I'm not sure about this one. The story was totally engaging but the writing, for being a Booker prize winner, was totally disappointing. It read as ifI'm not sure about this one. The story was totally engaging but the writing, for being a Booker prize winner, was totally disappointing. It read as if it were a fascinating set of notes from which to write a great novel. Half the time it was just a list of disconnected names and events, some of which were put into context later, some of which were not. The rest of the time it was little vignettes of personal interest stories. Sometimes it even read like the driest possible history book. For such an emotional subject the writing was surprisingly dispassionate and unlike other Holocaust fiction I've read I remained detached throughout most of the narrative, which I'm sure was not the design. This could have been done better, for example as a series of connected short stories or as a fictional representation of the Schindler story where the author picked one of the possible versions and ran with it. Allusions to the mythology that accompanies the truth is the stuff of prefaces or afterwords! On the plus side Schindler himself was one very inspirational man - the fact that he wasn't much before the war and didn't amount to much after the war makes it all the more remarkable that he achieved so much during the war. He alone restores your faith in the goodness of humanity and I'm not surprised he was mourned the world over when he eventually died....more
What a fantastic book. I can't recommend this one highly enough.
It's an epic tale centred around the life of a Hungarian Jew called Andras during theWhat a fantastic book. I can't recommend this one highly enough.
It's an epic tale centred around the life of a Hungarian Jew called Andras during the events of WWII. A couple of years before the outbreak of war he's on his way from Hungary to Paris with a scholarship to study architecture and high hopes for his future, he's asked to deliver a secret letter and events lead him to fall in love with the letter's recipient. As the situation in Europe changes so does his fortunes and those of his freinds and family.
Hungary was an ally of Germany and as result the Hungarian Jews were not sent to the death camps (at least not initially). Instead they were conscripted into a 'second army' as Jews were not felt trustworthy enough to be taught fighting skills and to bear arms. The 'second army' was essentially a labour force that was deployed ahead of the main army forces on road or bridge building projects or to clear snow or minefields etc. At first they weren't treated too badly, with the inevitable exception of a few individuals within the system, the authorities made great strides to protect it's Jewish population and did not submit to the demands of the Germans. In the end however, as the course of the war progresses the fortunes of those within the labour force change.
Andras is eventually forced back to Hungary when the war begins and is soon married. His wife has a complicated relationship with Hungary, one that makes it even more perilous for their families. Andras is conscripted into the labour force several times throughout the novel and comes across the best and worst of men. He becomes a father and makes several indisolvable friendships. His experiences are shocking and at times heartbreaking but are also peppered with heartwarming and life affirming moments. In describing the details of the experiences of the individual members of two very different families and several linked friends this novel is a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Some survive the war, some do not.
The story is even more poignant as reading the acknowledgements it becomes clear that this is, at least in part, a true story and relates to the writer's own family history. It's the type of book that makes you want to re-assess the star marking you've given to any book you read before it. Well worth a read! ...more
This book was great fun to read - like a rollercoaster of grit and determination combined with a guilty look at the pleasures and perversions of the RThis book was great fun to read - like a rollercoaster of grit and determination combined with a guilty look at the pleasures and perversions of the Roman age. - certainly a page turner and a perfect escape from my normal reading choices....more
As always with Gregory's historical fivtion, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I'm intrigued to know more about the Plantagenet line and look forward tAs always with Gregory's historical fivtion, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I'm intrigued to know more about the Plantagenet line and look forward to reading the next installment. - I love how Gregory appears to be concentrating on the women of the line as a conduit for the story. I also like how she weaves the ideas and superstitions of a pre-scientific age into the narrative to build suspense. However, above all that, its a cracking love story and a fascinating insight into our royal history. All in all a great read.
**spoiler alert** There are so many things to love about this book - the characters, the plot and the settings - thoroughly enjoyable! My only critici**spoiler alert** There are so many things to love about this book - the characters, the plot and the settings - thoroughly enjoyable! My only criticism is that it lacked enough punch for me to be able to upgrade it to a 5 star read (...and I really wanted for it to be worth that extra star!).
