Monday, January 23, 2012

"A Secret Kept" by Tatiana de Rosnay ***

> originally published
> French author

> Audiobook

> Brother and sister take a trip to the past, visiting a resort their family had spent time at.....Melanie remembers something .....then a car accident

> Antoine has an affair with a mortician while his sister is in the hospital ..."like taking refuge in the eye of a hurricane", still in love with ex-wife, Astrid (now dating Serge, a photographer)

> somehow makes sense to set the reminiscences during a recovery happens when hanging around a hospital with time on one's hands

> their deceased mother, Clarice....a mystery

>  LibraryThing Review:  This is story of family secrets, kept and revealed.  An accident leads to revelation upon revelation within a family who have remained silent for a generation.  The writing is fair, the plot is interesting, but the overall effect is somewhat bland.

"The Road Home" by Rose Tremain *****

> audiobook > LibraryThing Review: I think this may be a four star novel, but Juliet Stevenson's superb narration of this audio version of the novel bumps it up to a five star read! A tale of immigration, yearning for home, and building a life. Rose Tremain writes poignant so very well, and her character, Lev, is someone I will remember for a long time. It can be so complicated to survive!

"The Return of the Soldier" by Rebecca West *****

> Originally published 1918

> Pseudonym, debut novel,


> "...brilliantly highlights the complexities of traditional gender roles, class tension, Freudian psycholgy, and a war unprecedented in the scope of its useless, violent slaughter

> Had flings with Charlie Chaplin, Lord Beaverbrook, H.G. Wells

> West was 26 and a new mother when she wrote this

> one of the very first novels to incorporate Freudian concepts


> p.5...."...great faith in the imminence of the probable".....Chris in his youth
             ".....It was his hopeless hope that sometime he would have an experience that would act on his life like alchemy, turning to gold all the dark metals of events and from that revelation he would go on his way rich with an indistinguishable joy."....foreshadowing

> p.8..."....there was something about her of the wholesome, endearing heaviness of the ox or the trusted big dog.  She was repulsively furred with neglect and poverty, as even a good glove that has dropped down behind a bed in a hotel and has lain undisturbed for a day or two is repulsive when the chambermaid retrieves t from the dust and fluff.".....Jenny's description of  Margaret

> p.11..."...hated her as the rich hate the poor as insect things that will struggle out of the crannies which are their decent home and introduce ugliness to the light of day."

> p.46..."...He possessed in great measure the loveliness of young men, which is the loveliness of a spry foal or the sapling...".

> p.52..."there is no aesthetic reason for that border....Its use is purely philosophic; it proclaims that here we esteem only controlled beauty, that the wild will never have its way within our gates, that is must be delicate and decorated into felicity."

> p.53..."...a little image of  Chris' conception of women.  Exquisite we were according to our equipment, unflushed by appetite or passion, even noble passion, our small heads bent intently on the white flowers of luxury floating on the black waters of life.  He had known none other than us."...Chris' view of women

> p.62..."I was even willing to admit that this choice of what was to him reality out of all the appearances so copiously presented by the world, this adroit recovery of the dropped pearl of beauty, was the act of genius I had expected of him."....Jenny about Chrs latching on to his youth and first love

> p.64..."Embraces do not matter; they merely indicate the will to love........but disregard means that now there needs to be no straining of the eyes.......because theirs is such a union that they are no longer aware of the division of their flesh."

> p.67..."Indeed she had been generous to us all, for at her touch our lives had at last fallen into a pattern; she was the sober thread, the interweaving of which with our scattered magnificences had somewhat achieved the design which would not otherwise appear.  Perhaps even her dinginess was part of her generosity, for in order to ft into the pattern one has sometimes to forgo something of one's individual beauty."

> p.72..."Beautiful women of her type lose, in this matter of admiration alone, their otherwise tremendous sense of class distinction; they are obscurely aware that it is their civilizing mission to flash the jewel of their beauty before all men,  so that they shall desire it and work to get the wealth to buy it, and thus be seduced by a present appetite to a tilling of the earth that serves the future."

> Margaret's child and Kitty's child both died....Margaret believes that they both only had half a life because Chris was with the wrong woman.

> p.85..."I knew quite well that when one is adult, one must raise to one's lips the wine of truth, heedless that it is not sweet like milk, but draws the mouth with its strength, and celebrate its communion with reality, or else walk forever queer and small like a dwarf."

