I really liked this. Really. And I'm still blown away that it was a Newbery book. 1962 just wasn't that long ago, and I'm surprised this made the cut.I really liked this. Really. And I'm still blown away that it was a Newbery book. 1962 just wasn't that long ago, and I'm surprised this made the cut. Of course, there's plenty of floofy we-are-one-with-nature stuff in the Newbery lexicon, so why shouldn't a clear gospel presentation of Jesus' life make it in, but still. I'm shocked.
This was really well done, if a little bloodthirsty for a pre-teen. I loved Daniel's story and growth. I loved his innate sense of responsibility, and I loved Joel and Thacia. This really captured me, and I had a hard time putting it down.
This author managed to make me feel hot and dusty when Daniel did, and long for the cool night air in the caves. That doesn't happen very often, and I appreciate it when it does.
This is definitely a heavy book to read, but it wasn't unbearable. Beyond the obviously heavy subject matter, I think what was most overwhelming was aThis is definitely a heavy book to read, but it wasn't unbearable. Beyond the obviously heavy subject matter, I think what was most overwhelming was all the myriad ways there are to help in this area. Almost too many. Certainly that's not the fault of the authors; in fact, they did a great job presenting so many ways to help, and they've clearly done their research. It was just almost too many ways.
That said, this is a powerful book, and the authors have done a really excellent job of explaining and educating. What I wonder is are the people reading this book the already convinced? If so, they needn't have bothered. If the word is getting out and people who didn't know are reading it, then YAY!
I learned about International Justice Mission sometime in the ... mid-90s (?), so the trafficking concept certainly wasn't new to me. But this book definitely opened my eyes to the widespread extent of abuse, neglect, and elimination of women in a way I was previously unaware.
I was impressed with the author's work even from the Introduction. They straight up "confess" to journalism's lack of reporting on this issue. From the idea of if a Chinese boy gets sick, he goes to the hospital right away but for Chinese girls, they wait and see, to the horror of huge numbers ("When a prominent dissident was arrested in China, we would write a front-page article; when 100,000 girls were routinely kidnapped and trafficked into brothels, we didn't even consider it news."), this book covers it all. They talk about all kinds of organizations -- local, faith-based, conservative, liberal, etc. They cover the gamut, and fairly and honestly. They don't go for sensationalism (it's hardly necessary when describing what they're describing), and so it wasn't "too hard" to read, but it is necessary to read.
In the chapter "Rescuing Girls is the Easy Part" (!), they close with a familiar Hawaiian parable, which was so perfect for this story.
A man goes out on the beach and sees that it is covered with starfish that have washed up in the tide. A little boy is walking along, picking them up and throwing them back into the water. "What are you doing, son?" the man asks. "You see how many starfish there are? You'll never make a difference." The boy paused thoughtfully, and picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean. "It sure made a difference to that one," he said.
And therein lies the reason we should fight this fight.
I liked the author's point that this isn't just a "women's issue". "The unfortunate reality is that women's issues are marginalized, and in any case sex trafficking and mass rape should no more be seen as women's issues than slavery was a black issue or the Holocaust was a Jewish issue. These are all humanitarian concerns, transcending any one race, gender, or creed." (emphasis mine)
There's so much more I could quote or say but really, "how to get involved" is what it boils down to for every person. Which is why I would recommend this book. It reminded me of "The Blue Sweater" - more interesting in the first half, and more clinical in the second half, but still a book that should be read on principle.
Oh, and I'd give this 3.5 if we could give half stars....more
This is my new favorite Dickens. Actually, I didn't have a favorite Dickens before, but I should have; given all the Dickens we read in one of my bookThis is my new favorite Dickens. Actually, I didn't have a favorite Dickens before, but I should have; given all the Dickens we read in one of my book clubs in the last year or two, but frankly, I'm not much of a fan. I've always mostly liked "A Tale of Two Cities", but not enough to call it a favorite of anything. Well, now I have one. And I think it'll be an annual read.
I've seen a few movies of this, and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts show a couple times, but I realized I've never read this, so was very glad it was this book club's December pick.
During book club I started singing the song from the 1970 musical, which no one else knew, so had to post this link on Facebook for the girls.
I think this, more than ... well, anything else of his I've read, shows his real talent with words. One of the girls at book club said he wrote this when his wife was pregnant with another child and they needed money. Even when being "mercenary", the man still excels at his craft. In fact, I remember from the other books we read in BBC, that his chapters were all monthly installments in magazine/newspapers. If that was the case, this was probably a single, stand alone story, and I honestly think it's better because of the brevity. There's none of the telling and re-telling in this that there is in, say Martin Chuzzlewit, nor the prodigiously long descriptions of nothing as in Great Expectations. At no point reading this did I think, "get on with it!" as I have in all the other Dickens I've read. Frankly, it could have gone on a little longer for me, and I'd have been quite happy.
Here's an example of the wordcraft: "Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire..." See what he does there? It's not enough to say that Scrooge was hard as flint -- he talks about flint giving out fire -- what it does -- as a generous act! Love it!
Beyond the humor in this, I think about the fact that I'd like to get to know pretty much every character in the book better (I'm looking at you, horrible Martin Chuzzlewit, in which I didn't care for a single. person. in. the. entire. book.). There were characters I barely remembered from the shows I've seen, like Scrooge's nephew, for example. He invites his uncle to Christmas dinner every year! And will keep doing so! He also refuses to say a bad word about Scrooge. I didn't remember/know that both the first 2 ghosts quoted his own words back to Scrooge. It was so perfectly done!
I giggled (and posted on Facebook) at "... darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it."
And then there was the profound. In looking at the mass of ghosts, the commentary is "The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever." I was also reminded of my favorite verse of the hymn "O For a Thousand Tongues" - it's
Hear him, ye deaf His praise, ye dumb your loosened tongues employ Ye blind, behold your savior come, and leap ye lame for joy
in the Tiny Tim quote about attending church: He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see. Beyond that, in our time at book club, our friend Carey full-on preached a mini message to us about what we are to learn from Scrooge's story. For a book to draw out such good discussion, it must be very well done, I think.
I also thought in reading this that -- I hope -- Mr. Dickens knew good friends and family. I think it would be too difficult to have written this without them. Lines like It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in desease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour.
I said a couple times at book club that in this book in particular, I thought Dickens sort of had a style about him that reminded me of present-day bloggers. There were several stream-of-consciousness phrases/sentences that sounded bloggy to me, and then at the end, the clear "... and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father..." I just got a kick out of that :)
I'll end with Scrooge's pledge, as it's a worthy one and one I don't want to forget: "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."...more
Another well-written nonfiction book that reads like a novel. Interestingly, for such a heavy subject, she handled it so well that I didn't feel totalAnother well-written nonfiction book that reads like a novel. Interestingly, for such a heavy subject, she handled it so well that I didn't feel totally and completely depressed when I was finished. A little heavy-hearted, sure. But not hopeless like I did at the end of What is the What?
This book brings up so many things I have questioned and wondered about that I'm sure I will be mulling it over for weeks and months to come. It's also totally fascinating to me since so much of it takes place in Holland, where my father was from.
There's no need for me to "review" this to tell people what it's about. That can be learned from the book blurb. And if I started quoting passages, I'd just re-copy pretty much the entire book. So I'll just say that this is a powerful book, it makes you think, and it's really well-written in general. And it makes me (again) wish I'd spend more time on languages in my lazy school life.
The one question I had which quick Googling didn't really answer was near the beginning -- she talks about an Ied Festival. I assume that was just a typo and it was really referencing the festival of Eid. But much later in the book, it also references Eid, so now I'm not sure. I thought about registering it on Typoze.com, but the fact is that so many words like that have multiple spellings (think of all the spellings of Mohammed, even in this book) in the Muslim world that I'm not sure. I even asked on Twitter, but didn't get an answer. Of course, Googling the letters "i e d" just gets the weapon IED, so that wasn't much help. Anyway, it's just a curious thing in my brain and something I'd like to know.
