I did not expect myself to enjoy this book at all, knowing next to nothing about the circus except for the rare trips as a child, but I loved it. Ever...moreI did not expect myself to enjoy this book at all, knowing next to nothing about the circus except for the rare trips as a child, but I loved it. Every scene was interesting, leading me from surprise, relief, and gratuity in a few pages' time. I especially enjoyed the present-time chapters, as the narrator is interrupted between his reflections on his life. The story is comprised of a cast of fascinating characters with their own back stories - all of it is balanced well and after the intros, the reader is swept into the world the narrator has grown to love, and miss.
The author makes this whirlwind of delightful performances and intrigue worth it. A ride you can't afford to miss.(less)
Oh, the difficulty of giving praise to a novel I enjoyed rather than criticizing one I disliked! I've...moreWhat to say about this book? Who is Robert Ross?
Oh, the difficulty of giving praise to a novel I enjoyed rather than criticizing one I disliked! I've previously read Timothy Findley's The Piano Man's Daughter and honestly don't remember much about it at all. It just wasn't that memorable to me - all I know is that I didn't love or hate it. I vaguely remember the plot, but I don't feel like giving it a re-read to find out more. Disappointment.
And that's why I was so surprised to find out that this book, recommended by a friend, was by the same author. My CanLit knowledge is sadly lacking, I know.
The Wars is seemingly a novel about finding out the Who? question. Who is Robert Ross? Who is the narrator? But as you read on, it answers others as well, and raises more. The reader is taken on a journey back in time, all the way to the First World War, to discover the life of Robert Ross and just why he's where he is at the end of the story, wherever that is. It's a mere distraction from the fact that this novel documents the things great and small that make up the various characters of the war, from the soldiers to the tactics, from the friendships made, and the ones lost amidst the trenches.
Timothy Findley writes with visceral images in mind. You taste, touch, hear, smell...instead of just seeing the battles, you feel them. The main reason I found it hard to believe that it's the same author was how perfect this novel was written for a re-read. Timelines shift seamlessly, segments of Ross' life will appear then fade in the background as the war takes precedent again, and it's all muddled, ready for another discovery as we dive right back in the next time. Nothing is ever completely clear, but it makes no difference because there's always something new each time.
Such an imperative book to read. No surprise it's a classic. (less)
"Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought."
What...more"Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought."
What a heartwarming novel.
I was initially weary about starting this because it's been on my library queue for over a year now. The film's been made and I saw the trailer before I even picked up a copy. There's always a sense of buildup, the potential to be disappointed in a book that everyone's seemed to read and loved, but this was not the case.
The Help takes place in Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960s, switching the perspectives of two black maids (and best friends), Aibileen and Minny, and Skeeter, a young white woman who feels trapped living in her childhood home with her parents after graduating from college. She wants to write but has no idea where to begin, as her friends have all chosen the marrying route and leaves her the odd one out, constantly under the pressure to find a husband. With the disappearance of her childhood maid Constantine and one thing leading to the other, Skeeter finds herself taking initiative: gathering the voices of the maids working in Jackson and telling their stories.
The story started off a bit slow, but I found that by the middle I was very much attached to each character, realizing how established they were with their own beliefs and conflicts. Aibileen's love for her son and Mae Mo, Minny's strength in her stubbornness, and Skeeter's naivety developing into confidence are of equal importance in the novel. It was all very well balanced. Unexpected moments made me laugh right out loud and seemingly every interaction between Mae Mo (Baby Girl) and Aibileen (Aibee) made me melt. Not ashamed to say a few tears were shed at certain points as well.
Kathryn Stockett's end notes makes this story more poignant. I like that she acknowledged how difficult it is to even attempt to speak for a maid, being aware of her position of privilege, and frankly, I thought this was a commendable effort. I would recommend this to anyone who asks - a memorable read where I couldn't flip the pages fast enough in the last half. Two-slice Hilly was creeping on the back of my mind, I'll tell you that.(less)
"Every happiness is a bright ray between shadows, every gaiety bracketed by grief. There is no birth that does not recall a death, no victory but brin...more"Every happiness is a bright ray between shadows, every gaiety bracketed by grief. There is no birth that does not recall a death, no victory but brings to mind a defeat."
Geraldine Brooks writes with such ease. I think sentences like those shown above were the reason why I took a longer time than usual to finish this incredible novel. This story is told in the voice of Bethia Mayfield, but the words encompasses much more than the life of this spirited young woman, beyond the ideas of a select few, by stimulating the senses and allowing us to travel back hundreds of years.
It's an intriguing premise for a novel, the first Native American graduating from Harvard College in 1665, one that is based on scant records, leaving Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk with mysteries. The afterword and the notes there are very helpful in realizing the differences between this fictional account and what is known of Caleb's life. Some things can only be guessed at, and I was a bit doubtful having learned that Bethia did not exist, her being the voice to tell Caleb's story, but Geraldine Brooks casted aside all doubts by the time I finished. The research put into this novel is impeccable, and I don't need any further persuasion to read her other works.
I grew very attached to many of the characters. Bethia was an admirable female character, and it was easy to understand her hopes and fears as a woman desiring an education, but struggling to break the ties, bounding her to family and her faith. Caleb seen through her eyes leaves a bit left to the imagination, a clever tactic since there is much we do not know about the real man, but the friendship between the two is entirely believable, from the lessons they teach each other, and in turn, the doubts they each cast upon their beliefs.
In all honesty, this novel started a bit slow but the writing only strengthens. From one page to the next, I found myself mentally highlighting certain passages, from dialogues to Bethia's inner thoughts - her initial questionings of her father's teachings after meeting Caleb are a delight to revisit. It's refreshing to have such a strong female character, with understandable weaknesses, fit for the times she lived in, but still possessing a drive that is an inspiration to the audience, even if we are living in the 21st century. It makes no difference.
I've only just finished reading this and the effect it's had is still settling in, heart's reeling. A definite recommend.(less)
I had to borrow this from the library a second time because for some reason couldn't bring myself to finishing the last half of the novel...moreWhat a story.
I had to borrow this from the library a second time because for some reason couldn't bring myself to finishing the last half of the novel, so there was a bit of a wait in between. It was well worth the effort because I became so involved in the characters that I almost didn't want to read the rest in fear of what would happen to them. The emotional connections were made without me realizing it.
Andras Levi, the second of three brothers (Tibor and Matyas), born in a small Hungarian town, has accepted a scholarship to study architecture at l'Ecole Speciale in Paris. It is 1937, and the tale begins with his older brother, Tibor, taking him out to see the opera for their last night in Budapest. These two have been living together in the city after completing high school; Tibor is waiting to attend medical school but is put on a waiting list because he is a foreign student. Their youngest brother, Matyas, is still living with his parents back in the tiny village of Konyar. Right away the amount of research that Julie Orringer has put into this is evident - we are given a surreal glimpse of the surroundings through the architectural eyes of Andras, and it is a delight. A chance encounter with the elder Mrs. Hasz adds a sense of intrigue to Andras' trip. He is to deliver a letter to a C. Morgenstern once he arrives in Paris, and this seemingly small favour sets the story in motion.
Andras couldn't speak. He let out a long breath and looked down at the smooth concrete of the platform, where travel stickers had adhered in multinational profusion. Germany. Italy. France. The tie to his brother felt visceral, vascular, as though they were linked at the chest; the idea of boarding a train to be taken away from him seemed as wrong as ceasing to breathe. The train whistle blew.
The novel follows Andras' journey as a naive student beginning his studies at the school, unsure whether or not he is worthy of such a position among his fellow classmates, to the friendships he makes with memorable characters such as Rosen, Yakov, & Polaner (who was personally my favourite), against the backdrop of a Europe on the verge of war, the ever-present danger of Hitler's regime looming behind it all. At times, the details may get tedious, but mostly I enjoyed how thorough Orringer was with her writing, which was not merely meticulous but rather beautiful. This is quite the expansive tale, but I won't give the timeline for when it ends, for fear of spoilers.
I was enraptured. This is a definite recommendation from me.(less)
I was stunned by this novel. As a Vietnamese Canadian, unfortunately I've never delved into Vietnam's past on my father's side of...moreAbsolutely beautiful.
I was stunned by this novel. As a Vietnamese Canadian, unfortunately I've never delved into Vietnam's past on my father's side of the family. After reading this, I have a newfound spark to discover more through books and first-person accounts of their experiences. And being in this situation, I sympathized with Maggie, who is on a journey to find out who her father was after their separation, but is labelled as an outside I've come to care about all the characters in this novel: Old Man Hung, whose enthusiasm for truly good phở I can appreciate (a trait I find in my own father), Bình and his quiet dedication to his family, Tu, carrying the hopes as the 'new generation,' Lan and her past with Hung, and even Phương, with his dreams to become a rapper.
The humour found in this novel are delights because they speak simple truths, like Tu's inner advice to tourists that want to mend the past with Vietnam (spend lots of money here!), that he keeps hidden as he smiles and nods as he takes them on special tours. Bình and Tu's loyalty to Old Man Hung is also evident whenever they criticize other phở places down to the very last drop, much to the dismay of the owner who can hear everything they're saying, as they're sitting there as customers!
I've begun to venture into Canadian fiction and I find that often times, authors seem to be limited by the label. It is a fact that we are a young country, and perhaps it is rather difficult to spin expansive historical tales, which I've found to be disappointing because I consider works of a Canadian author to be Canadian fiction. Maybe it's a very simplistic view of the literary world, but I don't believe the label should restrict the geographical means of a good story, especially living in a country where we unconsciously interact with so many different cultures on a daily basis.
This is one incredible read, and whether or not you have had the experience of visiting Vietnam (as I must one day), I should hope you appreciate the tips for knowing a good bowl of phở found here. If I've learned anything from my father, it's that truly amazing broth should engulf you in its aroma as the bowl of phở arrives in front of you. May you all find that bowl that you wouldn't mind having to start your day, 365 days of the year.;)(less)