I will start this review with an excerpt. For me, it is the words and the writing style of an author that are the most important aspect of a book. Eig...moreI will start this review with an excerpt. For me, it is the words and the writing style of an author that are the most important aspect of a book. Eighty year old Ebenezer, who has spent every day of his life on Guernsey, tells here of what happened one afternoon:
It was sun and cloud and wind and very cold, and yet for some reason I thought I would go in a churchyard before I went home. It don’t make me sad. It cheers me up to see the graves. I feel here at last I’m among Guernsey people. I had to look at my grandfather’s. The gravestone is old and greenish, and there are others of my father’s family buried there, but my grandfather was the only name I could make out. Ah well, I thought. I will be under there myself before long. I didn’t mind, but I got the feeling I wanted to go in the church. I don’t go in for services, but that don’t mean I wouldn’t like to sometimes, only I can’t bring myself to stand up and say with everybody I believe this and I believe that when I am not at all sure in my own mind I do, ay. I pushed the heavy door and went in……
For hundreds of years people have gone there to worship and sing praises and say prayers and sleep through the sermons and be hypocrites for the rest of the week. But then who isn’t, ay? (Part 3: chapter 14)
What does this excerpt show you? It shows you the author’s general writing style and how Ebenezer speaks to his audience. It shows how he often interjects “ay”, how he questions himself, his world and all that around him. The excerpt shows Ebenezer’s view of religion. His thoughts are not just disparaging. Remember he says he would maybe go to services if he could only do it with a clear conscience. I like that! Does the satire amuse or annoy you?
You will learn that Ebenezer is a very good person. Well, that is my opinion. It may not be yours. He is straight-forward, he doesn’t approve of people who take on airs. He admits his own weaknesses and admires this quality in others. He is humble. I think you have to like Ebenezer to like this book. He is never arrogant in his speech, manner or actions. As he himself points out, one has to sometimes read between the lines. A comment may seem accusing and harsh, but does that make the speaker a mean person? Not always. The reader comes to know Ebenezer very well by the last pages of this book. The reader also comes to know very well the personality traits of the other important people in his life: Jim and Liza, Father Darcy, Raymond and Christine, his sister Tabitha, his cousin Mary Anne. The English professor, Dudley Wayne, will make you laugh. This book is best for those who enjoy character studies. Liza is Ebenezer’s one true love and also the woman he always ends up arguing with every time they meet! But he also has eyes for other women. Will that annoy you? It doesn’t me….. You will soon find out he remains a bachelor all his life.
I was attracted to this book because I thought I would learn about Guernsey. Well I have fallen in love with life on Guernsey, but it is not the modern Guernsey of today that I love. I have fallen in love with the “Old Guernsey”. It seems just like Brittany, France. :0) The history of Guernsey during the Great War and during the German Occupation of the Second World War, all of this is covered, but not with lots of historical dates and facts. If you want a real history book go elsewhere. If you are looking to understand how the Guernsey people felt during the Great War, at the Armistice and during the Occupation, you will be satisfied. The story does not follow a chronological order. Ebenezer is telling us of his life, of the people he has known and he mentions historical details as they fit into his friends’ lives. This book is about people more than about history.
The book is filled with humor. He speaks of a woman with a ridiculously short skirt: she has her skirt “around her neck”! He is a bit old-fashioned, but I don’t care. He wants his women dressed in dresses or skirts, and certainly not pants! Yep, he prefers women with thicker legs rather than thin skinny ones. He realizes when he went to buy a book to write his life-story in that he had “lost his knack with women” that he had had when he was younger; they didn’t rush to help him in the store and more! He remarked, on hearing the blank book’s price: “That’s a lot for a book with no writing in it.” And then there is this line, which isn’t funny but is just so wonderful: “It takes two to make a painting: the chap who paints it and the one who looks at it.” Ebenezer’s view on art, well it is the same as mine. You do not have to understand art. You just have to look at it and enjoy it. You should get the real “feel” of the actual thing.
