Mary Russell, the investigator and young wife of Sherlock Holmes, awakens with a concussion and amnesia. She reacts instinctively to avoid capture by...moreMary Russell, the investigator and young wife of Sherlock Holmes, awakens with a concussion and amnesia. She reacts instinctively to avoid capture by a group of soldiers, and wonders how she acquired the knowledge needed to escape. She soon realizes she is in Morocco and her memory comes back in bits and pieces. After Holmes is reunited with her, they become involved in some international intrigue during the 1920s Moroccan independence movement.
Before starting the book, it was helpful to have read a short Wikipedia article about the Rif War to learn the names of the major historical figures in Morocco. Although this is a stand-alone novel, it would have been better to have read the two prior Mary Russell mysteries first to get acquainted with some of the other characters. I started with this book because it was a book group read.
The book presented a good opportunity to learn about the tensions in 1924 Morocco between the colonial powers of Spain and France, and the Moroccan tribesmen of the Rif mountainous region. The characters were colorful and the setting was exotic. Although it had an interesting start, the plot got much too convoluted by the end.(less)
The novella, The Little Prince, tells of the encounter between an adult and his inner child, the little prince. It can be appreciated by both children...moreThe novella, The Little Prince, tells of the encounter between an adult and his inner child, the little prince. It can be appreciated by both children and adults on different levels. The pilot narrator crashes in the Sahara, and sees a tiny golden-haired boy, the little prince, who had come from a far asteroid where he had lived with a single rose. Their conversations are part fantasy and part philosophical--thoughts about the superficial world of adults who lack the imagination and open-mindedness of children. The prince, who is confused about his feelings for the rose, meets a fox who tells him his secret about love: "One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye."
The fable was written during World War II when the author had escaped from German-occupied France to the United States. Like the little prince, the author was in exile. The little prince came from an asteroid where baobab trees were threatening to take over the area, suggesting how the Nazis were attempting to get a hold on our planet. The author also drew from his real experience of crashing in the Sahara in 1939 when he and his co-pilot were in an air race, and where he experienced hallucinations due to extreme dehydration. The story is illustrated with charming watercolors depicting the little prince. This is still a popular book, translated from the original French into many languages, and enjoyed by readers of all ages. (less)
Aku-nna's father dies when she is thirteen-years-old. Her mother, Ma Blackie, is forced by economic circumstances to leave their close community of su...moreAku-nna's father dies when she is thirteen-years-old. Her mother, Ma Blackie, is forced by economic circumstances to leave their close community of supportive relatives in Lagos, and move back to her village in Ibuza with Aku-nna and eleven-year-old Nna-nndo. Following tradition, Ma Blackie becomes the fourth wife of her deceased husband's brother, Okonkwo. Ma Blackie has some money set aside for Aku-nna to finish her schooling, and Okonkwo agrees, only because an educated girl will fetch a higher bride price.
A potential groom offers a bride price to the bride's family as compensation for the loss of a worker in the bride's family. Women are considered property in traditional villages, and cannot determine their own future. There is a tribal superstition that a girl will die in childbirth if her bride price is not paid. (Some of these brides are so young, undernourished, and with such narrow hips that this superstition unfortunately does come true far too often.)
Aku-nna is a fragile, intelligent girl who feels lonely in her new home. Her young teacher Chike is very kind and protective of her, and soon they fall in love. Chike wishes to marry her, but Okonkwo refuses. Because Chike is a descendent of slaves, it would bring shame on Okonkwo's family if Aku-nna married Chike.
In Nigeria, one tribe would kidnap people of another tribe and force them into slavery. Under colonial rule, the slaves were released but their descendents were considered inferior and not true members of the village. A caste system exists where a villager could not marry a descendent of a slave, no matter how educated or successful they were.
There is a conflict between traditional and modern ways when Aku-nna falls in love with Chike and wants to marry him. The book has some serious themes such as tradition, the caste system, feminism, and superstition. How important are community values and community support as opposed to individual values and free will? The story itself is very engaging, keeping my attention as I wondered if the tale of the two Nigerian lovers would have a happy ending.
Buchi Emecheta was born in Nigeria in 1944, and her father died when she was nine years old. She was engaged at age eleven, and married at age sixteen. She left her unhappy, violent marriage six years later. She earned a degree in Sociology in London, while working and raising her five children alone. The author's own experiences from her early life are obviously influencing her writing, and many of her books deal with feminine oppression and poverty.(less)
Published in 1981 during the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, Nadine Gordimer imagines a civil war where blacks overthrow whites. It's a ficti...morePublished in 1981 during the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, Nadine Gordimer imagines a civil war where blacks overthrow whites. It's a fictional time of terrible violence where whites have to go into hiding to avoid being killed in Johannesburg. The Smales, a liberal white couple with three children, have employed July for fifteen years as a servant. They have treated him well so he takes the family to his rural black village to keep them safe.
