sigh - the dreaded 3-star rating. the book was good-ish. good enough. i certainly appreciated the light ruby-sachs shed on the issue of water privatiz...moresigh - the dreaded 3-star rating. the book was good-ish. good enough. i certainly appreciated the light ruby-sachs shed on the issue of water privatization in south africa and the struggles faced by so many. i was quite interested in the characters ruby-sachs created, but they - and the writing - felt stilted, or somehow not fully formed. as a debut, it's impressive enough to make me interested in further fiction from ruby-sachs and, in fact, the ending is left with the potential for certain characters to return in another story. (less)
Boo! I am bummed - I wanted to love this book, it sounded interesting and Sherman is a debut author. I love first novels! Unfortunately, the voice of...moreBoo! I am bummed - I wanted to love this book, it sounded interesting and Sherman is a debut author. I love first novels! Unfortunately, the voice of the novel was very detached and given the author wants us to be invested in the characters and events - it was hard to muster up much care for any of it. Sorry, Susan Sherman. :((less)
loved this read just as much the second time through. i read it with a bit of a different eye, though, this time around. two books grou...more07 january 14:
loved this read just as much the second time through. i read it with a bit of a different eye, though, this time around. two books groups i participate in are reading this book - one now, one in march (see below). one of the groups will be focusing on the magical realism within the novel, and so i definitely paid more attention to the MR and the fairy tale qualities within. certainly it is a strong (integral) component of the novel and i very much enjoyed that when i read it in 2013...but, this time around, i did highlight many passages and thought more about the real, the unreal, the magical. and, i thought about how the seemingly magical could be explained rationally. this may sound like i spent a lot of time analyzing the story, which may sound like a fun-suck. but i didn't, really. i am in a bit of a reading slump, so this was a great escape and i didn't mind my brain wandering about, meandering on thoughts or ideas triggered by ivy's novel. it seemed to actually be a fitting way to read the story.
01 jan 2014:
group read for CBC books (jan 14) and convergent read for bookish (mar 14), so re-reading now, in an attempt to blast out of my reading slump!
03 jan 2013:
man -- what a debut novel! it's a magical and sometimes heartbreaking story, perfectly set for a wonderful winter read.(less)
Yeah...so...wow! (This is my review, as it appeared on Bookbrowse.com, October 5th, 2011.)
First time novelist, Amy Waldman, has created a gut-punch of...moreYeah...so...wow! (This is my review, as it appeared on Bookbrowse.com, October 5th, 2011.)
First time novelist, Amy Waldman, has created a gut-punch of a novel in The Submission, a tale that wonders: What would happen if the architectural design competition for the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial was won by an American-Muslim?
The story opens two years after the attacks, with a jury deliberating over the two finalists in the Memorial Design competition - The Void and The Garden. The jury, after very tense and prolonged deliberations, finally selects its winner: The Garden. It is at this point the identity of the designer is revealed, an architect named Mohammad (Mo) Khan.
Chaos, of course, ensues as Khan's identity as an American-Muslim, is leaked to the media and citizens. Special interest groups and pundits argue for and against the fitness of both the individual and his design. Claire Burwell, whose husband died on September 11th, is a member of the jury as a representative of the families who lost loved ones in the attacks. Throughout the blind competition (the identities of those who submitted designs were kept secret), Claire was the most vocal champion for The Garden, feeling the concept offered the strongest opportunity for healing and reflection while honoring those who died. She is then thrust into an awkward and precarious position of balancing her belief in the winning design with the emotional and confrontational outbursts from the families she was supposed to be representing.
Waldman has created something I really love when reading fiction - unreliable narrators. Several main characters - Claire Burwell, Mo Khan, and Sean Gallagher - dig their heels in, waver, reevaluate themselves and others, and cause rippling consequences. Claire has long anchored her identity in liberal social thinking but has never really had to examine her convictions. Mo is arrogant and unknowable in his aloofness. He refuses, on the basis of being a free American citizen, to answer questions about his intentions with his design. This avoidance, on principle, leaves many confused and paranoid.
