ETA: do you want to see Wendy Mitchell? Do you want to know more about her life and her book? Click on the link to The Guardian article below, at theETA: do you want to see Wendy Mitchell? Do you want to know more about her life and her book? Click on the link to The Guardian article below, at the bottom of my review.
Wendy Mitchell, the author of this book, was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s in 2014 at the age of fifty-eight. This is a book about how it is to have Alzheimer's. The author is a remarkable woman--a strong woman with character and guts. She is a woman I highly admire. She has written this book with the help of ghostwriter Anna Wharton. The two together have created a book well worth reading. It is both informative and well written. The reader comes to understand how a person with Alzheimer's experiences the world around them. Due to its topic, I picked it up with trepidation. It turned out to be a captivating and very satisfying read.
The prose shifts from the informative and clear to being emotionally expressive or lyrical, depending upon where we are at that point in the book. I am quite simply trying to say that the writing is exceptionally good.
It becomes very clear how difficult Wendy’s life has become. She is still struggling with the illness and remains living at home alone, not in a care center. How she manages is carefully explained. This is important because otherwise it would be impossible to believe she would be capable of doing all that she does. For example, a step by step description of what she must do when she travels is detailed. She travels often. Both the difficulties she encounters and how she deals with each are described. One comes to feel great empathy for her. Empathy and admiration too. Despite what she must deal with she is happy. She is fighting for her life, and because she is fighting for it she values it.
She plans and thinks about death. She supports assisted suicide. She considers how to best safeguard the needs of her two beloved daughters. They mean the world to her. Divorced many years ago, it is she that has raised them.
Memories of Wendy's earlier life with her daughters are peppered throughout. As Wendy becomes more and more confused these memories are a beautiful contrast to her everyday struggle. They serve as gems to be cherished. They add a beautiful touch to the book; they highlight the value of such memories. Such memories might be disregarded by a person without Alzheimer's. Their value, significance and beauty are magnified given the uncertainty of how long they will remain. The inclusion of these memories demonstrates the attention that has been paid to fitting the different parts of the book together in an effective manner.
I was scared of reading this book. I did not pick it up with pleasure. I knew it would bring back memories of my own father's Alzheimer’s. It did. I could not but help make comparisons between my father's behavior, what he experienced and how he coped with the illness in comparison to Wendy. I learned aspects of the illness that I was unaware of before. Those with Alzheimer's have a heightened perception of sound. With this knowledge I can now better understand why my father acted as he did at family gatherings and in other situations.
The book does not detail how the illness is diagnosed. The book cannot be used as a means of determining if you have the illness yourself.
The book does gives tips on how one can cope with problems that arise, and it encourages better treatment for those with Alzheimer’s. The book is beautiful in that although a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is heartrending, the author has not lost hope. She has dedicated herself to improving the life of those with Alzheimer’s rather than moping. She is inspiring.
I listened to the audiobook read by Rachel Atkins. She does a fantastic job. You easily hear every word she says, and she uses an inflection that perfectly fits the prose. Fear, hope, sorrow, determination and poignant memories are all perceptively rendered in Atkins’ superlative narration.
This is a work of narrative nonfiction telling of six-year-old Sachiko Yasui's survival of the August 9, 1945 Nagasaki atomic bomb. It speaks of thatThis is a work of narrative nonfiction telling of six-year-old Sachiko Yasui's survival of the August 9, 1945 Nagasaki atomic bomb. It speaks of that morning when she was out in the yard making mud pies, playing house with her friends. It speaks of her four siblings, her parents and paternal uncle. It was he that pulled her out from the crushed rubble that morning when the bomb fell. It speaks of the years after, until all had died but her.
The book is most appropriate for young adults. Facts presented are clear and simple. It flips back and forth between chapters presenting historical facts and those focusing on the family members. Sachiko’s youngest sibling died at the fall of the bomb. She must tackle thyroid cancer. She loses her voices and struggles to regain it. Her father inspired her with the teaching of Mahatma Gandhi, urging her not to give up. She gained strength from Helen Keller and Martin Luther King, Jr. too. When all in her family had died from radiation sickness, she realized she remained as the only witness to tell her family’s story. She wanted to relate the stories of the Hibakusha.
