by Joan (Maple Grove MN): Great review of history. I have read all three of this series and they are so readable you don’t want them to end. It is easy to follow all of the families from the five countries through the whole series. I especially liked the last book because I could actually remember the things happening, but it is a great way to learn history. Ken Follett has a way of bringing history to life!
by TGould: This well-written novel provides a glimpse into Great Britain during the Beatles era and more specifically during a golden age of British TV comedy. The main character is engaging and likable without being perfect or too sweet. All the characters ring true and are well drawn. On the audio edition, the narrator is excellent, handing the accents and gender roles perfectly.[Top]
by CarolK (Connecticut): It is hard to imagine the true implications of living a life in the dark. Anna Lyndsey (pen name) allows us glimpse of her black box life in this beautifully poetic memoir. If it is often emotionally devastating for the reader, envision that we get to go back to our world of light.
It begins slowly with light sensitivity, burning facial skin when sitting in front of a computer screen.
“Burns? Burns like the worst kind of sunburn. Burns like someone is holding a flame-thrower to my head.”
Rather than diminishing, this sensitivity to light progresses and Lyndsey's life is changed forever. Had she written Girl in the Dark in diary format, it may have kept my attention. Instead, she chose to present a group of vignettes in no particular order of occurrence making this blueprint of her daily living a compelling reality.
Lyndsey does not seek our sympathy. She presents it like it is, in itself a way to pass her days.
My book is marked with so many colorful sticky notes, red, green, purple. If I were to quote each passage that touched me I'd be guilty of infringement.
“I covet tales of human beings in extremis; want to know how they felt, what they did, how they bore it.”
This, in the end, may be why I found my way to Girl in the Dark. It is an exquisitely written testament to the human spirit. I have learned something invaluable in its reading. My hope is that you will also.
by Beckyh (Chicago, IL): The discord between the Turks and the Armenians comes alive in Ohanesian's book that details three generations of those two groups that once occupied the same land. The book begins in 1990 with the reading of a will. Orhan, a Turk, has been left his family's business, but not the family home, in the will written by his grandfather. The home has been left to an unknown woman living in California. Orhan's father is enraged. He and Orhan's Auntie have been left with no stake in the family's Kilim rug factory and only an apartment building in another town in which to live.
Orhan flies off to meet the Californian, Seda, an aged Armenian, in an effort to regain the family home. The rest of the book is divided between the events in Armenia just after the close of WWI and the meetings between Orhan and Seda. The connection between the two families is compelling reading. The horror of the Armenian genocide is rendered in a beautifully written tale of love, horror, forgiveness, deceit, discrimination, fear, kindness, anger and, finally, understanding.
5 of 5 stars
by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul NSW Australia): “The tin roof of the Italian's hut flashed like a semaphore at the clouds scudding over the moon, smoky white clouds, fraying at the edges, with deep purple bellies”
The Paperbark Shoe is the first novel by West Australian-born novelist and short story writer, Goldie Goldbloom. It won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Fiction in 2008, and the Literary Novel of the Year from the ForeWord Magazine (Independent Publishers) in 2011. In 1943, Italian Prisoners of War were sent out to work on West Australian farms, a welcome source of labour at a time when able-bodied men were away at war. Antonio and Gianpaolo arrive at Mr Toad's farm on the Cemetery Road, five miles west of Wyalkatchem, dressed in their maroon-dyed uniforms.
This remote holding (“On one side of us stands the uninhabited coast, thousands of rocky miles patrolled by sharks, and on the other stands the vast, appalling desert of the great red centre, studded with the bones of animals and men that have strayed there and melted into the earth”) is home to Gin Toad, albino, prize-winning pianist, mother of three and two months pregnant; and Toadie, known for his collection of women's corsets. Both misfits in society, together for reasons that never included love.
