I absolutely loved this novel!! It earns a place among my all-time favourites. I've only read one other book by Edith WhartonREVIEW STILL IN PROGRESS:
I absolutely loved this novel!! It earns a place among my all-time favourites. I've only read one other book by Edith Wharton (Ethan Frome)and both were beautifully written. They are tragic and moving tales. I don't think I'm able to write a review that will do justice to this book.
Lily Bart is 29 years old when the novel opens. She is very much a product of the society she has been raised in. Her parents moved in New York's highest circle but they never had enough money. Both Lily's parents have died and she has a small income and is otherwise dependent on her aunt, Mrs. Peniston. Lily has always known that she must marry for money and her mother drilled into her that her beauty was her greatest asset. Lily has had opportunities for marriage but it appears that she has always managed to sabotage things just at the crucial moment. She can't quite bring herself to sell herself. She is trapped and indecisive. She fears
"She had been bored all the afternoon by Percy Gryce -- the mere thought seemed to waken and echo of his droning voice - but she could not ignore him on the morrow, she must follow up on her success, must submit to more boredom, must be ready with fresh compliances and adaptabilities, and all on the bare chance that he might ultimately decide to do her the honour of boring her for life."
"Only one thought consoled her, and that was the contemplation of Lily's beauty. She studied it with a kind of passion, as though it were some weapon she had slowly fashioned for her vengeance. It was the last asset in their fortunes, the nucleus around which their life was to be rebuilt. She watched it jealously, as though it were her own property and Lily its mere custodian; and she tried to instil into the latter a sense of the responsibility that such a charge involved. She followed in imagination the career of other beauties, pointing out to her daughter what might be achieved through such a gift, and dwelling on the awful warning of those who, in spite of it, had failed to get what they wanted: to Mrs. Bart, only stupidity could explain the lamentable denouement of some of her examples."
"She liked to think of her beauty as a power for good, as giving her the power to attain a position where she should make her influence felt in the vague diffusement of refinement and good taste. She was fond of pictures and flowers, and of sentimental fiction, and she could not help thinking that the possession of such tastes ennobled her desire for worldly advantages. She would not indeed have cared to marry a man who was merely rich: she was secretly ashamed of her mother's crude passion for money."
"Miss Bart was a keen reader of her own heart, and she saw that her sudden preoccupation with Selden was due to the fact that his presence shed a new light on her surroundings. Not that he was notably brilliant or exceptional; in his own profession he was surpassed by more than one man who had bored Lily through many a weary dinner. It was rather that the had preserved a certain social detachment, a happy air of viewing the show objectively, of having points of contact outside the great gilt cage in which they were all huddled for the mob to gape at. How alluring the world outside the cage appeared to Lily, as she heard its door clang on her! In reality, as she knew, the door never clanged: it stood always open; but most of the captives were like flies in a bottle, and having once flown in, could never regain their freedom. It was Selden's distinction that he had never forgotten the way out."
"To a torn heart uncomforted by human nearness a room may open almost human arms, and the being to whom no four walls mean more than any others, is, at such hours, expatriate everywhere."...more
I enjoyed this month's book club selection, a good read, although I'm somewhat surprised that it won the Governor General's Award. I hadn't hear of thI enjoyed this month's book club selection, a good read, although I'm somewhat surprised that it won the Governor General's Award. I hadn't hear of the book or its author until it was chosen by our book club so I didn't have any particular expectations.
