30 May 2011

Review: "Old Friends and New Fancies"

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when in need of a trusty comfort read of good quality, one should always go for Jane Austen. There is nothing like a trip to Austen-land when you need to let yourself escape into a good book. Which is why I went through the Austen section of my shelves a few days ago when I had to go to the hospital for a small operation. And today - with my leg still looking like it has been beat up bad and my head being completely untrustworthy from morphine - I finished "Old Friends and New Fancies" by Sybil G. Brinton.
This book is branded as the first ever Jane Austen sequel as it was written in 1913 and of all of the many (!) sequels I have read, this one is one of my favourites. It is not a sequel to a specific book but to all of the popular Jane Austen books. Most of it takes place on the grounds of Pemberley but Elinor Ferrars née Dashwood from "Sense and Sensibility" is now a close friend of Elizabeth Darcy as is Anne Wentworth. On a visit to Bath, Mrs. Darcy also makes friends with miss Mary Crawford who soon attracts the attention of Colonel Fitzwilliam and then it all starts taking off. Romantic entanglements, a furious Lady Catherine, a silly Kitty Bennett and a thoughtful Georgiana Darcy meet and mingle with Tom Bertram, William Price and Mrs. Jennings and true to the Jane Austen style, there is of course a happy ending. Beautifuly written, this is the tale of what happened with all the unmarried characters that were left single at the end of the Austen's most beloved novels and I found it a joy to re-read.

Read it if you like: "Pride and Prejudice", "Sense and Sensibility" and the other Austen novels and don't mind that someone other than Austen have guessed at what happened next...

24 May 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Little White Lies

If you haven't visited The Broke and Bookish - www.brokeandbookish.blogspot.com - hosts of this fun meme, then you absolutely need to do so as it is a really great blog.

Today's Top Ten subject is telling lies about books and reading...

Now being honest ;-) I don't think I can think of ten separate lies that I've told in relation to reading, though I am sure that I have plenty. Just can't remember them. It must be something about forgetting the things that I would rather not remember, I think. But let's give it a go anyway:

1) Lying about liking a book to please somebody - this would usually be because the book was a present from this somebody or maybe their favourite book. I hate hurting peoples feelings so sometimes a little white lie goes a long way

2) Lying about choosing a book NOT just because of the cover... because it sounds like such a ditzy thing to do... but I do sometimes do it...

3) Lying about having read a classic that I haven't read. I swear it doesn't happen often but it has happened a couple of times out of sheer embarrassment.

4) Lying about liking a perceived classic that I really didn't like/see the point of... I know you know what I mean :-)

5) Pretending that it is not a new book but really one that I have had for quite a while to stop my boyfriend from accusing me of being a compulsive book-buyer (I really am not babe!)

What I never lie about is books that I like. If I have genuinely liked a book, I will stand by it. I have made that promise to myself and it is one that I intend to keep. I will even admit to liking Twilight because even though it has soooo many flaws, it makes for wonderful entertainment. So I stand by my books.

What about you - what do you lie about?

23 May 2011

Don't forget to join the give-away for "A Gate at the Stairs"

Just scroll down a little bit and you are there :-)

Review: The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

Have you watched the film "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee"? Otherwise please please please don't watch it until you have read the book "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee" by Rebecca Miller" because as so it is so often the case, the book is much better than the film. Which is intriguing in this case because the film actually follows the book to the letter but somehow the film doesn't have the same soul as the book even though the visuals are great and it is somehow very pretty. But the emotions and the pain of the book has not translated well into film - at least I don't think so.

Pippa Lee is the perfect wife. She has devoted her life, her entire being to the role as best supporting act in the life of her much older husband Herb. She cooks, she decorates, she looks stunning at the age of 50 and she has raised two successful children. But now that Herb has turned 80, they have moved to Marigold Village, a last stop for the elderly and retired where Pippa is among the youngest. And maybe that is why she is so restless and why she finds herself thinking about her past lives. Not in a reincarnation sense but in the sense that Pippa is a woman who has led many different lives in her lifetime. Pastor's daughter and adored child, bohemian artist-groupie in New York and the other woman... She carries with her a sense of guilt for her past and it seems to fill the present.
This book is beautiful. The language is simple, in no way cluttered or dramatic but it captures everything so well. I liked the movie but I fell in love with the book. It made me think a lot about growing up and growing older and about the choices we make in life.
A stunning tale about living life to the fullest or paying the prize of wasting a precious gift.