In the village, a master/servant role reversal occurs where the Smales are now totally dependent on July for everything--their hut, their food, even their lives. July slowly loses his subservient attitude, and the Smales feel powerless and vulnerable. Having the keys to the vehicle, a yellow bakkie, symbolizes who has the power. In addition, the Smales had the problem of not understanding the language and culture of the village. Of course, July and other blacks had been experiencing the reverse problem when they went into the cities to work for English-speaking whites.
The ending was ambivalent which disappointed me in the sense of not having closure. But it was probably a very fitting and realistic ending for that time in South Africa. No one knew what the racial tensions would bring while ending apartheid.
7/14/14 Rest in Peace, Nadine Gordimer. The 90-year-old Nobel Prize winning author, known for her books about racial tensions in apartheid-era South Africa, has died.(less)
"The Alchemist" is a fable about a young shepherd from the Andalusian region of Spain who travels to Morocco, then across the northern African desert,...more"The Alchemist" is a fable about a young shepherd from the Andalusian region of Spain who travels to Morocco, then across the northern African desert, to reach the pyramids of Egypt. He had dreams of finding a treasure at the Pyramids. The fable shows Santiago learning to follow his dreams and listen to his heart. Santiago became aware of what life and nature can communicate to him if he really looks and listens. The book showed that the experiences and observations along a journey, not just the destination, are important. What you are looking for might be found in an unexpected place.
I did notice that the women characters in the book, such as Fatima, remained at home waiting for their men while the men had all the adventure. While the book has a good message, it did have a double standard in the way it portrayed the women.(less)
Anna Wulf, the author of one successful novel, lives in London with her daughter. Anna keeps four separate notebooks. In her black notebook, she write...moreAnna Wulf, the author of one successful novel, lives in London with her daughter. Anna keeps four separate notebooks. In her black notebook, she writes about her African experiences during the days of colonial rule. In a red notebook, she writes about her involvement and later disillusionment with communism, and her concern about world politics. She has a yellow notebook where she writes her ideas for new stories, and where she also writes a fictionalized account of her own life. Her blue notebook is more of a diary, and contains the account of her many problems with men. The four notebooks are all framed by a novel called "Free Women." Anna seems to be viewing herself in different ways to get an integrated look at herself. At the end, in a final golden notebook, she is showing how pressures, guilt, and self-loathing brought her to an emotional and mental breakdown.
The novel was bleak and repetitive in places. It also was thought-provoking with its ideas about Africa, global politics, psychoanalysis, and the relationships between men and women. At its publication time of 1962, it probably was a bit unusual with Anna often writing frankly about sex and sexual problems, mostly with married men. After years in psychoanalysis, Anna is able to describe the encounters and the men in psychoanalytic terms, and she repeatedly sets herself up for disappointment. Perhaps, it's also the influence of analysis that makes Anna compartmentalize her life into the four notebooks, and then integrate her life into one golden notebook as she breaks down. Although the book was depressing in some parts, it did have its memorable moments and it was interesting to read a book with such an unusual structure.(less)
The ineqality of women in some parts of the world is just staggering. Young girls are sold or kidnapped, and brought to brothels as sex slaves, often...moreThe ineqality of women in some parts of the world is just staggering. Young girls are sold or kidnapped, and brought to brothels as sex slaves, often exposing them to AIDS. Maternal health care is lacking in many areas resulting in internal injuries such as fistulas, and often death. There is little or no education for girls in some countries. Women are raped--and then they are beaten or killed for dishonoring their family.
The authors tell the stories of actual people who have undergone these unfortunate events. The women's courage and resilience is inspiring. They also tell about organizations and individuals helping women with clinics, schools, rescues, cultural education, job training, and microfinance operations. Grassroots efforts against female genital mutilation is helping. Iodizing salt is helping to prevent mental retardation. Television is bringing new ideas into isolated villages showing that the modern way is for women to hold jobs, be able to come and go freely, and be treated better. Statistics are also given in the book--and the number of women subjected to horrible situations is shocking.
This is a well-researched book by two Pulitzer Prize winning journalists. It will open the eyes of the reader to the injustices done to women in developing countries.(less)