Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Robinson Crusoe" by Daniel Defoe

Against the wishes of his parents, Robinson Crusoe took to a life at sea.  However, his beginnings were rough, ending up shipwrecked in a storm.  He set out again on another ship and was overtaken by pirates and enslaved.  He managed to escape onto another ship headed to Brazil where he bought himself a plantation.

He set sail again a few years later to bring slaves from Africa to Brazil but once again was shipwrecked.  Only this time, he ended up on a deserted island somewhere in the Americas.  The only one to survive the shipwreck and he is fortunately able to procure supplies from the ship before it sinks, supplies that allow him to begin a new life on the island, where he spends the next twenty eight years of his life learning to survive and finding faith in God.

After many years alone, he discovered that the island was not as uninhabited as he thought.  Cannibals from nearby islands use it as a place to kill and eat their prisoners.  One day, he helps an escaping prisoner, whom he renames Friday, teaches English and converts to Christianity.  Another circumstance occurs where he was able to rescue two more prisoners and set about a plan to escape from the island.  But while this was happening, an English ship arrives at the island, taken over by a mutiny.  The sailors had planned to leave their captain behind on the island but Cruose managed to strike a deal with him, and after 28 years he is finally able to leave the island and return home.

Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe was published in 1719 and became one of the most published novels of all time in Western literature and one of the greatest English language novels.  Its classic adventure style has gone on to influence literature, television, and film over the years.

So, how does one critique a novel written hundreds of years ago without letting their 21st Century perspective getting in the way?  Well, you accept the fact that the language is dated, the style drags on, and at times, it's pretty racially insensitive.  And then you get to the heart of the book, the human experience.  Crusoe spends twenty eight year of his life removed from society, most of it completely cut off from human contact.  For a species that craves contact with each other, his solitude is almost unthinkable.  And yet, while he could give up or despair over his miserable condition, he finds contentment.  Someone who formerly didn't care for religion at all turns to God and finds in the deepest, darkest moments what to be thankful for.  When he finally returns to the world, he returns with contentment.  At a time when people are sailing the world, enslaving other people to create an economic system for their benefit only, when colonial desires were the motivation behind horrendous atrocities, this book makes an impact and that is why it is still important to read today.

This is my first time reading Robinson Crusoe and though I knew the premise of the book, there was much that surprised me.  For instance, I never knew there was any bit of religion to the book.  But so much of it is about faith and trust in God, about peace during trials, about the saving grace of God.  It was a pleasant surprise for me to find this in the book.  

Sure, the journal format was pretty boring and I'll admit to skimming through those parts.  The mundane details of fashioning a life on an island didn't feel necessary.  But this is a world that watches people being shipwrecked on television for fun and money.  I can only imagine how unbearable and poignant this book seemed to people at the time of its publication.   

Saturday, March 30, 2013

"The Detour" by Gerbrand Bakker

A Dutch lecturer has fled to rural Wales after having confessed to an affair with one of her students.  Her parents and husband are left in Amsterdam, wondering where she has disappeared to and her husband hires a detective to help him find her.  

In Wales, the woman tells others her name is Emilie but does not give much more information about herself.  She rents a farmhouse and spends her days fixing it up.  When she arrives, she notices there are ten geese living in her garden but one by one they begin to disappear, to what she assumes is a fox.  

One day a young man out walking his dog injures himself on her property.  Emilie invites him to stay the night, but he doesn't leave.  With her husband and the detective on their way to Wales, Emilie's old life and new one are poised to collide.  

The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker, is a novel originally published in Dutch and recently published in English.  It is a novel about isolation, turmoil, and retreat, a quiet book about the powerful nature of solitude.  I have heard great things about Bakker's first novel, the Impac award-winning The Twin, and though I haven't read it yet, I thought I would pick this one up as well.

This book is one that leaves you thinking about it long after you're done.  In the beginning, I found myself wondering just what it is about this book that kept me turning the page.  I didn't feel captivated and yet I needed to keep reading.  I admire Bakker's writing in how it brought the feelings of emptiness and solitude off of the page.  It quickly gets under the skin of the reader and haunts throughout the entire book.  It is very interesting when you consider how the grief and sadness of the book is a result of an affair she has committed, not of death or other major tragedy.  

There were some moments that brought a smile to my face such as the Doctor who smokes in his office and how everyone in the town asks if she is German (my heritage is Dutch and even I get asked a lot if I'm German.)  But for the rest of the book, you feel a rather morbid fascination.  It's one of those books that you feel strange saying "I loved it" just given the nature of it.

