I read הבגידה first (it's set 9 years after this one), which made it rather nice reading this book - I knew their future! And when you come to think aI read הבגידה first (it's set 9 years after this one), which made it rather nice reading this book - I knew their future! And when you come to think about it, that's generally how we get to know people. We meet them at some stage, get to know them in the present, and if we get on really well wit them we gradually find out about their past. So that's what reading these two books 'the wrong way round' felt like.
I'm also currently reading Leningrad: Siege and Symphony, so I'm getting both fact and fiction. I'm particularly glad to be reading the fiction at the same time, as the fact is so unrelentingly awful that I don't think I could cope. What Helen Dunmore has done with this novel is tell the hard and terrible truth, but also told a personal tale of hope. And there must have been those stories in real life.
I love this author's writing style - the descriptive passages are excellent, the occasional change of voice is interesting, and the characters drawn so I want to know them better. An engrossing book!...more
This book follows very close to the first in the series (Murder At Mykenai, and keeps building the myth of Odysseus, who is now all of 16 years old, aThis book follows very close to the first in the series (Murder At Mykenai, and keeps building the myth of Odysseus, who is now all of 16 years old, and a little less impulsive perhaps. When Odysseus' grandfather dies it's too dangerous for Odysseus' father to travel there to pass his last respects (not that he feels anything less than pleased that the old man has died, but even so). However, there's the matter of the fortune in gold that, clearly, hasn't been found. Odysseus hatches a plan.
There's lots of excitement in this story, some teenage love (unrequited, alas!), riveting scenes of training and of battle, and some great slapstick due to the various disguises that Odysseus and Eurybates (the squire) must don. This gives an idea:
"What is that stench?" the squire asked, holding his nose. "What stench?" Odysseus started pushing his arms through the straps [of his fake paunch] and froze. "Toad's testicles," he exclaimed. "I think the contents of my stomach have started to rot. I assumed it was your feet and I was too polite to say." He sniffed inside the bag and recoiled. "Silly idea in the first place, using lamb's bladders." "What else could I have blown up like this? I had to use something I can puncture to make room for the gold. When we find it."
Once again we've been given a thoroughly entertaining tale to read....more
This has been on my to-read list for 6 years, and managed to get into my Languishing Literature Challenge this year only because I romped through theThis has been on my to-read list for 6 years, and managed to get into my Languishing Literature Challenge this year only because I romped through the oldest 8 and then decided I could manage 20 this year instead of the 10 I'd planned. I'm not sure I'm going to manage the whole 20, but that's by the by, because I'm extremely glad that I've read this.
This also ties in very nicely with another book I'm currently reading - Leningrad: Siege and Symphony - a factual book about the Siege of Leningrad and about the Seventh Symphony by Shostakovich (who was in Leningrad at the start of the siege). Helen Dunmore has written a book entitled The Siege, which is in that precise time period and which introduces the key characters in this novel. I haven't read that, and though I am now requesting it from the library it's not necessary to read it as a prequel to this.
This one is set after the siege has been lifted and the war concluded. However, despite it being 1952 and much improved, Stalin is still the leader and the atrocities he and his cronies have been inflicting on their own people, both before and during the time of the Second World War, still continue. It is still exceedingly dangerous to offend anybody, neither those in power nor even neighbours. And there is nobody to save you if you manage to get on the wrong side of 'the law'.
So when Andrei is manipulated into being the doctor in charge of Volkov's 10-year-old son, whose tests show has an aggressive cancer, he hopes without hope that he and Anna and Anna's young brother will get through it unscathed.
I started listening to this on Audio and didn't like it at all. Happily, the blurb (and the 6 years I'd had it waiting) convinced me that I really did want to try a bit harder, so I borrowed a bookbook copy from the library and was instantly drawn in. The writing is superb, the characters not stereotyped but easy to understand and get to know, and the descriptions had me shivering both with the cold and with dread. I found this thoroughly engrossing....more
Ancient history brought to life! We'd just got this book and its sequel into the bookshop, and instead of adding it to my to-read shelf, which could hAncient history brought to life! We'd just got this book and its sequel into the bookshop, and instead of adding it to my to-read shelf, which could have meant it was eight or nine years away from being read, I immediately went onto the library website (yes, a little personal time stolen from my boss) and reserved a copy. It just seemed it would be such a great read, and it is!
