brenzi's 2012 Reading - LXXV and Beyond - Part 7 -
This is a continuation of the topic brenzi's 2012 Reading - LXXV and Beyond - Part 6 - Summertime, and the READING is Easy.
This topic was continued by brenzi's 2012 Reading - The Dog Days of Summer - Part 8.
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Summer's Bounty Continues
Wave Petunias, sweet potato vine
“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I've accomplished something, earned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”
― Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
“You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.
MY ORANGE JANUARY THREAD
MY NON-FICTION CHALLENGE THREAD
OTS - Off the Shelf (purchased at least 6 months ago)
L - library book
NF - Non-fiction
Books Read in 2012
49. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark - OTS - UK - 4 stars
48. Escape From Camp14:One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West - L - Blaine Harden - NF - North Korea - 4 stars
47. Juliet in August - Dianne Warren - ER - Canada - 4.8 stars
46. When I Lived in Modern Times - Linda Grant - OTS - Palestine - 4 stars
45. Palace Walk - Naguib Mahfouz - OTS - Egypt - 5 stars
44. The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker - L - 3.7 stars
43. The Septembers of Shiraz - Dalia Sofer - Iran - OTS - 4 stars
42. Finding Nouf - Zoe Ferraris - Saudi Arabia - OTS - 3.6 stars
41. The Pickwick Papers - Charles Dickens - UK - ebook - 4 stars
40. Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn - L - 4 stars
39. The Missing - Tim Gautreaux - OTS - 4 stars
38 The Memory Chalet - Tony Judt - NF - OTS - 4 stars
The Balkan Trilogy - Olivia Manning - OTS - 4.4 stars
37. Friends and Heroes - Greece
36. The Spoilt City - Romania
35. The Great Fortune -Romania
34. I Shall Not Want - Julia Spencer-Fleming - L - 4.5 stars
33. Bring Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel - UK - ER - 7 stars
32. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down - Anne Fadiman - NF - OTS - 4 stars
31. Salvage the Bones - Jessmyn Ward - L - ebook - 4.5 stars
30. Remarkable Creatures - Tracy Chevalier - OTS - 4.6 stars
29. Broken Glass Park - Alina Bronsky - Germany - OTS - 4.1 stars
28. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green - L - 4.2 stars
27. A Wreath of Roses - Elizabeth Taylor - UK - 4 stars
26. The Leopard - Giuseppe Di Lampedusa - Italy - OTS - 3.7 stars
25. The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller - Greece - L - 4.6 stars
24. Voyagers of the Titanic - Richard P. Davenport-Hines - NF - ER - 4.2 stars
23. Binocular Vision - Edith Pearlman - 4.3 stars - L
22. Sovereign - C. J. Sansom - UK - 4.6 stars - OTS
21. There But For The - Ali Smith - UK - 3.5 stars - L
20. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption - Laura Hillenbrand - Japan - 5 stars - NF - OTS
19. All Mortal Flesh - Julia Spencer-Fleming - 4.3 stars - L
18. A View of the Harbour - Elizabeth Taylor - UK - 4.5 stars - OTS
17. Gillespie and I - Jane Harris - Scotland - 4.8 stars - L
16. How to Breathe Underwater - Julie Orringer - 3.5 stars - OTS
15. The Artist of Disappearance - Anita Desai -India - 3 stars
14. Silk - Allesandro Baricco - France/Japan - 4 stars - OTS
13. Emma - Jane Austen - UK - 4.3 stars - OTS
12. Inferno: The World at War 1939-1945 - Max Hastings - 5 stars - NF - e book - L
11. The Frozen Thames - Helen Humphreys - UK - 4.5 stars - L
10. Bleak House - Charles Dickens - UK - 5 stars - e book
9. Bossypants - Tina Fey - 3.5 stars- audio - NF
8. The Scapegoat - Daphne duMaurier - France - 4.5 stars - OTS
7. The Orphan Master's Son - Adam Johnson - North Korea - 4.3 stars - L
6. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader - Anne Fadiman - 4 stars - NF - L
5. Old Filth by Jane Gardam - UK - 4 stars
4. The Observations by Jane Harris - Scotland - 4.5 stars - OTS
3. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff - Egypt - 4.2 stars NF - OTS
2. White Teeth by Zadie Smith - UK - 4.3 stars -OTS
1. Sorry by Gail Jones - Australia - 4.5 stars
Best of Second Quarter
I began and ended the month with 1000 page behemoths.
The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning – a sweeping epic that looks at WWII in Rumania and, then, Greece through the eyes of Harriet Pringle, a young British expat, recently married. And there is the second war that’s being waged between Harriet and her husband Guy, who is completely engaged with his Socialist friends. It’s all very A.) revealing as I knew very little about Rumania’s role in the war, and B.) gripping as the Germans are bearing down on first, Rumania and then, Greece.
The Memory Chalet by Tony Judt - Judt’s passionate memoir, dictated to an assistant as he was in the throes of ALS, explores his memories of the details of his life. His memories take us back to his boyhood school days; his college days; his time spent on a kibbutz in Israel. We hear him speak about the sounds and smells of trains; the early Beatles; the austerity of the post-war years in Britain; fast cars and radical politics. The fact that his sense of humor came shining through says more about this very gifted man than anything else.
The Missing by Tim Gautreaux – a mystery set in New Orleans just after WWI. When Sam Simoneaux returns from the war to his job as a department store floorwalker (where did those people go?) he is unable to stop a child abduction and therefore loses his job. He signs on with a riverboat where the child’s parents also work to try to find her.
It’s a novel about love and family, human travail, history and hope, and the idea that revenge can take many forms and isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. All this with the backdrop of a Mississippi riverboat. You’ll swear you can hear the honky tonk piano and the sax wailing in the style of the twenties. Simply beautiful.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – heart-stopping suspense in this psychological thriller about a disastrous marriage where the wife goes missing on the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary. There are more twists and turns, backtracking and leaps of faith is this stunner of a novel than can be imagined.
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens – the adventures of Samuel Pickwick and his cronies in and about 19th century London provides for Dickens’ trademark humor, deft characterizations, and wry observations about the law, lawyers and debtor’s prison. Thoroughly enjoyable if, for no other reason, to become acquainted with Pickwick’s valet and faithful servant, Sam Weller, whose cockney wisdom is pure delight.
Favorite Reads of the 2000s
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Siege by Helen Dunmore
**Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville
Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
Small Island by Andrea Levy
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
**Also my nominee for Best Debut Novel.
90s favorites. These are books published in the 90s but I may have read them anytime up to this year:
Not in any particular order:
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett
The Living by Annie Dillard
Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston
No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod
Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth
My "BEST of THE 80s
Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
Dinner at the HomesickRestaurant by Anne Tyler
Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr
Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally (later they changed the title to Schindler's Ark; same book(?)
Sophie's Choice by William Styron
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Paris Trout by Pete Dexter
Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
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Planned reads for July
The Bone People by Keri Hulme - Orange July and TIOLI
Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris - TIOLI and Reading Globally Middle East
Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz - TIOLI and Reading Globally Middle East
The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer - Orange July and TIOLI and Reading Globally Middle East
Escape From Camp 14: One Man's Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden - TIOLI
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker - TIOLI
Fabulous new thread, Bonnie : ). Love the additional pictures of summer's bounty and chuckled at your decision to begin and end the month with 1000 page behemoths. LOL! I see Unbroken on your "best" list! By your recommendation, I ordered that from my library on audio and have it here waiting to be loaded into a gadget for later consumption. Your continued reads, and your continued reviews, are impossible to resist ... I'm seeing you on my book shelves with increasing frequency!
Hi Bonnie! Nice new thread. I'm going to go and look for the Balkan Trilogy... it's here somewhere.
I have Palace Walk here and am thinking of joining in the group read, but have a couple of books on the go already and don't want to overcommit myself.
Loved the garden photos - not much flowering over here right now so it's good to see summery pictures. How hot is it in NY? The heat wave made page 3 of our paper this morning with a picture of Coney Island.
Bonnie, I love the quotes you chose in memory of Nora Ephron and Ray Bradbury. Beautiful flowers, too. I love the look of sweet potato vines in combination with colorful blooms. Unfortunately, the squirrels simply love the taste of the vines...and sometimes my flowers!
