An exhausting read, it is dense with history. If a story can be very intense and boring at the same time, then this book is it. I think this is becausAn exhausting read, it is dense with history. If a story can be very intense and boring at the same time, then this book is it. I think this is because the story is secondary to the history. Historical fiction is often a story written in an historical context. This is history written through the vehicle of a fictional story. Everything in this story is created to tell the history of Burma (Myanmar). I felt emotionally connected to the story because the author is, his love for the country and the people comes through strongly. He says, in his Author's Notes:
The seed of this book was brought to India long before my own lifetime by my father and my uncle, the late Jagat Chandra Datta of Rangood and Moulmein - 'The Prince' as he was known to his relatives. But neither my father nor my uncle would have recognized the crop that I have harvested. By the time I started work on this book, the memories they had handed on to me had lost their outlines, surviving often only as patterns of words, moods, textures. In attempting to write about places and times that I knew only at second- and third-hand, I found myself forced to create a parallel, wholly fictional world. The Glass Palace is thus unqualifiedly a novel and I can state without reservation that except for King Thebaw, Queen Supayalat and their daughters, none of its principal characters bear any resemblance to real people, living or deceased. Perhaps it was the very elusiveness of what I was trying to remember that engendered in me a near-obsessive urge to render the backgrounds of my characters' lives as closely as I could. In the five years it took me to write The Glass Palace I read hundreds of books, memoirs, travelogues, gazetteers, articles and notebooks, published and unpublished; I traveled thousands of miles, visiting and re-visiting, so far as possible, all the settings and locations that figure in this novel...
Well first of all, that is one elegant Author's note. You can see he writes beautifully. But you can also see, even this is dense, how much more so the book.
The story begins in 1885 with the deposing of the King and Queen of Burma, told through the story of Rajkumar who is 11 years old when this occurs. We follow Rajkumar and his family through the 1990's.
Politics, war, philosophy, and history, history, history. A great place, in my opinion, to start to learn the history of Burma, India, and Malaya....more
I didn't read much of it this year, just a couple of the letters from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, but I did cook about 30 of the recipes. Most of them turnI didn't read much of it this year, just a couple of the letters from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, but I did cook about 30 of the recipes. Most of them turned out very good, a few were excellent. ...more
Slavomir Rawicz is in the Polish army and is arrested by the Russians, accused of spying. He spends a year in Russian prison, then is given a trial anSlavomir Rawicz is in the Polish army and is arrested by the Russians, accused of spying. He spends a year in Russian prison, then is given a trial and sentenced to 25 years labor. He is transported by train from Moscow to Irkutsk, then is on a forced march in chains with hundreds of other prisoners to Camp 303 in Northern Siberia. After a few months he decides to escape, gathers a group of like minded men, is helped by the Camp Commander's wife who is sympathetic. They successfully escape the camp and so begins the long walk south from northern Siberia to India. This includes crossing the Gobi desert and climbing through the Himalayas! This is a very well-written book but so fantastic that I felt like I was reading Life of Pi, or maybe the Bible (ram with horns stuck in the thicket, the long exodus out of slavery, and (for the Christians) the virgin. I didn't see how the story could possibly be true, but on the other hand, maybe it was. I can't judge because I simply have no information except what the author is telling me. I choose to believe him, or at least not disbelieve him. The story is very moving in many ways but I didn't really have an emotional reaction to it until the end with the incident with Paluchowicz. I just couldn't believe it, after all the hardships. When they finally reach India I let out the breath I hadn't even realized I had been holding and cried with the men as they said goodbye to each other. Reading reviews and articles: Looks like it wasn't true. It was still an excellent story. Life of Pi and the Bible. ...more
This is a very serious book filled with history, medical information, Hmong culture and the politics of war and immigration in the United States. It iThis is a very serious book filled with history, medical information, Hmong culture and the politics of war and immigration in the United States. It is a rather damning text, both to the U.S. in our international politics, and to the rigidity of our medical system. Lia Lee is the 13th child of a Hmong couple from Laos. When the communists are victorious in Laos the Hmong people were killed, tortured, starved for their part in the war which was fighting on the U.S. side. So Lia's parents (Lia was not born yet) took their children and walked, in great danger, to Thailand where they lived in a refugee camp until they were given permission to emigrate to the U.S. Culture shock doesn't even begin to describe it. Like many Hmong they ended up going to Merced, CA. hoping for a bit of land to farm as this is what they knew. They didn't get any land, most Hmong didn't. Lia's mother grew her plants and herbs in her apartment building's parking lot. Lia is born in a hospital in CA. (The other children had been born at home in Laos, caught by their mother's forearms so they wouldn't touch the dirt floor, in silence so complete that the other children were not wakened.) Lia seemed normal but at about 8 months her sister slammed a door