The Mistress of Nothing is based on the letters of Lady Lucie Duff Gordon, a British translator and writer, who was forced to leave England for a drier warmer climate due to her tuberculosis. Although the Duff Gordons were a relatively prominent family, they were not particularly wealthy and Lady DG was accompanied only by her lady's maid Sally Naldrett when she set off for Egypt, settling eventually in Luxor. From Cairo, the services of a dragoman, Omar Abu Halaway were engaged for them and he took over many of the household chores, including all the cooking. The Englishwomen found the heat particularly debilitating. As the household settled into The French House in Luxor, the lines between mistress and staff blurred. Lady DG and Sally Naldrett both abandoned their stays, Lady DG taking to wearing the lighter clothing of Egyptian men, and Sally the clothing of Egyptian women. They became brown as they became less concerned about their English complexions. And in the hot afternoons they reclined on floor cushions, learning Arabic with Omar. The became a congenial relaxed group and Lady DG's health improved. It was only when Lady DG held her salons with prominent Egyptian men that the household reverted to their formal roles. As time passed, Omar and Sally fell in love and she became pregnant. The couple planned to marry although Omar already had a wife and child. This was permissible by Egyptian law. They delayed telling Lady DG about the situation until Sally gave birth to a son on the boat back to Luxor from Cairo. The progressive Lady DG, generally kind to servants, assisted with labour and delivery but refused to see Sally or the baby afterwards. Omar took over all the household duties but his position depended on his obeying Lady DG's wishes regarding his personal life. Although Sally and Omar did marry they were not allowed to live together, and Lady DG purchased a passage home to England for Sally without references, and arranged for Sally to leave baby Abdullah in Cairo with Omar's parents and his first wife. Sally may well have discovered that she was mistress of nothing when she was thus punished for her transgressions but she soon proved that she was mistress of herself.
While a good read, and interesting throughout, this novel was less dramatic than I expected. I found the frequent switching back from present to past tense slightly annoying. I enjoyed the glimpse into 19th century Egyptian culture. There will be much to discuss for the book club. As well as the characters' motivations, the issue of polygamy is sure to come up. I think the question also raises itself as to whether a self-imposed exile from all one loves, family, friends, country, is really an extension of life. Lucie Duff Gordon lived seven years in Luxor. ...more
This memoir maintained my interest consistently although I would describe the writing itself as pedestrian and somewhat repetitious. Li Cunxin spent hThis memoir maintained my interest consistently although I would describe the writing itself as pedestrian and somewhat repetitious. Li Cunxin spent his childhood in rural China, the sixth of seven sons in a peasant family. They lived in poverty, but his uneducated parents were hard-working and loving. They also enjoyed the closeness of extended family living in the same commune. At the age of eight Cunxin began to attend the local school where he was taught to love Mao and Communism. As part of the Cultural Revolution children from peasant, worker, and soldiers' families were chosen to attend a ballet school in Beijing - eleven year old Cunxin was one of those selected even though he didn't know what ballet was. The years at ballet school were gruelling and painful - he was homesick, he hated dance and school, and initially he performed very poorly. But inspired by his parents and a few teachers he began to apply himself and became one of the school's best dancers. This led to an opportunity to visit America where he soon questioned what he had been taught about capitalist societies. He also fell in love. When it was time to return to China he chose to defect and began a successful career as a principal dancer. It would be years before he saw or spoke to his family again, or was permitted to visit China. Overall, this was enjoyable and well worth reading.
Alice Howland is a fifty year old cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and an expert in linguistics. She begins to notice memory lapses and wordAlice Howland is a fifty year old cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and an expert in linguistics. She begins to notice memory lapses and word difficulties which she puts down to menopause and stress until she finds herself in Harvard Square one day and doesn't know how to get home. A diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's has a profound effect on her career, her personal life and that of her husband and three adult children. This is a compelling novel, well-written, and entirely believable. Highly recommended!...more
As a result of a random encounter with a stranger on a bus who tells him to "Say yes more", Danny Wallace decides to accept every opportunity, every oAs a result of a random encounter with a stranger on a bus who tells him to "Say yes more", Danny Wallace decides to accept every opportunity, every offer, that comes his way. For a year he determines to respond with a resounding yes to everything, e-mail spam offers, party invitations, job opportunities, blind dates... It's an interesting concept and when I started reading I thought I'd probably enjoy this book club selection. But by the time I'd reached the halfway point I'd begun to find the whole thing tedious, boring, and uninspiring, a real non-event. ...more
**spoiler alert** This was a book club selection and although I didn't love the book, I'm not sorry to have read it. I was amused by the first sentenc**spoiler alert** This was a book club selection and although I didn't love the book, I'm not sorry to have read it. I was amused by the first sentence of Part Four: "I have, I am aware, told this story in a very rambling way so that it may be difficult for anyone to find their path through what may be a sort of maze." Now, that's the truth!
