This book is fun. You are told astounding stories about the author's years working as a midwife at the Nonnatus House Convent in the Docklands during the 1950s. You meet the wonderful Sister Monica Joan, a somewhat "crazy" ninety year-old nun, Conchita Warren who will give birth to both her twenty-forth and twenty-fifth child, the latter premature of only 28 weeks gestation, weighing less than two pounds, born during a thick London smog. You will not be able to put the book down during these chapters. You meet a prostitute and here her story. Heart-wrenching. You come to understand the lives of the women of the East End. I promise, you will laugh and cry.
The structure of the book is anecdotal, but even I who dislikes short stories, was in no way disappointed. The sisters of the convent become as members of a family, each with their own idiosyncrasies. Each child born is a wonder. And Jennifer, the author, is surprisingly honest about her own weaknesses and failings.
I haven't told you a thing about Sister Monica Joan. Her escapades will definitely make you smile and laugh outright. She is something else. The only way to meet her is by reading this book, which I highly recommend.(less)
There is an overwhelming sense of nostalgie and melancholy throughout the entire book. The tone is too sombre for my tastes. The author, in his nineti...moreThere is an overwhelming sense of nostalgie and melancholy throughout the entire book. The tone is too sombre for my tastes. The author, in his nineties looks back at his childhood in a small Lancashire village outside Manchester. More specifcally the book is about the invisible wall between the Jews living on one side and the Christians living on the other side. The book starts when the author is four and is centered around his older sister's love for a Christian boy on the other side of the street. The invisible wall between these two groups influences every aspect of their lives. So I ask, is it that invisible? There is so much that unites these two groups. Poverty, number one, and the repurcussions of WW1 and WW2. It is a very intimate portrayal, and oh so sad. The book starts and ends with an utterly beautiful depiction of the village, that you see and hear and smell in all its grime. The sound of the workers' clogs as they go off to work at the mill in the early morning and the reverse sounds as they return home in the evening is the fond recollection I will keep of this book. Nevertheless, the all pervading sense of gloom was too much for me. I feel like shaking them up. Even when something good happens they are not really HAPPY! Please, forget for just an instant the overall gloom. Even at the end, after seeing pending village improvements, poverty remains. And is that wall really torn down? I am not so sure. The tone of the book really does drag you down.(less)
I finished Passag To Ararat several days ago, I wanted to think a bit before writing a review. Recently I have read several books about th...moreNO SPOILERS!
I finished Passag To Ararat several days ago, I wanted to think a bit before writing a review. Recently I have read several books about the Armenian Genocide that Turkey continues to deny. For this reason alone people should be informed. When Hitler invaded Poland, he pointed out that nobody even remembered the Armenian Genocide! He must be proven wrong. People do remember; we must never forget. Forgetting is the step before repeating what we have promised will never happen again. All of the books reveal the same story, although each emphasizes different aspects. In my view this was one of the best b/c it thoroughly described the entire history of the Armenian people, starting 500 years before Christ. The author searches to discover who his Armenian father really was, and in the process discovers who he is himself. A reader learns what it is to be Armenian, both in the past and even today.
Through page 100: The author is trying to understand his heritage. He begins by tryining to understand his father, who is at this point dead. His father saw himself clearly as being ENGLISH, NOT Armenian. It is the vehemence with which he denied his Armenian heritage that in fact shows the strength of his Armenian ties. One only needs to shout unless when one feels insecure. The book is very much about the author's own need to discover his Armenian heritage. His wife clearly is the sounding board for all his questions and denials. She understands her husband very well. She says (page 87-88):
"...part of you claims to be this rational observer, and yet another part of you still seems to be trying to justify Armenians in Western terms - you know, that history we were all taught. Battles, generals, Crusades, Richard and Saladin and Robin Hood."
He replies: "That's not it at all."
She replies: "All right. But why do you care so much that they seem European?"
In many, many different ways the author has a very hard time accepting his Armenian background, just as his own father had difficulty accepting this. The author immerses himself in Armenian books of history, even when he is there in Erevan (Yerevan), Soviet Armenia. He is deluged in books. he cannot leave the hotel..... He doesn't dare meet the people. The result being that the reader is deluged in Armenian history. WE are given history going back to 500 B.C. the first Armenian kings of Nairi, Armenia under the Persians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, theRomans, the Armenian role in the Crusades. Did you know that in 301 A.D. Armenia was in fact the first nation in the world to officialy adopt Christianity as a state religion?! I didn't. There is alot of detailed history here, and I have a very hard time following. The more you know the easier this will be, but my knowledge is lacking. The writing demands that you know your history. If you don't, you must have access to Wikipedia and an atlas. In addition, it isn't always easy to find the nations/cities b/c the names have changed, others no longer exist. I am not saying it is bad, not at all. I am just telling you what you will be getting. This is not mentioned in any of the reviews I encountered....... That is why I want to point it out. Yes, it is also about the author and his discovery of what it is to be Armenian, but I did not know that it would be primarily history, history and more history, starting in ancient times. This is more history than memoir. It fits what I am searching for, but I didn't expect this.(less)
Nope, I didn't like this at all. OK, just about everybody agrees the ending is bad, me included, but that is not at all why I so dislike the book. For...moreNope, I didn't like this at all. OK, just about everybody agrees the ending is bad, me included, but that is not at all why I so dislike the book. For me endings are not that terribly important. It is the time spent with the book that is important to me. Do they get me thinking? Am I drawn onto the lives of the characters? Do I occasionally smile or laugh outright or cry? I never laughed with this book. Not once. Neither did I cry. I was made miserable by the depravity so frequently seen in the village. I was annoyed by the rector(s religious thinking that made him judgemental and all-knowing. He was as far from humble as you can get.