It's hard for me to put a finger on what is I liked about the book and what it is that is keeping me from raving about it.  However, there are many people who are raving about it, so it is one that I would recommend to other readers.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"The World is Moving Around Me" by Dany Laferrière

On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the island nation of Haiti.  It is estimated that three million people were affected by the quake and approximately 220,000 people lost their lives.  The poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, infrastructure was severely damaged or destroyed and people took to the streets to sleep because their homes were lost or for fear of aftershocks.

Dany Laferrière is a Montreal-based playwright and author who grew up in Haiti and fled the Duvalier dictatorship in the 1970's.  At the moment the earthquake struck he was sitting in a Port-au-Prince hotel restaurant waiting for his dinner to be served.  He and his dinner companions heard an explosion, which they originally thought came from the kitchen, but in the few seconds that followed realized it was an earthquake and fled the hotel for open-air safety.  In the days that followed, Laferrière travelled the city to make sure friends and family members were safe then accepted the Canadian government's offer to leave.  But once in Canada he couldn't escape the post-traumatic shock of an earthquake and knew he had to return to his homeland.

The World Is Moving Around Me is Laferrière's memoir of the earthquake, his life in Haiti, and the strength, courage, and resilience of the Haitian people.  The writing of this book is beautiful.  It doesn't read like a typical memoir.  Each "chapter" is very brief, not even a page long and is more of an observation.  

In the aftermath of the earthquake, he kept extensive notebooks of everything he saw and heard and this book feels like he's allowing you access to personal writings.  After reading the book I learned that it was originally published in French and was released a few weeks after the earthquake, which shows just how quick he wrote the book.  It's a sign of true writing talent that amidst the struggle to recover he was able to write such beautiful words.

Though this book is short, it is powerful.  Laferrière relates stories of triumph, survival, and heartbreak.  He shows the Haitian people and the earthquake not through the lens of the media like was saw for only a few weeks until another news story replaced them, but through the eyes of the people.  It really hits home that while we were watching events unfold on our television screens, people there didn't even know how far it had reached, the extent of the damage, and if people down the road from them were safe.

This is a moving book.  With a foreword by Michaëlle Jean, former Governor General of Canada and UN special envoy to Haiti, this is a book that puts Haiti back into our hearts and minds where it belongs.

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

I feel a reading slump coming on.  Or I feel in the middle of a reading slump.  Or maybe it's ending.  I don't know, the feeling is definitely reading slump, I'm just not sure what part of it I'm in.  I don't know if it's the books I'm picking up or if it's just my attention span.  So, I've been trying different books, reading the ones I know will hold my interest, and hoping that soon I'll be tearing through the pages like I usually am!

What I Read Last Week
Hell-Bent by Benjamin Lorr is an inside look at the world of Bikram Yoga and the obsessive culture that can be a part of it.  Read my review to see how someone who practices Bikram feels about the book.  Get You Good by Rhonda Bowen is an Urban Christian novel about love, relationships, and betrayal.  

What I'm Reading Now
I started reading Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe this past week.  Not too far into it but looking forward to it.

What I Plan to Read Next

The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker is about a woman who flees her life in the Netherlands for a remote farm in Wales with her husband trying to find her.  The World is Moving Around Me by Dany Laferriere is a memoir about the Haiti Earthquake of 2010.

What are you reading this week?  Have you read any of these books?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"Hell-Bent" by Benjamin Lorr

Disclaimer: I practice Bikram Yoga.  I sit in the audience at competitions.  I have attended a clinic with Esak Garcia.  I even read the book while wearing my purple Jedi Fight Club shirt (though I just bought the shirt, I'm not a club member.)  This may colour my impressions of the book, though I really don't think it will.

The term competitive yoga may be confusing for people.  The word competitive seems to be at odds with the whole idea of what yoga really is.  But in the world of Bikram Yoga, 26 postures and two breathing exercises in a room heated up to 110F, it's just a part of the experience.  The word competitive is probably not the best choice, it's more of a demonstration, yogis of all ages and levels performing the same postures in front of audiences and judges.  For most, it's just a competition within themselves, an opportunity to push themselves in their practice.

But behind the scenes of the competitions is a world that many don't know about it.  In fact, most of the people who show up at their Bikram studio for a class don't even see this world.  It's a world of extreme dedication, back bending clubs, eight hour a day practices, celebrity clientele, all controlled by what many would call a narcissistic and controlling leader.  This world is explored by Benjamin Lorr's in Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga.