New (and colorful) thread. What a wonderful quote from Nora Ephron. As if I need more reasons to justify reading!
Okay. New thread. I will try to keep up. I will try to keep up. I will never keep up!
How are you enjoying Finding Nouf? I liked it, but found the second one in the series a disappointment. Did you realize that Zoe Ferraris is American and only lived in Saudi Arabia for 9 months before returning to the US?
I'll look forward to your review of The Bone People. I struggled with that one. Is redemption always possible, or warranted? It's a great book though. I have Palace Walk, but don't think I'm up for another group read. I did such a poor job with Master and Margarita. I can't wait to read Escape from Camp 14. He spoke at Third Place Books recently, but I was unable to attend. I think I'll go request the book from the library right now. Toodles!
Edited to fix touchstone
>5 lit_chick: Thanks Nancy, I really hope you enjoy Unbroken as much as I did. What a story of survival under horrible conditions during WWII. Yes, those 1000 page behemoths are staying on the shelves this month. Time for some shorter reads, like my present read Finding Nouf which is a delight at 305 short pages.
>6 cushlareads: Thanks Cushla, well here in Buffalo, we have the advantage of the cooling breezes that come across Lake Erie, sort of like a big air conditioner, so we don't get many days in the 90s and the 100s are unheard of. It has been pretty sticky though. It helps to stay in the air conditioned house on days like that. Perfect excuse to read actually;-)
>7 Donna828: Thanks Donna, squirrels don't bother our flowers much. Deer are another case entirely. I had to stop planting flowering kale because the deer just enjoyed it too much. The last time I planted it, it took them approximately 45 minutes to gnaw it down to the ground.
>8 AnneDC: Ah yes Anne, Nora Ephron **sigh** what a loss. She had so much to say that was funny, and important.
>9 labfs39: Hi Lisa, keep up?? You must have me mixed up with someone else. I'm easy to keep up with. I only knew that Ferraris was American when I picked up the book and read about her on the back flap. I also didn't know this was a series and I guess I won't feel any need to push on with it. I'm enjoying the book but mostly I just wanted to get it off my shelf where it has resided for three years.
I'm easy to keep up with. Ha, ha! I needed a good laugh.
The third book in the Ferraris series just came out, and I'm tempted to read it, just to find out what happens to Nayir.
Bonnie- Congrats on the new thread! Love the Petunias! I'm not familiar with very many of your July reads but I'm sure you will enlighten me. Hope you are having a nice weekend.
I am so impressed with your June reading. Great books, and TWO behemoths in the mix. Wow.
>11 labfs39: Well come on, it's not like I'm Paul or Mark LOL. I'll probably finish Finding Nouf tonight and its been quite good Lisa so what didn't you like about the second one?
>12 msf59: Hi Mark, not familiar? Donna read The Age of Miracles and you mean you haven't heard of Escape From Camp 14?? I think that's one you're going to want to read. It's another take on life in North Korea by someone who made it out.
>13 kidzdoc: Thanks Darryl!
>14 Crazymamie: We lost two giants last month Mamie, didn't we?
>15 lauralkeet: Well gee Laura, thanks. I don't know about impressed but yes, it was a good month for me.
Bonnie- You are right! I have heard of both. They must have slipped by me. Sneaky little guys.
Bonnie - signing in a little late due to sleep and time zones getting in the way.
Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris 3.6 stars
A murder takes place in this book but that’s not the main theme, as far as I can see. That title belongs to the subjugation of women in Saudi Arabia which, as I got further and further into the narrative, managed to make me fairly agitated (to say nothing of enlightened). Not surprisingly, the author, American Zoe Ferraris, spent only nine months in the country, getting to know her husband’s family, who had never welcomed an American into their home (and lives) before. After nine months she left the country and is now divorced. I honestly don’t see how any woman not raised in Saudi Arabia could ever adjust to the stringent conditions under which women there exist. And unfortunately for these women, they are only too aware of the differences between their lives and those of women living in the West because of illegal (but easily obtainable) DVDs representing ways of life they end up longing for. So I tried to view this book as a glimpse at a culture that I am totally unfamiliar with and a vehicle for learning.
Nouf ash-Shawri is the sixteen year old daughter in a wealthy Saudi family and it appears that she has run away. After searching the desert area near her home, desert guide Nayir finds that her body has been found and she apparently died, in the desert, by drowning in a wadi filled with rainwater. Why would a girl from the privileged class run away and how did she drown? These are among the many questions that kind, gentle and deeply religious, Nayir feels compelled to find the answers to, even after her family accepts the idea of accidental drowning. To do so he must accept the help of a working woman audacious enough to bare her face in public, coroner’s lab worker Katya Hijazi. Nayir finds himself at a crossroads, highly desirous of female companionship, yet highly cautious in observing his religious beliefs which include never looking directly into a woman’s eyes or being seen in public with a woman who is not his wife, sister or daughter. The religious police are always on the lookout for offenders. A clash of cultures becomes obvious when an American is detected as one of a number of suspects, and Nayir visits his apartment in an American compound:
”Inside the compound, the environment changed. These were mostly Saudi-style homes, bright stucco buildings with ornate shutters and flat roofs, but the gardens were strangely American, bursting with flowers he didn’t recognize. Americans lived here, as well as other Western workers who signed up for two, maybe three years of work in Saudi. Most of them came because the work was lucrative and completely tax-free; some companies even paid for their employees to fly back to America once or twice a year. There was a strong need for imported labor---a good number of Saudis were wealthy enough enough not to work, and, Nayir thought, they believed work was beneath them---but despite the necessity for American workers, he felt a twinge of resentment that they should come here and build their own little worlds, their own private compounds where they lived as if they were still in America.” (Page 136)
As far as a mystery goes, this one is fairly typical in its construction and Ferraris does a good job of building suspense, but I was more impressed with her depiction of a culture with which I was unfamiliar. I think for this reason, it was difficult for her to construct complex characters. They seemed fairly one dimensional to me. But I was impressed by Nayir’s ability to grow and change in his way of adapting to a more independent female like Katya. This is the first in a series. I’m not sure whether I’ll continue but I did appreciate this one.
That's another fine review, Bonnie, with thumb! I don't think I'll need to read it now, and that's a good thing!
I see a color theme in the flowers - lovely! And your buddy is a darling........
I should read Palace Walk now too, but I just can't quite bring myself to it yet...this year though...for sure...maybe...probably!
So you reviewed a book I don't have to read? Sorry, but YAH! Funny, I heard The Age of Miracles mentioned a couple times today, including a nice little interview with her on the latest NPR podcast. It looks like I need to slap that one on the WL, pronto!
Another fine review, Bonnie. Can't decide whether I like the sounds of that one or not. Which is a relief because usually you zing me!
Lovely new thread, Bonnie! Love the photos and the quotes. And I've added Gone Girl to my list of books to get from the library. (I may add others from here, but that one really grabbed me quickly!)
Oh shoot! (what I really mean is SH**!)
I think we just killed my Clematis big time!
I'm a murderer!
I thought it might be poison ivy (no flowers) and I had Ron spray the beejeebers out of it.
I am deathly afraid of *and allergic to* poison ivy.
Now that I see your picture, I think I remember planting this a few years ago. Nuts! It was so healthy and now so dead.
I am my garden's worse enemy :(
*Weeps and sobs*
>22 LizzieD: Thanks Peggy, I usually choose a color theme for my flowers although the front of the house may be different from the flowers in the back. I'm looking forward to reading The Cairo Trilogy over the next three months.
>23 msf59: That's right Mark, go ahead and skip this one if you want although I did find it enlightening.
>24 Crazymamie: Thanks Mamie, I'm actually glad I read this book which turned out to be an eye opener.
>25 tymfos: Thanks Terri, I think Gone Girl will be right up your alley.
>26 -Cee-: OH NO-O-O-O-O Cee, how in the world did that happen? Is that what poison ivy looks like? Newly sprouted clematis? Our plant is pretty well established so I don't see myself making that error. Just get yourself another one.
Great new thread Bonnie! I love your clematis! I had one at our old house that was full and beautiful and I miss it. Your buddy is cute too!!
