I still have about 40 pages to go on this book, and I’m both desperate to read them and dreading this story coming to an end. It’s sitting on my desk...moreI still have about 40 pages to go on this book, and I’m both desperate to read them and dreading this story coming to an end. It’s sitting on my desk mere centimetres away from my hands and I’m at work. So if I can’t read it, I’m going to write about it and give it the 5 star rating that I think it deserves.
I don’t think this is a book that I would have picked up without prompting or recommendation, because it looks like a crime book, is a new release and I’ve never heard of Smith Henderson before. But it was discussed on the podcast Literary Disco (which if you haven’t listened to, you should investigate), which has introduced me to a number of wonderful books that I would otherwise probably have never noticed.
Fourth of July Creek is set in Montana in the early 1980s, and follows a couple of story lines that flow from the central character, Pete Snow. Pete is a social worker who works with poor rural families in a tiny little town. He has a dropkick brother who is constantly being chased by a parole officer, an ex-wife who has taken his teenage daughter interstate and gone off the rails, and a series of clients with problems largely stemming from their poverty and the abuse that accompanies it. His daughter goes missing, he ends up getting entwined with a god-fearing reclusive lunatic (well, .. kind of) who at various times sees or considers Paul to be the Antichrist, and there’s an ebbing sense of foreboding that runs through the pages. I kept expecting a twist – a murder, a body, a shoot out – something.
We go from following his daughter as she gets caught in a no-good spiral, being battered from place to place, to the fate of the families he works with, the development of his relationship with a colleague and the motley characters that flit in and out of the forest and live on the borderline of society.
This is one of those books that is satisfying for so many reasons; not only is it un-put-downable, it’s a really, really well written book. There are sentences that just made me pause and put the book down to digest them, and complex characters that you both love and want to strangle.
It’s beautiful and engaging writing, and the characters are believable and wonderfully drawn. There are no perfect heroes, and no straight up evil. It’s all a hashed mix up, like real life. I thoroughly enjoyed every page. I don’t want it to end. This is definitely among my favourite books of this year, if not ever. (less)
I am so glad that I read this book, and as some recommendation on the blurb says, I want to give it to every current and prospective dog owner to read...moreI am so glad that I read this book, and as some recommendation on the blurb says, I want to give it to every current and prospective dog owner to read and understand. I finished the book months ago, having purposefully read each chapter slowly and thoroughly, fully digesting it all. It had a huge effect on me and my thinking; I just don't know what to say about it. The book is brilliant.
I have been a dog lover and owner my whole life, but in the last 18 months or so, have become more interested in the training, behaviour and health side of dog ownership. This book enlightened me to a number of myths and misunderstandings about dogs, which completely opened my eyes to different methods and approaches to training and dog handling.
Dominance and the erronous interpretation of wild wolf behaviour, which I now know was disproven nigh on 40 years ago, continues to underpin the interpretation of dog behaviour by many celebrity dog trainers. And whisperers. (No names mentioned). I want to throw this book at anyone who does the alpha roll on their dog at home, or won't play tug with their dog lest it encourage "dominance". Urgh.
It's well written, thoroughly researched and referenced, and an easy pleasure to read. I'm not so sure about the underlying premise that the domestic dog is under threat through misunderstanding, but I do wholeheartedly believe that people, communities and dog would all live much easier and less stressful lives if we all took the time to care about and understand how dogs actually work.
If you live in an apartment, do not get a working dog and then have the audacity to disown him when out of physical and mental boredom, he destroys your couch and curtains. If you get a Jack Russell, please understand the instincts for which s/he was bred, and that he will bark and bark and chase and chase. He wouldn't be here, were his ancestors not bred and able to do those things.
Learn about how dogs learn, and how they see and interpret the world. A great understanding will help us all.(less)
When people ask why I read fantasy, I never know what to say, and mumble something about ‘escapism’. Which on some level is probably true, but no true...moreWhen people ask why I read fantasy, I never know what to say, and mumble something about ‘escapism’. Which on some level is probably true, but no truer for fantasy than any other kind of book. I don’t really read that much fantasy, either – I love words and expressions, and some fantasy books are peppered with embarrassing dialogue and formulaic plotlines. It often feels as though fantasy books are geared toward people who are explicitly desirous of escapism, and these are the books that I put down in disgust or eventually, resignation. The Wise Man’s Fear, however, is great.
