Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Alyson Richman

What a brilliant and talented woman!  Her historical details are so intricate and beautifully described!
I have written about two of her novels:
The Lost Wife
The Last Van Gogh
I just read The Garden of Letters (2014)

   Verona, Italy, 1943.
   Another love story taking place during W.W.II. In fact, this novel includes three love stories.
   Elodie Bertolotti is a talented cellist, whose father died from injuries after being tortured by the 'black shirts'. 
   Elodie decided to join the Resistance Movement and she became very valuable to the movement because of her memory and her ability to write secret codes into her music.  I really enjoyed that aspect as it was described in detail.
   In fact, every aspect of the story was described in minute detail- the sights, sounds, smells and emotions.
  Elodie fell in love with a leader of the movement, but he was killed and she eventually had to escape to save herself.
  As she arrived by boat, in the harbour at Portofino, a doctor, Angelo, saved her from interrogation by the German soldiers. Angelo was a very kind man who went to the harbour every few months to see if he could save one person.  He chose the one who looked the most afraid.  And, on this day, that happened to be Elodie, who was pregnant and alone.
   Angelo, the doctor, had experienced extreme loss and his story is the reason for the title.  But I won't go there...
   And so, the final love story is between Elodie and the doctor and it is beautiful.
  I really feel that I should adore this book.  The writing is spectacular!  Each sentence is beautifully crafted!  And I loved that at first, but eventually it appeared to be very melodramatic and interfered with the story.
  War stories distress me more than entertain me.  But I realize that it makes the story poignant.  The combination of love and war makes a great story.
  Also, there is the non-linnear aspect that always ruins my enjoyment of the story- movement back and forth in time and place.
 This will not be my favourite novel, but it is extraordinary.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Serendipidy at the library

Serendipity: Serendipity means a "fortunate happenstance" or "pleasant surprise".  It was coined in 1754.

   I have had many interesting experiences while visiting the public library.
   Often I meet people that I haven't seen for years.  It is a great place to reminisce.  Sometimes people recognize me from volunteer work there and stop to speak to me, giving me a chance to get to know them better.
  But I also often speak to complete strangers.  Well, actually, no one in the library is a complete stranger.   We are all connected by our love of books. Once I was carrying the book "The Kitchen House" and a woman stopped me to tell me what a wonderful book that was, and had I read the follow-up, "Glory Over Everything"?  Both great books by Kathleen Grissom.  I call this interchange "serendipity".

   Today's serendipity was a real zinger.  I got into conversation with a man named Allen, who chooses 50 books for himself at a time.  I had a million questions for this man.  Do you read them all?  How long does it take to read each book?  How do you choose your books? etc, etc, etc.
   He certainly is a fascinating man and I asked if I could write about him on my blog.  He said that I surely could as long as I spelled his name Allen (guess many people spell it Allan).  There were no last names exchanged.
   Allen goes to bed at 8:00 and wakes at 3:00 and spends about 15 hours a day reading!  What????  I guess it would be easy to get into a book that early in the morning, but..but...but.  
  I was happy/sad for him.  Imagine reading that many books.  But obviously no time for other interests and friends.  He seemed very social as we got into a conversation about the wonderful author, Rob Sawyer.  He was picking up one of Sawyer's books and I was recommending others.
   Serendipity at the library!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Year of Pleasures

    I have been starting book after book without really getting involved.  Perhaps it is because of the change in season- just couldn't get interested in a book.
   A friend gave me this book and I thought it might be just right- and it was.  It's not a favourite for all, but I do enjoy Elizabeth Berg's writing.

 This particular book is about grief and new beginnings.  Betta, an author, is the protagonist who has just lost her husband to cancer (he was a psychiatrist).  They had no children, in fact no family at all.  What surprised me was that they also didn't have any close friends.  I have never known a couple who completely kept to themselves.  That whole idea was new to me and I wondered how she would manage.
   Well, she moved to a new town to start her new life.  And she did reach out to people there.
  I enjoyed the story - no great themes or wonderful language.  But I greatly enjoyed her descriptions of the ordinariness of life, such as reading about cooking while smelling something cooking. Hmmm.
   She makes a list of the things that brought her the most comfort- raspberries in cream, sparrows with cocked heads, shadows made by trees, the shouts of children at play.  It made me think  about the simple things that bring me joy- the full moon, porridge on a winter's morning, the fall colours, a drive through the country. 

Elizabeth Berg
Elizabeth Berg
   I don't think she gets enough credit for her writing.  It may not be great literature, but it reflects the joys and sorrows of daily life.  I even learned a new word - "gibbous".  You may be sure that I will use it often when the moon is past the half-way stage- a gibbous moon.
   There is a quote that my friend Terri would like: "Did you ever notice how after you look at art for a long time you come out onto the street and see only art?"

  Elizabeth Berg writes a lot about food, and she has been a waitress.  But actually she was a nurse for ten years before she started writing.  That's where she learned about human nature, human emotion, and relationships.  

  I have read eight books by Elizabeth Berg, including "Open House", which was chosen by Oprah for her book club in 2003. I am happy to know that there are many, many more books to enjoy whenever I need something light and easy to read.

Friday, 7 October 2016

The Tie That Binds

I had read four of Kent Haruf's novels when our book club chose this book.
You can read about those books here.
You will see that I am not a fan of this author, but he has a huge number of very loyal fans.  On to the book...

Edith Goodnough, 80, is in the hospital and has been charged with murder.  The whole novel is a recital of her life in order to explain that charge.  This litany of her life is given by Sanders Roscoe, her closest neighbour in this untamed wilderness.
Fans of this author seem to love his descriptions of the hard life of those who work the land, especially in the early 1900's. The ranch is in Holt, Colorado.  And perhaps we should call it a farm- ranch sounds too appealing and her life was complete drudgery.
Fans also love this author's characters.  Edith is a hard-working, thoughtful woman who sacrifices her whole life for her family.  Her father is a tyrant, especially after he has an accident with the machinery.
The story is told in anger by the neighbour Sanders in a straightforward, linear fashion. I would have preferred an omniscient narrator who could describe the thoughts and emotions of Edith.  Also we might have been able to better understand the venomous, belligerent father.

I rather enjoyed the central part of the novel, when I was anxious to know how Edith's life turned out.  But towards the end, I just wanted to get it over.

But...don't listen to me on this.  One of his fans said,
"I highly recommend this beautifully descriptive and powerful look at a woman of strength and labor-intensive farm life in Holt, Colorado".

Sunday, 2 October 2016

One Book One Community is over for another year

   One Book One Community has celebrated fifteen years of encouraging the Waterloo Region to read a specially selected book.  The announcement of the new title is made in April, giving the public lots of time to read the book before the author visits the community in September.
   Last week, Amanda Lindhout, the author of "A House in the Sky" spoke in four locations within Waterloo Region.  There was a tremendous response to her appearances.
  I have been very involved in O.B.O.C. for the fifteen years and always look forward to hearing about the next book that we will be reading. I greatly enjoyed leading a discussion of this book at our local library after we had heard the author speak. 
   I was surprised to hear that our program is the longest-running of its kind in Canada.  Sometimes the program is run by a city or sometimes by the whole province, as in "One Book One Island" in Prince Edward Island.

Read my blog about O.B.O.C. by clicking here.

Read about "A House in the Sky" by clicking here.
I was much more sympathetic to Amanda after hearing her speak.  She made a very poor decision to go to Somalia, but suffered greatly and her book was appreciated by many!