NO SPOILERS Finsished: I enjoyed this book very much. It never dragged. It always kept you thinking. What the author learned about the Japanese mentaliNO SPOILERS Finsished: I enjoyed this book very much. It never dragged. It always kept you thinking. What the author learned about the Japanese mentality during his one year teaching job was clearly and humorously described. I have absolutely no complaints. He not lonly learned about the Japanese but also reached philosophical insights concerning how different people and different cultures can truly learn to understand each other and hopefully learn from each other too!
Through page 209: Chapter 17 - The Way of Love: How to Pick Up a Japanese Girl - really couldn't be funnier!!! We have all heard of "love hotels", well here you have them. The advice given by two married men is the funniest. Their logic, their reasoning and their queries! And the glint in their eyes!
Still reading: This book is an amazing eye-opener. It offers a completely different way of looking at how people can be educated. I don't mean merely "school" learning but in becoming members of society. Education is simply approached in a completely different manner. I am talking about how you teach citizens to have pride in their country, how you teach the need to take car of our environment or how you teach people to work with each other. Altthough all Japanese children are trained to respect and follow the rules of their teachers, they are also in a very natural way allowed to interact with these same leaders on a personal and equal basis. The separation of public and private selves is hair-line thin. School children don aprons and fetch and serve the lunch which they all share in their classrooms. There are no cafeterias. Then they clean everything up and change back to their normal school uniforms. During lunch their homeroom teacher eats with them in a very relaxed manner. He loosens his tie, they ask him if he has a girl friend yet. They relate to each other as equals. All duties are carried out by the students and teachers together. They clean the school, and they have fun doing it. Who can mop up the floor most efficiently and quickly? Everything is a game. You see this playfulness and group/country allegiance on any short visit to Japan. Here follows a quote about how allegiance to their country is insilled in the pupils:
"Beginning on their first day in school, students learn a familiar refrain about their country: 'Japan is a small island nation with few natural resources, which is surrounded by countries that are bigger and stronger, and out to weaken us. If we are to suceed, we Japanese must work harder and longer to overcome these odds.' In essence this has become the Japanese pledge. By stressing this code and encouraging children to sacrificetheir personal desires for the good of the country, schools have been able to achieve what is , perhaps, their highest calling: to forge allegiance to the state."
Western attidtudes are so much more focused on independence and free thinking and surviving alone. Startling!
Starting: Having finished The Ginger Tree, I now must read another book about Japan. This one is about the author's experiences when he lived in a small village, half-way between Nikko and Tokyo, teaching English to junior high students. Maybe he taught them English, but they taught him much, much more - about bathing and bowing and yes even how to date a Japanese girl. I am still laughing about some of the lines in the Ginger Tree. for example Mary's description of sushi being a soggy lump of cold rice wrapped in seaweed and raw fish. She stated that if the Japanese wanted to attract more foreigners they would simply have to do something about their food. I love sushi and maki and the pickled vegetables are my favorite. YUM!...more
(Final view, on completion of the book, found at the end.)
Oh, I am struggling...... Every chapter is the voice of another character.(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. ...more
This book is an insult to the reader. I should go sentence by sentence through this book to show prospective readers why they should neither buy, borrThis book is an insult to the reader. I should go sentence by sentence through this book to show prospective readers why they should neither buy, borrow, read or listen to this book. It is a book written in bad taste. It is meant to shock. There is cheap sex and horrible violence. It is not credible.
Having read 1/2 of the book, I am now dumping it. I am not going to waste another minute on this terrible book. ...more
On completion: Four stars! I know I really liked the book, but why, and what is it that prevents me from giving it five stars? You keepNO SPOILERS!!!
On completion: Four stars! I know I really liked the book, but why, and what is it that prevents me from giving it five stars? You keep turning the pages, I kept wondering what is going to happen next? Yes, a lot does happen, and sometimes it does feel a bit melodramatic given all the shit that hits the fan. What happens does not feel impossible, but sometimes I found myself thinking that the blacks absolutely never were as bad as the whites. Let me say once again, the story does not feel unbelievable. The characters are nuanced; you come to understand the different individuals as having particular character traits and you understand why they make they make the bad choices they make.