Written for younger teenagers, this is being taught in schools locally (that's local to the author, not the people in the book), and I could only wish that I'd had such an opportunity when I was a schoolgirl. The author's blog and (her website) give lots of information about this book and the next, about school resources and some work that pupils have done in response to reading this, and about the research that goes into writing. It's excellent - I recommend it highly.
The book has some great action scenes, and excellent exploration of friendship and family relationships. The two youths, Odysseus and Menelaos, are moving from boyhood to manhood, and it's a pleasure to journey with them in this exciting tale of political manoeuvrings and secrets over 2000 years ago....more
This is a fun historical romance with a beautiful, feisty heroine and a slightly dangerous and extraordinarily handsome hero. They go with the genre.This is a fun historical romance with a beautiful, feisty heroine and a slightly dangerous and extraordinarily handsome hero. They go with the genre. The story has a good proportion of danger and excitement - a goldrush town with its brothels and bars and bandits; and a great setting in the beautiful landscape of New Zealand's South Island - evoked very well throughout the plot....more
It's rather fitting that I should have read this book right now. On 25th April New Zealanders and Australians commemorate ANZAC Day (Australian and NeIt's rather fitting that I should have read this book right now. On 25th April New Zealanders and Australians commemorate ANZAC Day (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) - this year is the 99th anniversary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli, an appalling misjudgment by the Command, which saw eight months of hardship, over 21000 Allied soldiers killed, and a ignominious withdrawal. Since then, of course, we have added the memories of soldiers killed in the Second World War, in Korea and in Vietnam, and in our peacekeeping missions.
This novel centres around two WWII returned soldiers, both physically and psychologically maimed in the war. Gus is a War Hero, and with his remuneration from the government he bought a farm. Tom bought a horse and rode around the country doing odd-jobs, looking for Gus (who he'd met "in the loony bin in London") at the same time. Though Tom's advice to Gus is to walk away from the farm, which is poor, barely productive land, he stays to help out - two men who share experiences and feelings that only those who had been in battle could understand - and they begin to make progress. Then a badly beaten young woman (Rosie) is dumped on the road along from their driveway, and if her life is to be saved she mustn't be moved any further than their house.
The people in this book are really interesting, and so well written. From Gus and Tom, and the people of the nearby township - the doctor, his wife, the shopkeeper, his daughter, the local cop - to Rosie and the characters connected to her life in the city, they're all vital to the fullness of the story, and are all fully alive to the reader. There's plenty of drama, great descriptions of the land and the weather, and a theme of hope....more
If I was writing this review for a professional publication I would give it 4 stars, not 2. This is an excellent historical novel - the political andIf I was writing this review for a professional publication I would give it 4 stars, not 2. This is an excellent historical novel - the political and economic situation around the turn of the 20th century is drawn skillfully into the plot, and the social conventions of the time are brought to life in the narration.
But, I almost didn't finish this because I so disliked both Conny and Dougie. I guess that's the mark of well-defined characters, that the reader has her/his emotions activated, but I just didn't want to know them. Their justification throughout for a dishonourable affair made me angry.
"I have never had any intention to do him harm, only exercised the right to happiness myself. And surely William's state of mind is not entirely on my account. His financial affairs continue precarious; his health is failing, as is his political ambition." (Conny)
I wasn't planning on reading this book - I found the cover gloomy, the title unappealing, and the blurb so-so. But a colleague read it and recommendedI wasn't planning on reading this book - I found the cover gloomy, the title unappealing, and the blurb so-so. But a colleague read it and recommended it highly, and as we have copies in the bookshop I thought I might as well read it to be informed. It took me a little while to get involved in the book but once I did I was gripped. I've read before about Prohibition and it was good having characters brought to life from that time.