That said, this was an amazing book to read. I appreciated the author's comments in the beginning about being estranged from her family and not being able to corroborate her memories. It seemed that in her journey to honesty and frankness, this was something else necessary for her to include in the book. Well done, Ms. Ali. She's a legitimate spiritual "seeker", which I also found compelling. I hope she finds peace....more
I always thought I hated non fiction, but in fact, I just didn't like boring non-fiction. Well-written nonfic can be as good as any riveting novel...I always thought I hated non fiction, but in fact, I just didn't like boring non-fiction. Well-written nonfic can be as good as any riveting novel... Funny thing is this was recommended by one of my friends from book club, so even though I claim not to like nonfic, I do trust her judgment, and requested it from the library. Then I got behind on library reading and had to renew FOUR books. Turns out there's a waiting list on this so it has to go back. Guess which of the 4 I read first?
Saving here so I can shut down and restart my computer. More later.
ohmyword, it's the day this book is due and I need to run to the library! So ... rather than a deep and thoughtful review, I'm just writing some basic thoughts and quotes from this book. But do not let the sloppiness of this review trick you into thinking this isn't a good book. It is a Very. Good. Book. And because it covers something most of us don't know much about, I recommend it to all thinking humans.
Quoting: (A statistic one often sees quoted is that the economic disparity between the Koreas is at least four times greater than that between East and West Germany at the time of German reunification in 1990).
Whether they were studying math, science, reading, music, or art, the children were taught to revere the leadership and hate the enemy. For example, a first-grade math book contained the following questions: "Eight boys and nine girls are singing anthems in praise of Kim Il-sung. How many children are singing in total?"
In order to get through the 1990s alive, one had to suppress any impulse to share food. To avoid going insane, one had to learn to stop caring. In time, [redacted] would learn how to walk around a dead body on the street without paying much notice. She could pass a five-year-old on the verge of death without feeling obliged to help. If she wasn't going to share her food with her favorite pupil, she certainly wasn't going to help a perfect stranger.
Among the homeless population, a disproportionate number were children or teenagers. In some cases, their parents had gone off in search of jobs or food. But there was another, even stranger, explanation. Facing a food shortage, many North Korean families conducted a brutal triage of their own households -- they denied themselves and often elderly grandparents food in order to keep the younger generation alive. That strategy produced an unusual number of orphans, as the children were often the last ones left of entire families that had perished.
It goes first for the most vulnerable -- children under five. They come down with a cold and it turns to pneumonia; diarrhea turns into dysentery. Before the parents even think about getting help, the child is dead. Next the killer turns to the aged, starting with those over seventy, then working its way down the decades to people in their sixties and fifties... Then starvation makes its way through people in the prime of their lives. Men, because they have less body fat, usually perish before women. The strong and athletic are especially vulnerable because their metabolisms burn more calories. Yet another gratuitous cruelty: the killer targets the most innocent, the people who would never steal food, lie, cheat, break the law, or betray a friend. It was a phenomenon that the Italian writer Primo Levi identified after emerging from Auschwitz, when he wrote that he and his fellow survivors never wanted to see one another again after the war because they had all done something of which they were ashamed.
... it was the "simple and kindhearted people who did what they were told -- they were the first to die."
But now she couldn't deny what was staring her plainly in the face: dogs in China ate better than doctors in North Korea.
As I typed those quotes, I realize they're pretty depressing and make it sound like a real downer of a book. Sure, it's heavy (and totally incongruous to be reading about famine over Thanksgiving in the U.S.), but it's so well done and so interestingly told that it was really fascinating to read.
I'll end with these two powerful comments from the book:
"It is axiomatic that one death is a tragedy, a thousand is a statistic."
"It has been said that people reared in communist countries cannot fend for themselves because they expect the government to take care of them."...more
Wow. This was very ... very... good. I didn't like it at first -- I think Doug's voice was actually TOO good, and I didn't really want to read a wholeWow. This was very ... very... good. I didn't like it at first -- I think Doug's voice was actually TOO good, and I didn't really want to read a whole book written by an 8th grade punk. And then it became SO SO good.
The layers ... and Mr. Ferris, and James Russell and Otis Bottom, and eccentric Mrs. Windemere and .... I literally couldn't put this down. I started it at about 9:15 and finished it at 12:30 tonight -- there was no going to bed before finishing it.
It's heavy - but also has hope. And it deals with a horrible time in our country's history. But it's wonderful. I don't want to give anything away, because the way things are revealed in the book is Just. That. Good. So I'll just say that I loved the town of Marysville - as ingrown and small-minded as it seems -- and all the people in it. Mr. Powell I want to hug. And the .... oh wait. That would require a spoiler alert.
I'm off to request every published book by this author from the library....more
I don't know what's becoming of me - I just read another nonfiction book and LIKED IT. It's rather confusing, really. But here's the thing: this is aI don't know what's becoming of me - I just read another nonfiction book and LIKED IT. It's rather confusing, really. But here's the thing: this is a great book on leadership. It's a great book on how doing something little can pay off in big ways. And I love the idea of how $26 can ... well, you should read the book. One of the things that struck me was how (in skimming the cover flap) this story reminded me of Jake Harriman's story. Jake is the founder of Nuru International. They're obviously different -- Rye knew he wanted to do this work before he was actually in the military, and his work is in the city; and Jake decided to do this work as a result of his experiences fighting the war on terror around the world (you really should watch the video here), and his work is rural; but still - both of these men have been deeply affected by both Africa and the Marines (and both are affecting change in Africa), which I find fascinating.
There is a lot about this book I liked, and only a little I didn't. I marked many spots and now have to decide what to include here and what to leave out. There are flashes of humor in here, among the heavy stuff where he's just recording what happened. For example:
A gang of men hanging out at Darajani Massive looked at me curiously. A white man walking in Kibera without an entourage was uncommon. ... The biggest, meanest looking guy was at least six feet tall, with biceps the size of my neck. He snarled at me and gnawed on a piece of wood, a toothbrush kienyenji.
"Vipi beshte. Napenda toothbrush kienyenji jako. Wewe una meno kama simba," I greeted him in Sheng and Swahili: "What's up friend? I like your traditional toothbrush. You have teeth like a lion."
The gang burst out laughing.
Learning the local language and more importantly the language of the youth ("Sheng, a language ... that mixed Swahili, mother tongues, and gangsta rap lyrics") is part of what makes me respect Barcott, and frankly makes him a thousand times more legit than many people in his circumstance.
And then parts that swiftly moved me to tears. Barcott goes to Nairobi and his only solid point of contact is an acquaintance of ... an acquaintance:
Elizabeth was the acquaintance of Jennifer Coffman's who lived with her husband, Oluoch, in a housing development adjacent to the slum called Fort Jesus. Elizabeth and Oluoch welcomed me on my first night with a feast of beef stew, a maize meal called ugali, and sukuma wiki, collard greens.
"Karibu Kenya." Oluoch greeted me with a firm handshake. "I am your father. This is your mother."
And then more humor: "They certainly didn't look like my parents."
It's fascinating to walk side-by-side with the author as he grows up and learns about the world. In describing something difficult and a fellow soldier's help with it, he learned some valuable lessons: "Gobin had taught me an invaluable lesson in leadership. He had taken the initiative and reached out when he saw a way that he could help. He had given of himself to better the unit. I respected that and began to emulate his style. In so doing, I made fewer mistakes because I was less focused on myself." That's a lesson we wouldn't even all *see* while we were in the middle of it. I'm so impressed with his insight into himself and others.
Some of the discussions he has with his commanding officers give me renewed hope in ... well, the world, honestly. These men have integrity, character, leadership skills, and compassion. Many of them reminded me of my dad. The story about going to make a presentation at a fundraising dinner and the ethics of wearing his uniform or not was both familiar to me and inspiring. And I loved the comment from Major Boothby: "... Now you need this money for humanitarian work in Africa, right? [yes, sir] And you need to raise half of it, a total of ten thousand dollars, before I endorse your request to take unpaid leave as a new second lieutenant and spend the entire summer in this African slum, right? [yes, sir] Well, that's a noble mission. So wear your uniform and do us proud."
