George Johnston Walsh may have spent most of his life as a miner and farmer, but he was one powerful storyteller. A survival story from the point of v...moreGeorge Johnston Walsh may have spent most of his life as a miner and farmer, but he was one powerful storyteller. A survival story from the point of view of a giant Nova Scotia moose seems implausible, but Walsh's lush and graphic descriptions of life in the woods from a beast cunning and compassionate in its survival while under constant attack by bullets, dogs, insects, heat, starvation and other animals draws in the reader and suspends disbelief. Walsh clearly takes aim at humans who abuse their power in nature, which at times can make the story seem too fantastic, even for fiction. However, Broad Horns is a layered, multidimensional character, perhaps more human than moose, but an intriguing protagonist just the same. This is a story into which one can escape for a day or two, if the hunt for reality is left at the door. (less)
I started reading this because of the word 'private' in the title, and I wasn't disappointed. There are details of Churchill's lineage, conquests, an...more I started reading this because of the word 'private' in the title, and I wasn't disappointed. There are details of Churchill's lineage, conquests, and political manoeverings, but also prolonged peerings into the windows of Churchill's library, dining room, and family chambers - not to reveal dirty laundry but to explain the many facets of a man that added into one of the most recognized figures of the 20th century. He fought the Nazis only to be voted out by his own people after World War II, he lavished luxury upon himself and fellow statesmen but was most at peace when laying bricks on his farm or laying paint on canvas. What was most interesting to me is the fact that this towering political icon earned a Nobel Prize in Literature, awarded in 1953 for his memoir of the Second World War. This biography is not glowing. As successful as the man in crafting and delivering a solid performance in world history, the fate of his family was tragic. Three of his four children died relatively young, their mental and physical health bowed by genetic predispositions and the weight of the Churchill name. He made more enemies than friends. He was an unabashed supporter of war as resolution. Yet I ended this book with a respect not so much for the power of the man but of the ink-filled sword he wielded. Behind it all - the accolades, the battles, the steely determination to win at everything - was his need to prove wrong his father's prediction that he would amount to nothing. This doubt he finally laid to rest with a letter Winston penned in the last few years of his life. "However powerfully he roused himself to the dreadful drama of the clash of arms, his power resided in the written and the spoken word." Music to the ears of a writer. (less)
I picked up this little paperback at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, mostly as a joke for my veggie-hating kids. However, the reading proved to be en...moreI picked up this little paperback at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, mostly as a joke for my veggie-hating kids. However, the reading proved to be entertaining, in a PBS sort of way. I love how the author loves her topic. Assuming the spirit of her writing was maintained in translation, ms. Bloch-Dano reads as both serious academic and enraptured artist, viewing the hardiness of an artichoke or plumpness of a tomato with the same artistic lust as a painter eyeing a sunset or delicate curve of thigh. While some of the French turns of phrase and elevated lexicon were puzzling, the overall effect was interesting. Learning of the origins of the food we take for granted gives a deeper connection to our food supply, while confirming that food rarely has been, nor ever will be, purely about vitamins. Culture, religion, art, economics, family - all this and more remain at the heart of why we eat what we eat. As for my kids, they may never learn to appreciate their vegetables, but they did enjoy learning the origin of their favourite derivative - ketchup. Whether you read it cover to cover, skim the recipes, or marvel at the postscript bio of the author's unique contribution to community gardens, you will find something to make the moments you spend with this book worthwhile. (less)
I grew up with M*A*S*H. One night a week, it was early bedtime if we dared disturb my mother's half hour with Hawkeye and gang. We sang Suicide is Pai...moreI grew up with M*A*S*H. One night a week, it was early bedtime if we dared disturb my mother's half hour with Hawkeye and gang. We sang Suicide is Painless in junior high glee club. This past year on a trip to Ohio, I snickered at the image of a long-beaked man in an evening gown every time I saw the exit for Toledo. My 14 year old now spends time with his parents watching MASH reruns on the History Channel. But it was just a few weeks ago that I laid hands on the book that started it all. I was a bit hesitant to stare the source of magic in the face: how much liberty did the TV moguls take? Would this be a rare case of the show being better than the book?
