It takes a great deal of determination to overcome the sort of upbringing Randall Grange had, and we are left at the end of the book hoping desperatelIt takes a great deal of determination to overcome the sort of upbringing Randall Grange had, and we are left at the end of the book hoping desperately that she's going to make it. The author's own two sentence bio at the end lets us know that drug addiction can be overcome, though we also know that no recovering addict can ever afford to relax. And while I have no personal experience of addiction, I was a telephone counsellor for some years and worked intensively with many people struggling with it.
Randall tells her own story. The book starts with her in a rehab, quite sure she's not the same as everybody else there, but nevertheless persuaded to stay for a while. The therapist challenges her to talk about her secrets, saying "everybody has at least three", and so Randall begins telling us. Sometimes she comes across as a nasty little piece of work, but then she tells us more about her childhood and we're left thinking 'No wonder!' All of the reasons a child grows up bad are there - too many for me to enumerate, and if I started it would begin to sound like something you wouldn't want to read. Even the good things have stings in their tails.
But this book really is worth reading. It's strong. The author gets the voice of this damaged 23-year-old to perfection - she is worldly-wise at the same time as frequently sounding like a child. As a reader I got thoroughly involved in this setting that is so totally unlike my own, and I found it very hard to put down....more
This is a beautiful, gentle book. It's told through the now and through the memories of Mary, a woman who left the town to go nursing and has never reThis is a beautiful, gentle book. It's told through the now and through the memories of Mary, a woman who left the town to go nursing and has never returned other than for funerals - don't we all know the story?! The 'now' seems to be very much the present time, and Mary is a Pakeha (white New Zealander of European descent). She remembers how she and Ana, a Maori girl, became inseparable friends, of how Mary and Ana were taught together by Ana's grandmother, Kui. She taught them all the stories of their local countryside - like the taniwha from Maungatoka who are always fighting; 'Maeropango and Mokowhiri [keep] going over the boundary into each other's territories and causing trouble ... they tear up the earth and it all washes down here.' She also taught them how to find and harvest, and prepare, plants for medicines, and the chants that go with each process.
Now Mary has been called by Kui to return, and despite everybody saying that "you can't go back, you know," she does. And while she's waiting for Ana to also return, she becomes friends with Amiria, Ana's younger cousin. It's their coffees and fruit processing sessions that spur a lot of Mary's memories.
I'm picking Mary is around my age, maybe a little older but basically my contemporary, so this took me right back to my childhood. For a younger reader it's a marvellous delving into country-town New Zealand in the 1960s. Read this and you'll know what it was like - the way of life, the thoughts, feelings and aspirations of those of us growing up in that time. The cross-cultural friendship is also written beautifully, along with the occasional discomforts but wrapped up in the love and generosity of the old woman.
One proverb struck me particularly:
"Nau to rourou, naku te rourou, ka ora te manuhiri." "Your basket, my basket, the visitor..." "Ae. With your small basket and my small basket, the visitors will live. That is to say, if everyone contributes what they can, there'll be enough for everyone to eat."
Two girls from different backgrounds, each contributing to the friendship> I do hope they get to meet again....more
The prose in this sad little novel is quite beautiful. And it seems to me that the author has given an amazing insight into a person's feelings on becThe prose in this sad little novel is quite beautiful. And it seems to me that the author has given an amazing insight into a person's feelings on becoming blind. Especially, of course, the feelings of a rich and well-educated young woman at the beginning of the 19th century.
Based on fact - that Pellegrino Turri invented the (first working) typewriter for his friend the Contessa Carolina Fantoni, who was going blind - this novel is a love story and a story of coping with powerlessness and fear.
We can assume the paternal attitudes of Carolina's parents and fiancé are accurately written as prevalent for the time, though not that they actually occurred in history. Nor do we know that Turri's attitudes were any less so - but that wouldn't have made a good story. I found this snippet particularly striking - Carolina has just knocked into and broken a precious clock, and Pietro thinks she did it deliberately:
"But it was right there," he said, reasoning slowly. Carolina held her hands to each side of her face. "I cannot see my hands," she said. "I cannot see beyond them. It is worse every week." "You cannot see," Pietro repeated. "I told you," she said, begging. "I told you before we married." After a moment, recognition sprang up in his eyes. "But you were joking!" he exclaimed.
I also love the descriptions of her dreams, how they change along with her increasing blindness, and the ways Turri helped her to use her imagination to bring colour back into her mind. Lovely!...more
The narrator of this book is a somewhat embittered man in his 30s (early 40s?) whose ex-wife nags and whose boss sends him offshore with very little nThe narrator of this book is a somewhat embittered man in his 30s (early 40s?) whose ex-wife nags and whose boss sends him offshore with very little notice to sort out clients in various places. He's unhappy with pretty much everything. And then his sister in England phones to say that their mother has had a stroke and died. He, of course, flies back 'home' for the funeral, and comes back to New Zealand with a box of old postcards and letters. Expecting nothing, he finds instead that he is drawn into a search for his great-aunt who married a Kiwi soldier after the First World War and then disappeared with him to his home in the cold South Island.
I really enjoyed this book. The pace is slow, but it's a gradual unfolding of a mystery. First he has to find any records of her, then he has to find out why the people at Kinross Flat are so aggressive towards him. The reader travels between Marty (the narrator) in 2011 and a 3rd-person account of the English Julia in 1919. There's also a brief foray into 1961 for links and explanations. Little snippets of Marty's current life experiences intervene every now and then (as things do), which help paint the picture of Marty and his dissatisfaction with life in general. And at the end the reader is hopeful that Marty's discoveries will help him feel a little more connected to his birth family and, who knows, might help him in his relationship with his teenage son.