Read it if: You are tired of the cliches and lack of food for thought in chick lit.

22 May 2011

GIVEAWAY: A Gate At the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

I am cleaning out my bookshelves and therefore giving away my copies of some of the books that I have read over the last few years. So if you would like my once-read copy of "A Gate at the Stairs" by Lorrie Moore, please leave a comment with a recommendation of one of your favourite books. Genre and topic doesn't matter as long as it is a book that you love :-)
I will pick a winner of the give-away at random on Tuesday May 24th.

Here is a description of the book from amazon.com:
Tassie Keltjin, 20, a smalltown girl weathering a clumsy college year in the Athens of the Midwest, is taken on as prospective nanny by brittle Sarah Brink, the proprietor of a pricey restaurant who is desperate to adopt a baby despite her dodgy past. Subsequent adventures in prospective motherhood involve a pregnant girl with scarcely a tooth in her head and a white birth mother abandoned by her African-American boyfriend—both encounters expose class and racial prejudice to an increasingly less naïve Tassie. In a parallel tale, Tassie lands a lover, enigmatic Reynaldo, who tries to keep certain parts of his life a secret from Tassie. Moore's graceful prose considers serious emotional and political issues with low-key clarity and poignancy, while generous flashes of wit—Tessie the sexual innocent using her roommate's vibrator to stir her chocolate milk—endow this stellar novel with great heart.

Penguins in my bag

I love the Penguin books for their classic, graphical style where all the focus is on the title and the author's name - lit up by bright colours. And now you can enjoy this great design on-the-go with these cute accessories in the classic Penguin style. The perfect present for a book lover! I saw the thermos when I was shopping in central Copenhagen with my sister yesterday and I just found that and other great little thins on Gifted Penguin - http://www.giftedpenguin.co.uk/
I have a bit of a crush on the Pride and Prejudice notebook. Normally I use Moleskine notebooks for my diaries but I think that I will try this one next time!

21 May 2011

Willa wants to Read... Great American Literature!

I am sure you know the feeling that there are books that we really should have read but that we haven't managed to read yet. Those ones that are on the top of the TBR... My TBR seems to have quite a lot of those Great American Novels on it. Not sure why but they seem to pile up on the TBR without ever getting read by me... So here is a little list to remind myself that I need to set time aside to read them.
If you have read any of them and can recommend them, please leave a comment and tell me what you think of the book in question.

"A Farewell to Arms" by Ernest Hemingway
From amazon.com: In 1918 Ernest Hemingway went to war, to the 'war to end all wars'. He volunteered for ambulance service in Italy, was wounded and twice decorated. Out of his experiences came A Farewell to Arms. In an unforgettable depiction of war, Hemingway recreates the fear, the comradeship, the courage of his young American volunteers and the men and women he encounters along the way with conviction and brutal honesty. A love story of immense drama and uncompromising passion, A Farewell to Arms is a testament to Hemingway's unique and unflinching view of the world and the people around him.

"To The Lighthouse" by Virginia Woolf
From Wikipedia: A landmark novel of high modernism, the text, centring on the Ramsay family and their visits to the Isle of Skye in Scotland between 1910 and 1920, skilfully manipulates temporality and psychological exploration.

"Revolutionary Road" by Richard Yates
From amazon.com: Frank is mired in a well-paying but boring office job and April is a housewife still mourning the demise of her hoped-for acting career. Determined to identify themselves as superior to the mediocre sprawl of suburbanites who surround them, they decide to move to France where they will be better able to develop their true artistic sensibilities, free of the consumerist demands of capitalist America. As their relationship deteriorates into an endless cycle of squabbling, jealousy and recriminations, their trip and their dreams of self-fulfillment are thrown into jeopardy.

