Summerlost A simply wonderful read for middle-grades or pre-teens, 10-14 years, depending on the maturity and reading ability at the younger end, whicSummerlost A simply wonderful read for middle-grades or pre-teens, 10-14 years, depending on the maturity and reading ability at the younger end, which touches effortlessly, thanks to Ally Condie's pitch-perfect plainsong prose, on major life issues. One is survivor guilt in children after a drunk driver kills a beloved father and an autistic brother. Another is a twelve year old girl's conflicted feelings about her autistic sibling while he was alive, and which are compounded after his untimely death. The Chinese-American backgrounds of the two surviving siblings are casually introduced in the third chapter, no big deal, it's just the way it is.
There is a bond of recognition and friendship with another wonderfully-written character who is mad for all things Shakespeare and who dreams big, which gives the main character permission to do likewise. The book introduces the first glimmerings of what might happen beyond a friendship between two twelve year olds at that wonderful stage of life where good friends can save others from a miserable endless summer with a spiteful upper class bully at work, part of a bicycle gang of kids aptly nicknamed the Hellfarts! The humour is gentle and yet another bond between the two best friends. Sibling issues also underline what it means to be the 'different kid' in a family of football players, encouraged by a Gridiron Dad.
The summer Shakespeare Festival in an idyllic high altitude desert town offers an outlet and opportunities to make money, to volunteer in the costume department and to start a tour for a mysterious theatre and film star. The Festival provides an outlet for their intelligence, energy and creativity like none other. The adult parents in the book are, mercifully and increasingly rarely in teen fiction, kind and caring competent people, striving to do their best for their children and their neighbours while still being human and making mistakes. In other words, they are not cheap laugh track two-dimensional buffoons. Here's a quote that resonated for me and made me wish I'd read this book fifty plus years ago when the closest I came to it was to read Heidi, the little Swiss orphan and her friend, the goatherd Peter and the grumpy Alp Uncle... slim emotional fare compared to the realistic world offered us in this book.
I had all kinds of dreams. I wanted to go skiing again and get fast and good. I wanted to go to London too someday. I wanted to fall in love. I wanted to own a bookstore or a restaurant and have people come in and say,"Hi, Cedar," and I wanted to ride a bike down the streets in a little town in a country where people spoke a different language. Maybe my bike would have a basket and maybe the basket would have flowers in it. I wanted to live in a big city and wear lipstick and my hair up in a bun and buy groceries and carry them home in a paper bag. My high heels would click when I climbed the stairs to my apartment. I wanted to stand at the edge of a lake and listen.
One of the few books I've read which takes a long hard look at what extreme poverty and high stress levels at home do to children and what over-protecOne of the few books I've read which takes a long hard look at what extreme poverty and high stress levels at home do to children and what over-protective and/or absentee parenting and extreme wealth also do to cripple a child's chances at making a success out of life. And college, career, a life devoid of criminal activity, successful family relationships and the whole endeavour of contributing one's talents to this world. As one would expect from a writer with Paul Tough's background (a regular contributor on education to New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker and on public radio to the program, This American Life), the book is very well-researched. We sit in on chess competitions, lots of academic insights and experiments, we go to Chicago schools in desperately poor neighbourhoods, meet teachers involved in leadership roles in public, charter and private schools, from an ultra-affluent New York school to the tough schools Hollywood likes to feature in "teacher as miracle worker" movies. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character Tough is Canadian-born but has settled in the US, and followed an interesting, unorthodox life path himself which only adds more credibility to this book./p>
To pique your interest, and I think this book will be of interest to parents, teachers, grandparents, school board trustees, politicians, and researchers in many fields, think about these qualities: Grit, self-control, zest, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity. We all know people for whom life seemed to come easily: intelligent, good-looking, upper middle class privilege...and who did not live happy lives at all. And we know people who have come up out of dire poverty, indifferent parenting, and with no class or race privilege whatsoever and who have made an incredible success of their lives in all respects. Why is this so? There is no "one size suits all" method or rationale. Some things just can't be taught and that's a reality. But there are sound approaches, truly hopeful case histories and documented results throughout this very good book.
I have always wanted to go to Venice, as do 11 million plus tourists annually. Thanks to this wonderful book, I have vicariously toured some ancient aI have always wanted to go to Venice, as do 11 million plus tourists annually. Thanks to this wonderful book, I have vicariously toured some ancient and medieval palaces, met all sorts of characters from the sublime, like a master glassblower to an irrepressible artist provocateur, to the less than stellar in character, like a shady publisher going after the estate of a street poet and a particularly gruesome twosome, an American woman and an Englishman, who made a habit of cultivating the rich, famous and, most essentially to their scheming, the elderly and infirm, in order to make off with their writing and artworks.
The writing is absolutely wonderful, like being privy to the best sort of tour guide, with a style that is very literate, astute, generous in spirit and imbued with gracious good humour, thus enabling us to mix and mingle with people from all walks of life. No snob, he and no fool either. Berendt lived in Venice in several apartments at different times over a number of years so this is not a glossy once-over lightly sort of travel guide but rather an in-depth history presented or investigated from select vantage points, like a fourth-generation expatriate family of Americans and other more recent (only thirty years...) expatriates as well as Venetians whose family history goes back before the time of written records. For those who love architecture, this book is a sumptuous treat. I began to long for an illustrated book with Berendt writing the captions as he managed to charm his way into a great many historic palaces!
