Thanks to goodreads First Reads for the free copy of Joan Steinau Lester's Mama's Child.
I am amazed at how captivating this mother-daughter story was...moreThanks to goodreads First Reads for the free copy of Joan Steinau Lester's Mama's Child.
I am amazed at how captivating this mother-daughter story was. Steinau Lester writes so convincingly for both sides of the story - from mother Liz's love, devotion, and heartbreak, to Ruby's teenage tantrums (too familiar, I'm afraid), I was completely drawn in.
Laced through that primal story is both characters' question of race, and how that has affected their relationship with each other, with the world, and how that has reflected back. Whether or not you agree with the politics or the view points expressed, it was fascinating to get such an intimate perspective
Like some of the other reviewers commented, all I would have asked for is a titch more to the ending. I understand why the author didn't go further, but I still wanted that final satisfaction.
Thanks to goodreads FirstReads for the free copy of this book.
Per the Acknowledgements section, Philida is the story of a real slave who lived before...moreThanks to goodreads FirstReads for the free copy of this book.
Per the Acknowledgements section, Philida is the story of a real slave who lived before and during the emancipation of South Africa. Brink used historical records to trace the outlines of her life - her official complaint against her master's son and her four children he sired, the failure of her master's farm, and her eventual sale to another city just before emancipation.
At first, I wasn't sure what to make of this novel. At first, it's a hard read. The subject matter is difficult, and there are several scenes that are just shocking to a modern reader, even knowing that it was once common. I found myself having to take breaks after a few chapters, to step away because it's so intense. Also, Brink is liberal with his use of Afrikaans, and I wish a glossary had been provided. It didn't help that my own knowledge of South African history is near non-existent.
As tough as it was to get into though, Philida's character draws you in. She's not locked in to one aspect of herself - she goes through a lot of growth and change, and that is so compelling. Towards the end I couldn't put the book down, because I just needed to find out what she would do.
Overall a very interesting, very different by the FirstReads algorithm, and I look forward to reading more of Brink's novels.(less)
Thanks to goodreads First Reads for the free, advance reader's copy of this book.
I think that for most American readers, Mazzantini's Twice Born is a...moreThanks to goodreads First Reads for the free, advance reader's copy of this book.
I think that for most American readers, Mazzantini's Twice Born is a harder read. For starters, I personally didn't have much to go on to place this story in context - I'm not super familiar with the region, and have never read anything about the turmoil in this area recently or historically. The narrator doesn't help in that regard; a few names are dropped, and nothing more. While I understand not wanting to bog the story in side story details (does which war really matter?), it was hard to wade through so disorientated.
Another reviewer made the point that had this been an American novel, the focus would have been largely on Gemma and Diego's relationship - the love story. Instead we get a much more complex story with heavier emphasis on all the relationships. It's unexpected, but refreshing. Even though the narrative kept me jumping (and to be honest, I was wishing for just a bit more cohesiveness), the overall effect works. This was heartbreaking and the slow pace steadily drew me in to the story.
Overall I really enjoyed this novel. It's different, it's compelling, and despite any criticism I might have, it was tough to put down. I look forward to reading Mazzantini's other works. (less)
About fifty pages in, I wondered if this book was secretly brilliant, and I just wasn't clever enough to get it. But after reading every tortuous page...moreAbout fifty pages in, I wondered if this book was secretly brilliant, and I just wasn't clever enough to get it. But after reading every tortuous page, I've decided I don't care - I don't think it's brilliant. There's no plot, and I'm not even sure there are characters. The highlight - and I'll use that term very loosely - was the apparent interview with Dorfman hiding around page 250, in which Dorfman notes that this book was becoming "a bunch of illegible garbage" (his words, not mine - see page 249). Thanks for still deciding to publish it. Do yourself a favor and skip this anomaly in Dorfman's repertoire. (less)
A great idea that just didn't pan out, in my opinion. This is Dorfman's first work after going into exile, and he really wanted to write something tha...moreA great idea that just didn't pan out, in my opinion. This is Dorfman's first work after going into exile, and he really wanted to write something that could be published in Chile right under the censor's nose. So he came up with this idea of publishing it first under a European name, and making it look like it had been written 40 years earlier. He thought that by disguising it as a European classic, it would pass through the Chilean censors. Great, love the idea.
The rest of the novel... well... It's set in a small village in Greece in an area that's been ravaged by war / civil disturbances. All of the women are dressed for mourning, because over the last two years or so, every single man of the village has been "disappeared" (arrested / kidnapped), and no one official will admit to knowing anything about them. Until, that is, bodies start washing up on the shore of the river. When the military refuses to return the bodies to the women of the village, because in truth the bodies cannot be identified, they unite and all 37 claim relationship to the second body. And so begins the stand-off.
Again, it's a great idea, but from a reader's point of view, there are some things that just make it hard to "enjoy" (even given that it's a darker subject matter). The narrative switches quite a bit between members of the military and villagers; sometimes it's third person, sometimes first, and sometimes it changes back and forth in a paragraph. Mixed in with that is that most of the characters lack depth, and don't particularly compel the reader's compassion. Sofia, the matriarch of the village and leader of the "rebellion," would be the most obvious choice, but she mostly stands around and glares silently at the commander of the military. Her reaction when one son is returned is puzzling, and the same goes for when her older grandson (the last "man" - 14 years old - in the village) is taken away. And basically, not a lot happens. It's 180 pages of not much.
Just generally I think this story had a lot of potential, but it went unfulfilled.
(Discúlpame por no escribir en español. Ya estoy cansada y todavía tengo que escribir un ensayo sobre esta novela, y no tengo nada de gandas de hacerlo. Si quieres preguntarme algo, por favor, pregúntame.) (less)
Great bit of drama from Dorfman. I'd fail miserably at trying to explain the plot - the point is anti-censorship - but it's only 50 pages, so if you c...moreGreat bit of drama from Dorfman. I'd fail miserably at trying to explain the plot - the point is anti-censorship - but it's only 50 pages, so if you can find a copy in English, just read it.
P.S. The drama may be hard to come by, so try looking for the short story version in collections of Dorfman's works. I just ran across it in My House Is on Fire. (less)