After A Long Way Home, his harrowing memoir of life as a child soldier, Ishmael Beah writes this haunting novel filled which illustrates the persevera...moreAfter A Long Way Home, his harrowing memoir of life as a child soldier, Ishmael Beah writes this haunting novel filled which illustrates the perseverance of hope and tradition. Seven years after the Sierra Leone civil war ravished their town, the inhabitants of Imperi return to bury their dead and reestablish their community. Several standout characters emerge in their attempt to establish a school and reinstate the values they held as a people before being scattered and losing most of their families. The appearance of a mining company, ruthless in its methods, proves to be more of an undoing than even the rebel forces.
But it is the language that Beah incorporates, his use of native idiom, that makes this novel sing. He continues to work on behalf of children of Africa, attempting to prevent what happened to him from besetting children of today. His continued efforts on behalf of UNICEF lead him into the Central African Republic, placing him in danger despite the fact that he is married and a father himself now, planning on returning to Sierra Leone with his family. His belief in the power of tradition is strong. His eloquence, undeniable.(less)
What a good read! Wyld tells Jake's story in two time frames -- the present as straightforward narrative with the backstory being told in reverse, Bet...moreWhat a good read! Wyld tells Jake's story in two time frames -- the present as straightforward narrative with the backstory being told in reverse, Betrayal-style. Finding how Jake ends up in the situation she finds herself is a tantalizing conundrum if not exactly a mystery, and the resolution is satisfying and appropriate. I plan on reading her first book once I can shake the thrill of this one. (less)
Ten years ago, Sarah Bird's Yokota Officer's Club was one of my favorite books. She returns to the world she knows well, that of being a military depe...moreTen years ago, Sarah Bird's Yokota Officer's Club was one of my favorite books. She returns to the world she knows well, that of being a military dependent, with this stunning, original, illuminating and multi layered story. Two fifteen-year-old girls, both living in Okinawa 70 years apart, form the nexus of a complex, beautifully realized story, encompassing the grief, beauty and turbulent history of Okinawa. Okinawa was a colony of Japan, with its own traditions, language, and strong spiritual connections. The blurb above best describes the plot, so I won't go further except to say this is a great read.(less)
This is one of those dive-right-in and enjoy kinds of books. Gorgeous writing, sympathetic central characters, WWII. It is not a romanticized WWII, an...moreThis is one of those dive-right-in and enjoy kinds of books. Gorgeous writing, sympathetic central characters, WWII. It is not a romanticized WWII, and the kind of book that make you remember why you loved to read.(less)
If you are looking for a showbiz insider memoir with dish and gossip, look elsewhere. This is a memoir in the truest sense of the world, a journey of...moreIf you are looking for a showbiz insider memoir with dish and gossip, look elsewhere. This is a memoir in the truest sense of the world, a journey of one of the entertainment world's most original, engaging and talented members. I have always been a fan of the professional Alan Cumming -- admiring of his chameleon-like adaptation to his roles, his ability to take on anything. Usually with a twinkle in his eye, but with an aura of vulnerability that somehow makes it through that glint. Who could portray MacBeth and then go right into the emcee of Cabaret with barely a moment's rest between. Add to that the manipulative, complex and totally loyal character of Eli Gold. So when did he have time during this past busy year to pen a memoir of such honesty, depth, and style? Most think of him, so he describes himself, as an elf in a middle aged man's body. This book is a revelation, not of inconsequential pap, but substance and what he holds in his deepest heart. Thank you, Mr. Cumming. (less)
The danger with reading other reviews before writing one's own comes with fear of repetition of another's opinion, even if a thought had arisen indepe...moreThe danger with reading other reviews before writing one's own comes with fear of repetition of another's opinion, even if a thought had arisen independently. Almost everything I have to remark on regarding this novel has already been said. With that being said, here goes -- Lucky Us starts very strong, introducing Eve, narrator of most of the book. She is 12, looks younger, and despite her fierce intellect, continues to do so throughout. Her mother and she are the "other family" of a man, well established, with a wife, professorship, and older daughter. Upon that wife's death, Eve finds herself being unceremoniously dumped in that household, and in the middle of an adventure. The story advances in a picaresque fashion, as Eve and her half sister move to Hollywood and beyond, gathering extended family along the way. It is never clear how some of these events are made to proceed, except to provide background for the characters and their development. Which is why I gave this novel only 3 stars. The World War II era is viewed as if through a lens, idealized in many ways that fail to come to life. Typical of authors who have not actually lived in the era, only read about it. Still, it is a sweet book in many ways, and good for reading on hot summer nights.(less)
