Disliked the writing style. Every sentence is filled with extraneous information. The writing is disjointed and confusing, stuffed with words that mus...moreDisliked the writing style. Every sentence is filled with extraneous information. The writing is disjointed and confusing, stuffed with words that must be found either in the glossaries at the end of the book or translation notes in tiny text at the bottom of the pages.
Every time I pick up this book I think, now I will understand, I must have been tired last time I tried to read it. But every time the same thing happens. I don't understand what the heck is being said and think: jeez, get to the point! Figuring out what is being said seems just not worth the effort.
Quitting after 85 pages and three days of really trying. (less)
I finished this book last night, before I went to bed, but it is still night or early, early morning. 3:30 AM to be precise! I cannot sl...moreNO SPOILERS!!!
I finished this book last night, before I went to bed, but it is still night or early, early morning. 3:30 AM to be precise! I cannot sleep. I keep thinking abut this book and how I shhould explain why I adore it. It swallowed me, sucked on me, swished me around, pounded me and then spit me out. Or have you ever been tumbled and beaten by a crashing wave? When you escape, thrown up on shore, dizzy, without footing, tousled, pummelled; that is another way of describing how you feel after reading this book. Chrissie, this is not helping..... be specific! Explain! How?! Where do I begin?
I will begin by saying you feel physically beaten and brutalized by this book. Well, I did. The land, the people, the pounding heat, the fruit that fall down on on your head, the insects that attack, the earth that rumbles and moves so you are shaken. You physically feel this book. With the author's words you feel life on the island of Trinidad. I cannot explain it better than that. And you feel the youth and sexual attraction of Sabine when she arrives, when she is atop that green bicycle pedalling all over the island, scared of NOTHING! She is too busy to be scared, There is not an ouce of fear even in situations where perhaps she should have been frightened. She is so alive and beautidul and sexy atop that bicycle. Everyone noticed her. Cars almost collided. And you see her when she is in her seventies, old and beaten by the sun and all the other forces of this island. This book is sensual. When a couple cannot talk, cannot communicate, they use sex to pound each other; it is the only means left to reach out to the other.
Mentally this book puts you in a turmoil too. This book is historical fiction. You get the history of Trinidad from the 1950s through to 2007. The history isn't on the edge of the stroy but it IS the story. The whole story. It is the central theme. You cannot close the covers of this book and not understand what happened there in Trinidad during this time period. Such is impossible. A central theme of all this is colonialism. Europeans sucking the sap out of this West Indian island. It is about the love/hate feelings between the black Africans, the French Creole aristocracy and the Europeans. I have lived in different countries. I know what is is like to be plunked down in a culture that you do not understand. How do you feel when you arive and when you have been there for years? Sabine and her husband George arrived with completely different intentions. Sabine didn't really want to come. This made me feel cold toward her. But which of the two let the island's culture suck them in more? That is an interesting question? I also understand the turmoil Sabine felt because she didn't agree with her husband about the basics; how long would they stay or what was the purpose of their stay on the island?! I actually came to fully understand Sabine. I joined her side, but hej you do not understand where she really stood until you read this book. Read this book. It is marvellous.
I feel like removing stars from all the books I have recently read so that when I give this five stars you will see how this book sparkles and is illuminated by the five stars. I do not think this book will fit everybody. It fit me perfectly. Are you interested in how it feels to be a foreigner in a new country? Are you interested in history? Do you want an emotional ride? Do you enjoy the excerpts given below? Those are the suestions you should ask yourself when you decide whether you want to read this book! If you answer yes, then read this book.
49% percent through the book: I absolutely love the book. the more I read,the more it pulls me in. I absolutely adore how it describes Trinidad and those living there. The plot line goes backwards. You start in 2006, but then when you know these people and care for them, when you NEED to know more, that is when the author dips into the past. It is the writing style that draws you in.
