This intensely moving, deeply beautiful story is a fairy tale for adults. Set in Alaska in the 1920s and primarily in the winters, it tells of an olde...moreThis intensely moving, deeply beautiful story is a fairy tale for adults. Set in Alaska in the 1920s and primarily in the winters, it tells of an older couple, devastated by the stillbirth of their only child, who move to Alaska to try to escape their sorrow and build a new life of hard work and isolation. One snowy day, in a stark departure from their usual quietly despairing state, they build a small snow child and dress her as a little girl. The next morning the snow child is gone, a single set of small footprints walking away from the remnants of snow, and after that they begin to catch glimpses of a little girl in the woods around their cabin.
The ensuing tale unfolds over 15 years and includes beautifully drawn characters, enchanting descriptions of the Alaska wilderness and the hardship and challenges of life at that time for the settlers and trappers, and yet it also evokes the harsh beauty and power of the deep winter. At the heart of the story is a fairy tale, and one in which there is great sadness yet also growth and change and redemption for this couple far beyond what they could have imagined on first moving to their isolated home. This story will stay with me for a long time.(less)
I loved this book-lots of really great information and insights into the differences between how introverts and extroverts will feel and respond to ce...moreI loved this book-lots of really great information and insights into the differences between how introverts and extroverts will feel and respond to certain situations, and why we need to value what each group brings to society. It also reassures me about what can seem like antisocial behaviour in myself and in others, and helps me to worry less about certain aspects of my children's experiences at school and socially. A great read for anyone interested in Psychology and behaviour and relevant to both introverts and extroverts.(less)
The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a retelling of Jane Eyre set in Scotland of the late 1950's. Gemma Hardy, originally from Iceland, is sent to live with h...moreThe Flight of Gemma Hardy is a retelling of Jane Eyre set in Scotland of the late 1950's. Gemma Hardy, originally from Iceland, is sent to live with her uncle and his family in Scotland after she is left orphaned as a 4 year old. When her beloved uncle dies a few years later she is left at the mercy of her Aunt and cousins who view her as an interloper in their home. She is packed off to a harsh boarding school, from which she must make her own way in the world.
For those who have read and loved Jane Eyre, this book is at once familiar and yet a fresh and compelling take on the story of the friendless orphan left to struggle on her own against extreme poverty and hardship. Gemma is drawn to the sea and to her ancestral home, and her longing for knowledge about her self, her family, and about the world and her place in it drives her on. For those not familiar with Charlotte Brontë's famous heroine this would still be an immensely enjoyable tale. There is much referencing of the Icelandic Sagas and this plot driven book very much centred on its strong and stoical heroine feels in many ways like a northern saga set in the recent past. This was a book which kept me up reading late at night.
One final comment-the book jacket photograph is both lovely in its own right and brilliantly evocative of the mood and feeling of this novel.(less)
This was a lovely, lyrical and entertaining novel about 3 sisters who join the Vaudeville circuit as singers and dancers in pre-WW1 Canada and the US...moreThis was a lovely, lyrical and entertaining novel about 3 sisters who join the Vaudeville circuit as singers and dancers in pre-WW1 Canada and the US under the tutelage of their mother, a retired performer herself. Beginning when they are between 9 and 15 years of age, we watch them strive to break into the business while contending with poverty, winter and the perils of being young women in the ambiguous social situation of stage performers. Over the course of the novel we see the girls grow up, form relationships with the other performers they meet on the road, learn their craft and try new art forms, struggle to maintain their dignity and that of their families and of the friends they make on the circuit. Through it all, the bonds of sisterhood and of the stage support them as their lives change and as the war begins to overshadow their world.(less)
The Stranger's Child opens in 1913 with a visit from the young poet Cecil Valance to the Sawle family, during which time he develops relationships bot...moreThe Stranger's Child opens in 1913 with a visit from the young poet Cecil Valance to the Sawle family, during which time he develops relationships both with his friend George and with George's younger sister Daphne. At the close of the two day visit, seemingly on the spur of the moment, he writes what will become one of his most famous poems in Daphne's autograph book. In the century that follows, as the original characters grow old and die and their descendants take their place, we see the changing relationships and fortunes of the families and their associates reflecting the changes of England and English society from the 1st World War through to the 21st century. Beautifully written with complex characters and a clear-eyed portrayal of the class and sexual politics of the times, The Stranger's Child is both a remarkable, gripping story as well as a wonderful read about the literary world and literary scholarship of the 20th century.(less)
Beautiful, hard to put down, sometimes funny, sometimes unbearably sad, this is the story of an 11 year old German girl, Liesel, who's parents have di...moreBeautiful, hard to put down, sometimes funny, sometimes unbearably sad, this is the story of an 11 year old German girl, Liesel, who's parents have disappeared under the Nazi's. Liesel is sent to live with a foster family in an impoverished suburb of Munich and while there she learns to read, she learns to fight and she starts to steal books once she discovers the power of words. From the outset we anticipate that Liesel's life will be a difficult one and that she will face hardship and abuse, but she also finds love and tenderness from some of the unlikeliest people.