Lorr was like many first-timers when he stepped into the Bikram studio - curious, a bit naive, and looking for the physical benefits of yoga.  But he soon found himself immersed in the competitive subculture of Bikram Yoga.  Lorr discusses his initial meetings with champion yogis as well as Bikram Choudhury and how it led him to be come a champion himself.  He joined back-bending clubs led by one of the most well-known Bikram practitioners and attended a nine week teacher training that involved two classes a day (for hours at at time) in addition to lectures and movie marathons with the leader himself.  Along the way, he discovered the discord between healing properties of yoga and the cult-like atmosphere that is Bikram.

This is more than just a book that "exposes" the world of Bikram Yoga.  Lorr meets with researchers and scientists to learn about the benefits of practicing yoga in the heat, talks to people who have had injuries and illnesses healed through this practice, and experts in the field of psychology to discuss obsession and narcissism.  Lorr looks at the history of yoga in India, it's arrival in America, and Bikram Choudhury's own life to discuss why Bikram has become such a popular form of Yoga around the world.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the book however is the look at Bikram the man and the interviews with former top yogis who have now left the practice.  In the book, Bikram comes across as greedy, self-important, and spoiled, probably because he is.  There is no denying that this is a man with a narcissistic personality and that many people in his world attribute cult-like status to him.  Many people who took up yoga with him in the early days in America have left on their own accord, though many have been forcefully pushed out.  The term "exile" pretty much sums it up.  This book isn't meant to be a scandalous exposé on the man, everything that Lorr shares can pretty much be pieced together through internet searches, but it gives you a viewpoint from those who are right inside, who are the closest you will ever get to Bikram himself.

This is a well-written book with the exception of some obvious typos (though that has more to do with proof-reading than the writer himself.)  It has everything that is needed in this sort of book - personal experience, interviews, and supporting research to paint a full picture of the world that is being shared with us.  You don't need to have taken a Bikram class or do any yoga to find this is a fascinating book.

My opinion on it all?  I found Bikram Yoga when I was experiencing panic attacks and anxiety.  The only reason why I started taking these classes is because there was a Bikram studio on my street.  Yes, my journey to Bikram had everything to do with location.  But once I got in there, I found something that changed my life.  Practicing yoga for 90 minutes in a room heated to 110F taught me that if I can survive that, I can survive a panic attack.  Two years later, I'm panic attack free and my anxiety is gone.  And along the way, I've found an exercise that pushes me each and every class, where I notice the subtle changes in my body, and where I feel I have accomplished something when I see my toes go a bit higher over my head in Standing Bow Pulling pose.  I don't want to compete.  I don't want to do backbends for 8 hours a day.  I don't want to attend teacher training.  And I don't care to know Bikram the man.  I'm just happy to have found something that at the end of the day, makes me feel good.  All of the negative stuff you hear about Bikram can be separated from your practice.  It's about doing what is right for you, body and mind.  And, as this book shows,  everyone arrives at that realization in a different way.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"Northanger Abbey" by Jane Austen

Seventeen year old Catherine Morland is a rather unlikely heroine.  As a young girl she was plain, awkward, inattentive, with not much that stood out about her.  But through her reading, she is learning to be a heroine.  Catherine often loses herself in novels, Gothic stories about old castles and great mysteries.  But life for Catherine is nothing what she finds in books.

Until one day, her neighbours invite her to spend a few weeks in Bath where she meets the Tilney family and falls in love with son Henry.   When she is invited to spend time at Northanger Abbey, the family estate, she jumps at the chance to live in her own Gothic story.  Once at the Abbey, she begins to suspect that deep and dark secrets lurk behind its walls.  Are there suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Mrs. Tilney?  Will Catherine's Gothic fantasy come true or is it all nothing more than fiction?

Northanger Abbey is Jane Austen's first novel, though it was not published until after her death in 1817.  Referred to as a "Gothic parody," this book is a highly entertaining and funny coming of age story.  

There is so much that I enjoyed in this book.  As someone who has not read much Austen (actually I've only read Pride and Prejudice), I didn't go into it with much expectation of it being like her other works.  I found so many parts of the book to be funny, especially the way the narrator commented on things.  You have to love a book that has the line,

"Mrs. Allen was one of that numerous class of females, whose society can raise no other emotion than surprise at there being any men in the world who could like them well enough to marry them" (chapter 2).

