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.
The bare bones of the plot line could have easily gone in so many directions that I find boring, corny and unbelievable. A lonely bookseller, tales of love lost & love found (several characters), the magic of children…
I’m the cold-hearted reader who jumped ship (never to return) shortly after the bookseller in “The Little Paris Bookshop” unmoored his book-boat-shop, remember?
But THIS book, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, is so well written. To paraphrase something said in the book itself – the right words in the right places, and not too many of them. The author trusts the reader to understand.
And so many books are mentioned, discussed and brought up in a context that makes want to read those I haven’t read yet!
Ah, there’s a wonderful world of books waiting to be read out there!
I actually read Backman’s second book first, so I immediately reached for this one when I found it at the library. I did so because I knew I would enjoy it.
And I did.
There are things one could quibble about. Way too many similes. Certain things that call for “a suspense of belief”. And honestly, truly, there are some awesome social workers out there, who do good work and help people ( the profession sort of needs defending after you read the book).
But those are really minor things. It’s a great story with characters you get involved with and feel truly moved.
This is another one of those books that I read because of a chance discovery at the library. Many times (like today!) I get frustrated by the list of books the library doesn’t carry, books recommended to me. But books like this one remind me of what I would be missing if I only read the books people are talking about.
It’s not an easy read. Not at all. The tale of the tragic end of the Greek communities in Asia minor is certainly not a happy one. I have to admit that I knew next to nothing about the expulsion of the Greeks from Turkey. Years ago I read “The 40 days on Musa Dagh” by Werfel, so I knew something about the Armenian population in the region, but not about the Greeks.
It is a testimony to the skill of the writer that at no point did I want to give up on the book. The descriptions of farmers’ and merchants’ lives there before the calamity are vivid. By having the main character meet a wide variety of people you realize the writer has been cleverly giving you many perspectives of the unfolding events.
But I think the most arresting thing about the book is while it is a story of a specific place and time in history (fiction yet based closely on true events), it is a universal tale. Much too relevant to today’s world, which is sort of scary to admit. This is what happens when hatred is inflamed, stereotypes are rampant and scapegoats are needed. Blaming one religion /ethnic group for all possible evils is, sadly, not something one finds only in history books. Reading about the background that lead to the outbreak of horrific violence from all sides involved is not comforting. It’s so easy nowadays to imagine the refugees in the book..
While I’m glad to be moving on to lighter fare now I’m glad I read the book. A lot to think about.
I’ve been enjoying Peter Hessler’s articles in the New Yorker magazine for years, so was understandably delighted to find his book “Oracle Bones” at the free readers-for-readers corner at our library*.
It’s not a travel book about China. It is a great many things. Peter Hessler lived in China for many years and his conversations / interactions with people were direct, without the filters of interpreters. Yet he doesn’t seem to be trying to claim “I KNOW China and am an absolute authority of this diverse country”. Hessler gives us a long-term personal view of what it was like to be a foreigner living in China in general, and during global events such as 9/11. He also follows the lives of certain people over the span of quite a few years, such as former students of his and people he met. These are not just descriptions, but quotes from conversations and correspondence.
But that’s just one part of the book. The framework of explaining the significance of the ancient oracle bones (earliest forms of local writing!), how archaeology in China is a whole different ball game from what I’m familiar with in this archaeological rich area, adds a whole new dimension to all that I have ever read about the country. Sadly, it seems that everywhere study of the past and politics cannot be separated…
In short, the style is very readable and easy to get into it, though quite long. I took my time reading it but am very glad I did.
*Note: A while I found a treasure trove of three books the library took out of its collection and added to the “free for readers to take” corner. I guess the library decided these books aren’t being borrowed enough, hence not worth keeping. But I’m having a great time with them! This is the second of the three (The Hare with the Amber Eyes was the first). I have now begun the third: “Farewell Anatolia” by Dido Sotiriou.
A genealogy research journey that absolutely brings the past to life. And what a past it is!
The book begins in a very unexpected location for a tale following Jewish roots. In Tokyo! The author inherits 264 Japanese Netsuke (one first learns what they are) from his great-uncle in Tokyo. An inheritance from the author’s grandmother’s great-uncle (read that again to let it sink in) who was busy being a patron to such impressionist artists as Renoir in Paris. By following the trail of the Netsuke the story takes the reader on a journey with a unusal family from Odessa to Paris, Vienna, Britain and Tokyo. These places are vividly brought to life at the different time periods as well as the characters.
The author is a ceramic artist and there is a great deal of emphasis on art, particularly in the first part . The first part reads slower but then the pace picks up (with richer details) when the tale moves to Vienna. I knew very little about Vienna, particularly before and during WWI and now I feel I can picture so much. Historical facts are intertwined so cleverly with the family’s personal history that everything is in an understandable context.
I’m blown away by the research he conducted – this is a family that left a huge paper trail.
Of course, it all boils down to what you do with all that information and I found the writing skillful and the language rich.
Teaching English as a FOREIGN language to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students