Buchanan's debut work of historical fiction is a thing of beauty.
To be perfectly honest, I didn't want to like this book based on the cheesy cover--wBuchanan's debut work of historical fiction is a thing of beauty.
To be perfectly honest, I didn't want to like this book based on the cheesy cover--woman in rippling turquoise dress facing the wind--and the overly dramatic title--The Day the Falls Stood Still (I mean, seriously?), but the writing is delicate and polished and the story wonderfully bittersweet.
The story: In the early 1900s Bess Heath is a young woman of fallen circumstances who meets a captivating young man with an almost supernatural knowledge of Niagra Falls. Her love and the story of the river are seamlessly intertwined.
I know this book sounds soft, but it is remarkably well written. I was impressed and I would recommend it. ...more
A twisting yarn of a book that struck me as something written fresh on the heels of 9-11. There were certain elements of the plot that I thought wereA twisting yarn of a book that struck me as something written fresh on the heels of 9-11. There were certain elements of the plot that I thought were probably even more impactful for readers who read this book a few years after that horrific event.
Beginning in Nagasaki, Japan, just before the second nuclear bomb drops, the story ventures to India, Turkey, Pakistan, and New York as it follows two families, one of German-English and another Japanese-Pakistani extraction. Lives mirror and intersect, and Shamsie makes some important observations about class and racial tension.
Because this book was recommended to me for my fondness for The Far Pavilions, I expected a grand, sweeping love story. No luck. The romance motif in this book is nothing like Ashok's fairy-tales. Instead the relationships are broken down jalopies, bravely forging ahead on unstable ground. On that negative note, one could also easily compare this novel to The Kite Runner for it's ties to the conflict in Afghanistan. For me, the Kite Runner is more straight-forwardly depressing. This book is much more thoughtful and introspective.
Ultimately, what was most interesting to me was the cultural soup of Japanese, German, British, Indian, Pakistani, and Americans that flavored the novel. My general takeaway was that the author wanted to show what happens when people choose to be nice to "the other", but still not treat them as equals--those actions have far-reaching, inhumane, humiliating consequences. I also thought that it was interesting to note that author dismisses the idea of using the personal element of a tragedy as the centerpiece of a larger tragedy...
Food for thought (Regarding Nagasaki):
"You lived it," Kim said. "our father died in it. Your fiance died in it. There's no shame in putting all the weight in the world on that." It was the wrong answer. Hiroko turned to her, face bright with anger. "Is that why? That's why Nagasaki was such a monstrous crime? Because it happened to me?" She pulled the gloves off and threw them at Kim. "I don't want your hot chocolate," she said and stalked away.
This book brings up a lot of sediment to sift through. It wasn't always pleasant to read, but it was educational. ...more
I remember reading this book as a kid and being very very confused when the movie Mrs. Doubtfire came out. "But it's Mme. Doubtfire," I kept protestinI remember reading this book as a kid and being very very confused when the movie Mrs. Doubtfire came out. "But it's Mme. Doubtfire," I kept protesting. It's funny how little things like that are very important when you are young. ...more
I guess I should have known better by the title "Lebanon: Death of a Nation," but this book was one of the most profoundly depressing I've ever read.I guess I should have known better by the title "Lebanon: Death of a Nation," but this book was one of the most profoundly depressing I've ever read.
A Moroccan Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Well, not quite. But there is something of the wistfulness of Francie in Fatima Mernissi, a young girl growing up wA Moroccan Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Well, not quite. But there is something of the wistfulness of Francie in Fatima Mernissi, a young girl growing up within the confines of a harem in Fez. The idea of a harem in the 1940s is somewhat different than the stereotype, and the definition of the word is something that Mernissi goes into in great detail. Let's just say that there are no eunuchs waving palm fronds or scenes from The History of the World, Part I, or Scheherazade. Although, the tales of Scheherazade do feature prominently in the female culture of the harem.
I loved this book. It's absolutely fascinating. I love how Mernissi mixes her own lively childhood experiences of hiding in olive jars, trips to the hammam, homemade beauty treatments, her extended family's love of storytelling, the role of slaves in their home, and then contrasts it with the frustration her mother feels from living in a traditional household and being illiterate. The role of women during this time period sounds like a real challenge.
There are also some great observations about the American soldiers who arrived in Morocco during WWII. Apparently, they went right for the ladies.
A few quotes that I found striking: "Once I asked Mina why she danced so smoothly while most of the wother women made abrupt, jerky movements, and she said that many of the women confused liberation with agitation. 'Some ladies are angry with their lives,' she said 'and so even their dance becomes an expression of that.' Angry women are hostages of their anger. They cannot escape it and set themselves free, which is indeed a sad fate. The worst of prisons is a self-created one." p.162
"'Mothers should tell little girls and boys about the importance of dreams,' Aunt Habiba said. 'They give a sense direction. It is not enough to reject this courtyard--you need to have a vision of the meadows with which you want to replace it.' But how, I asked Aunt Habiba, could you distinguish among all the wishes, all the cravings which besieged you, and find the one on which you ought to focus, the important dream that gave you vision? She said that little children had to be patient, the key dream would emerge and bloom within, and then, from the intense pleasure it gave you, you would know that that it was the genuine little treasure which would give you direction and light." p. 214
"Maturity is when you start feeling the motion of zaman (time) as if it is a sensuous caress." p.216...more
Profoundly sad. It's a shame that some countries seem cursed to suffer from instability. And not just current instability, but instability for thousanProfoundly sad. It's a shame that some countries seem cursed to suffer from instability. And not just current instability, but instability for thousands of years. I think one of the important things to realize about war is that it echoes down through generations. The children and grandchildren of these people feel the effects of their parents' and grandparents' suffering. It's so very hard to break the cycle. ...more
I'm not going to rate this book, because I think this novel was simply a genre mismatch for me.