I loved the use of the narrator in this book, the side comments and the explanation of society coming directly from Austen herself.  I also loved the commentary on literature and novels and the way that people judged others by what they read.  This is definitely something that translates well to today!  The theme of reality and fantasy and the danger of confusing the two also translates well.

I was a little surprised that it took so long to "set up" the story.  I enjoyed reading about the balls, the way society works, and the process of selecting a partner.  But this part seemed a little long to me as compared to the part that takes place at Northanger Abbey.  Once they were at the Abbey though, it was a thoroughly enjoyable story.  Catherine's obsession with things being the way they are in the novel and her suspicions of General Tilney were, in my view, hilarious.  Considering this is Austen's first novel, I was very impressed of the send-up it was giving of those who find themselves immersed in the popular literature of the time. 

Fans of Gothic novels will love the themes in this book as well as the reference to many of the popular novels of the time.  As I already mentioned, I haven't read many of Austen's works but this one is definitely my favourite so far, I found it more enjoyable and more relatable today than I did Pride and Prejudice.

Have you read Northanger Abbey?  What are your thoughts of it compared to Austen's other works?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"It's Monday, What Are You Reading?"

 Last week was March Break so everyone was off school.  It was nice to have a week of staying up late and not setting the alarm, but it can't last forever so now it's back to the daily grind!  I always make big reading plans for the school holidays and then find that we're so busy doing all sorts of stuff,  I don't get to pick up many books.  Hopefully, going back to our schedule I'll be able to read more.  I have so many great books sitting in my TBR pile!

What I Read Last Week
The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund is a Historical Christian fiction at it's finest.  It's a fictional story of the first white woman to cross the Continental Divide.  Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen is my selection for the Classics Club spin.  I haven't read a lot of Austen's work, but I have a feeling this one may end up as my favourite!

What I'm Reading Now
Persecuted by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea looks at the countries around the world where Christians face persecution.  Mount Pleasant by Don Gillmor tells the story of a man who is deep in debt and finds out when his father dies that his inheritance is gone so he digs into his fathers past to find out what happened to it.

What I'm Reading Next
Hell-Bent by Benjamin Lorr is about Bikram Yoga and Lorr's own experience participating in the World Asana Championship.  I will be reading Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe as part of a read-along hosted by Listra at Half-Filled Attic.

What are you reading this week?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Ascent of Women" by Sally Armstrong

"Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right." 

It is hard to believe that in the twenty first century these are the words of a teenage girl.  But they are, these are the words of Malala Yosafzai, a young Pakistani woman who was shot in the head for speaking out and fighting for the right of young women to get an education.   All around the world, young girls and women still lack the basic rights of freedom, education, and equality.  But like Malala, they know that the conflict, violence, and poverty will end when the oppression of women does, and they are fighting to put an end to it.

In Ascent of Women, Sally Armstrong introduces readers to the numerous women around the world who are ushering in the revolution that will change this world.  From Canada to Afghanistan, Kenya to Venezuela and throughout the rest of the world, women are standing up and leading the fight for equality.  

This book introduces readers to many inspiring women.  It can be difficult for those of us living with the freedom to make our own life choices to understand what daily life is like for other women in the world but this book shows us how important it is that we don't give up the fight until we are all experiencing freedom.  Every day women around the world face rape, domestic violence, illiteracy, polygamy, genital mutilation, HIV/AIDS, honour killings, and more that keep them from their full potential.  And yet, when women are able to reach their full potential, everyone around them is able to lead a fuller life.

Armstrong also shows us how successful women are at changing the world when we stand up and speak out.  In Kenya, 160 girls between the ages of three and seventeen are suing the government because it failed to protect them from being raped.  In Senegal, a group of ten year old girls took their protests to the national stage to demand an end to forced child marriage, which led to a change in national law.  In Afghanistan, young women are forming organizations to challenge old customs and educate both men and women on what religious teachings really say about women's rights.  In Canada, grandmothers are raising millions of dollars to support grandmothers in Sub-Saharan Africa who are caring for their grandchildren that lost their parents to the AIDS pandemic.  In Egypt, women flooded Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring to bring revolution to their country, fighting for freedom and justice.

This book is so hard to put down.  It's both shocking and inspiring to see the challenges women around the world face and what they are doing to make things right.  We often hear proverbs and sound quotes saying that the best way to change this world for the better is to empower women and this book shows just how true it is.  As Isobel Coleman, senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, states:  "When you invest in women and girls, it's the best way to break cycles of poverty.  Poor states aren't necessarily failed states.  But it's difficult to emerge as a peaceful functioning stable country when living in dire straits of poverty." (p.170)

This is important reading for all women, to learn and to be inspired.  But also, this is important reading for men.  Everyone needs to see what can be achieved when women lead the way. 

