Tag Archive: Book review


The birthday lunch
by Joan Clark

birthday-lunch

I liked this book.

It is, on the surface, quite gentle. But beneath the surface, the slow-paced life of a small village, the shock sleepwalking of bereaved family members, beneath all of that lies family history, betrayal, sadness, a sense of failures and being deserted, a swirling pool of mixed and misunderstood emotions – all the things every family holds within the emotional walls of relationships.

The book charts the detailed life and activities of a family after the unexpected death of a member. In a really still way this book will take you along the path of grief with the mourners. It is funny at times, and really quite sad too. It captures perfectly that period between death and burial when life carries on, but also is so markedly different it doesn’t fit any more.

The characters are all people we know, people we are related to, us. The relationships are familiar, and not always in a good way.

Misunderstanding, long held grudges, mistakes and anger are all there to be seen, and how they separate and join people is so human it made my heart ache.

And the end surprised me a little, in a variety of ways.

This is a lovely book which is absorbing and emotional.

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by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

What an amazing collection of stories from a truly incredible author. Adichie shows the reader, through these 12 stories, so many of the stories of Nigeria and Nigerians. From women living in America, separate from their Big Man husbands to students hiding in empty shop front to escape from a riot these stories tell a multitude of vibrant, real and often heart-breaking realties.

Africa is so present in all the stories, possibly especially those of Africans in America. Adichie tells it as it is, no sugar-coating or misty-eyed out of focus view. She addresses the fear and loneliness of immigrants as well as the pride and strength they have. She looks at the connections between loved ones and those lost, and makes the protagonist, and therefore also the reader, examine preconceptions and opinions.

These stories will grab you and suck you in; make you want to know more and wish that each were part of a full novel about the characters. Each story is complete, but they did leave me yearning to know more of the people. I wanted their past and future – I wanted to demand to know more, dammit!

Adichie is all she is cracked up to be – I feel so lucky to be an aware, developing feminist reader at the time she is producing.

A note: when I first started reading this book I didn’t realise it was a series of stories. So I read the first few stories as though they were chapters in a book, storylines that would join up eventually. As soon as I did work out that this was not the case it was worth going back and rereading the first few stories as complete pieces. And I realised how differently short stories require the reader read.

1 million stars out of 10

2017

If you want flowers, plant flowers

nature-collage

that’s my motto for 2017 – I want a good year with positive results, self growth and happiness. so I am planting those seeds right now

this is the year I turn 50 so I refuse for it to be anything but amazing

50

I will achieve Level 50!!!!!!

I have many plans for the year but the first two I am addressing are:

  • eating primarily plantbased meals
  • read primarily authors who are not cis-gendered white men

so expect book reviews and recipes

A Fine Balance

A Fine Balance

by Rohinton Mistry

Without a doubt up there in my best books ever!
I very seldom reread books but this book I shall keep just to reread in a few years. and again a few years after that.

The story of the book tells of the lives of four main characters (and many other important ones) who, through a variety of circumstances and occurrences, land up sharing a flat in an unnamed city in India in the 70s. I want to resist the clichés of describing lives and stories as a rich tapestry; of the smells and sounds of India emerging from the page; of the hardships of lives described making me review my relatively luxurious life, but I actually cannot. This book really does do all of those things. Like the quilt Dina makes with the left over pieces of fabric used to make dresses for the rich, so the lives of the characters are an intricate combination of textures, colours and experiences. and always, these characters are the left over people, the abused by rich society, the discarded.

Mistry pulled me into the lives of the various characters in this book from the very start. I cared about them, got angry with them, cheered them on and wanted to avert my face when pain and suffering befell them. They live on in my thoughts as though real people I spent time with and now miss.

Mistry also pulled me into India in the 70s. I know very little of the history on India, but after reading this book am going to go and find more out. I am fascinated by the time of the setting of this book – how accurate is Mistry? I fear completely. But I want to know.

a most moving book which never wallows in misery.

I really want to know what won the Booker the year this book was short listed – I cannot imagine what was that much better than A Fine Balance

All Over Creation

All Over Creation
Ruth L. Ozeki

ISBN:  9780330490276
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Kalahari.net: R145.95
Exclusive Books: R110.00

 This is a rather difficult book to review and do it justice. It is about so much and has so many interwoven stories that all pull and tug against each other, and prop each other up, that to reduce the book to a summary of the events would be criminal.

 If I tell you it’s about genetic engineering of foodstuff, many readers would yawn and find another book to read. But it is.

Except it’s also about a whole lot more

 It is also about family and what makes a family; and what breaks one. It’s about life and death and propagation. It’s about faith and trust and forgiveness.