I'm getting long winded, so I'll note two final things that I really appreciated while reading. 1. when his mom tells Tabitha the story of his name (from Catcher in the Rye), and the conversation around it, and 2. the words "grass, flower, wind" from Tabitha and the Psalm he found them in many years later (yes, I actually read "poetry" in a book!)
As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.
This book earned one of my highest "tags" - the one of "made me think", and I couldn't put it down. I feared it would peter out like What is the What?, which while interesting, left me depressed and sad because it (and his life) went nowhere. This one ended with hope, which is my favorite way to end a book....more
Wow. I couldn't put this down. It started just a little bit awkwardly for me, sort of like Life of Pi in that I had to think through who was speakingWow. I couldn't put this down. It started just a little bit awkwardly for me, sort of like Life of Pi in that I had to think through who was speaking and what was in italics and what wasn't, but once it got dialed in in my brain, everything clicked and I didn't want to stop ... as is evidenced by what day I started it and what day I finished it, I suppose.
It's an obviously heavy topic, but I thought it was handled very well, especially given the intended audience. I truly believe it could make a difference. Honestly, it would be a great book for mature teens to read. I felt like it was a morality tale (in the best way) -- a cautionary story, if you will, on what can happen from seemingly harmless (perceptually harmless, anyway) things.
Maybe it had more impact on me because I recently read Columbine, about the killings at Columbine High School here in Colorado, or maybe I just read it the way the author hoped I would ... I don't know. But I thought it was very well done.
I found the Tony character rather haunting. Driving around, having a burger at Rosie's... waiting. Sort of a watchman. A sensitive one, helpful and gracious ... I don't know, I found myself wanting more of him. And I also wanted Clay's tape to be what it ended up being. Bravo.
Oh, and if I'd been the editor and/or publisher of this, I'd have dropped the "why". "Thirteen Reasons" would have been a much more compelling (and easier to say) title....more
Wow. Just finished this one. I marked a ton of spots, but think I'll digest a little and talk about it at book club tomorrow before I write my review.Wow. Just finished this one. I marked a ton of spots, but think I'll digest a little and talk about it at book club tomorrow before I write my review.
The one thing I will add is that sometime last night, at about the midpoint, I updated my GR status on this from my phone, but it evidently didn't "take", as I didn't see it on the computer today. What I wrote was something to the effect of:
I'm torn between two thoughts on the book in this story: 1. it BETTER get published, and 2. it better not be THIS book. I seriously hate when I'm reading a book about a book, and Oh! Look! It's the one you're REEEEEAding. Blergh.
Oh - another status update I could have written, from yesterday morning: had to vacuum for friends coming over tonight. All I could think of was Minny's comment about "I hope she's not too country to own a Hoover"....more
My heart started breaking from page 8, and I continued reading with ... trepidation. And yet, I couldn't put it down, either. Here's the thing that waMy heart started breaking from page 8, and I continued reading with ... trepidation. And yet, I couldn't put it down, either. Here's the thing that was distracting, though (and I noted it in a couple of status updates, too) - in the chapters about Sarah, the author has chosen an unfortunate voice for the narrative. I'm not even sure what to call it. It's supposed to be from the girl's point of view, but it's also third person. So the author ended up with some convoluted narrative that could have been so much better, because the fact is that what she said could have been said and the story is so interesting that the reader keeps reading, but keeps pausing because these are not things a 10-year-old child thinks and feels. Here's just one example: "She was safe, she thought. She was safe, with her mother, with her father. This was not going to last long. This was the French police, not the Germans. no one was going to harm them."
She's TEN. There are many other ways that could have been written without writing things 10 year olds don't think and feel. So that was really distracting.
The other thing that was jarring was the juxtaposition of Sarah's story with the (modern-day) journalist's story in short chapters in alternating fashion. At the beginning, most of the chapters were only a couple of pages (some less), and the only purpose it served, as far as I could see, was to draw Sarah's story out over a longer period of time. Maybe it's just me, but I feel as if I've read a lot of books lately with alternating perspectives (every other chapter), and frankly I'm a little tired of it. Obviously as the book went on, I became more interested in Julia, but I have to say I really didn't care much for her in the beginning, and sort of felt like her story was interrupting Sarah's story all the time, and really, Sarah's was the only one I wanted to hear. I cared more about Julia by the end, but not a ton.
All that said, it might sound like I didn't like this book. Not true. I really liked it. It's kind of amazing that such a poor choice in narrative could be overcome by the actual story enough that I'd even venture to say it was a good book. Or maybe just a fascinating story, revealed to the reader in a compelling way.
I didn't mark much while I was reading -- just a few things. The first thing was remarkable in that with all my Holocaust reading, I don't think I knew about this - or maybe I did, but forgot. In speaking to people who had helped Jews,
"You know your grandparents could be declared 'Righteous among the Nations.'" I said.
"What does that mean?" he asked, puzzled.
"The Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem gives medals to those, non-Jewish, who saved Jews during the war. It can also be obtained posthumously."
I tell you, every time I read "Righteous among the Nations," I get choked up. Every. Time.
I'm not purposely seeking out Holocaust and Holocaust-adjacent reading lately - it just seems to find me. It keeps falling into my lap. I think this bout may have started with Nicole Krauss'Great House. Then I read Day After Night for one of my book clubs, and then My Father's Country because a review here on GR made it sound so intriguing (it was!), and now this. All that to say I'm going to cheer myself up tonight by watching the beginning of the 1978 miniseries Holocaust with some friends.
Why? Lots of reasons. But the most important to me:
This is one of the most interesting books I've ever read, I think. From the poignant subtitle "The Story of a German Family" to the last lines of theThis is one of the most interesting books I've ever read, I think. From the poignant subtitle "The Story of a German Family" to the last lines of the book:
One of my first memories of the new era: I got slapped hard in the face. I can't remember who did it, whether it was Else or Barbara, I just remember flying through the kitchen. I had to become an adult before I understood why. Half-pint as I was, I had asked out of the blue, "Where did all the love for the Führer go? Why does nobody say Heil Hitler anymore?" Perhaps I should have asked, "Why did anybody ever say it?"
I didn't want to put it down and I was annoyed when I was interrupted. Beyond that, I realized that the vast majority (heck; basically all) of books I've read on this topic are from a Jewish point of view or about Jews, except for that Doris Kearns Goodwin book on Eleanor Roosevelt, which I read in tandem with The Twilight of Courage. So this was a first for me, and it was a big one.
I think I have too many things in this book marked. Now to choose which ones to write about and what to say ...
There are quotes in this book that seriously made me pause. And think. "Only we, the next generation, were to deal with the catastrophe that our country had wrought on others. My sister told me how Else learned of the extermination camps after the war. White in the face, she stood in the doorway and said, "We Germans will never be forgive that. We Germans. Auschwitz -- a mortgage. Not a word, not a single word in all those years about the victims."
And "Sixty years on I can't sit here ruthlessly 'being right.' My luck was the caesura -- I began when everything had stopped."
And then the reason for this book "I want to understand what it was that did such damage to my generation, to those born later. For this I must return to the history of those who have written my history, to my family's forefathers. I must go to Halberstadt."
Sometimes when I hear something about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), I am not sure if it's real or made up. And then I read something that so simply explains it that I know it's real. For the author, it affected her entire cache of memories:
I have my own story about Easter eggs. It happened in 1945, the first time I had blown eggs for the Easter wreath and glued silhouetted figures all over it. The wreath stood on the dining table, and my dangling eggs were the loveliest, of course. When the inferno struck over Halberstadt on April 8, the Sunday after Easter, when that large-scale raid reduced 80 percent of the old town to rubble, the house stood firm, no one died. But the chandelier over the dining table crashed down on the Easter wreath and broke my eggs. The conflagration scorched my memory. Everything that existed before was buried in rubble and horror. Sic years were blown away, I know nothing about myself. My life began with my fury at the destruction of my Easter eggs.
And again, around her sister's wedding: "I try to imagine what my sister, then still so young, must have felt inside. Years later I asked her. She couldn't remember -- "I wasn't there!" The horror of what came later had consigned that time to oblivion.
In speaking of "destruction through labor" and the camps in Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Bergen-Belsen, the author asks for us, Why am I telling this? Because the story can never be told too often ... which incidentally, is why, I suppose, I keep reading books on this topic.
