This book was a real struggle for me. It is entirely my own fault. First of all I “purchased” a free kindle book and then I insisted that once I startThis book was a real struggle for me. It is entirely my own fault. First of all I “purchased” a free kindle book and then I insisted that once I started it I would finish it. So I am a cheapo, I admit that. I will probably make the same mistake again. In my own defense, if you don’t put yourself out on a limb once in a while you will miss opportunities! And some books do actually improve at their end. This book remained a struggle for me from start to finish.
When I chose this book my hope was that I would learn about Fiji, its physical qualities and its cultural traditions. This is a book of fiction; hopefully I would be served an engaging story. Hopefully the characters would be three dimensional. Hopefully I would empathize with at least one or two characters. Me, I dislike stereotypical figures and cinematic writing; unfortunately this is what I got.
It is true, cultural traditions are mentioned. Here is an example:
To the wild beating of drums, warriors preformed a cibi, or war dance, to demonstrate their superiority over their captive. With clubs and spears raised high, they danced aggressively, only inches away from him. He looked up at them fearlessly and laughed openly at their efforts. This incensed one warrior, who kicked him in the face, dazing him and drawing more blood. Another warrior urinated over him.
The drumming softened and the warriors were pushed aside by a dozen near-naked maidens who performed a wate, or dance aimed at sexually humiliating their captive. To the cheers of the onlookers, the nubile maidens left nothing to the imagination as they simulated intercourse and performed other crude gestures in front of and over their captive. This age-old insult was too much even for him, and he closed his eyes to try to escape this ultimate disgrace. (at 52%)
Then follows further methods of torture and the prisoner’s response:
The captive spat in Joeli’s direction; “Eat shit, you dog!” (52%)
The fantastic hairstyles of the chiefs are described. That is true too. They are pigmented in bright colors and they are huge. The bigger and the flashier the better. But how many times do we need to be told. The chiefs are jealous of each other’s “hairdos”. However, there is no author’s note specifying what practices are real and which could be imaginary.
Perhaps the real problem is that I have a hard time taking any of this seriously, given the style of writing. Tell me; didn’t the captive’s response above surprise you? Later the American yells, “Holly shit!” Many times the words used feel inappropriate. But of course in a movie it might be effective, given contemporary audiences. Look at the excerpts I have given you; what do you think of that word “connectivity” used below?
This is an action adventure story and romance. I am not a big consumer of either. Maybe you are. For me the sexual fantasies of the two main characters, a swashbuckling American and a missionary’s daughter, are pathetic. I mean, are we supposed to be titillated? I wasn’t!
What else bothers me? That the Fijian natives believe in magic, that is not strange, but that one woman slave with “the gift” is able to curse Susannah, of whom she is insanely jealous, well this is just too contrived.
The authors think the bad boy must become good:
He felt very little connectivity between the self centered man he was when he arrived and the man he was now. And, he knew, that change was due entirely to Susannah. From the moment he’d first seen her, he’d been unable to think of anything or anyone else. She’d drawn out his real self from deep inside him – a side he never knew existed. Because of her, he felt more alive than ever before. (at 53%)
Just too soppy. And at the same moment, Susannah is praying to God. BTW, isn’t there a dash between self and centered?
The story is cinematically constructed. The characters are stereotypical. What they do is unbelievable. I don’t like the words the authors use. I am not even sure if the cultural facts are correct. Oh, and the ending is so corny.
No, this is not a book for me. You must decide if it is for you. Many others have liked this book. ...more
I recommend this book to those of you seeking immersion into the world of medieval Greenland. The characters are the Nordic immigrants who settled inI recommend this book to those of you seeking immersion into the world of medieval Greenland. The characters are the Nordic immigrants who settled in Greenland, the events taking place in the 1300s, centuries after Viking exploration. These people must cope with cold and a native population that is so strange that these creatures are seen as demons. These people, the indigenous Inuits, are called skraelings. It is a world of hunger and hard times, adultery and murder, illness and death and lawlessness. Death, death and more death….. and of course religion. The Norwegians settled here to trade, to hunt and to farm. The Thing and the Bishop and his priests were the ultimate authority of power, and it isn’t easy reading of their ways.