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are my own and I have received no compensation.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Harvest" by Jim Crace

In an isolated English village, the inhabitants go to sleep, having finished their harvest and looking forward to a day of rest.  But what they awake to will turn their tiny community upside down.  

Two columns of smoke fill the air.  The first is from a fire that has destroyed the master's outbuildings.  The second is from a hastily built dwelling put up by newcomers on the edge of the village.  The two are connected and the newcomers have announced their arrival which sets off a course of events that change the village's way of life forever.

Harvest by Jim Crace is a dark, unsettling novel, a story that transports the reader to a simpler setting which unfortunately can't hide from the rest of the world forever.  Told from the perspective of Walter, an outsider who joined the community over a decade ago, the book paints the picture of an idyllic town built on hard work and communal sacrifice.

There isn't much information given about the village in terms of time, place, and description and yet the reader is able to paint for themselves a wonderful picture of all that the village could be.  The lack of information builds up the suspense of what is to come.  The book reads as a fable or parable, a lesson to be learned from the past for all who are reading it.  

I don't like to give away too much in my reviews, so I'm not going to discuss the newcomers and what happens after their arrival, just how interesting I found it that life can be changed completely in only a matter of days.  This was a very strange book for me to read.  It's not the typical book book I pick up and in the beginning I wondered if I was going to be able to finish it.  I wasn't really connecting to the characters or their responses to what was occurring around them.  But for some reason, I couldn't stop turning the pages!  I enjoyed the writing, it created real suspense for me the entire way through.  I think ultimately, what stops me from really liking this book is I just don't feel like it gave me enough in the end.  

I have never read anything by Jim Crace before, but since reading this book I've read some great things about his past work.  I would love to hear if you have read any of his previous works, or this one.  This is not a bad book and I even recommend reading it, I just can't put my finger on what I feel is missing.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Today is the first day of March Break, a week off of school for everyone and hopefully a week of sleeping in for me!  The plans around here are skating, doctors appointments, visiting grandparents, and sleepovers with the cousins.  And of course, a lot of reading.

What I Read Last Week
Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman
Harvest by Jim Crace
Ascent of Women by Sally Armstrong

What I'm Reading Now
The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

What I Plan to Read Next
Mount Pleasant by Don Gillmor
Persecuted by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, and Nina Shea

What are you reading this week?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Eighty Days" by Matthew Goodman

Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days set the imaginations of people running when it was published was in 1873.  At the time, world travel was opening up to everyone and one can only imagine the dreams this book inspired.  Many wondered if the fictional adventures of Phileas Fogg could actually be done.

And so in 1889 a young female reporter for the World newspaper named Nellie Bly set out to break Fogg's record.  She left New York on a steamship heading east, a nation following her every move in the newspaper.  But on the same day that Bly left, so did another young woman, this time on a train heading west.  Elizabeth Bisland was a young journalist for The Cosmopolitan magazine and they wanted to send their own person on this adventure, making it a race for the history books.

Eighty Days: Nelly Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman is a fascinating book about the real life Around the World in Eight Days adventure.  Nelly Bly and Elizabeth Bisland were two very different women, working hard to make it in a male-dominated industry and this brought them the opportunity to blaze the trail for women everywhere.

This is a very interesting book.  It's been a while since I have read a good, in-depth historical book and this one covered all of the bases.  While the focus is about the women and their journeys around the world, this book instantly transports you back to the time, giving you an in-depth history of society, culture, America, and the world.

This book took me a lot longer to read than I'm used to.  But this is because it is packed full of information and history and so widespread in its scope that it needs the time to be enjoyed and taken in. I was so inspired by these two women, who I had never heard of before, women who had to fight to be taken seriously in the world of journalism, who took off around the world all on their own.  In an age where we can hop on a plane and be anywhere in the world in a day, it's hard to imagine the journey that these women were taking.  Well-researched and well-written, this book will have you itching to travel yourself.