> LibraryThing Review: "Return of the Soldier" is a literary powerhouse in a small package! It is the incredibly moving story of a soldier returning home from war with amnesia, only recalling the love of his youth. However, it is so much more than just a movng story. This is a story about the ravages of war, the ravages of adulthood, the ravages of grief, and the power and responsibility which accompany the gift of loving someone. It is a treatise on womanhood, on social class, on prejudice, and on wisdom. And....this was a debut novel! Read it!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World" by Catalina De Erauso ***

> Originally published in 1996, but it is actually an autobiography, the author travelled as a Sspanish soldier in the mid 1500s throughout Peru

> Author born in Spain

> Meghan read this while at Sarah Lawrence

> Epigraph in Foreword: "Another world was searched through oceans new, to find the Marvel of Peru; And yet these rarities might be allowed to man, that sovereign thing and proud Had he not dealt between the bark and tree, Forbidden mixtures there to see." - Andrew Marvell, "The Mower Against Gardens" (1861)...common theme of the time....the image of the pure vs. compromised Eden

> Foreword...." allegory of modern woman's emergent subjectivity"

> Foreword..."...a literal description of self-fashioning in which, quite literally, the clothes make the man."

> Female cross dressing was banned multiple times in the 1600s, which indicates the law was not followed very well

> Foreword..."...a clear and complex voice telling a story which can be read at once as autobiography and pilgrimage, picaresque and memoir". ......Just read two picaresque Spanish novels and this is very reminiscent of them...yet a imitating art or vice versa

> humorous note: one of the author's sisters was named Mari Juana....hmmm....marijuana?

> Interesting story of the actual manuscript...apparently Caterina was well known in folklore, but the manuscript was held closely

> Lost in's choice of when to use feminine or masculine endings, doesn't come through in English...also...she lived on the western frontier and used colloquialisms which in English would be reminiscent of a Huck Finn type tale

> Born in 1585, destined to be a nun, was placed in convent at age 4, ran away at age 15, served as a page for a couple of uncles, went to Peru in 1603, killed her brother while both were serving as seconds in a duel and she did not know it was her brother until after she had mortally wounded him

> Vocabulary: 1) prebendaries: an honorary canon

> LibraryThing Review: My daughter read this book during a college curse dedicated to the study of "Don Quixote". This and some other novellas were companion reads, examples of the "picaresque" novel. The difference in the case of this novella is that Lieutenant Nun really existed, and he was really a she disguised and living as a man. This autobiography from the early 1600s is somewhat difficult to believe, yet she really did exist and apparently was the subject of beloved folklore in Peru and Spain. Go figure! It was a quick and interesting read.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Two Spanish Picaresque Novels". ***

> "Lazarillo De Tormes" by ANON and
"The Swindler" by Francisco de Quevedo

> Double novella published in 1969, the stories were written n early 1600s in Spain

> p.7...introducton..."The picaro is usually a cynical youth, brought up the hard way and determined to treat others as cruelly as he has been treated himself. His aim is to burlar other: to deceive and play cruel tricks on them, and indeed cruelty is one of the dominant motifs of these novels, which reflect a world where the rule is every man for himself

> "Lazarillo de Tormes".....the first picaresque novel of record

> p.23..."I think it's a good thing that important events which quite accidentally have never seen the light of day, should be made public and not buried in the grave of oblivion."

> p.23..."Pliny says there is no book, however bad it may be, that doesn't have something good about it, especially as tastes vary and one man's meat is another man's poison."

> p.26..."How may people must there be in the world who run away from others in fright because they can't see themselves?"

> No man more astute or cunning that the blind man that Lazaro travels with

Intro t "The Swindler"...."Dear Reader, may God protect youo from bad books, police, and nagging, moon-faced, fair-haired women."

> p. 85..."...a reaper of cheeks and tailor of beards"...bad barber.......

> p.87..."...and my father went to scrape a customer....maybe his face and maybe his wallet."......the barber again

> p.129..."I thought about how dfficult it was for me to be honourable and virtuous, because first I would have to hide the fact that my parents were neither, then I would have to be so honourable and virtuous that nobdy would know me." ...LOL

> p.132..."Poets had been declared mad in a proclamation issued by a man who had been one before and decided to live a better life."...the proclamation is hysterically funny to read...."A Proclamation Against All Idiot, Useless and Rubbishy Poets."