I have never run into the style of writing found in this book. To help you determine if you will enjoy it, I have included a quote:
Then she turned to Gunnar and declared that as a child of but fifteen years, Gunhild could not be asked to keep two things in her mind at once, namely the Thjodhilds Stead way and the Lavrans Stead way. And since one had to make way for the other, it was necessary that the old go out and the new come in. The result of this was that on the feast of St. Stephen, Gunhild and Gunnar went on skis across the fjord and over the hills to Thjodhilds Stead, and Gunhild stayed there, as a maiden, and came home no more. And this was also the case, that in the disorder of departure, she never once looked over her shoulder, nor did she see her brother and sisters and mother waving aéfter her, but she only went forward, looking for her new home, and this came to Birgitta as an unaccountable grief, no matter how she prayed and told herself that this was the pain of bearing daughters, and folk must always accustom themselves to it. (41%)
The language is different. There is an absence of dialog. There is a distance between the “storyteller” and the listener. There is a formality to expressions that reflects the atmosphere of the times. The reader is always looking on rather than partaking of the events. Nevertheless, as the story proceeds you very definitely come to care for the characters. When you read the above quote you feel the sorrow and grief of the mother who is losing her child – even though she reasons with herself that this is a step all mothers must take.
Although the events are tragic, there are also characters that are happy and satisfied with their lives. There are characters that will astound you with their strength, others with their individuality. There are couples that separate and take other spouses or women who manage alone. That is no small task. There is feuding and injustice and then there is kindness. There are neighbors who step in and help when they need not.
You will feel immersed in another world. You will understand what their life really was like. Mostly it was grim. You see their world with their eyes and their sensibilities. You come to understand how the skraelings could be dangerous; how the priests were worthy of respect and that sometimes one simply had to see that people were punished. I f you didn’t see this was done yourself, nobody else would. The Pulitzer prize-winning author, Jane Smiley, plops you down in another world where the mindset is initially completely foreign and strange. You come to think as they do. However, the book will not fit everyone. The writing takes getting use to and the characters are numerous. They are listed in the front. Don’t expect a lot of laughs. Do expect total immersion in another time and place.
In my view this book deserves five stars for the author’s ability to transport the reader to a completely foreign place and for that place to become real. I have chosen nevertheless to give it three stars because I personally had a hard time with the language style, even though it had to be exactly as it was to properly conjure that world. I did have trouble reading this book; I can only give it three stars. ...more
Although classified as historical fiction, this book is about the experiences of the author's mother. It is set during the last months of WW2 in FriesAlthough classified as historical fiction, this book is about the experiences of the author's mother. It is set during the last months of WW2 in Friesland, a northern province of Holland. The Germans were retreating. However the book is primarily a coming of age story. Don't be fooled by the beginning, which is action filled and dramatic. Rather than being a plot driven book, it is focused upon Leen, the central character's development into adulthood. It is about the war's impact on one family. It is about how each family member reacted differently. I will say this, some of the family members were irreparably destroyed. What philosophical/psychological beliefs save us and enable us to surmount past horrors? So the book tries to guide a young reader into making appropriate choices.
I like books that focus upon characterization rather than those that are plot oriented. I did learn about how the war played out in Friesland. This book is not in any way similar to The Diary of a Young Girl. Although Jewish persecution is an element in this story, it is not primary. In my view this is primarily a Bildungsroman. It is a coming of age story. It is a story about becoming independent and making your own choices. It is very much about guilt. Every member of this family feels guilty in one way or another. For me this was just too much. I felt like shaking them and saying - heavens, there is a war going on! Stop blaming yourself for for that which happens. This bothered me to no end! At the same time I know that others may say I am too "logical". People DO feel guilty even when they shouldn't.
I also felt that the presence of untranslated Dutch made portions unclear.
And this book almost reads like an ad promoting cigarettes. Everybody smokes. Boy does smoking wondrously calm you.... That is the message given. I found this just ridiculous. Again, am I too logical and hard-nosed?!
The latter third of the book is gripping, but the finale was such a finger pointer. The lesson given on how to become an adult lacked subtlety. I am going to give it only two stars. If you are looking for a Bildungsroman, you might enjoy it more than I did. Remember I choose to be very restrictive with my stars and only judge a book from my own personal likes and dislikes. ...more