The blurb on the book says this is Roy's first novel and he has put in a great deal of research and gives excellent descriptions of places and processes. I want to look out for more by this author (though there's a bit of difficulty for me in that right now as there appears to be more than one Goodreads author by that name .....)....more
This is the last Elm Creek Quilts novel that Chiaverini has written - I sincerely hope she moves back to them at some stage as there is plenty more miThis is the last Elm Creek Quilts novel that Chiaverini has written - I sincerely hope she moves back to them at some stage as there is plenty more mileage to be got out of the series. Perhaps she was put off (or her publisher was) by a collective of negative reviews by people who clearly didn't like her frank portrayal of the economic downturn and its effect on so many, or her clear upset at book-bannings ...
Well, I'm adding my voice to those who thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I like the style of this book (which Chiaverini has used a few times) when we have a number of 'short stories' that fit into a particular situation - this time a special week at Elm Creek where participants attend free, in exchange for making and gifting a quilt for delivery to a group that distributes quilts and blankets to hospitalized children. Apart from the location we have very little to do with the regular cast of quilters, but that doesn't detract from the story.
We also have a lot more on the making of quilts (than many of the series have had). I'm not a quiltmaker myself, but I love looking at quilts and so enjoyed the nicely written descriptions of the process here. And, as usual, the lives of ordinary people are told with a depth of goodwill and understanding....more
Hester and Harriet are two retired and widowed sisters and, apart from suffering some terribly boring relatives, are content with their lives. But theHester and Harriet are two retired and widowed sisters and, apart from suffering some terribly boring relatives, are content with their lives. But their lives are suddenly invaded - first by a young woman and her baby that they rescued from a bus shelter on a freezing cold Christmas Day, and second by the 15-year-old son (Ben) of their (terribly boring) cousins, George and Isabelle.
This book is comedy and drama all the way through. The sisters and Ben give the reader many laughs, while the story includes much social comment. I read this book over several weeks - twice a week in my quarter hour lunch break at work - and the characters and situation were strong enough that I never had a problem getting right back into the story, nor in remembering what had happened when last I picked it up. The mystery of Daria and her baby is gradually uncovered and the reader finds all the local gossip and odd-bod characters fitting together with the main narrative so that finally all is made clear.
An excellent read - I shall look out what else this author has written....more
This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923. I can understand why it did so - it portrays the life of a young man, dissatisfied with his upbringing and hThis book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923. I can understand why it did so - it portrays the life of a young man, dissatisfied with his upbringing and his prospects (or, as he sees it, his lack of prospects for 'doing anything worthwhile), who finds purpose when becoming engaged in the First World War. The blurb on this book states that the author 'creates a canny and extraordinarily vital portrait of an American psyche at once skeptical and romantic, restless and heroic', and it seems to me that this is how Americans like to view themselves. Thus the impact of this novel would have been very strong, and I assume it remains published for that reason.
Myself, I found it too slow, and I didn't find enough empathy for the young man to continue past the first fifth of the book....more
Yolanda and Verla meet in a kind of waiting room, waiting to have their heads shorn and to be incarcerated in sheds akin to dog kennels. They discoverYolanda and Verla meet in a kind of waiting room, waiting to have their heads shorn and to be incarcerated in sheds akin to dog kennels. They discover themselves to be in a group of young women, all imprisoned in a farm sized compound surrounded by an electric fence. They eventually figure out why, and they have to learn to survive their 3 brutal guards, etc.
Apart from Chiaverini's future being rather idealistic, this novel does a nice job of finishing off a lot of storylines from the series. We start offApart from Chiaverini's future being rather idealistic, this novel does a nice job of finishing off a lot of storylines from the series. We start off 25 years in the future and it's the wedding of one of Sarah's twins. Guests are arriving at the manor and Sarah does a lot of reminiscing. This is a lovely way to bring in these stories....more
I think Bonnie is one of my favourite characters in this series - I've liked each segment that has focused on her. This time she gets the whole book,I think Bonnie is one of my favourite characters in this series - I've liked each segment that has focused on her. This time she gets the whole book, and it's a nice tale about a woman finding herself after going through a nasty marriage breakup and the loss (unconnected) of her quilting shop.
Invited by an old friend to set up a Quilting Camp at the friend's hotel in Hawaii, Bonnie finds herself tempted to stay. Assailed by her husband's vicious verbal attacks and determination to not let her have her fair share of the marital property, Bonnie also has to face doubts about her dear friends, the Elm Creek Quilters. On top of that there's a revelation that she really didn't want to hear. And then there's an attractive man....
This is a nice story. It has also caused me to borrow a book from the library on Hawaiian quilting....more
I haven't been finding this much of a read - I quite like the political scenarios but the dialogue is clumsy and the key characters haven't got me onI haven't been finding this much of a read - I quite like the political scenarios but the dialogue is clumsy and the key characters haven't got me on side. So, as the reviews I've just looked at corroborate my negativity I have decided to discontinue....more
Sandwiched inside a little bit of discovering old papers at Elm Creek is the tale of Joanna, the slave who was harboured there when she escaped from hSandwiched inside a little bit of discovering old papers at Elm Creek is the tale of Joanna, the slave who was harboured there when she escaped from her owner and was heading north to Canada. Pregnant by her master she'd been unable to continue with the others in her group, and she had the child at Elm Creek. Before she was able to continue she was recaptured (though the baby was not), and this story is her life subsequent to that.
This is an excellent portrayal of a slave's life in the time up to and during the American Civil War. There is only one improbable item, in the speed with which Joanna learnt to read fluently (taught while at Elm Creek), but as it's a major plot requirement I let it go. Everything else had me totally engrossed.
I've read a few now of these historical novels within the Elm Creek Quilts series - the author places them well, and tells them well. I don't generally seek out historical novels but am keen at some stage to read this author's works that are separate works....more