The narrator is an American, John Dowell, who resides in Europe with his wife Florence who has a heart condition. In 1904, at Nauheim, a spa town in Germany, they meet an English couple, Captain Edward Ashburnham, who also has heart problems, and his wife Leonora. These couples are "good people", well-to-do and civilized and this is the beginning of much togetherness and a friendship that will last nine years. Dowell, is either naive or an unreliable narrator, probably a bit of both. The story is told in a non-linear fashion as he goes back to add details that he forgot, or things that he learned from the others at a later date. It is also somewhat repetitive as it gives events from different points of view. What becomes clear is that Florence and Ashburnham were having an affair through all these years, and that Leonora was fully aware of it whereas Dowell himself claims not to have known. What brings matters to their full tragic conclusion is the love that blossoms between Ashburnham and his wife's ward, Nancy Rufford. The story opens with the sentence that "This is the saddest story I have ever heard." It is indeed a sad story, one that culminates in suicides and madness.
"Why can't people have what they want? The things were all there to content everybody; yet everybody has the wrong thing. Perhaps you can make head or tail of it: it is beyond me. Is there then any terrestrial paradise where, amidst the whispering of the olive-leaves, people can be with whom they like and have what they like and take their ease in shadows and in coolness? Or are all men's lives like the lives of us good people - like the lives of the Ashburnhams, of the Dowells, of the Ruffords - broken, tumultuous, agonized, and unromantic lives, periods punctuated by screams, by imbecilities, by deaths, by agonies? Who the devil knows?"...more
I reread this for book club and enjoyed it just as much the second time around. Christopher Boone is a fifteen year old boy with Asperger Syndrome (auI reread this for book club and enjoyed it just as much the second time around. Christopher Boone is a fifteen year old boy with Asperger Syndrome (autism) who decides to investigate the killing of the neighbour’s dog. Although brilliant at mathematics and logic, Christopher lacks basic understanding of human emotion, he has no empathy and no imagination. The story is told from his point of view, enabling the reader to understand what a frightening and dangerous place the world is for Christopher and others like him. Ironically, Christopher’s parents have their own difficulties in dealing with emotions and relationships. One feels compassion for Christopher and his parents and the book gives one a greater understanding of what it must be like to be autistic. I enjoyed the diagrams and some of the math puzzles too. ...more
**spoiler alert** This is a beautiful book. A group of international VIPs are taken hostage after a birthday party given for the founder of a large Ja**spoiler alert** This is a beautiful book. A group of international VIPs are taken hostage after a birthday party given for the founder of a large Japanese electronics firm by a small, impoverished, and unnamed South American country which hopes to entice him into opening a plant. After repeatedly refusing the invitation, Katsumi Hosakawa accepts when American lyric soprano Roxane Cox agrees to perform. The terrorists’ intent was to capture the president of their country, but he did not attend because he didn’t want to miss his favourite soap opera. What follows, as negotiations drag on for months, is a siege in which relationships, friendship and love develop among the hostages and with their captors. It’s an international group and with the help of Gen, Hosakawa’s translator, and love and music, which require no translation, this becomes a mostly peaceful interlude in which hostages and terrorists alike experience a lull in the frenetic pace of life, and are able to savour and appreciate much that is beautiful. Another reader described the pace of this book as “the opening of a flower” and I think that is a very apt description. The epilogue was surprising, and yet I think not unrealistic given the experience these people shared. I was inspired to stop and listen to some of the arias that Roxane Coss sang, O mio babbino caro, and Mesicku na nebi hlubokem. ...more
**spoiler alert** This was a book club selection. I wasn’t sure if I’d read it before but I saw the movie many times growing up – loved Gregory Peck a**spoiler alert** This was a book club selection. I wasn’t sure if I’d read it before but I saw the movie many times growing up – loved Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. Once I started reading, I realized I’d never read this classic. It’s narrated by Scout (Jean Louise) Finch, the young daughter of defense lawyer Atticus Finch. Set in small-town racially divided Alabama in the thirties, Scout and brother Jem are being raised by their widowed father with the help of black maid Calpurnia. Later on Aunt Alexandra arrives with the intention of turning tomboy Scout into a young lady. Summers are filled with the visits of their friend Dill, and assorted childhood games, such as daring each other to enter the yard of recluse Boo Radley. Scout sees her father as “old and feeble”, Atticus is nearly fifty after all. It is only after Atticus shoots a rabid dog, and later unsuccessfully defends a black man for the rape of a white woman, that the children begin to recognize their father’s courage and wisdom.
