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)
One of the most beautiful books I've ever read. The writing is simple and sparse, drawing you completely into the story of Sh...moreAround the World = Tibet.
One of the most beautiful books I've ever read. The writing is simple and sparse, drawing you completely into the story of Shu Wen and her quest to find what became of her husband, Kejun. For such a slim book, the scale of the story is epic, fitting the vastness of the landscape through which Wen travels and her gradual transformation from an outsider, a Chinese observing Tibetan culture, to becoming fully absorbed into the life through her everyday survival.
As an insight into the nomadic way of life in mid-century Tibet, it is fascinating and compelling, painting an intimate portrait of their traditions, spirituality, and the minutiae of day-to-day living. Xinran's understated descriptions (perhaps stemming from her background as a journalist, rather than a novelist) allow the nature of Tibet to be revealed alongside the slowly unfolding story, and you realise that it isn't just the love story of Wen and Kejun, but also a love story for Tibet, both for Wen and for the reader. (less)
Levy weaves together the stories of four characters, each a part of a forgotten story of post-war Britain and the Commonweal...moreAround the World = Jamaica
Levy weaves together the stories of four characters, each a part of a forgotten story of post-war Britain and the Commonwealth. Hortense, a product of a colonial upbringing where her light skin and education set her above other Jamaicans; Gilbert, a former RAF serviceman returned to England on the Empire Windrush; Queenie, surviving by any means possible on the home front, and then as a woman on her own in post-war London; and Bernard, ignorant and narrow-minded, fighting on in the forgotten war in Burma and in the Indian Mutiny.
The characters are well-developed, and Levy is not afraid to make her creations unlike-able. Bernard, in particular, is unpleasant, and unpalatable to reader as a depiction of the sly, subtle racism espoused by individuals in Britain at the time (unlike the shockingly depicted, state-endorsed, overt racism of Jim Crow USA). Hortense, a narrow-minded snob, is a foil to show the class-system that pervades Britain and the Empire, and the prejudices she holds are near as divisive as those of Bernard. However, both are presented with enough of their back-story to give the reader an understanding of how their attitudes and bigotries are developed.
The Small Island of the title, is both Jamaica, too small for Gilbert and his comrades after spending the war overseas, and Britain, once the centre of the Empire and 'mother country', where the ideals of both the white population and black immigrants are crushed through their experiences. Small Island doesn't give its characters a happy ending, but instead offers them hope.(less)
The Bolivian Diary of Ernesto "Che" Guevara details the 11 months of the guerilla campaign for the liberation of Bolivia, un...moreAround the World = Bolivia
The Bolivian Diary of Ernesto "Che" Guevara details the 11 months of the guerilla campaign for the liberation of Bolivia, until the day before his death. Found amongst Che's posessions following his capture and execution by the Bolivian Army, and thus not rewritten for publication, it soberly describes campaign efforts. Preparing trails and provisioning expeditions; recruiting fighters and supporters; skirmishes and ambushes against the army; ilnesses, infections and injuries; starvation and exhaustion; frustration that the spark of revolution sputters and smoulders rather than bursting to life.
Che was a remarkable man, and is now all too often portrayed as the iconic figure on posters and flags. He strived for freedom and equality through his actions, driven by the experiences of the poor and disenfranchised, but this book is not a manifesto. Instead it reveals his very human nature; exhausted and starving, debilitated by his asthma, he holds to his ideals with unwavering conviction.(less)
It's ok. That is as much of a recommendation that I can give this book, as it left me extremely disappointed and unfulfilled and it was a relief when...moreIt's ok. That is as much of a recommendation that I can give this book, as it left me extremely disappointed and unfulfilled and it was a relief when I finally finished it.
The writing is poetic and languidly beautiful, lingering in your mind long after you put the book down. I wanted to love it. But it is such a frustrating read. At times the beauty of the language Ondaatje uses becomes so much the focus of the book that the characters and storyline are lost in the haze.
The film is great though. Beautiful cinematography and much more rounded characterisation. That gets 5 stars.(less)