I love the lines. I love the thoughts expressed in this book. And seriously I fell in love with some of the characters. Jim, he is named on a war monument. Ebenezer sadly thinks that no one anymore remembers him……but on hearing his thoughts I exclaimed, “I remember him. I remember him because you have written this book! Thank you Ebenezer.”
I cannot more highly praise the audiobook’s narration by Roy Dotrice. Roy is Ebenezer, at least that is how it feels when he speaks!!! Dotrice speaks with the Guernsey patois. The French is not translated and it should not be. It would wreck the feel of the book. I recommend that you listen to rather than read this book. If you have never listened to an audiobook, this would be a great one to start with. It is not difficult to follow.
Others say this book has three parts: the old life, life during the Occupation and then the part about modern Guernsey and tourism. I do not agree. It is about the people in Ebenezer’s life and it is about Ebenezer himself. He is such a wonderful old guy. Don’t you want to meet him?
I was going to give this book five stars…..until the very last chapter. I can point to two things I did not like about the last chapter. (view spoiler)[There are a few paragraphs that are just too religious. These lines do not fit the character of Ebenezer really. Anyhow I did not like them. Secondly, that Nevil turned out to be a descendant of Liza was just too cute. That could have been skipped! (hide spoiler)] I did like the book’s conclusion, i.e. what happens to Ebenezer at the end, but two small details annoyed me so the book lost one star. I highly recommend listening to this book, or reading it if you cannot listen to it. Five stars must be saved for those books that are absolutely perfect. This was almost perfect.
Through chapter three:
This is good. I haven't listened to much yet but I highly recommend the audiobbok version narrated by Roy Dotrice. I have to keep reminding myself that it isn't really Roy who is speaking of himself! The narration is absolutely perfect.
The lines are funny. When his grandmother dies, the will is read and "possessions" have to be dealt out to the kids.... Isn't it always the weirdest things that we get upset about. In our family it was the photo albums. All hell broke loose about the photo albums. In his family it was the wedding dress. You relate to what he speaks of.
What else? He says history is only dates, and he has forgotten them except the two most important: 55 B.C. when Julius Caesar arrived in England and 1066 A.D. when they conquered England. They? Who is they?
But the best is the narration. Ebenezer and Roy are one and the same. (less)
Too long ; needs better editing. For example, the time spent on the raft is just too long and drawn out.
I have a very hard time believing some of the...moreToo long ; needs better editing. For example, the time spent on the raft is just too long and drawn out.
I have a very hard time believing some of the events: (view spoiler)[the numerous Japanese bullets missed Allan Phillips and Max on the raft and fixing the bullet holes in the raft while they remained in it is implausible! (hide spoiler)] The sharks’ behavior seems unbelievable too…. The crews on the airplanes were given fleece clothing when they left for their first air assignment. Did there really exist fleece clothing back in the forties?! I just cannot believe many statements made in this book! Louis’ behavior as a child seems at least very much “exaggerated”.
Neither does the religious message professed in this book work for me. That Louis falls under the spell of Billy Graham put me off.
I was not won over by the sample I read from this book! I was left with the impression that it is primarily directed toward young adults. Beautiful im...moreI was not won over by the sample I read from this book! I was left with the impression that it is primarily directed toward young adults. Beautiful imagery, but simplistic. I am not going to grab this right away. (less)
(Final view, on completion of the book, found at the end.)
Oh, I am struggling...... Every chapter is the voice of another character....more(Final view, on completion of the book, found at the end.)
Oh, I am struggling...... Every chapter is the voice of another character. In this way you see what is going on in the head of the prime characters. That I have no complaint with. What I hate is that in each chapter there is also a story. And that story has always a moral. These stories chop up the book, and they are so simplistic. I just swore, OMG, here comes this chapter's story. Here comes the lesson. This is like a schoolbook on proper behavior. "Love your sister". "Appreciate your mother". "Support your family".The moralistic stories are so so darn blatant. And boring and disruptive to the plot line. And too long. Way to long. Now I have another stupid story ahead of me......