I found sections like this haunting: Whom does HG talk to instead? Nobody, I think. All these men, unless they are sitting in the eye of the hurricane, are condemned to silence. They do their duty, their task is the solution of upcoming problems, not a preoccupation with their own fears. There is a reason almost all of HG's letters from 1944 end with the words "Your lonely husband."
And then there is the discussion of "Sippenhaftung", or "punishment of kin", which makes me think that only people who thought to rid the world of a certain race, or somehow-crippled members of their own race would think to further punish "officially" members of the family of the people who carried out the plot.
And the part that made me cry -- some of the author's comments to her father:
Have I misunderstood you, because you never said anything? now you are dying as an "Untermensch." They deprived you of the cleric you requested. But your Mount of Olives is behind you, and you are a hero in your death. You lived in awful times, and if you wanted things to be better for your children, then you succeeded. You have paid the "blood toll" so that I don't have to. I have learned from you what I must guard against. That's what a father's there for, isn't it? I thank you.
I'm to the end of my review and have no way to close. I'm a girl who doesn't even like non-fiction, and yet, this book captivated me from start to finish. It will stay with me for a while....more
My biggest complaint about this book is that the ending was too abrupt. On the other hand, that is exactly what happened to the women in the story, soMy biggest complaint about this book is that the ending was too abrupt. On the other hand, that is exactly what happened to the women in the story, so it makes sense. But oh, I wanted to linger with them for a little while longer!
This isn't a light book to read, and at one point I had to put it down because I knew if I kept reading that particular part, I would start crying, and I was in the wrong place to do so. And in fact, it made me cry several times. But it is right to cry about this subject.
I'm still .... flabbergasted that people who had survived the effing Holocaust were expected to come up with papers at the end of it. The mind boggles.
There was some beautiful language in this book, and also, the polyglotinous (best word I can come up with) nature of the book really spoke to me. As the people already in the camp see new arrivals coming through the gates:
"Shalom, friends, shalom," the Bulgarian girl cried, cupping her hands around her mouth. "Shalom. Welcome." Others joined her, calling out greetings in Hebrew and Yiddish, German, Romanian, French, Polish, Italiand, and Greek.
Isn't that lovely? The way they shared language amazed me.
And then there was this, which makes me think that observing Yom Kippur might be a very worthwhile thing to do:
"On Yom Kippur, everyone weeps for the dead," said Shayndel, who had not cried when her friends had died, nor since.
"Weeping is terrible for the complexion," said Leonie, holding Shayndel close, "but it is very good for the heart."
This book made me want to go find the copy of "The Red Tent" my sister sent and read it immediately. Unfortunately, I have 6 other library books waiting to be read first :)...more
On April 20, 1999, I was in Omaha, NE on a business trip, working as a trainer for a financial services firm. All the Financial Advisors had TVs in thOn April 20, 1999, I was in Omaha, NE on a business trip, working as a trainer for a financial services firm. All the Financial Advisors had TVs in their offices to watch CNBC or their financial network of choice. I can still see the office I walked into when the news of the Columbine shootings started airing. We just stood there in shock, watching it unfold. Well, watching the media's interpretation of it. And it started registering in my brain. This school was less than a mile south of my parents' house at the time. That April 24 would be the first of my dad's birthdays since his death in December.
And we knew our world was changed forever.
But we lived in Chicago at the time, and really got very little information about this, once it was over. When we moved back to Denver 7 years ago, it wasn't exactly something on the tips of everyone's tongues. But we do hear about it from time to time. And I do drive by there sometimes. And the Colorado license plate with a picture of the Columbine flower on it says "Choose Life", which I see often. Anyway, I hadn't even heard of this book until one of my friends here on Goodreads reviewed it. Her comments on how well it was written + my curiosity to hear a more complete story sent me straight to the library website.
Beyond that, I don't even know how to review this other than to say that it's really well written. I mean really. It was so good, and engaging, that it didn't even feel like a "true crime" book (maybe it's not, but I'm assuming that's how it's classified). I also found it interesting that it was so good when I recently read another book by a newsman about a Denver event, and was really disappointed. In comparison, this was heads and shoulders above that one.
It's amazing how many things went wrong when law enforcement had never dealt with anything like this before. And it's heartbreaking how some of the things were handled badly. It's also really hard to wrap your brain around.
This is a really, really well-done book. I'd recommend it to anyone....more
This was a recommendation from an old work friend. We really don't have similar reading tastes, but I like her brain, and she recommended The HistoriaThis was a recommendation from an old work friend. We really don't have similar reading tastes, but I like her brain, and she recommended The Historian, which I was surprised to enjoy, so I thought I'd give this a whirl. And I just don't know how to review this book!
There are parts of it that should get a 5, and parts of it I'd give a 2. The interactions between the painter and his previous subject were marvelous, deep, and made me think. But the reminiscent parts about Olvido ... bugged me. On the one hand, I was intrigued by her story, and on the other hand, she was *too* enigmatic, *too* elusive, *too* ... the tortured, aloof artist.
When I quote text from a translated work, I'm never sure who should really get the credit, but there was some really beautiful and powerful writing in this book. Also, some deep things where I actually made a "hmmm" noise out loud as I was reading. Like ... he had mastered technique, but he lacked the essential characteristic that separates enthusiasm from talent.
And how about this random Peter Pan reference? I haven't been back to that city for a long time, but now I want to see it again. With you, Faulques. I want you to help me look for the shadow of that little girl, and later when we're back in the hotel, take needle and thread and sew it back to my heels...
And more deep: ... the towers of Manhattan, Hong Kong, London, or Madrid: any city of the many that lived trusting in the power of their arrogant colossi; a forest of modern, intelligently engineered buildings inhabited by people convinced of their youth, beauty, and immortality, certain that sorry and death could be kept at bay with the Enter key of a computer.
Something interesting to me in this book that was translated into English was the onomatopoeic words - they weren't written as we would in English. The camera click was "clic" and the noise flies made was "zum". Fascinating choice by the translator or the author or the publisher or the editor ... well, fascinating to me.
As I often do, I fixated on something small and unexplained. What was he taking pills for? They probably have greater and deeper meaning, and yet, the author didn't even say why he took them, and what the pain was. That kind of thing makes no sense to me. The other thing that came to me often was that throughout the book, the author calls Faulques "the painter of battles". It was obviously intentional, but since this book is the first time he is doing this, I couldn't quite figure it out.
Ah well. I'm recommending this one to anyone who has ever taken art history, or who is interested in photography. And to a couple friends specifically who I think would really enjoy the specificity and detail the author wove throughout the story.
**spoiler alert** "We have been cooped up together for two happily-ever-after years. Recently we noted that we were beginning to finish each other's s**spoiler alert** "We have been cooped up together for two happily-ever-after years. Recently we noted that we were beginning to finish each other's sentences. Pretty soon we may start speaking our own language, like kids raised by wolves."
I found that section rather surprising. Is this author that unaware of what people-who-spend-time-together do, or ... what? That's one of my favorite things about marriage. We know each other. And it's a favorite part of other relationships, too. When a friend and I start singing the same song at the same time, or start a quote from FRIENDS that we don't even need to finish, we know exactly what the other person is thinking. We know each other. And that's a good thing.
Maybe, though, what she's really saying, even in the beginning of the book without acknowledging it yet, that she wants a child. Because that's where this is going. Toward a baby girl from China. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
There's some great writing in this. I found myself tearing up so many times that I stopped tracking where. Her mother gets sick and there is just some great stuff in there, even if I don't have the relationship with my mother that she has with hers. I did think this was interesting, though, and it's the part that earned the "made me think" shelf tag here on Goodreads:
She said she's done with GBS. Just ... done. "Nothing more to say. It's time to go forward. That's me, I'm a moving-forward kind of person." "Yes, you are," I said, because I believe her. Or I want to. And I'm a here-and-now kind of person. Or I'm trying to be. My mother is a help. A mother's example is a kind of permission. A mother's example gets hardwired into you. My mother's example, I think, virtually assured that I wouldn't end up an emotional lingerer, a pouter, a moper.