I read this book right after reading Verne's and I highly recommend doing it this way.  Verne's novel is a classic adventure that will have you wondering if it's really possible or total fiction.  Goodman's book will answer this for you.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are my own and I have received no compensation.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Around the World in 80 Days" by Jules Verne

Englishman Phileas Fogg is at the Reform Club, an English gentleman's club, when he becomes involved in a debate over a newspaper article claiming that in 1872 it has become possible to circumnavigate the world in 80 days.  On a whim, he accepts a wager with other members stating that if he can travel around the world in that amount of time, he will win £20,000 (todays equivalent roughly £1.3 million or $2 million Canadian.)  He hires a French valet named Jean Passepartout and they set off that very day.  

But hot on their trail is Mr Fix, a Scotland Yard detective who is convinced that Fogg is a bank robber and who needs to secure a warrant and capture him on British soil to bring him back to face punishment for the crime.  As Fogg and Passepartout travel the world they find themselves rescuing an Indian widow from a funeral pyre, being attacked by Sioux warriors, and travelling by steamer and train, even elephant and wind-powered sledge to make it back to London in time.

Around the World in Eighty Days is the classic adventure novel by Jules Verne, first published in 1873.  It is a fascinating story set in a time when technological innovation is opening up the world for the average person.  I can only how at the time this book stirred up the thirst for travel and adventure among readers.

This book to me is what the Classics are all about.  140 years later the adventure holds up, the writing remains accessible and the story has you cheering on the characters from beginning to end.  I also enjoyed reading it for the fact that we can learn about the attitudes people at the time had of other places and people in the world.  It wasn't always positive and by todays knowledge a bit offensive, but in terms of learning about historical attitudes, there is a lot to gain from this book.  And unlike many classic books it doesn't get bogged down in the history or politics of the time, the focus is purely on the adventure.  This book would be my first recommendation to someone new to or intimidated by the classics.  Loved it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

DNF - "See Now Then" by Jamaica Kincaid

I made a vow this year that I wasn't going to push through the books that weren't grabbing me and allow myself some DNF's.  The first of the year is See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid.

I haven't read anything of hers before but have heard so many great things so I figured I would start with her latest book.  The blurb on Amazon says the book is a "piercing examination of the manifold ways in which the passing of time operates on the human consciousness unfolds gracefully, and Kincaid inhabits each of her characters—a mother, a father, and their two children, living in a small village in New England—as they move, in their own minds, between the present, the past, and the future: for, as she writes, 'the present will be now then and the past is now then and the future will be a now then.'"

The reason why I didn't like it?  I didn't like the writing style.  It is repetitive and it runs on.  Now, I get that there are a lot of people who like this style, but it just didn't grab me this time around.  I couldn't handle reading sentences like:

"And he said a good night to those people who smelled as if they lived in rooms where wood was always burning in the wood stove, and immediately no longer thought of them as they drove home in their Subarus and secondhand Saabs, and he put on his coat, a coat made from the hair of camels, a very nice coat, double-breasted, that the beastly wife of his, Mrs. Sweet, had bought for him from Paul Stuart, a fine haberdasher in the city where Mr. Sweet was born and he hated the coat because his benighted wife had given it to him and how could she know what a fine garment it was, she who had not long ago gotten off the banana boat, or some other benighted form of transport, everything about her being so benighted, even the vessel on which she arrived, and he loved the coat for it suited him, he was a prince, a prince should wear such a coat, an elegant coat;"

A period does not appear for another half a page.  I'm not completely against this style, I just couldn't get into it this time around and I became annoyed by the character of Mr. Sweet.  About 75 pages in, I gave up.

Have you read See Now Then?  Do you think I should give it another chance?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Month In Review

Well February came to an end rather quickly, didn't it?  It's still winter here in Canada and it's that time of the year when we all start to say "it can't last forever, can it?"

Reading-wise I feel I've done pretty well, though the month has been such a blur, I'm not sure if that's true.  I guess I'll find out now while I write this post.

Books read in February (with GoodReads ratings)

The Poisoned Pawn by Peggy Blair *****

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne ****

The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin ****

The Scottish Banker of Surabaya by Ian Hamilton ****

The Dinner by Herman Koch ****

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park ****

The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam ****

What I Did on My Holidays by Chrissie Manby ****

The Air We Breathe by Christa Parrish ***

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier ***

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin ***

Songs of Deliverance by Marilynn Griffith **

Historical Fiction Challenge - 1, Canadian Reading Challenge - 2, Ik Lees Nederland (I Read Dutch) - 1, The Classics Club - 1, Around the World in 80 Books - 3, Back to Classics - 1, Social Justice Theme Month - 3.

Month Ahead
This month I will be participating in the Robinson Crusoe read along hosted by Listra at Half Filled Attic.

How was your February reading?