I'll echo Peggy's sentiments: That's another fine review, Bonnie, with thumb! I think, like you, I'd be more interested in the culture than the mystery. I also have no idea how a woman not raised in Saudi Arabia would expect to survive the the stringent conditions under which women there exist. Well said.
Well...Bonnie, now I'm so sad. It was so damned healthy that made me think it might be poison ivy. Does yours have "leaves of three"? Vine-y stems - some a little reddish? Those leaves look like mine did :(
But I had no flowers on mine yet.
I truly didn't think it was poison ivy since I didn't break out in any rash - but it scared me! What a dummy! If I only had a memory :P
Do you think the dirt the dead ones are in now will kill a new plant? Should I buy some dirt and replace it?
>28 labfs39: Well Lisa, it looks like an awful lot of people liked that book---a lot so I wonder what they saw in it. You bring up some great points but I think you're right about typical mystery writers and especially someone who only spent nine months in the country.
I think clematis are fairly hardy and don't require much care if they're in the right spot for sun (ours only gets morning sun).
>29 ChelleBearss: Hey Chelle, Buddy is certainly the master of his universe:)
>30 lit_chick: Thanks Nancy, it's such a fascinating culture but I think I'm going to look for a book written by a Saudi woman.
>21 brenzi: A very grateful upgethumbing for obviating the need for me even to try the book. Also a *smooch* on GPs.
>31 -Cee-: Do you think the dirt the dead ones are in now will kill a new plant? Should I buy some dirt and replace it? Well I guess it would depend what you used to kill it but to play it safe Cee I think I'd choose a new location for it and stake it right from the start so you don't confuse it with poison ivy. I don't think I've ever seen poison ivy so I don't know anything about "leaves of three."
>21 brenzi: Why thank you Richard and may I return the smooch with hugs included:)
Popping in to say Hi! There is that darn Gone Girl again. Sigh. So little time. Love the flower pictures...which reminds me I better go water mine! : )
I'm presently reading Gone Girl, too (listening, actually). Woot! To sound totally cliche, those two are a piece of work.
I was wondering how GG would work on audio, Nancy. It seems to me, it could be really good - are there two separate readers for Nick and Amy?
Hi Katie, I'm enjoying GG on audio. Yes, there are two separate readers for Nick and Amy, and they're both quite good. I've never listened to a thriller before, and the only drawback I'm finding to thriller-audio is that sometimes I want to read faster than the narrators can narrate! I'll be curious to know what you think if you decide on the audio ...
Nancy- I'm reading the print version of gone Girl but I could see the audio being pretty effective. Maybe for an eventual re-read? I'm just under halfway.
>36 coppers: Thanks Joanne, I am 100 pages into The Septembers of Shiraz and am finding it to be very compelling. And there it is: the first mention of Gone Girl.
>37 Berly: Hi Kim, thanks and there it is the second mention of Gone Girl.
>38 lit_chick: Hi Nancy, oh yes, they're each their own special piece of work; and there it is: the third mention of Gone Girl
>39 katiekrug: Hi Katie, and there it is: the fourth mention of Gone Girl.
>40 lit_chick: Really Nancy, you just can't read fast enough with that book; and there it is: the fifth mention of Gone Girl
>41 msf59: Hi Mark, already talking about rereading when you're just half-way?? And there it is: the sixth mention of Gone Girl
Does anyone see a pattern here?? LOL.
I just bought Gone Girl on audio last week and hope to get to it soon......nine! heehee
Seriously????!!!! LOL I don't want to feel left out any more. Maybe I should get Gone Girl? There! I am in at number 10!! Crap. Make that 13. Damn double posting...
Kim- The bookstores are still open in the Northwest. Put down fifty Shades and get going!
Oh, not another one reading Fifty Shades! Inhaled all three of them : ). Glad I did it, and glad they're done, LOL. Cait86 referred to these, very aptly, as "brain candy." Yep.
I'm thinking of you and wishing you a marvelous summer.
I love the photo of your buddy.
Here is one of my new snarky/spunky buddy. She is loveable and quite a handful. Here is Lilly
I love the photos of your flowers. One of my previous gardens contained clematis. I moved in November when it was frosty. I wish I would have been able to take a clipping to bring with me.
Happy 4th of July, Bonnie! Hope you are having a fun and relaxing one. Big plans?
Beautiful flowers!~ just breezing through trying to catch up. Hope you have a good holiday.
>51 lit_chick: Oh that's right Nancy, you read them too. Brain candy eh?
>52 Whisper1: Thanks Linda, Lily looks like a sweetheart but I know, like many puppies, she's a handful. It's too bad you couldn't take the clematis with you but they're pretty easy to grow so why not get just get another one?
>53 Berly: But never one to waste a book, I finished it in record speed. It's all about the judicious use of reading materials, eh Kim?
>54 Crazymamie: Not very Mamie. My daughter and her husband just bought a new house so we were over there painting. No celebrating until they move in.
>55 tymfos: Awww, so sweet Terri. Thanks and a Happy 4th to you.
>56 msf59: Thanks Mark and the same to you my friend.
>57 tututhefirst: Thanks Tina. I hope your 4th was a good one too.
The Septembers of the Shiraz by Dalia Sofer 4 stars
In 1981 in Tehran, after the fall of the Shah, Isaac Amin, a Jewish rare gem dealer, is arrested, accused of being a spy. He isn’t really surprised at this turn of events because although the idea of his being a spy is ludicrous, he has watched as friends and other businessmen have disappeared, probably imprisoned or executed by the revolutionary Guard. All of these individuals have one thing in common: they lived well during the reign of the Shah.
Dalia Sofer’s debut novel, written in hauntingly beautiful prose, explores the effects of the Iranian Revolution on the general population and particularly, on one family. It is told through the view points of Amin, his wife Farnaz, his nine year old daughter Sharin and his teenage son, Parviz, who is going to school in New York. She very even-handedly articulates both sides and allows the reader to appreciate the revolution for what it was and why it was important to both sides. Additionally, by using multiple viewpoints, it was easy to observe the effects on all involved. When Isaac describes his experiences in prison, as horrifying as torture is, Sofer tempers it so that the reader knows exactly what is happening without dwelling on the act itself. It’s the only thing that makes that part readable and different from other books that include descriptions of torture.
As the family considers leaving the country they love, but don’t feel safe in anymore, feelings of heartbreak overwhelm.
Isaac thinks of the cities ahead of him---Ankara, Istanbul, Geneva, New York---and of the cities behind him---Tehran, where his home stands, empty now of life; Ramsar by the Caspian, its air filled with fog; Isfahan, with its domes of blue; Yazd, where brick alleys shelter its inhabitants from the daytime heat and nighttime freeze of the desert, and where the undying flame of Zoroastrians burns in a small urn of oil; and his beloved Shiraz, the city of his youthful summers, where he discovered both poetry and Farnaz, and where, along the mausoleums of the medieval poets Hafez and Sa’di, he recited verses, finding his future in them.” (Page 336)
We follow this family through a year filled with dismay and terror, ending with a dangerous flight to freedom and I, for one, was impressed with this strong debut. Highly recommended.
Great review of The Septembers of the Shiraz. I've seen this book mentioned on LT a few times over the years. It sounds really good.
Yes, terrific review of The Septembers of the Shiraz, Bonnie. Nice start to Orange July : ).
>60 Crazymamie:. Thanks Mamie and I'm happy to add to your ever expanding WLAN:)
>61 msf59:. Thank you Mark. It's a book that I've wanted to read for some time so I was glad to be able to get to it.
>62 lit_chick:. Thank you Nancy. Are you reading anything for OJ? I've only got two books lined up . The Bone People is the other one.
Nice review of The Septembers of Shiraz, Bonnie. I'm so glad you liked it. I didn't realize it was long listed for the Orange Prize.
The Septembers of Shiraz has long been on the tbr pile...I think I own it and need to locate it among the hundreds scattered in the house.
Happy Summer to you!
I'm glad you recommend Septembers of Shiraz, Bonnie. I really appreciated the detail you gave in your review about the multiple viewpoints and how the book dealt with Isaac's torture.
I have a copy and think I will get around to it soon. Maybe this month so I can join you with the TIOLI challenge and Orange July.
As usual your reviews are a joy Bonnie. September of the Shiraz comes alive in your care and will be hunted down.