“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience” – Atticus Finch ...more
This book club selection was easy to read and engrossing. In 1984, in a remote Indian village Kavita gives birth to her second daughter. Her husband tThis book club selection was easy to read and engrossing. In 1984, in a remote Indian village Kavita gives birth to her second daughter. Her husband took their first daughter away from her at birth, and it appears that she was a victim of infanticide. Kavita is determined to protect her second daughter from this fate and still weak from giving birth walks to the orphanage in Mumbai where she gives up the girl she has named Usha. At the same time. in California, a young doctor, Somer, discovers that she will never have a child of her own. Her Indian-born husband Krishnan, also a doctor, suggests they adopt and his parents in Mumbai are able to help with the arrangements. Asha, as they know her, grows up in privilege, knowing very little of her Indian roots. The marriage of Somer and Krishnan suffers due to cultural conflicts as well as from Somer's changing focus from career to motherhood. The novel follows both the American family and their extended Indian family, as well as Kavita, her husband, and the son eventually born to them who proves to be a disappointment. This is a novel about culture, family, identity, belonging, and gender issues. ...more
This was recommended by a friend of my brother's and I had very high expectations of it so I suggested it to my book club. Unfortunately, the book didThis was recommended by a friend of my brother's and I had very high expectations of it so I suggested it to my book club. Unfortunately, the book didn’t live up to them. There were too many characters, they were hard to keep track of, and for the most part the characterization was superficial. I found the writing wordy, and too many irrelevant details got in the way of the story. The plot relied heavily on coincidences and seemed unlikely. There was potentially an excellent novel in here about an Armenian-American girl, a Turkish girl (the bastard) from Istanbul, their large extended families, and a past that included the Armenian genocide of 1915, but ultimately this was a disappointment....more
**spoiler alert** I didn’t want to read this book because I’d heard that it was very violent. But because it was a book club selection I had to at lea**spoiler alert** I didn’t want to read this book because I’d heard that it was very violent. But because it was a book club selection I had to at least make an attempt. On the bright side, it was a relatively short book. I printed a glossary from the internet to help with Nadsat, the Russian-like version of English used by the teenage narrator. The first part was indeed brutally violent with gang fights, rape, and murder. However, the use of Nadsat distanced the reader from the events. Even without the help of the glossary, it was easy enough to understand the text. Up to about halfway through the book, I was still reading the book reluctantly but from the point where Alex was imprisoned and sent for rehabilitation, I did a complete 180 and could hardly put it down. I’m now glad I read it and looking forward to the book club discussion. The author raises some interesting points about good and evil, free will and humanity. It’s a very worthwhile read, both for the theme and the use of language. I don’t think I could see the movie though!...more
The circus doesn’t appeal to me very much so it’s unlikely that I would have read this book if it hadn’t been chosen by one of my book clubs. One of tThe circus doesn’t appeal to me very much so it’s unlikely that I would have read this book if it hadn’t been chosen by one of my book clubs. One of the reasons I belong to book clubs is that they force me to discover books I would have missed. I really enjoyed this vividly told story, the fictional circus memoir of ninety-something year old Jacob Janowski. Orphaned and suddenly without financial resources, just before he was to sit his final exams at Cornell veterinary school, Jacob jumps onto a train carrying the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Taken on because of his skills, he discovers the circus world behind the glitz and meets an unusual cast of characters, human and animal. There’s an interesting twist near the end, which I caught on to just before it was revealed. My favourite parts of the book were those which took place in the nursing home – they should perhaps be compulsory reading for anyone working or visiting there. Jacob’s confrontation with aging and its associated losses rang very true, but I applauded his ultimate refusal to sit completely on the sidelines of the circus and life. ...more
(The Journals of May Dodd) This was a book club selection and I probably wouldn’t have finished it otherwise. It was quite readable although my intere(The Journals of May Dodd) This was a book club selection and I probably wouldn’t have finished it otherwise. It was quite readable although my interest began to flag about halfway through. This is fiction based on one historical fact. In the mid nineteenth century during peace negotiations an Indian chief asked the American government to provide 1000 white women as brides for his young warriors. It never happened but this book speculates on what that experience would have been like if the government had acceded to the request.