She repeated to herself the words of Mahatma Gandhi:
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
At the 50th anniversary of the bombing, she spoke to a class of 6th graders. She involved herself in peace symposiums, spoke out against the spread of nuclear weapons and constantly emphasized the resilience of the human spirit. In 2013 she had a stroke, but I believe she is still alive. The author had many intensive interviews with Sachiko in the process of writing this book.
The audiobook is narrated by John Chancer and Katherine Fentno. Chancer reads those chapters detailing historical facts. Fentno reads those chapters related to family experiences. Chancer’s narration is strong and clear and very easy to follow. Fentno’s isn’t hard to follow either, but has more of an emotional draw. Japanese words are spoken, and they are not always translated.
The book is not childish, but short, and as a result simplified. Also, as a book for young adults, it appropriately focuses on a future based on progress and hope....more
Rose Tremain, now at the age of seventy-five, writes in fluid prose of her childhood and teenage years. She was born in London in 1943. The focus is tRose Tremain, now at the age of seventy-five, writes in fluid prose of her childhood and teenage years. She was born in London in 1943. The focus is twofold, family relationships and her growth into adulthood, leaving behind the world of her parents to find her own path as an independent woman in control of her own life. She would be an author! No one would stop her. Her father engaged himself little in her life. Her mother, contrary to her daughter’s wishes sent her off to “finishing school” in Switzerland and then, hopefully, as soon as possible, marriage. The book ends just as Rose throws off the parental yoke.
What is covered are her early years—life with her three-and-a-half-year older sister Jo and her cousins on their grandparents’ farm in Hampshire, the dissolution of her parents’ marriage at the age of ten, the banishment of her nanny and then being sent off to boarding schools. Basically, to get rid of her. Her mother remarries--the consequence being a new father, two step-siblings to get used to, but still she is relegated to boarding schools. Her biological father continues to play no active role in her life.
Rose’s mother is emotionally detached and undemonstrative, repeating her own mother’s behavior toward herself. Inability to express or even to feel love can be passed from generation to generation. In any case, this is what we see here—the absence of love, displayed both in an inability to feel love or to express it, passes from grandmother to mother to daughter.
A central theme of the book is thus family relationships. Yet the author, speaking now as an elderly woman, is calm. Anger has dissipated. Events are simply related. The author’s own maturity, stability and acceptance of her life as it has played out, does not result in a particularly engaging read. These years of her life are, well, interesting, but I felt not much more. My lack of engagement may be partially due to the author’s British upper-class lifestyle, the boarding school environment and her parents’ snobbism. The circumstances of the author’s life are foreign to me; there is little I relate to. I must counter though, that a truly talented author is capable of making the foreign feel real and what child does not at times fell unloved by their parents?!
The author expresses herself clearly. Her prose flows evenly; it is pretty and it is smooth, but it lacks an urgency that excites. She does not play with words in new and original ways. I personally find the conventionality of her writing rather boring. The book is interesting, but it rarely reaches a step higher to become engaging. I never found it to be captivating.
The author reads the audiobook. Narration is an art that must be learned, and keep in mind that she is now elderly. Rose Tremain is an author, not a trained narrator. Word articulation is not clear; words are slurred. She reads at a slow, steady pace without variation. I have rated the narration performance with two stars.
This is a very good book; it is well researched and chock full of information, but I only liked it. That is why I am giving it three stars.
Empire ofThis is a very good book; it is well researched and chock full of information, but I only liked it. That is why I am giving it three stars.
Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History looks at the situation of the Comanches in 1836, starting at the Fort Parker Massacre. It follows them through to the demise of their last chief in 1911. This massacre can be seen as “the beginning of the end” of both the Indian Wars in America and of the Comanches. The book follows all those touched by the May 1836 massacre, the subsequent kidnapping and rescue attempts of the five of the Parker clan who were captured--Cynthia Ann Parker (9 years), her younger brother John Richard Parker, her cousin Rachel Parker Plummer (17 years) with her infant son, James Pratt Plummer, and aunt Elisabeth Kellogg. Fort Parker is near present-day Groesbeck, Texas.
