I very much admired this book, and I still think about it, which would garner 5 stars...except that it didn't seat itself within my heart. More plus iI very much admired this book, and I still think about it, which would garner 5 stars...except that it didn't seat itself within my heart. More plus illustration here. http://liliannattel.com/fifteen-dogs-......more
Ursula Mahlendorf was born the same year as my mother. They were kids during WW2, teenagers by the end of it. While my mother was in a concentration cUrsula Mahlendorf was born the same year as my mother. They were kids during WW2, teenagers by the end of it. While my mother was in a concentration camp, she was in Hitler Youth--so you can imagine the personal interest I bring to it. I found it a gripping memoir, as much for her personal story before, during and after the war as for its perspective on indoctrination and subsequent guilt.
Mahlendorf's writing is lucid and evocative. I came to the memoir to find out more about the BDM, the teenage girls' branch of Hitler Youth. But ultimately what kept me riveted to the book is her personal story, and her ability to bring it to life layered with reflections of her older self.
She grew up to become a pacifist, left-leaning, pluralistic professor of literature and feminist studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. I would have liked to know more about how that change occurred. For example, she mentions that she came to know holocaust survivors personally--I'd have liked to hear how she related to them and how that affected her as well as them.
Having said all that, the memoir is gripping for what it is: the story of a determined and highly intelligent girl living through the Nazi era in a single parent household. She was neglected by a mother who drank and partied when she wasn't consumed by the demands of survival, and Mahlendorf had little love from any quarter after her grandmother's death. The only thing that gave her a sense of belonging was Hitler Youth until she discovered that it was based on hateful lies. And yet, despite betrayal and rage at the way she was shaped, she re-shaped herself in an image of her choosing. ...more
Written in the early 50's, Excellent Womenis almost excellent and certainly very good. The narrator, Mildred Lathbury, is a 30 year old spinster whose
Written in the early 50's, Excellent Womenis almost excellent and certainly very good. The narrator, Mildred Lathbury, is a 30 year old spinster whose calm life doing good at church and at a society dedicated to the assistance of impoverished gentlewomen, is disrupted by the arrival of tumultuous neighbours who move into the flat below hers.
Helen Napier is a messy, cigarette smoking academic. Her husband Rocky (short for Rockingham) is a handsome, debonair naval officer whose service consisted of arranging the social life of his superior in picturesque Italy. Their marriage is on the rocks (pun intended), each of them appealing to Miss Lathbury, as an excellent woman, to clean up their messes, figuratively and literally.
This is the thrust of the novel, a depiction of single women as, despite sometime loneliness and a yearning for love, the cleaners-up and protectors of civil society, the proof-readers and index makers of books and life.
Clear-sighted and brutally honest with herself, Miss Lathbury is tactful with others and a witty narrative voice as she comments on herself, her neighbours, the vicar who is ensared by the lovely and mysterious widow, his flappable sister, or the stiffly reserved anthropologist Everard Bone.
I wanted the ending to be different, feeling the author had led me a merry dance, and closed the book with a tiny harrumph. But I still enjoyed it thoroughly. Reading about Barbara Pym in Wikipedia, I can see why she ended it as she did--without giving too much away, I'll just say it's based on personal experience.
Sadly, after a successful early career she wasn't able to get her books published for 14 years, from 1963 to 1977, until more famous writers (including Philip Larkin) championed her work. I'm glad to know that the last few years of her life saw the publication and positive reception of several new books.
Excellent Women is a delightful read for a grey day.
This is a beautiful, heart-breaking, and ultimately redemptive novel about an Ojibway (Anishnabeg) man's journey from childhood in the bush to his und
This is a beautiful, heart-breaking, and ultimately redemptive novel about an Ojibway (Anishnabeg) man's journey from childhood in the bush to his undoing in residential school, experiences in the Native hockey league and in an NHL farm team, his subsequent alcoholism and recovery.
It is a narrative as familiar as the Cultural Revolution stories among Chinese writers or holocaust stories among Jewish writers, ie an individual exploration of a collective trauma. They are all important, even if not all equally literary. This one is so skilled and honest. I want to say brilliant because it shines: Wagamese's narrative is one I couldn't put down.
I read Wagamese's blog, and have always been taken with the strength of his writing as well as the truths expressed by it, which is why I picked up Indian Horse when I was recently at Book City with my children. I wasn't disappointed. The writing was so strong and beautiful, I hated to put it down, which I had to, say, in order to sleep and have a family dinner in my honour (birthday). Yesterday I spent two hours in the tub (my favourite spot for reading) until I finished it.
I loved the sections about hockey, not only because I skate and one of my kids plays hockey, but because I could identify as a writer with the joy of a passion tainted by outside forces and then recovered in its purity. I also related (unfortunately) to the journey to overcome the legacy of abuse, not only of the body, but the relentless pursuit of the spirit. But as a writer, I also admired and was impressed by the economy and beauty of the writing, which brought me to tears.
