So I was looking for a non-text book to read between semesters and had initially hoped for something light. In taking recommendations, a friend suggesSo I was looking for a non-text book to read between semesters and had initially hoped for something light. In taking recommendations, a friend suggested The Gargoyle. Reading the first three chapters, which involve painfully graphic burn victim descriptions, I was wondering what on earth she had been thinking in this suggestion. But I simply could not put it down, and as the love story (stories) at the heart of this complex novel began to unfold I understood the protagonist's pain as not only physical but spiritual. : love as suffering, yet possessing the capacity to transcend the anguish of the physical plane - and literal HELL - into higher realms we cannot begin to imagine. ...more
While traveling to London over the holidays, I yet again was sparked with curiosity about the political, social, and economical effects of the EU. AnWhile traveling to London over the holidays, I yet again was sparked with curiosity about the political, social, and economical effects of the EU. An already hugely diverse city, London almost now seems to be like the multicultural melting pot New York must have been back at the turn of the 20th century; still frozen in fragments and only in the beginning stages of meltyness.
This is the premise for Tremain's novel The Road Home, about protagonist Lev: an migrant worker who is forced to leave his Eastern European home and find work in London after the village town's factory was shut down. I was given the book by my friend's mom after a discussion on the subject of migrant workers while comfortably snuggled around her fire in the English countryside. Random sidebar: Friend's mom's husband, interestingly enough, spent his career as an Englishman working in the US. She mentioned how after reading that book you wonder why anyone - even on the grounds of finding work - would ever want to take that journey. In a very Grapes of Wrath-y demonstration, Tremain shows it ain't an easy road on a million different levels, but that the dream remains.
Tremain handles her topic with tenderness and a well rounded perspective, with sympathetic and vivid characters, each in their own lonely fragmented way. Each with one foot in two different worlds, the world they are forced to inhabit, and the world they long for.
I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the human perspective of this much larger social issue- one that the world has been experiencing for centuries and we still haven't figured out how to deal with it properly. ...more
I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. I wanted to love it, actually, because it came so highly recommended to me by people (mom and sis) wI wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. I wanted to love it, actually, because it came so highly recommended to me by people (mom and sis) who's taste in books I usually savour similarly. Plus, hi, there is ghost sex and how could a book with ghosts getting it on be anything but awesomeness? Plus, I am a sucker for a story within a story, and Peony involves the obsession of a young girl on the story behind a forbidden opera. Could it be that I just wasn't in the mood for this book? Possibly. But I think it is more than that, and the fact that I have had a difficult time putting my finger on exactly what the problem was with this book has prevented me from reviewing it for a red hot minute.
I guess for a book with "Love" in the title, and a plot line which addresses the element of the soul, it lacked a lot of heart and it lacked a lot of soul. See really did her research, and that is one aspect of the book I adored: learning about the burial rituals of 17th Century China. However, I think at times the author became bogged down by the vastness of her own research - by what she must have found was an amazingly rich world of tradition - and she had a difficult time incorporating it in a natural way where it comes out in the story rather than presenting these points often in lists, as told awkwardly by the narrator.
Compare to a book like Allende's The House of Spirits, another roman à clef. Naturally, the two are on very different topics by very different authors, but the historical content seemed to flow more easily in House. Maybe Peony just needed to be fattened up a bit more in order to give the story more room to incorporate the content in a natural evolution without smooshing.
Peony did have the same strong feminist message as Snow Flower and the Secret Fan but at times it seemed forced.
The thing it comes down to is: I think having a ghost as a narrator can be tricky tricky business. There was a super best seller a few years ago that everyone loved (can't remember what it was called right now) and it had a ghost narrator, too. I found the same problems in Peony as I found in that book; it can borderline on corny and overly sentimental if not careful. I believe some of these issues could have been avoided by the use of a third person narrative instead, where people are actually becoming possessed by her ghost and you are kind of left with more of a magical realist, mysterious feeling of, "What is really going on here?" That would have been more intriguing to me than being spoon fed.
The book is still worth picking up for the insight it gives on an unique time in history that I would have never otherwise been aware of. I give it more like a 3.5 stars for the research put into the creation of this novel. ...more
A nice quick read, set during the harrowing era of post WWII England (Channel Islands.) I was charmed by the author's ability to contrast the darknessA nice quick read, set during the harrowing era of post WWII England (Channel Islands.) I was charmed by the author's ability to contrast the darkness of this point in history with a cast of delightful characters that come to life through a series of letters. I really don't know how people communicated before IM, text messages, LOL and :) were invented, but I guess somehow they managed. ...more