Initially, and bear in mind this was published in 2005, we are taken to the scene of the disastrous fire of La Fenice, the great opera house of Venice. Throughout the book, we return to the fire, to the prosecutor who is investigating, the architects who are bidding to reconstruct the building, the two hapless individuals who are blamed for starting it among many other suspects, and the master glassblower who creates original pieces with the fire as the motif for his series of vases. In the final analysis, the reader discovers what it means to be a Venetian, which was a completely separate republic within Italy until a mere 140 or so years ago. One tip: visit in February. Avoid July and August entirely. But read this book first no matter when you go.
This is a terrific historical novel about the early years in and around Victoria and the lives of the women who spent their time waiting to go to granThis is a terrific historical novel about the early years in and around Victoria and the lives of the women who spent their time waiting to go to grand or modest balls with naval officers and surveyors and hoping for marriage proposals. But it is much more in-depth than this superficial description would suggest and it is no formulaic bodice-ripper, i.e., it is very well written.
The commentary for each chapter comes from quotes selecting from the writing of men in many different positions, most of them Englishmen in fairly exalted positions, and the attitudes toward the “colonies and rough colonialists, the half-breeds and quarter-breeds, the savages” serve as stark contrast to the hospitality shown to them by the Chief Factor’s family in particular. Racism and sexism are, of course, rampant but the truth is that many of the most powerful people in Victoria were of mixed heritage including James Douglas the Governor and his wife as well as the Chief Factor’s family. The scarcity of young women who were white or "passably so" in the tent city and Hudson's Bay fort that once was Victoria and the social and culinary skills of the matriarchs put the lie to both ‘isms’ many times over of course. The men left written accounts and from the women we have needlework and marriage, birth and death records kept by the Church. So the author has invented 3-D lives for the women and men as well of this rough and tumble era and thanks to her research and understanding of human nature, we have a great book to read.
It was gratifying to read the later quotes from several men who had gained a few years of experience in the Fraser Valley or further north on Vancouver Island upon returning to the ever-growing settlement of Victoria. These quotes reflected their changing attitudes and true appreciation of the gracious and unstinting hospitality received from the Chief Factor’s family in particular. The early colonial research seems painstaking and impeccable to my eye (I am no expert on this era) and best of all, it does not get in the way of a very good narrative as it tends to do in less capable hands than those possessed by this author. The main character, an intelligent young woman whose darker complexion has made her less desirable to some suitors than her fairer sisters is a complex and thoroughly believable human being caught in a vise of cultural and gender dynamics, aware of it and powerless to do much about it. The etiquette of that era meant that unmarried sisters always entered a room behind their married sisters and the descriptions of the status conferred by marriage and the triumphant entrances made by the young brides is enough to make a modern woman, okay, me, hurl a shoe at the young snobs and yell, "Take a look at what you married, you birdbrain! He's a drunk and a no-goodnik who married you for your father's money!"
A thoroughly enjoyable read with utterly memorable characters, male and female, adult and child, dogs and horses too. I very much appreciated the appendix which informed us what became of many of the characters who were once living breathing individuals, as in real life historical figures, and it quietly hit home, then as now, how tragically short some people’s lives are and how some who begin with great promise, fizzle for all sorts of reasons, while others, less well-thought of in their youth, become very successful in matters of career, political influence and/or a happy family life. ...more
This is a beautifully written, heart-breaking book. The author became her mother's main caregiver for seven years while the latter suffered with Alzheimer's disease. In spare, poetic language, much is revealed about the restless daughter, obviously bright and with a fistful of advanced degrees (nursing, health administration, law) and passionate interests (dance, writing, travel), the tragic childhood loss of her only sibling, an alcoholic father who is absentee in all the ways that matter, and a much-older wealthy step-father. The mother is also resourceful and fun-loving but not much given to maternal self-sacrifice in some crucial ways.
As the title infers, there is unfinished business between mother and daughter and as I've heard expressed, though not often, by other caregivers, there are amidst the jumble of sadness and lucidity and futile rage, moments of pure grace, a gift to the caregiver and to the reader. Out of the blue will come a sentence or a question and it will make perfect sense or it will reduce anyone to tears or to helpless laughter, sometimes in the same sentence. Borrie's eyes and ears seize upon these moments of clarity (she started recording the conversations with her mother at some point in the care-giving years) and she offers them to us like the compressed gems of understanding they are. For example: The author asks the pharmacist for advice after purchasing a large quantity of renewed prescriptions and other non-prescription pain relief, stomach acidity and constipation relief remedies, many of which are necessary to counter-act the harshness of the prescriptions on the human body.
“If someone you love is old and suffering and you look after them for years and years, how do you not go crazy?” “Most people put them in a home. Visit once a month.”
From the tape recordings:
“What does sorrow look like?” (asks the author) “It’s a form of sadness brought about on a gray and heavy day. I’ve reached the ultimate of the intimate and that’s the end of it.”
“Oh dear…Let me ask you, what do you think is the ugliest thing in the world?” “A lack of dignity. Is that the right answer?”
“Tell me about the sky.” “Oh, I don’t know about the sky. It’s pretty beautiful…but you have to wear gloves because it puts fingerprints on it and you don’t want that.”
Whether it's the pacing of this memoir (exactly right) or the excellent editing or the precise unfurling of a family's history --or a skillful mix of all the above, I suspect-- this cri de coeur resonates deeply with anyone who has experienced this disease. As it will for anyone who is losing or has lost a parent and who still yearns to understand why certain life-altering decisions were made, with such joy-blighting emotional fall-out, and why children end up as collateral damage, as it were. Despite it all, Cathie Borrie chose to do the right thing, to look after her mother when she most needed looking after, and to write this intensely wise and beautiful book about her experience. Highly recommended.