17 May 2011

Review: "The Monster of Florence"

Another book with a lame title... Sorry to authors Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi but this title (even though it is very describing and fits the subject well) is just not good... It hints at something sordid, it is a tabloid title. The headline of one of those newspapers that you'd never read in the bus for fear of being seen with it... You know what I mean?

This book, "The Monster of Florence", deserves a better title because it is very far from the tabloid style. In order to explain, let me first give you a quick summary of the plot of this non-fiction tale where truth is so strange that it has inspired the novel (and movie) Hannibal by Thomas Harris.
The case of the monster of Florence takes its beginning in Florence (obviously...) in the 1970's and 1980's where a serial killer targets young couples making love in cars in the hills around the beautiful renaissance city. The crimes are ruthless and barbaric, the victims young and the motives unclear. And the murderer turns out to hide his tracks very very well.
Mario Spezi is the journalist who becomes known as the monstrologer, the man who follows the case and investigation closely and who knows as much if not more about the case than the police. In 2000 the case is still unsolved as thriller author Douglas Preston moves to Florence to write a novel about something completely different but ends up becoming fascinated with the monster and friends with Mario Spezi.

As the police struggles to explain the unsolved case and as the possible theories become more and more impossible and unreal, Preston and Spezi get dragged further and further into the investigation until one day, they are under suspiscion.

You shouldn't read this book if you main interest is the gory details of the murder because that is not what this book is about. This is a book about the importance of the freedom of the press and about the power of false accusations. As the people of Florence become more and more scared, they also begin to suspect each other of being the monster and innocent lives are ruined by false accusations. The authors cling to the importance of the principle of innocent until proven guilty and sometimes they seem to be the only sane persons in the entire city...
The most scary part of this book is not the murders though they are gruesome, it is the fact that the police are seemingly willing to ignore all facts if they can get someone, anyone, convicted as the monster of Florence.

Read this if: you liked "The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher" by Kate Summerscale

15 May 2011

Review: "Dead Reckoning"

Welcome back Sookie! OMG I have been waiting for this book forever - or at least since I finished "Dead in the Family". And then the other day, poof it was there in my mailbox, making me so incredibly happy. So after finishing re-reading "Dead in the Family" so that I would be up to speed on all the details, I literally set yesterday aside to read "Dead Reckoning". I started in the gym, reading for an hour while working out. An hour that sped by as I was in such good company!! Then read through breakfast, went into town for a stroll with the boyfriend, came home and settled in to an afternoon and evening of reading.
Today, I will try to review Charlaine Harris's latest Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire book in as SPOILER-FREE a manner as I possibly can.

After the Fairy Wars, Sookie is slowly getting back on her feet and getting her molested body back into shape - with the help of one very very hunky, gorgeous viking vampire. Eric Northman - my new paranormal crush. That vampire is so hot that the pages are almost steaming whenever his name appears. Then in "Dead in the Family", Eric's maker turn up to make trouble in Bon Temps and now that Eric is free of him, Sookie is looking forward to relaxing a bit. As if that would ever happen...
Sookie has new housemates, sharing the old Stackhouse farmhouse with Cousin Claude and Great-uncle Dermot, two ancient fae relatives and keeping vampire-boyfriend from feeding on fairy-housemates is like an extra job next to her job as a waitress at Merlotte's. At Merlotte's things are difficult, since the shifters and weres have come out, Sam is losing customers and Sookie has to worry about her job, her cousin Hunter, who is also a telepath, and about the range of enemies she has and who would all prefer her dead. As in really dead, not vampire-dead.
Meanwhile Eric is acting stranger and stranger and Pam seems to be plotting with him behind Sookie's back. Throw into the mix: 1) Bill Compton 2) Sandra Pelt 3) Vampire Victor and Sookie's fae relatives, there is no such thing as a calm moment for our heroine.

Read this book if: You have read the other True Blood books and - like me - is mad in love with Sookie (and in lust with Eric...)