Have lovely weekend.
Loved your review, Bonnie and am happy that you liked the book. Me too!
I love your review of September of the Shiraz, Bonnie. I've had that on my obese wish list for a while now. I really should try and get a copy soon.
Hope you're having a good weekend.
>64 coppers: Hi there Joanne, yep it was longlisted but I'm not sure which year.
>65 Berly: Thanks Kim! I know it's not Fifty Shades but for this literary snob it will do;-)
>66 AnneDC: Thanks Anne, 126th for GG? Well let's hope they have a LOT of copies.
>67 Whisper1: It's been a great summer so far Linda---too hot to go out so I've had to stay home, stay cool and read. Life is good!
>68 Soupdragon: Thanks Dee. I'd love to have you join me this month.
>69 Linda92007: Thanks Linda, I may not get to The Bone People myself; a couple of other books have risen to the top somehow.
>70 lit_chick: Ohhhh I hope you're enjoying Wolf Hall Nancy. I'm thoroughly distracted in July by sunshine, beaches, and other godly things Well I can see how that would be distracting. I hope the godly things don't include Fifty Shades but then that would be ungodly things, wouldn't it?
>71 richardderus: Why thank you Richard.
>72 PaulCranswick: Thank you Paul. Kind regards to you for a great weekend also.
>73 cushlareads: Ah I wonder if it was your review that got me interested Cushla?
>74 cameling: Thanks Caro, I know it's hard to buy books when you're enduring a book buying ban. Have you considered a library?
LOL. Fifty Shades is most definitely ungodly! Nope, done with those : ).
Great review of The Septembers of Shiraz, Bonnie! I will read it this month after all.
Another confirmed fan of Gone Girl here!
I'm just about to delve into Zoe Ferraris's third mystery. Really liked the first; liked the second, will see how the third goes. Agree that these aren't as complex of interesting as they could be, however. For a book about Saudi women BY a Saudi woman, read Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea. I haven't had the nerve or opportunity to ask the one Saudi woman I know about it, just in case it's incredibly controversial, but it's a thumping good read and by someone who grew up there vs an outsider.
>80 kidzdoc: Thanks Darryl, there are so many things that have happened in the Middle East that I'm woefully uninformed about. I knew about the Shah's faults and atrocities committed under his reign but had little real info of how lives were impacted by the leaders after the Revolution. This book provided one glimpse into that time.
>81 Chatterbox: Girls of Riyadh is firmly atop my teetering tower now Suzanne. Thanks. I liked the Ferraris book but the whole time I was reading it, the fact that she lived there such a short time, was in the back of my mind.
>82 Berly: Haha oh Kim, I'm just pulling your leg, which is actually great fun.
#83 Don't pull my leg. Stop! Don't! Stop. Don't. Don't...stop. Don't stop! Oops! Sorry. My mind is still in the gutter. I am reading the second in the series. ; )
Bonnie - Just catching up over here. Hope your week is off to a great start!
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker 3.7 stars
What if we’re preparing for the wrong disaster? What if it isn’t global warming that spells doom for our planet but something altogether different? These are the questions posed by Karen Thompson Walker in her very intriguing debut novel. It’s also the coming of age story of the eleven year old narrator, Julia, who is suffering from sixth grade angst that leaves her feeling isolated and lonely.
Right from the first page, Walker uses foreshadowing in a way that lets the reader know that something incredibly dire is about to be imparted:
”We didn’t notice right away. We couldn’t feel it. We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin. We were distracted back then by weather and war. We had no interest in the turning of the earth. Bombs continued to explode on the streets of distant countries. Hurricanes came and went. Summer ended. A new school year began. The clocks ticked as usual. Seconds beaded into minutes. Minutes grew into hours. And there was nothing to suggest that those hours, too, weren’t still pooling into days, each the same fixed length to every human being.” (Page 3)
But what happened is defined by Walker as “the slowing,” a definite slow down in the rotation of the earth. Instead of each day being 24 hours long, it was somehow lengthening, the days and nights were growing longer and longer. This had implications for gravity and the environment. The growing of the food we take for granted was somehow, suddenly, not a given any more.
In the meantime, while the world adjusts to the new normal, Julia is trying to understand the world of middle school, while her mother is overcome with panic about ”the slowing,” and her father is, curiously, seen with another woman.
I’ve always admired people with active imaginations, maybe because I’m mostly devoid of this trait. Karen Thompson Walker has imagination in spades. And while her short staccato sentences initially successfully created that sense of doom, I found this YA writing style tiresome. This is a debut novel with the kind of flaws that you would expect in a first time effort, but hints that this author will be one to watch. I’m not usually a reader of dystopian fiction, yet I was drawn into the narrative; so a mixed bag. But that’s me. See for yourself.
Bonnie: I'm trying to catch up, and I find Finding Nouf and The Age of Miracles to add to my gigantic wishlist. Great reviews. I read and loved The Septembers of Shiraz a while ago, so I don't have to add that one.
Beautiful flowers. I forgot to tell my daughter to water mine last week when I was gone, so after a week of no rain and 100 degree temps, they look pretty pathetic.
I'm working my way through Our Mutual Friend, so I haven't planned other July reading yet. You've done some great reading so far this year. I love the new threads when people list their books.
A very nice review - I like the quote that you chose. Such an interesting premise, I can't decide if this one is for me or not...
Oh goody, we had much the same reaction to The Age of Miracles. Mixed bag from an author to watch. Yup and yup. I gave this book to my daughter. I think it will be a good pool book for her.
>88 BLBera: Thank you Beth, I'm glad to hear you liked The Septembers of Shiraz too. Not everyone felt that way I guess. A week of 100 degrees with no water would make it hard for any flowers to survive. Good luck bringing them back to life.
>89 Crazymamie: Thanks Mamie, do you like YA books? If you do this one may be for you. The author says she didn't write it with that audience in mind but that's how it came across to me.
>90 Donna828: Yep we certainly agree on this one Donna. It'll make an excellent pool book. It's a very fast read.
Excellent review of The Age of Miracles, Bonnie. Hmm, the slowing of the Earth ... very interesting. And, as you say, imaginative (something I also am short on).
Thanks Nancy. I'm not much of a sci fi or dystopia fan but this was a pretty compelling read.
Hi Bonnie- I only skimmed your review of The Age of Miracles, because I just picked up the audio and hope to get to it soon. Sorry to hear it's a mixed bag from you and Donna. You two are my guideposts.
What did you think of last week's Newsroom? I did not see this weeks yet. I'm still on the fence, might not last a lot longer.
I had a similar reaction to The Age of Miracles, Bonnie. I think Mark may have a better experience with it, because I could see it working really well on audio...
Hi Mark, I think you might enjoy it anyway. As far as debut novels go I think it's a pretty good one. I'm not a big YA fan and that's how this one read to me. As far as Newsroom go we watched about half of last week's episode and decided we wouldn't record it any more. The Jeff Daniels character was just a real turn off to me and the show didn't make me look forward to it at all. BTW have you ever watched The Borgias? I think it might be on Showtime. It's over for this season but we like it. It's about the Pope in the 1400s. Let's just say there was nothing very holy about the way he lived his life.
Hi Katie, cross posting. Yes I agree with you about the audio version. I was surprised at all the buzz this book got. Even Kirkus who are pretty stingy with the rave reviews, loved it.
The Age of Miracles does sound intriguing. I know Donna had mixed feelings about it too but I appreciate the tip that Karen Thompson Walker could be one to watch.
If you decide to give it a try Dee, it's a very fast read and a very intriguing concept.
Bonnie- I might watch one more Newsroom and then jump ship. Hey, more reading time, right? 5 days until Breaking Bad. Yahoo!