Sean lost his firefighter brother, Patrick, in the attacks and also lost himself. He felt he was never good enough growing up and had never really known his place in the world - until he began speaking out about his brother's death. But is that enough to give his own life meaning? All of these characters are tested and pushed to reassess their ways of thinking. Trying to make a difference in the world - which all three are striving to do - is not something that can be undertaken without fully knowing one's self.
At its heart, The Submission is a tale of caution; if you think you know yourself, please, think again. Readers are taken through a trifecta of large issues: grief, ambition, and prejudice. And early in the novel, a particular quote slapped me in the face: "You couldn't call yourself an American if you hadn't, in solidarity, watched your fellow Americans being pulverized, yet what kind of America did watching create?" It is an inescapable question. The media allowed for interminable full access, nonstop watching and reading at our disposal. Talking heads from television infiltrated our own minds. Special interest groups tore at our heartstrings. Pundits swayed our thinking this way and that. Throughout, there was never any disagreement that 9/11 was a domestic tragedy of global significance. A national embrace brought families who lost loved ones to our collective chest in an effort to support them and keep them safe. And yet. And yet there were so many competing interests fighting and often losing sight of the reason for the heightened passions and positions - the people who lost their lives.
The very title of this novel says a lot. Each character we meet is asked to submit - whether to alter a long-held belief, upend their moral center, or open a door to a stranger. The Submission also represents the architectural design Mohammad submits in hopes of creating an important work. Within a religious context, the word "muslim" means "one who voluntarily submits or surrenders to God's will." Around one simple word, so much turns. And as with Waldman's novel, a world evolves around one simple concept.
The author, a former journalist for The New York Times, and their South Asia Bureau co-chief for over three years, was in Manhattan on the the day of the attacks in 2001, and she spent the following six weeks reporting on the aftermath. Several years ago - while talking with a friend about the controversy Maya Lin endured when, in 1981, her Vietnam Veteran's Memorial design was selected through open competition - Waldman supposed that a Muslim-American planning the WTC Memorial would be a modern equivalent situation. And so, The Submission was born, as was her career as a novelist.
She has stated that in writing a story about 9/11, she "was just interested in looking at the variety of experiences and the grief. To tell the story from multiple perspectives." Waldman succeeds in achieving this goal beautifully with her debut novel; through her gifted prose and fully realized characters, she has created a very powerful reading experience.(less)
The subtitle, for this work of non-fiction is: A Year in the Life of an Overeducated, Underemployed Twenty-Something Who Moves Back Home. From this, I...moreThe subtitle, for this work of non-fiction is: A Year in the Life of an Overeducated, Underemployed Twenty-Something Who Moves Back Home. From this, I think, people are going to jump one of two ways in assessing a book by its cover. People might think "Oh great! Another indulged kid, under thirty, likely with an arts degree can't get it together in the real world so runs home to mommy and daddy!" Some of this is true. He does have an arts degree (Queen's University) and he is indulged, by his parents. If indulged means a good relationship, love and support of the moral variety. But he kind of does have it together. It might not be in a more traditional manner, but his mom and dad were happy to share the family home with their grown son, and Reid was working part-time for the CBC, in Ottawa, during his reprieve, so who are we to judge, really? Besides, a terrific book emerged from his time living back with his parents. The second path for those who judge a book by its cover could think. "Ha! This Reid is a funny guy!", and he is. He can be self-deprecating, at times, and he has a great gift of observation. The humour is most evident during the scenes featuring his parents. Their conversations are lively and their eccentricities are endearing. That much page space is given to food and the animals on the family's hobby farm makes this book even more irresistible. While reading this memoir, I kept thinking: a) I want to have lunch with the Reid's and become friends with them; and b) I should talk the husband into moving to a hobby farm (which actually wouldn't be that hard to do).