You all know that I am not interested in cuisine or cooking. Me, I cook as quickly as I can. But this suthor entices me with the Trinidadian cuisine:
It was Venus who got me cooking. She introduced George and me to creole cuisine, which she called blue food: sweet potatoe, eddoes, cassava, yams.
'Good old-fashioned stodge,'George called it.
Venus brewed up drinks, too - a red cordial a bit like cranberry juice: sorrel. Another from the bark of a tree: mauby, a green liquorice-type medicine we choked back. In months, our diets had changed for ever. Venus devised our menus. Instead of reading the cookbook, I hung around the kitchen.
'What are you doing?' I asked, peering over her shoulder. She was stripping down the stalks of some large leaves.
'It's dasheen bush.'
'Can't you just chop them up and put them in the soup?'
'You hadda take out dis vein furs.'
'It trouble de throat. Make it itch. Her eyes shone. I stared. Venus nodded and smiled, suppressing her amusement. (at 49%)
Just as how the plot goes backwards in time so you want to know when it is finally presented to you, the same is true here. Callaloo has been mentioned many times. I have been asking myself: What IS that? Now I know. I also finally found out what steupsed means. Wikipedia didn't help me. Always the author makes us want to know before we are told! Finally, I know why Sabine speaks French and why the people in this former British colony revert to French. I am only told when I find myself going crazy with curiosity.
I SAID I wouldn't give any more excerpts, but yes, I just broke down. I simply had too. NOW NO MORE EXCERPTS, no matter how wonderful the lines are. I think this book will get five stars. I cannot believe I have half left. What is going to happen next?!
I love how everything is described - the people, the places, the feel of Trinidad. I knew nothing about Trinidad, but know I feel I am there. One more excerpt and that will just have to do. Here we are at the World Cup football match between the Soca Warriors of Trinidad and the opposing Peruvians:
Everyone wore red. Flags hung from shoulders, faces were painted with the Trinidad and Tobago colours. Conch horns bellowed. Vendors greeted ticket holders well in advance of the entrance, hawking writstbands, T-shirts, whistles, car stickers. George and Clock dodged them, drifting up the main corridor towards the stadium entrance, stopping to buy cherry-flavoured snow cones. Four in the afternoon and the sun poured down. They climbed the stairs to the balconies, arriving at the top, gazing out onto the scratchy yellos-grass pitch....
George and Clock made their way down an aisle and across a row of seats. George opened his giant golf umbrella and they sat under it eating their melting snow cones and warm peanuts, watching a fat man dressed in a red satin suit and red cowboy hat goose-stepping around the pitch. (at 32%)
The writing is vividly colored. You hear a cacophony of voices, shrill cries, whistles and the reader is right there in that stadium under the glaring sun. I love it.
************************************************* 21% through the book:
So the bicycle it is found again, There it is: clean and sparkling and repaired. All had their own memories tied to this bike. Memories of Sabine on this bike. Memories of a person who had been! The faces looked on expectantly when the bike was put before Sabine again:
La Pompey (the handyman) laughed. 'Yeah, man. Try it, nuh.'
Jennifer (the maid) cackled, blushing through her black skin. 'Mrs Harwood, give it a try, nuh. I cyan believe you ride it once.'
Everyone turned to look at Sabine.
Sabine backed away, holding onto her dog. 'Are you crazy? Jennifer give it to Chantal.'
'How she go ride it up dat hill?' Jennifer retorted.
Sabine looked at George: he was blushing, heat in his face. Was he hurt?
'Well, give it away to your friend who runs the charity shop at the church. Take it away. I can't believe we still have it lying around. Give it away, for God's sake.'
Sabine looked at their expectant faces, all of a sudden crowdedin.
Memories flooded up. Eric Williams in his flashy American car, sailing past. The look he gave her, through the windo, questions in his eyes. She felt faint, woozy, the wind in her hair.
La Pompey stopped his clowning, perplexed. 'She doh want it?'
Sebastian frowned. 'No.'
'She'll ride it,' Jennifer assured 'She just take a turn.'
