Friday 28 June 2013

Book Quotes of the Week

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"Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature is dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill." Henry David Thoreau

"There's always room for a story that can transport people to another place." J.K. Rowling

"You see, one of the best things about reading is that you'll always have something to think about when you're not reading." James Patterson

"A novel is like a bow, and the violin that produced the sound is the reader's soul." Stendhal

"Any fiction should be a story. In any story there are three elements: persons, a situation, and the fact that in the end something has changed. If nothing has changed, it isn't a story." Malcolm Cowley

"One must always be careful of books and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us." Tessa Gray

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 27 June 2013

Pope Osborne, Mary "Magic Tree House" Series

Pope Osborne, Mary "Magic Tree House" Series - 1992 ff.

Jack and Anne are two ordinary children who just have to enter their tree house and, with the help of magical books, can travel back in time. In the various books they learn everything about history but also a lot about science. A very interesting way of teaching children all sorts of important subjects.
My sons really enjoyed these books.

These are all the books that exist (UK titles in brackets, when different).
[Research Guides in brackets]

Book 1: Dinosaurs Before Dark (Valley of the Dinosaurs) [RG1: Dinosaurs]
Book 2: The Knight at Dawn (Castle of Mystery) [RG2: Knights and Castles]
Book 3: Mummies in the Morning (Secret of the Pyramid) [RG3: Mummies and Pyramids]
Book 4: Pirates Past Noon (Pirates' Treasure) [RG4: Pirates]
Book 5: Night of the Ninjas
Book 6: Afternoon on the Amazon (Adventure on the Amazon) [RG5: Rain Forests]
Book 7: Sunset of the Sabertooth (Mammoth to the Rescue) [RG12: Sabertooths and the Ice Age]
Book 8: Midnight on the Moon (Moon Mission) [RG6: Space]
Book 9: Dolphins at Daybreak (Diving with Dolphins) [RG9: Dolphins and Sharks]
Book 10: Ghost Town at Sundown (A Wild West Ride)
Book 11: Lions at Lunchtime (Lions on the Loose)
Book 12: Polar Bears Past Bedtime Icy Escape) [RG 16: Polar Bears and the Arctic]
Book 13: Vacation Under the Volcano (Racing with Gladiators) [RG14: Ancient Rome and Pompeii]
Book 14: Day of the Dragon King (Palace of the Dragon King)
Book 15: Viking Ships at Sunrise (Voyage of the Vikings)
Book 16: Hour of the Olympics (Olympic Challenge!) [RG10: Ancient Greece and the Olympics]
Book 17: Tonight on the Titanic [RG7: Titanic]
Book 18: Buffalo Before Breakfast
Book 19: Tigers at Twilight
Book 20: Dingoes at Dinnertime
Book 21: Civil War on Sunday
Book 22: Revolutionary War on Wednesday [RG11: American Revolution]
Book 23: Twister on Tuesday [RG8: Twisters and Other Terrible Storms]
Book 24: Earthquake In the Early Morning
Book 25: Stage Fright on a Summer Night
Book 26: Good Morning, Gorillas
Book 27: Thanksgiving on Thursday [RG13: Pilgrims]
Book 28: High Tide in Hawaii [RG15: Tsunamis and Other Natural Disasters]
Book 29: Christmas in Camelot
Book 30: Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve
Book 31: Summer of the Sea Serpent
Book 32: Winter of the Ice Wizard
Book 33: Carnival at Candlelight
Book 34: Season of the Sandstorms
Book 35: Night of the New Magicians
Book 36: Blizzard of the Blue Moon
Book 37: Dragon of the Red Dawn
Book 38: Monday with a Mad Genius [RG19: Leonardo da Vinci]
Book 39: Dark Day in the Deep Sea [RG17: Sea Monsters]
Book 40: Eve of the Emperor Penguin [RG18: Penguins and Antarctica]
Book 41: Moonlight on the Magic Flute
Book 42: A Good Night for Ghosts [RG20: Ghosts]
Book 43: Leprechaun in Late Winter [RG21: Leprechauns and Irish Folklore]
Book 44: A Ghost Tale for Christmas Time [RG22: Rags and Riches: Kids in the Time of Charles Dickens]
Book 45: A Crazy Day with Cobras [RG23: Snakes and Other Reptiles]
Book 46: Dogs in the Dead of Night [RG24: Dog Heroes]
Book 47: Abe Lincoln at Last! [RG25: Abraham Lincoln]
Book 48: A Perfect Time for Pandas [RG26: Pandas and Other Endangered Species]
Book 49: Stallion by Starlight [RG27: Horse Heroes]
Book 50: Hurry Up, Houdini! [RG 28: Magic Tricks from the Tree House #28]