and Lia fell down in an epileptic seizure. The U.S. doctors understand this condition as a storm of electrical activity in the brain that causes seizure. The Hmong understand this condition as 'the spirit catches you and you fall down', her soul fled when she was frightened by the slamming door. They took her to the ER and here started the collision between the American doctors and Lia's parents and the Hmong community. Because Lia's parents did not comply with the regimen of anti-convulsant meds she was taken away from them when she was two and put into foster care, by her doctor's request to the courts of CA. Even though she had great foster parents I think this whole experience was to Lia's great detriment. She was given back to her parents before a year was up and they gave her the prescribed meds but Lia kept getting sicker and eventually contracted sepsis and seized until she was essentially brain dead. Western medicine sent her home to die expecting it to happen within hours or at the most days. Lia did not die, her parents took the most excellent and loving care of her. She was clean, fragrant, beautiful and emotionally responsive to her parents. Her parents used herbal medicine that they knew from Laos and Hmong shamanistic healing ceremonies. That didn't mean Lia came back, but she lived. The last scene where the chanter is calling her back is just heartbreaking. This book was of particular interest to me as I was epileptic as a child, and also because I have a disabled child. I felt somewhat ashamed reading how Lia's parents took care of her. We take good care of our son, but not as spectacular as her parents did. I thought I should make more of an effort. I also believe that there is a spiritual aspect to all of life. That as long as we are alive on this earth our body and soul cannot be separated or treated medically without consideration for the physical and spiritual aspects of a person. I think that there is every possibility that both the western understanding of epilepsy and the Hmong understanding of epilepsy (if you are Hmong) are both true and not mutually exclusive. I was impressed with and interested in Hmong culture and looked up to see if they have a community here in Seattle. They do. It was also interesting to read about animal sacrifice, now in modern day life. Not warehouse killing but individual animals sacrificed in propitiation or thanks. Altogether, an amazing book....more
This book follows the lives of 6 people who survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. It tells about their actual experience of the bomb and its aftermat
This book follows the lives of 6 people who survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. It tells about their actual experience of the bomb and its aftermath, then their later lives 40 years after the bomb. It is terribly sad and horrifying but what got to me the most were all the inserts of further atomic bomb testings by different countries. It feels like we have learned nothing and the world continues in war, hatred and the threat of further "weapons of mass destruction". ...more
Very upsetting look at the attempt of Southern Nigeria to become their own country of Biafra after the Muslim Hausa people of Northern Nigeria commitVery upsetting look at the attempt of Southern Nigeria to become their own country of Biafra after the Muslim Hausa people of Northern Nigeria commit massacres of the Igbo people in the south. At the point of the massacres I quit reading this book, and any book, for an unprecedented three days. I thought if I want to read about Muslims raping, beheading, beating, hacking to death people I can just open my newspaper. For Nigeria in particular I can look at Boko Haram. That is the extremist group operating in Nigeria currently. They are daily raping, kidnapping and hacking people to death. But they are interchangeable with all the other jihadist groups: ISIS, Hamas, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Hezbollah etc. Go ahead and take a look at the list of Muslim terrorist organizations, it is huge. And they are operating in most countries of the world at the moment. I don't absolve Britain of complicity in what happened in Nigeria in the 1960's. Who the hell supplies all the high tech weapons to these terrorists so they can slaughter people who don't agree with them. I also understand American complicity even if only doing nothing. Obviously we did not care to pick a war with Britain. But this supplying weapons and supporting terrorists is incredibly criminal. What are we hoping? That all the indigenous peoples will be slaughtered if we supply both sides with weapons and then we can take all the riches? But why does this author lump Palestine in with places where innocents are being slaughtered? So wrong. The people running "Palestine" (another false entity created by Britain) are Muslim terrorists! They daily try to kill Israelis while Israel tries to help Muslim civilians caught in the middle. Am I going to get a lot of hate mail and angry tirades for saying so? Probably. So be it. As you can see, every nerve ending was grated upon and I was angry, disgusted and sick. I hate reading about war. And nothing good seems to ever happen in Africa. Give me good news out of Africa, I know there must be some. The book is well-written and heartbreaking. She includes pictures from Biafra in the late sixties. Babies with their swollen bellies and stick limbs. How can you not cry?? It is the worst thing, a forced starvation of people to "unite" Nigeria. F that! She also has a secondary line of story in the relationships of Odenigbo and Olanna, and Olanna's twin Kainene and her white lover Richard. Adultery and its destructive force, and how in comparison to war and starvation, it pales. Adultery is another subject I detest and find very depressing....more
