Posts Tagged 'reading'

Reading: Everything I Never Told You

Complicated family relationships, like a geometry lesson, or a tiny solar system that pulls and tugs itself around one event…. I’ve come late to this book about the Lee family. Celeste Ng‘s book was a NY Times Bestseller, but I’m glad I waited to read it until I was ready for its voice.

The beginning is quietly rough, and I found myself leaping to assumptions about character motivations, which in turn made me think about stereotyping behavior. The recurring ebb and flow of loss and return gave patterns to the book (misleading or moving the plot forward). And at the end, I was left with an idea about the “why” behind the build-up of actions. I felt like time continued to float out from the end of the book, and I could see in my mind’s eye where the characters would travel.

“Years from now, they will still be arranging the pieces they know, puzzling over her features, redrawing her outlines in their mind. Sure that they’ve got her right this time…”

I’m not ready for this quiet book to end. I can still hear the voices of Lydia, Marilyn, James, Heather, Nathaniel, and Jack. Any other readers out there wondering about future revelations and paths in their live(s)?

 

 

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Hilde Domin – reading

Thanks to Buchmerkur Schroersche Berlin [Link here], I have started searching for English/German side by side publications of Hilde Domin’s poetry. I’ve stumbled onto the poems translated by Meg Taylor and Elke Heckel online here. Autumn eyes/Herbstaugen is particularly lovely.

I’ve also been enjoying a book on Harlem by Jonathan Gill. From the first altercation between the people already living there and the Dutch, to its place in history as a place for Jewish and Irish immigrants to start out, race clashes, and the Harlem Renaissance. The book continues through 400 years, and I’ve only reached the jazz era. 🙂 But it’s all history we didn’t learn in school, so I’ve been having a great time learning how much I didn’t know.

Reading – The Railwayman’s Wife

RehobothsunrisebWritten by Ashley Hay

Has anyone else had a moment where you have to return a library book, and instead you renew it so that you can reread the last 15 or 20 pages over, again and again?

Guilty. <– that’s me.

That’s the moment when things turn, like a train doubling back on itself … and I think, “There was a moment when one person being in the wrong place at the right time would have been nice”. Set in Australia right after WWII, although with flashbacks we do visit before the war… It follows Anika Lachlan and her child after she’s lost her husband. Some things conveniently happen: the town sets her up as a librarian, two eligible men come back from the war. But other things are less convenient: both men are haunted by the war and their dreams, Ani keeps finding she is losing the essence of Mac, or feeling that his presence is in the way in every conversation. One man is a poet who has lost his words to the war, and his ability to teach young children. One man is a doctor with a surly personal manner. It’s like the perfect setup for a screwball romance, except it isn’t.

In Ani’s own words “The year I’ve had, Dr. Draper, here, with my daughter, making sense of this strange new world. I’ve lost my husband. I have this job. I wake up in my own room, in my own house. And yet everything, everything is different.”  It’s different from the other after-the-war novels I’ve read, possibly due to locale and the characters who seem independent of anything the writer was leading them to. Definitely a book to reread.

Reading: The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid

Some books jump to the front of the queue, even when you have perfectly fine reading material home from the library. Val McDermid’s “The Skeleton Road” jumped to the front, in front of the latest Laurie R. King book, and in front of two other books that are due back at the library tomorrow. And it stayed in the front, and was read and reread in 4 days.

Brief sum up: satisfying mystery, with some comic characters, but painted with a very broad brush by the mixed-up sadness of war torn lands. Not sure this is a book I want to see on television, because some things are best left to the imagination. Probably I’m alone there. 🙂

I’m  glad not to have seen the blurbs about the book, since they would have colored my reading experience. I plowed into Prologue and first chapter from the start, and found it hard to go back to work after lunch break. Good cold-weather reading, when you don’t want to go out into the howling wind and shovel the snow.