I'm not American and I don't have any links to the deep south...I therefore don't have any authority to say this but...I felt a strong level of authenticity in the 'voice' of all three of the narrative strands, which made the book a delight to read. I can only imagine how difficult it would be for a white writer to be able to step into the shoes of those black maids but for me, Kathryn Stockett has pulled it off.
The Minny/Celia elements of the narrative were my favourites. I loved Minny's brash humour and the fact that her 'sass-mouthing' got her into all ends of trouble! I also liked Stockett's juxtaposition of the race debate with the exploration of white-trash/society prejudice throughout this section of the narrative. For me, this gave an extra layer to the hypocrisy of supposedly civilised societies all over the world. - I particularly loved the scene where Minny was decrying the fact the Celia "...just don't see em. The lines." forcing Aibileen to 'philosophise' that those lines don't exist, that "...People like Miss Hilly is always trying to make us believe they there. But they ain't". Aibileen finishes off with the lovely phrase "...All I'm saying is, kindness don't have no boundaries." I feel this sentiment reached its climax through Aibileen's final scenes with Mae Mobley, following on the back of the earlier stories about 'Martian Luther King' and the candy wrapped in white and black wrapping. You know when reading the ending that Mae Mobley has some hard times ahead of her without Aibileen protecting her precious self-esteem with those words of wisdom.
There was a wonderfully written bittersweet river that coursed its way throughout the novel providing added depth to the whole story. I loved the inner beauty of Celia and Johnny's relationship, which was cast against the sadness that they'll never have children. The complex love that Skeeter's mother held for her daughter cast against serious illness and her treatment of Constantine. Stuart's laudable attempts to protect Skeeter's reputation but his final inability to follow through and marry the woman he obviously loved...and the irony that his final act helped to set her free to pursue her career in New York. The strength of Minny fighting injustice in her own inimitable way while at the same time putting up with such terrible treatment from her husband. The cruelty of Hilly's outward-facing persona contrasted with her obviously superior skills as a loving mother. The extraordinary kindness of Lou Anne Templeton to Louvvenia when her grandson is blinded after being beaten for using the white bathroom cast against her own sadness and mental health issues. The surprising levels of comfort many of these women get from each other that defies the boundaries of class and colour...I could go on and on and on about all the elements of this book that touched me.
When all is said and done the relationships between these women is far more complex than I'd ever imagined and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to read about them in this novel. In a perfect world I'd have liked to see Stockett deal a little more deeply with the effects of the extreme violence throughout the period of the civil rights movement in Mississippi. The historical, factual detail wasn't there in enough abundance for me - the shooting of Medgar Evers for example was an opportunity missed. And the lack of recriminations from the publication of the book was a bit of an anti-climax, much as I enjoyed seeing the Hilly Holbrook stranglehold loosened ever so slightly!
I would strongly recommend this book - I think this is one I'll re-read in a few years time and I know that it's going to stay with me. Overall and extremely satisfying read.
"Novelists thrive on the gaps in a story, the murky places that only imagination can illuminate." (...taken from Jill Dawson's website). - Before read"Novelists thrive on the gaps in a story, the murky places that only imagination can illuminate." (...taken from Jill Dawson's website). - Before reading this novel I wasn't aware of Rupert Brooke's life - all I knew was the intensely moving war poems I'd studied at school and the fact that he died early of septicaemia, which seemed an anti-climax for a heroic and patriotic war poet! - I'm therefore extremely grateful for Jill Dawson's imaginative depiction of the 'real' Brooke.
What I enjoyed most about this novel was the idealism captured by Dawson's engaging and poetic prose, which really brought the spirit of the time just before the Great War alive for me. - The way she blended real phrases and snippets of genuine letters, conversations and feelings into her fiction was a powerful way to give voice to her main characters. It was an unreal time, when those of Brooke's set were able to delay the growing up process and remain perpetually innocent, while at the same time, and perhaps paradoxically, experimenting with the definitions of acceptability. It was a unique period of history and powerfully evoked by Dawson.