I have a tendency to forget the content of books and movies after having read or seen them, but retain the impression they made years afterwards. I loved In the Name of the Wind. I bought it on a whim and devoured it, having read the blurb numerous times and put it back with no real thought. I was a bit sad, but mostly angry when it finished, gagging for the as yet unwritten follow up.
I don’t even remember what really happened in In the Name of the Wind, not in any great detail. I was going to re-read it before starting The Wise Man’s Fear but was given it as an end of exams present and was so involved so quickly that there was no chance of stopping to go back. It’s so good that I actually bought a kindle primarily to enable me to read it on the tram. It’s not a book for the small handed or weak wristed (which I shouldn’t be after years of epic tomes). Alas.
Kvothe is a wiser, more likeable character in this book. He is less clumsy and irritating than I remember him as being. Characters I had forgotten like Aurie, who in my head is a gorgeous little Luna from Harry Potter-like thing, and Devi, who is Helena Bonham Carter.. they’re great. I have such a wonderful visual map in my head of the University, of the towns, the bridges, the houses and inns. Kvothe’s room, the Fishery, the gardens of the Maer’s estate. It’s swirling around my head and I’m devastated that it’s over again, until the final book is written.
I read a few reviews this morning, mainly negative ones, which seem focused on various traits and annoyances that I didn’t even pick up on or take note of. I found the romp with Felurian a bit long, but I can’t conceive of books like this as being about getting a story out in so many pages. The joy is in the reading, and it’s not a race to the end. The only bits I raced through were the dalliances with Denna, because she’s so fickle and likeable and god, I wanted Kvothe to find her so much more than he himself did.
Kvothe being too young to be the lover that he is. I don’t know whether some people labour this point too much, or I failed to grasp its significance, but Kvothe’s age seems as irrelevant as his sexual prowess. And that didn’t strike me as particularly apparent from the book anyway. It seemed to me that his enigma, reputation and flightiness were of mort import than his skills in the sack.
Parts of this book are so inventive, I actually slumped back against the side of the tram or dropped the book on to the bed while digesting them, thinking how the hell did you THINK of that. Contraptions, twists and turns, little connections between parts of the story that could so easily be glossed over. I’m sure there are many that I missed.
Mostly, I loved this book because I was constantly caught in a need to know what’s going to happen and how things are going to work themselves out. Maybe it’s my stunted imagination and tendency to forget things so quickly and easily, but I was surprised a lot, and kept on my toes. It’s a delicious book, really. I can’t wait to forget it and read it again, for almost the first time! (less)
Roots traces the journey of seven generations of a family, from the birth of Kunta Kinte in the Gambia in the mid 1700s, through his capture and remov...moreRoots traces the journey of seven generations of a family, from the birth of Kunta Kinte in the Gambia in the mid 1700s, through his capture and removal to the United States. Life in Juffure is vividly described, and we follow Kunta Kinte through his childhood, goat herding, manhood training, rites of passage and the development of his relationships with his father, brothers, friends and elders. And then it all stops.
The first half of the book details Kunta Kinte’s journey, through his torturous journey from the Gambia to America, from masser to masser, from Kunta Kinte to Toby, through his escape attempts, lashings, and gradual outward resignation. Having to hide being African; anything that might threaten sensibilities and voodoo. Having half his foot hacked off, and the tenderness with which he is treated by the doctor, who becomes his master. Who seems a good man, though.. white. It is hard to separate men from their place as white men, and all it entailed.
Partway through Kunta Kinte’s story I started reading reviews of the book, which I can never stop myself from doing, and found the usual ‘this book is so important’, ‘it really makes you think how beautiful the simplicity of life in Africa really is, maybe we should all take a leaf from their book’ type drivel. Somebody’s comments about how they felt cheated when they realised that the book is embellished and that it isn’t entirely true to Alex Haley’s own ancestry. Which seems to be a grievous missing of the point. How terrible, reader, that you feel cheated. What you are really being cheated of is an understanding and shallow empathy (for that’s all that we can really claim) for generations of people, who were wrenched forcibly from their lives only to be transplanted as sub-human work horses into somebody else’s. These are the people who were cheated. People are still cheated, now.
