Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bookish Art in January...

Franz Eybl - Girl Reading, 1850
"A mind that is stretched by a new experience
can never go back to its old dimensions."
--Oliver Wendell Holmes

Thursday, January 19, 2017

From the M Shelf...

"...it's the people that matter."

Partitions by Amit Majmudar

1947 was a turbulent time for Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus in India--the summer of Partition when Pakistan split away and one country divided into two. It is into this maelstrom that Majmudar sets his characters:  Sonia and her twin boys, Shankar and Keshav, whose Brahmin-born father, though dead, still watches over them; Simran Kaur, a young Sikh girl whose own father would rather see her dead than defiled; and Ibrahim Masud, an elderly Muslim doctor whose compassion sees only wounds to heal, not ethnicities or creeds.

Living in Lahore, Sonia knows she and her young sons "have to leave.  This is Pakistan now. The land meant to be pak, pure. Pure of them." But at the crowded train station, Shankar and Keshav get separated from her and must head east into India on their own.

In the Punjab, Masud watches his neighborhood as it burns and realizes "he isn't Ibrahim Masud to anyone but himself now. His profession, too, means nothing. Muslim:  that's suddenly the defining thing about him ... The official line is that he can stay if he wants or leave for Pakistan. His choice--stay here in India or shift west. Just over there. Like crossing the aisle on a bus." 

And then there's Simran, who refuses to drink the poisoned milk her father prepares for her and the rest of her family, and who must flee her own home in order to stay alive. But once on her own, navigating the refugee-filled roads and trying to avoid the men who would use her, or sell her, she begins to rethink her decision.

My thoughts:
I loved these characters, especially Dr. Masud and his stammering gentleness who "knows that caregiving is neither Muslim, nor Sikh, nor Hindu. Or rather it is all three of these." And I loved Majmudar's unconventional narrator--the spirit of the twins' dead father--who knows what's ahead for his sons and for Simran and Masud, and who watches over all of them until their journeys finally intersect. I also loved Majmudar's lyrical prose. And how much I learned reading this book about Partition and the violence that ensued on both sides during it. And to think, I almost didn't check this book out of the library; I would have missed out on so much if I'd left it sitting on the M shelf. I'm so glad I didn't. Because this book is amazing!

Here are just two of my favorite quotes from Amit Majmudar's Partitions:

How little we knew each other, though for centuries our homes had shared walls. How little we will learn, now that all we share is a border.

If there is one thing dangerously abundant right now, it is certainty. Certainty makes possible in men the most extreme good and the most extreme evil. A land like the Punjab, five rivers and three faiths, could do with a little less certainty.

 Happy Reading!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Spring Tide

     The Beach Case.
It sounded so trifling, he thought. A beach and a case. So harmless. But he himself had never called it the beach case. He thought it degraded one of the most repulsive murders he had investigated. It sounded like a newspaper headline. He himself had always referred to the case as the Nordkoster. Concrete. What a policeman would say.
     And unsolved.

This is the cold case police student Olivia Ronning decides to investigate over her summer break, partly because it's a case her father once worked, partly because the murder victim, a pregnant woman drowned by the spring tide, was never identified. But it's not an easy case on which to find out any new information; Olivia's father is dead, and the other officer who investigated the murder is missing. Still, Olivia is persistent. She even makes a special trip to Nordkoster Island. But the more questions she asks, the closer she comes to some very ugly truths...and to certain people who do not want her digging up the secrets of the past.

There are several other story lines in this Scandinavian crime thrillers: some young toughs have not only been beating up the homelss, but filming the horrific attacks to post online, and protests have ramped up against Bertil Magnuson, one of Sweden's richest and most influential businessmen, and his illegal mining practices in Africa. But while there's a lot to keep track of, authors Cilla and Rolf Borjlind do an expert job of weaving all the separate parts together into one compelling and suspenseful thriller.  I really liked Olivia as a character, along with Jelle, one of the homeless men. And I found the overall mystery intriguing. Some of the twists I guessed, but there were others I didn't. At 473 pages, Spring Tide is a long read, but it's also a good one. I never bogged down once. Here's hoping the Borjlinds write more just like it!