May Dodd is a young woman whose prominent and wealthy family placed her in an insane asylum because she fell in love and had two children out of wedlock with her father’s foreman, Harry Ames (?). The government offers release from prison and asylum in an attempt to make up the numbers of women. May Dodd accepts the opportunity for freedom and heads west with fifty other women in the first contingent to join the Cheyenne tribe. Enroute she meets and falls in love with an army Captain, John Bourke, although she professes still to be in love with the father of her children. Bourke tries to dissuade her from her plans, but he is engaged to be married, and there is no future for them. May predictably marries the Indian Chief, Little Wolf, who already has two wives. Eventually she gives birth to a daughter, who, again predictably, is the child of Captain Bourke. My main complaint with the novel is the lack of character development. I did not get any sense of the Indian characters as individuals at all, and the white women were distinguished mainly by accents, Irish, Austrian, southern states, and stereotypical attributes, the religious zealot, the proud bigoted southerner, the earthy Irish twins, and the strong black woman with May representing the strong-minded independent woman. Not surprisingly, there is much violence on the part of the whites and the Indians. The author at least, did not provide a false and one-sided picture of the noble savage and the wicked whites. ...more
"When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no poin**spoiler alert**
"When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready." - from the author's note
I first read this 2 1/2 years ago and was keen to read it again when it was chosen by one of my book clubs. I still think the basic concept of the story is great – the temptation of the villagers by the Stranger who comes into their midst. They are offered 10 bars of gold if they will murder a mutually agreed upon victim within a week. The Stranger also places temptation before Chantal Prym, a young barmaid. He offers her one bar of gold for her part in presenting his offer to the villagers. But since he has shown her where that bar of gold is buried, she could simply steal it and leave the village without saying anything to the rest of the villagers. It’s interesting to see the important people of the village, the priest, the mayor, the landowner, trying to influence the outcome and justify their decision to accept the deal offered by the Stranger and the selection of the victim. Coelho is attempting to prove that both good and evil reside in humans and the choice rests with the individual. But I felt upon this reading that the denouement didn’t really support this conclusion - the villagers’ ultimate choice was made by the realization and fear that they might not get what they had expected from the deal. Although they did not carry out the murder, it was not because they rejected evil. Still, this short novel offers much to think about and should provide a good book group discussion. I originally rated this book 10 stars but on second reading, I’m giving it 8 stars. ...more
I chose this when it was my turn to pick a book club selection. The novel started off very promisingly. Smilla was a fascinating character and I enjoyI chose this when it was my turn to pick a book club selection. The novel started off very promisingly. Smilla was a fascinating character and I enjoyed the contrast between Greenlandic and Danish culture and values. As the novel progressed, however, it became more of a thriller with multiple subplots and characters which were hard to keep track of, and the novel ended with a disappointing lack of resolution. It appeared at times that the author wasn’t sure whether he was writing a crime thriller or a sci-fi novel. ...more
I read this for one of my book clubs and that is the main reason I finished it. It was also a quick read. This is a spoof of the spy genre and it realI read this for one of my book clubs and that is the main reason I finished it. It was also a quick read. This is a spoof of the spy genre and it really wasn’t my kind of book. It verged on the edge of being mildly amusing but didn’t quite make it in my opinion. I can, however, see that it might appeal to other readers. ...more