Nell, the counterpoint in the novel, was absolutely delightful bringing balance and making the political backdrop of the suffragist movement, early socialism and the Fabian society more three dimensional and clearly rooted in the time. The symbolism of Nell with the bees was all-pervading within the novel clearly denoting the layers of society and expected behavioural morals of the time - 'Bees have morals! They're loyal. They're devoted to their queen and they work so hard! There's no shame in service...Bees live only to serve!' - the fact that they embodied part of the sensual core of the novel was a clever device - the sexual energy almost fizzed off the page because of it.
The only reason I didn't give this novel 5 stars is that I'm not sure I want Dawson's version of Brooke to be my version of Brooke - I'll be looking for a biography or two to flesh out a rounded picture of the man and the times.
Additionally, the scenes in Tahiti didn’t convince me. Given that the novel begins with a fictional letter from Brooke's potentially illegitimate daughter with Taatamata, I was expecting a far more powerful sense of profound love and passion from the scenes in Tahiti. I wanted to be knocked off my feet by their love story, to feel that Brooke finally found what he was looking for. I wanted all the experimentation and sexual ambiguity of his youth to culminate in a one-time, all consuming 'I can now die happy' moment. - Perhaps that’s the romantic in me and is an unreasonable demand. BUT - I was deeply affected by the fact that Brooke died so young, that a major talent was lost too soon and for some reason if I was convinced that he'd found what he wanted in Tahiti it might have made his premature death more bearable.
Despite the Tahitian disappointment - I thought, overall, this book was absolutely fantastic and I will now be going out to buy more of Jill Dawson's novels. Her amazingly poetic and engaging writing style is, by far, the best I've read in a very long time!
This book was readable but not particularly satisfying.
To have rated it more highly I would have needed to be locked into the mystery/detective part oThis book was readable but not particularly satisfying.
To have rated it more highly I would have needed to be locked into the mystery/detective part of the story much sooner. There needed to be more twists and turns within the mystery itself, maybe a few dead ends -it all turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. I'm not sure I really hooked onto a Melville mystery having never read any of his stuff - is he more of an American hero???
Also - I was really intrigued by the whole 'lost boys' of Argentina sub-plot but it all came to nothing. I found out nothing about the politics, the situation or the conspiracy theories etc that would have been a great 'mirror' for the main plot and added real depth to the story.
I was pretty appalled by Geist and didn't really understand Rosemary's motivations with regards to him. I understood her motivations towards Oscar as we all love a brooding anti-hero BUT, I needed to know WHY Oscar was the way he was - maybe the mystery could have been extended whereby Rosemary was investigating the lost Melville but also finding out all about Oscar too. The only characters I really liked were Pearl and Mr Mitchell.
I'm almost sorry I couldn't like this book more - I found it highly disappointing.
This book is absolutely amazing - I wish I could give it more stars!
The story of modern Harvard PHD student Connie researching her thesis on AmericanThis book is absolutely amazing - I wish I could give it more stars!
The story of modern Harvard PHD student Connie researching her thesis on American Colonial History is interwoven with the story of Deliverance Dane, a 'cunning woman' caught up in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Throw in a family legacy of accidents befalling the men in the line, a latin scholar room mate, a bohemian puzzle of a mother, a delicious steeplejack boyfriend and a nutty professor and the story is complete.
The story is at once an historical mystery weaving it's tantalising way through a family secret and also a spellbinding, unbelievable, wonderous story of magic, good, evil and misunderstanding. The worry and superstition of the pre-scientific era is dealt with sensitively, illumiating both the perceived and the very real threats facing the God fearing Salem Villagers of that time period. In addition, the level of detail in terms of the modes of dress, the furniture and the inticacies of the daily life in 1692 is absolutely fascinating.
