This is one of those books I had never heard of (translated from German), that I stumbled upon in the library and quite enjoyed. Wikipedia says that a movie was based on the book, never encountered that either.
The author really brings to life two scientists that devoted their lives to figuring out the world’s secrets, Carl Friedrich Gauss and Alexander Von Humboldt. The early 19th century comes to life as well. The tale is told skillfully, with understatement and humor. The author manages a winning combination of explaining information while presenting the human side. Frankly, I’m glad I never met either of them – it was no simple matter to be around either one of them!
I’m aware of the fact that I have lately become more critical when it comes to books, but this time my problem is a bit different.
I found the writing to be skillful and rich, the characters well-built and they develop as the story progresses. The first chapters were engaging and drew me in quickly. In fact I would be willing to try reading another book by this author. The back cover mentions a Pulitzer Prize for one of the author’s other books.
However, after reading half the book I simply felt bored.
Perhaps it is because the story feels so dated ( it was published in 1965). The young couple who , in the 1950s, leaves New England to go to California. As far as their friends are concerned they have disappeared into oblivion. There they encounter people who are supposedly free of the constraints of the straight-laced life in New England, people with minimal clothing and different values & morals. Many seem to be living in messy homes with lots of pot but they are, supposedly, somehow, more real. Lurie uses terms like Beatniks and Starlets and seems trying to explain to a reader, who hasn’t yet met the sixties, a thing or two.
I just really couldn’t work up an interest in what happens to this couple any further and abandoned the book…
My apologies to those of you who don’t read Hebrew, I sincerely hope this book will be translated soon!
This book takes a novel and humorous approach to the romantic tale. The main characters are “Coincidence Makers” – beings who look like people but are in fact in charge of creating the situations we call coincidences. It takes meticulous research and careful planning to create a perfect “coincidence”. Coincidences that cause two people to cross paths, some that lead to major discoveries in medicine or even getting someone fired so as to get him/her to move on to do what he/she always wanted but was too afraid to try.
But the best part of it all, for me, was how Blum treats it like a serious profession and gives excerpts from the Coincidence Makers’ textbooks and exams (you have to study to be certified) which clearly poke fun at familiar things from college entrance exams and course material.
There are also official Imaginary Friends…
I also enjoyed the way he described situations, supposedly seriously but then with a twist of phrase that made me chuckle.
As I said – a fun read!
P.S. It turns out the author lives in Kiryat Ono, just like I do! If you’ve forgotten the wonders that can be found in our little corner of the world, see here.
The past year has been an extremely hectic one for me (good things, no worries!). Large quantities of new information of different types landed on my brain’s “doorstep” and moved in.
Their arrival seems to have displaced information I used to have at my disposal and I seem to have less room for taking in new information (I forget things I was recently told!).
One memory has surfaced quite clearly though. In fact, it is demanding my attention quite frequently. There is a question to be answered:
Was Sherlock Holmes (or rather Conan Doyle) right about the brain being like an attic after all?
The claim was made, in “A Study in Scarlet” which I believe was the very first story about Holmes, published in 1887. Dr. Watson had just expressed shock that Holmes didn’t know something about the solar system, possibly that the earth rotates around the sun. I read the story years ago yet Holmes’ reaction stuck in my mind more than the actual plot of the story.
Here’s the quote. What do you think?
“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
I had thought I might quit when the going gets rough (as indicated by the subtitle, it’s not a spoiler), but who could quit? Especially as I was dying to know how the author had such detailed information about the different stages of their polar journey. Also, the crew seemed to have a knack for overcoming impossible odds until…
Now THAT would be a spoiler. Read the book!
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologizes, by Backman
The beginning of the book requires patience, but afterwards I found the book to be very engaging and enjoyed it. The book begins with rather too many details from the stories Elsa (almost 8 and gifted) is told by her “crazy” grandmother. While it is obvious that the stories are important to the plot, at that stage I found it hard to be interested in all their details.
However, once the plot really got going, I was really drawn in. Elsa’s family and neighbors, her feminist-trail blazing-unorthodox grandmother and Elsa herself are all rich and interesting characters.
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
Not for me at all.
After enjoying the lovely concept in the first chapter of assigning books to cure people like a prescription for medicine, I lost patience with the book fairly quickly and abandoned ship.
I truly dislike platitudes about “what women want” or “what men are like”. And that’s just for starters…
I don’t usually write about books that I haven’t completed, or haven’t even reached the middle of. But I had to share the sense of discovery.
Here’s the thing. I hadn’t wanted to read the book.
The subtitle of this hardcover, 415 page book is “The grand and TERRIBLE polar voyage of the USS Jeannette” and I really didn’t think I wanted to sink into the despair of being stuck in ice. Especially four hundred pages worth.
However, my son said “Try it. Read the first chapter. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Just try it”.
How many times have we said sentences like that to our kids?!!!
So I did!
It’s awesome! Everything I have read so far is a fascinating portrayal of the period and events that explain the interest in polar expeditions, engrossing portrayals of the colorful characters that were involved and more. I was hooked after two pages. What skillful writing!
I don’t know what I’ll think when the expedition meets trouble but for now the cliché “brings history to life” is really what Hampton Sides manages to do.
If you want to call me cold-hearted and nitpicky now is the time to do so.
I was prepared to surrender myself to a legendary love story that breaks the barriers of time and distance. Romance is good.
However, I need consistency within the story. The world created in the story needs to make sense according to the story. Too many details did not adhere to this principle, at least as far as I am concerned.
I am willing to accept that an impoverished, blind, semi-orphan living in a monastery in rural Burma had access to a couple of books in Braille (left behind by a British officer) but asking me to believe he was well versed in all the classics, all of which were read in Braille from his extensive collection is a bit much. And how was the love of his life writing him letters? When exactly did she become literate? Who was educating girls, especially with a handicap? What about the daughter who was abandoned as a child, without any warning, forgives all the moment she hears about how great the love story was? I guess that’s what is called “short-term therapy”.
I think what bothered me most was the underlying assumption that true wisdom can only be found where there is desperate poverty, children die young of diseases that are preventable, a person with a mobility handicap must be carried on other people’s back and more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly willing to truly believe that there is a great deal of wisdom to be found in such places. It’s the “only” that really gets me.
I know it sounds like a contradiction, but this book got me hooked right away yet required patience.
It’s not a spoiler to say that the book starts with a true event, a man performed a tightrope act with a balancing pole between The Twin Towers in 1974. The description is beautifully written.
Then the author moves into fiction,introducing characters. Here you need some patience, the first story (introducing the first characters) for me was a bit long and I wasn’t sure where he was going with it. But the second one was riveting.
And then the different characters and their lives all tie in.
And there is hope, despite it all.
Quite an unusual book with beautiful language. Worth reading!
And I do recognize the talent, the cleverness (aka genius) of the style of writing. I really did feel like I was in the head of this 24 year old “kid” who was orphaned and is trying to raise his 7 year old brother.
Which is why I stopped reading the book. Being inside this young man’s head was a totally dizzying experience, one I actually felt too old for.
The book deserves to be read. But I couldn’t deal with it.
Teaching English as a FOREIGN language to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students