So I'm going to be trailing behind Linda in reading Nobel Laureates starting with those that I already own. Right now I'm reading:
Palace Walk - Naguib Mahfouz
The rest of the ones that I own:
Mario Vargas Llosa - Conversations in the Cathedral, Feast of the Goat, The War of the End of the World
Orhan Pamuk - Snow
Jose Saramago - Blindness, The History of the Siege of Lisbon
Patrick White - Voss
John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men - these will be rereads
William Faulkner - The Light in August
Boris Pasternak - Dr. Zhivago
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
V. S. Naipaul - A House for Mr. Biswas, Half a Life
These are the Nobel laureates I've already read:
Toni Morrison - Beloved, Jazz, Song of Solomon
J. M. Coetzee - Disgrace
Gabriel Marquez Garcia - Love in the Time of Cholera
Alexander Solzhenitsyn - A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Albert Camus - The Plague
Ernest Hemingway - The Sun Also Rises, The Old Man and the Sea
William Faulkner - The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying
T. S. Eliot - The Wasteland
Pearl Buck - The Good Earth
Bonnie, I've only read four or five of these. But I have read The Grapes of Wrath, and it's one I think you will love. In fact, it's time for a re-read.
I did read The Grapes of Wrath eons ago Nancy but I'm looking forward to rereading it this fall.
The Borgias, TV series which has played for a couple of seasons, features Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia. Predictably, Irons is eminently watchable, fabulous in fact! Do watch, if you have the opportunity. (It was another LTer who told me about The Borgias, but I can't recall who it was now).
>106 Chatterbox: I don't know if you've seen the show Suzanne, but Jeremy Irons is terrific in the role. I already knew of the corruption of the holy see historically, but this show is certainly an eye opener. I'll have to look for the Plaidy books because I'm fascinated by the Borgias.
>107 lit_chick: Yep Nancy, we been watching for two seasons. It's very well done IMO.
Gone Girl seems to be getting raves from everywhere I turn, think it's time I add it to my wishlist!
Bonnie- I hope you are geared up for Breaking Bad! Me, being an old fart, I probably won't watch it until tomorrow night. Can't wait, though!
I'll be finishing up Salvage the Bones tomorrow. What an excellent story this is! I have not got very far but Any Human Heart is quickly shaping up to be another winner.
>110 ty1997:. I don't think you'll be disappointed Ty. It's a real page turner.
>111 msf59:. Hi Mark, no we rarely watch anything that hasn't been recorded (personally, I think the DVR was the greatest invention of the 20th century) so we won't see it until tomorrow night but I am really looking forward to it.
I thought Salvage the Bones was written in the most urgent prose and just so well done. I'm glad you're enjoying it too.
Just so no one thinks I've succumbed to the heat, I've been totally engulfed by two things lately:
1. Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz, a prolific Egyptian writer who won the Nobel Prize in 1988. At 500+ pages of dense prose it's kept me pretty well absorbed. I have about 200 pages to go but this is shaping up to be one of my top ten books of the year.
2. My daughter Sara and her groom bought their dream house and We've been helping them paint and get the house ready to move into, an all-encompassing job. And here I thought when they bought it that they didn't have to do a thing, at least that's how it looked to me. But perfection comes at a steep price to all involved so, since there's no rush to move in, they're taking their time to get it right. And I'm pretty good at following directions because why would they need a house with four bedrooms unless they intended to fill it with, oh IDK, children, possibly?;-)
#113: I loved Palace Walk, Bonnie, so I hope that you continue to enjoy it.
Good luck with the painting!
Hi there Stasia, good to know you enjoyed Palace Walk. I've missed your excellent book recommendations.
113: I like the way you think, Bonnie. The time to start asking questions is when they have you painting a bedroom in pastel pink or blue!
That is good news about Palace Walk as I'll start reading it later this week.
Bonnie, Palace Walk sounds intriguing. Will be looking forward to your review. How lovely that your daughter and SIL have bought their *4 bedroom : )* dream home. Fun times ahead.
I like the 4 bedroom house idea and thoughts of filling it ;-)
Looks like you have some great reading ahead.
I'm amazed at how many of the Nobel laureates I've read and didn't even know it! (I don't pay much attention to awards) Also have several on my shelves TBR :)
Bonnie - good to see you will also be taking a tilt at the Nobels.
>116 Donna828:. Yes Donna, I'm enjoying Palace Walk but it's more or less a contemplative novel than a barn burning page turner, and that's just fine with me. I like to stick in a book like Gone Girl every so often but my heart belongs to the slow moving, thought provoking novel.
Interestingly, one of the bedrooms is painted in both pink and purple and it has this sweet loft where the little girl must have enjoyed many sleep overs with friends...they're not changing that room. Hmmm....
>117 lit_chick:. Yes Nancy, very intriguing and I'm certainly looking forward to whatever fun may lie ahead;-)
>118 lauralkeet:. Yes Laura, it sounds good in either French or English, or in any language really;-)
>119 -Cee-: Hi Cee, I'm hoping it gets filled up but we shall see. I was surprised to find that I'd read quite a few Nobel laureates too. It wasn't a prize I ever followed very much. But I'm looking forward to the ride.
>120 Linda92007:. Well Linda, you had a great idea so you know the old saying: Post it and they will come. Haha.
I will look for that review of Lucrezia Borgia.
>121 PaulCranswick:. I'm just following you and Linda around, Paul. LOL.
Just keeping up over here. That dream home does seem like it includes the possibility of grandchildren. Here's hoping for you!
>123 richardderus: Yes, I'm aware of that Richard but thanks for the affirmation;-) I'm looking forward to the next two parts of the trilogy and who knows what other Mahfouz I'll read. The writing is just amazing.
>124 tymfos: Hi Terri, she was very lucky. This is just about the best time ever to buy a house: because of the downturn, house values are down and mortgage rates are at a 50 year low. Their mortgage rate is 3.85%!! Unheard of!
>125 Crazymamie: Thanks Mamie for the good wishes. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed:)
Hi Mark, I'm watching Breaking Bad as we speak. Actually, I guess we're watching it at the same time. Well, it looks like you're following one great book with another even greater book. Lucky guy!
I just finished BB! It was a good one. Very interesting beginning though. I wonder how far in the future that was?
Yeah Mark I always find myself wondering where the heck we are in time on that show but it was a good one. I love how they always find a way to work in science like they did with the magnets. Too much.
If it was Walt's 52nd birthday (arranged the bacon on his plate) (or it may have been his new identity's bd...) in the fast forward and he celebrated his 50th not too long ago...so not too much time.
I love how it was Jesse who thought up the magnets.
I actually have the first season of The Borgias on my iTunes library, and the just-released series 6 of dexter, but for some reason haven't been in a viewing mood of late. Also have some DVDs from the UK that I want to watch, including the new series of "Silk", an excellent legal drama series.
>133 Chatterbox:. Hi Suzanne, if you ever get around to watching The Borgias I think you'll find that it's very well done, although I can't really vouch for its historical accuracy because I don't know enough about this time period. We watched the first couple is odes of the first season of Dexter and didn't much care for it. I thought we would for sure because we loved Michael Hall in Six Feet Under. I'm not familiar at all with Silk. We're watching the last four episodes of The Closer. That is one series that I will mourn the loss of severely. I just love Brenda Lee Johnson.
Bonnie - Another Closer fan here. Yes, Brenda is a wonderful character. I see that the rest of the cast is going to continue. I wonder how that will be... It is a great cast.
Agreed Beth. I love the cast especially Lieut. Provenza. So who do you think is the leak? My money is on Gabriel.
Palace Walk Naguib Mahfouz 5 stars
A big thank you to Darryl for getting me interested in the Reading Globally Theme Read: The Middle East and the opportunity to read this book. If the 5 stars doesn't give you a hint, this book will rival Bring Up the Bodies for my Book of the Year! Thanks again Darryl.
This is a book to be savored. Each sentence is a finely crafted piece of genius. And you want to dwell on each one for an inordinate amount of time. Or you want to keep rereading the sentence, wondering how Naguib Mahfouz knew that this particular combination of words would transform the narrative into something so….beautiful.
