Divorce is difficult but it was hard to relate to Christine's "woes" what with her money, apartment in the city, beyond believable friends, etc. She w...moreDivorce is difficult but it was hard to relate to Christine's "woes" what with her money, apartment in the city, beyond believable friends, etc. She was endearing, but overall an unimpressive read.(less)
This book was a journey for me in both history and family relationships. The book is rich in Korean history and culture. I thoroughly enjoyed learning...moreThis book was a journey for me in both history and family relationships. The book is rich in Korean history and culture. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about both. The book also inspired me to reflect upon the complex nuances of family relationships. Oftentimes family interactions are shaped by role expectations established early in life, but, people evolve and change. And, then factor in misconceptions - a sticky web indeed. Right. Back to the book. Although I enjoyed learning about Korean history and culture, I did not feel connected to the main character, Janie. She was flat and lacked personality. Her sister Hannah was also difficult to feel invested in, but I did relate to her more than Janie. Oddly, I felt most invested in their father, a complex and unconventional yet conventional man. I liked the book but did not love it. If you are interested in the non-Western world and enjoy reading about family relationships, I'd say give it a go.(less)
Disclaimer: This is not a proper review but rather my thoughts and reactions upon finishing the book. Continue reading if you will. Here’s a brief sum...moreDisclaimer: This is not a proper review but rather my thoughts and reactions upon finishing the book. Continue reading if you will. Here’s a brief summary: The book is set in Nigeria in the 1960s and follows a handful of main characters as they become enmeshed in the Baifra struggle (war?) for independence. I should also note that I found the author's descriptions of Africa and her writing beautiful and real. I’d call the work highly readable literature. Oh, and I really liked it. Right, onward...
For me, the main characters symbolize the nuances and legacy of colonialism. There is Richard, the misguided European who wants so very badly to belong and make a difference but is largely impotent and benign. Kainene is an educated, African profiteer. Olanna, her nonidentical twin, is opposite in looks and belief systems; she is beautiful like Africa. Odenigbo represents the African intellectuals with their visions of independence. Baby, who has a given name which is not used, represents the innocent children of Africa. Children who seem so needy and numbered they become nameless in the eyes of the West. Perhaps the adults become childlike and nameless too... And, finally, Ugwu. Ugwu represents the tribal innocence and trust that was so badly disregarded and betrayed.
On a side note here, I fell in love with Ugwu immediately. He is so eager to please and authentic. He is fascinated by his first encounter with running water and the refrigerator. His innocence and eagerness are endearing. And, I still love Ugwu even though he is changed by the violence around him. Violence in which he eventually participates.
Struggles for independence are often ugly and inhumane. It becomes impossible to be involved, directly or peripherally, without being stained by the surrounding elements, a nod to Cardinal Wolsey of Tudor fame for that sentiment. And, the characters here are no exception.
Lest you think this book is all gloom and doom or just another accusatory condemnation of imperialism, colonialism, racism, or some other -ism, the main characters are so profoundly human and perfectly flawed you can’t help but care about them, pull for them, and sincerely want a happy ending for them. And, there are some genuine acts of beauty, like Kainene forgiving Olanna. In fact, there are many lessons of forgiveness to be learned from this story. However, like the current human condition in Africa, the story ends with some unfinished business. (less)
I'd say my ramblings here are my opinion rather than a proper review. You've been warned; continue reading if you will. I loved this book. The charact...moreI'd say my ramblings here are my opinion rather than a proper review. You've been warned; continue reading if you will. I loved this book. The characters and plot call to mind a well-written, chick-lit, beach read - but one written in the 1940's. Were chick-lit and beach read genres then? Anyway, the story starts somewhat slowly, but before long I was thoroughly engrossed. The book has been criticized as being frivolous and escapist. But, it has much to say on the limited options of women in the late 1600s. Issues that are still, ahem, somewhat relevant today. I think I was as smitten with Dona and her desire for autonomy and self-fullfillment as I was with the swashbuckling (sorry I had to type that), sexy, French pirate. And, William the faithful (albeit one-dimensional) servant: impossible not to love him. So, here's the equation for the story, in no particular order: action & adventure + passion + love + humor + a French pirate (oh, did I already mention him?), + suburb writing = a story that has become one of my all-time favorites. (less)