Please read the comments under this review. There are many inaccuracies in this book.
I figured I would just read this as a book of complete fiction. I told myself to assume nothing is historically correct. Just appreciate the story - but it is terrible! No, that is not fair, the stories in the story are terrible. Sometimes I do care about the people, but then comes the dam story that is stuck in to teach a lesson. Give me patience. I have to finish this dam book. Back to reading after my mini-explosion. I have read 215 of 367 pages. More than half - :0)
On completion: the message is too blatant, too simplistic and hammered repetitively into the reader. Value your friends and family while you have them. It is no unimportant, insignificant, misconstrued detail that the story takes place in a cellar, hiding from the Japanese, if few houses have cellars! And the ending? When a war ends,suffering does not stop over night.That is the impression you get here. Atrocities in fact continue. What happened after the war, the difficulties that had to be resolved are not even hinted at. The brutality of the Japanese in warfare is a dominant theme of this book. With this depiction I have no complaint. (less)
I want to make it very clear; those of you who are looking for a book of historical fiction on life in Hawaii, look no further - this is...moreNO SPOILERS!!!
I want to make it very clear; those of you who are looking for a book of historical fiction on life in Hawaii, look no further - this is your book. Do not make the mistake I made by first trying Shark Dialogues. I could not complete Shark Dialogues. Moloka'i will teach you about life in Hawai through the 1900s. It will teach you about leprosy, today called Hansen's Disease. I thought I knew quite a bit about this disease. This book proved me wrong. I learned so much. This book brings the horrors of this disease to you, the reader, as a mighty punch in the stomach. I learned so much. Besides learning about the disease, I learned about Hawaii. I feel I can now smell it and see it and feel it. The mositure, the pounding surf, the majestic mountains, cliffs and crumbling paths mounting the peaks. You learn not only about the physical landscape but also native Hawaiian customs and belifs.The reason why I give this book four stars is that I learned so much. The historical and medical facts are presented in the framework of an engaging tale.
There is an excellent author's note at the end. It explains what is fact and what is fiction. Several of the characters are based on true experiences and real people. So much history is reflected in this book. Not merely the treatment of leprosy, but also the death of King Kaläkua, the reign of Queen Lili'uokalani, the American take-over, WW2 and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, fires, the tsunami, the marvels of invention that characterize the early 1900s, the Depression, all of this is covered from the Hawaiian perspective. It is fascinating to read this book.
Rachel is the main protagonist of the book. Her life is very difficult and heart-wrenching, but there is humor. That which happens in her life makes the reader understand how it might feel to be a leper then, there, in Hawaii, in the 1900s. The style of writing is straight-forward. The circumstances and facts are presented so you come to understand the people who suffered the stigma of leprosy and the events of the times. (less)
I liked the first 70ish pages about the matriarch Kelonikoa, the daughter of a Tahitian chief. The writing was colorful and vibrant. Hawaiian history...moreI liked the first 70ish pages about the matriarch Kelonikoa, the daughter of a Tahitian chief. The writing was colorful and vibrant. Hawaiian history and geogarphy were wonderfully described.
But now, Pono, Kelonikoa's great granddaughter, has come on stage. The writing is just too dramatic, too graphic - with slaughter and rape and magical realism that is simply too weird. I am fighting my desire to just dump this book. I REALLY am not enjoying myself. Usch, do I have to continue with this....... I am on page 126 of 492. There is no map, and you have to constantly look up the Hawaiian words in the glossary at the back.
I am going to bed. I will do anything but read this book.