When Antonio flatters Gin with attention and compliments, her attention is drawn to Toadie's shortcomings: “I can hear him now, his voice so like the croaking of a frog in a bucket, his deep sniffs punctuating each sentence”. The nature of their marriage irritates her more than ever: “He never touched me in the daytime, in the light, that man who ran his hands so tenderly over the horses, who touched his nose to their velvet muzzles and murmured to them as he gazed into their eyes. He had it in him, a capacity for love. But he hid it from me” Goldbloom's plot goes where expected, but with a twist. Her characters are a breed apart: many are quirky, all are in some way flawed, and while this can be endearing, the only truly appealing character in this tale is young Alfie. All the rest are selfish, some to an appalling degree. Her descriptive prose is beautiful and she certainly captures the feel of the West Australian desert and the small town attitudes of the 1940s. An outstanding debut.
by Brenda S (Langley, B.C.): The story is told in the voice of a different character for each chapter with one character being of the wealthy elite while another is of the down trodden poor. The author uses great descriptive language to show the disparity between these two classes as well as between the perceived societal mores and the actual mores of each class. For example, men of ‘quality’ don’t always act in a gentlemanly like manner. I mean one of the settings for this novel is a brothel. There is plenty of dirty goings-on, so be prepared for some coarse language as well.
The novel isn’t just about female boxing, but an exploration of finding your identity within your class. I really enjoyed it.
by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul NSW Australia): “Another vocation, then, reading, akin, even, to falling in love, she thought, stirring, as it did, the kind of emotions and extreme feelings she desired, feelings of innocence and longing that returned her to those vaguely perfect states she had experienced as a child.” Academy Street is the first novel by Irish author, Mary Costello. It chronicles the life of Teresa Lohan, from her youth in rural Ireland in the 1940s through her time in New York and her return to Ireland in her sixties. Tess is seemingly unremarkable, both as a child and an adult: a shy, sensitive child; a woman with an essential loneliness (“It seemed at times that she was marooned on an island, a moat of water, wide and black, separating her from all human love.”); a mother who feels she could have done better. Nonetheless, Costello's exquisite prose conveys this life with such emotion, such care, that the reader cannot help but be moved. Costello paints her character so vividly, so completely, that the reader can identify with Tess, her feelings (“ the mark of all anxiety: the acute awareness of the endless possibilities that can simultaneously imperil and enhance us, and all that might be lost or gained.”), her ideas (“It Ireland seemed to her now to be a place without dreams, or where dreaming was prohibited. Here, life could be lived at a higher, truer pitch. Though her own was a timid life, there was, since Theo's birth, a yearning towards motion and spirit and vitality.”), her reactions (“She thought of the water that had lain quietly calm, each tiny drop, each molecule, restful, suddenly wrenched, catapulted through a metal rotary, tossed back out into the turbulent current, reeling, confounded, changed.”). In both style and content, this novel is reminiscent of Sebastian Barry's work, in particular, “On Canaan's Side”. A remarkable debut novel.[Top]
by Diane S.: In this heartbreaking story about redemption, forgiveness and past regrets, Wagamese writes a magnificent story. His descriptions of the lives of Franklin, his father and the old man are poignant, at times heartbreaking but show a deep and abiding love that though not always shown, was always there. There are very few characters in this story but the characters that are there are more than enough to fill these pages.
He uses words in a way that few can, his portrayal of the woods, and the trip Franklin undertakes in a last effort, out of duty to a father who was mostly absent, I found beyond compare. My feelings at the end of this book were certainly melancholy but also glad that Franklin had someone who loved him throughout his life. Though this is the first book I have read by this author, it certainly will not be my last.
by Gayle Marra: I read this book last year. Each time I talk books with a friend or book club, this book comes to mind. I was totally absorbed while reading, and to this day the story haunts me.. I loved, it and I am reading it again. This author reminds me of Geraldine Brooks.[Top]
by Pam (Lake Mary, FL): Thrity Umrigar is my new favorite author. This is the third of her books (in a row!) I have read now, and each have been unique, powerful, and wonderful reads. The author is a great story-teller, character developer, and plot line weaver. What talent! This story involves the lives of an American couple who lose their only son, and try to repair their hearts and marriage with a fresh start in India only to find themselves at odds with each other’s political views and an involvement with another bright young boy. Their tragic beginning unfortunately leads to an even more tragic ending as they handle (and do not handle) grief in their own divergent ways.[Top]