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Mahfouz, Naguib "Children of Gebelawi"

Mahfouz, Naguib "Children of Gebelawi" (aka Children of our Alley) (Arabic: اولاد حارتنا Awlād ḥāritnā) - 1959

An interesting book. First I thought it was the Bible retold. But then I realized it was all our monotheistic religions retold, the beginnings of them, at least.

It's so easy at the beginning, There is Gabalawi (God) who first throws Idris (Satan) and then Adham (Adam) out of his house, then there is Gabal (Moses), Rifa (Jesus) and Qasim (Muhammad), all three of them wanting to bring peace to their alley (the world) and creating their own religions. At the end we have Arafa who stands for the modern world or science.

Naguib Mahfouz tries to weigh theses characters up against each other. What a rich and powerful story, full of symbolism, allegories, parables, comparable to the Bible, really. And probably the Quran, as well. I am not surprised the author received the Nobel Prize for Literature and will certainly read more of him.

Apparently, not everyone in our book club agreed with me. These are some of the comments from the meeting:

"Obtaining the book had not been easy and likewise the reading of it. The first chapter set the stage with actions that would be repeated anew in each historical era. In the midst of abject misery and poverty a prophet comes with a message of hope which the people eagerly embrace.  This ushers in a time of peace and harmony but before many generations human discord, discontent, greed, and hatred arise leading to another cycle of misery. In their misery people call for help which comes again in the form of a new prophet ... repeat cycle. Basically a religious history of mankind from the Garden of Eden via Moses, Christ, and Mohammad to the rise of science. Mahfouz survived an attempt on his life as his writing angered the Islamic world."

From the back cover:

"The tumultuous 'alley' of this rich and intricate novel (first published in Arabic in 1959) tells the story of a delightful Egyptian family, but also reveals a second, hidden, and daring narrative: the spiritual history of humankind. From the supreme feudal lord who disowns one son for diabolical pride and puts another to the test, to the savior of a succeeding generation who frees his people from bondage, we find the men and women of a modern Cairo neighborhood unwittingly reenacting the lives of their holy ancestors: the 'children of the alley' This powerful, self-contained novel confirms again the richness and variety of Mahfouz's storytelling and his status as 'the single most important writer in modern Arabic literature.'"

We discussed this in our book club in June 2013.

Naguib Mahfouz "who, through works rich in nuance - now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous - has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Creative Bookshelves

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Lately, I have seen a lot of creative, funny, lovely, nice, beautiful, organized, ... bookshelves on the internet. Walls that only carry a couple of books arranged in an intricate manner. Designers that go crazy with ten or twenty books, building an idea upon them.

As much as I like to look at these shelves, I don't think they are for me. You can only have creative bookshelves if you don't have many books. If, like in my case, your house is overflowing with books already and you really don't know where to put your latest acquisitions, all you can dream of is a house with wall to wall, floor to ceiling shelves in every room. A house full of shelves. That would be my dream.

Monday 24 June 2013

Navarre, Marguerite de "Heptameron"

Navarre, Marguerite de "Heptameron" (French: Heptaméron) - 1578

I found the title of this book in Jane Smiley's "13 Ways of Looking at the Novel". It was one of the older books on the list and since I love classics and quite like "The Decameron" (also on her list), I put it on my reading list.

Apparently, the author was Marguerite de Navarre, sister of Francis I, King of France. She seemed to have read "The Decameron", as well. It was probably one of the "best sellers" of the time and she took it as an inspiration to write her own stories like this, only she had only written seven days of this book when she died, so there are fewer stories, hence only the "Heptameron".

Contrary to "The Decameron", this was a collection of short stories I did not care much about. When I said in my previous review that the stories in the Italian collection were rather racy, they have gone completely overboard in this one. Some of the stories are believed to have been true. If that is the case, don't set the "Good Old Days" as an example for faithful people. Also, I cannot remember having read any of the stories later on in another setting, so it must not have been as much an inspiration to other writers as "The Decameron" seems to have been and still is.