I forgot to mention, neither is there any humor. After sleeping on it, I have decided NOT to continue. Parts were well written, so I am giving it two stars. Frankly, maybe the book is OK, but it just isn't my cup of tea. I feel like I am a quitter, but I just don't want to read this!!!!!!!(less)
I am not a good person to jusdge this book. I do not like short stories or books composed of vignettes. That is exactly what this book is. You do end...moreI am not a good person to jusdge this book. I do not like short stories or books composed of vignettes. That is exactly what this book is. You do end up learning about Ondaatje' family, beginning with his grandparent s and ending with his parents. You do not learn much about Michael. The depiction of lush, verdant Ceylon, the changing landscapes, the valleys and mountains is captivating. But I was clearly having a hard time with the form of the chapters. There are chapters of poetry; they do not speak to me either. There were chapters consisting of just short bits of conversatins.
Sometimes I was confused and simply didn't know what was being said!
Ceylon falls on a map and its outline is the shape of a tear. After the spaces of India and Canada it is so small. A miniature. Drive ten miles and you are in a landscape so different that by rights it should belong to another country. From Galle in the south to Colombo a third of the way up the coast is only seventy miles. When houses were built along the coastal road it was said that a chicken could walk between the two cities without touching ground. (page 147)
What is that suppose to mean, that with the chicken?????? That the cities were close? This must be over my head. It doesn't work for me. It is not terribly funny.....
I didn't particularly like reading about the lifestyle of drinking and partying and small talk and gambling, the lifestyle so predominant to this family and many others of their group. Drinking became a huge problem for particular individuals. Having recently finished Ava's Man, where drinking also played an important role, I wonder why I was so angry at the individuals in this book, while I was not in Bragg's book?
And now that I think of it, I adored Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps, which is composed of vignettes. Why did that go down my throat like ice-cream while this books had me choking off and on? Something is wrong between me and this book. I will say, that by the end I felt a deep affection for Michael's father, I was no longer angry at him. So something worked! Listen to this about his father:
He was amazingly protective. He would never let me stay with friends over the weekend, they would have to come and stay with us. And if there wasn't enough food to go around he would announce these signals such as "F.H.B.", which meant "Family Hold Back". We loved all those codes. (page194)
So I ended up having a soft spot fpr this man, Michael's father, irregardless of all his faults. For the most part, the craziness of the life-style bugged me to pieces. It was surreal, dream-like, crazy and bizarre, and the writing is too. Somewhere along the way the comment is made that those growing up in the 20s through to the 40s were immature and just simply did not have to grow up, not until the war came. I recognize this constant partying as perhaps something that characterized the 20s.
Anyway, these are my thoughts. I have mixed feelings for this book. Yes, I liked it, but not more. I also wish the book had taught me a bit more about Ceylon!(less)
This book is about friendship, about people of completely different cultures and how simple it really is for friendship to grow between all of us. In...moreThis book is about friendship, about people of completely different cultures and how simple it really is for friendship to grow between all of us. In the author's words:
"Communication is not difficult because we all share the sensations of human emotions, the need to affirm our sameness and the universal capacity to laugh."
I highly recommend this book. Its message is wonderful. The stories told are very interesting.(less)
Wonderful book! Both light and amusing and serious, gripping and informative. This is a must-read for everyone; one of those books that is just so muc...moreWonderful book! Both light and amusing and serious, gripping and informative. This is a must-read for everyone; one of those books that is just so much fun to read. (less)
Only pick this book up if you wish to slog through more than 600 pages filled with the bickering, moans and wailing of a large Indo-Trinidadian family...moreOnly pick this book up if you wish to slog through more than 600 pages filled with the bickering, moans and wailing of a large Indo-Trinidadian family. A Nobel Prize winner that disappoints. The plot is minimal, and the humor not to my taste. It bored me to such an extent that I have no desire to more fully explain. When a book is this boring there is just nothing to say.
After 144 pages: On the back cover Newsweek and Anthony Burgess speak of the book's "comic insight and power". What are they talking about?! There is a family where everyone is complaining and picking on each other. I don't see the humor at all. What I have learned about Trinidad and Tobago culture is minimal. Should I persevere?
Is this one of those books you are supposed to like, so no one admits it's bad?