Everyone reviewing this book emphasizes the importance of the theme family plays in the book. I agree it is a major theme, but for me the central focus of the book was what the absence of family feels like. What are the consequences of loosing your family? Any cursory review of this book reveals that Lavinia, the white girl living as an indentured slave in a Virginian slave plantation is an orphan. I found it particularly eye-opening to see how she matures and how her life and her character were so closely influenced by her being an orphan. This theme of losing family was reiterated in other events too. I felt I left the book with a deepened knowledge of how it might feel to be an orphan. It is this that I most appreciated about the book. Lavinia's lack of security, her shyness, her entire way of being taught me a lot.
Another central theme concerns the cruelty of the white masters' rape of black women. We have all read about this, but I believe this book brings it home with a punch. It is not just the physical act, but also the consequences, that are brought to life. I do not consider this a spoiler, it is pretty obvious this will occur given the subject matter of the book. By reading this book, you learn the true pain these women experienced.
However, there are a number of things that bothered me about the book. As mentioned above, the black people really never did anything that was evil. They made mistakes, but you understood them. They clearly made fewer mistakes than their white counterparts. The reader does come to understand their misdeeds too. However, I felt that balance was a little bit lacking.
I have a further complaint. It is with the author's note at the end of the novel. It made me uncomfortable. I didn't believe it. I wish she had not emphasized the veracity of this story.
But overall, I couldn't put this book down. It very well portrayed the life on a Virginian tobacco plantation at the end of the 1700s and it offered interesting insights into how it might feel to be an orphan.
Through page 55: I thought this would be melodramatic. It isn't! I see this as reality. this is how life played out on Southern plantations in Virginia in the latter part of the 1700s. And now I finally understand who is who. I understand the inter-racial situation. Any reader cannot help but understand the tensions inherent to such a situation. As always in life, there are kind and evil people on both sides of the divide. Really, you do not want to put the book down. I know have my family charts drawn :0) It is just to read and enjoy. The author cleverly shows different perspectives by flipping between two narrators - Lavinia and Belle.
ETA: Oh yum, Belle is makking apple butter preserves. I have made that for my kids. Waste not, want not. I put all the bottles up in the cold attic. One day I found them up there eating apple butter with spoons, emptying bottle after bottle. Good stuff!
Having so far only read 30 pages, this seems to be just exactly the kind of book I was looking for at this moment - something to sink into, a book that will carry me away into another world, time and place. A book that will draws me to the characters and their lives. I assume you you all know this is about a small, white Irish child, whose parents die on the boat over to America. It takes place at the end of the 1700s. The captain doesn't know what to do with this child. She is sick, no one would buy her, so the only option is to take her home with him and give her to his black slaves. She can help in the kitchen. I don't really know who is who yet, more than you do. I do know that this little girl is called Lavinia. I do know that there are kind, loving relationships in this "family" of black slaves. I am guessing this could be a rather melodramatic story, but certainly not stereotyped. It has been called the revers "Gone with the Wind", in the white child is a slave. She has no higher standing than the slaves. Interesting premise. There is already clear foreshadowing..... The book starts at the end but then flashes back to the beginning, only I already have an idea about the ending! This doesn't bother me b/c I feel pretty darn sure the passage thorough the book will be pure escapism and a fun ride.
And you know me...... the prose style is ever so important! I like it. Look at the following lines. Look at what they say about the individuals:
Fanny hoped that the freckles across my nose would fill in to give my pale skin more color. (page 19)
Fanny, a black child of the same age as Lavinia, was worried about Lavinia's pale white skin! Cute, don't you think?! The following is also cute. Lavinia is always sucking her thumb.....
How could I fly with my thumb in my mouth? he wanted to know.... (page 20)
Ben a black, strapping youth of 18, voiced this. Ben gave Luvinia her first bird nest. Collecting abandoned bird nests became one of her favorite pastimes. She lined up that first one next to the homemade doll she received from Mama Mae. I know terrible things will happen, but I also know that this book will exhibit kindness and loving too.
ETA: I later read The Life of Elizabeth I, one of her non-fiction books. I found it much better. I gave it four stars! Amazingly enough it was the nonETA: I later read The Life of Elizabeth I, one of her non-fiction books. I found it much better. I gave it four stars! Amazingly enough it was the non-fiction book that drew me in, where I totally empathized with the characters.