They also have a discussion at the end of the day but they seem very artificial, nothing rings true and you don't really warm to any of the characters even though the author seems to have borrowed them from her real life.

I usually like to learn about different epochs by reading novels from that time but I didn't have the feeling I learned much from this one. Every story was just a couple of pages long and looked to me more like a description of a story rather than a real story.

From the back cover:

"In the early 1500s five men and five women find themselves trapped by floods and compelled to take refuge in an abbey high in the Pyrenees. When told they must wait days for a bridge to be repaired, they are inspired - by recalling Boccaccio's Decameron - to pass the time in a cultured manner by each telling a story every day. The stories, however, soon degenerate into a verbal battle between the sexes, as the characters weave tales of corrupt friars, adulterous noblemen and deceitful wives. From the cynical Saffredent to the young idealist Dagoucin or the moderate Parlamente - believed to express De Navarre's own views - The Heptameron provides a fascinating insight into the minds and passions of the nobility of sixteenth century France."

Friday 21 June 2013

Book Quotes of the Week

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"My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter." Thomas Helm

"A well-read woman is a dangerous creature." Lisa Kleypas

"For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived." Louis L'Amour

"Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing." Harper Lee

"Wherever I am, if I've got a book with me, I have a place I can go and be happy." J.K. Rowling

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Hannah, Kristin "Winter Garden"

Hannah, Kristin "Winter Garden"  - 2010

The description of this book sounded a little too chick lit for me that I would have desperately wanted to read it but it was a book club read, so as a conscientious member, I read it.

It certainly wasn't badly written but a little too superficial for my liking. I could judge the book by the cover. True, the story of Anya, the mother of two grown up girls, is interesting and the fact that she has not talked about it for most of her life makes it a little mysterious.

The two sisters, well, they both have their own problems but I doubt that they stemmed from the fact that their mother hid her story, didn't want to talk about her past. Most kids whose parents have grown up during wartime have to live with this. And, like Anya, a lot of those people think what happened to their loved ones is their fault. No, the war is at fault, every single person tries to cope with it in their very own matter, tries to make decisions that they might regret later but they have to make a decision. Who knows what decision we would make in the same circumstances.

I didn't like the ending, it was too much viewed through rose-tinted glasses. Overall, this was not my book, too shallow.

What adds to this is that we already read a book about the Leningrad siege in November 2011, "The Siege" by Helen Dunmore.

The book club had a bit of a different opinion in the discussion, although only a slightly better one.
They mostly agreed that "Winter Garden" was a quick read, almost like a "beach read" (just another "nicer" word for chick lit). The first half of the book was a little slower-paced compared to the finish. It seemed like there were two stories to tell: one was obviously the mother-daughter relationship and the other the Siege of Leningrad as told through Anya's fairy tales. We felt that the author tried too hard to combine the stories at times, and this resulted in lots of superfluous details and a longer book than was necessary. The end of the book was disappointing. All of us thought it was a little strange how suddenly Anya, Meredith, and Nina got on a cruise ship to Alaska and started drinking vodka and becoming best friends. The unexpected reunion between Anya and her long-lost Russian daughter in Alaska was too far-fetched.

The discussion of Russia and Stalin brought up another interesting topic. One of the members talked about a documentary she recently watched ("Hitler's Children") about the children of dictators/oppressors, and how they have dealt with their parents' unfortunate pasts.

From the back cover:

"Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time - and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya’s life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother’s life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are."

We discussed this in our book club in May 2013.

I have read "Angel Falls" by the same author.

Monday 17 June 2013

Aaronovitch, Ben "Rivers of London"

Aaronovitch, Ben "Rivers of London" (US: Midnight Riot) - 2011

I originally bought this book because I thought it might be similar to those of Edward Rutherfurd, describing the history of a city or a country. I also liked the cover, a map of London. And since London is my favourite city in the whole world, I just had to read the book.

When I started reading it, I noticed it was completely different from what I expected. It was a police story, a crime novel mixed with fantasy elements. All genres I usually stay far away from.

However, Ben Aaronovitch has such a unique and funny way to describe his characters and the story, the good guys as well as the bad guys, the living as well as the dead, the spirits, the events. The author manages to create suspension, you hardly want to put down the book. The plot is witty, the characters likable, the mix of reality and fantasy interesting.