Geoff Dyer writes like no one else, although comparisons have been made to Italo Calvino's hallucinatory style. Dyer himself credits Calvino for inspi...moreGeoff Dyer writes like no one else, although comparisons have been made to Italo Calvino's hallucinatory style. Dyer himself credits Calvino for inspiration, but his work is entirely his own. The Search was written in 1993, and he himself makes note of the fact that it is definitely set in a pre-digital world which makes a novel of detection retro. I was first aware of the liberties he takes with geography with the remark that Walker, his protagonist, sets off on his search by crossing the Bay Bridge and heading up the Coast. That is not possible without a little finagling. I thought it was an error in research, but as we follow Walker through an unrecognizable America, we come to realize it was only the first leg of a journey that just gets weirder and more intriguing as it progresses, more David Lynch in tone. Yes, there is a plot with a dishy dame and scary bad guys, but it is a testament to the joy of reading and imagination. I can only read his books sporadically since they provide such a richness of experience, but Dyer delivers and I'll wait a while to pick up another.(less)
Barry continues to be one of Ireland's most poetic writers. Every page holds a gem that almost makes the reader lose track of the plot, just to revel...moreBarry continues to be one of Ireland's most poetic writers. Every page holds a gem that almost makes the reader lose track of the plot, just to revel in the beauty of language ("How is it that for some people drinking is a short-term loan on the spirit, but for others a heavy mortgage on the soul?")
The Temporary Gentleman is Jack McNulty, an unreliable narrator who is trying in 1957 to make sense of his life from Accra, where he suffers from malaria and from his lifelong battle with the bottle. He is attempting to honestly chronicle the missteps he has made in life, most notably those against his free spirited wife, Mai, who he virtually abandoned for great swaths of time both accountable and non-. Sligo will forever be homebase for the McNultys and their relatives, wherever they go, in this case, Jack's returns to Africa. Characters featured in former works make appearances, most notably Roseanne, whose story is central to The Sacred Scripture, and Jack's brother Eneas. I love the way this guy writes.(less)
Poor Ike (pronounced E-Kay). After making his way from his native Nigeria, he manages to settle in the US and even get a degree in economics from a pr...morePoor Ike (pronounced E-Kay). After making his way from his native Nigeria, he manages to settle in the US and even get a degree in economics from a prestigious college. But on graduation, finds he has to drive a cab to make ends meet since he can't land a job in his field. With insurmountable debts increasing expotentially, and having his meager resources gutted by his greedy, mercurial ex-wife, he concocts an audacious plot to steal his village wargod to sell to a tony Greenwich Village gallery dealing in totemic figures sacred to foreign tribes. With this as a framework, Ndibe explores heavy issues such as the struggle for immigrants, no matter how high their qualifications, for acceptance, and the distorted perception of life in America of those in other countries. A scene that actually had me both laughing and cringing involved villagers in Nigeria watching a Bulls basketball game from the mid-90's, admiring Michael Jordan not for his beauty and skill of playing, but for the fact that he brings down pots of money just for "throwing a ball through a hoop." This is fiction at its best -- thought provoking and intuitive. There was only one misstep that I could see (will not reveal due to possibly being spoiler), which kept this from a solid 5 star rating.(less)
Set against the trauma of 9/11, this novel deals with the effect of that world changing catastrophe on two ordinary people. Natasha and Michael meet a...moreSet against the trauma of 9/11, this novel deals with the effect of that world changing catastrophe on two ordinary people. Natasha and Michael meet and each sees in the other a chance for redemption. Both have reached pivotal points in their lives and are dealing with unresolved baggage. I disagree with other assessments that these people are unlikeable -- I found them to be wholly human in their flaws and reactions. Bausch examines the heart of each in depth, a remarkable feat given their situations. Auxiliary characters provide richness of detail, and I particularly liked Bausch's portrait of Michael's father who was against his choosing the ministry and continues to taunt his faith. Some characters seem to only provide vehicles for plot advancement, but for the most part, they ring true. There was only one major flaw in the plot that stymied me -- in order for Michael to be in New York and downtown near the Twin Towers, he was planning to attend a wedding. Who plans a major church wedding on a Tuesday? (less)
