Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Wroblewski, David "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle"


Wroblewski, David "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" - 2008

When I first started reading this book, I thought it was all about a boy who was born without a voice and/or about dogs. Because that's the feeling you first get. But the longer I read on, the more the story seemed familiar. Had I looked at the names a little closer, I might have guessed right away that this is a modern retelling of Hamlet.

An interesting story, just as exciting as the original. I'm not a huge animal lover, I don't have anything against them but I don't get all excited when I see one, so this story could have been told without all the dogs in it.

Anyway, I prefer Jane Smiley's modern "King Lear" (A Thousand Acres) to this one but all in all, it's not a bad book.

From the back cover:
"Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose remarkable gift for companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. Edgar seems poised to carry on his family's traditions, but when catastrophe strikes, he finds his once-peaceful home engulfed in turmoil.

Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the Sawtelle farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who accompany him, until the day he is forced to choose between leaving forever or returning home to confront the mysteries he has left unsolved.

Filled with breathtaking scenes - the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain - The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a meditation on the limits of language and what lies beyond, a brilliantly inventive retelling of an ancient story, and an epic tale of devotion, betrayal, and courage in the American heartland."

Thursday, 14 September 2017

James, P.D. "The Children of Men"


James, P.D. "The Children of Men" - 1992


I love dystopian novels and am surprised that I never came across this one before. What a read!

We are in the year 2020 and all men are infertile. I believe every generation has their own fears of what might happen in future and this book was written in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Something like this seemed (and still seems) very possible.

What are we really going to do if there is no future? Are we going to take advantage of each other, try to get as much of the cake as we can before we are all dead and gone? We don't know? I suppose like with all situations, there will be people who still will help each other and others who exploit the situation.

Reading this novel makes you think about all the possibilities. I don't read crime novels as such but I am tempted to try one written by P.D. James. She seems like a very interesting and smart person who could write about anything.

From the back cover:
"The year is 2021, and the human race is - quite literally - coming to an end. Since 1995 no babies have been born, because in that year all males unexpectedly became infertile. Great Britain is ruled by a dictator, and the population is inexorably growing older. Theodore Faron, Oxford historian and, incidentally, cousin of the all-powerful Warden of England, watches in growing despair as society gradually crumbles around him, giving way to strange faiths and cruelties: prison camps, mass organized euthanasia, roving bands of thugs. Then, suddenly, Faron is drawn into the plans of an unlikely group of revolutionaries. His passivity is shattered, and the action begins.

The Children of Men will surprise - and enthrall - P. D. James fans. Written with the same rich blend of keen characterization, narrative drive and suspense as her great detective stories, it engages powerfully with new themes: conflicts of loyalty and duty, the corruption of power, redemption through love. Ingenious, original, irresistibly readable, it confirms once again P. D. James's standing as a major novelist."

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Scott, Mary "Away From It All"


Scott, Mary "Away From It All" - 1977


My last novel written by Mary Scott (see my list here). I have one more, an autobiography, but that is it.

Adrian Medway is an author who is very sensitive about critics. When he inherits some money, he packs up his family and buys a small farm in the middle of nowhere. Here, he finds some hidden talents, as do his son and daughter.

As always in Mary Scott's stories, there are problems arising that you might only have in the environment she used to live in but you can also see the beauty of it, people who help each other out, no matter what.

A funny novel, a typical one by Mary Scott.

Unfortunately, Mary Scott's books are out of print and only available second hand. I have heard in the meantime, that you can buy some of them as eBooks.

Description (translated):
"An inheritance enables the Medway family to spend a year  on a farm. Far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, everyone soon discovers forgotten skills and talents in the new environment."

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Şafak, Elif "Three Daughters of Eve"



Şafak, Elif "Three Daughters of Eve" (Turkish: Havva'nın Üç Kızı) - 2016


My third book by this Turkish author whom I really like. This one talks about a Turkish woman who went to Oxford to study and then went back home to get married. The main topic in this book is the rights of Muslim women next to God and Turkish politics.

We learn about the differences in the cultures and the changes during her lifetime. We learn about friendship and what it means. A wonderful book. I love Elif Şafak's writing. It's amazing. I like her more with every book I read.

The author is one of the people who are able to build a bridge between the divided nations, help us understand each other. She knows about the problems, probably because of her own upbringing, and gives instigations to understand the other world better. I wish everyone would read at least one of her books.

From the back cover: "Peri, a wealthy Turkish housewife, is on her way to a dinner party at a seaside mansion in Istanbul when a beggar snatches her handbag. As she wrestles to get it back, a photograph falls to the ground - an old polaroid of three young women and their university professor. A relic from a past - and a love - Peri had tried desperately to forget.

The photograph takes Peri back to Oxford University, as an eighteen year old sent abroad for the first time. To her dazzling, rebellious Professor and his life-changing course on God. To her home with her two best friends, Shirin and Mona, and their arguments about Islam and femininity. And finally, to the scandal that tore them all apart."

Friday, 1 September 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"There comes a time when you have to choose between turning the page and closing the book." Josh Jameson

"Borrowers of books - those mutilators of collections, spoilers of the symmetry of shelves, and creators of odd volumes." Charles Lamb, Essays of Elia, "The Two Races of Men," 1822

"No such thing as a kid who doesn't like reading. There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books." James Patterson

"Every book is judged by its cover until it is read." Agatha Swanburne, founder of Swanburne Academy

"Whoever said Diamonds are a Girl's best Friend forgot about BOOKS." N.N.
[If anyone can tell me the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.]

