The first thing that crossed my mind when I found out about Very Good Lives was: “What? She has written another book? But Career of Evil will be releaThe first thing that crossed my mind when I found out about Very Good Lives was: “What? She has written another book? But Career of Evil will be released soon! I haven’t even read The Casual Vacancy! She positively wants to keep her readers surprised!” And so on… But then I found out that this is a commencement speech she delivered at Harvard, in 2008. Why did it take so long to be published, I do not know. I am thankful it finally got published anyway.
As the title suggests, she pointed out two things in her speech: the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. Ms. Rowling undoubtedly is no stranger to failure; she endured a failed marriage, rejections from publishers, she knows what poverty means and how it feels. And yet she spoke of the benefits of failure. Seriously, what benefits can you gain from failing?
She wrote (and spoke): “So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeed in anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena where I believe I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
The second thing she pointed out was the importance of imagination. She was not talking about the magical world of Harry Potter here, but rather about “the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.” Here she shared her experience when she worked at the African research department of Amnesty International, where she caught glimpses of the cruelty, torture, and horrors some people has gone through, people who had the temerity to speak against their governments. She spoke about how the power of human empathy can truly save lives. That human beings have a choice between thinking themselves into other people’s places—the not so fortunate ones—or not to exercise their imaginations at all and close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally.
“If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change. We do not need magic to transform our world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
She encourages us to not shrink in the face of failure and to do more for our less fortunate neighbors. Truly, this is an inspiring piece of writing, one you can reflect upon, one that has the power to stay with you for years to come, even if you only need about 30 minutes to read it.
What to expect when you read a historical novel set in wartime? A display of brutality, a spectacle of bravery or cowardice or both, an atmosphere terWhat to expect when you read a historical novel set in wartime? A display of brutality, a spectacle of bravery or cowardice or both, an atmosphere terrorized by bombs and soldiers, and, inevitably, tragic deaths, traumatized survivors. It would be stupid to expect a happy ending from a historical novel set in wartime.
But All the Light We Cannot See is unlike any war-themed historical novels I have read. Some books focus on the relationships (which usually make the tragedy even more depressing), some others on the desperate efforts the characters were making in attempt to get out of a situation, and some books reveal the reality of man when faced with fire; the worst and the best. This book combines all that, and more.
The story revolves around two major characters. First is a sightless French girl named Marie-Laure LeBlanc, daughter of the locksmith of the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Her father made her a model of their neighborhood in Paris and later the city of Saint-Malo, and got her Jules Verne books in Braille for her birthday. When German airplanes began to bomb Paris, she and her father fled to Saint-Malo, a walled city in northern coast of France to stay with her great-uncle, Etienne LeBlanc. It was unknown to Marie that they carried a dangerous treasure with them; an exotic blue diamond worth millions of francs known as the Sea of Flames.
The second major character is Werner Pfennig, a white-haired German boy who grew up in an orphanage with her sister. He liked to fix radios while her sister Jutta was busy making sketches. His intelligence and talent earned him a place in Schulpforta, a special school where the best German boys were trained for the war. Despite the brutality he faced everyday at Schulpforta, he had a heartwarming friendship with a boy named Frederick. Later he was sent for missions to several cities and finally, to Saint-Malo where he crossed paths with Marie-Laure, as the vague details of the story was being unwrapped one by one.
I am usually fascinated by war-themed books, and by the time I saw the cover of this book I was instantly attracted. On the cover it shows a photograph of a walled city by the sea and big skies. It is blue, my favorite color. And the fact that it won Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015 made me set my heart to read it. But what makes this book different? It was very detailed and rather slow-paced that it took me 25 days to finish it. I have never read anything by Anthony Doerr before, but after reading this book I would like to think that he is a scientist with the soul of a storyteller, or maybe the other way around. He poured little details about locks, mollusks, diamonds, radios, birds, light, and science into the story and brought all of them together with a style of writing I find rather romantic.
The brain is locked in total darkness, of course, children, says the voice. It floats in a clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement. So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?
War-themed books usually left me emotionally wrecked, but it’s not the same case with this book. It didn’t make me cry, but I am deeply moved by how the characters showed kindness toward each other, even in unlikely times and situations. I found more spark in the minor characters like Frederick and Madame Manec than in characters with bigger roles, but I love Werner Pfennig with all my heart, and wished that somehow, he could be spared of premature death. I am a little irritated when the characters “sees” or “hears”, as if they were relentlessly reminded of the past, whether it was in their near or distant past. Maybe if this happened only to several characters and not almost all of them, I would not be as annoyed. However, I love the way the author wove together the little stories of each characters into one epic and exquisitely written tale of courage and humanity. I give four stars for this book.
“You must never stop believing. That’s the most important thing.” – Madame Manec
Literally a huge treat to fans of BBC Sherlock everywhere - it contains everything I can think of: ideas, the making of, actor filmographies, characteLiterally a huge treat to fans of BBC Sherlock everywhere - it contains everything I can think of: ideas, the making of, actor filmographies, character developments, sets, costumes, special effects, music, the growing fandom of the show... and of course exclusive photos. My favourite, aside from the photos, would be the 'Holmes from Holmes' where parts of Doyle's works are put to side-by-side comparison with what the creative team made for modern times Sherlock. Spotted some minor typos and it once said 'John and Sarah's wedding' but these flaws can be easily ignored....more