**spoiler alert** I first read this Oprah selection about seven years ago and don’t remember liking it. I re-read it for book club and enjoyed the re-**spoiler alert** I first read this Oprah selection about seven years ago and don’t remember liking it. I re-read it for book club and enjoyed the re-read. It’s a very good and thought-provoking book. Reading it so soon after The Sunflower was great timing. Fifteen-year-old Michael Berg meets Hanna, a woman more than twice his age, when he becomes ill on his way home from school. After his recovery, he goes to thank her for her help. They become lovers and as part of their rituals he begins to read to her. She disappears and the next time he sees her is years later in court when he is a law student and she is part of a group of prison guards standing trial for their actions during the holocaust. Is there such a thing as collective guilt, should a person feel guilt for loving someone capable of such crimes? Is the next generation responsible for the actions of their parents? It becomes clear to Michael as the trial progresses and as he considers the past that Hanna was unable to read, and that she would do anything to avoid disclosing her secret, even failing to defend herself. Michael marries unsuccessfully, apparently affected by his past. Hanna spends years in jail, Michael makes and sends her audio tapes of books that he had read to her, and Hanna learns to read and write. On the day of her discharge, Hanna commits suicide. I didn't feel a great deal of sympathy for Hanna, in large part because I felt she took unfair advantage seducing a 15 year old boy. ...more
This was chosen as a selection for one of my book clubs. I enjoyed it, very good summer reading, but was doubtful whether a mystery of this type wouldThis was chosen as a selection for one of my book clubs. I enjoyed it, very good summer reading, but was doubtful whether a mystery of this type would generate much discussion for a book club. But the conclusion certainly removed any doubts about that, and we had a very good discussion about justice - with an interesting variety of opinions! The book also raised the topic of capital punishment. Val McDermid is an excellent writer of intelligent mysteries. Thirteen-year-old Alison Carter disappeared from her isolated Derbyshire village in December 1963. Inspector George Bennett was determined to solve his first serious crime case. Thirty-five years later journalist Catherine Heathcote persuades Bennett to tell his story of the investigation. But just when the book is ready he asks her to halt the publication because of new information which he will not disclose…. ...more
**spoiler alert** This novel is going to be Winnipeg’s selection for the 2009 On the Same Page read – a very good choice in my opinion. I really enjoy**spoiler alert** This novel is going to be Winnipeg’s selection for the 2009 On the Same Page read – a very good choice in my opinion. I really enjoyed it. Lily Piper lives on the isolated prairie with her farm family, fundamentalist Christians ready for the Rapture. She is not the good daughter her mother wants, and they have a poor relationship. She loves her father but doesn’t understand him and tries to imagine his past. Eventually we learn that he is an epileptic. When her teen years arrive, Lily is offered a chance of escape; her English grandmother requires someone to live with her. Lily sets off for England and the contrasts between the isolation of her Canadian life and the fullness of life among her English family are great. She falls in love with her adopted cousin, George. World War II arrives and this affects her family in both countries. Eventually Lily must return to the prairies to care for her mother. My notes made weeks after completing the book. ...more
I first read this novel seven years ago and it was well worth rereading. It's a powerfully moving book written when the author was trying to come to tI first read this novel seven years ago and it was well worth rereading. It's a powerfully moving book written when the author was trying to come to terms with the suicides of her two sisters. This is the twenty-fifth anniversary edition and sadly this story of aboriginal children growing up in foster care still rings true today. ...more
This novel presents life in Vancouver’s Chinatown during the ‘30s and ‘40s from the point of view of the youngest three children in a family of immigrThis novel presents life in Vancouver’s Chinatown during the ‘30s and ‘40s from the point of view of the youngest three children in a family of immigrants. Each child has their own dreams, unique bonds within the family, and different influences beyond the family circle. Jook-Liang is the only daughter, frequently told by her grandmother Poh-Poh that a girl-child is mo yung, useless. But she dreams of dancing like Shirley Temple and develops a strong relationship with an unattractive family friend, an old Chinese bachelor, Wong-Suk, who reminds everyone of Monkey Man. Jung-Sum is the