Ingersoll, the revenuer, and his partner Ham, have been successfully chasing bootleggers for 10 years, and their special task this time is to find what happened to two revenuers who have disappeared, and to stop any sabotage of the levees in the town of Hobnob. On the way they find a newly-orphaned baby and Ingersoll feels the urge to find it a decent home. This brings him into contact with Dixie Clay who we met on the first page and whose husband Jesse most likely had something to do with the revenuers' disappearance. So the story unfolds through the eyes of Ingersoll and Dixie as the rains keep falling and the Mississippi River threatens to breaks its banks.
I'm glad I read this - there's great characterisation, plenty of suspense and of action, excellent descriptions and some beautiful prose, and a lovely ending....more
My original plan was to give this 4 stars - I was thinking to myself (now that's a strange phrase, isn't it? After all, who else would I be thinking tMy original plan was to give this 4 stars - I was thinking to myself (now that's a strange phrase, isn't it? After all, who else would I be thinking to???) that I really, really liked it, probably 4 1/2 stars worth, but that I couldn't say "it's amazing" because I don't think it's a book that's going to "stay with me a long time / forever". However, once I started writing this review (and this part is a prequel) I had to look for phrases that I wanted to quote and that took me forever because there are so many, and because I got caught up reading large segments all over again, and I was getting emotionally involved again and so angry with some of the people in this book and so wrapped up in Tizzie's appreciation of the world .... and when this gets made into a movie (hey, p.d.r., have you sent it to a scriptwriter yet?) I'm going to be its biggest fan. So it gets 5 stars!
Here's the review that I just put up on Amazon:
Tizzie is 29 and an old maid. It's 1887 and it's the duty of any last girls in families to stay at home and do the milking and the cheese-making and the gardening and the cleaning and the cooking and the ...... It's hard work for everybody, actually. But Tizzie is worked like a slave for her brother (and his wife) who took over the farm when their father died.
The story is told in a 19th century voice
Agnes were shivering..., They were larking with the littlies ...
which gives a lovely authenticity and some delightful vocabulary that is thoroughly underused nowadays. The characters and the scenery are drawn so well that my mind's eye could see the people and places most clearly - not so much explicit detail on physical characteristics, but descriptions that give the feelings and the attitudes of people
Maggie's voice was her Sunday-in-church voice, clipped and proper. She did not raise it or spit the words with venom, but Tizzie heard undertones that set hairs at the nape of her neck prickling in warning.
This book had me reading late into the night, and crying. Wonderful!...more
I'm having a hard time thinking how to review this book. I probably shouldn't have read it right through (thereby making me feel obliged to write a reI'm having a hard time thinking how to review this book. I probably shouldn't have read it right through (thereby making me feel obliged to write a review), but it's been my lunchtime reading at the bookshop and I"m not sure there's another one on our proof-copy shelf out the back that I want to read at the moment. Of course, I could have brought a book from home, but I simply haven't been organised enough.
I think, when it comes down to it, that it just doesn't appeal to my sense of humour - stupidity and bad smells and revolting food and mounting butterflies and beetles for scientific purposes don't make me laugh. Also, there are unresolved questions that aren't really part of a cliffhanger. I daresay the author plans to sort them out in a sequel, but I'll never find out....more
There's no doubt about it - Stephanie Johnson crafts an excellent novel. And though I never got to like the main character, Norm, I felt deeply sorryThere's no doubt about it - Stephanie Johnson crafts an excellent novel. And though I never got to like the main character, Norm, I felt deeply sorry for him with his emotionally distant father, his desire to be part of the big family next door, his hero worship of his best friend Lyn (also part of the next door family), his confusion between the rugged and the cultured, and his own illicit sexuality.
Norm was born in 1898, though the earliest we get in this novel is a short scene with Lyn in 1905. With only a few small forays into other years the majority of the story moves from 1972 to 1920 and back again. In 1972, at the beginning of the book, Norman has just received a letter and he feels "There's forgiveness in the air, tolerance, compassion." In 1920 we have a slow build-up to the something that happened that needs forgiveness.
