hmmm....this one is a bit tricky for me, in comparison to the other books for this year's canada reads debates. unlike the other books i have read forhmmm....this one is a bit tricky for me, in comparison to the other books for this year's canada reads debates. unlike the other books i have read for the event already (two solitudes and indian horse), the age of hope did not suck me in from page one. bergen did a wonderful job with hope (i am always impressed when an author has success writing in the opposite gender) but it wasn't until i was nearly 2/3 of the way through that things clicked for me. i appreciate quiet stories, internal stories examining a life. but i had a hard time connecting with hope. which is a cheeseball thing to say, i know. i had empathy for hope but i was frustrated with her a lot of the time too. there were some scenes later on in the novel that, should ron maclean talk about them, well it's just gonna be icky and awkward. it was skeeing me out a bit just imagining this scenario. i think depression and post-partum depression are amazing issues to have addressed in fiction...i just don't know how true bergen's version is ringing and i am very curious how people who live with these illnesses feel about his specific interpretation.
of interest (to me): so far all three books - indian horse, two solitudes and age of hope feature quiet stories, loneliness/isolation, internal conflict and lots of literary references. the characters are very bookish. i find it fascinating that, from the options of five books per region, the people representing their choice each went with stories that reflect these ideas. so i am wondering what this says about canadian writers and readers?
on page 2 of hope, ..."she began to understand his death as something that happened to him, not to her." was also addressed in a section within two solitudes....more
this is a fascinating story and a vivid look at how ideas for the growth of a nation, and then war, impact regulars lives. i felt a little like it wasthis is a fascinating story and a vivid look at how ideas for the growth of a nation, and then war, impact regulars lives. i felt a little like it wasn't quite pulled together at the end and also felt jarred earlier on in the read by a major shift in time. these two things made me feel the flow of the story was not as smooth as it could have been....more
i always laugh when i hear a book described as "a good romp" - but that's exactly what this book is. it's ridiculously awesome - the characters are wei always laugh when i hear a book described as "a good romp" - but that's exactly what this book is. it's ridiculously awesome - the characters are well done and the story, though fairly preposterous, is funny. there are a lot of instances where i had a 'forrest gump' feeling while reading, in that people from history (political heavyweights) are woven into the tale. of course this narrator is unreliable...but who cares?? i think he could make the phone book sound interesting. ...more
what a great book. this is the sort of book that i wish more teen readers - i'd say it's good for sort of 14/15ish and up, there's a (view spoiler)[sewhat a great book. this is the sort of book that i wish more teen readers - i'd say it's good for sort of 14/15ish and up, there's a (view spoiler)[sex scene (not graphic) (hide spoiler)] so...that's to be a consideration - (and adults who prefer YA) would pick-up and read...rather than so much of that other stuff passing for literature in the YA segment of the market. this book elevates the genre.
green has created some wonderful characters and a great story. difficult, yes. but life is difficult and crappy things happen all the time. i love the dialogue and the dynamics of the relationships. it all seems very real and relevant.["br"]>["br"]>...more
this is the second biography i have read from tomalin, and i now feel that her style is just not for me. while i defii am so happy that read is over!!
this is the second biography i have read from tomalin, and i now feel that her style is just not for me. while i definitely appreciate the mountain of research she has clearly done, the telling is inconsistent, and i wanted to hit myself in the head with the giant tome at moments, just to end the misery. (sorry!!) dickens life is fascinating and i am glad to have had a bit of a look into his world. he was, apparently, a complicated and challenging guy who led an inconsistent life -- maybe he and tomalin are a perfect match?...more
this is quite an interesting 'novel'. parts of the book, as noted by brink in the afterword, are true and actual historical events and feature real pethis is quite an interesting 'novel'. parts of the book, as noted by brink in the afterword, are true and actual historical events and feature real people. philida was a slave woman owned by the brother of one of andré brink's direct relatives. he kept the name in the novel. also real was zandvliet, the wine farm owned by the brink family. there were a few things that felt a bit odd to me in the novel. some of my quibbles (but not all, hence the 4-star rating over 5-star) were addressed in the afterword - which also served to make me want to read two of brink's other books as characters from earlier books appear in philida, apparently. i can understand why this book was in contention for the booker. moments in the story were very difficult to read as they shed light on such a horrible time in our history. brink did an amazing job with this book.