> p.147..."I was riding on a grey donkey like Sancho Panza.....".....this was written during the same time period as "Don Quixote"

> p.213..."When I saw that this situation was going to be more or less ermanent and that bad luck was dogging my heels, I made u my mind, nt because I was inteligent enough to see what was going to happen but because I was tired and obstinate in my wickedness, to go to America..I thought things would go better in the New Workd and another country. But they went wrse, as they always will for anybody who thinks he only has to move his dwelling without changing his ways."

>. LibraryThing Review: The two novellas in this book are examples of the "picaresque" character which was first introduced in Spanish literature in the mid 1500s. The "picaro" is a character who survives by his wits, struggling to find each and every crust of bread, and swindling the people around him to survive. Both of these stories are tragi-comic and interesting in terms of the history of Spabish literature.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Stay Awake" by Dan Chaon ****

> Short stories
> An Early Reviewer edition from LibraryThing
> Publication planned for 2012

> Epigraph: "I had a dream I was awake and I woke up to find myself asleep." --Stan Laurel

> LibraryThing Review: If you an upbeat ending or some form of resolution to the short stories you read, then this collection, "Stay Awake" by Dan Chaon, is definitely not for you. It is an interesting phenomenon to read a collection of short stories which can only be described as dark and despairing, and be able to say that the writing absolutely compelled me to keep going despite the sadness which was they evoked. Each story was heartrending and disturbing in some way, yet they were beautifully written. Take your chances if you are up for the ride!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

"The Infinities" by John Banville ****

> Orig. published 2009

> Irish author

> Audiobook

> Hermes, Zeus's messenger, his son, protector of travelers, accompanies the dead to the afterworld, is the narrator

>. Characters: Adam Sr. (dying father), Ursula (2nd wife), Adam Jr (son, come home for father's death), Hermes (narator, from Mt. Olympus), Petra (daughter, tiny)! Helen (Adam Jr.'s wife)

>. Ursula senses a presence

>. Title: The gods

>. Gods cannot experience death or love,

> LibraryThing Review: O those wacky Greek Gods! John Banville tells the tale of an Irish man who lays dying. His family gathers from near and afar. Wait a minute! The narrator is Hermes, messenger of the gods, son of Zeus, who narrates the tale. Good grief.....the gods or "infinities" are meddling! They meddle sexually and in other ways. Along the way the reader is witness to the final musings of the dying man as well. This is a unique novel. Banville manages also to address the differences between the infinities and humans in his usual eloquent manner. He is a lovely writer!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" by Marina Lewycka ****

> Orig. published in 2005

> Author's parents Ukrainian, born in Germany

> Opening line: "Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcee." Love it!

> p.4..."You see, he explains, he is her last hope, her only chance to escape persecution, destitution, prostitution."

> p.19..."She knew - and this knowledge never left her throughout her fifty years of life in England, and then seeped from her into the hearts of her children - she knew for certain that behind the piled-high shelves and abundantly stocked counters of Tesco and the Co-op hunger still prowls with his skeletal frame and gaping eyes, waiting to grab you the moment you are off your guard."...powerful statement...probably true for many refugees!

> p.44..."In the shadowy kingdom of childhood, where my sister was queen, my father was the exiled Pretender. A long time ago, they went to war against each other. It was so long ago that don't know what they first clashed about, and they have probably forgotten too. My father made a tactical retreat into the domain of his garage, his constructions of aluminum, rubber, and wood, his coughing and Big Ideas. From time to time h would surge forth in angry blazing forays directed towards my sister and, after she left home, towards me."... pretty classic

> p.48..."We spoke a different language from our neighbors and ate different food, and worked hard and kept out of everybody's way, and we were always good so the secret police wouldn't come for us in the night."

> p.67..."What a poor thing is the crane or tractor compared to a horse!"

> p.70..."Ah, love! What a thing is love! No one can understand. On this point, science must concede to poetry."

> p.77..."Nada, if all women were to wear paint on their faces, just think, there could be no more natural selection. The inevitable result would be the uglification of the species."

