The previous book I read, The Purple Hibiscus, was mesmerizing and I was totally lost in the tale as told by a girl as she grew up. I just wanted to keep reading.
The writing here is excellent too but in this book the author seems to want to tell us more than the tale of two young people growing up. It’s as if she has an agenda of things to make us understand. It is not enough to present what it was like to grow up well-educated in Nigeria but to be unable to complete higher education (or do something with that education), how it feels to immigrate to the US or UK and to return to Lagos, which would be the story of these two young people.
Adiche also goes to great length to describe the peers at school, the co workers abroad, the immigrants who made it vs those who didn’t and the family members, presenting their point of view on every matter as well. As if there is a need to present every possible aspect of every subject.
In addition, Adiche emphasizes in great detail a perspective I haven’t really encountered before, one of the African new immigrant’s musings on race in comparison to African Americans who have been in the US for generations. There are some very thought-provoking passages.
It’s all very interesting but it is a long book and sometimes I felt that it was trying to encompass too much and I was sort of wishing it would move a little faster.
I’m usually quite sure what exactly I like and don’t like about a book. All very clear.
Except for this book. I liked it but I really can’t put my finger on why I did.
On the back cover there is a review-comment from The Daily Mail “Funny, moving and very very true…a brilliant brilliant book”.
I don’t think the book is funny – I don’t find such a dysfunctional family funny. I am strongly suspect of the “true” aspect of it but willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Though the mother’s character is a bit much…
Yet there is something about this book. I don’t know if “brilliant” is the right word but each chapter sucks you into a scene completely. When you are released and turn to the next chapter you find yourself not where or when you expected to be, yet it all makes sense.
Would you believe I found two books with such similar titles on the same visit to the library? But the similarities pretty much begin and end with the titles.
It is my understanding that “The People of Paper” by Plascencia is supposed to present an innovative form of writing. Well, I’m afraid I’m not progressive enough to enjoy it. Large portions of the book are written in columns, with each character’s point of view appearing in a different column. I was prepared to accept reading like that for a few chapters, until the author went overboard, as far as I was concerned. New characters were added, remembering which character was which grew confusing and time frames jumped between different character’s tales (or between one column to the next) and I got totally lost.
I abandoned the ship.
On the other hand, People of the Book by Brooks is very easy to read. It’s historical fiction and each time frame is clearly distinguishable. The book is rich with details, in fact it seems ready to be adapted for the screen. You have everything Hollywood usually wants.
Which leads to my main problem with the book. It is basically a good book but I dislike it when you can tell the author had a kind of checklist of “Hollywood” elements that need to appear in the book – sex must be brought up at regular intervals, unknown fathers, the mother who basically sacrificed her child for her career, etc. And while I’m all for “girl power”, I found some parts regarding the female heroine in every single period a bit hard to believe, particularly the really ancient times.
Nonetheless, it was an interesting book and I would recommend it.
Honestly, just watch the trailer and see if you can figure out how to watch the documentary. To say much about this in advance is a spoiler.
Our whole family just watched it at the Docaviv Documentary Film Festival and it is fascinating. We’ve been talking about it all evening – it is so cleverly done! It brings up the issue of what makes us believe what we believe, combining a take on former Yugoslavia and today’s media quandary… We keep noticing yet another detail used to prove a point.
Talk about opening lines! This book catches your attention right away! I honestly recommend not reading many details about it before you begin – let the story surprise you as you join Edgar Mint’s unusual journey into adulthood.
As unusual as the story is, the main draw here is the writing, the skillful storytelling. I’m looking forward to reading other books by Udall, there were passages that caused me to pause for a minute and think about how they were written.
My only complaint is that book is too long, especially the middle part which seemed to go beyond what was needed to serve the story line.
Miracle lives seem to be a popular theme, but don’t pass up on writing like this.
It is so well written that I was utterly mesmerised. I found it physically difficult to tear myself away from the book.
It’s not that the type of characters or the setting are familiar to me – life in Nigeria during a military coup and fanatically religious Catholicism – but the writing is so skillful that I felt I was observing everything happening very closely, standing close enough to see, hear and feel.
Another case of “Thank a Librarian” who put it out on a RECOMMEDED shelf!
Wow, what a skillful writer who can really pack a punch!
The author is “only” describing two couples (two brothers and their wives) spending an evening out in a fancy restaurant, but a whole lifetime and a tense plot pops up cleverly between the minuscule food portions such upscale restaurants have a reputation of serving.
Believe me, it’s best not to know more in advance. Let the author present the story in his way.
Interesting side note the author makes in the book – what do people the world over really read about Holland and famous Dutch people? There are the famous painters and there was Anna Frank (and some other heroic stories I might add). Don’t forget “Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates” ! But I really can’t recall reading anything else that takes place in the Netherlands.
The only thing I resent is one of the comments on the front cover of the book. It IS a thought-provoking book but I most certainly do not identify in any way with the characters.
It really is. Charming is the apt description. There’s even a different take on “Prince Charming”!
It’s sweet (and short!) and makes you feel like saying “aw, nice!”. It has some unusual (quirky, perhaps? ) ways to express a theme that I, of course, believe in – reading books and writing tales (AND reading aloud!!!!) are really good for you, in many ways.
I wonder if the author was influenced by “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” as there is the same theme of people doing menial jobs that are almost invisible to society, yet who have a rich literary world going on in private.
In short, not raving about the book but I’m glad I read it.
I don’t usually write about books before I have finished them, but this one has blown me away from the very beginning. The only reason I haven’t finished it is that the need to finish a book is not yet a legitimate reason to stay home from work and forget about feeding the family…
It’s another one of these books that I happened on by chance at the library. Thank goodness for libraries – if I only read books I hear people talking about (or read reviews of ) I would be missing out on a lot.
Eire’s style in describing his childhood in Havana during the end of the Batista era (son of a judge) and the beginning of Castro’s takeover is spellbinding and unique. It is so vivid yet not sugar-coated; it’s not as if everything was the paradise Eire’s teachers tried to claim it was until “out of the blue” bad things happened. His method of describing childhood memories in Havana and then throwing in comments, snippets highlighting the future trauma when his life changed completely, delivers quite a punch.
Eire was airlifted out of Cuba when he was eleven years old with his brother. He was allowed to take absolutely nothing but a change of clothes, not even photos of his family or a familiar object. Then he began a life of an orphaned refugee.
Not only do I think this is a fascinating book to read at any time, I find it particularly relevant nowadays – Cuba’s new relations with the U.S.A and what it feels like to be a refugee. I’m not so interested in his comments related to wrestling with tenets of the Catholic faith, but the book does tie into my current ROOTS research – my own grandmother lived in Havana for a few years in the fifties.