sort-of tangent time: it was hard reading at moments, this novel - understanding at the time of this book, 1832ish in south africa, that slavery and the horrendous treatment of black people was seen to be okay. acceptable. expected. i try to project back. how could a decent human being allow others to be abused, degraded, violated and killed in front of them, doing nothing to intervene, help or change what was acceptable? i just do not get it. i mean, i do...but i don't. you know? i am not naive or lacking in information on slavery and the slave trade from africa. but having this information or feeling knowledgable on the subject still doesn't make reading stories about these times any easier. christianity and islam feature into this novel a bit too and that just pissed me off even more -- justification via religion?! this is just a shameful, shameful part of our history.
so you can see that reading philida was not just reading another book for me.
When done well, historical fiction not only transports readers to a different time and place, it also serves to inform and educate in a captivating way. By such a measure, Philida is done very well indeed. Part historical truth, part creative fiction, Philida was deservedly longlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. With nuanced prose, the prolific South African author André Brink, brings to life a shameful time in our world's history, the history of slavery in South Africa. The impetus for this novel came from Brink's own family's connection to slavery and to the real Philida. Careful and detailed research resulted in this occasionally horrific, yet ultimately, hopeful, story of slavery set in the Cape region of South Africa in the early 1830s.
The story starts boldly: "Here come shit." As the book opens, Philida, a slave woman, has made a long journey on foot to the Office of the Slave Protector to file a complaint against Frans Brink, the son of Philida's owner, Cornelis Brink (in the afterword, the author mentions that he had a family connection to these Brinks). In what can only be described as an extremely complicated relationship, Frans has fathered four children with Philida and has repeatedly promised to secure her freedom. The Brink family owns a "wine farm," a winery, which is not doing well. Facing financial ruin, all hope is placed on Frans marrying the daughter from the very well-to-do Berrangé family. For this reason, Frans has broken his promise to Philida, who now faces being taken upcountry and sold at a slave auction. In an effort to somehow resolve the situation, she pins her hope on the Office of the Slave Protector.
Philida is a very strong woman who shows admirable grace and determination even as she endures horrendous treatment. She questions religion and the law and, in doing so, takes action, however limited it may be, for herself and the future of her children.
The events in Philida take place within a climate of change in South Africa. Talk of freedom for the slaves and rumors about the abolition of slavery abound. Some heavy themes - including slavery, race, gender, freedom, religion and love - are addressed. Each is large and ripe in its own right and skillfully woven through the novel. For example, freedom is represented in many ways, but it resonates most strongly for Philida in the simple idea of shoes: "Because he knew, as I knew, as the whole world know: the man or the woman with shoes on their feet, they cannot be slaves, they are free, shoes mean that they are not chickens or donkeys or pigs or dogs, they are people." Philida also possesses an innate understanding that her mind is free even though her body is the legal property of Cornelis Brink.
While this is primarily Philida's story, Brink uses multiple first-person narratives, with chapters alternating between Philida, Frans and Cornelis. The sections of the novel anchored in historical fact, are in third-person. The method of using multiple voices gives the reader a more complete look at life during this time. A family and a way of life on the precipice of change, are fully realized and believable through detailed and raw prose.
Even if Frans and Cornelis are not written to be likeable characters, we can come to see that the choices the men make are put in place by specific dictates either because of acceptable societal norms and pressures, or due to religious, financial or family obligations. None of these circumstances makes any of the atrocities meted out acceptable, but the perspectives are necessary and valuable.