second brother, adopted and fully accepted into the family after the death of his own parents. He is drawn into the world of boxing where he discovers certain truths about himself. Sek-Lung (Sekky) is the sickly third son, very close to the grandmother who cared for him during his illness. His play is dominated by war themes and through his babysitter Meiying, he becomes exposed to the world beyond Chinatown. The family’s life is strongly influenced by historical events of the times, the Depression, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Chinese Head Tax, World War II, and the Japanese Occupation of China. The real power in this family resides with the eldest member, grandmother Poh-Poh. The father is busy working at various jobs to support his family, and the mother plays a subordinate role. Referred to as “stepmother” by all, even though she is the biological mother of Jook-Liang and Sek-Lung, she was bought as a family servant and concubine after the death of the First Wife, mother of the eldest son. Poh-Poh has decided that she will be known as stepmother to keep things simpler. And certainly, within this community, there appears to be a need for simplicity and secrecy as well as “paper histories” to deal with the alien culture and bureaucracy surrounding them. These individuals were considered “resident aliens”, even the children born in Canada. I loved this book with its themes of family life, cultural differences, identity, racism, gender and sexual roles. It was interesting to see the rising prejudice against the Japanese and their eventual internment from a Chinese perspective. I felt immersed in the times and in the life of this family, and although there was sadness and tragedy in this story, it was handled so deftly that the book did not feel heavy or depressing. I'd highly recommend it. ...more
I chose this novel when it was my turn to make a book club selection. I’d heard a few people rave about it and the online excerpt of Chapter 1 reallyI chose this novel when it was my turn to make a book club selection. I’d heard a few people rave about it and the online excerpt of Chapter 1 really drew me in. But overall I was somewhat disappointed, didn’t find that the book lived up to its promising start. There was much to like. It was enjoyable, easy reading. Having the family dog Enzo as the narrator was a novel way of telling the story and brought some humour into it. I thought that racing was a good metaphor for life. But I found the plot overly sensational and predictable. And the only character that really came to life for me was the loveable, loyal Enzo. I did shed a few tears near the end of the story in spite of the fact that I’m not a dog lover. Enzo had much wisdom to share but I didn’t entirely agree with all of his thoughts on life. Although I think attitude is important, I don’t believe that we choose to grow old or get sick.
“She was my rain. She was my unpredictable element. She was my fear. But a racer should not be afraid of rain; a racer should embrace the rain.” ...more
This was a book club selection and probably not a book I would have chosen myself. Initially I found Brown’s account of his son Walker’s condition (caThis was a book club selection and probably not a book I would have chosen myself. Initially I found Brown’s account of his son Walker’s condition (cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome) and the family’s life with a severely handicapped child very disjointed. CFC is a rare condition (100 cases worldwide) caused by a genetic mutation. Symptoms vary but include facial dysmorphia, skin irregularities, heart murmurs and malformations. Walker cannot speak, he is moderately retarded, has difficulty swallowing, is not toilet-trained, and bangs his head and hits himself. The challenge of caring for such a child, one who regularly wakes up during the night, takes an incredible toll on this family. Eventually Walker is placed into a group home but his parents feel a great deal of ambivalence and guilt over this. The author addresses the difficulties of obtaining funds and support for the severely handicapped. He also tracks down other families with children like Walker, and visits L’Arche communities where mentally delayed adults live in homes where the residents and their assistants interact as equals. In his search for his son, who he is and why he is so, Brown also explores the genetic causes of the condition. The book moved me to tears twice, with the death from lung cancer of the mother of an 8-year-old CFC boy, and at the end as I contemplated the author’s love for his son along with his struggle to accept him just as he is. ...more