So what do I like (and not like) about Innocent Traitor? I like that in a relatively short book one gets a quick summary of Tudor history; Henry VIII, his wives and progeny, are quickly summarized so you can understand how Lady Jane Grey came to be queen for nine days. There is a clear family tree in the front of the book. What are the themes? Religion, more specifically Protestantism versus Catholicism, faith and power and personal gain. Royalty too. I am not religious, and I do not have faith, and I prefer reading about people from the lower classes, so the chances I could like this book are pretty slim, but I wanted to have a basic understanding of the Tudors. It says on the cover, “If you don’t cry at the end you have a heart of stone.” I guess I have a heart of stone.
So what went wrong? Alison Weir published ten books of historical non-fiction before writing this, her first book of fiction. She knows the topic and she says in her author’s note, “Most of the characters in this novel really existed, and most of the events actually happened. However, where the evidence is scanty or missing, I have used my imagination.” She then clarifies where in the books she has done this. That is exactly the kind of historical fiction I look for. Still, this did not work for me. The author also says she tried to penetrate the minds of her characters, and that is where the problem lies, at least for me. I kept thinking, this character would not do that, she would not say that! The author did not get me inside the head of Lady Jane Grey. I felt that she did exactly what she was told…..until the day she became Queen. Her thoughts and actions were to me unbelievable. Neither could I comprehend the faith she had. Everyone else around her was motivated by personal gain, her parents in particular. I could not believe that her mother came to regret her own behavior. No, I could not empathize with the characters because the author did not succeed in making me see through their eyes. Neither did I find genuine the words the author put in the characters’ mouths. They were too modern. In addition, there was absolutely no humor in this book!
If I read another book by this author it will be non-fiction.
The book was OK, and by GR rating that means it should be given two stars, so that is what I am giving it. Only two stars!
(ETA: Nurse Ellen is the one and only character I empathized with.)
Through page 50: Will I understand who is who? Will I like reading about the Tudors?
YES, to both questions. Wow, I am impressed at Alison Weir's writing skills. She knows the details so well that she can interweave them in a fascinating and engaging manner. Nurse Ellen is fantastic. I need her as much as Lady Jane Grey does! She so well understands how to explain sex and such to a small child and how to explain more as the child matures. Beautifully written. Relationships are expertly depicted! I am astonished and impressed. I don't like reading about royalty, but this I very much enjoy. Because even royalty are real people with feelings. Please continue in this manner. There is a map and family chart that is simple to comprehend, for a quick glance now and then. What a surprise. ...more
Well, it is utterly amazing that I have read a crime novel and enjoyed it. I usually get lost and understand nothing. I enjoyed this and understood whWell, it is utterly amazing that I have read a crime novel and enjoyed it. I usually get lost and understand nothing. I enjoyed this and understood what was going on from start to finish. So, if I can give it three stars, that probably means other people will give it more. I do recommend it.
I will not write a plot synopsis. There are so many of them. What I enjoyed was the underlying message. It makes a point that goes beyond the plot twists and turns. Did I learn anything about the atmosphere of life in the Ukraine at the end of Stalin’s reign? Not much, but it was a fun, exciting ride in an era that is skillfully depicted. You do feel the fear and terror of the times. That is well done.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much humor. I assume this has or will be made into a film. It is melodramatic but I believe that this was overly stressed by the audiobook’s narrator. His intonations emphasized danger beyond what was necessary. I believe reading the book would have been better than listening to it. Hey, I am nevertheless very happy it was available in the audio format.
Daisy, this looks good....... I do not know exactly why this appeals to me, quite out of character, but it does! Probably the text - check is what didDaisy, this looks good....... I do not know exactly why this appeals to me, quite out of character, but it does! Probably the text - check is what did it!...more
After 172 pages I have decided to dump this.I do NOT enjoy reading it and I have given it a fair try. I am often hesitant toward autobiographies, partAfter 172 pages I have decided to dump this.I do NOT enjoy reading it and I have given it a fair try. I am often hesitant toward autobiographies, particularly when they are historical fiction. An autobiography cannot, by definition, provide an impartial view on the events that occurred. Margaret George is an author known for her thorough research, but in that which is not known she has made suppositions that I cannot accept. In my mind it is very clear that Henry was motivated by power. He was a king and it definitely was his job to increase England's (and his own) glory, strength and power. Why did he split with the Pope? Divorce was not allowed. When Catherine's father, King Ferdinand of Spain, did not support Henry against the French as had been agreed, it is not so strange that he questioned his wife's allegiance. In addition she did not give him a male heir. Henry's choices were motivated by a search for power. This is a power game, nothing else. I object to George putting these words into the text:
I would take my place on the Continental stage, to pursue England's lost dream of conquering France in its entirety. Perhaps that was what God truly required of me; perhaps it was here that I had failed Him. As King, there were certain tasks that I must undertake, as surely as a knight at Arthur's Round Table was given them, and to shirk them meant shame and cowardice........