11 May 2011

Review: "Mrs Simpson: Secret Lives of the Duchess of Windsor "

Just the title.... "Secret Lives of the Duchess of Windsor"... it sounds like a really bad documentary, doesn't it? However, I managed to ignore the lame title and pick up the book "Mrs Simpson" by Charles Higham. Having seen "The King's Speech", I had become very interested in Wallis Simpson, the woman whom Edward VIII loved so much that he abdicated to marry her. And that was about all I knew about Mrs. Simpson before I started the book.

The first part of the book focuses on Wallis's early life in Baltimore, her first and second marriage, her time in China and I struggled to get through every single page. I can't say exactly why but this first third of the book was dull! Like, really dull!
However, then the Prince of Wales enters the scene and everything becomes a bit more interesting. What fascinated me mostly was this early part of the relationship between the king-to-be and divorced-then-married-again American who according to the author was not even attracted to the prince but instead carried on with other men behind his back.
As the story evolves and as it is told by the author, this was a relationship where one part was more in love than the other... And where an unlikely princess became a duchess and a king became a duke. If it was because a lot of this book is substantiated by quotes from good sources and seems to be rather thoroughly researched, I would have thought that it was mostly made up.

I can't recommend this book as such though because I have to say that I found it a tad bit difficult to read. The author didn't seem to be able to separate interesting anecdotes from tedious facts and it was something that I found hindered the reading. So unless you really really want to know about Wallis Simpson, this is not a book for you.

Books for a better world

Every weekend I read this great Danish weekend paper Weekendavisen because it is the only Danish paper to have an entire section dedicated to... books! And this weekend it featured an article about a Danish bookshop in Kathmandu, run by Lars Braaten, a Dane who fell in love with Nepal.
Now this is not just any old bookshop - this is a bookshop with a purpose because the proceeds from the bookshop goes towards funding Nepal Bal Ghar, a children's house where poor children with nowhere to go can get a roof over their heads and warm meals. Nepal Bal Ghar has existed since 1997 and you can read more about it here: http://www.nepalbalghar.dk/english.shtml

70% of all children in Nepal are illiterate so supporting a charity that helps them get life's necessities so that they can focus on going to school and learning to read and write.

Here is a quote from their mission statement:
Nepal Bal Ghar - Something Right Children's Home was started April 1st in 1997 in Sanepa, Kathmandu, Nepal. I - Lars M. Braaten - am the person in charge, responsible for the Children's Home, Lars M. Braaten.

People often ask me:

Why do you do it? and How did you come upon that idea?

and everytime I reply:

Because I have that option! I am in good health, financially OK and because my heart burns for Nepal. In fact, it is quite 'easy', when you relate to and think about the huge need for education here in Nepal.

I really admire this man for doing something, for bettering the life for almost fifty children. Next time I have a book clear-out (soon as we will soon be moving apartments), I will be sending the books I no longer want to Nepal so that they can do some good.

8 May 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Jerks, asshats...

This tuesday the top ten list is counting down a list of the top ten jerks and asshats that we have met while reading. Not in real life obviously but on the pages.For more info on Top TenTuesday and to read a really great blog, go to The Broke and The Bookish (who started this fantastic meme) at http://www.brokeandbookish.blogspot.com/

Here comes my top ten - some of them worse than others:

10) Keir from "Inexcusable" by Chris Lynch. What is really interesting about Keir is that he is the main character and narrator as well as being a real jerk who has a problem with understanding that a no is a no.

9) Edward and Jacob from "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer. Both are pretty controlling and both seem to think that being in love is an excuse to treat a girl rather badly. Still, the books would be rather boring without them :-)

8) Mr. Collins from "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen. One of my favourite minor characters ever - he is an eternal source of laughs and I never tire of reading the proposal scene over and over again.

7) Greg Fuller from "The Book, The Film, The T-shirt" by Matt Beaumont. Easily swayed by a skirt and constantly nursing a hangover/migraine due to some problem that he himself has created - and always counting on his wife and PA to bail him out. Such a jerk.

6) Professor Sturrock from "All in the Mind" by Alastair Campbell. Will not say why because of spoilers but if you've read it, you know what I mean...

