I loved this book! I love that it's written in dialect. I'm a mostly-auditory learner, and when I read, there is a voice in my head saying the words....moreI loved this book! I love that it's written in dialect. I'm a mostly-auditory learner, and when I read, there is a voice in my head saying the words. I could hear these three women--two black, one white, each with her own voice. I love good historical fiction. I love complex characters with layers to peel away and peel again. I hate that the events portrayed in this book represent a real, devastating part of our nation's history, but I love the way the women in this book learned to see things through one another's eyes, were brave enough to trust one another, to tell their stories. Kathryn Stockett created some genuinely lovable characters, and a couple that you'd love to see locked up somewhere! In the middle are the women who show glimmers of bravery, and alternately glimmers of cowardice--real, everyday people. I read this book in one day. My kids are 5, 3, and 1 and I'm already asking myself how old they have to be to read it. (Because of one scary indecent scene and a portrayal of spousal abuse, as well as some strong language, I think we'll wait for high school). But I will be reading this again before then! (less)
I can see why some people love this book. It's engaging, easy to read, interesting, mysterious, and emotional. It touches women in an integral place b...moreI can see why some people love this book. It's engaging, easy to read, interesting, mysterious, and emotional. It touches women in an integral place by causing us to examine our own relationships with our mothers (and on a lesser level, husbands and sisters) and how those important women have helped to shape us. Our book club had a good discussion over its themes, including the way people respond to trauma, the importance of communication, the absolutely bleak situation in Leningrad during the Seige, and much more. We also collectively agreed that there were some hokey elements--the twist at the end and the epilogue (which I will not spoil for prospective readers), for example. Kristin Hannah is obviously a talented writer, did a great deal of good research, and has a heart for the bonds between women, especially those who experience hardship together. I was thoroughly involved in the story, which brought me to tears. So why, now, am I so ambivalent about the book? The ending had something to do with it, I'm sure. Also, for me, it was a little bit like watching and enjoying a movie because it happens to be on TV, although you wouldn't have paid to rent it. It was not great literature, but it was an interesting book.(less)
This story deserved more of a 3.5, but I really enjoy Peters' writing style so I rounded up. Like the second book, Monk's Hood is filled with lots of...moreThis story deserved more of a 3.5, but I really enjoy Peters' writing style so I rounded up. Like the second book, Monk's Hood is filled with lots of details of both monastic and politico-cultural life in 12th century Britain, and I found myself picturing the changing scenery as Cadfael traveled through Wales. Toward the end I felt he showed a bit less maturity in moral and spiritual matters than Peters meant to convey, but I still found it a good and enjoyable read, and would revisit it if going through the series again. (less)
This was another book to which I would give 3.5 stars; I would have liked to have given it a 4, but I get grumpy about secular humanism. It was such a...moreThis was another book to which I would give 3.5 stars; I would have liked to have given it a 4, but I get grumpy about secular humanism. It was such an interesting book, though! I read it twice in a row, since I was going to be leading a book club discussion on it, and I felt I really benefited from the second read-through. The first was nice, without pressure to identify themes or arguments, and I focused more on the funny and heartwarming elements of the story rather than the tragic. The second read-through gave me a chance to put myself into more of those heartrending circumstances and try to think through what made each of the characters think the way he/she did. I was also able to develop a relationship with my favorite character, Isola Pribby, and to identify what appeared to be the themes and arguments of the book. The main message is optimistic—humanity is ultimately capable of overcoming terrible circumstances, provided we show personal generosity and tolerate one another’s “differences” (defined very broadly). Humanity possesses great endurance, strength, hope, potential for sacrifice, generosity, and any number of other positive traits, and the authors and main characters seem to feel that these qualities are intrinsic to us, rather than being faint reflections of our awesome Creator. I really enjoyed the writing style; the letters back and forth were quirky, informative, and each writer had his/her own clear voice. I appreciated the strong desire of the authors to be understanding and not to form snap judgments of people—even the Germans who occupied Guernsey were not all “in on it,” as one of the book club ladies phrased it. I did feel they were rather selective with which character qualities or behaviors rendered a person “loveable” or “unlovable.” Since the primary quality exalted in this book was personal generosity, it seemed that as long as someone possessed that in some measure, they could do pretty much anything else and still be loveable. On the other hand, someone who was judgmental or behaved selfishly may have had any number of more positive qualities, but we don’t want to know about them. One of the primary metaphors for this schema (exalting personal generosity and freedom from convention) was the interaction of the characters with various literary figures. Each of the primary authors mentioned—Charles Lamb, Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, and