This book sets the stage for the next book, a clever idea. In The Winter Palace we read about what went on before the relatively obscure German princeThis book sets the stage for the next book, a clever idea. In The Winter Palace we read about what went on before the relatively obscure German princess Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg transformed herself into the empress Catherine the Great.
I found it quite an intense story about what, we would call today, an abusive and toxic environment and women who found themselves living inside it. Sophie and everybody else is placed under the tyranny of empress Elizabeth, who is a cruel self centered ruler. Everybody is forced to live a double life, one in public and quite another one clandestinely. This type of living under constant terror is shared by the main protagonist of the story, fictional Barbara (in Polish) or Varvara (in Russian), who finds herself an orphan, a foreigner at the Russian court at the mercy of the empress Elizabeth. Both Sophie and Barbara become friends, or so it seems. Both have to deny or cover up their true feelings, have to make alliances and rid themselves of any scruples in order to survive.
The fictional main character is very skillfully placed within the historical context making the story interesting as well as educational. It's the best way to learn history, through the eyes of a very credible and very sympathetic character. I love reading about the minuscule details, descriptions of everyday life, food, fashion, occupations, behaviour of the protagonists, coming into close contact with the reality of Russia of the eighteen century.
The book is essentially dedicated to the seventeen years during which Sophie waited and learnt all she could in order to prepare herself for taking the throne. She also endured tremendous hardship in her personal life, having everybody who she loved taken away from her. She knew that her fortune depended completely on her strenght and proceeded with the iron will to will what she wanted. ...more
I love Susan Juby's Alice books and it is the main reason why I picked up this book. And of course this one is different. It is so much more personal.I love Susan Juby's Alice books and it is the main reason why I picked up this book. And of course this one is different. It is so much more personal. I am not sure why I love books like that, but I do. About, essentially, not fitting in and having a hard time finding one's place in the world. Nice Recovery is a great book, it's a very straight forward account of downward and upward journey from addiction to recovery. I think she wrote it hoping to reach young people in need of this kind of open and no nonsense yet empathetic talk. It can be read as a sort of self help manual and a kind of defense against hopelessness. Nothing will replace support from another human, but a book can be a first step....more
Some people go from child to teen, then adult and older adult stage without looking back. At every stage they act their age and move on. But as MadeleSome people go from child to teen, then adult and older adult stage without looking back. At every stage they act their age and move on. But as Madeleine L’Engle said “The great think about getting older is that you don’t lose all other ages you’ve been”. I can relate to that.
I noticed somewhere here on Good Reads people confessing to reading teen fiction. Well I should join the group.
My inner teenager craves laugh out loud teen fiction particularly those books written in the tradition of Mark Twain (Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn) or L. M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables) featuring quirky misfits getting into all kinds of trouble.
Susan Juby is one of many authors of such fiction. I absolutely loved her Alice series.
Juby, along with (no particular order) Frank Portman (Andromeda Klein, King Dork), Rob Thomas (Rats Saw God), Marcus Zusak (I Am the Messenger), Barry Jonsberg (The Crimes and Punishments of Miss Payne), Louise Rennison (Georgia Nicolson series), David Lubar (Dunk, Sleeping freshmen never lie), Ranulfo (Joker), Megan McCafferty (Sloppy First, and the other titles) is on my list of favourite authors. Authors of books that entertain while providing a great story and interesting characters.
Now The Woefiled Poultry Collective is not exactly a teen book, but it does have a youthful feel. Along with the main character (Prudence, in her twenties) it features a selection of funny characters of all ages, from 11 year-old Sara competing in a poultry club at school, to perhaps not quite twenty year-old Set and to 60+ not quite farm hand Earl.
I knew I needed to read this book when I read the following statement by the author in some interview:
“I’ve always wanted to be self-sustaining and able to grow my own food. All I lack is land and skill.”
I thought: how clever. She doesn’t have a farm but dreams of one, therefore she decides to write a piece of fiction about farming life. I immediately wanted to participate in the experience. Living vicariously is what I do.
Prudence, Earl, Seth and Sara form a very unlikely community of friends who individually and collectively face some really big challenges and together go through some serious upheavals and tribulations. They instinctively know that their strength lies in sticking together and learning to overlook each other many frailties.
As the eleven year-old Sara wonderfully states: “It’s important to give people the benefit of the doubt even if they don’t deserve it.” And they do.
The plot culminates with a huge and messy bluegrass concert Prudence organizes in order to save the farm. The grand finale features long lost family members' reunion as well as romantic reconciliation and much more. With the emotions and hilarity running absolutely rampant, it is a wonderful, heartfelt and heartwarming, laugh out loud book about very serious matters. If you followed Susan Juby’s writing you will know that she writes from much felt experience.
Make sure you don’t read it The Woefield Poultry Collective on public transit unless you don’t mind people staring at you when you burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter.
And I am so glad I still have one more Susan Juby's book left unread.
p.s. As you may have noticed the title of my edition of this book differs from the one listed here on Good Reads....more
I loved this beautifully written memoir full of melancholy and shell-shocked characters. I loved the voice of the narrator and the slow process of peeI loved this beautifully written memoir full of melancholy and shell-shocked characters. I loved the voice of the narrator and the slow process of peeling of the various layers of sadness that surrounded Oliver, Pippa, Marcel, Anh, Dinh, Arnaud just like the dense fog that had descended upon London one day and covered everything in yellow gauze. This is not a page turner, everything happens slowly and deliberately, as we wait for the fog to lift. I am happy to discover a writer I love. Being a fan of Ryszard Kapuściński, I am thrilled to discover a nod in his direction. I love all the characters. I love the gentle, thoughtful narration and even all the pain it conveys. ...more
Why is Jowita Bydlowska's book such a compulsive and compelling read, one that's hard to put down? I think it's because there are absolutely no distraWhy is Jowita Bydlowska's book such a compulsive and compelling read, one that's hard to put down? I think it's because there are absolutely no distractions, no descriptions, not much background information, no lengthy explanations (except for a brief Archeology chapter) no theory, no psychology and no advice. It's like she says - "this is no self help book". The author sticks to raw facts and with tremendous focus and gripping immediacy, takes us through the several months of a life of a drunk, totally exposing the addict's mind. It's like she is aware that only through complete exposure, through striping of all the lies, she, we, anybody, can become liberated and gain strength and courage to live the life. Even though it might be a temporary strengh, a temporary courage, it's worth to get access to it and her book recalls her way of getting there. I also think that the act of exposing lies, makes it a universally appealing read. Not all of us are drunks, addicts, but among our lot, arent we a lot of harmful things? Don't we all have secret lies we'd rather not face, if only very tiny ones, very ocassionally? I am sure we can use the honesty in this exposé of the workings of the mind.
I also congratulate the author in creating an incredibly strong literary voice as the result of the process she had a courage to go through.
I hope this book gets translated into many languages, including Jowita's and mine....more
I loved the story and the spirit in which it was told. It is an amazingly open and honest memoir and ultimately universal one full of empathy and compI loved the story and the spirit in which it was told. It is an amazingly open and honest memoir and ultimately universal one full of empathy and compassion. I am recommending it to everyone. After hearing Alison speak about the book and finishing it in two sittings, I'd love to see the one woman show that she performs which was the original first version of the book. ...more