The following sort of has some spoilers so beware!
I have difficulty accepting the rector's sexual behavior towards his wife and her closest friend Anna. The rector's religious explanation for his sexual abstinence toward his wife, whom I believe he did deeply love, an explanation revolving around repentance and atonement, is beyond my understanding!I think it was pure sophistry even in the 1600s. The explanation simply didn't ring true. Furthermore if this is what he truly thought, well then the rector sure had high opinion of himself and what he thought he had the right to teach others.
I do respect and admire the rector's noble efforts to save numerous lives in guiding the village to close itself off from its neighbors, albeit sacrificing many villagers to save others outside the village. However this tremendous noble act of courage, in the hands of this author completely squashed out the normal, small every-day occurrences of kindness and humor that usually lighten and ease the burden of life in difficult times. There was just too much misery without any joy or humor, which must have occasionally occurred.
I agree that the author seamlessly tied in her historical studies - but that doesn't make it a good book.
I guess I am the odd ball out in not liking this book!(less)
I chose this book since so many of my friends highly recommended it, but to be honest I was a little hesitant. I couldn't figure out what could be so...moreI chose this book since so many of my friends highly recommended it, but to be honest I was a little hesitant. I couldn't figure out what could be so interesting about the compilation of a dictionary.
Simon Winchester, the author and also narrator of the audiobook, chooses just the right details. As you read or listen you drawn into the complexity involved in the Oxford English Dictionary 's making. You learn why it was needed, you learn how it differed from previous dictionaries, you learn about the tremendous effort that it entailed and finally you will be flabbergasted to hear about the most prodigious contributor! You read in the book description above that he was locked up in an insane asylum, but his life in that asylum will surprise you. This piques your interest in him and keeps you reading to find out more. You want to know everything about him because the story surrounding his life is so bizarre. And you want to know what his illness was, in modern day terms. At the end you find out. Winchester's writing teases you, entices you and he throws in extraneous tidbits about this contributor, the dictionary's editor and words. Yeah, the history of some words is terribly fascinating! A great reading experience. This author has made what could be a dry subject fascinating. And every bit of it is true.
The narration is clear and has a perfect tempo. Not many authors are as capable as Winchester in both writing and then reading their own book!(less)
Buddy Read with Silver Raindrop. :0) We will leave comments with each other below our reviews, for those who are interested.
I have listened to only twe...moreBuddy Read with Silver Raindrop. :0) We will leave comments with each other below our reviews, for those who are interested.
I have listened to only twenty minutes. I love the prose style, the narration of the audiobook by Peter Firth is excellent and the events already have me terribly curious. Steven is creeping around a house in his socks searching for who has screamed! The depiction of Amiens, where the house is located, is perfect. I have been there, so I know. Unfortunately the narrator pronounced the city name incorrectly, but his baritone singing of a song in the text has me forgiving this error. And there is a discussion which illustrates how the French and the English view each other...... Funny! I guess you could say I like this from page one.
I could not stop listening to this book. It is wonderful. I just finished. I haven't been able to do anything except listen to this book. Excellent narration by Peter Firth. I loved it. I loved all the emotion - horror of war and passionate love. And great lines and so much to think about...... Can I collect my thoughts?!
This book has everything. It is exciting and horribly moving and oh so wonderful. It is like life: full of the worst and most wonderful.
There are lines you must ponder. Why does one fight in a war? Who do we fight for? Do you fight for your land, your family, your friends....or for those comrades who have fought and died next to you? You are in the trenches and in tunnels, in the middle of bombardments. You are in a tunnel and you may be suffocated and buried alive. This book is about fear. This book is about the warfare of WW1.
But there is humor and passionate love too. Their is death and there is birth. There is hope and despair. The story takes place during WW1 in the trenches in France. It also has events set later, in the 70s. Most authors cannot switch between different time periods. In this book the two are wonderfully intertwined.
This book rips you apart, scares you to death, rolls you in passionate, sensual love, one minute has you giggling and then later pondering the essence of life and death and fear. The book is an emotional roller coaster. And you will learn what it was really like to fight in the first world war. You can swallow the horror because it is balanced by humor and love and passion and even hope and happiness.