It was completely worth reading the book, and I will probably read its follow-ups "Moon Over Soho" and "Whispers Under Ground". I wouldn't be surprised to find it made into a movie or TV series in the future, either. I'm sure one of those talented young British actors can play the protagonist, Peter Grant, and there are plenty of fantastic older guys around who can play his master Thomas Nightingale.

Fabulous story, fun to read.

And - even though I think "Midnight Riot" is not a bad title for this novel, as usual, I really have no idea why this novel has to have a different title in the United States. I'm sure the American reader knows where London is.

From the back cover:

"My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service and to everyone else as the Filth.

My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit - we do paperwork so real coppers don't have to.Then one night I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was already dead but disturbingly voluble ... and that led me to Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. 

And that, as they say, is where the story really starts.

There's something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that's taking ordinary Londoners and twisting them into something awful; mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.

The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying.

The whole series:
"Rivers of London" - 2011
"Moon over Soho" - 2011
"Whispers Under Ground" - 2012
"Broken Homes" - 2013
"Foxglove Summer" - 2014
"The Hanging Tree" - 2016

I found a good site about this series: The Follypedia

Friday 14 June 2013

Book Quotes of the Week

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"When you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than was there before." Clifton Fadiman

"These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. From each of them goes out its own voice... and just as the touch of a button on our set will fill the room with music, so by taking down one of these volumes and opening it, one can call into range the voice of a man far distant in time and space, and hear him speaking to us, mind to mind, heart to heart." Gilbert Highet

"The stories of childhood leave an indelible impression, and their author always has a niche in the temple of memory from which the image is never cast out to be thrown on the rubbish heap of things that are outgrown and outlived." Howard Pyle

"Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks." Dr. Seuss

"Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us." Paul Theroux

"To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations – such is a pleasure beyond compare." Kenko Yoshida

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Ghosh, Amitav "River of Smoke"

Ghosh, Amitav "River of Smoke" (Ibis Trilogy #2) - 2011

This novel is Part 2 of the "Ibis Trilogy". I was happy that it had been written already when I finished "Sea of Poppies" because it meant I could carry on with the story right away.

Seldom have I been so eager to start the next book in a series as with this one. That might be partly because the first book didn't seem to have a proper ending and just invited you to carry on with this one but it certainly is also due to the fantastic talent of this author of telling you a story.

As I have written in my review about "Sea of Poppies", Amitav Ghosh manages to describe everything in a way that you feel you are there. He is such a realistic writer, it is unbelievable. It feels like you have time travelled and are in India or China in the 19th century.

If, like me, you have read the first book in the series, you could not wait to see what happened to the characters of that story. And you won't be disappointed. However, while he introduces other people that did not appear in the first book, it takes him quite a while to come to terms with the fate of some of our heroes from the Ibis. If you are very impatient, you might get just a little annoyed with the storyteller.

A lot of new topics are introduced into this part, even though they have been slightly touched in the first novel. One of them is morale and the difference between Hinduism and Christianity.

I don't want to repeat everything I said about the first episode of the story, so I just refer you to my review of "Sea of Poppies". I also read the third one in the series now: "Flood of Fire".

Apparently, the author said in an interview, “I don't know whether I'll be able to stop at three". Well, I'd love him to write more than three of these but I'd really like him to hurry up with the next one.

From the back cover:

"In September 1838 the fortunes of all those aboard three ships on the Indian Ocean - the 'Ibis', the 'Anahita' and the 'Redruth' - are upended in tempestuous seas. On the grand scale of an historical epic, 'River of Smoke' follows the motley collection of storm-tossed characters to the crowded harbours of China. All struggle to cope with their losses - and for some, unimaginable freedoms - in the alleys and crowded waterways of nineteenth-century Canton. As transporting and mesmerizing as an opiate-induced dream, 'River of Smoke' will soon be heralded as a masterpiece of twenty-first-century literature."

There is a good website about "The Ibis Trilogy".

Ghosh, Amitav "Sea of Poppies"

Ghosh, Amitav "Sea of Poppies" (Ibis Trilogy #1) - 2008

This novel is Part 1 of the "Ibis Trilogy".

I have only read "The Glass Palace" by this author so far. It was a book club read and it is one of my favourite books ever. I don't want to say too much in the first line but this novel will join it on my shelf of favourites.

