I greatly enjoyed this reading this book, with the vast scope and abundance of facts taking in many facets of the Atlantic: the geology of its formati...moreI greatly enjoyed this reading this book, with the vast scope and abundance of facts taking in many facets of the Atlantic: the geology of its formation and ultimate demise; the exploration that defined its boundaries; its military and economic history; its influence on music and the arts; the shaping of cultures on its coasts. Wound through this are tales of ships and wrecks, fishing and flying, invention and ecological destruction.
However, the opening yarn and reasoning of the structure, framed around Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man, are rather contrived and require considerable explanation, making it a bit of a slog to get to the meat of the book. The narrative tends to leap around, with little connectivity other than overlong personal anecdote, giving a slight disorganised feel overall. I also felt the discussion of climate science rather basic, with a skew towards a sceptic position (perhaps to be more accommodating to an American audience?).
That being said, I'd read more of Winchester's works in future. The sweeping breadth of this book makes it a satisfying and leisurely wade into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, perfect for a summer on the beach or winter's evening with the wind and waves whipping outside.(less)
Maitland draws inpiration for this collection of short stories from fairy tales, bible stories and traditional myths and legends, and weaves a beautif...moreMaitland draws inpiration for this collection of short stories from fairy tales, bible stories and traditional myths and legends, and weaves a beautiful, lyrical and deliciously dark book from her threads. Her writing focuses strongly on the feminine experience, and gives surprising and intriguing twists to familiar tales. The stand-out stories are Far North, based on an Inuit legend, and Slicing Gingerbread, a re-working of Hansel and Gretel.(less)
Sunrise, tantalise, evil eyes hypnotise... Into the wild, dark heart of the Congo come the Price family...moreAround the World = Democratic Republic of Congo
Sunrise, tantalise, evil eyes hypnotise... Into the wild, dark heart of the Congo come the Price family, on a patriarchal mission to evangelise and baptise. Their story is beautifully woven together in the voices of Orleanna, the mother, and her four daughters, each distinctive and compelling, at times lush and lyrical (Adah) and at others lexically incongruous with the setting (bubble-gum princess Rachel).
Kingsolver reveals the hardships, misunderstandings and tragedy of the 14 months of the mission against the background of the days leading up to Congolese independence. The survivors disperse, and are shaped by their experiences over the rest of their lives. The relationships between mother and daughters and between sisters, in the absence of the dominating force of their father, is fully explored as all strive for redemption.(less)
Part-memoir of the early era of flight and part-meditation on the human condition, Saint-Exupéry's book is lyrical, powerful s...moreAround the World = Libya
Part-memoir of the early era of flight and part-meditation on the human condition, Saint-Exupéry's book is lyrical, powerful storytelling immersed in the spirit of adventure, rich with insight and observations on love, beauty, life and death. As near perfect as a piece of writing can be.(less)
Beloved is many things. Inspired by true events, at face value it is a horror story; a murdered child that haunts the house of h...moreAround the World = USA
Beloved is many things. Inspired by true events, at face value it is a horror story; a murdered child that haunts the house of her family, returning to them as a flesh-and-blood? adult to exact her wrath. This is played out in front of the savagery of slavery, violent and brutal scenes woven together with Morrison's lyrical prose, and the struggle for people once only posessions to come to know themselves. Baby Suggs, bought out of slavery by a son she fears loving too much in case he is taken away, feels the beat of her own heart for the first time.
To me, the book spoke about what it is to be a woman. Sethe, denied the chance to define her womenhood and express her maternal love whilst a slave, brutalised and de-humanised, is re-born as a wife and mother with the birth of Denver on the bank of the river. Her brief glimpse of happiness lasts a month, and filled with her children and herself, she commits an unspeakable act. Whether this is an act of madness and cruelty or the most complex act of love she can perform is left for the reader to conclude.(less)
Only a year or so after the end of WWII five Norwegians, a Swede and a Spanish-speaking parrot of irritable disposition set out on one of the most aud...moreOnly a year or so after the end of WWII five Norwegians, a Swede and a Spanish-speaking parrot of irritable disposition set out on one of the most audacious expeditions of modern times. Testing his theory that Polynesia was colonised from South America, Thor Heyerdahl and his team construct a raft of balsa logs using a drawing made by the Conquistadors as their blueprint, travelling into the forests of the foothills of the Andes to collect their materials.
I first read this book as a 10-year-old, and unable to put it down, fell in love with it and the adventurous spirit and sense of danger it embodies. It inspired me to go travelling and even influenced my choice to study Marine Biology at university.
The crew set out from Callao in Peru at the end of April 1947, catching the Humboldt Current out into the Pacific, and, 101 days later, grounded on a reef in the Tuamoto Archipelago, 3770nm distant. This account of the voyage is thrilling; a ripping yarn written very much in the style of a boy's-own-adventure, where Norse heroes meet sea creatures dreamt into existence by Jules Verne. Sharks and squid and something that glows at night follow the tiny raft through wind, rain and shine (and showers of flying fish).
Despite the immensity of their undertaking, Heyerdahl and the others set about their undertaking with a sense of ramshackle recklessness, under-prepared optimism and great humour. The book is ranked #17 in the National Geographic 100 Best Adventure Books of All Time; in my opinion its #1 in the Best Books of All Time.(less)
Historical fiction isn't usually my preferred choice, and I readily admit that I picked up this book tempted by its beautiful cover design and the mas...moreHistorical fiction isn't usually my preferred choice, and I readily admit that I picked up this book tempted by its beautiful cover design and the massive half-price sticker that adorned it. But then I saw it was by David Mitchell, and I had to have it.
And I was not disappointed. In fact, my expectations were exceeded as he skillfully weaves together numerous characters and rich period detail through his beautiful writing to form a dense tapestry across which the story of Jacob and Dejima plays out. Mitchell's superb storytelling brings in threads of impossible romance, kidnap and imprisonment, secret cults with political connections, seafaring action and military entanglements, leaving an evocative and satisfying read.(less)