I hope you will read this book. For me, it was un-put-down-able.(less)
I finished this novel two days ago and it has been in my mind ever since. A friend inquired as to whether the book was good - it is; very, very good -...moreI finished this novel two days ago and it has been in my mind ever since. A friend inquired as to whether the book was good - it is; very, very good - but I feel as though there are not sufficient words to express, in a review, my thoughts about the story or the writer. I need to invent new words to do this novel justice. The book is urgent and raw, and without requesting the readers sympathy, it demands of the reader to be a sentient human being. That Jamison, in this, her first novel, can create and sustain these senses - of urgency, of compassion, of exposed nerves - is to be commended. Her writing elevates the story from being 'another story about a disjointed and struggling family' to being something wholly new. Jamison has given readers a work that is heart-achingly beautiful.(less)
**spoiler alert** For a book that could have been the Holy Grail for wordies everywhere, Emily Arsenault’s The Broken Teaglass was a let down. The set...more**spoiler alert** For a book that could have been the Holy Grail for wordies everywhere, Emily Arsenault’s The Broken Teaglass was a let down. The setting for a brilliant mystery novel is there: an intriguing job, a saucy love interest, an unsolved murder, creepy neighbors – books greater than you and me have been built on a foundation of far less. Yet somehow with Teaglass, the whole was not greater than the sum of its parts.
The tidbits divulging the behind-the-scenes secrets of dictionaries are priceless. For word-lovers and budding linguists, the questions of “who gets to decide which words are real?” is finally answered, complete with counter-theories and the philosophy behind the process all tied up with a neat little bow: in a thoughtful piece of dialogue, characters debate whether to search for new words only in text, or to include conversation as well. Arsenault uses her characters wisely to explain some very murky ideologies.
But the rest of it, the side stories and the intrigues surrounding such a rich setting, are poorly executed. The novel, it seems, exists in two disjointed acts. Act One focuses on our protagonist Billy’s neighbors who offer him conversation and a beer at the end of the day and offer the reader an unsettling feeling that maybe Billy should lock his door at night. This sentence on page 14 sets it up:
“Maybe it was a sort of omen that my first encounter with Tom was on the very first day of work… He was bald but for a few long clumps of hair growing out of the sides and back of his head, all pulled into a then ponytail at the back. His body matched his hair – stringy, skinny, and formless in his lawn chair.”
Ominous, right? Well, not for long. By the half-way point in the book, we never really hear from Tom or the rest of the neighbors again. They have dropped off the pages. The “omen” of the first meeting is never revealed.
Instead we are introduced to Billy’s unfortunate struggle with cancer during his senior year of high school. Now five years later, he spends the second half of the book in the throes of an existential crisis as he begins to accept his remission with copious amounts of booze and a lackadaisical approach to dictionary editing. Arsenault makes sure the murder mystery is solved by the end of The Broken Teaglass but for this one tidy knot, there are several loose threads left dangling.(less)
I received this book for Christmas 2008. Shortly into the New Year of 2009 my 69 year old father experienced some very serio...moreI rate this novel 4 Stars.
I received this book for Christmas 2008. Shortly into the New Year of 2009 my 69 year old father experienced some very serious health problems. In late February, 2009 he was diagnosed with an illness called 'Parkinson's Plus' ~ the lucky pluses (on top of Parkinson's disease) being Lewy Body Dementia. Needless to say I was not hugely motivated to read a book about early on-set Alzheimer's, since we were living through our own personal experience. I left the book until late April 2009 when, after the urging of a good friend, I finally picked it up. I don't really know what I completely expected, but Genova's educational and career backgrounds lead me to hope for an unique perspective on going through a diagnosis like this and then deciding 'now what?'. I know I was wishing for a story that wasn't dark and dreary.
I am so glad I finally did read this Still Alice. Alice's awareness of what was happening to her was well written and I really felt as though I was in her head, going through the worry too. I sometimes wondered if that much clarity/recognition is often experienced by patients at the initial on-set of Alzheimer's, but I had no trouble allowing fictional latitude and the fact that Alice's and Genova's backgrounds allow for more awareness on a day-to-day basis. The relationship between Alice and her husband gave interesting insight and this was the only area where I wished for a bit more detail.
The book deals with a serious and sad disease but it did not bring me down and, in fact, I found it hopeful. I appreciated the way Alice took charge of things and hoped that her 'deal with it' attitude caught on with a lot of readers and encouraged people to be pro-active in their approach to health concerns.