even, as an inverse example, Anne Bronte (since she suffered from the oppression of “overly-conventional” family members)—exhibited both the willingness to understand and help people and some level of distaste for “convention” (which some of us might redefine as “morality”). The point is that our lifestyle choices are our own affair, but we will be judged by how we treat others. (I disagree—I believe we are accountable to God for both.) As for God, the book treats Him as largely superfluous, except on the off-chance that there is such a thing as predestination, which, in light of the horrors of Nazism, would make “God the Devil.” It is understandable from a certain vantage point that one would draw that conclusion, but I am thankful for the example of Corrie Ten Boom and many others who were able to praise God even in a concentration camp (we are reading The Hiding Place for our next meeting). At any rate, there is no evidence that the authors of this book esteemed anything or Anyone higher than humanity. I don’t wish to focus too much on the negatives, but just to recognize them—there was so much that was enjoyable and informative, and a lot of very funny parts. It was good for me to interact with this book, both for what I learned from it, and also what I learned through it, analyzing its arguments and debating with it in some ways. It was definitely a worthwhile read, but, as in all things, should be read with an examining eye. (less)
Reading this book was my rebellious way of escaping from my middle ages "reading list" without wholly leaving the middle ages, and I am heartily glad...moreReading this book was my rebellious way of escaping from my middle ages "reading list" without wholly leaving the middle ages, and I am heartily glad for it. It really was excellent--the only complaint I had was that it was a little hard to get into, because it was so historically dense and unassuming in tone--it didn't exactly start with a "bang"--and the font was miniscule! Perhaps I was expecting this book to be as undemanding to read as many mystery novels are--even by great authors like Agatha Christie and Elizabeth Peters. It wasn't, but the complexities it contained were rich and rewarding historically, emotionally, and even spiritually. As far as the "whodunnit" aspect, it was well crafted and well resolved, and Ms. Peters even made room for some very sweet romance. Her characters were real, which is hard to do with overlapping genres like period fiction plus mystery plus romance, and I am as eager to get to know Brother Cadfael and Hugh Beringar better as I am to see Prior Robert and that brown-noser Brother Jerome be humbled a few times over. I am so glad I was advised to begin at the beginning of this series (although the library didn't have book one), since I was prepared to pick up book 20, which had the highest rating. What a tragedy that would have been, because I assuredly would have realized I ought to have read the whole series, and I would have spoiled the ending for myself. Looking forward to more from Ellis Peters, here are two favorite quotes from this book:
"It takes half a lifetime to reach the spot where eternity is always visible, and the crude injustice of the hour shrivels out of sight."
"God disposes all. From the highest to the lowest extreme of a man's scope, wherever justice and retribution can reach him, so can grace."(less)
What a wonderful, insightful, heart-breaking book. I am kicking myself for misplacing my notes--sitting here six weeks after finishing it, I know the...moreWhat a wonderful, insightful, heart-breaking book. I am kicking myself for misplacing my notes--sitting here six weeks after finishing it, I know the first layer of nuance has fled my mind. Set in America during World War II, right before Israel became a sovereign state, this book asks many poignant questions: what does it mean to be a Jew? a father? a son? a friend? what is the reason for suffering? how do you save a soul? teach or learn compassion? Rich in symbolism and deep in heart, the story of two sons and two fathers from two different sects of Judaism presents these questions, picks them apart, and puts them back together again, teaching the value of listening and empathy. Nevertheless, the overwhelming sense with which I left the book was sadness, because the Jewish doctrine of suffering is so entrenched and so seemingly unanswerable (at least within the confines of Judaism). Whether the characters were Hasidic or simply "followers of the Ten Commandments," suffering defined them. This was exemplified in the grievous choice Reb Saunders made in raising his son Danny, as well as the Zionist activism of David Malter. The sons, although raised in America--a nation that tends to reject suffering--,both took up this banner in their own ways, choosing to climb into the trenches of pain in order to comfort and guide the hurting. With what? The argument of the story is "with compassion." It was a good argument. But I continue to be impressed that, if there was any hope to be offered to the suffering, these two families couldn't agree on what its source was. David Malter, the Zionist, was convinced that, if the Jews did not make their own meaning for their suffering, it would be meaningless. Reb Saunders believed it was all a precursor to the coming of Messiah--really, suffering was an exalted rite of passage to him. The book leaves the question of the meaning of suffering unanswered, the question of the source of hope undetermined, the salvation of a soul an object of human guesswork. I thoroughly appreciated this book, but part of the reason why--although it was well-written, engaging, and full of pathos--is that it made me appreciate another Book and its Author even more. Jesus Christ is my Source for hope, my Meaning in suffering, and the ultimate Answer for Israel, Jews, and the world.
"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." --Romans 5:5-8(less)