Absolutely not. The characters in this book - some familiar, others new to TV fans - are each rough, kind, and utterly human in unique ways that bring to life the daily drain of patching soldiers up for warfare, sometimes several times a tour, and the insanity required to insulate one's mind and soul against the carnage and deprivation. As a helmet warded off shrapnel, black humour and wild pranks warded off the depression, rage, and hopelessness that would smoulder in the tropical sun, simmer under the operating room lights and erupt to boiling in the black of a Korean night without friends, poker, a few homemade martinis and the occasional willing nurse to ease the strain.
Behind this hilarious, sobering world of military medicine is solid writing: concise, accurate, and clean as a sniper's bullet with snippets of conversation or single sentences unleashing volumes of imagery and knowledge. The story describes a surgical procedure, golf game, or football match in equal, believable detail that engages the knowledgeable without overwhelming the novice. Even if I wasn't previously acquainted with the 4077th I would devour this book for its style. This is the type of writing I want to produce some day.
Also fascinating is the comparison between book and television: the characters that remained, those that disappeared, and those invented later as the series took on a life of its own. In the book, for example, Trapper John is the most skilled surgeon, Ugly John the anesthesiologist the most handsome. Hawkeye still has his Crabapple Cove roots and razor wit but in the book is the married son of a lobster fisherman, not the single playboy spawn of a doctor, and not the central character as he became on the small screen.
And as entertaining as this book was to read, the toll taken by armed conflict on the military and civilian people involved is heavy indeed. There is no glossing over of the pain, only the occasional laugh to stay sane for the day when you are reunited with loved ones, solid walls, and a world outside the militarized zone.(less)
I was partway through Chapter 1 before I realized this book was a sequel to her award-winning novel Sylvanus Now. I kept reading, even though I haven't...moreI was partway through Chapter 1 before I realized this book was a sequel to her award-winning novel Sylvanus Now. I kept reading, even though I haven't yet read the first book, and found the storyline well-formed and easy to follow. What struck me was the change in writing style from Kit's Law, Morrissey's first and highly-acclaimed novel. Kit's Law was rich in imagery and memorable, layered characters that annoyed in their faults and engaged in their strengths. What They Wanted reads much like a script, revealing the story through constant dialogue that could take place in anyone's kitchen, backyard, or hospital room as families struggle with the mortality of a loved one. While the characters and story pace didn't excite me, a single quote at the end of the prologue now ranks among my favourites. The scene is Sylvie as a young girl watching her parents argue about the new location of their home:
"They looked away from each other then, but I looked to them both, a knowing stirring deep within me that the morsels for my well-being were stowed within my mother's larder, and the key to its lock was in my father's hand."
Such complexity woven into a simple image is a joy to read, and an inspiration to keep writing. This for me made the book worth reading. (less)
"I didn't do it because it was smart. I did it because it made things look pretty."
To the residents of Haire's Hollow, 12-year-old Kit is poor, sad,...more"I didn't do it because it was smart. I did it because it made things look pretty."
To the residents of Haire's Hollow, 12-year-old Kit is poor, sad, strange, and in need of salvation. But in Kit's mind and heart, she is exactly where she belongs: living in the gully with her Nan, warmed by the wood stove, overlooking the constant restless shifting of the sea.
This first novel by Donna Morrissey is an engaging immersion in outport Newfoundland, where amid the tough work and harsh climate one's greater purpose was polished and clear: love your kin, help your neighbors, waste nothing, and want for less. Chores, chills, and isolation do not trap young Kit; on the contrary she is firmly rooted in her way of life, able to weather any doubt and confusion by helping Nan pick berries or viewing the world through shards of glass washed up on shore. Kit's agony is borne upon the winds which both created her and threaten to erode her spirit: the ever-changing moods and behavior of her mentally-challenged mother - a child herself trapped in a woman's body inviting judgment and abuse from those in town claiming to be and know better, the secret of her father, and the evil of humanity that is drawn to her family in a series of gruesome events that both horrify and cleanse in setting the truth free.