Sometimes a stunning book comes along and, in my desire to do justice to both the author and the story, I struggle to write the review. How can I effectively convey the beauty and humanity in a novel that is also deeply hard to take at times? How can I persuade readers to take up a novel of historical fiction about a dark time in our history – a time many would rather forget? I suppose the best I can offer, and I don't mean to be melodramatic, is the idea that, at the core of Philida is a heroic woman, a real person who commands attention and respect in a way that is full of charm and hope. Philida deserves to be read, to live on in our memories and in our hearts. It is an emotional reading experience that feels vivid and true. The novel does everything great fiction should: it captures the imagination, takes us to another time and place, moves us viscerally, informs us and leaves us feeling the need to do better in this world. Philida is an important story. It is a physical and emotional journey and the momentum of Brink's narrative propels us forward with every amazing word....more
humour in literature is difficult. at least, i have a hard time with it on occasion. terry fallis is a funny guy. i have met him and enjoy him, so ithumour in literature is difficult. at least, i have a hard time with it on occasion. terry fallis is a funny guy. i have met him and enjoy him, so it was easy for me to imagine him telling me this story. but, on the page, i sometimes got a bit tired of david stewart (main character) being so prone to pratfalls and one-liners. for me, this served to detract from a great story. overall, i had a lot of fun with this quirky novel. some moments, i laughed out loud but overall, i was more taken with the heart of the story - 71yo Landon Percival. she's all sorts of awesome-sauce - than the humour being attempted. i loved the premise and while teetering on the outlandish, it was fascinating to imagine it all. a couple of complaints: a) product placement totally distracted me. do i care that it's a macbook air or a ford fusion? not at all. these moments totally jarred me out of the fictional world. b) the use of the word 'bitch' towards one of the female characters - a strong, driven female executive. sure it was used in a self-deprecating way, but really, is that necessary in this day and age? and then, the almost end...was a bit too...convenient. i wasn't sure one aspect of the story was really necessary? but i do't want to lob a spoiler here, so i will leave it at that and hope i remember it, should anyone ask. heh. seems, between this book and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, senior citizen heroes may be the new thing in literature. it's kinda cool!...more
the book started out really well for me and i was sucked right into the story. the book is dedicated to christopher hitchens. it's meta-fiction - manythe book started out really well for me and i was sucked right into the story. the book is dedicated to christopher hitchens. it's meta-fiction - many authors and books, as well as a book award (the austen prize, which is "better than the newly founded booker") feature on the pages of this novel. but...around the halfway/two-thirds mark...it got a bit...boring. which was disappointing - given the book also features mi5, spyishness and a bit of mystery. it could have been snap, crackle, pop-a-lopping off the pages, but it wasn't. and at the very end...i was unsatisfied. UN.SATISFIED. so...yeah. mcewan confuses me as my experiences with his writing are so up and down. i loved saturday and amsterdam but really loathed on chesil beach. for me, he's inconsistent not only from one book to the next, but even within a given book. ...more
*sigh* i really wish i liked this more. i, generally, enjoy kingsolver a lot and tend to count her among my favourite contemporary american writers. t*sigh* i really wish i liked this more. i, generally, enjoy kingsolver a lot and tend to count her among my favourite contemporary american writers. though i am in the minority of people who did not like The Poisonwood Bible. in fact, having read it twice, i can say i loathe that novel. while i don't loathe flight behavior the whole things feels like one giant missed opportunity. and that is a shame. the story felt clunky to me and didn't come together. the characters were inconsistent and i was frustrated with dellarobia's immaturity. i was also frustrated with the science v. religion aspect of the novel...it could have way more interesting and relevant. the premise of the novel is fascinating (and important) but i just wasn't get sucked in and reading this felt like a chore - one that i am glad is over. i could totally see this being a made-for-tv movie though. fwiw. :/...more
what a fun book! i had a great time with this read and loved sloane's humour and style. i am a bit waver-y between 3- and 4-stars because of some plotwhat a fun book! i had a great time with this read and loved sloane's humour and style. i am a bit waver-y between 3- and 4-stars because of some plot wobbles and the use of convenience. (i am just not a fan of convenience as a plot device), but the total meta-bookishness of the novel, it's quirk-factor and charm won me over.
it's not a book i would recommend for everyone but it was the exact right book i needed to read right now....more
this is a very good book that offers insight to a part of the world and a group of people we in the west may not otherwise have had a chance to learnthis is a very good book that offers insight to a part of the world and a group of people we in the west may not otherwise have had a chance to learn about. boo's work as a journalist is evident in the dogged research she undertook to tell this story well and respectfully.
in boo's afterword, i highlighted many passages, but these two stood out, on her reason for writing this story:
* "Why don't more of our unequal societies implode?"
