Sarah Laing has a particular skill for observing the small details of characters and settings that make them both complex, believable and unforgettablSarah Laing has a particular skill for observing the small details of characters and settings that make them both complex, believable and unforgettable. I felt as though Rudy, the architect at the centre of this wonderful novel, might be someone I once knew - rather than a character I met in the pages of a book.
Many years ago I lived at the coast near Auckland and rode my Vespa in to the cute shop where I worked in Ponsonby. I even had an architect boyfriend who struggled to reconcile his artistic visions with commercial limitations and also rode a Vespa. So Rudy's world is eerily familiar to me and I loved being transported there so convincingly. I also loved the dream-like illustrations, which evoked another world I've lived in and loved, the deserts and souqs of the Middle East. Highly recommended. ...more
I actually didn't read this book. I listened to a fabulous reading of it on my iPod and got completely absorbed in Jacob's story to the point where II actually didn't read this book. I listened to a fabulous reading of it on my iPod and got completely absorbed in Jacob's story to the point where I resented the intrusion of the rest of life into my listening time. ...more
I liked many things about this novel - some of Zadie Smith's sentences are drop dead gorgeous and the adult characters in this novel are engaging, flaI liked many things about this novel - some of Zadie Smith's sentences are drop dead gorgeous and the adult characters in this novel are engaging, flawed and emotionally convincing. But - despite the author's youth - the younger characters didn't convince me at all. Levi and his friends, in particular, felt like a collage of media stereotypes. In the balance there was more that I enjoyed about 'On Beauty' so I would still recommend it....more
One of Doris's favorites. I also think Barbara Kingsolver is a great writer. I love her short stories and thought that Prodigal Summer was stunning. IOne of Doris's favorites. I also think Barbara Kingsolver is a great writer. I love her short stories and thought that Prodigal Summer was stunning. I am never really happier than when in the midst of a bit of wilderness myself and Kingsolver writes about plants, animals, insects and birds with a passion and wonder that I can absolutely relate to.
But "The Poisonwood Bible" was special for more reasons than that. My dad grew up as a missionary kid in Africa - and we read this book as a whole family - one after the other - one summer at the beach. It stimulates great discussions with Dad about the ethics of the missionary approach and generally triggered memories and stories that we hadn't heard before. This novel is a challenging read - it doesn't skirt around the tricky issues about the missionary endeavour, but nor does it take the easy road and simply lampoon the whole thing. For me there are interesting parallels with the 'humanitarian' effort.
I'd recommend it highly and be interested to read it again actually. I'm sure I'd find new things in it now....more
It took me a while to find a way in to writing a review of this wonderful book. I felt that the fact that the author is one of my most treasured frienIt took me a while to find a way in to writing a review of this wonderful book. I felt that the fact that the author is one of my most treasured friends might be influencing my objectivity and yet, I knew that this was a great book. It is a good read, but I also think it is an important book, one that challenges the reader to face unpleasant truths about our flawed human nature and one that addresses a question that I believe we each must answer for ourselves in the face of the terrible injustice in this world.
Part of the strength of this book comes from Rachael's ability to write characters who, despite their many flaws, are compellingly real and who somehow elicit our empathy. In these characters we see something of ourselves and - most importantly to me - we are forced to confront the choices we ourselves make to either remain silent or to speak out.
For me this is the heart of "The Sound of Butterflies", the terrifying choice to speak the truth. As a human rights lawyer I may have read my own story into Thomas's but whether or not other readers see it I was struck by the accuracy with which Rachael describes the paralysing burden of knowing unbearably terrible things.
Here in Afghanistan I struggle with the temptation to stop trying to communicate the terrible things I see here to those I love, I consider choosing silence. In this context "TSOB" strikes me as being one of the very few novels I have ever come across that explores this very struggle, and I wonder whether it shouldn't be recommended reading for the many stay-at-home partners of humanitarian workers.
By the way: I feel all the more confident in my assessment of "The Sound of Butterflies" now that it won the NZSA Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction. Here is what one of the experts from the judging panel had to say ‘Rachael King’s strength is her rich, lush and sensuous prose; she has a forte for depicting characters we feel compelled to empathise with,’ says Dr Millar.
Yeah - what she said (actually I had come up with the point about empathy all by myself!). Because really, what good would a novel set in the rich, lush and sensous setting of the Amazon river at the turn of the 19th century is the author writing it couldn't rise to the occasion with prose that was rich, lush and sensous enough to transport us all there. ...more