The shameful treatment by Europeans of First Nations in Canada is spoken about and examined far, far less than that of African-Americans in the U.S. And yet my own city, the largest in Canada, for example, was acquired through deceit as a "purchase" from the Mississauga people. The deed, which they signed under a misapprehension of the terms, was blank. There are centuries of dislocation to account for, first due to disease, subsequently due to being pushed back and back to smaller, more remote and more barren areas of land. There is the devastation of the residential schools, generations of children being torn from their families by white authorities and forced into residential schools where their language and customs were outlawed, where abuse was rampant, and even basic accommodations like adequate food and health care lacking. Then there was the 1960s scoop, where Native babies were scooped up without informed, if any, consent in large numbers for adoption by families hardly prepared or able to nurture their resilience or pride. Add to that systematic poverty and racism, and the prevalence of alcoholism is hardly surprising. Mortality and disease rates are higher, life expectancy lower. To this day many reservations lack clean water and adequate housing, not to mention access to health care and education.
I don't know why this isn't more in the forefront of our national consciousness. Indian Horse is a terrific novel, on any account, but it also addresses an important subject. And to me this is one of the primary purposes of fiction. It is a quick read at only 220 pages. Make it one you pick up.
A tiny taste from the opening page:
My people are from the Fish Clan of the northern Ojibway, the Anishnabeg, we call ourselves. We made our home in the territories along the Winnipeg River, where the river opens wide before crossing into Manitoba after it leaves Lake of the Woods and the rugged spine of northern Ontario. They say that our cheekbones are cut from those granite ridges that rise above our homeland...Our talk rolls and tumbles like the rivers that served as our roads. Our legends tell of how we emerged from the womb of our Mother the Earth; Aki is the name we have for her. We sprang forth intact, with Aki's heartbeat thrumming in our ears, prepared to become her stewards and protectors.
The Buried Giant is a different book from Ishiguro's previous ones, and that's something I admired before I read it. But it was an interview I saw witThe Buried Giant is a different book from Ishiguro's previous ones, and that's something I admired before I read it. But it was an interview I saw with him that made me pick it up. By that time, I'd already forgotten what The Buried Giant was about, but I was touched and impressed by what he said about taking 10 years to write it: that there are enough books in the world already, and he wants to be sure that everything he writes is a contribution, however small, to the existing body of literature.
This book is. It's not The Remains of The Day. It's an allegory, a fable. Ishiguro wanted to write about memory and devastating ethnic conflicts, and had considered writing about something within his own memory, but decided against that approach because he didn't want the conversation to be about the particulars of Yugoslavia or Rwanda. So instead he set the story in the historical gap between Roman and early medieval Britain, in the echo of Arthur's days.
It's the story of an elderly couple searching for their son and their past, encountering knights, monks, warriors, and an elderly dragon who has saved and seared the mental landscape.
I loved this book. It's not showy but it's loving, honest, gentle and unflinching about the best and worst of being human, of passion, of what memory gives us and how it drives us. ...more
Excellent collection from early 19th century to late 20th with interesting and thoughtful intros. I liked it so much I want to make notes on some of tExcellent collection from early 19th century to late 20th with interesting and thoughtful intros. I liked it so much I want to make notes on some of the writers. Zoshchenko was hilarious, Platonov moving, Shalomov on the Gulag, no adjective will serve....more
I love this book. It takes visual story to a whole new plane. It's about time, place, echoes and dissimilarity. It's brilliant. I want everyone I knowI love this book. It takes visual story to a whole new plane. It's about time, place, echoes and dissimilarity. It's brilliant. I want everyone I know to read it so we can discuss....more
I liked the writing a lot. Whiny, drunk adolescents are not my preferred protagonists. I am not a Holden Caulfield fan. But, for reasons mysterious toI liked the writing a lot. Whiny, drunk adolescents are not my preferred protagonists. I am not a Holden Caulfield fan. But, for reasons mysterious to me, and besides the very good (most of the time, and sometimes shockingly so) writing, I didn't want to put the book down. And yet I was unmoved. I wanted to know what would happen though I wasn't invested in the characters not did it feel like the magical worlds were real. It was all play, clever play, well wrought....more
This is the first book in many years that I wanted to read again as soon as I finished it. The language! It is so very beautiful. I thought, again, hoThis is the first book in many years that I wanted to read again as soon as I finished it. The language! It is so very beautiful. I thought, again, how we aren't done with the world wars, no matter how much has been written, because the trauma is so large, it is still rumbling through the generations. This one is about a blind girl in France and a German boy from a mining town who has a talent for radio. But what it's really about is expressing human experience in language that reminds me why we read and why we write: a picture is not worth a thousand words, not when the words convey sound, smell, taste, touch, and the needs of the human heart. I borrowed it from the library. I have to get my own copy....more