Find more book quotes here.

Happy September!

Happy September to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch


"In the Riperian Forest" 
"Im Auenwald"


September brings us back to the old names of the months, this being the seventh month of the year before they added the "Caesarean" ones. 
It also brings us the autumnal equinox (or the vernal one if you live in the Southern hemisphere). 

September is my favourite month. Not only does it bring my birthday but 
- even more important - my favourite season: 
Autumn! have a good one! 

Enjoy this month with the beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch. 
He loves painting cranes and this is from their more secretive life 
after their mating dance and before starting their nesting.

You can find a lot more wonderful pictures on their website here.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander "His Great Stories"



Solschenizyn, Alexander (Александр Исаевич Солженицын/Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) "Große Erzählungen: Iwan Denissowitsch; Zum Nutzen der Sache; Matrjonas Hof; Zwischenfall auf dem Bahnhof Kretschetowka" (His Great Stories: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - 1962; For the Good of the Cause - 1963; Matryona's House - 1963; An Incident at Krechetovka Station - 1963) (Russian: Оди́н день Ива́на Дени́совича Odin den' Ivana Denisovicha; Для пользы дела/ lja pol'zy dela; Матрёнин двор/Matrjonin dvor; Случай на станции Кречетовка/Sluchaj na stancii Krechetovka) - 1962/63

I am not a huge fan of short stories but I always wanted to read something by Solzhenitsyn. So, when I found this book that started with one of his greatest tales, "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich", I thought I'd give it a go.

Since there isn't an English collection of the same stories available, I will just talk about every single part of the book individually, don't worry, there are only four stories.

"One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" (Russian: Оди́н день Ива́на Дени́совича Odin den' Ivana Denisovicha) - 1962

We always hear about the Gulag, the prisoners who sent to Siberia and have to work there etc. But we never really know what is going on there, what the work is like, how the prisoners are kept.

Unless we read about the one day in the life of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, starting the instant he opens his eyes in the morning until he closes them again in the evening.

And once we read it, we understand why this writer was awared the Nobel Prize for Literature. If he hadn't written anything else, he still would have been one of the greatest authors on earth. While reading this, you are standing next to Ivan, you suffer with him, you follow him. And he seems to be a born survivor, one who can deal with a lot of things, can get that extra ration of terrible soup they all yearn for.

This is a very moving novel by someone who experienced the Gulag. He spent eight years there and then was exiled for life to Kazakhstan.

Brilliant story, brilliant writing.

Description:
"First published in the Soviet journal Novy Mir in 1962, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich stands as a classic of contemporary literature. The story of labor-camp inmate Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, it graphically describes his struggle to maintain his dignity in the face of communist oppression. An unforgettable portrait of the entire world of Stalin's forced work camps, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is one of the most extraordinary literary documents to have emerged from the Soviet Union and confirms Solzhenitsyn's stature as "a literary genius whose talent matches that of Dosotevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy" - Harrison Salisbury"


"For the Good of the Cause" (Russian: Для пользы дела/Dlja pol'zy dela) - 1963

Another great story about the downsides of the Soviet Union. A story of bureaucrats who are overdoing it. Who don't look for the benefit of the people, just for their own benefit.

This is only a short novella with less than a hundred pages and I do n't want to give too much away but the language is just as brilliant as in "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" and the people are described just as well.

Description:
"In For the Good of the Cause, Solzhenitsyn presents a remarkable cross-section of Soviet life. He runs the whole gamut, from ordinary students, workers, and teachers to the omnipotent officials in Moscow, terrifying in their faceless, Kafkaesque anonymity.
Like his world famous novels One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The First Circle and Cancer Ward, For the Good of the Cause, set in a new provincial school, is a scathing indictment of the victimisation of ordinary, decent people by Soviet careerist bureaucrats. Solzhenitsyn presents the conflicts between right and wrong, between the freedom of the individual and the harshness of the system with absolute sincerity and conviction."

"Matryona's House" (Russian: Матрёнин двор/Matrjonin dvor) - 1963

Another great story where we get to know the "little man" or in this case the "little woman" who had to make do with what they were given or allowed to have. This story is based on Solzhenitsyn's own experiences while teaching after leaving the Gulag.

Description:
"In 1956, after leaving behind his ordeal in the gulag, Alexander Solzhenitsyn wanted to get lost in a quiet corner of the USSR, and applied for employment as a mathematics teacher. While looking for accommodations in the town that was sent, saw the hut of Matrona, an elderly widow who lived with a lame cat and a goat for company and decided to stay there.
'Matryona's House' is the tale of an old peasant woman, whose tenacious struggle against cold, hunger, and greedy relatives is described by a young man who only understands her after her death."


"An Incident at Krechetovka Station" aka "We Never Make Mistakes" (Russian: Случай на станции Кречетовка/Sluchaj na stancii Krechetovka) - 1963

Apparently, this story is also based on real life events, an accident that happened during World War II. I can only repeat myself by saying that the author is a great storyteller.

Description:
"In 'An Incident at Krechetovka Station' a Red Army lieutenant is confronted by a disturbing straggler soldier and must decide what to do with him."

I will certainly read more by this fantastic author.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970
"for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature".