was fond of giving someone a dismissive look and saying, “Just a mess. A soup sandwich.” Patterson: Just 30, the men call him Pops. “ I never saw him look even nervous during a fight, much less scared. He commanded his men like he was directing traffic.” O’Bryne: What a screw up, I liked him immensely. “He wasn’t big but it was like he was made out of scrap metal.”
Maybe take it with a grain of salt…I’ve been pondering this book for a couple of weeks, still am. There’s an awful lot of chest thumping going on – that “I’m good” bit men put out even when they’re ripping apart inside. Maybe Junger just bought into there whole macho act hook, line & sinker. Can't blame him, they’ve honed it to perfection. Still, convinced it's gotta be deeper than this. Junger’s a civilian and a journalist to boot. Wouldn’t he be the last guy they’d pick to spew there guts to? Meanderings: I’m clueless about war so pay no attention, the only soldier I’ve ever known was my dad, a WW2 Vet. Proud of having served he returned a bitter, changed man. Refused to talk about the war to anyone, period - not even Mom. Interesting that he welcomed Vietnam draft-dodgers into our home, I’d love to know what, if anything, he had to say to them. So I’m taking this at face value – Junger’s fabulous spin on what makes a soldier tick… 4 ½ stars...more
Great original story. While it is sad its rescued from bleakness by Krauss’s subtle humour and her inclusion of a mystery. A pursuit to unravel the orGreat original story. While it is sad its rescued from bleakness by Krauss’s subtle humour and her inclusion of a mystery. A pursuit to unravel the origin of an obscure novel also called ‘The History Of Love” the book within this book that also happens to contain some great passages - the chapter 'The Birth of Feeling' my personal fav. Krauss excels in writing rich believable characters. Switching POV mainly between Leo Gursky, a Holocaust survivor & Alma Singer, a 14-year old grieving the loss of her father - both terrific protagonists, the peripheral characters are as well. Standout’s; Alma’s kid brother Bird who imagines himself a *lamed vovnik and Bruno, Leo’s only friend (view spoiler)[broke my heart when revealed he’d also died back in ’41, his surprise appearance on the streets of New York nothing but a figment of Leo’s imagination (hide spoiler)] and the lifeline he grasps to keep from sinking into the madness of complete isolation. “My old faithful. The soft down of your white hair lightly playing about your scalp like a half-blown dandelion. Many times I have been tempted to blow on your head and make a wish. Only a last scrap of decorum keeps me from it.”
Forgive me, I’m fixated on Leo – he drove me nuts! His obsession with dying, his pining over lost love. A good day for Leo involves some quality pigeon-watching time interspersed with fantasizing about his upcoming funeral. “Abandoned, unnoticed, forgotten, I stood on the sidewalk, a nothing, a gatherer of dust.” He knocked me off balance - angered me that he did nothing to change the misery that was his life. I wanted to shake him, to shout at him ‘What's so hard, you can't find a bingo parlor? Make a few friends?” And yet. I adored him. For his humility “The year of my Bar Mitzvah I was visited by a plague of acne. As soon as the acne cleared my hairline began to recede, as if it wanted to disassociate itself from the embarrassment of my face." his soul searching “I tried to make sense of things. It could be my epitaph. LEO GURSKY: HE TRIED TO MAKE SENSE.” his tenacity, his “rejection of reality with its army of flat-footed facts.”