Mmmm, in discussing this book and my feelings about it I was called a conservative racist, a deluded liberal, and a mixed up mix of both. And I was asMmmm, in discussing this book and my feelings about it I was called a conservative racist, a deluded liberal, and a mixed up mix of both. And I was asked why I was reading a book that upset me so much because reading is for enjoyment. Is it?? I thought it was about learning and experiencing points of view outside of one's own experience; also for enjoyment if the book happens to be the enjoyable kind. Well this book certainly took me outside of my comfort zone. I mean, yeah I thought it was funny, but it was also very painful because it was astute. The writing was absolutely masterful. This was writing you could eat, it was so delicious. But it was also kicking me in the head. Sherman McCoy has it all, sort of. He is a Wall Street Bond trader at the top of his game. He makes a ton of money, although his wife spends a major part of the money on interior decorating. He has a sweet six year old daughter. But he and his wife aren't really connecting well, mostly because Sherman (Shuhmun) is having a hot affair with a younger woman, wife of some old really rich guy. So basically Sherman tries to have more than he should, could or is capable of having. He ruins his family life, his career, his finances and his reputation. His lies catch up with him so badly that even the truth can't save him. He becomes the rallying cry of the black community against oppression even though the truth is that he was the intended victim of a crime by a black man in the Bronx. But he is accused of running down a poor black honor student with his Mercedes and leaving the scene without a word to anyone to help this kid. A very twisted version of the truth, but with enough validity to get him in serious legal trouble. The saving grace, for me, was that I liked who he had become by the end of the book. So many great characters; the accents, the descriptions - it was so well done!! And that is an understatement....more
Nujood is one brave little girl. She could easily have been killed or her family members killed or shunned. The custom of marrying little girls as yo Nujood is one brave little girl. She could easily have been killed or her family members killed or shunned. The custom of marrying little girls as young as 8 is widespread in Muslim countries, I guess because their prophet married a 9 year old girl. This year an 8 year old girl, I have forgotten which Muslim country, died from bleeding on her wedding night. It mentions in this book that in Yemen a girl of 9 was married to a Saudi man and died three days after her wedding. The parents apologized to the husband and offered their 7 year old instead! There is something terribly twisted and upside down about the sexuality in Muslim countries and every woman is in danger of rape, every little girl is in danger of legal rape by being married before she even reaches puberty. Yet these are the men talking about "honor" and the "decadence of the West". Rape and child sexual abuse happen in the West, all too often, but it is illegal and no one is claiming it is right and/or justified. The reason Nujood's family had to leave their happy home in their little village is that a stranger walked in and raped the oldest girl at home while her parents were away. This was not a crime on the part of the man, it was a crime on the part of the girl and the family. They had to move away for having shamed the village. Do you see what I mean by twisted and upside down? Recently a Muslim cleric beat and tortured (and possibly sexually assaulted - the wife denied this part) his 5 year old to death because he suspected she was no longer a virgin. She took 10 months in hospital to die. The cleric, a popular one who is often on Arabic TV, was jailed for a short time but paid a blood fee and was released. Twisted, twisted, twisted!! The horror stories go on and on, with women with their noses cut off, women with acid thrown in their faces - all in the name of honor and having to do with some sort of sexual situation, like she rejected my advances as a suitor so I threw acid in her face, or she looked at a boy so I threw acid in her face. So Nujood was pretty lucky that she lived through telling her story. I imagine that if the eye of the world had not caught this story it could have ended much differently for Nujood. I hope she is successful in her quest to help other little girls but she is up against the whole fundamentalist Muslim world. By the way, the 8 year old who died of bleeding on her wedding night? A Muslim cleric justified child marriage after that incident saying that there was nothing wrong with an adult man marrying an 8 year old....more
I have read this book before, I loved it then and I love it now. I didn't grow up around hunting or around wolves so this book had a profound impact oI have read this book before, I loved it then and I love it now. I didn't grow up around hunting or around wolves so this book had a profound impact on the way I viewed both. I've always had a love of animals and nature so I was a natural to find this book inspiring, wonderful and incredibly sad. For a book I haven't read in about 30 years I had remarkable recall of most of the scenes. That is probably because of the sense of humor and the pathos with which Farley Mowat writes, it is a beautiful book. There are wolf packs in the U.S. and in Canada today but the numbers are sadly low. At least they are not all gone. The fight continues to save animals and nature from greed. Also, it has been said that this story is not true. OK, if it is not I love it anyway. ...more
A journey through Craig Ferguson's childhood in Glasgow, Scotland; his first jobs delivering milk, bartending, and doing stand up comedy; his alcoholiA journey through Craig Ferguson's childhood in Glasgow, Scotland; his first jobs delivering milk, bartending, and doing stand up comedy; his alcoholic, drug taking, sleep with everyone years; his three marriages; his successful rehab, his successes and his love of America which culminates in his becoming an American citizen, his love of Scotland his heritage and his family. He is a funny and charming writer, very likeable despite all the many non-likeable things he does in his alcoholic years. ...more