The Book Thief was an unflinching look at the evil of Nazi Germany, of the large numbers of people who willingly went along with the atrocities of the time, but also spoke of those who rebelled, in large or small ways, and of the consequences of standing up for what was right in a time of great wrongs. More than that, it was the story of a young, orphaned girl who finds books, friendship and love in a world gone mad. A lovely, moving story for all ages.(less)
An amazing debut novel! The Night Circus, set in late Victorian London, follows the development of an extraordinary circus in which magicians strive t...moreAn amazing debut novel! The Night Circus, set in late Victorian London, follows the development of an extraordinary circus in which magicians strive to create ever more beautifully breathtaking displays to entertain their visitors, while behind the scenes all is not as it seems. This book took hold of me from the opening line, "The circus arrives without warning.", and I did not want to put it down. The writing is so vivid and the characters so compelling and complex that one gets completely caught up in the magic and mystery of the tale. The novel works on so many wonderful levels and contains so many of the elements of a good story-love, magic, the circus, orphans, contortionists, twins, clockmakers, trains-that it is hard to believe that someone could come up with something new to write about them. Erin Morgenstern succeeds brilliantly and I look forward to rereading this book.(less)
I am reviewing this because, in reading this book to my 8 year old, I am discovering that as a child I completely missed that...moreWonderful, classic book.
I am reviewing this because, in reading this book to my 8 year old, I am discovering that as a child I completely missed that Marilla is one of the funniest turn of the century women in literature. Her conversations with Anne show a wonderfully dry and caustic sense of humour which has me laughing out loud and then having to explain what is so funny to my daughter. Marilla sees and marvels in Anne's dramatics, plays an acerbic straight woman to this wildly imaginative and theatrical red-headed girl and sees right through her fussy and pompous neighbours, piercing their self-satisfied superiority with one well-placed barb.
If you loved this book as a child, dip into it again to meet Marilla as an adult. If you've never had the pleasure of reading this book, you've missed a real treat and I would encourage you to discover the little red-haired orphan and her adoptive parents.(less)
I loved this debut novel in a (I hope) new mystery/private eye series by J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith. Set in today's London, it features...moreI loved this debut novel in a (I hope) new mystery/private eye series by J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith. Set in today's London, it features Cormoran Strike, an ex-army vet who lost part of a leg in Afghanistan and is now working as a not very successful Private Investigator. His break comes when he is asked to investigate the apparent suicide of supermodel Lula Landry, getting drawn into the world of celebrity, high fashion and the super wealthy. His sidekick Robin, a surprisingly efficient and resourceful Temp, has been hired by mistake and ends up staying in the most exciting job she can imagine.
Well drawn characters, a sympathetic and interesting PI with a female assistant who is intelligent, attractive and thoroughly appealing, a satisfyingly complex mystery, minimal gore (and no kinky or violent sex-which is starting to seem de rigueur in mysteries) made for an engrossing and enjoyable read.(less)
Victorian London (and a cameo appearance by the Queen herself), a zombifying disease spreading through the poor neighbourhoods, automatons flying airs...moreVictorian London (and a cameo appearance by the Queen herself), a zombifying disease spreading through the poor neighbourhoods, automatons flying airships, trains and mechanical carriages in the streets, a handsome, opium-addicted detective and his attractive, capable and rather feminist assistant-what's not to love about this series?(less)
This very moving novel is set just before and during the WWII siege of Leningrad and centres on the lives of Karl Eliasberg, a second rate conductor o...moreThis very moving novel is set just before and during the WWII siege of Leningrad and centres on the lives of Karl Eliasberg, a second rate conductor on the periphery of the vibrant music community which revolves around the composer Dmitri Shostakovich, and on Shostakovich himself. Shostakovich is writing his 7th "Leningrad" Symphony, meant to evoke the hardships of the war and to honour the resilience of the people of Leningrad. As the siege drags on and lives are increasingly in danger, not just from the bombs dropping regularly but also from starvation and the cold of winter, Eliasberg is ordered to reassemble his orchestra for a staging of the 7th Symphony, to be broadcast to the citizens of Leningrad and to the troops at the front to boost morale. With many of his musicians dead or dying and his own health severely compromised by starvation, it is a supreme struggle to get his orchestra prepared for their premiere.
Quigley brilliantly portrays her characters, both their musicianship and focus on their art, and also their struggle to maintain their dignity and humanity in this brutal time. Having readThe Madonnas of Leningrad in the last couple of years this was a wonderful companion read with its equally evocative description of the Siege of Leningrad and the lengths some will go to preserve and support the art that has filled their lives. I would highly recommend this book, both to those with an interest in 20th century history and to those fascinated by the process by which music is made.(less)
A fascinating look at the evidence behind what qualities in children are most likely to result in success in multiple aspects of life, and how this kn...moreA fascinating look at the evidence behind what qualities in children are most likely to result in success in multiple aspects of life, and how this knowledge can help kids from the most troubled backgrounds overcome their challenging circumstances. While this is much more of an educational than a parenting manual, it presents interesting research as well as inspiring stories on what helps children and adolescents succeed in the face of tremendous obstacles. (less)