She could write comedy - she has these quick comments like "Alex looks at me with the uncomfortable look you reserve for, say, a lunatic." That made me giggle (especially in context).
Plus, she has figured out humans...
This is the sort of thing a parent sees that helps her make the determination that her child is the most brilliant creature to set foot on this Earth -- a tendency that all new parents seem to have, no matter what else they are bringing to the table in terms of projection.
This is a beautifully written sort of random, stream of consciousness book that is the book equivalent of "easy on the eyes". It just went down easily, and was a good book for right now. And also? Another book that makes me want to garden.
Edited to add that I am still confused (4 days later) about something. I'm not 100% sure, but I am mostly sure, that she never said her brother's name in this book. The sisters are all named, but she (as far as I remember and noticed at the time) only ever refers to her brother as "my brother". That's weird....more
I hardly know where to start this review. Through the entire second half of the book, I had three thoughts in my head: 1. The Paul Revere poem 2. a songI hardly know where to start this review. Through the entire second half of the book, I had three thoughts in my head: 1. The Paul Revere poem 2. a song I learned (probably in elementary school) that Google failed to find for me. Some of the lyrics are for the Yankees fought from behind the shrubs, and the trees and the whitewashed fences. But the talk of war in the English pubs didn't tell of such defenses. I can even sing that part, but can't remember any more of the song. 3. Every American History class (regardless of age) should start by reading this book. If they did, more children would be interesting in History. I swear.
I have to say, this book BLEW ME AWAY. I had no expectations at all for it, and frankly they were probably lower than even for a "normal" book, because we've had so many disappointments as we've "Read the Newberys". But this book puts me firmly back in the camp of the Newbery Committee, and I hope they don't disappoint me going forward. Truly, this was a most excellent book.
Quite possibly the only thing that surprised me in this entire book was smack in the middle of this passage:
"Mrs. Lyte doesn't sweep, you silly, not with her own fair hands. For one thing, she's dead, and for another, if she weren't she'd just snap her fingers and maids would come running -- in frilly starched caps. They'd curtsy and squeak,'Yes, ma'am,''No, ma'am,' and 'If it please you, ma'am.' Then Mrs. Lyte would say, 'You dirty sluts, look at that gold dust under the bed! I could write my name in the silver dust on the mirror over that mantel. Fetch your mops and rags, you bow-legged, cross-eyed, chattering monkeys.'"
I get it, of course, but I wish it didn't have the word "slut" in it.
I loved the history in this, I loved Johnny growing up, I loved Rab, I loved how very "boy" it was ... I just loved this book.
Things like this just caught me: "It was all right for Rab to talk. Rab was training with the armed forces. But what could Johnny do? Not much, it seemed to him, except be bored to death for his country."
The part about Billy Dawes, who could impersonate anyone, and his wife broke my heart. I think this book was so meaningful because even though it was fiction, we know that this (time) actually happened. These things happened. Wives said goodbye to their husbands, sending them off to go through the city gates in hopes that the smell of rum and good acting skills would let them through to warn the minutemen. This is the real history of our country and the real tea party.
Last thoughts: I really like the name Isannah. Too bad I didn't like her. And I'd love to know what a British friend would say about this book -- would they like it as much as I? And finally, I want to own a copy of this book. It's that good.
March 9, 2011: edited to add the link to this reading of the Longfellow poem. One of the other Newbery girls found it, and for some reason, I really liked it!...more
**spoiler alert** The premise: 1. Come up with a a small, diverse group of author/readers 2. With multiple layers of secrecy, ask them all for a list of**spoiler alert** The premise: 1. Come up with a a small, diverse group of author/readers 2. With multiple layers of secrecy, ask them all for a list of 600 good novels 3. Don't pay them for their lists nor let them meet each other 4. Stock a bookstore with those books 5. Add any additional books you personally think should be on the shelves 6. Add new books as they come out, customers ask for them, etc.
And anyone who ever even briefly toyed with the idea of opening a bookstore, or who ever shopped in a bookstore, or who loves books, said, "yes, please."
The execution: French as French can be. Or at least, as French as the last French book I read. The funny thing is that when this book came home from the library, the first thing I thought of was "The Elegance of the Hedgehog", but I really think it was because the cover is similar to the copy of that that I read. However, once I started reading it, I was reminded even more of TEotH, and I decided that must just because they were both French books. Then today after I finished it and I was skimming other reviews on Goodreads, I read that the same translator did both books. So there.
All that to say, the story of the book is great. Really. But you don't get to it until page 72, where ironically Francesca says, "The simplest would be if we list the events chronologically." Gosh, I wish the author had made that same decision in terms of how to start the book! Instead, it started like an episode of CSI - "problem" first, and then figure it out later. Which works on CSI, but made it very hard to get into this book. Seriously, I was about ready to just return it to the library until I got to page 72, when everything clicked into place. Thus, when I recommend this to people, my primary comment will be that the beginning can't be read one or two pages at a time - you must sit and read for a minimum of 20 minutes at a time, or you won't get through it to find the good of the book!
That said, I loved it overall. Too many characters and crazy stuff at the very beginning, and it sort of petered out in the end, but neither of those things was enough for me to dislike it. Keep it from getting 4 stars? Sure, but I still really liked it (and really, it's a 3.5-star book).
I marked several passages that I liked because the writing is really pretty charming. I guess I won't quote them all here, but I will put it in a few.
One of the best was the reason I like to go to Goodreads after finishing a book. It's sort of a built-in book club for any book I read, and I find that I'm always ready to discuss a book when I've just finished it. "You have just confirmed to me that one of the most fortunate purposes of literature is to bring like-minded people together and get them talking."
Although we don't have a lot of information on Francesca, I still really liked her. And wanted to kick her husband, who I am sure to this minute was part of the plot. Here's where I thought he both began to expose himself, and I began to like Francesca more than I had before: "Are you okay, Francesca?" "This morning, yes. Last night, I had a rough moment. Henri had gone out. He left a note on my desk, I don't know what time it was, I found it at midnight, just one sentence: 'Obviously you can do what you like with your own property, but to squander so much money on a total loss is not very glorious.'" "Did it hurt you?" "At the time, yes. But fairly quickly, his poor use of language cheered me up. I always find it entertaining when people are redundant. You can't squander your money in any other way than on a total loss..."
And then there is the passage about the bookstore and people's response to it: "They all said the same thing. They only read novels, and it wasn't that there was any lack of them, they had a whole pile waiting by their bed, on their night table, under their desk, or on the sofa in the entrance."
I was, however, so disinterested in Anis that I still can't understand why she is even part of the story. And yes, I understood that she is the disembodied narrator, but that still didn't make sense to me. Frankly, she's an ancillary character I don't care about AT ALL. The entire book would still exist, story and all, without her. About the only thing I liked that had to do with her was when her relationship with Van finally changed from saying vous to tu, and neither of them knew when it had happened.
So ... to recap: 1. I didn't like the order this book was written in. 2. I could have done without Anis 3. This book seemed very "French" to me, in a good way (and that also helped me forgive some of the things I didn't prefer 4. I'd recommend it to anyone loves books
And I liked it :)
OH! I forgot the most important thing I was going to write here! And that is a question: WHO RECOMMENDED THIS BOOK TO ME? I can't remember, and it's making me slightly crazy....more
I started this book on our trip to Vermont for Christmas, thinking I'd leave it with my SIL when I was done. She's a big runner, and I know she likesI started this book on our trip to Vermont for Christmas, thinking I'd leave it with my SIL when I was done. She's a big runner, and I know she likes Murakami, so I thought it was a win. Turns out she already owns it (of course), so I didn't finish it while I was there. All that to say it hardly feels right to count it as a 2011 read, since I only read the last 20 pages today, but since I count the day I finish a book as the day I read it, I guess it's a 2011 read :)
Anyway, I'd heard or read that this one was interesting, and it must have been convincing, because I'm not really a fan of running, and I didn't much care for the Murakami book my book club read ... now that I think about it, I'm surprised I own this book!