Perhaps when I conquered France, God would turn his face toward me. I became more and more convinced of it. .......
My advisors and Council, by and large, were not convinced. Of my desire to redeem myself with God they were unaware; but they were against war with France. Father had spoiled them with his lack of involvement in foreign entanglements, and like any privileged state, they had got used to it. (page 145)
There is no proof of such a supposition. He used the church for his own purposes; I do not see him as being religiously motivated. He is motivated by a search for power.
This book is a diary written by King Henry, with added notes by his jester, Will Somers. These notes are meant to explain, round out and fill in the King's statements. But tell me why are they never funny if he is the court jester?! These "notes" add nothing, they merely disrupt the text.
In addition, it is mentioned by Somers that the song Greensleeves was sung. Although it is today discounted, it has been thought that King Henry wrote it for Anne Boleyn. King Henry hadn't even met her yet.
And Catherine of Aragon was married to Henry's older brother Arthur first...... It is stated she is a virgin!
Although I am not stating that Margaret George is fictionalizing the known facts, I question all too often her suppositions, and there is no humor!
Even if there is a family tree at the front of the book it isn't that simple to keep track of all the characters. Do you know why you have to call people Duke or Marquis or Earl of for example York or Exeter or Cambridge? That is because all the men are called Henry or Edward and the women Mary or Catherine or Anne. This is a way of keeping track of who is who.(ha ha) I would have appreciated a map of these places.
If this book is not going to get me inside the heads of the leading players in a believable manner, I might as well just read a book of non-fiction or go to Wikipedia. Once I started questioning what I was being fed, I spent more time reading Wiki than reading the book!
There was one, and only one, little sparkle in the first 172 pages of the book, and that is when Henry fell head over heels in love with his brother's wife Catherine.....but soon that disappeared and was replaced with his drive for success and power. 932 pages of this is just not my cup of tea. I warn you, you have to love the Tudors to be drawn to this book!
No, this book was not even OK! I ran to Wikipedia every time I could. I expect more than one little sparkle in 172 pages....more
Finished: I feel like I was a bit harsh in all my previous criticism. However what I said IS what I felt at those particular points in the book. I amFinished: I feel like I was a bit harsh in all my previous criticism. However what I said IS what I felt at those particular points in the book. I am giving this 4 stars - the ending was superbly done. What can I say other than that I forgive all the previous faults that irritated me. Still, one can be almost proud to NOT be religious! The title is perfect. The Passion of Artemesia is the passion that moves an artist. Now at the end, I simply have deep respect for this woman, artist, mother and daughter.
Through page 275: The lecturing has stopped, and I like the way the author is tying up the strings. I also really like how the relationship between Artemisia and her daughter Palmira is described by the author. I guess it is imagined, but it is a very true to life relationship. There is love and there is acceptance even of traits that are so very different between the mother and daughter.
Through page 237: OK, maybe this is what is bothering me. First of all the paintings do not move me. Secondly, I don't like it when books analyzing art to tell you what you should be feeling, tell you why you should feel this or that or tell you what a particular paining MEANS. The analysis seems quite feasible, but I don't enjoy being fed this spoon by spoon.
Through page 225: Nope I just do not like this. It is putting me to sleep.
Through page 194: Religion played a vital role in people's lives. I have a very had time relating to this. Religious beliefs did not bother me in Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring, but in this book it does. Religion influences the subject matter of Artemisia's paintings, and I end up feeling just sort of numb. Another thing that bothers me is that because Artemisia is so strong I have little sympathy for her. Think of Michelangelo's David, we love him b/c he is fighting a battle where his opponent is so much stronger than he is. This thought is not mine, but stated in the book. I agree! Knowing this, Vreeland should have realized herself that it is hard to side with Artemisia. She doesn't need my help - she is so strong herself! She consistently manages to do the right thing even when she is treated unfairly. She seems a bit too good to be true.....