I started it yesterday and could not put it down - I've wasted all wekend reading it in long sittings, stopping only for lunch and the odd cup of tea! - The writing was beautiful and the pacing of the novel was extraordinary, adding to the suspense. You were more than willing to suspend your disbelief when reading this novel through the skill of the author Katherine Howe.
**spoiler alert** This is an enchanting, spellbinding little book. It's not very long and lacks depth in places but that doesn't detract from its over**spoiler alert** This is an enchanting, spellbinding little book. It's not very long and lacks depth in places but that doesn't detract from its overall charm or the satisfaction you get from reading it. – If you’re looking for something profound then this isn’t it but if you want to be swept away by nostalgia then this is the book for you.
The plot was a little predictable (…except for Oscar Wilde and his ability to converse with re-incarnated cats – which made me sob for poor Pheen!). But such predictability of plot was almost necessary to the books comforting outlook and the lasting sense of ‘happy-ever-after’ you get once you’ve finished reading. The predictability was therefore not out of place, frustrating or annoying.
The characters were not at all predictable. The odd mixture of personalities, idiosyncrasies and eccentricities suited both the setting and the story. The tragic heroine of Elizabeth as lynchpin to the whole village community, an outsider who the villagers took to their hearts, paved the way for Juliet’s comfortable acclimatisation to life on the Island and her inevitable love match with Dawsey Adams. Isola and Kit were two of my personal favourites and I loved Booker’s attempt to pass himself off as ‘Lord of the Manor’. I even loved Adelaide Addison (…every village has one!) and Juliet’s glee at defying her!
The laugh-out-loud humour within the witty letters is cleverly juxtaposed with some more melancholy and downright disturbing moments. The privation and perversity of the occupation was handled sensitively. I like how the authors refused to accept all the stereotypes. For example, through the letters it was shown that not all Germans were evil, that some islanders were friends with their oppressors and that not all collaborators were ostracised. There seems to have been a great deal of care put into the research for this novel which helps to make the narrative voice all the more believable.
The book is sentimental in places, there is no point in denying that, but despite this it warmed my soul and for that reason I’d recommend it to anyone who just wants a book that will make them feel warm and fuzzy.
I was intrigued by the 'look behind the mirror' offered by this story - history, as we know, is written bI liked this book but it didn't blow me away.
I was intrigued by the 'look behind the mirror' offered by this story - history, as we know, is written by the victors so it was illuminating to see WW1&2 from a German perspective. It was dark and brooding and full of atmosphere and I loved the characters and found them deep and well rounded.
The reason I haven't scored this book higher than a 3 is that there were a few points within the story that I was desperate to know more historical background. To provide a few examples, I wanted more accounts of the politics surrounding the reparations after WW1 and how this reduced many Middle Class Germans to abject poverty. I wanted a little more information about the rise of Hitler – Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister was a character in the book that did not realise his full potential, I would have liked him to be better drawn with more depth. I also wanted to know more about the feelings of ordinary Germans towards the Jews and specifics about how good opinion disintegrated via the social engineering and propaganda of the Nazi regime. This was touched on towards the end of the novel, when Colin states that the previously wealthy middle-class citizens noticed how the Jews could still afford to shop in places they could no longer afford but the reasons for this were never fully explored. In short – I was expecting a bit of balance, both of the ‘British’ view of history and of the now saturated ‘holocaust’ genre sphere – it didn’t really live up to my expectations, but perhaps this may not be a politically correct ‘expectation’ for me to have!
I was also a little disappointed by the ending – after a novel of such heartbreak and misfortune I really wanted Lilly to find happiness but that may be the hopeless romantic in me and perhaps Colin was trying to keep a little realism.
It was a really ambitious novel, which was enjoyable to read but could have reached 'Epic' status had it not fallen short in some crucial areas. ...more
An interesting take on the Holocaust - not the stereotypical view but the view from the next generation. Can you still love your parents, can you respAn interesting take on the Holocaust - not the stereotypical view but the view from the next generation. Can you still love your parents, can you respect your teachers, can you love your 'first love' if you know they've been involved in genocide? - very profound questions from a relatively simple story. ...more