That said, it's still pretty interesting. Murakami is a Japanese author who has run a marathon (or more) for something like the last 23 years of his life. He's also become a regular triathlete. This book is his description of how he started writing, how he started running, and some of what he's learned along the way. It's a lot of introspection, but surprisingly didn't feel self-indulgent. He's definitely odd, and makes lots of comments about how he doesn't fit in with everybody else. But that doesn't take away from how interesting this book became the further into it I got.
The Foreward was a little misleading, as he starts with a joke that makes him seem more jocular than he really is. But his point seems very ... Japanese? Asian? honorable? ... very "him" to me:
There's a wise saying that goes like this: A real gentleman never discusses women he's broken up with or how much tax he's paid. Actually, this is a total lie. I just made it up. Sorry! But if there really were such a saying, I think that one more condition for being a gentleman would be keeping quiet about what you do to stay healthy. A gentleman shouldn't go on and on about what he does to stay fit. At least that's how I see it.
I liked what he had to say about Mick Jagger, and his take on people liking his personality was very interesting. He seems very self-aware. Or he's decided to be eccentric, and is proud of it. You decide:
I don't think most people would like my personality. There might be a few -- very few, I would imagine -- who are impressed by it, but only rarely would anyone like it. Who in the world could possibly have warm feelings, or something like them, for a person who doesn't compromise, who instead, whenever a problem crops up, locks himself away alone in a closet? But is it ever possible for a professional writer to be liked by people? I have no idea. Maybe somewhere in the world it is. It's hard to generalize. For me, at least, as I've written novels over many years, I just can't picture someone liking me on a personal level. Being disliked by someone, hated and despised, somehow seems more natural. Not that I'm relieved when that happens. Even I'm not happy when someone dislikes me.
I thought his comments on whether or not people would take up running as a result of reading this book were interesting. He doesn't expect it to happen, frankly. He says "People basically become runners because they're meant to." He is still human, though -- "Still, some might read this book and say, 'Hey, I'm going to give running a try,' and then discover they enjoy it. And of course that would be a beautiful thing. As the author of this book I'd be very pleased if that happened." And honestly? I'm thinking of trying it. I've made an attempt a few times before, but am seriously thinking of it lately. Of course, as I write this, we have about 7 or 8 inches of snow on the ground and it's still falling, so it's not happening tomorrow :)
I marked several spots in this book but this review is getting long. Let me just say that his very first marathon was not an official marathon, but a piece for a magazine where he ran from Athens to Marathon, by himself with a media van, and it sounded miserable. And amazing.
My sister recently told me she's doing a triathlon in August, so I'm sending this to her. I hope she'll find it inspiring. Or at least as interesting as I did. I'm still mind-boggled, frankly, that other than children's books, the only 2 books I've read so far this year are non-fiction. Me -- Joe Fiction!...more
This was a fascinating re-read. Honestly, I was trying to remember what exactly happened in this one, because "Hunger Games" and "Mockingjay" were faiThis was a fascinating re-read. Honestly, I was trying to remember what exactly happened in this one, because "Hunger Games" and "Mockingjay" were fairly clear in my head. The whole "group" aspect of this one fascinated me this time around. And I still liked it an awful lot. Finnick, too.
August 30, 2010: Love, love, loved this. I seriously couldn't put it down. Now if Dave would just answer my email so I can go over and pick up Jen's copy of Mockingjay, all would be right with the world.
So ... as I suspected, I did "care" about this guy by the end of the book, and he clearly learned something, which made him much more sympathetic. HowSo ... as I suspected, I did "care" about this guy by the end of the book, and he clearly learned something, which made him much more sympathetic. However, the tangents of someone asking him a question and it reminding him of meeting some famous person or going on a trip or something (impressive) he did in his previous career got old as the book went on. I found myself thinking, "is that person standing there waiting for an answer while he goes on and on about Thurber?" And in fact, at one point, the person is still staring at him, waiting for an answer, when he comes back from the tangent. I guess the tangents were interesting and provided good background for the story in the first half, but once the book got going I just wanted to know about the "working at Starbucks" stuff. The other stuff seemed rather self-indulgent, frankly.
On the other hand, he clearly lived a rich and ... interesting (for lack of a better word) life. He ran with the bulls, he met Hemingway, he met Brooke Astor, etc., etc. But isn't that sort of the point of the book? That all those things didn't really get him anywhere or do anything for him? Or at least, that he didn't capitalize on them properly. And the people he worked with were far more interesting to me than those names he kept dropping.
I was more interested in what he learned about himself, honestly. When it hit him how he had quickly dismissed, with none of the mentoring he was supposed to have done, the young African-American girl who was hired in an affirmative action sort of scenario, THAT was the kind of thing I wanted him to learn. I was much more interested in that than the Hemingway anecdote.
That said, Once I picked this back up, I couldn't put it down until I read the last page, whereupon I cried. So it obviously touched me a little :)
I loved Crystal and Kester and the district award meeting. I think I'd like his kids, too, although the youngest one made me want to smack him (Mike; not the kid). Actually, I think it was the youngest one that made me say when I first started reading this that there was nothing sympathetic about this guy. What made me keep reading when I was sort of disgusted with him at the beginning? This section:
My Puritan ancestors would be raging at me. Yes, I thought to myself, maybe there really was a vengeful God whom I had offended.
Yet I had to admit that my reality was more mundane, and sad. I could not pretend that I was living out some kind of mythical biblical journey. I was not a modern Job; I was looking for a job. And I had to face the brutal yet everyday fact that I was here because of my own financial mismanagement, my sexual needs that had led me to stray. I was not some special person singled out for justice by God. I was, and this really pained me to admit, not even that unique. It was hard, terribly hard, for me to give up my sense of a special place in the universe.
It's interesting to me that a man of that age felt as entitled as so many of the 20-somethings I know today. It also opened my eyes a bit more to the real world.
I'm sure I read this differently today than I would have a year ago. I was laid off last March, after working at the same company for just short of 20 years, and have been working at a part-time job and free-lance things ever since. Ironically, for probably the last 10 years of my life, I said (in seriousness) that if I ever lost my job, I would go to Starbucks the next day. Funny that I haven't done that yet, as I really do like Starbucks. Perhaps because my benefits package hasn't run out yet? I don't know. Anyway, one of the things of note I really liked in the book was a Fitzgerald quote, "She realized too late that work is dignity." This resonated with me, and I'll be thinking about it for a long time.
One of the comments he made, early on, was that the majority of Starbucks employees in NYC are African-American. I've been to a lot of the Starbucks in the city, and he's right, but I'd never "noted" it before. It's also interesting to me because the Starbucks employees in other cities aren't, necessarily. Regardless, what I think is so interesting is that they were willing to bring him in, train him, and befriend him far more quickly than he was willing to see them as peers. Even for all his comments about "the man" and oppression, and how he wouldn't have given them the time of day in his old life, he is still the recipient of their good will long before he views them as real people.
And of course, the cynic in me wonders if he gave any of the profits from this book to Crystal or her store :)
In re-reading this review, I sound more critical than I really feel about this book. I liked it, and I also like what it says about Starbucks, about which I'm a fan. But I did read it with a grain of salt, and perhaps that's why I sound more critical about this one than I intend....more
So here's a first: I didn't like the ending but I still liked the book! I don't know that that has ever happened before. Perhaps because it was so abrSo here's a first: I didn't like the ending but I still liked the book! I don't know that that has ever happened before. Perhaps because it was so abrupt; I'm not sure. I SMSd my sister-in-law after I finished it and said, "shocking ending to Hedgehog Elegance!" Her reply: "Yes, very French." Which -- duh -- explained it all.
This was such an interesting book for me! In the beginning, I really liked it. Then during the middle third, I was sort of "meh" on it. I also realized it's one of those books that can't be read a page or 2 at a time. It needs to be enjoyed in large chunks of time (which is probably why I was meh on the middle-ish part). Then I started liking it again -- a lot, and then it was over and I wanted it to keep going.
Every few chapters are in the voice of the voice of Renee, the concierge of a French apartment building, and the other chapters are in the voice of Paloma, one of the 12-year old inhabitants. For part of the book, I was more interested in the Renee chapters, and for part I was more interested in Paloma. Kind of odd, I thought.
