This was a very interesting read for me for several reasons. Not only is the book "right up my alley" in terms of genre and subject matter, but I was...moreThis was a very interesting read for me for several reasons. Not only is the book "right up my alley" in terms of genre and subject matter, but I was born in the same city Amanda Lindhout frequently talks about throughout her book. It was almost bittersweet reading about the lounges, clubs, restaurants she worked in, given that I frequented many of them at the same time. Additionally, I remember her face and I also remember her talking about saving for a trip (vaguely). Of course, I didn't realize this when I first started reading the book, so it was a surreal experience.
Amanda Lindhout is a truly talented writer. Her words and memories flow beautifully from page to page; I imagine it was very difficult for her to write this book. I hope that in doing so, she found some solace or catharsis.
As many people have mentioned, she is remarkably brave and honest about her feelings and recollections. I would recommend this to pretty much everyone I know for so many reasons, including her strength, resilience, and determination to survive.(less)
Beautiful. Khaled Hosseini is a remarkably gifted writer, which becomes evident and palpable with each subsequent novel he writes. How he manages to we...moreBeautiful. Khaled Hosseini is a remarkably gifted writer, which becomes evident and palpable with each subsequent novel he writes. How he manages to weave stories together and impart such detail and nuance with each and every character, every story line, and every sentence is exceptional.
I found myself engrossed in the story and in the characters lives. I liked the progression of the story-- from past to present and back again, somehow managing to connect the lives of all these people together seamlessly. I felt like I actually knew the characters and was fascinated equally by all of them, their stories and lives.
As an aside-- and before I finished the novel and therefore had not yet read the authors acknowledgements-- I always like to look up the region or place I am reading about. This has become a habit of mine for quite some time now, be it with news items I hear about, histories, but especially books. I often "Google" the images of whatever street, restaurant or city the story mentions, which adds some a wonderful dimension to my understanding of what the author was seeing and trying to convey (especially with travelogues) and makes it feel more real. As such, out of curiosity I searched for Shadbagh when Pari referred to some of the multi colored "narco mansions", wanting to see what they really looked like. I was surprised to discover Shadbagh doesn't exist--in Afghanistan. It wasn't until reading Hosseini's afterward that I learned he had made it up. However, Shad Bagh does exist in Pakistan in the Punjab Province's Lahore District, which is considered Pakistan's cultural/arts capital.
This is an absolutely beautiful, extremely well-researched/accurate, historical "fiction" novel about love and survival. The author definitely did her...moreThis is an absolutely beautiful, extremely well-researched/accurate, historical "fiction" novel about love and survival. The author definitely did her due diligence, and got the Czech customs, habits, and nuances, down to the 'palacinky (Czech pancakes) with apricot jam and hot chocolate", perfect. It's the little things that only someone who is Czech, or who grew up around the customs of Czech's would know and appreciate for their authenticity. Reading this, I often wondered if she was Czech, or grew up around someone who was to be this intimately familiar with so many habits.
This is a unique and beautiful love story, and Alyson Richman is such an incredible writer. She has a way with words that I find hard to describe other than beautiful.
At it's core, this book is about love, and it's the central theme that runs throughout the book: Love between and for family, love for friends, love as a means of survival forced upon us due to extreme circumstances, love of country and ones culture, and love of art, and the ties that bind. So although much of this story takes place during the Holocaust and in concentration camps, and deals with sorrow, death, and the horror people had to live through, it is not depressing or despairing read, nor does it feel contrived because it's not the point or theme of the book, and these are just the circumstances the characters happen to be placed in. The story and the characters themselves "rise" above their horrific situation, and the central theme remaining prevalent and evident throughout.
I really like how the story jumped "past to present", and was told from the man's (Josef's) perspective. You generally see stories like this from both or just the woman's perspective, and I liked seeing the present day story unfold from Josef's recollections. I also liked how the author handled the theme of "time" and how the theme of love was interwoven into the story with it being passed down to the grandchildren, their wedding, the future generations, and it ultimately being what brought them together again. It gave this continuous sense of "love is never ending and unyielding", this feeling of love endures, almost like love is our legacy. She manages to do this without being cheesy, saccharine, cloying, and "hollywoody".
The only thing I personally didn't find satisfying was the ending of the book. This may be a sign of a great book, that I was so invested and enraptured, that I wanted to know more about the characters and what happens next, and any ending will leave me wanting for more. I just know that I had a few questions that were left unanswered that I wish the author had addressed, and I found it highly implausible that Lenka didn't recognize Josef right away.
I have no idea how I could not have heard about this author before, because she is incredible. I wish more people knew about her, and I can't wait for her to write more books. I'm so glad I read this book, it was truly an incredibly well written and beautiful story that is worth spending the time to read. I didn't know what to expect when I started reading this, but as soon as I read the first sentence, I literally couldn't put it down. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in memoirs, history, politics, WW2, Holocost, life, love, relationships... Although it deals with romance and love, it isn't a romance book. It's hard to pin down, other than it just being a "must-read". 4.7 stars (less)
I've long been interested in the lives of people living in the confines of North Korea. While information is fairly limited, in recent times more and...moreI've long been interested in the lives of people living in the confines of North Korea. While information is fairly limited, in recent times more and more has come to the awareness of the public as individuals bravely tell their stories and surveillance and satellite images become allies in confirming and documenting what is happening in North Korea.
Unlike other books on North Korea (memoirs) that I've read, this one is told from 2 perspectives: that of Shin (the man who escaped), and the author who wrote and told his story. This provides a great perspective because the author helps clarify and really outline the struggle North Koreans' have in assimilating to life outside of North Korea. I also appreciate his frustrations in trying to deal with an escapee, because many people might assume that once out of North Korea, these people can just "get on with their lives" problem free. Clearly, it is a life long process and these people are often traumatized and confused as their feelings (which they are taught to suppress) finally surface.
Shin in one of only two known escapees from labor camps in North Korea, which is an astounding feat. This book tells his life story (from his memory) along with some fact based evidence added by Blaine Harden (author) of his life born into a N.Korean labor camp, to his escape and life after living outside of North Korea.
The chapters are well written, and make an impact. The culture of North Korea is well explained (caste system, rules, blood lines and how one can be considered guilty even if they did nothing wrong by virtue of being related to someone considered an "enemy"of the state, the lives in labor camps, and the conditions people live in).
This is an absolutely beautifully written, poignant story about family, life, loss, coping, and the intricacies of family dynamics, bonds, bottled up...moreThis is an absolutely beautifully written, poignant story about family, life, loss, coping, and the intricacies of family dynamics, bonds, bottled up emotions, and the ties that bind us to each other. I didn't know exactly what to expect of this book, but once I got into the story, I couldn't put it down. Catherine Chung is an immensely talented writer and I look forward to her next book.(less)