Happy Reading!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Wise Words...

Swedish proverb:  Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more;
whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; hate less, love more;
and all good things are yours.


Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.
--Albert Einstein


No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
--Aesop


Service to others is the rent you pay
for your room here on earth.
--Muhammad Ali


If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.
--Booker T. Washington


Happy living!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Remains of the Day

"It is sometimes said that butlers only truly exist in England.
Other countries, whatever title is actually used, have only manservants."


I've been meaning to read The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro ever since I saw the movie version of it starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. And since one of my bookish goals this year is to read books from off my TBR list, I decided it was time I finally checked it out of the library...and checked it off my list.

The book begins with Mr. Stevens setting off on a motoring trip to visit his old friend, Miss Kenton. He hopes to induce her to resume her role as housekeeper at Darlington Hall for his new employer, an American gentleman named Mr. Farraday. While on this trip, Mr. Stevens thinks back on his life and his many years of service as the butler at Darlington Hall. He also reflects on his former employer, his past interactions with Miss Kenton, and on what it means for a butler to serve with 'dignity'. It's a quiet, thoughtful, and sometimes sad novel, but for me it lacked the immediacy of story and place that the movie has. In fact, I found the pacing a bit slow at times. So, while the book is definitely good, I think the movie is better. The novel does have some beautiful writing, however. Just check out this quote:
"Perhaps, then, there is something to his advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day. After all, what can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as we might have wished? ... Surely it is enough that the likes of you and I at least try to make our small contribution count for something true and worthy."
Happy Reading!

Backlist Reader Challenge:  1 book read; 9 to go.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A bookish journey to Yemen...


I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali (and Delphine Minoui)

It's always an eye-opening experience to read about the sad lives of young girls trapped in third world countries like Yemen where poverty, illiteracy and ignorance are rampant, and where a man's "honor" trumps everything including justice and the basic human rights of women. In Yemen, there's an old tribal proverb:  "To guarantee a happy marriage, marry a nine-year-old-girl." Nujood's father marries her off to a stranger when she is only 10. Her husband is more than twice her age and rapes her on their wedding night. After several months of his brutal treatment, Nujood manages to escape and make her way to the courthouse in Sana'a where she asks a judge to grant her a divorce. Her case, the first in Yemen's history, made international headlines. I can see why. Somehow this young girl of 10 found the courage to defy her father, her husband, and the ancient customs of her country to speak her own mind and demand her freedom.
I'm a simple village girl whose family had to move to the capital, and I have always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers. Since forever, I have learned to say yes to everything. ... Today I have decided to say no.
Her story, simply yet powerfully told, made me want to cry. It also made me wish I could do more to help girls like her. Because while Nujood's story turns out well in the end, there are thousands of others like her who haven't gotten their happy endings yet. That's why it's so important for books like this one not only to be written, but to be read. At only 178 pages long, Nujood's story is an unforgettable and inspiring one. I'm very glad I read it.

Happy Reading!

 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bookish Bingo!


Thanks to The Unruly Reader there's a new reading bingo card for 2017 with 25 fun new squares to fill. Well, 22 of the categories look like a lot of fun; 3 of them are going to be a bit of a challenge for me:  Mid-Century Modern, Boomer Lit, and the Library of Congress Fiction Prize. I'm not looking forward to those. But ALL the others should be fairly easy to read and complete. I can't explain why, but I love filling in each bingo square with the books that I read. In fact, bookish bingo is one of my favorite things. If you've never tried it before, check out Unruly Reader's explanation of each of the different squares, print out your own Bingo card, and play along. You can go for a simple bingo, or for reading bingo blackout. Either way, it's loads of fun!

Happy Reading!