5) Kevin from "We Need to Talk about Kevin" by Lionel Shriver. Why Kevin is a jerk is the question that this book revolves around and if you haven't read it, I highly recommend that you do - it is great!

4) Mr. Vuoso from "Towelhead" by Alicia Erian. Such a creep, a real asshat. Gave me chills down my spine when I read it because he repulsed me so.

3) Cardinal Richelieu in "The Three Musketeers" by Alexandre Dumas. Oooh he is a really nasty one, always has a trick up his sleeve to try to get his way. A bit of a perfect literary villain.

2) William Rackham from "The Crimson Petal and the White" by Michel Faber. I will not give any reasons as I am afraid to reveal spoilers

1) William Hamleigh from "Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. Not even just a jerk but a real nasty piece of work. I hate this guy, really absolutely hate him.

Which jerks have you met on the pages of books?

7 May 2011

"One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four... and Five..."

My favourite blogger, the wonderful Simon over at Stuck in a Book - http://www.stuck-in-a-book.blogspot.com - has done a fun little post that I will copy here :-) If you do the same, post a comment and I will visit your blog. Love reading about all your reading experiences.

1.) The book I'm currently reading:
Currently I am reading "The Russian Debutante's Handbook" by Gary Shteyngart. I started it while on vacation but is still only half-way. The main character Vladimir is such an anti-hero that I sometimes have to take little breaks from him... I am also reading the non-fiction book "Descarte's Errror" by Antonio Damasio about neuropsychology.

2.) The last book I finished:

"Mrs. Simpson: The Secret Life of the Duchess of Windsor" by Charles Higham. After having seen the amazing movie "The King's Speech", I found myself being really interested in the life of Wallis Simpson, the cause for the abdication of Edward VIII. I just finished the biography today and it was quite a read - I will try to review it tomorrow.

3.) The next book I want to read:
That is always a really difficult question... One that has me standing in front of my book shelves trying to decide which one to start next. However, my next non-fiction work will be "Havana Real" by the courageous blogger Yoani Sanchez and my next fiction read will probably be "The Passage" by Justin Cronin or "Dead Reckoning" by Charlaine Harris. Or maybe something else...

4.) The last book I bought:
"Cousin Kate" by Georgette Heyer I will be having an operation later this month and "Cousin Kate" will be one of my comfort reads to get me through some days in bed.

5.) The last book I was given:
I was given a few books for Christmas, among them "Prince Faisal's Ring" by Danish author Bjarne Reuter. Looking forward to reading it as Reuter's books have been favourites of mine for years.

Review: "Changeless"

I was really entertained by my first steampunk read "Soulless" by Gail Carriger and so I looked forward to biting into the sequel "Changeless". Alexia Tarrabotti is now Lady Maccon after having married Lord Maccon, the formidable werewolf with a temper that is matched only by his wife's... Their marriage is a happy one and Alexia is loving the life as lady of the manor. However, suddenly her husband goes missing and a strange phenomenon is causing supernaturals to lose their abilities and turn into normal people. Something has to be done and Lord Maccon (forgetting to tell his wife... bad idea) goes to Scotland to his old pack as he feels certain that they are somehow involved.

Of course Lady Maccon does not want to be left at home in London, so she instantly books a dirigible float to Scotland. However, before she has time to throw a tantrum a veritable court of people have decided to go with her and Alexia has enough to do with keeping Ivy from falling in love, keeping her sister from teasing Ivy and keeping an eye on a suspicious French inventor who wears gentleman's attire... The scene is set for an adventure and a mystery!

However, here something goes wrong. Somehow Carriger doesn't manage to do anything with all this build-up energy and the ending was really disappointing for me... Unfortunately because I loved the first half of the book but then it just all seemed to come apart and the excitement just petered out. Too bad, it was so promising. Not sure I will read the third installment in the series "Blameless". Have any of you read it? Can you recommend it?