Richard Flanagan gives an enigmatic title to his justifiably award-winning novel, which is explained deep within its pages. The lives of men thrown to...moreRichard Flanagan gives an enigmatic title to his justifiably award-winning novel, which is explained deep within its pages. The lives of men thrown together by war's circumstance anchored by one horrific prisoner of war day in 1943 in Siam. When men are no longer recognizable as the individuals they were not so long ago, but subject to "...the terrifying force that takes hold of individuals, groups, nations, and bends and warps them against their natures, against their judgements, and destroys all before it with a careless fatalism." Unbelievably cruel treatment of POWs in the Pacific theater has been documented before in books (such as Laura Hillebrand's Unbroken), movies (Bridge on the River Kwai), and tv miniseries (Changi, from Australia). But this book has its roots in personal experience since the dedication, to Flanagan's father who died last year at 98, was a survivor of this slave work force.
All the characters are given inner lives that illuminate motivations, guards and officers as well as prisoners. Lives are examined with microscopic precision, then decades sweep forward with future consequences exposed. In an interview, Flanagan remarked that memory works like that -- great swathes of time pass informed by one or two moments that affect what comes after. As with most great books, the writing is so clear, so explicit, that the reader is never at a loss as to where they are despite the juxtaposition of then, now, and various times in between. The structure is improbable and original, necessary as you close the final page. So far, this is the best book I've read this year.(less)
My pleasure in this book was intensified by seeing the author in person. Smith's reputation was built on a well received trilogy of thrillers set in R...moreMy pleasure in this book was intensified by seeing the author in person. Smith's reputation was built on a well received trilogy of thrillers set in Russia, but this standalone novel had its genesis from personal experience. A fact I wouldn't have known if he hadn't shared it right off the bat at the book store visit. After his mother and father retired to a remote farm in Sweden, he received a call from his father alleging his mother had turned mad, become insane, and the next thing he knew, his mother was in London, accusing his father of crimes. Not knowing who to believe, he found himself in uncharted territory. His mother's illness raised the question of how well do we really know a person, inspiring him to examine it through writing this psychological page turner.
Tilde in the book and his mother are two very different people with different histories, and the Tilde of his creation has had a far different history as much as Daniel, the narrator/protagonist, is far different from Tom Rob Smith. He had to set up a deceit for Daniel, providing him with a motivation for keeping secrets from his parents. One thing that I also remember his saying, it takes him about two years to write a book. His earlier trilogy required much research, and this one, much soul searching. It made me almost feel guilty for only taking a few days to read it, sometimes, reading a book in a day that someone has labored over for years. (less)
In an interview, Zoe Heller was accused of creating characters that were particularly unlikeable. She replied that one should never look for friends b...moreIn an interview, Zoe Heller was accused of creating characters that were particularly unlikeable. She replied that one should never look for friends between the covers of a book. Herman Koch kicks this theory up several notches, by having his narrator a seemingly sympathetic general practitioner with a large practice based on the image he has created of kindliness and understanding. The 20 minutes he allots each patient, during which he is mostly nodding and silent while they talk, he is actually thinking of just about anything else in the world but the problem at hand. He is, however, very contemplative when it comes to his role as a father.
This better than average psychological thriller investigates so much that is unsavory in the world, with so called beautiful people at the center. It is a coming of age story in which the narrator is not the one coming of age, but rather his daughter, through his eyes. Having read Dave Barry's You Can Date Boys When You're 40 recently, I was struck by the protectiveness and respect allotted to the young girls handled in this quite different way. Each character is drawn larger than life, and the European vacation scene is presented well, even if the author is coy about the actual location.(less)