As each protagonist becomes the focus of the story, the previous families are left behind, more quickly and severely as the book progresses. We are left not knowing what becomes of Kunta Kinte and his wife Belle, once their daughter Kizzy leaves with her new husband, and again and again, to the end. The book gathers pace and seems to rush through generations, for the second half of the book, though without sacrificing or compromising the connections with the characters. They are robust and weighty, still lingering in my head.
There are moments of abject despair, when freedom is promised and so close, only to be snapped away with little more than a cursory consideration. The lives these people live are inconceivable. It is as if they are on a leash loose enough to give the illusion of freedom, to enable more productivity and less ‘trouble’ to ‘deal with’, only to be yanked back when it appears too close and real. Families being ripped apart, being sold, being cheated and lied to. I read parts of this book with my heart in my mouth, it was so real as to detach me completely from my own life.
The landscape and the slave rows are etched in my mind, along with the road down to Chicken George and his fighting cocks. Sucking blood clots out of their wounds and sharpening their spurs. Chicken George, born of his mother’s rape by her new master, who served that master as a slave.
There are moments of tenderness between master and slave, at various points of the book, almost enough to muddy the relationship. Almost enough to feel thankful that, well, at least in such a sickening situation and irksome period of history, there were kind men. But it’s a trap. And it’s a trap that thankfully, this book does not let us fall into for longer than it takes for us to feel it snap back in our face. Just like it did, again and again. Because, hey, Just kidding! Remember your place.
The born sense of entitlement and superiority, which I wish was something that this book could bring to life, as an historical artefact to grapple with. Conversations that make my skin crawl. Parts of this book brought me to tears. Parts of it I read with dread, not wanting to even know what would come next, while knowing, already. The promises of freedom. What happens when freedom finally comes. Freedom in name, which is still subject to whims and norms.
This book will stay with me for a long time. I went to Zanzibar a few years ago, the last slave trading outpost to have existed, where slavery was only abolished in 1897.
I sat in the chamber where slaves were kept, the ceiling too low to enable an adult to stand, where excrement ran down the gulley between platforms. Where light could get in through Where men were kept, those that survived, the strongest, sold for higher prices. The whipping post, formerly in the slave market, now the altar of a church.
This book came from the library with a post-it note on the inside cover: "This book is brilliant". I couldn't decide whether that was cute or annoying...moreThis book came from the library with a post-it note on the inside cover: "This book is brilliant". I couldn't decide whether that was cute or annoying until I actually started reading, and now I completely understand what would push someone to resort to a post-it note. This book is brilliant!
David Mitchell is my new favourite. I have been trying to dissect the gushy love I have for this book but it comes out as a list of clinical words and concepts reminiscent of Mrs Chamberlain in my high school english lit class. Character building! Place setting! Literary devices! Things that put people off reading, and things that aren't necessarily apparent unless they're done particularly poorly, or perfectly. And in that case, they're often invisible.
Not so with The Thousand Autumns. It has the pace and plot of a thriller and the kind of robust and humanly flawed characters that are more real than the host of people you brush past in everyday life. There are the kind of parallel plot lines that can be dangerous for someone with a memory as pitiful as mine, but they are so luscious, and each as interesting as the other, that it works. Every time a chapter ended, I'd grit my teeth with a 'no, fuck you!' and then turn the page and 'ohhhh, yeah! argh!'.
It evokes the mindset of both 'the West' and Japan as Japan was grudgingly opening its doors to trade in the late 1700s, and Holland and England were combing the globe for more trade partners to wrangle with. Both sides with their racism and lack of comprehension of the strange and foreign values of the other. And, the individuals cutting through it, connecting with each other on a human level.
The Thousand Autumns is set in Japan at the turn of the 19th century, on the trading post of Dejima, Nagasaki. Jacob de Zoet is a clerk with the Dutch East India company, and the book charts his dealings and relations during his time there. The characters are perfect, with their simmering tension and backstabbing, history and motives.
It is set among politics of the relations between the Dutch traders stationed in Dejima, the Japanese interpreters and people with whom they came into contact. It's humorous without being funny, and very fun to read. (less)