This is the third book of Ruth Reichl's that I have read, and I happened to read them in sequence; from when she was a child and young adult in TenderThis is the third book of Ruth Reichl's that I have read, and I happened to read them in sequence; from when she was a child and young adult in Tender at the Bone, through the collapse of her first marriage and into her second marriage in Comfort Me With Apples, and into her 40's with her husband and young son. Although I found her job as the New York Times food critic interesting, especially the disguises she would wear and the personalities she would assume, I didn't find this book particularly compelling. It certainly wasn't as funny as the first nor as emotional as the second. I didn't like a lot of the food she ate and I couldn't keep my mind on her food anyway as I read in fear of Michael, the new husband, revealing that he was a cheating bastard just like the first husband! I finally googled Ruth and calmed my fears when I saw that they are, from what I could tell, still married. So Ruth ate, and I worried about her marriage. I felt relieved when she quit her job and stopped wearing disguises and eating out. All that eating out was nearly enough to put a person off food, and I didn't have to eat it, just read it. And the book ended, so I could stop worrying about her marriage. ...more
Tommy and Tuppence open a detective agency as a front to catch some particularly nefarious bad guys. Each case they take on comprises a short Tommy anTommy and Tuppence open a detective agency as a front to catch some particularly nefarious bad guys. Each case they take on comprises a short Tommy and Tuppence story. It is cute but not particularly engaging. The most fun I had with it was when my 12 year old daughter and I would take turns reading the lines in the most overdone and badly executed British accents we could come up with. ...more
I almost feel guilty for not liking this more, but I really didn't like this book until near the end. I took a dislike to Julie; she often seemed unkiI almost feel guilty for not liking this more, but I really didn't like this book until near the end. I took a dislike to Julie; she often seemed unkind, sarcastic, neurotic, sex obsessed, foul-mouthed and she drank too much. The book was much different than I expected and that had to do with Julie's personality. So Julie decides to cook every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and do it within one year. She is also going to blog about it, back when blogging was pretty new. So she cooks in her obsessive and angry way, her husband is patient with her and her friends come over to eat. Her blog readers become very involved in her project and the project eventually captures the eye of the media. One of her blog readers, Clarence, says, "If only you wouldn't use f*** so much - it adds nothing." I could see myself thinking something like that. Julie's mother jumps to Julie's defense in a letter she writes to Julie's blog readers. She thanks everyone for their support of Julie and then says, "PS - Clarence, who fucking cares what you think, anyway." So really, we can just apply those words to me, who cares what I think and whether I like Julie or not. One day when Julie is feeling better with the world she says, "And I figure, maybe just believing in goodness generates a tiny bit of the stuff, so that by being so foolish as to believe in our better natures, if just for a day, we actually contribute to the sum total of generosity in the universe. That's naive, isn't it? Dammit, I hate when I do that." Now see, I liked her "naive" statement. But she is such a negative personality that she immediately cuts herself down for having such a thought. She was just joking? Every joke contains the truth or it wouldn't be funny. Putting herself down in jokes is a way of life with her. She says, "I can only assume I've been blessed by the attention of CBS because I'm a foulmouthed hysteric with misanthropic tendencies for whom things are constantly going terribly, terribly wrong." Yet, for all I disliked her, when she finds out Julia's response to her project is negative criticism I actually cried with Julie and thought how horrible Julia was being and that Julie put Julia back into the minds of people when she was disappearing. It was SNL and Julie who kept Julia Child's name and cooking in the minds of younger people. Might as well not cry too much though, the book and movie were enormously successful. ...more
Corrie ten Boom is a very special person in her faith and her willingness to help other people. She comes from a family of exceptional human beings, Corrie ten Boom is a very special person in her faith and her willingness to help other people. She comes from a family of exceptional human beings, her father seemed to me to be a tzaddik (a righteous person) and her sister's faith was so pure and her love so unselfish that she was able to spread that love even in concentration camps and to her tormentors. When Corrie's father is arrested and one of the guards wants to let him go due to his advanced age he says, "If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks." The guard didn't release him and the father dies in prison. Corrie and her family were part of the underground in Holland, placing Jews and others in danger of being arrested in safe places. They themselves had a hidden room and I think it was 7 Jews living with them full time plus others temporarily before being placed. Eventually they get caught and imprisoned. Later Corrie and her sister Betsie are sent to a concentration camp in Germany. Betsie dies there but first shares her great faith with the other women, and her vision of what is to come after with her sister Corrie. When Corrie returns to Holland she is able to realize the dreams of her sister and bring faith and healing to many people damaged by the war and other people in need. It is a book of intense faith, very inspiring and beautiful. ...more