This book has it all, history, love and war, the people from different countries. Amitav Ghosh manages to invite us into this world. I love it when you have the feeling that you are there. You can see the colours, hear he sounds, smell the smells, it's so lifelike.

This novel describes the fate of a ship and its passengers, At the beginning, we get to know the sailors, then the different people who will become passengers later on, all from different kinds of life.

Amitav Ghosh manages to describe all classes of people so well, the different castes in India, the British and other foreigners, all neatly put into their respective drawers. The women belong in yet another part, they have nothing to say, they get married off to someone, have to produce the heir. Everyone is forced into a certain role due to social and political reasons. And yet, everyone tries to live with their fate in their one different way, some are subservient, others rebellious. Some form an attachment to people from the other groups, others desperately try to keep that invisible wall between them.

In any case, this book teaches so much about life in India at that time, about the Opium War. We learn about the fate of the farmers who are forced by the colonialists to produce opium which they, in turn, import into China so they can afford the trading with that country. So many lives are affected and destroyed because some Europeans want Chinese products. It also is a lot easier for the occupiers to destroy the lives of anyone who originally lived in the country than the other way around. We see that one wrong accusation can take away one man's wealth and honour.

I would have liked to have some sort of ending to this part of the book but because I started it late, "River of Smoke" was already out and I carried on with it right away.

I also read the third one in the series now: "Flood of Fire".

In an interview the author mentioned that "oil is the opium of today." I think he is absolutely right and it might help to think about what we are doing to people in the other parts of the world today.

I guess some people might have a problem reading this as there are a lot of different versions of English used, that of the sailors is different of that of the Indians, that of the British different than that of the other foreigners, there are many different dialects and idiosyncrasies. It seems irritating at the beginning but I can only encourage everyone to keep on going, it's definitely worth it. We also learn that a lot of words have come to the English language from the colonies this way. An interesting observation, if you like language.

This story is like "One Thousand and One Nights", so many different stories, so many different lives. And all in a country far far away and a long time ago. Fascinating. Enchanting.

I read this book as part of the Reading Challenge "Chunky Books". I love that group and am looking forward to reading and discussing a lot more tomes with this group.

From the back cover:

"On an old slaving ship named the 'Ibis', fate has thrown together a truly motley crew of sailors, coolies, and convicts, including a bankrupt raja, a French runaway and a widowed opium farmer. As their old family ties are washed away, they, they come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais, or ship-brothers. Against the backdrop of the Opium Wars, this unlikely dynasty is what makes 'Sea of Poppies' so breathtakingly alive - a masterpiece from one of the world's finest novelists."

There is a good website about "The Ibis Trilogy" and "Sea of Poppies".

Amitav Gosh was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for "Sea of Poppies" in 2008.

Monday 10 June 2013

MacLaverty, Bernard "Cal"

MacLaverty, Bernard "Cal" - 1983

A difficult book to read. Not because it has been written in a weird way or because it has difficult words in it. Just the topic. The problem in Northern Ireland. Catholics against Protestants. Brother against brother. Father against son. Anyone can be your enemy.

What a sad story, what a sad history. Is there a solution? If they will ever find it, there is nothing in this book that gives us hope. And if it did, it wouldn't be as authentic as it is.

The author gives you the feeling that the characters are trapped in their life, in their environment, in their role in society. There is no hope for a young boy in Belfast, he gets no decent education and he doesn't get a job even if he had a decent education.

Cal tries his best to get out of this. He even works as a farmhand although he has no experience with working on a farm, he probably hasn't been on a farm before he gets hired. And then there is his love for a young widow. Not exactly an easy life. But what do you do when you have no choice?

If you like to read about different kind of history, like to understand what people are going through, this is the book for you. It was written about thirty years ago but it still feels as true as it did at that time. Bernard MacLaverty manages to put the whole conflict in this rather short (160 pages) book

From the back cover:

"For Cal, some of the choices are devastatingly simple... He can work in an abattoir that nauseates him or join the dole queue; he can brood on his past or plan a future with Marcella. Springing out of the fear and violence of Ulster, Cal is a haunting love story in a land were tenderness and innocence can only flicker briefly in the dark."