I was so caught up in the story that I didn't notice how vivid the descriptions were - and they are! The reader is taken into the different times and different scenes without an excess of description but so that they are very visible. From the houses of the cliff-top to the rooms in the city to the winding road to Piha and its beach and the bush inland, these places stimulate our imagination. I really enjoyed this trip down memory lane and beyond....more
Ignorance is bliss, they say, though they usually look down somewhat patronisingly on the ignorant, which rather belies the phrase. Oh well, I'm herebIgnorance is bliss, they say, though they usually look down somewhat patronisingly on the ignorant, which rather belies the phrase. Oh well, I'm hereby laying myself open to any who wish to feel better about themselves by patronising me - - - I had no idea until I'd finished this book and was glancing through a few other reviews that this book had anything in common with the one-and-only, the famous Great Expectations. Except it's not a one-and-only, clearly, any more.
We read one Dickens novel at school. I was 12. We spent the whole year studying it. While most of the girls reluctantly read the assigned chapters each week, I read it over the first two weeks. I wasn't enthused enough to want to read any more Dickens, and, in fact, took another 40+ years before I did.
So never mind the story behind Peter Carey's writing of this book, and never mind the allusions to Dickens. Let's look at it as I read it.
The story begins as Jack Maggs, a convict deported to Australia (way back when that was what they did because of overcrowding in Britain's prisons and to get slave labour in the colony), returns to London to find someone. He's not allowed to be there and will hang at the gallows if found by the authorities.
That's all you need to know about the plot. With twists and turns it gradually unfolds so the reader learns about Jack's boyhood and youth, and of his time as a prisoner, all the while journeying through the present and Maggs' search. At times it's comedic, other times sharply tragic, and always with word pictures of the characters and of the scenes that take the reader completely into the world then.
I'm deliberately reading a good number of Carey's novels so was pleased to find this on the library shelf one day when I needed to kill an hour (and had neither my crochet nor any book with me). Ordinarily I would have then (after killing the hour with it) put the book at the bottom of my currently-reading pile and only picked it up again when I'd completed those soonest to be due back. But this grabbed me so thoroughly that I stayed with it and wasn't once displeased. Oh yes, and the ending made me laugh! ...more
was one of the best-selling titles of the 1940s. It entered the New York Times Best Seller list in October 1942, and four weeks later rose to No. 1. It held the position for nearly a year. The Robe remained on the list for another two years, returning several other times over the next several years including when the movie version was released in 1953. (Wikipedia)
A lot more people went to church then as part of their routine, so it's not surprising that a Christian novel would be so popular. Especially such a well-written one.
This really is a fine example of a historical novel. We are immersed in the Roman Empire of 2000 years ago, with vivid descriptions of the life there, most particularly in Rome and in 'the Holy Land'. We're treated to the sights, sounds, and smells, along with the customs and the variety of beliefs. The novel also has a love story, politics, adventure, and the turn-arounds of family relationships. The characters range from evil and callous to the saintly, with plenty of the in-betweens.
While the Roman Tribune Marcellus Gallio, the main character in this story, comes to believe in the literal resurrection, there are enough instances of rational explanations of 'miracles' (e.g. the feeding of the 5000) to make this not turn into something that is simply attempting to persuade belief. And the persecution and martydom of the early Christians, because of their absolute belief, is well-documented.
I'd be fascinated to know what somebody reading this book without any pre-knowledge of the Christian story would think of it. Not a person who is determined to be atheist, as that would bring its own set of preconceptions, but a person truly ignorant of others' takes, in the same way that I read a science fiction or fantasy novel. Oh yes, and a person who enjoys reading weighty tomes of over 500 pages in a style that was more popular 70 years ago that it is now. Is it possible to find such a person?...more
I've just finished reading this advance copy - I went with my boss to a Random House Road Show a few weeks ago, and each person attending got to selecI've just finished reading this advance copy - I went with my boss to a Random House Road Show a few weeks ago, and each person attending got to select a book to advance-read. I can't remember what the advertising for this was like as there were so many books featured at the event, but it must have appealed to me. And the title is great!