Funny, when I finished this a week ago I rated it 3½ stars, got thinking about it, changed to 4 – a month from now might bump it to 5. Point is, it improves on reflection. And while no one who didn't experience it 1st hand could ever begin to comprehend what a Holocaust survivor must feel, I caught a glimmer. Enough to understand - Leo was so wounded that he was incapable of change. Want to thank Arnie for his review - the little nudge I needed: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... Hope you will read it to. Cons: A great story that’s unnecessarily muddled – blame it on an overuse of literary tricks. I found myself having to go back & reread portions, sly of her but forgiven, I did catch nuances I'd missed. And yet. ________________________________________ *Lamed Vovnik: the thirty-six righteous people that God has chosen to save the world, duty bound to do acts of kindness for others and remain unknown to the world. “Her kiss was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.”["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Published in 1959 the classic apocalyptic novel that stunned the world! Late to the party I’ve read very little classic Sci-Fi, a wonderful introductiPublished in 1959 the classic apocalyptic novel that stunned the world! Late to the party I’ve read very little classic Sci-Fi, a wonderful introduction. Bit of a slow build-up but persevere, not until the bomb drops does it really get interesting. Then it’s all action played out by a diverse group of characters, plenty worthy of rooting for. Because she shared my name I couldn’t help but love the gossipy old biddy that worked for Western Union & new everybody's business. "Florence is a guppy, a nice, drab little guppy. That's why she'll survive." More than the heroes I preferred the imperfect characters. An idealistic doctor turned bitter by a wanton wife. Rita the femme fatale who had the audacity to combine high heels with costume jewelry, shorts and halter top - her hobby was men. His choice of bad guys was pretty interesting, (view spoiler)[bunch of crazed white-trash drug addicts. Oddly enough added to the mix the sin of being gamblers, wandered in from Nevada I assume (hide spoiler)] the bonding & teamwork after catastrophe hit made for an inspirational rather than depressing read. We’re not talking great lit. While the writing style is simplistic the message is not and every bit as relevant as the day it was written there are no real winners in a nuclear war. There are undertones of racism, guess that’s to be expected given when it was written - mixing of races was still a radical concept back then, in fairness kudos to the author for writing it into the story line. Women don’t fair any better “The more he learned about women the more there was to learn except that he had learned this: they needed a man around’ a personal favorite. Kept in perspective you’ll enjoy a novel both entertaining and thought provoking. Out of my comfort zone I wouldn’t have read this without a push from my GR buddy Jim. Highly recommend as a group read. With Jim at the helm we had a blast - half of us now hoarding tins of coffee & cans of gasoline.
Cons: The main protagonist a bit of a caricature, the love interests a little too flat.
Switching between 1942 and 1986 this is an easy read on a complex subject. A historical romance with a Romeo & Juliet twist, this time the doomedSwitching between 1942 and 1986 this is an easy read on a complex subject. A historical romance with a Romeo & Juliet twist, this time the doomed love affair between Henry, a Chinese American and Keiko, a Japanese American; its historical focus the internment of Japanese Americans during WW2. I loved the inclusion of Seattle’s music scene, the symbolism of the lost jazz record interwoven throughout, the passages that escalated it above a pure romance novel. (view spoiler)[ In one, after the Japanese had all been trucked away a heartsick Sheldon (Henry’s musician friend) takes his sax & performs a concert to a ghost town - I could almost hear his soulful melody echoing in the silent streets. In another Henry searches through a mountain of personal belongs stored in the Panama Hotel, forgotten & coated in 40 years of dust. (hide spoiler)] It shone exploring the dynamics of a typical Chinese American family. Henry’s father with his clear allegiance to China coupled with his hatred for the Japanese, his mother’s struggle to bring together a husband & son so opposed in their beliefs. ’Saang Jan’ you are a stranger to me. I can’t say the same for it’s portrayal of Kioko’s family. Their stoic acceptance (bordering on cheerful resignation) over the loss of all they owned while very commendable rang false.(view spoiler)[ and their fate left unresolved. This is more Henry’s story than Keiko’s, fair enough. Still, a glaring omission was the lack of detail on what happened to Keiko’s family after their release (hide spoiler)] As a romance this is a 4 star read, for plot & character development a 3. I guess I wanted more substance, a little more bitter & a little less sweet.
“How could they sit back and do nothing when this many people were being taken away – when they could be next?”
“It was the record, their record. Oscar Holden’s ‘Alley Cat Strut.” It shouted at the night, louder than the storm.”