'Maybe she'll try it tomorrow,' La Pompey reasoned. 'When nobody arong She must feel shy to ride it now. Mr. Hartwood, you mus encourage her. Why you look so sad?'
So why do I bother to give you this excerpt? I have given it to show two things. How the people speak and, more importantly, for you to see and feel the emotions of the family. The servants, they too are a part of the family. These people, all of them, care for each other, but they do not understand each other. A huge theme of this book is our relationships with those closest to us. These relationship are never stagnant; they are complicated, messy knots.
What does the word "steupsed" mean? Some of the colloquialisms I do not understand. Maybe Wikipedia will clue me in?
I had to give you this excerpt found 13% through the book:
We treat politicians like parents. It's the same relationship. We never forgive them if they fuck up.
Well that is true. I think we cannot forgive our parents because we want to see them as Gods. They should be perfect. Even when we ourselves become parents and know we are full of mistakes, we still want our parents to be pretty darn perfect. It would be nice if our politicians could be trusted, admired, a bit above ordinary human beings. I just never thought of it that way.
I have just begun this; I have only read 10% of the egalley I received from NetGalley. An egalley is an ARC book in e-format. Please read the book description, it seems foolish to just repeat what is already written!
Sabine and George had many years ago left England and moved to Trinidad. They had planned a three year stay, but then they stayed and now many, many years have passed and Trinidad is there home. The book is about Trinidad, the culture and the history of the island (1950s - 2000), but also about Sabine's and Georges's relationship. What relationship stays fiexed? None, of course. How was it before as newlyweds? How is it now? Different, that is all one can assume.... But what has made it change, and is change good or bad or a lovely mixture? We will see! I am intrigued. George has just found hidden letters written by his wife. Not just a few, but boxes of letters During 26 years Sabine was writing to Eric Williams, the Prime Minister of Trinidad after British rule ended. Why were Sabine's letters hidden away here in their house? Were they answered? Had there been an affair?
George read till dawn. Sitting on the office floor, his back against the wall. He read every letter, mouthing the words. Three hundred and fifty-eight letters in all. "Dear Mr. Williams." Nothing was straightforward as a love affair: passion, guilt, betrayal all the usual to and fro. No. This was far worse. He stopped several times to ponder, lost in reveries of their life together. He only knew the half of it, only half her despair.
The letters were originals. Unsent. Communiqués to the self in some respects. He found no replies and wondered if they were in another stash, other boxes hidden elsewhere in the house. From what she had written he began to understand.
Me? I do not understand. I am intrigued. I want to know more, and I want to know more about Trinidad. I have already glimpsed a bit. I have met the native Trinidadians. I had a bit of a hard time understanding their collooquialisms, but now I am getting the hang of it. The rampant vice, corrupt politicians and police force, the oppressive heat: all of this has hit me. Was it like this when they arrived? When they arrived Sabine was young and beautiful and she was "that white woman on the green bicycle" that attracted everyone's attention. What has happened during the last 50 years. I want to know.
BEFORE READING: "Equal love and attention go into the marriage and the country at the heart of this Orange Prize short-listed novel... It's a book packed with meaty themes, from racism to corruption to passion and loyalty." -Seven, The Sunday Telegraph
This was a huge disappointment to me. I found the depiction of the black Jamaican slaves positively insulting. Their plight and their path toward free...moreThis was a huge disappointment to me. I found the depiction of the black Jamaican slaves positively insulting. Their plight and their path toward freedom is a central theme, but they need not be presented so degradingly.
The writing is wordy and convoluted. Get to the point. I do not want to wade through all these words to get the gist of the story.
The characters, they were all very unappealing. Not just unappealing, downright despicable. Whites and blacks alike.
If you are looking for a smidgen of humor, don't look here.
Here is what bothered me the most. Every action and even every sentence reflected a hidden, subversive intention. Nobody and nothing that happened is presented honestly. Every action had a hidden meaning, always dishonest and often cruel or mean. I say, if you hate someone, tell them and/or give them a punch, but do not do something that appears friendly but in fact causes pain. I want the meanness and anger upfront, not hidden and not disguised!