I'm absolutely delighted that I chose this book - it's a real gem. And it's told in such an engaging manner. The author is talking directly to the reader and so the reader doesn't just join in the unfolding story, but joins in the author's thought-processes - the decision-making about how to begin the novel, the meanderings, the explanations - as if we're present with the author while he tells us the story.
Now I'm going to disagree with the blurb-writer for this book. The blurb-writer has said it's
a touching clever, novel about stories, about using them to create your own identity, and about the way they can forge bonds of love.
Well, I agree that it's touching and clever, but I would say that it's a book that uses stories (and whose main character use stories) to help make sense of life and of our relationships to others. More wordy, I know, but if I leave out my bracketed clause then it's just as succinct.
I also disagree with the blurb on the book jacket in its description of the man - one imagines some Neanderthal-type ugh-speaking thing - and the manner in which the heroine reaches him - one imagines her sitting down and telling him stories in the same way that she tells them to her son. It's just not like that. What it is about is entering into a person's world, rather than imposing one's own on him or her. And the book does that through a story about the aftermath of war.
Once again I found myself in the Netherlands in the Second World War, though this time another half of the book was set in modern Amsterdam, and I wasOnce again I found myself in the Netherlands in the Second World War, though this time another half of the book was set in modern Amsterdam, and I was very pleased that I'd read The Diary of a Young Girl earlier this year (or was it last year?) as it gave me a solid background for this tale.
Not that it focused exclusively on Anne Frank, but it did assume a certain amount of prior knowledge. This book also assumes at least a passing interest in poetry, in art, and in 20th Century European history. Without these things already in the reader's understanding of the world, this book would lose most of its impact. I daresay that's why some reviewers here on Goodreads gave it only 1 star, or 2, and that's fine - you can't be all things to all people.
Another necessary quality in the reader is that of being interested in more than one's own age-group. "Well, of course!" you say, but as this book is aimed at Young Adults, you can probably see my point. Many titles written for that market have older or younger people, if they exist at all in the story, as fairly two-dimensional bit players. This, however, has two elderly women integral to the plot, and a couple of middle-aged women as also quite important characters. The cross-generational relationships are very nicely written.
So - this is a tale of a 17-year-old English lad called Jacob, who goes in his grandmother's stead to the annual ceremony marking the landing of British paratroopers at Arnhem (don't quote me here - I've taken the book back to the library and I'm terrible at remembering historical facts). It's also a tale of the 18-year-old Geertrui who nurses an English soldier - Jacob's grandfather - and who is now telling the whole story. These two tales are interwoven, though we don't know for a long time quite to whom Geertrui is telling her story.
Jacob also learns a lot about himself as he meets new and fascinating people, and as he begins thinking about others from a more adult and independent angle. There's a cast of interesting people and some great scenery and city descriptions - all told, an excellent book....more
I have to say (for the umpteenth time) how pleased I am to be in the Book-Loving Kiwis group on Goodreads. It has a monthly read devoted to books writI have to say (for the umpteenth time) how pleased I am to be in the Book-Loving Kiwis group on Goodreads. It has a monthly read devoted to books written by Kiwi authors, and because of that I have read so many books that I might never have heard of (as well as a number that I'd heard of but might never have got around to reading). You know, if I didn't just work part-time in a bookshop but owned my own, I'd stock it to the brim with every book ever written by a Kiwi - yes, even the badly written ones and the terribly tedious ones and the ones that I'd never actually recommend anyone ever buy (yes, the worse-than-badly-written ones).
You'll have noticed - that is, if you're a language teacher or if you remember when we learnt grammar at school - that I used the Second Conditional there, i.e. IF ... I owned (= past tense) ... I'd stock (= would + infinitive), which means, of course, that I don't imagine it's possible / I'm dreaming. Ah well, dreams are free!
Which brings me in a very round-about way to this book and its two heroines. Meg has dreams of being on the stage and living a life of excitement, Addie has dreams of being something other than a farmer's wife. They're both trained nurses, and so they sign up to go to the action of the Great War (First World War, Europe 1914-1918) where they both get what they're looking for.
Nothing comes quite how you think it will, though, does it?