Palace Walk is a family saga taking place in Cairo in the years during and immediately following WWI. The Muslim patriarch of the Sayid family, al-Sayid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, is a tyrannical brute who lives by a double standard. He subjects his wife, Amina and daughters Aisha and Khadija, to a life of complete and total isolation where they are not permitted out of the house and his sons Yasin, Fahmy and Kamal, live in constant fear of their father’s strict discipline. This severe interpretation of the Quer’an, however, somehow permits him to adopt entirely different rules for himself. He spends each evening drinking and carousing and partying and when oldest son Yasin, observes his father with another woman he can’t help but comment:
”What a strange man he was to sanction forbidden forms of entertainment for himself while denying his family legitimate enjoyments.”(Page319)
The Sayid family, up until Yasin’s observations, is completely unaware of their patriarch’s double life and even if they had known, really, what could they do? They lived in total and complete domination by a man who willfully refrained from smiling in front of his family, in order to keep up his reputation as a tyrant. I have to admit, I kept waiting for some kind of resolution of this aspect of this family’s plight because it was so outrageous. As a lifelong resident of the West, I just don’t know enough about other cultures and this story takes place almost 100 years ago, but to hold women prisoner in their homes, to not educate women so that no men will know what they look like is so foreign to me. So thank you Mr. Mahfouz for the education. On the other hand, I could not warm up to al-Sayid Ahmad. He goes so against the grain of anything that hints at women’s rights. So it’s surprising how much I loved this book.
One thing I must comment on and that is the fine-detailed, acutely defined characterizations of all the family members. As the story is told through the viewpoints of all of them, it was important for these characters to ring true, and they certainly do.
Under the dreadful conditions in the Sayid home, Mahfouz spins a tale of life in Egypt during the time of the British occupation. And middle son Fahmy, is a dedicated freedom fighter that loves his country and will do anything, even go so far as defying his father’s order to stop participating in the distribution of handbills. And when the British set up a check point right in front of the residence on Palace Walk, things really heat up. Can anything good come of this? The author builds suspense, page by page, until the final climactic page when it becomes apparent that this tale will be continued in another volume. And I will certainly be reading that one shortly. Highly recommended.
Excellent review of Palace Walk, Bonnie. I can't wait to read it - just need to get caught up with some other books and reviews first, including another one by Mahfouz. I agree with you that he is a fabulous writer.
I can't wait to get started on Palace Walk this weekend. I am getting weary of all the politics in Truman, although McCullough makes it as interesting as possible.
Do you have something light on tap for your next book? I think I'll take a break in August and read some mystery series that I've been neglecting.
>139 Linda92007: Thanks Linda, I will be looking for more of his work after I read the rest of The Cairo Trilogy.
>140 Donna828: I'm currently reading When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant Donna. It's both an Orange Prize winner and a book that takes place in the Middle East (Israel). Not light exactly, but certainly a lot shorter.
I'm going to look forward to your review of Truman. I can take politics as long as it's not current politics and I know Peggy liked it.
Thanks Mark. I think you would probably like this one too. I thought the prose in Every man in This Village is a Liar was just so haunting and evocative of a war zone. You could almost hear the bombs going off.
Bonnie and 5 stars -- that's a sure bet for me! I really *should* read beyond the US and UK borders. I did really well with that for a while but have fallen back into my comfort zone.
Yep 5 solid stars Laura. It's not a book with a lot of action and you have to tolerate a man who is pretty much intolerable but I just chalked it up to culture differences. And by the way I went right back to my comfort zone. I'm reading When I Lived in Modern Times which won the Orange Prize in 2002 (I think).
Why thank you Nancy. I certainly did enjoy it and stayed up into the wee hours this morning to finish. I have to say, the most compelling ending I've read in a long time.
Bonnie, I checked my library to find that I placed this book on the TBR list in 2010. Your excellent review prompts me to read this book, hopefully before summer's end.
Hi Bonnie - I read Palace Walk years ago and was not a big fan. Your review is making me think I need to revisit it.
OK. My take on The Closer. I think Will Pope is the leak because he sees Brenda as a thread to his job as police chief. He is also the biggest snake there. My series ending guess is that Brenda is promoted to chief. Here it is in black and white --4 more episodes, and we'll see.
Delurking to say Hi! I read PW years ago and liked it. Love your Nobel Laureates lists. I have read most of the ones you have. No idea what other ones are hiding in the TBR pile. I should take a look!
Excellent review of Palace Walk, Bonnie! I'm even more eager to re-read it now, and I'll start later today or tomorrow.
>148 Whisper1: Thanks Linda, I'll be interested in your thoughts on the book, especially the repression of women.
>149 BLBera: Oh very interesting Beth. So if Brenda is made chief how do they deal with her not being on the show Major Crimes? Or maybe that show will have a different focus. Not sure.
>150 Berly: You should take a look Kim, and then join us in the Nobel Challenge:)
>151 kidzdoc: Thanks Darryl, I'm anxious for your opinion. I loved it but will YOU??
Bonnie, I started listening to Unbroken last night (you hit me with that bullet!). Whoa! I'm only so far as about chapter six or seven, and I've been moved to tears more than once. Very powerful! If the whole novel is like this, it will be a moving read ...
Hmm, I liked Mahfouz's trilogy, but still relished BUTB more, I think. Though it's been at least a decade since I read Palace Walk.
Re the Brenda debate: I confess I largely stopped watching after season 3. I am becoming very anti all these cable crime shows. At least Brenda is a distinctive character, but the whole hour-long rhythmn for NCIS, Rizzoli & Isles, that one featuring the New Mexico "hide a crook" marshals -- they are all starting to feel too same-y. A certain number of wisecracks per episode, and everything nicely tied up, usually.
That's why I like my books! But I will watch the Borgias. Maybe will start on it this weekend as I start the Great Cleaning Adventure.
>156 Chatterbox: That was probably pretty much post reading exhilaration Suzanne. If you'll recall, I gave BUTB 7 measly stars so after further consideration, PW probably won't replace it. But it will certainly be in my Top Ten.
Well see we don't watch any of those other shows you mention. The Closer is it for us so we will enjoy the last of it and test out Major Crimes too.
The Borgias is entirely different. Hope you like it.
Ah, Bonnie, you are inspiring me to take up Palace Walk again. I intended to read the whole trilogy this year as part of the Janet remembrance, but I started at the wrong time and have been distracted since. Good job! Just let me finish *OMF*!
(And I did love Truman, but I've replaced it with Robert Caro's LBJ books as the finest political biographies I've ever read. Maybe Truman is the best one-volume one!)
Hi Peggy, it's not too late to get on board with the Reading Globally: The Middle Eastern countries. We're reading The Cairo Trilogy during the third quarter and I know others haven't even started the first book yet. I know you like the Caro books but I'm not sure I'm enamored enough with LBJ to read three, possible four books about him. I already own Truman and will read that at some point.
When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant 4.3 stars
Is there any end to the history of which I am completely unaware? Linda Grant’s evocative and fascinating coming of age story of both 20 year old Evelyn Sert as well as the state of Israel, had me furiously turning pages as I learned, at the feet of a masterful storyteller, about one year (1946) in the history of the country carved out of British-run Palestine after WWII.
Sert leaves Britain posing as a Christian tourist, visiting the Holy Land, because it’s the only way she can get a passport as the UK has severely limited the number of passports available to Jews headed for Palestine. After finding the grueling life on the kibbutz not to her liking, she ends up in the teeming metropolis of Tel Aviv where she takes on a job as a hairdresser utilizing the only skills she possesses. To appeal to the British nationals who frequent the shop, she assumes the identity of Priscilla Jones, and gives up her Jewish identity. Meanwhile, after work, she is Jewish Evelyn Sert and she hooks up with a Jewish man who is not exactly what he seems and soon involves Evelyn in providing information about the salon’s British customers. Her role as a spy in this underground army, fighting for the nation that is about to be born, results in circumstances that put her life in danger.
Grant is so adept at evoking this time and place in history that it proves to be quite breathtaking. Her description of Tel Aviv suggests the birth of a brand new city:
”I saw apartment buildings of two or three or occasionally four stories, all white, dazzling white, and against them the red flowers of oleander bushes. Flat-roofed white boxes, I saw, though sometimes their corners curved voluptuously like a woman’s hips and two buildings facing each other like this, on a corner, reminded me of a pair of ship’s prows sailing out into the dry waters of the street. They were houses like machines, built of concrete and glass, not houses at all, they were ideas. I saw walls erected not for privacy but as barriers against the blinding light; windows small and recessed, each with a balcony and each shaded by the shadow cast by the balcony above it; stairwells lit by portholes, reminding me that we were by the sea.” (Page 71)
Grant has written a book, in luminous prose, that is first and foremost a pursuit for understanding---of culture, of race, of patriotism, of sexuality---and has placed it side by side with a setting of raging chaos that grabs you by the throat and drags you along to witness the birth of Israel under a fading British regime. The fact that I knew so little about this bit of history was just icing on the cake. Very highly recommended.