I'm not sure how I feel about a current book that is so much about "how a specific type of person should act", honestly. Certainly 20 or more years ago, I'd have understood it better, but I must admit confusion at Renee's feeling that she needs to look and act a certain way, because that is what Parisians expect of their concierges. That aside, it was really interesting that there in the midst of the social and academic elite, the concierge of their building was better read, more aware of art, and music, and film, than probably most of the people in the building for whom she "concierged".
I thought the author did a great job on both "voices". I believe her when she was writing as Paloma, and I believed her when she was Renee.
I also really liked the way Paloma's mind worked: The problem is that children believe what adults say and, once they're adults themselves, they exact their revenge by deceiving their own children. "Life has meaning and we grown-ups know what it is" is the universal lie that everyone is supposed to believe. Once you become an adult and you realize that's not true, it's too late. The mystery remains intact, but all your available energy has long ago been wasted on stupid things.
When people are discussing a book they've read that was translated from the original language and they make a comment about it being a "bad translation", I used to assume that that meant that they had read the book in its original language, and then the translated one. It never occurred to me that you might be able to tell it was a bad translation just by reading it. That said, I think this is a great translation. However, there were some things in it that just didn't ring true with me. Like this (nonetheless entertaining) description about Paloma's dad watching rugby:
I like to watch him roll up his shirtsleeves, take his shoes off and settle on the sofa with a beer and some salami, as though declaring, "Behold the man I also know how to be." Apparently it doesn't occur to him that one stereotype (very serious Minister of the Republic) plus another stereotype (Mr.-Nice-Guy-all-the-same who likes his cold beer) makes a stereotype raised to the power of two.
I get it, and can see the dad, and very much appreciate what she's saying. But the whole time I'm reading it, I'm thinking, "European men don't drink beer cold. That's for Americans." And then I know that the translator is an American. (total off-topic sidenote here: I liked the passage about the dad watching rugby more because we just recently watched the movie "Invictus")
Another passage I marked was when Renee gets real attention by a teacher at school. It's just beautiful and thoughtful writing. It's as if she'd never even been called by the name her parents had given her before:
We are mistaken to believe that our consciousness is awakened at the moment of our first birth - perhaps because we do not know how to imagine any other living state. It may seem to us that we have always seen and felt and, armed with this belief, we identify our entry into the world as the decisive instant where consciousness is born. The fact that for five years a little girl called Renee, a perfectly operational machine of perception blessed with sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, could have lived in a state of utter unawareness both of herself and of the univers, is proof if any were needed that such a hasty theory is wrong. For in order for consciousness to be aroused, it must have a name.
I wasn't totally sure how I felt about Renee until I found in her a kindred spirit:
But my frenzied devouring of cultural objects seems to me to suffer from a major error of taste: brutally mixing respectable works with others that are far less so.
It is most certainly in the domain of reading that my eclecticism is least pronounced, though even there the variety of my interests is most extreme. ...
Where the cinema is concerned, however, my eclecticism is in full flower. I like American blockbusters and art-house films. In fact, for a long time I preferred to watch entertaining British or American films, with the exception of a few serious works that I reserved for my esthetic sensibilities. ... I weep buckets of syrupy tears every time Melly and Mammy climb the stairway at the Butler mansion after Bonnie Blue dies; as for Blade Runner, it is a masterpiece of high-end escapism. For years my inevitable conclusion has been that films of the seventh art are beautiful, powerful and soporific, and that blockbuster movies are pointless, very moving, and immensely satisfying.
I love that "The Hunt for Red October" is a meaningful film to her. It's the first movie I ever saw in surround sound, and I loved it. Her note "all you need is Sean Connery in the uniform of a Russian submarine officer and a few well-placed aircraft carriers" made me shout, "Comrade!"
I have so many more spots in this book marked! I think I'll start culling and note that I loved loved loved the part about grammar and Renee's reaction to the note that said
Madame Michel, Would you be so kind as, to sign for the packages from the dry cleaner's this afternoon?
That the horribly out of place comma made her "collapse in shock on the nearest chair [and wonder if she'd gone mad:]" made me love her more. But this -- from Paloma -- made me love the author more: "And on the way home I thought: pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language."
I wanted a whole book on Monsieur Ozu, mostly because of this comment from Paloma about him: "So here is my profound thought for the day: this is the first time I have met someone who seeks out people and who sees beyond. That may seem trivial but I think it is profound all the same. We never look beyond our assumptions and, what's worse, we have given up trying to meet others; we just meet ourselves."
This book isn't for everyone, and I don't want to spoil it by saying more than I already have, but I loved it. Those who are well-read or well-travelled or like books that make them think will like this, but there are also some long philosophy parts in it that I was happy to skim. It's the kind of book I want to read again, soon, so I'll probably hang on to it for a while.
And also? "autodidact" didn't mean what I thought it meant. Fun to look it up and learn something new....more
First, I will never again wince at leg waxing! Let's start there. Second, because many people compare this to Memoirs of a Geisha, I'll just say thatFirst, I will never again wince at leg waxing! Let's start there. Second, because many people compare this to Memoirs of a Geisha, I'll just say that I Don't Think So. I read MoaG quite a while ago, and it wasn't my copy, so I never wrote a review of it, but what I remember of it is that 1. the whole time I was reading, I was thinking, "there are Japanese people who don't understand the geisha -- how can a Westernman know anything about it? and 2. there is nowhere near the amount of emotion in MoaG as this book.
This book is a very quick read, even though there are lots of parts where I wanted to put it down. It compelled me to return to it quickly and keep going. Clearly the life of a woman in China was hard, and if I'd been asked that before reading this book, I'd have answered in the affirmative. But this book sheds new light on "hard". And although I'm sure this book still romanticizes some of it, it's also a history lesson, and so well told that I didn't even feel like I was learning.
The relationships in this are ... fascinating and intricate, governed by rules, rules and more rules. They are heartbreaking and heartwarming, and even those ugly at heart are intriguing.
This story is told by Lily, starting with her earliest memories and following her entire life. The author paints word pictures you can see, weather you can feel, smells you can smell, friends you want to hug.
There are so many beautiful phrases and sayings in this -- things that grabbed me or moved me, or made me think -- that I'll just start with the opening line and leave it at that. Lily refers to herself as "one who has not yet died" when she is a widow at 80 years old. What a beautiful and depressing way to refer to someone who feels their life is over. I've always been a fan of strong women ("Steel Magnolias", anyone?), and Lily is the newest one on my list....more
I have said for years and years how much I like this book, but I realized when I started reading it on Sunday that I might not have picked it up sinceI have said for years and years how much I like this book, but I realized when I started reading it on Sunday that I might not have picked it up since 4th grade when I wanted to be called Meg! Is that possible? I think so.
After finishing it on Monday afternoon, I was talking to some girls that evening where I realized (yes, I was thinking out loud) that this book is loaded with advice -- marital advice, parenting advice, interpersonal relationships advice ... and it's all good. I mean seriously, I think everyone should read this book as a grownup! It's that good.
Having said that, I can't believe how much I cried whle re-reading this. I mean, I cried all the way through it! That was a little odd, and I wasn't prepared for it. Of course I was prepared for that part, but not so much the whole entire book!
Jo has always seemed to be a kindred spirit, for a variety of reasons, good and bad. Here's just one example of something we have in common: I like good strong words, that mean something she says. Me too!
I also like the way the author even teaches the reader how to be a good friend, in the midst of the joy of getting published: Jo's eyes sparkled, for it is always pleasant to be believed in, and a friend's praise is always sweeter than a dozen newspaper puffs. Thinking about something like this reminds me to be happy for my friends when they have good news to share.
When my dad died, a friend sent a book of quotes called Deeper than Tears. In it, Corrie ten Boom says, "There are moments when the suffering is so deep that one can hardly talk to a person. What a joy it is then to know that the Lord understands." So many times, I felt as if no one understood how I felt, but I could turn to God. Likewise, Alcott says: She could not speak, but she did "hold on," and the warm grasp of the friendly human hand comforted her sore heat, and seemed to lead her nearer to the Divine arm which alone could uphold her in her trouble.
