(M59'12) There Are Jews in My House, Lara Vapnyar
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I've got the notes on this, but the book went to the library before I could make them full, so I've got to sit at the library and copy those.
This was a collection of very good short stories:
There Are Jews In My House
This is the story of a woman who is helping her friend that she met at work. Their husbands work at the factory, their families are both imported to the city because of the factory... but they're now alone because the husbands are sent off and the war is on. The friend is a Jew and is worried for her life. She's hiding in the house. Do you turn in your friend because you can't take the stress any more? This deals with how a person could convince themselves to turn in a friend. It's a very interesting story that way and very convincing.
That's what she told Galina when she came: "I'll be quiet as a mouse." Galin wondered then where this expression came from, why mice were considered to be quiet. Because they weren't.
This leads to descriptions on skittering around in the walls, chewing, nails scratching. I have to admit that I can confirm mice aren't quiet. When I read "quiet as a mouse" I thought to myself "Mice aren't quiet" even though I know it's a common phrase.
Galina had always associated war with noise: the swooshing of missiles, explosions, the rumble of passing artillery, screams. But now it seemed that the outside world had been silenced around her.
It was nice to see it noted that war is /not/ this noisy thing. There is deadly silence left behind, not just left behind after battle, but after the soldiers go away too.
"He dumped her," Galina thought, liking the sound of the word. "Dumped, dumped, dumped." A rubber ball bouncing against the ground.
This is a flashback. The friend had once been seeing someone who was married.
This is about a girl who is waiting for her father to come home. They live in a house near the train station and she can see who comes off. It's very short and heartbreaking. I can't really say any more.
There were two large seashells. I put them to my ears and pressed so tight that it hurt, but I didn't hear a thing. I thought maybe the sea had been in there before but then had seeped out.
That's basically the tone of the story. These were shells on a shelf that her mother kept of her father's things which she wasn't allowed to touch.
This was an interesting story. I found it hard to decide if there actually was a romance between the mother involved and her cowriter.
"The eye of a horse," as I had once said, intending it as a complement; horses, do have beautiful eyes.
We sat down on white stools with hard, slippery seats and waited for the table to go through a magical transformation. First the white tablecloth appeared, covering the scratched and chipped surface of the table the way the first snow covers the imperfections of the ground; the cups appeared,light blue with golden rims, made of the finest porcelain; then a cobalt-blue teapot wit ha silver tea-strainer hooked over its tiny spout.
I liked the description of the table here. And it turned out to be important to the story, but I don't want to give that away.
A Question For Vera
This is a story about a girl in preschool being told she's Jewish. All because of her looks. I thought it was good to show the pain of prejudice. If it teaches one person to keep their mouth shut, then it's a good thing.
This was a cool story, also very touching, in a way. I can't really say much because everything I'd say would reveal the end of the story.
Love Lessons-Mondays, 9 A.M.
This was about a teacher who had to begin a sex ed class. At the beginning of the story she's being picked on by the principle because she's young and new. That was all too familiar to me. I don't know that I liked this one though, because there were times when it was just too whiny.
And that's it for these notes.
When I read your notes on this book, I couldn't help notice the focus on sounds... the quiet of mice (and yes I agree with you), the silence of war, and then the sound of the ball bouncing against the ground. I liked that. I think authors need to remember all the senses more often, and sound (along with smell) is often forgotten. Just my thought as I read the notes.
The notes you give about Ovrashki's Train make it easy to see how the story could be heartbreaking.
Thank you for bringing this collection to my attention! Rochelle Jewel Shapiro
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