* "I had felt a shortage in nonfiction about India: of deeply reported accounts showing how ordinary low-income people - particularly women and children - were negotiating the age of global markets."
given a partner and i do work in several african communities, the stories of extreme poverty and corruption didn't surprise me, though it definitely saddens and frustrates me. i did, however, appreciate the perspective on corruption boo offers here, which has given me much to ponder:
"In the West, and among some in the Indian elite, this word, corruption, had purely negative connotations; it was seen as blocking India's modern, global ambitions. But for the poor of a country where corruption thieved a great deal of opportunity, corruption was one of the genuine opportunities that remained."
you know what my only weird hesitation on this book is? it almost felt too much like fiction. the style is terrific, but it's such a narrative- and character-driven story that i had to keep reminding myself it was nonfiction. if we could give 1/2-stars, i would likely give this 4.5-stars. i hesitate on the 5-star, because i feel as though it's important to be reminded this is a real place populated with real people. to feel as though this is fiction (in my mind) almost serves to buffer or diminish the importance and necessity of the story. i'm not sure if that makes sense to you?
if you think you are not a nonfiction reader -- this book, i think, you would really love. you will feel like you are reading a novel.
(which i hope doesn't come across as me being callous. i have so much respect and empathy for the people who have shared their stories and lives with boo and for this book. i really can't even begin to imagine the lives the people boo features - how they survive every day in the conditions they must contend with. it's truly astounding.) ...more
this was such an interesting read. russo did a good job sharing his life, and his mother's life, with readers in a way that was insightful and sensitithis was such an interesting read. russo did a good job sharing his life, and his mother's life, with readers in a way that was insightful and sensitive…but not full of blame and anger. (and there really could have been.) it was quite co-dependent relationship russo and his mother had, she: a single mother, he: an only child. it's complicated, messy, sad, tense, but throughout russo seems to have a great strength in seeing the big picture, and assessing his place and role within. kudos, i think, to his wife - for spending 35 years in a marriage that included her husband and her mother-in-law. i hope their 'now what?' years are really happy and full of good things.
(i also liked the little insights russo offered about his writing. it wasn't the focus of the book at all but, here and there, small mentions were shared.)...more
somehow i thought this would be a good idea/ somehow i got sucked into a vampire romance.
so...it's summer, it was a 4-day long weekend and i tsigh!
somehow i thought this would be a good idea/ somehow i got sucked into a vampire romance.
so...it's summer, it was a 4-day long weekend and i thought this would be a good, fun, light summer read. penguin gave me the arc, telling me it was great! i had no idea it was a vampire romance. (because my head is up my arse where this genre is concerned.) so there i was: on an island, at a cottage, no other book to be had. i read it. now i am concerned because book #2 comes out this month and book #3 next year. i am worried i have been hypnotized and will have to find out what happens. ummm. shit!
it was meta...so it did have that going for it and some parts of it i didn't actually hate. but...COME ON!
hmmm...so, overall i have been left feeling like a lot of potential was wasted with this story. it wasn't bad but it could have been great. i strugglehmmm...so, overall i have been left feeling like a lot of potential was wasted with this story. it wasn't bad but it could have been great. i struggled with the early part of the story feeling like the staccato rhythm of the writing was taking away from the tale. by the mid-way point, i was more invested in the book and the characters and by the end, i didn't want to put it down, to see how the story played out. but all along, i was not super-impressed by the writing style. the use of poetry throughout the story made me long for more beautiful sentences/language from amirrezvani.
i am glad to have read this book as this is a time and place i know very little about. if you are a fan of historical fiction (it's set in the late 1500s) or have an interest in the iran, i would recommend this book to you. i am also quite curious to seek out amirrezvani's firt book The Blood of Flowers, which was longlisted for the orange prize in 2008....more