Through page 109: I am liking this more and more. It IS about the soul of artist too.
"Inclinazione (a painting commissioned by Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger) may have been beautiful. It may have looked real, but it was missing something. For me the pleasure had been visual, in creating shape and applying the color, and tactile, in smearing the thick creamy paint on my palette, but the pleasure was not of the mind. The painting did not have 'invenzioneé'. It did not tell a story. I had been paid for craft, not for art."
Hmm, maybe this is how Artemisia felt, but this canvas was commissioned for a particular purpose, a particular place. Artists must sell their pieces and not all can be completely a result of the artist's own feelings and motivations and wishes. Furthermore, doesn't a good piece of art move the observer in many different ways. A masterpiece doesn't mean just that one thing, but will affect different people in different ways. Each will see a different story perhaps. What is important is that it moves us, NOT that it moves us along one set path. Just my views!
And the book is about people and our human emotions of anger, jealousy, revenge and our inability to change. It is about the artist and the model, husband and wife, parents and children..... all of these both rewarding and conflicting relationships. You just have to stop and think about them in the context of how the story plays out.
Through page 67; Artemisia is now in Florence, the city of artists! Vreeland's writing makes the city come alive with all its smells and sounds and views. I am a sucker for good descriptive writing:
"In the afternoon two days later, the clouds broke apart and sunlight brushed with a light sienna the stone arches and crenelations of Porta Romana, the southern entrance to the city of Florence. Ocher buildings with red tiled roofs and shutters the color of cinnamon or basil lined the road......"
"The street of the cheese shops, though pungent, wasn't so bad, and by the time we passed the spice shops, I was breathing normally again. Every shade of yellow ocher, sienna, orange, cinnamon, and dull green powders spilled out of large muslin bags onto the street. . The colors of my new city. In every piazza a sculpture, in every niche the patron saint of some guild."
Palazzo Pitti, the Duomo of Santa Mariadel Fiore, the Brunelleschi Dome, the Arno and much, much more are described! Hmmm - this I like!
Through page 56: Perhaps I shouldn't but it is impossible not to compare this historical fiction about an artist with Girl with a Pearl Earring which I just finished. Both are about artists, both occur in the mid 1600s, the latter in Holland and the one I am currently reading taking place in Italy. Their tone is so very different. There was a calmness in Chevalier's book while this book pulses with urgency. Maybe this is not surprising in that Vreeland's book begins with a rape trial and the last book was about a humble maid with artistic talents. It was her master, Vermeer, who was the acclaimed artist in Chevalier's novel! Chevalier's book seems to be more about character study and what makes an artist an artist while Vreeland's is more about betrayal, so far at least. How does one deal with betrayal? In Vreeland's book the characters act in a manner or with a determination that seems "modern". To me it seems a bit like a message is being given and that makes me uncomfortable. But hey it is a good story and maybe my initial worries are completely off track! Each book should be judged on its own merits. I am so happy to be home reading again! ...more
An utterly amazing true story about an elephant, Mosie, and her trainer, Bram! If you like books about amazing animals and what they do - this is forAn utterly amazing true story about an elephant, Mosie, and her trainer, Bram! If you like books about amazing animals and what they do - this is for you. Shipwrecks, fires, poisoning, terrorist revolutionary uprisings, teak forests, upspritualism and an anazing love story between one man and his elephant! This book is very plot driven. The bits on spiritualism didn't quite get me thinking.... I would say yup, I agree, and then that was the end. Nothing to ponder over. For example - one love never diminishes another love.
I don't quite know if I pick light books over Xmas b/c I know my emotions will be fully occupied with family matters - the result being that I never find fabulous books over Christmas. Don't get me wrong, this is definitely worth the time I spent reading it, and I do recommend it, but it is no thought provoking book! The writing is clear, but that is it! I wouldn't say it sparkled. Does every book sparkle? One thing annoyed me - there was no map and dates were sparse. For example where exactly were those teak forests and where was the maharaja's Elephantarium or what city was it near? I like to know this stuff
Before reading the book: I need to read something over Xmas that will grab me, usually my brain tends to stray! Check out the cover - can you see the little boy's hand around that elephant, the turn of the elephant's head, and the straightness of the little boy's back? A picture can say a thousand words.
PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ THE FIRST CHAPTER OF THIS BOOK AVAILABLE BOTHAT AMAZON AND B&N!...more