I finished the book. After many lies and false starts, I eventually found out how the people were related and what happened to each, but what a long, tedious and unpleasant journey it was! (less)
I could not finish this book, but this is NOT due to a lack of interest or diappointment in the book. I enjoyed every minute spent readi...moreNo Spoilers!!!
I could not finish this book, but this is NOT due to a lack of interest or diappointment in the book. I enjoyed every minute spent reading the book. I am giving it four stars, because I feel to give it five is incorrect given that I did not read to the end. What I loved about the book is that you do not get just the dry facts of history aobut Fidel Castro's takeover of Cuba, but rather the facts and how these historical events shaped the lives of normal people living in Cuba at this time. You learn abbout Cuban tradtions, culture and beliefs. You get so much more from hearing of one family's experiences than by reading dry dates and names, the historical events from the newsreels.
I am hoping to return to the book in the future.
P.S. You cannot compare this book to House of Spirits. I enjoyed both immensely, but the stories are so different!. Such a comparison has no purpose. Belief in spirits and mystical powers are evident in both. Such beliefs were an integral part of the cultural backgrounnd in both books.
BEFORE READING: I was hooked when I read a bit of the text at Barnes & Noble! I loved Allende's The House of the Spirits, and I think that perhaps there really will be similarities between the two books. It is a memoir about a girl's childhood growing up under the guidance of her grandmothers and the mystical stories that were an integral part of her experiences. History too - as Cuba falls to Castro's regime.
Just tell me - how in the world can I find the time to read all these books I simply must read? Lynne - thanks again - it looks marvelous, although it certainly took me awhile to get around to reading it. Ialso want to read Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy, which has a similar theme. Both are memoirs about children living in Cuba when Fidel Castro came to power. (less)
I have thoroughly enjoyed this book, the first of Sandra Gulland's trilogy concerning Josephine Bonaparte. I have completed ALL three books...moreNO SPOILERS
I have thoroughly enjoyed this book, the first of Sandra Gulland's trilogy concerning Josephine Bonaparte. I have completed ALL three books of the trilogy. I think it is very important to read them as one book. For that reason I will write one review and let it stand for all three books. I think it is wrong to evaluate them differently. All three were marvelous. Why? Well because youu got under the skin of Josephine, who in fact was called Rose until Napolean decided to change her name! Well, Napolean decided to change his own name too. You truly understood what she went through - her youth in Martinique, her life with her first husband, her relationships with her two children by this first husband, her experiences of the French Revolution and of course Napolean. The primary reason why I give these books five stars is b/c you REALLY get to know the people - Josephine, her children and Napolean and his unbelievably yucky family. Somehow this author makes these people and their lives and the times they lived through REAL! The style of writing is not extraordinary, but what the author achieves is extraordinary. Don't be put off that the book is written as diary entries. It doesn't read like that. The dates are simply helpful so you know exactly when the historical events are occurring. The footnotes are interesting and informative.The chronological summary at the back of the books is helpful if you ever want to see the historical events at a glance, but honestly it is not necessary b/c everything is so interesting that you never get confused. In my view this trilogy better describes the French Revolution than Hillary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety! Mantel has risen to such popularity for her book Wolf Hall. In Gulland's trilogy you become more involved. You understand how it might feel to fight for fraternity, liberty and equality and then see it being torn away again by the Royalists. Over and over again! The French Revolution was really a civil war with friends becoming foes and everyone changing sides all the time. What the Terror meant to the people living through it is heart wrenching. You come to understand how after all these troubles, Napolean and his Empire came into being. How can the French people seek freedom and then back the formation of an empire, and emperor with hereditary succession. All this becomes very, very clear and you think the same yourself.