> p.81..."The coming of the tractor was also of symbolic importance, for it made possible the ploughing up of boundary lands which separated the individual peasant strips, creating one large kolkhoz. Thus it heralded the end of the whole class of kulaks, those peasants who owned their own land, and were seen by Stalin as the enemy of the revolution. The iron horse destroyed the traditional pattern of village life, but the tractor industry in Ukrainia flourished."

> p.107..."In design of aircraft wing, the secret of success s to achieve the correct ration between lift and drag. Is same with Valentina."

> p.136..."The Valentine tank.....there was nothing lovely about it. Clumsy and heavy with an old-fashioned gearbox, it was nevertheless deadly, indeed a true killing machine."

> LibraryThing Review: This one is worth reading for the writing! This is an odd duck of a book. The plot....well...two sisters try to protect their frail, elderly father from a Ukrainian fortune hunter with large breasts. The characters......very believable. The writing.....absolutely marvelous! Marina Lewycka is incredibly funny. I laughed out loud several times. At other times I was appalled. At other times I was deeply saddened.

Monday, January 2, 2012

"Silence" by Shusaku Endo *****

> Originally published in 1966
> Part of a year long LT Group Read of Shusaku first of his
> Historical fiction

>Setting: Japan during the 1600s, during period of intense effort on the part of Japanese to eradicate Catholicism in their country, torture used to force apostasy

>Basic plot: group of Portuguese priests go to Japan to continue the effort to bring the faith to the people of Japan and also to determine if their colleague and revered teacher has apostatized as has been reported

> Structure is a series of letters from Sebastian Rodrigues, one of the Portuguese priests, to his superiors

> Silence: my thoughts are that silence comes in three fear.....death

> the fourth silence is that of God, which causes Rodrigues to question the meaning of his life

> p.49..."It was the human kindness and charity of the fathers that touched their hearts".

> p.59..."It is easy enough to die for the good and beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt--this is the realization that came home to me acutely at that time."...when being betrayed

> p.72..."The wisdom of peasants shows itself in their ability to pretend that they are fools."

> social hierarchy in Japan at this time: landowner > samurai > peasants

> Silence...p.93..."Behind the depressing silence of this sea, the silence of God....the feeling that while men raise their voices in anguish God remains with folded arms, silent."

> concept of "hidden Christians"

> Kichijiro is a fascinating character...a Judas, or just weak...or is it the same thing? In the end, Rodrigues finds he is no different....just human

> Inoue, the samurai who questions the priest.....

> Obvious parallels to Christ's last days

> p.209..."In the grove behind the prison the owl and the turtle dove answer each other singing in the night. Above the grove the moon, completely round, is bathed n an eerie red color as it comes out from the dark clouds and then is hidden again. The old men whisper ominously that this coming year may bring something untoward."

> p.232..."The Christianity that they believe in is like the skeleton of a butterfly
caught in a spider's web ; it contains only the external form...". - Ferreira's explanation of what happens to Catholicism in Japan

> p232...."How could anyone sacrifice himself for a false faith?"

> p.259 The priest hears Christ just as he is about to apostatize by "trampling a picture of Christ"......he hears "Trample...Trample! I more than anyone know the pain in your foot. Trample! It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men's pain that I carried my cross."

> p.203..."He had come to this country to lay down his life for other men, but instead of that the Japanese were laying down their lives one by one for him"

> LibraryThing Review: This piece of historical fiction was written n 1967 by Shusaku Endo. It is deceptively simple in terms of the writing. In fact, it raises profound questions of faith, of culture, and of the meaning of silence. A priest from Portugal journeys to Japan in the 1600s during a period of Japanese persecution of Christians, primarily Catholic missionaries. Father Rodrigues hopes to further the spread of his faith and to also determine if his revered teacher has indeed apostatized, renouncing his faith, as has been reported. As I began the book I thought of three meanings of silence: death, perfect peace, and total fear. Let's just say that Father Rodrigues discovered and struggled with the fourth, the silence of God n the face of suffering. I will not reveal his resolution, but it is worth reading to find out. I will be thinking about this book for a long time.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

"A Red Herring Without Mustard" by Alan Bradley ***

>. Audiobook!

>. #3 in the Flavia De Luce series

>. Orig. published 2011

Review: Cute, occasional laughs out loud. This third story n the Flavia de Luce series is fun as always.