 It has a huge cast but all of them are essential and full characters and are necessary. The stories unfold in a completely believable way and are so clear that there is never any confusion.

 The main story is of the Fuller family, Lloyd, his Japanese wife Momoko and his run away and now adult daughter Yumi. Lloyd was a potato farmer but now sells seeds with his wife. Yumi ran away for home at 14 and only now, at 39, has returned to Idaho because her father is dying and her mother losing her mind. Yumi returns with her three children and a host of issues and a history which returns to bite everyone in the ass.

 Added to this family saga of death, dementia, anger, love and forgiveness are the band of political activists who join forces with Lloyd in an anti-genetically modified foodstuff movement.

 Throw in an abortion, a barren couple, a dodgy dude with mirror shades and a bitter and twisted small town sheriff and the result is a very well worth reading book.

 Here is the first paragraph of the book:

It starts with the earth. How can it not? Imagine the planet like a split peach, whose pit forms the core, whose flesh its mantle, and whose fuzzy skin its crust – no, that doesn’t do justice to the crust, which is, after all, where all of life takes place. The earth’s crust must be more like the rind of the orange, thicker and more durable, quote unlike the thin skin of a bruisable peach. Or is it? Funny, how you never think to wonder.

 And I loved this paragraph:

Every seed has a story, Geek says, encrypted in a narrative line that stretched back for thousands of years. And if you trace that story, travelling with that little seed backwards in time, you might find yourself tucked into an immigrant’s hatband or sewn into the hem of a young wife’s dress as she smuggles you from the old country into the New World. Or you might be clinging to the belly wool of a yak as you travel across the steppes of Mongolia. Or perhaps you were eaten by an albatross and pooped out on some rocky outcropping, where you and your offspring will put down roots to colonize that foreign shore. Seeds tell the story of migrations and drifts, so if you learn to read them, they are very much like book – with one big difference. …………………….. Book information is relevant only to humans……………….the information contained in a seed is a different story, entirely vital, pertaining to life itself.

 Genetically modified plants have a seed self destruct mechanism implanted so as to force the farmers to buy new seeds every year! Who knew!

 The characters in the book make seed bombs which they throw over the walls of government and business building and compounds so that indigenous plants will grow on the lawns; they plant trees on verges and in parks. That kind of terrorism I can live with.

 Very cool story and very important area for us all to inform ourselves of. It is happening and we don’t even know where.

A cracker of a book and well worth reading

Twenty-four hours in the Life of a Woman and The Royal Game
Stefan Zweig
ISBN: 9781901285611
Publisher: Pushkin Press
www.kalahari.net: R135,96
Exclusive Books: R195,00

 Two novellas by German author Zweig. And they seem incredibly well translated.

 Twenty-four hours is quite simply a story a woman tells a listener (and the readers) of 24 hours of her life in which she behaved rather uncharacteristically. The story really is rather simple but it is so beautifully written and so engaging that i read the novella in one sitting. Not a huge task, but considering all the other demands i have right now, an accolade to the writing.

 The tale is actually about addiction and passion; deceit of others and of the self; hope and foolhardiness; and ultimately, about the separateness of us all. It’s about one woman’s hope that she could make a difference and her realisation that perhaps none of us can; about how society dictates and may not always be right. And about how the constraints of society, while exhilarating to flaunt, are almost impossible to truly escape.

 While these are always arresting themes in a book, what makes this story so much more valuable is that this novella was first published in 1944, but Zweig died in ’42 so it was probably written in the 30s. Progressive thinker he was in the creation of his protagonist.

 The Royal Game is, predictably, about chess.  Or so it seems. Again, the story starts and seems to be about one thing and then isn’t. In this novella, a dim-witted idiot savant is discovered to be a chess genius. The story diverges from him when the narrator encounters him on a ship and tries to arrange an accidental meeting over a chess board. And so is introduced perhaps the ‘real’ story of the novella. Or perhaps not. It’s hard to decide.

 This story raises the question of the difference between pride and a self-destructive inability to lose, obsession and addiction, single mindedness and monomania. It looks at chess as a motif for the ways in which we construct and conduct our lives; and the ways in which others, more powerful, do that for us.

 Interesting stuff and also a hugely readable and engaging story.

 I also really love the way this man writes – in some ways it is so old fashioned as to be a breath of fresh air.

 ‘Visitors who had come to see their friends scurried hither and thither, page boys with caps smartly cocked slithered through the public rooms shouting names snappily,…’

 I loved both of these novellas and am glad to found Zwieg.