The first moment I knew something was up was when TatiI'm not going to rate this book, because I think this novel was simply a genre mismatch for me.
The first moment I knew something was up was when Tatiana met Alexandra. The interaction was so...well, emotional. Oddly so. Schmaltzy even. I thought, "How odd." But, I kept going. Then we got to a love scene and I thought, "Wait a minute." Is this a romance novel? It was so...graphic. But, I dismissed that and kept reading.
Then we diverged into true bleakness. The bleakest setting for any novel you can imagine. The author does a great job describing starvation. I was stressed.
But then, I arrived at Book II, which was basically copulation. And the copulation kept going. I mean, for like, 100 pages. Bodices were coming off right and left--only in this case they were Russian peasant outfits and the Russia/American guy from the 1940s kept saying things like, "babe" and "I love your blondness." There were so many pages of this I started to feel cagy. Uncomfortable. Profoundly bored. Did I say profoundly bored? Can I repeat that just one more time?
I put the book down. "This has to be a romance novel," I concluded. I started Google-ing "Avon Harper Collins." "Oh dear God, it was."
I don't think I've ever read a romance novel, until now. Ever. (Although I'm sure someone will start mining through my shelves and tell me that, yes, I have.) I've certainly read lowbrow books and I enjoy a good chick lit tome now and then, but this was on another level.
Is this what bodice rippers are like? It was like listening to Britney Spears for me. Over and over again. And whenever clothes came off we were suddenly transported from 1940s Leningrad to something that felt suspiciously contemporary. The "babes" bits were painful.
And it's a shame, because I think with some editing--i.e. cutting out almost all of the bodice ripping and the comments where our heroine, Tatiana thinks about how young she is (Does anyone young ever think about how young they are? and comment on it to themselves?), you have a really nice book in there. The descriptions of war and the life are vivid and interesting, but those offending 100 pages nearly killed me.
So, next time I'm going to check the imprint online before I buy a book that promises history and a little bit of romance. I thought I liked romance, but not quite that much.
I read this right on the heels of finishing Less than Zero. I can't read any more of these books--I don't enjoy them. I'd rather be reading Jane AusteI read this right on the heels of finishing Less than Zero. I can't read any more of these books--I don't enjoy them. I'd rather be reading Jane Austen; social satire without scenes of violence and torture.
If you are an Ellis fan, you'll probably be satisfied with this book though.
Halfway through the book, I decided that I liked Imperial Bedrooms better than Less than Zero, mostly because the plot seemed tighter and there are some beautiful turns of phrase. The final 30 pages or so reversed that opinion. I think I was looking for something more surprising. Or sadder. ...more
Ellis' view of Los Angeles in the 80s is stomach-wrenching. It's a depressing picture embroidered with sex, drugs, and aimless nights at McDonalds.
IEllis' view of Los Angeles in the 80s is stomach-wrenching. It's a depressing picture embroidered with sex, drugs, and aimless nights at McDonalds.
I know that Ellis has been questioned in the media for years about his books being misogynistic, so I was curious to see if I would pick up on that criticism. I have to say that after reading the book it hard to think otherwise. My mental note as I was reading this was: "this character does not like women--not at all."
I'm also a bit dismayed by the claim that Ellis is a literary tour de force. I thought that the book was good, but not particularly literary. Then again, it was his first novel and I believe that it was written when he was a teenager. ...more
I didn't have the highest of hopes for this book about the dysfunctional, decaying Vanderbilt family. I grabbed it from the office pile this weekend fI didn't have the highest of hopes for this book about the dysfunctional, decaying Vanderbilt family. I grabbed it from the office pile this weekend for what I thought would be some guilty pleasure reading, mostly because I enjoy books with dynastic tension, from The Forsythe Saga to your average non-fiction tome about the Kennedys.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the most redeeming quality of Dead End Gene Pool was the writing. Burden is ridiculously talented. I found myself laughing out loud over her lively descriptions of mortician hopes and dreams, the pranks she played on her alcoholic grandparents, and getting bit on butt by the family chef. Sentences such as "Whereas my grandfather had the rounded physiognomy of a blue-eyed owl, his mother had creased eyes and a crumply sort of face that managed to look austerely bluestocking, yet warm and amused," are not the words of a hack trying to cash in on her genetic makeup.
The book played out almost as a surreal Willy-Wonky fantasy for children, except for the fact that Burden's childhood sounds like an awful, lacking way to grow up. I hope she writes more books. ...more
A talent-laden debut by young, hotshot writer Catton. I enjoyed the book and found many of the phrases insightful, but the ending was a bit post-moderA talent-laden debut by young, hotshot writer Catton. I enjoyed the book and found many of the phrases insightful, but the ending was a bit post-modern for my taste. Great first book though. She should only get better. (Note: I got this book through Goodreads Bookswap!) ...more