6 May 2011

Review: "The Last Samurai"

This is one of those books that have been on my TBR list literally forever. Or at least since it came out about ten years ago.... I think we can agree than ten years is a looooong time on a TBR list? :-) However, this one was worth the wait! Actually I am glad I didn't read it ten years ago - would probably not have gotten as much out of it as I did now.
"The Last Samurai" by Helen Dewitt is a really different book but different in a good way, a fantastic way. It must have taken forever to write it but it is a modern stunner.
The book has two narrators and two main persons, Ludo the child wonder and his mother Sibylla. Sibylla comes from a family of academic disappointments. Intellektual, intelligent people who never managed to use their intellects as they dreamt of. Sibylla is a language-nerd who will swallow page after page about cultures and languages - the more obscure the better - and she makes a living typing odd magazines into an internet database. Ludo is her son - he has a father but Sibylla doesn't want him to know about his father...
Ludo is a child prodigy. A wonder boy who learns Hebrew and Arabic by himself while other kids of his age watch Sesame Street... He is nothing like an average child but somewhat like a Mozart maybe... And poor Sibylla has to try to keep him occupied and raise him while debating with herself if satisfying his constant need for more knowledge will hurt him. How do you as a mother tackle a child that is unable to play with other kids or go to school? Who teaches himself japanese and dreams about the perfect father?
Sibylla, forever without money, takes him on the Circle Line, the metro ring in London, so that at least he can keep warm while reading and studying and makes him watch "The Seven Samurais" over and over to give him male role models.

I loved the plot and the two characters. The hapless Sibylla who can hardly take care of herself not to mention a small wonder boy and who values books over anything else including food, is endearing! And Ludo, the clever little fellow who really really wants a father figure to look up to, is cute. The isolation that his intellect leads to is difficult to read about even though he doesn't completely understands it himself and his hunt for a dad is an emotional journey both for Ludo and for the reader.

If you like books with depth that encourages intellectual mind games and features great charaters, then you should definitely try "The Last Samurai".

Follow Friday - follow me please :-)

Happy Friday people! ooh I love Friday and this week has been really really long so it is fantastic to know that two days of weekend is coming up. So I am going to celebrate by participating in Follow My Book Blog Friday and visit a lot of you wonderful people!

It is hosted by parajunkee - visit at www.parajunkee.com

What character in a book would you most like to be? What character in a book would you most like to date?

I'm sorry for being boring but I am going to be honest here and go for Elisabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy. I mean, they are the most romantic couple ever. She is so intelligent, clever, smart, witty, caring, loving and a real lady who does not care for Mr. Darcy's pride and wealth. And Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy....
I know, I know - I am not inventive but who wouldn't want to be part of this love story?

And now I am going to go visit all your blogs - Happy Friday!

3 May 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Thanks for your recommendation!

The best way to learn about great books is through recommendations from people who share your taste in literature and books. I love getting books recommended to me and I love recommending books. So this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is great for me: Books that came recommended!
Remember to pop by The Broke and the Bookish - www.brokeandbookish.blogspot.com - to see the linky for this meme and also to visit their amazing blog!

10)Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Came recommended from my best friend's sister and I begged my parents for it and finally got it on a vacation when I was ten years old.

9)Seacrow Island by Astrid Lindgren (better known as the author behind Pippi Longstocking) and was recommended by the librarian at my school. Loved the book and read it so often that when it was worn almost out the librabrian gave it to me.

8)The Twilight saga. Came recommended by my sister who told me that I had to read them because there really was something about these books. So I did. Several times. Just as Jamie from The Broke and The Bookish writes, this book was my gateway to many great YA experiences and I am thankful for that even if the series itself has its faults.

7)Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis came recommended by my boyfriend and is the proof that real life - and the people in it - is sometimes way stranger than fiction. Especially in banking.

6)The Mapp and Lucia series by E.F. Benson came recommended by Simon from www.stuckinabook.com and is amazing! Very funny, very entertaining and a very true picture of a certain type of Hyacinth Bucket type of person. Read it and laugh.

5)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins came recommended by many of you my fellow bloggers. Normally would never have picked it up but I absolutely loved it!

4))Descarte's Error by Antonio Damasio. Was recommended by everyone from first-year students to lectures and ph.d. students when I studied psyholcogy. I am almost done reading it now and it is a better than amazing non-fiction book about the way emotions and brain neurology interact.