I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction but I enjoyed this very much. It was thoroughly researched and I found the thoughts and actions of the characters fitted well with what I know of the time period. The balance between description, dialogue and action is excellent, and I was totally drawn into the story. I really wanted to know what was going to happen next.
I do have a couple of small criticisms. With two key characters the book changed perspective frequently. That worked fine when there was dialogue, as the girls' voices were distinct, but there were a lot of times where I had to skip back a couple of paragraphs to check whose perspective was current. I guess the author didn't want to do what others have done with having chapter headings to show who was 'speaking', or other such means of making it clear, but it needed a little something. Perhaps the girl's name could have been repeated a few more times at the beginning of the change of voice ...
The other small thing is - - - - - - - how interesting! I can't remember. It must have been quite insignificant.
Once again there is a range of reviews from 5-stars down to 1, and by readers who are also writers (and teachers of writing) and readers who sound quiOnce again there is a range of reviews from 5-stars down to 1, and by readers who are also writers (and teachers of writing) and readers who sound quite sophisticated in their literary approach and readers who claim not to be at all literary. AND the star-range crosses all those categories. Which goes to show - when deciding to read a book it's a good idea to read reviews by people whose opinion you respect, but still be prepared to disagree with them.
So, you can see that I've given this 4 stars.
If you're reading this without knowing anything about the book itself, very briefly ... it's a mystery set in Hokitika (small-town New Zealand) in the time of the goldrush, and there's a large cast of characters. AND it won the Man Booker Prize this year. The Man Booker is voted on by a panel and is given for the best novel of the year written by an author from the UK, Rep of Ireland, or a Commonwealth country.
What did I particularly like about this novel? 1) I liked the long-winded writing style. I usually get quite impatient with too much descriptive prose, but I very much enjoy writers who can put words together beautifully - Catton does that. 2) I liked the way we didn't get really close to any of the participants - that fitted my idea of the over-riding formality of the times. 3) I liked the characterisation. Not so long ago I spent a couple of intense years getting to know a congregation of about 50 elderly people extremely well, and their mannerisms and manners and ways of getting involved in each others' small town lives (or not getting involved) were not dissimilar to the folk in Hokitika. They were more similar to them than to people of my own generation and younger who I know in Auckland (and in cities overseas). So, I found the characters very realistic and it made me quite nostalgic for that brief but wonderful time.
What didn't I like so much? 1) The 'cleverness' about the chapter lengths - something to do with the Victorian novel - - - maybe - - - or maybe I've read too many reviews and I'm getting confused - but each chapter is half the length of the preceding one, which means that the first is nearly half the total length of the book, and the last one is about one page (or is it less? - I haven't got the book in front of me right now). Which all seems rather pointless to me. 2) The astrological charts at the beginning of each chapter. Now, if there'd been constant reference to them, if they'd played a key part in the unfolding of the story, then maybe I'd have appreciated them. I mean, I've done all the "into astrology" stuff - I've got nothing against it as a belief system or as a plot contrivance. But it seemed particularly contrived. Again, rather pointless to me.
But that's about it. I ignored the chapter lengths and I ignored the astrological charts - and I loved the book!...more
To my chagrin, this is the first ever book that I have read by Virginia Woolf. What can I say? - there will never be enough time to read all the booksTo my chagrin, this is the first ever book that I have read by Virginia Woolf. What can I say? - there will never be enough time to read all the books I want to / should, and so I won't spend any time regretting the past. Nor shall I fuss unduly about the future, because it's impossible to worry about whether I will or will not get to read any number of musts. Live for the day!
And that's what this book is about - one day in the life of Mrs Dalloway. And in the same way that our thoughts tumble from one thing to another, meandering along new and used pathways, popping unsolicited into past events and then vaguely considering other people we know or people we notice on the street, this book ambles through Mrs Dalloway's now and her past, and through the pasts and presents of various other people that are linked to her either directly or quite tenuously.