When I finished the book I circulated it out to my family and friends.Six months later my book is still out-and-about, and the story is being appreciated by everyone who has read it. For me the book gave me a small amount of personal hope and comfort at a difficult time.
~ My reviews are, generally, never this personal, but I could think of no other way to write a review of this book. Sorry! ~
14 april 14: edited to add: you know, this book never made it back to me. it made the rounds through a friend's workplace (in a hospital) and was read and loved by pretty much everyone in whose hands it landed. but it got very beat up in the process and eventually fell apart.(less)
i loved the premise of this novel -- one of canada's earliest female physicians (in montreal) and her struggles to be allowed an ed...more3.5-stars, i think.
i loved the premise of this novel -- one of canada's earliest female physicians (in montreal) and her struggles to be allowed an education at medical school. tied in with some family dynamics and school/career fodder (and, at one point, at WWI backdrop) i was hoping for an unputdownable read. the book wasn't quite that. i found the flow of the story to be a bit stilted and clunky/bumpy and the ending (the very end) too pat and easy. but this is a good debut novel and i am interested in reading future books from rothman.(less)
Gosh I loved this book! It was well written, unique and thoughtful.This is a character driven novel by a first time novelis...moreI rate this book 4.5 Stars.
Gosh I loved this book! It was well written, unique and thoughtful.This is a character driven novel by a first time novelist. The main character, Howard, suffered a traumatic head injury 16 days into his tour in Vietnam and hasn't spoken since. King does a tremendous job having a character who doesn't speak say so much and I really felt the frustrations and moments of sadness that would come from dealing with people who can't or won't try to understand you. The relationships are fraught and tender and so very compelling. I think this novel is a little gem and think it was mostly overlooked when released in 2006.(less)
I give this novel 4.5 stars. (International Title Someone Knows My Name)
Hill has created an incredible story and an incredible character in Aminata Di...moreI give this novel 4.5 stars. (International Title Someone Knows My Name)
Hill has created an incredible story and an incredible character in Aminata Diallo. The strength, endurance and perseverance she possesses are remarkable and I was engrossed from the very beginning of the book. I read this book two years ago and it has stayed with me ever since.
The book description reads as follows: "Abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle - a string of slaves - Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. But years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic "Book of Negroes". This book, an actual document, provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US for resettlement in Nova Scotia, only to find that the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression all of its own. Aminata's eventual return to Sierra Leone - passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America - is an engrossing account of an obscure but important chapter in history that saw 1,200 former slaves embark on a harrowing back-to-Africa odyssey. Lawrence Hill is a master at transforming the neglected corners of history into brilliant imaginings, as engaging and revealing as only the best historical fiction can be. A sweeping story that transports the reader from a tribal African village to a plantation in the southern United States, from the teeming Halifax docks to the manor houses of London, The Book of Negroes introduces one of the strongest female characters in recent Canadian fiction, one who cuts a swath through a world hostile to her colour and her sex."
Hill did enormous research and based much of the novel on extracts from diaries, letters and memoirs he uncovered. The story is so well woven and cause one who thinks their eyes are already open to open them even wider. I highly recommend it to everyone.(less)
**spoiler alert** Oh my word...this book was too much (in a bad way). Too many metaphors, too many similes, too many examples spelling things out for...more**spoiler alert** Oh my word...this book was too much (in a bad way). Too many metaphors, too many similes, too many examples spelling things out for us. As a character, the narrator was detached. Therefore I was detached. I really didn't care about him. I found Marianne much more interesting and thought the secondary characters were done well.There are a couple of characters and sections I feel could make for interesting books in their own right.I found the 'back-in-time' sequences dealing with examples of eternal love to be repetitive. The fact the author felt the need to explain his book - rather, his main character's 'redemption' - to us on pages 370 & 371 (the hardcover edition I read) irked me; did he think the readers were not thoughtful enough to know that for themselves? I didn't feel the book or Davidson's writing style to be spectacular - as has been hyped for so long. Perhaps the hype is/was the problem? Overall, I feel Davidson had an interesting idea and then tried to cram everything he learned into the book. I know I am in the minority when I say I did not like this book.(less)