I loved this commentary on wealth:
Wealth is certainly a most desirable thing, but poverty has its sunny side, and one of the sweet uses of adversity is the genuine satisfaction which comes from hearty work of head or hand; and to the inspiration of necessity, we owe half the wise, beautiful, and useful blessings of the world.
This might be my favorite part: Now, if she had been the heroine of a moral story-book, she ought at this period of her life to have become quite saintly, renounced the world, and gone about doing good in a mortified bonnet, with tracts in her pocket. But, you see, Jo wasn't a heroine; she was only a struggling human girl, like hundreds of others, and she just acted out her nature, being sad, cross, listless, or energetic, as the mood suggested.
I love this book. Love it. Everyone should read it....more
**spoiler alert** Good writing with totally random references that felt completely natural: in "translating" for Kat, "I tried to match the tone she u**spoiler alert** Good writing with totally random references that felt completely natural: in "translating" for Kat, "I tried to match the tone she used, so I didn't sound monotonous, but that felt odder still. I was reminded of my one acting experience, when I'd had a single line ('Yes! Truly, Lucy, what must Senator Gladwell think?') that had rung out of me like a proclamation instead of welling up naturally the way the better actors' lines did."
I love the way the lover of books (Kate) draws a non-reader (Bec) in: "I was afraid she would try to draw me into a discussion of literary theory, which I found incomprehensible when Liam talked about it. Instead she waited till I'd finished the novel and said, 'what did you think of Miss Quested? I always want to hit her.'"
And then Bec becomes a true foodie: "It was just starting to hit the brutally hot period of the summer, even first thing in the morning, but I didn't mind so much when I thought about the heat in terms of produce. (It was brought to my attention by Jill that this was unbearably geeky, but I stood by it.)"
I loved this: "A Neil Diamond song came on the jukebox and a general cheer went up among our friends, who had recently decided to find him cool."
There was definitely hope at the end, which I appreciated. It was weird to read this book, as it was the second in a row with death in it. Even stranger: it was the first book I ever read where someone dies and I didn't cry. For me? That's weird.
Last thoughts: I distrusted Eva from the start. The Lisa interaction was odd and confusing. It was like a confusing scene in a movie where you realize that something ended up on the cutting room floor. And after re-reading it multiple times, I still wasn't sure I understood the "This is me" part where the title came from....more
A story I've told more than a few times: when Mr. Solzhenitsyn died in 2008, I thought that an appropriate time to read this book. So I took it with mA story I've told more than a few times: when Mr. Solzhenitsyn died in 2008, I thought that an appropriate time to read this book. So I took it with me on a business trip (I found a receipt in the book from 8/19/2008) and read quite a bit of it with much interest. I was so wrapped up in the book, in fact, that I was surprised when I felt the plane begin to slow down. "Could we already be to Newark? Gosh, that seemed like a short trip." In fact, when I looked out the window, we were slowing down over Chicago. We flew out over Lake Michigan (I was convinced the pilot wanted to crash the plane in an unpopulated area) and circled all the way up to Milwaukee. Turns out we were burning up fuel before an emergency landing with more emergency vehicles than I have ever seen at a single airport. I knew it was scary when the man next to me pulled out his BlackBerry, turned it on (not even trying to hide it), and sent an "I love you" message to his wife and kids.
In the end, we landed safely, but I have learned that an emergency landing does not make for calm. And sadly, it turned me off this book. I've had it on my "currently reading" list ever since then, and from time to time picked it up to read a page or two, but then put it down due to lack of interest. And here's the thing about me (for which my friend Karm said I need counselling): there are some books I Just. Will. Not. Stop. Reading. For one thing, I was halfway through it. And I had liked (?) what I had read up until the point I thought I was going to die. For another thing, I subscribe to the theory that some books and movies are just important. You know? It's just important that we read them - to know, to learn ... so we don't forget, and always remember. I call these books "principle books". And so it was for all these reasons (and more) that I thought I should finish this. I mean, these people lived and died in the Gulag, for crying out loud. Certainly I could read about it in my comfy chair in my comfy home.
So I thought that once I finally finished, my book review would literally be "I'm done!" Or I might possibly write a few words on people who say "The Ukraine" vs. "Ukraine" (this book says "The Ukraine" but when my parents lived there, they were taught "Ukraine", and at book club the other night, one of the girls brilliantly deduced that it used to be a region, and this was probably written during that time; hence "the"). One other thing to fill a book review -- a word that neither Google nor my dictionary recognized! I even blogged about "gaybisty" here (note to self: when you come across a word you don't recognize, check the translator's notes at the back of the book first).
Anyway, I hadn't marked anything in the book (other than "gaybisty") of note for a review until I got to this text:
Let history say how true or untrue that reproach is. However, no one paid for hunger strikes so much and so grievously as the Trotskyites. (We will come to their hunger strikes and their strikes in camps in Part III.)
... and all I could think was, "despite your brilliantly worded 'teaser', I'm still not reading the rest of this! When I'm done with this book, I'm DONE!" But something happened shortly after that. I became interested again. I'm as surprised as you are! But I did become more invested in the book. I'll never say I loved it, or foist it on someone by telling them they must read it, but I made my peace with it. The surprising part about becoming interested in it again is that I then -- as per usual -- started marking spots I wanted to quote later.
In discussing the prisoner-transport convoys, how people were divided up, etc., he makes this observation (which I have no idea if it is true, but nonetheless is something to ponder): "After all, was it because Pontius Pilate wanted to humiliate him that Christ was crucified between two thieves? It just happened to be crucifixion day that day -- and there was only one Golgotha, and time was short. And so he was numbered with the transgressors."
In the discussion of hiding large groups of people from those not imprisoned, I found this passage extremely moving:
The preparation of the train has been completed -- and ahead lies the complicated combat operation of loading the prisoners into the cars. At this point there are two important and obligatory objectives: 1. to conceal the loading from ordinary citizens 2. to terrorize the prisoners
To conceal the loading from the local population was necessary because approximately a thousand people were being loaded on the train simultaneously (at least twenty-five cars), and this wasn't your little group from a Stolypin that could be led right past the townspeople. Everyone knew of course, that arrests were being made every day and every hour, but no one was to be horrified by the sight of large numbers of them together. In Orel in 1938 you could hardly hide the fact that there was no home in the city where there hadn't been arrests, and weeping women in their peasant carts blocked the square in front of the Orel Prison ... But you don't need to show our Soviet people an entire trainload of them collected in one day.
And then there is a simple quote in the midst of the description of people wanting to get from the train (miserable) to the camp (surely it will be better!): "A human being is all hope and impatience." Loved that!
I follow that with one of the most sad quotes in the book. He is talking about a group of prisoners from Minusinsk - he doesn't/can't even identify the year more than it was sometime in the 1940s, and he describes them having been deprived of fresh air for a whole year ... followed by being forced to walk in formation for FIFTEEN miles on foot to Abakan. He says, "About a dozen of them died along the way. And no one is ever going to write a great novel about it, not even one chapter" Because (and this breaks my heart): if you live in a graveyard, you can't weep for everyone.
So now I'm done -- finally -- and honestly? Even though I said I wasn't going to read volume or part III or whatever it's called, I might. I'm glad to have read this, and probably the biggest surprise was his sarcastic sense of humor. But now I'm done and I'd be lying if I didn't say I was THRILLED!...more
From the back of the book: A young girl from a Brazilian village, Maria's first innocent brushes with love leave her heart-broken, convincing her at aFrom the back of the book: A young girl from a Brazilian village, Maria's first innocent brushes with love leave her heart-broken, convincing her at a tender age that "love is a terrible thing that will make you suffer." When a chance meeting in Rio takes her to Geneva, she dreams of finding fame and fortune. Instead, she ends up working as a prostitute. Drifting farther and farther away from love, she develops a fascination with sex. But her despairing view of love will be put to the test when she meets a handsome young painter and must choose between pursuing a path of darkness -- sexual pleasure for its own sake -- or risking everything to find her own inner "light" and the possibility of a "sacred" sex in the context of love.
This was one of the most odd books I've ever read. It made me think a lot, but it also made me feel awful for Maria. ...more