This book is a slice of life in London of 1923 - my God, 90 years ago! Happily, we've seen so many excellent BBC period dramas that it's easy to picture it. Even more happily, I listened to this on a fairly recent Audio (CD) production with a superb narrator (Virginia Leishman) and so I not only had the picture but also the sound. I'm really getting into this AudioBook thing - I don't want to drive anywhere now without having my player plugged in and a book on the go! Admittedly, I still have an insidious feeling that I haven't really read this book, but I shan't let that spoil my pleasure. And this book is most definitely a pleasure....more
This book (on Audio) was my travelling companion while journeying to and from a holiday destination - I listened to the first half and then thirteen dThis book (on Audio) was my travelling companion while journeying to and from a holiday destination - I listened to the first half and then thirteen days later had the second half to accompany me. During the time in between it frequently came to mind, and when I started the homeward trip it felt like I'd only left off the day before. This is, I believe, indicative of how strongly the characters and story are written.
Bethia tells the story in this book. Her grandfather led a group to form a settlement on an island off the coast of Massachusetts, due mostly to disagreements over theological interpretation, especially where it comes to overly zealous punishments for sin. Of course, in the mid-17th century, beliefs were rigid. Bethia's father is the parson to the people, and makes it his goal to "save" as many of the local Indians as he can from their savage spiritual practices. Bethia herself is extremely intelligent, fights a quick temper (a great sin in a female of the time), and strives to make sense of the conflicts between her own experience, what her religion teaches, and what she believes deeply.
This is also a thoroughly researched tale of life in that time, before the large-scale slaughter of the native peoples and when there was still hope that peaceful coexistence might prevail. We see the difference between country life and the town (a disgusting cesspit of a place in this story); we see the appalling conditions that students suffered; we see the loveliness of a simple life and the natural dangers of the time. And this is all within the beautifully told story of families and friendship and love....more
I've been a fan of Sherryl Jordan's work for quite some time and was really interested to be passed this book. Jordan has moved aside from her usual fI've been a fan of Sherryl Jordan's work for quite some time and was really interested to be passed this book. Jordan has moved aside from her usual fantasy novel and written an historical one instead. Yet all the same elements are there - the struggle between good and evil, excitement and danger, love, and self-discovery. One of the things I like about Jordan's writing is the acknowledgement that it's a learning process often to discover what good and evil actually are, and the understanding that most of us have the ability to be both. And I really like her characterisations - she often has some truly lovely people (and yes, I have met some who would fit the bill), but most have flaws.
This book is set in the 17th century when the pirates of the Barbary Coast were notorious. They not only commandeered ships and all their cargo, but dealt in the slave trade as well. While Africa was being plundered for black slaves to build the Americas, Northern Africa was plundering the seas and the English and Irish coasts for white slaves.
Liam is an Irish lad who rescues a young Moslem pirate from death. The ship the pirate was on was wrecked in a storm, and all the other survivors slaughtered by the men of Liam's village. Yet the village allowed Liam and his family to befriend Iskandar. And I won't write any more of the plot, though the blurb does say that Liam's brother is later captured by the slavers, and that Liam travels with a small band of monks to find them and redeem them.
This book has been researched thoroughly and aside from the fictional characters is based on the truth. Bands of monks did travel, at great cost, to attempt to buy back the enslaved. What an amazing story!
And this book is an amazing story - sad, happy, no punches pulled, stirring . . . ...more
I was handed this book by a colleague who said, "It's been doing the rounds - you might like it." When I was working full-time there, she and I were bI was handed this book by a colleague who said, "It's been doing the rounds - you might like it." When I was working full-time there, she and I were both in a book discussion group, and I couldn't help thinking throughout my reading that it would have been great to discuss this book with that now defunct group. I would have loved to share some of the beautiful descriptions; I would have loved to see if anybody had tried any of the recipes from Beth's mother's scrapbook (I'm tempted to try the beet wine, myself); I would have loved to exclaim together over this fabulous way to talk about Tourette's Syndrome:
Billy got the name Filthy because he didn't own his voice. It made him say words no one liked, and the best Filthy Billy could do was make the renegade words come out in a whisper.