Kit is a survivor, and she is proud. We cannot help but be proud of her in her convictions and her decisions in making a life that she both chooses and accepts. The best part of the book is the beginning, with characters that are loving yet flawed, or despicable yet understandable. In the latter part of the story, characters become less-developed as the story's pace gains speed and urgency to a desired resolution, but Kit's strength and depth continues to grow. The book engages the reader in a unique way and place of life, while showing how as humans our essential searches and pitfalls are the same: those who profess to know best quite often do the most harm, while knowledge in youth is readily dismissed. Sometimes, a solution lies in a different view, such as through a piece of well-worn beach glass. (less)
The topics of this novel are a fascinating trilogy from America's photo album: architecture, suffrage, and high society, woven together and shared fro...moreThe topics of this novel are a fascinating trilogy from America's photo album: architecture, suffrage, and high society, woven together and shared from the point of view of 'the other woman'. Mamah Borthwick is an admirable character: intelligent, strong-willed, loving, and deeply engaged with the world around her. But as life too often reveals, such women are both drawn to the physical and spiritual rewards of marriage and children, but too soon drained and entombed by the incessant, unyielding demands of daily family life. As accomplished and engaging, it is difficult to like her when she ultimately leaves her two young children and husband for years abroad with the eccentric architect Frank Lloyd Wright (who left his wife and six children for this affair), yet the author does a brilliant job of showcasing the remorse of the adults and the sacrifice of her relationship with them. Devoted to her when she left, Mamah's children considered her less than a stranger when she returned, and while they maintained contact, they remained polite acquaintances rather than mother and children. The book is carefully researched, and at times the story seems to stretch to include all of the details. Mamah's career in suffrage is interesting, but I was more drawn to the meticulous details of the mundane that make family life so powerfully irreplaceable: the warmth of a toddler's hug, the scent of baby powder, the wide-eyed, 'why are you leaving, momma?', the indifferent shrug when asked for a hug upon her return. Subtle details are this book's strength, and it's ability to share a woman's joys and regrets without praising or judging. The parent in us will cringe at her choice, the artist in us will nod in understanding, while wondering if her actions were of courage, weakness, or both. But there is no doubt that while she and Wright lived, learned and gave much in their time together, the price they paid was high indeed.
Anyone familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright's history will know how the story ends. I was not, and remained blissfully unaware until the end. I'm grateful for that; it allowed me to immerse in the moment without anticipating the ending.
This book could be seen as an exploration into the mind and incessant demands of genius, the restrictive boundaries of turn-of-the-century society, or a cautionary tale into the irrevocable price paid when personal and family callings collide. Regardless of the reason for reading it, the book is an engaging, solid read. (less)
As a Truman Capote fan, I loved the detail and dialogue that brought him to life, from his sparkling heights of career and society life to his tragic...moreAs a Truman Capote fan, I loved the detail and dialogue that brought him to life, from his sparkling heights of career and society life to his tragic eroded end. Subject aside, this is one of the best biographies I have read: well-researched and organized as a non-fiction thesis, but with the engaging flow of a good novel. This book was the basis of the movie 'Infamous', an enjoyable yet haunting movie in its own right. I highly recommend both.(less)
A marvelous book that acknowledges the whole writing experience, dirty laundry, jealous fits, and all, but in a style so laugh-out-loud funny that we...moreA marvelous book that acknowledges the whole writing experience, dirty laundry, jealous fits, and all, but in a style so laugh-out-loud funny that we just can't take our paranoid selves too seriously. If you're a writer, you'll relate and release with a hearty laugh, a good cry, or a celebratory cocktail from the cat's dish. If you live with, befriend, or otherwise deal with a writer in your daily life, this book explains a lot. Either way, you'll be entertained and offered a greater appreciation for the wild worlds of writing, publishing and life as an author. (less)