I haven't said a word about Josephine's relationship with Napolean. THIS is the most moving part of the book. This is a true love story. She knew her husband. He loved her AND she loved him! DON'T on the other hand think that Josephine is a weak, head-over-heels in love woman. She has an excellent brain and she uses it. She is a business woman. She loves winning a game, a gamble. She is marvelous. There have always been strong women. Everyone says women have no rights and they are constantly pushed down, but some women defied all the cutoms of their times. And they get away with it marvelously! That I understand Josephine and what is going on in her head and what her emotions were is perhaps LESS surprising than that I ALSO com to understand Napolean - the general, the emperor. I highly recommend this trilogy. History that goes down like a spoonful of Tom and Jerry ice cream. :0) Personally, I think you learn more from this book than a dry history book that makes no attempt to put flesh and blood on to the bones of the historical entities. Don't forget the epilogue and the postscript. Furthermore, the comments below also discuss why I loved this trilogy.
Through page 146: Althought this reads like engaging fiction, the known facts of Josephine Bonaparte's life are accurately documented. Personally I find her sojourns at Martinique very much as engaging as her time spent in Paris. It is very interesting to read of diverse issues occurring at the time of the French Revolution and not JUST the polical trends. You get a more complete view of the times. You experience storms at sea and on the island. These storms actually occurred. Grain was destroyed and made the people in Paris hungry and is an important cause for the social and political unrest. You learn of how the peopled suffered from illnesses and old age. Josephine's love for her children feels true. Napolean still hasn't entered the scence.
Through page 129: Life seems so terribly dangerous. It is now 1788. The conditions described concern a family that is privileged! The conditions for the poor are horrendous. The events and the conditions feel very, very real.
Through page 97:How the aristocrats lived in the late 1700s (before the French Revolution) in Paris is well described. Childbirth, sexual relationships, dress, food, theater, literature, the salons, Rousseau's political beliefs, the Royalty's behavior and more are all viewed through the eyes of Josephine and her new acquaintances in Paris. Did you know that Voltaire's writings are full of spelling errors.?! I like knowing that. I feel a bit better! So the story is interesting. The language is fine, but nothing exceptional. There is no reason to quote anything. The characters are interesting, but I wouldn't say I am emotionally drawn to anyone. So far it is a light, intersting read. Oh, and Josephine has still not met Napolean.
Through page 43: The book reads like a novel. It consists of short paragraph entries in Josephine's diary which she received on her 14th birthday. I am thoroughly enjoying this, which actually surprises me for two reasons. First of all you do not doubt that it is a novel. Secondly, I usually hate epistolary writing. Here again, all rules can be broken. Josephine's voice rings true for a young girl in the late 1700s. It is however not written in a stilted voice. The diary entries are very short, so they are in no way clumsy. It is just like reading intereting paragraphs with an added date. Historical notes are added at the bottom of the page to give indepth information. I like reading them. The reader may do as they choose. Did you know that the "green flash", the line of green that can appear in the sky at sunrise or sunset, was thought to bring you good luck? Or that Britain at that time was preventing shipments of salt to Martinique b/c the French were helping the Americans in their War of Independence from Britain. I am also curious about the belief in voodoo mystic on the island at this time. I have always been taught to call the island Martinique, but the back cover uses the name Martinico - why?! And let me add that much has already happened in only 43 pages.
What a relief after Pnin! Good descriptive writing, but so terribly mean spirited. Ughhh. (less)
I had started this, but had been forced to put it aside before reading all of it. Now I have gone back to it. I love the lines. I enjoy the mixture of...moreI had started this, but had been forced to put it aside before reading all of it. Now I have gone back to it. I love the lines. I enjoy the mixture of fact and fiction. The fictional aspect allows the author to play with the details, descriptions and words. The author is a poet with her words. Originally she had planned this to be a poem! I have returned right smack to the beginning. I probably would have forgotten parts, and I don't want to miss anything. This is too good a book for that.
It is about the consequences of the Cuban Revolution, how it played out on its people. It is the story of a Cuban family, divided by politics and geography.
This is a must read if you enjoy magical realism. (less)