 

 

Reading: All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou

egghalf_potteryAt the end of 2015, I spent my evenings traveling (via book) with Maya Angelou, as she explored the Ghana of 1962. In the past, I had read a portion of All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes either in an anthology or in a literary journal. The selection was a tight, interesting expository narrative. So, when I saw it on the library shelves in December, it came home.

These are her stories of struggling with wanting to belong, and having all of the history of Africa, America, and slavery in between her and that belonging. The journey is in a country that was just finding its feet, that was being wooed by Americans like Malcolm X, and also being plundered by art collectors from Western Europe. We’re privileged to sit at the table as the “Revolutionaries” feast on food from home in the USA, or to hear her explore the disconnect between what it costs to survive in the USA vs. what it costs to live in Ghana.

This is another book that just stayed with me, especially the moments when she felt that eerie sense of belonging, that her family had actually come from one of the countries that she visited. Read about the book in Goodreads . Do you think you, too, could identify with the quote:”The ache for home lives in all of us…”? Written in 1984, this autobiographical work feels more “real” than many. If you read or re-read this book, pay close attention to what Ms. Angelou chooses to disclose, knowing she can pick and choose what moments to narrate. The story of her drafting process →that’s one book I’d like to find in the library.

Reading: One of Ours by Willa Cather

Willa Cather’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, One of Ours is an unexpected story of an unlikely hero whose life up until WWI seems rootless. We follow Claude Wheeler, from life as an alienated young boy, to a young college student who finds the culture he craves in Lincoln to have it taken away by life and choosing the wrong wife. I was honestly surprised by the desertion of his wife Enid (and her abrupt removal from the storyline). While I read, I idly wondered what the political climate was in China (siege of Tsingto in 1914?) during the outbreak of WWI, and if the pair would reunite, able to mature into a firmer relationship.

Everything seems set to move him from struggling to keep his father’s farm together while a new farm was being established in Colorado, to odd marriage (with a house built by his own hands on Nebraska farmland), and days drowsing in the corn he’s harvested, wondering what his purpose is. And events prime him to be excited at the thought of going where the trouble is, and enlisting as soon as he could. From Americans he met overseas who had enlisted in the Canadian air force prior to the US being in the war, to other farmers he met from other states, who were also swept up in the tide… the story moves at an introspective wandering pace.  If you want drama, and a look at how Americans (or possibly Nebraskans) of the time might have come to look at WWI and its aftermath, it’s worth checking out the book from the library. I bought mine at the Willa Cather Foundation (I couldn’t resist a paperback with a beautiful scene of Flanders poppies). If anyone else has read it, do you see similarities with The Song of Werther, by Goethe? I think it’s mostly the alienation of the main character, not writing style or subject matter, but I could be over-analyzing both.

Reading: Martha Washington : an American Life

Yorktown was on every American’s lips. Rather than stay at home in her sorrow [over her son Jack’s death], Martha decided to go with her husband for the comfort of his presence. This trip was a reprise of 1775, with escorts, addresses, and cheering crowds. Philadelphia, as usual, outdid every place in its welcome. In addition to the usual celebratory illumination of lanterns and candles placed on windowsills, large transparent paintings, lit from behind, covered many windows like glowing shades. Patriotic and allegorical themes ran riot.” — Patricia Brady, Martha Washington: an American Life.

How different Philadelphia is later, during the yellow fever epidemic that began in July 1793.

Follow Martha Dandridge from her first marriage to Daniel Custis, and then to her second marriage to George Washington, after she was through mourning her first husband. Martha burned most of her letters, so many of the records of her life are second hand and not in her words. But the author does manage to paint a picture of a woman who wasn’t afraid to follow her husband to Valley Forge, who traveled to see family and didn’t let the tragedy of losing family and friends to war and death keep her in despair so long as George was still alive.

Even though I thought I “knew” Martha Washington from the children’s history books, and 12th grade history class, this was a gently surprising book with blended families against the backdrop of history, without sugarcoating some things that current Americans might like to forget. Lovely library find, and thin enough to read on the beach during the last brief days of summer.


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