Thursday 6 June 2013

Book Quotes of the Week

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"Stories are one thing that will be constant in life. Whether told, written, reenacted they are a fundamental part of human nature." Jessica Shirvington

"Keep reading. It's one of the most marvelous adventures that anyone can have." Lloyd Alexander

"So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install a lovely bookshelf on the wall." Roald Dahl

"The person who deserves most pity is a lonesome one on a rainy day who doesn't know how to read." Benjamin Franklin

"And when you love a book, commit one glorious sentence of it - perhaps your favorite sentence - to memory. That way you won't forget the language of the story that moved you to tears." John Irving, In One Person

"Books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time." E.P. Whipple

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Golding, William "Lord of the Flies"

Golding, William "Lord of the Flies" - 1954

A very disturbing dystopian novel, probably because it concerns children and makes us human beings look even less human than some of the other ones I read. (See my list of dystopian novels here.)

What makes people behave in an inhumane way? In this case, children are left to their own device after a plane crash. We can tell from the beginning that there are two different kinds, some that see the final goal, they want to be saved and work for that, others that just want to have instant gratification, i.e. food and are willing to fight for that.

I can see why this novel has become so successful, it is not just the story being told but all the underlying hidden meanings, as well. There are signs everywhere. They boy with the glasses (Piggy), for instance, represents the first group, the more rational thinking.

As in most other dystopian novels, we can see the background of the novel easily. 1954, World War II had been over for almost a decade. Did people go back to being human and treat each other accordingly? I don't think William Golding saw it that way. On the contrary, he feared that there might be a repetition of the hell everyone had just been through, he had fought in the Navy himself so certainly had a lot of bad memories. He had seen that people were not born to be peaceful, that civilization was just a thin line that you could fall off any minute.

This is the main reason I love dystopian novels, it's another way of dealing with history and trying to avoid its repetition. It's another hope that there might be a peaceful time one day.

Great book, should be on everyone's reading list.

From the back cover:

"A plane crashes on an uninhabited island and the only survivors, a group of schoolboys, assemble on the beach and wait to be rescued. By day they inhabit a land of bright fantastic birds and dark blue seas, but at night their dreams are haunted by the image of a terrifying beast.

In this, his first novel, William Golding gave the traditional adventure story an ironic, devastating twist. The boys' delicate sense of order fades, and their childish fears are transformed into something deeper and more primitive. Their games take on a horrible significance, and before long the well-behaved party of schoolboys has turned into a tribe of faceless, murderous savages.

William Golding received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983 "for his novels which, with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world of today".

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Monday 3 June 2013

Arana, Marie "American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood"

Arana, Marie "American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood" - 2002

I bought this book mainly because of the bilingual and multi-cultural aspect since I am always interested in this topic. We threw our children into a bilingual situation, they had to grow up with two and a half languages even though the cultures didn't clash as much.

A Peruvian/US-American family, described by the youngest daughter of the family who grew up between her father's Peruvian family who was very much into their ancestors and into FAMILY and her mother's US-American, almost non-existent family. She only saw her maternal grandparents once in her life and none of the others whereas in Peru she was surrounded by grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, and a lot of other people that "belonged" to her family's estate.

Even though the story as such was interesting, I wasn't too excited about the style of writing. The story just didn't seem to flow, the author was just as much torn between two worlds in her book as she must be in real life, you have the feeling she is still trying to find her roots, who she really is and that she doesn't come to a conclusion and therefore the story goes a little higgledy-piggledy. She seems to wonder from one word to the next and never belong. So, in that respect, she has just written the right book. But it was not easy to read because if that,

From the back cover:

"In her father’s Peruvian family, Marie Arana was taught to be a proper lady, yet in her mother’s American family she learned to shoot a gun, break a horse, and snap a chicken’s neck for dinner. Arana shuttled easily between these deeply separate cultures for years. But only when she immigrated with her family to the United States did she come to understand that she was a hybrid American whose cultural identity was split in half. Coming to terms with this split is at the heart of this graceful, beautifully realized portrait of a child who “was a north-south collision, a New World fusion. An American Chica.

Here are two vastly different landscapes: Peru - earthquake-prone, charged with ghosts of history and mythology - and the sprawling prairie lands of Wyoming. In these rich terrains resides a colorful cast of family members who bring Arana’s historia to life...her proud grandfather who one day simply stopped coming down the stairs; her dazzling grandmother, 'clicking through the house as if she were making her way onstage.' But most important are Arana’s parents: he a brilliant engineer, she a gifted musician. For more than half a century these two passionate, strong-willed people struggled to overcome the bicultural tensions in their marriage and, finally, to prevail.