3)Special Topic in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl came recommended by my father and once I had started reading it, I just couldn't put it down again. Will need to re-read it soon.

2)The Closed Book by Jette Kaarsbol came recommended from my mother and I read it with tears in my eyes and a sense of wonder at the amazing prose and the gripping story. A Danish masterpiece!

1) Collected Works of John Betjeman. I can't remember who recommended John Betjeman's stunning poesy to me but I will always be grateful. John Betjeman's words are like a balm for my soul and I sometimes listen to his recordings of his poems when I need to be cheered up, they always speak to me of beauty.

2 May 2011

Review: "Tiger, Tiger"

In case you haven't noticed (and you probably have), "Tiger, Tiger" by Margaux Fragoso has been the centre of quite a bit of hype due to the peculiar (not sure that is the word) topic. It has been called a modern version of Nabokov's "Lolita", only told by Lolita and based on true events. So you see why there has been quite a bit of hype. Even though hype normally repels me, I have read some reviews that convinced me to give the book a chance.

The plot is disturbing to say the least. As a child Margaux lives with her tempremental, loving father and her mentally ill mother in an environment that would probably be traumatic in itself but when she is six-seven years old she meets Peter and then the real tragedy starts. Peter is 44 years older than Margaux and from the very beginning of their relationship he grooms her. He plays with her, lets her feel at home in his home and eventually introduces sex into the relationship. It is truly disturbing reading, it made me so sad and so enraged and really really frustrated because in the first part of the book, Margaux tells this story from the child's point-of-view, describing Peter as her friend and idol.
The fact that his intentions and actions are hardly questioned in this first part of the book made me so angry and disappointed in the author but then in the second half, the narrators reflections began to develop as she describes her teenage years. She reflects on the power the he has over her and the power that his memory of her 7-year-old self has over him and suddenly from a really wrong and depraved love story of starcrossed lovers in a forbidding society, this becomes a tragedy about a girl whose childhood and innocence is stolen and who is violated by someone claiming to protect her. The narrator's voice in this second half is so sad as she realizes the horror that has been inflicted on her.
For Margaux Fragoso it has been impossible to separate her own childhood from the literary attemps at telling the story - and by aiming for a story that is more than a "real-life-account", she puts herself in a difficult position. I found a quote on www.observer.com that I think sums up the issue very well:
"The cosmic profundity of what she has experienced—the book is invariably called "harrowing" in reviews and blurbs, and this characterization certainly applies to the underlying reality, if not exactly her representation of it—is inextricable from her gift as a narrator and contemplator of her own experience."

In the end I liked the book even though the story was horrific. I kept wishing that it was all fiction, all made up because it is such a tragedy. Also I would have liked Fragoso to reflect more on the topic. To be honest about the implications that this has had and to ensure that the book cannot be used as a defence for pedophiles. This brainwashed child robbed of something that she can never replace. Read it only if you are prepared to have it on your mind for days.

1 May 2011

Back again!

Wild monkeys playing

I'm back again :-) Having spent the last two weeks in Thailand enjoying the food, the culture, the weather and the company I am now back on the blog and ready to review the books that I have spent my days reading in the Hilton's hotel garden underneath palm trees and flowery trees with beautiful white blossoms.

The beach

I was quite ambitious about my reading and brought several books:

"Tiger, Tiger" by Margaux Fragoso
"The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov
"The Last Samurai" by Helen Dewitt
"A Game of Thrones" by George R. R. Martin
"The Russian Debutante's Handbook" by Gary Shteyngart

Bangkok seen from the river

However, I only made it through the first three and half way through Shteyngart's novel but then I also spent a lot of time listening to "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. As you can tell from the list, it was quite an eclectic bunch of books I brought with me and I was quite surprised by some of what I read - more will follow in the reviews in the next couple of days. For now I will sign out and enjoy a lovely relaxed Sunday but first I will share a few holidays snaps with you. Have a great day :-)

Hilton garden - perfect from reading!