Notes: Canada also interred it’s Japanese Canadians during WW2 as told in The Jade Peony They say all is fair in Love and War - it’s understandable that alliances were questioned – Still books like these bring to light a subject worth reflecting on.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The 1st third of this book I was forcing myself to keep reading, it’s like this coming of age story on steroids. While I liked Lev immediately I couThe 1st third of this book I was forcing myself to keep reading, it’s like this coming of age story on steroids. While I liked Lev immediately I couldn’t relate to Kolya; rather than comic relief I thought his humour just crass, but I kept reading and I was hooked. I think it was the bootless prisoner trudging through the snow with feet turned into blocks of ice when I finally got it…. It’s a horrendous story of unimaginable hardship and the author throws you right in the thick of it. Once I lightened up and stopped being moralistic I could appreciate it’s dark absurdity, I even warmed up to Kolya. Still squeamish though; this book will push your limits. It’s dark and it's crude, it’s also amazing, a heart in your mouth thriller with a bitter sweet ending.
Memorable: "She leaned forward and kissed me on the lips. Her mouth was cold, her lips rough from the winter wind, and if the mystics are right and we are doomed to repeat our squalid lives ad infinitum, at least I will always return to that kiss."...more
I came so close to giving this book a pass. I dislike short stories, this one looked even worse in that the entire book is written as a series of lettI came so close to giving this book a pass. I dislike short stories, this one looked even worse in that the entire book is written as a series of letters, Yuk! Dead wrong...20 pages in I got used to the format & was completely hooked. It just sweeps you along in a gentle tale of how folks on a small island bonded together to survive the absolutely harrowing German occupation during WW2. Hard-hitting subject? You bet; but it’s laugh out loud funny with dialog as clever as any I’ve read since ‘The Importance of Being Ernest”
I wish I was clever & witty, what a lost art. My husband brings me flowers in the winter, the best I can come up with is “Nice hon, can you grab something I can stick these in?” Not Juliet… “Why I deserve to live in a bower, when everyone else has to be satisfied with bedraggled leafless trees and slush, I don’t know, but I’m perfectly delighted to do so.” Beautiful…
You’ll enjoy despising characters like Miss Adelaide Addison, others you’ll adore. My personal favorite was Isola Pribby; self described as raw-boned & ugly with a fondness for the Bronte girls – poor lambs. Anyway, if you want to immerse yourself in a delectable book, you’ve found it....more
According to E. Wilson 'No two persons ever read the same book.' I love an author that allows a story to just unfold; that leaves me to draw my own coAccording to E. Wilson 'No two persons ever read the same book.' I love an author that allows a story to just unfold; that leaves me to draw my own conclusions. I love that it wasn’t just about 9-11 but also war torn Dresden and Hiroshima. Well my spin is this is probably the most powerful anti-war book I’ve ever read. The stream of consciousness writing style is the perfect choice. It’s lyrical and appropriate, just go with it. It’s not depressing; in fact parts of it are really funny. Then again, I’d be lying if I didn’t warn you - it will punch you in the gut. Oskar is such a little charmer (particularly with the ladies), a heartbreaking combination of pure innocence & genius; a compulsive inventor gifted with that enviable ability to think outside the box. He dreams up everything from portable pockets and birdseed shirts to biodegradable cars & skyscrapers with roots; yet never imagines any kind of weapon, never fantasizes revenge. He loses the most wonderful father during 9-11 yet somehow remains himself. A survivor that emerges wounded but not shattered, perhaps by choosing to transfer all that bottled up love for his lost father to others. It’s not the perfect novel, what is? I’ll nit-pick, I got lost with the 1st person narrative switching - the grandparents were over-the-top bizarre. Trivial complaints, if it bugs you just skim over those parts, there’s plenty of magic.
It’s strange but I finished this book feeling cautiously hopeful. I like to imagine 9-11 could have spawned an Oskar. A free-thinking genius bound & determined to invent a world without war – heavy boots and all.
memorable quotes: "She laughed enough to migrate an entire flock of birds. That was how she said yes” “I knew him, Horatio; a jerk of infinite stupidity, a most excellent masturbator in the second-floor boys’ bathroom – I have proof.”...more