Cynthia Ann lived 25 years with the Comanches, married Chief Peta Nocona, and gave birth to three children, including son Quanah Parker, who would become the last Chief of the Comanches. At the age 34, she was recaptured by the Texas Rangers and forcibly returned “home”. The question is what was home then? She missed her children and the Native American way of life and never readjusted to white society again.
As the events are told readers learn about the Col. Ranald S. MacKenzie exploits both during the Civil War and then during the Indian Wars, the repercussions the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 had on Indian affairs, the Gold Rush of 1849, the development of weapons such as the Walker Colts, Spencer Carbines and the Sharps Big 50s, the birth of the Texas Rangers and the Dragoons, the extinction of the buffalo, Native Americans’ susceptibility to and contagion by cholera, measles, malaria, whooping cough and syphilis, the expansion westward of settlers and the ever increasing demand for more land, the Dawes Act of 1887 followed by the Jerome Act of 1892--all of which had significance for the fall of the Comanche nation and all Native Americans.
The book is comprehensive and detailed. The battles between different tribes and white settlers are many and are studied in minutia. Is there a balanced presentation of the white versus the red point of view? Pretty much, but in the wording one senses the author’s admiration of those few who were able to outwit and conquer the Native Americans. I noticed this particularly in reference to Texas Ranger John Coffee “Jack” Hays, for whom the author has only words of praise. I felt the author to be exhilarated by the battles. I just wanted these episodes to end. The atrocities committed on both sides are presented.
The audiobook is read by David Drummond. The tempo is uneven. At times he reads way too fast. The Parker clan is large, and when numerous names are thrown at you ten a second, it is impossible to keep them straight. Drummond fails to lower the speed when the text becomes complicated; he accelerates instead! Every time he sped up, I needed him to slow down! I do NOT recommend listening to the audiobook. Many times, I had to rewind, to re-listen, to understand what was being said. Read the paper book instead. The audiobook includes a PDF file that provides a clear map of the cities, rivers, battles and places spoken of in the book. It is handy to glance at as you listen to the book.
Most of us have seen the movie of To Sir, With Love. I too, but years and years ago. Sidney Poitier shines as he plays E.R. (Rick) Braithwaite, the blMost of us have seen the movie of To Sir, With Love. I too, but years and years ago. Sidney Poitier shines as he plays E.R. (Rick) Braithwaite, the black teacher of a class of white streetwise, ruffian youngsters, seniors in an East End London secondary school. These kids are poorly fed, clothed and housed. Their knowledge of academic subjects may be low, but they do have a knowledge that equips them to survive where they live. It is after the Second World War, the 1950s. The growing friendship, respect and trust between the kids and their teacher is one theme. The second and more important theme, particularly in the book, is racial and ethnic discrimination.
This is an autobiographical novel based on the author’s own experiences as teacher in an East End London school after the war, after having been a British Royal Air Force pilot during the war. Neither his color nor his ethnicity was of importance during the war, but after they certainly were. Through this work the author is focusing attention on such hypocrisy and on racial and ethnic discrimination. He was born in Georgetown, British Guyana, in 1912 and died at the age of 104 in 2016!
The strength of this book lies in its message that the best means of fighting discrimination is through shared experiences between those who are different. Having a close friend of a skin color, religion or ethnic background different from you own teaches more than book learning can ever accomplish.
I liked that not only the kids grew wiser from their friendship with Braithwaite, but that also Braithwaite learned from his friendship with them. An interracial love affair carries the theme one step further.
For much of the story the words of Braithwaite are formal, a bit stiff and detached. This loosens as one nears the end, when not only his students have warmed to him, but he too has come to feel great attachment for them. Braithwaite’s initial formality and his insistence on strict behavior make perfect sense. It is heartwarming when he begins to soften and melt. It is at the same time realistic that he never turns into a gushing pulp of emotion.
Braithwaite’s formal demeanor and strength of character are well captured in Ben Onwukwe’s rendition of the audiobook. The reading is clear and strong and easy to follow. He intones the female characters less well. The kids’ Cockney accents are at times harder to follow, but this feels accurate and thus correct. For me, the performance is worth four stars.
For those of you who wonder whether one’s memory of the movie should be left untouched, I would say go ahead and read this. It does not matter that it is of its time; it still speaks to us of today. It took me awhile to warm to it, but I did by the end....more