Wow, Bonnie, I am happy to flag another evocative review! Awesome! Truthfully, I know virtually nothing about Israel or its history ... (the entire Middle East, actually).
>161 katiekrug: Thank you Katie.
>162 lit_chick: Thanks Nancy, well if you're interested and want to learn about the Middle East take a look at the thread for Reading Globally: The Middle East Theme Read:
This is my third book for the quarter and I learn more with every book. I am so ignorant about Middle East history.
>163 BLBera: Thanks Beth, it is a very good book IMO.
>164 richardderus: Thanks Richard.
Another winner of a review, Bonnie! Thanks!! I'm glad that I have that one.
One note about Caro - he definitely is not an LBJ promoter, but his writing is so wonderful that I just keep reading and reading. (Becky is reading/has just read the 4th book of the series and is as carried away as I am. It's great stuff!!)
Bonnie - If I could choose a representative to write a review for the group - I would probably plump for you my dear. Two excellent reviews since I last caught up - one of which Palace Walk would be among my favourites also.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend. x
That's a great review, Bonnie. I didn't like that book as much as you did. The history was fascinating but there was very little character development which left it a bit flat. Anyway, I'm really glad you enjoyed it!
#138: I am so glad to see you ended up with a 5-star review of Palace Walk, Bonnie!
Excellent review of When I Lived in Modern Times, Bonnie! I'll probably read this in September, as I did want to read a novel about the early days of the state of Israel for the Middle Eastern literature Reading Globally challenge.
I'm about 1/4 of the way through Palace Walk and I love it so far. I did read it, apparently in 2005, but I didn't enjoy it then as much as I am now. My copy of The Cairo Trilogy has a ticket stub from a San Francisco Giants game I attended that summer; I don't think I brought this 1300+ page book to the game, though!
>166 LizzieD: Thanks Peggy, oh so he doesn't promote LBJ? Well I might give the first volume a try and see what happens.
>167 PaulCranswick: Why thank you Paul. You are so kind and generous. There's very little not to enjoy about Palace Walk.
>168 lauralkeet: Thanks Laura, well we'll just have to disagree on that one Laura. Fortunately, there are millions of other books around on which we're sure to agree.
>169 alcottacre: Thanks Stasia, I know you liked it too.
>170 msf59: Thanks Mark, I have been reading some great books lately. Oh I'm glad you got a copy of Binocular Vision to read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
>171 kidzdoc: Thanks Darryl, what no time at a ball game to read a 1300+ page door stopper? You must be slipping;-)
Thanks Mamie, well I find that I can only DO it when a book speaks to me and then it's easy. The review practically writes itself.
oh man, how did I get so far behind on your thread, Bonnie?
But thank you for writing such a fabulous review of When I Lived in Modern Times because it made me slow down instead of skimming your thread. I just have to add this to my obese wish list.
>175 msf59: We just finished BB ourselves. And the plot thickens....Binocular and Balzac is a mighty fine one, two punch. I think I may be a little jealous:)
>176 cameling: Thanks Caro, I have to say Grant has a way with words and creates such a feeling of being there on the streets of Tel Aviv; quite remarkable.
I loved BB! Last week was okay, this one was excellent. It was the Mike Show and I love Mike.
You love Mike? Hmmm he's got a mean streak as wide as the Grand Canyon (except when it comes to his granddaughter). LOL. But he sure doesn't put up with anything does he?
He's such a complex character and yes he is a killer. That actor does such a great job with that role. Wasn't that a creepy ending with Walt & Skyler in bed? Snuggling with a monster.
Yeah, very creepy. I had to agree with Saul (guffaw!); when someone wins the lottery, they don't go out the next day and buy a lottery ticket. So why are they cooking meth again?
Juliet in August by Dianne Warren 4.8 stars
I hit the jackpot with this ER book! Absolutely loved it!
Dianne Warren won Canada’s prestigious Governor General’s Award in 2010 for Juliet in August (its title at that time was Cool Water) and has now made her American debut and an impressive debut it is. Juliet, Saskatchewan is a small (pop. 1,011), nondescript town on the edge of the Little Snake sand hills, virtually a desert in Canada. Warren narrates her story through the overlapping lives of several of its residents, each struggling with life in different ways, during a twenty-four hour period.
Twenty six year old Lee Torgoson is not sure he is capable of carrying on with the successful management of the ranch his adoptive parents willed to him. Orval Birch, the bank manager, is overwhelmed with the responsibility his financial decisions wreak in the lives of his debt-laden customers, as well as the upcoming shotgun wedding of his daughter and the demands of his hard to please wife. Willard Shoenfeld and his sister-in-law run the local drive-in movie, while struggling with their feelings for each other. Hank Krass suspects that his wife, who runs the local café, believes that he is being unfaithful, once more. And Blaine Dolson is deep in debt, working a second job to make ends meet for his six children, and trying to get wife Vicki to take more responsibility in running the household efficiently. But Vicki, who seems to be oblivious to the desperation that her husband feels over their dire financial condition, continues to look on the bright side of things:
”Vicki Dolson always says of herself that she is not really capable of understanding great unhappiness. On the worst of days, she sees, or at least tries to see, the best. With the exception of something having to do with the kids,…she can’t think of anything that would make her mope for longer than an hour or two. It’s the way she was raised. So it’s hard for her to understand Blaine and the dark lens through which he sees the world these days…He’d first sold off his herd of Charolais-Hereford cross cattle, and then the bank has insisted on the dispersal of his machinery, and then the sale of all his land but the home quarter.”
The brilliance shines through as Warren weaves these disparate stories together to form the tapestry that is the town of Juliet. Her spare, poetic prose is perfect for revealing the innermost feelings of these complex characters. At some point I realized how much I cared for these people, how much I wanted them to solve their separate and diffuse challenges. Very highly recommended.
*staggers to one side, then drops to floor - hit by a book bullet before she even got all the way in the door, ink pools around her lifeless body* That's what I get for lurking the last time I was here.
>184 brenzi: Thumbs upped! Now the liberry needs to get the copies in. Can't wait.
Bonnie, you are reading and reviewing at warp speed making it difficult for me to keep up with you. Don't you have some painting to do? Lol.
I've been curious about Juliet. Looks like a good read for August. Thumb!
Fantastic review of Juliet in August! Another one, I'll be keeping my eye out for. I need to start keeping a Bonnie List! Nothing but winners.
>185 Crazymamie: Oh,er, sorry Mamie's next-of-kin; didn't mean for anyone to be mortally wounded. Lurkers beware (I guess);-)
>186 richardderus: Thanks Richard; darn that liberry. Are you able to suggest purchases? I have been doing that quite a bit at my very own liberry, quite successfully.
>187 Donna828: Thanks Donna, I've read a couple of shorties lately. The days I DO have to paint, I'm too exhausted to read or, come to think of it, even think. My little girl is quite the taskmaster;-)
Thanks Mark, I think you might really like this one. Some people have called them linked stories and I know how you love those. But really, I think it's a novel.
Another one collapsed with the force of the bullet. Thumb upped, indeed! Thanks, Bonnie. I am not familiar with this Canadian author, and that needs to change! Juliet in August now on my list.
You might get a kick out of this. I'll post it on my thread too: ‘Breaking Bad’- The Week’s 5 Biggest Walter White WTF Moments
Thanks for a great review/recommendation, Bonnie. Sounds wonderful. Good luck with the painting.
>189 brenzi: Oh, the county system has copies on order already! They just aren't delivered yet. I'm #221 on the holds.
>197 richardderus:, 198, 199 It's just that they don't order enough copies of the books. Not that it's their fault, of course, with all the budget cuts. One of the Booker nominees I tried to order this afternoon, the library had one copy! One copy! How ridiculous is that?? #221 is unbelievable Richard. It's not Bring Up the Bodies.
Great reviews, Bonnie! When I Lived in Modern Times sounds especially interesting.
Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden 4 stars
How do you miss something you don’t even know exists? Blaine Harden’s searing story of the life of North Korean prison camp escapee Shin Dong-hyuk asks this and other provocative questions while exposing the North Korean regime of Kim Jong Il, his father before him and his son, presently. Born in a prison camp known as Camp 14, Shin and other children learn early on what to expect from life and loving parents are not in the mix:
”In the years after he escaped the camp, Shin learned that many people associate warmth, security, and affection with the words “mother,” “father,” and “brother.” That was not his experience. Guards taught him and other children in the camp that they were prisoners because of the “sins” of their parents. The children were told that while they should always be ashamed of their traitorous blood, they could go a long way toward “washing away” their inherent sinfulness by working hard, obeying the guards and informing on their parents. The tenth rule of Camp 14 said that a prisoner “must truly” consider each guard as his teacher. That made sense to Shin. As a child and as a teen, his parents were exhausted, distant and uncommunicative.” (Page 18)
So Shin did not spend his captivity regretting the absence of love, happiness or security because he had never experienced such things. He came to view his mother as a competitor for food, nothing more.
The book consists, for the most part, of a shocking, anguished testimony of the every day lives of camp prisoners. Children forced to eat rats and insects to stave off starvation, public executions, beatings, being tortured over hot coals and on and on. The brutality of this regime is mind-numbing and horrifying. To think that these forced labor camps have existed far longer than the Russian gulags or the Nazi death camps, with no end in sight is frightening.
Coupled with the narrative of the camp, Harden details the plight of the North Korean people in general, who experienced starvation on an immense scale in the 90s and simply cannot feed themselves because of harrowing policies and corruption by the military and the elite class in Pyongyang.
Shin’s escape from the camp, as he pushes himself up and over the dead body of his friend and fellow escapee, which is splayed over the electrified barbed wire, is absolutely riveting. That he is able to forge ahead, on his own, with no knowledge of the outside world, and make his way to China, and eventually, South Korea, is a testament to his courage and tenacity. Those two qualities will be needed when he discovers that the transition to life outside of the camp is not as easy as he anticipated.
This is the third book I’ve read in the last twelve months about life in North Korea and a nice addition to Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy and Adam Johnson’s fictional account, The Orphan Master’s Son which offered the first indication for me, of the horror of life in the camps. Recommended for those concerned with human rights and able to tolerate the indignity of prison camp life.
Two of my favourite reviewers have recently given the treatment to Escape from Camp 14 firstly Rebecca and now your wonderful self. If the book comes half way to doing justice to your review Bonnie I will enjoy it for sure when I can track it down.
Bonnie, your review is as riveting as Escape from Camp 14 sounds. Excellent quote. I'm astonished to learn that these camps are yet in existence. The name Kim Jong II is familiar to me, but really I know nothing about North Korea. Happily thumbed.
>203 brenzi: Thumbs-upped the review, requested the book from the liberry, and sent a recommendation to the UNHCR for your inclusion on their case review panel.
>204 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul, thanks for reminding me. I will go check out Rebecca's review. I can't think that she didn't think this was quite an amazing story.
>205 lit_chick: Thanks Nancy, I have learned so much about North Korea and nothing good either, unfortunately. At one point in the book, Harden pointed out that people criticized Franklin Roosevelt for not bombing the railroad tracks leading to the death camps during WWII and yet we stand by and do nothing about this situation. Sad.
>206 richardderus: Why thank you Richard, and my God, what an opportunity that would be for me.
Another amazing review, Bonnie. I've been watching that one since it came out and wondering - onto the WL is goes.
Thank you so much Mamie. I had to wait a long time for this one to come from the library. I'm sure you will find it quite
Another enticing review, Bonnie. The Koreans seem like very despondent people. I didn't see any smiles amongst the North Korean delegation in last night's Olympics parade of athletes. I just read this in Truman today which you might find interesting: General MacArthur's comment about the 60,000 North Korea prisoners of war -- "They are the happiest Koreans in all Korea. For the first time they are well fed and clean." (Pg. 805)
Edited to spell "despondent" correctly. This silly auto correct makes the most hilarious overrides, but it thought "despondant" looked okay. I had to look it up in the dictionary. I'm blaming the heat!
Another fabulous review of Escape From Camp 14, Bonnie. I really must get my hands on both it and Demick's book.
>210 Donna828: Thanks Donna, and you have hit the nail on the head Donna. The North Korean people, in general, are near starving most of the time especially since South Korea withdrew their aid. But even with that, the corruption is so bad that the food wasn't getting to the masses that need it. Take a look at the new Supreme Leader. Does he look like he is starving??
>211 coppers: Hi Joanne, I'm here to entice and happy to do so. Juliet in August is a sublime read that I'm sure you will enjoy:)
>212 lauralkeet: Thanks Laura, heavy stuff indeed. Also, frustrating, maddening and heartbreaking.
>213 msf59: Thanks Mark, this book, coming from someone who actually lived through this brutal regime, is really the most important of the three, in my estimation. Now we have solid information that the harrowing things that have been whispered, are, in fact, true.
Yes, my next short story collection will be The Things They Carried and I know I'm late to the party getting to it. I'm hoping to get to it this month.
>214 Linda92007: Thanks Linda, good idea to start with Nothing to Envy. She writes beautifully about the ordinary lives being pummeled by the NK regime.
Bonnie - As usual great review. The Things They Carried is great. If you ever get a chance to see Tim O'Brien read, he is very good.
Thanks Beth. I'm not sure why I haven't made room for this book before but hopefully, this month its name will be called:)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Sparks 4 stars
My first Sparks novel but definitely not my last.
Miss Jean Brodie plies her unorthodox teaching methods at the sedate Marcia Blaine School for Girls in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she is in her prime, ”the moment one is born to.” In the 1930s, between-the-wars, she was not that different from other spinsters, teaching elsewhere in Scotland. But she just didn’t fit in with the traditional concepts that prevailed at Marcia Blaine, and the head mistress is bound and determined to find a way to rid the school, and her chosen girls, otherwise known as the Brodie set, of Miss Brodie.
But her set, her personally chosen crème de la crème consists of six girls who are completely devoted to their teacher. And yet one will betray her. Who? And how? Although the betrayal is revealed fairly early on in the narrative, Spark takes the reader back and forth in time, exposing events that lead up to the forced retirement of the instructor and the later resultant lives of the Brodie set. And why does the teacher reveal so much of her personal life to her young charges? It doesn’t take long for one of her students to figure out that Miss Brodie has taken one teacher as a lover, while actually being in love with another teacher. She is at once both a sympathetic romantic but also has a dark, calculating, self-centered side.
Spark’s prose is divine throughout:
”Mary MacGregor, although she lived her twenty-fourth year, never quite realized that Jean Brodie’s confidences were not shared with the rest of the staff and that her love story was given out only to her pupils. She had not thought much about Jean Brodie, certainly never disliked her, when, a year after the outbreak of the Second World War, she joined the Wrens, and was clumsy and incompetent, and was much blamed. On one occasion of real misery---when her first and last boyfriend, a corporal whom she had known for two weeks, deserted her by failing to show up at an appointed place and failing to come near her again---she thought back to see if she had ever really been happy in her life; it occurred to her then that the first years with Miss Brodie, sitting listening to all those stories and opinions which had nothing to do with the ordinary world, had been the happiest time of her life.” (Page 24)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is full of dark satire, complex characters that are not necessarily likable, and intricate plotting. Highly recommended.
More enticing reading and reviewing, Bonnie! For me (and it sounds like for you, too) characters that are written don't necessarily need to be likeable. Your description of Miss Jean Brodie is perfect. While I'm not sure I'd like a character who is a "sympathetic romantic but also has a dark, calculating, self-centered side," I'd probably enjoy the read!
Thanks Nancy, I don't need to like the characters at all as long as they're well-drawn and complex. Otherwise, I could never have tolerated the mean, despicable main character in Palace Walk, my most recent 5 star read LOL.
Very exciting and motivational review, Bonnie, duly upgethumbed.
Bonnie- Hope you decided to watch BB! It was a quieter episode but a good one. Walt always out does himself being a jerk and a monster.
We're closing in on the last few minutes Mark. Skylar just went ballistic.
Walt has destroyed Skyler. She's a shell and she needs to pack up them kids and get the hell out.
Yeah I agree and there's going to be some big trouble with the way the $ was divvied up.
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