This book is set in the 1940s in rural Canada. Beth's father has a farm, and not far away is the Reservation. Beth's brother is the only white youth who hasn't enlisted, but he talks about doing so. Their father keeps saying he's needed on the farm, though there are a couple of hired workers. In the First World War, the father sustained a head injury - he'd been fine, but at the beginning of the book Beth was almost killed by a bear and since then he has become disturbed, picking fights out of unfounded jealousy and waging a neigbour-war over a fence line.
The prejudices of small-town 1940s are all present in this book, along with the tensions between old ways of doing things and the new ideas and desires fed by magazines telling of the rest of the world. The book also tackles issues to do with sexuality (told from the view of Beth who turns 16 shortly before the book ends), which of course is a taboo subject. Intertwined with the story and setting is some magic realism with the trickster Coyote, which adds an interesting layer to the story and more tension between ways of understanding the world.
This is an intriguing book, but deals with the killing of animals in detail at times (it's a farming life ...), and sexual matters that may cause discomfort or distaste, so it's not for the squeamish....more
This is a lovely slice of life in the late 18th century in Switzerland. An intelligent young peasant (Francois Burnens) has been fortunate enough to bThis is a lovely slice of life in the late 18th century in Switzerland. An intelligent young peasant (Francois Burnens) has been fortunate enough to be educated by the local priest, and is recommended for the job of manservant / secretary for a blind scientist (Francois Huber) who is studying bees. Both Burnens and Huber were real people, as were the other scientists named in the novel. The life-story of Huber and his wife - certainly of their meeting as 17-year-olds and her determination to marry him despite her father's protestations (she waited till she was 25 and could make her own decision), and the scientific interest of their son in ants - was recorded in 1832, the year after his death in The Foreign Quarterly Review, Volume X, published in August and October, M. DCCC. XXXII (1832), which, clearly, the author of this novel read long before I did.
Clearly, also, the author would have done a lot more research than my insignificant 10 minutes on the internet, but she probably didn't find much on Burnens' personal life. Servants, no matter how extraordinary they might have been, didn't have their life histories recorded. What the author has done is to create a thoroughly believable story told through 'his journal entries', which his niece has selected from, and occasionally annotated, and sent to an enquirer wanting to write about Burnens. And so we read in fascinating detail about Huber's experiments and Burnens' part in them, and we read Burnens' thoughts and feelings. There are lovely accounts of his love and respect for Huber, his observation of the others in the household (family, servants), and his growing desire to have a family of his own and make his way in the world.
Oh yes, it's also set in the context of the nearby French Revolution, which of course affected the lives of the Swiss. This is a very well-written historical novel - political, scientific and social history all there behind a nice story....more
I've been thinking that I need a way to find all these great children's books (that I'm reading now) when the grandchildren are actually old enough toI've been thinking that I need a way to find all these great children's books (that I'm reading now) when the grandchildren are actually old enough to read them or have them read to, so I've just made a future-dated bookshelf. That should do it. And this book is the first on the shelf.
As a child I knew that my best friend's father had escaped from (what was then) Czechoslovakia 'by walking over the hills', and I had pictures of Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music running over the big screen singing "The Hills are Alive". I knew it wasn't that simple, but never having walked more than a couple of miles myself, and never having known the deprivation of hunger, I had absolutely no way of getting even a glimmer of understanding. It wasn't until I was in my teens that I learnt of the war in Europe beyond the involvement of New Zealand soldiers, and began to read deeply about the people, not just about the facts and figures, and could imagine myself there.
Melinda Szymanik has written this engrossing story about a Polish boy and his family who were displaced by the Russians after they moved into Poland to drive out the German invasion. To Adam and his family it made little difference who were the conquerors - they lost their home and their homeland, they were moved about to a forced labour camp and then from place to place on somebody's whim, with rarely enough food, living and travelling in appalling circumstances. We treat our cattle better than they were treated. Mind you, humans have always treated their slaves worse than their livestock.
Adam's story has enough of the good human qualities - love of family and friends, helping others in need, caring for animals - to get us through the horrors of cruelty, disease and starvation, and has just the right mixture of story, description, and Adam's 12-14 year-old hopes and worries and fears as we go through two years of war with him. I enjoyed this book very much....more