Monday, April 19, 2010

Sea Glass by Anita Shreve

Sea Glass by Anita Shreve

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (January 21, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316089699
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316089692

I've read a few of Anita Shreve's books prior to this, and whilst I loved those, I admit I had trouble connecting with the characters in this book. The way the story unfolds is rather unique though, with the story narrated from different viewpoints, each character telling the story in his or her own way. 

Honora is a twenty year old, newly married bride of Sexton Beecher, and like all newly weds, the couple is optimistic, blissfully oblivious of the tests that are coming their way. Then there is McDermott, a young man working in the mills, socialite Vivian from Boston adds a contrasting view to this motley group and little Alphonse is probably my favourite character in this book. This unusual group is united in the face of the economic downturn in the 1920s and 1930s, and the story develops to envelop the struggles that small town people of that era had to face. 

The story centers upon the inhabitants of the fictional city, Ely Falls and different aspects of life are explored. Marriage and betrayal, love and friendship, economic trials and even growing pains ( in the case of 11 year old Alphonse) are all tossed around and debated, and readers will often be left guessing and wondering where it's all going to lead to. 

What I liked though, is Anita Shreve's lyrical description of the sea glass that Honora loves collecting : 

She picks up a chunk that looks like dirty ice after a long winter, ice that has been skated on and has gone cloudy with use. She fingers a piece the color of young dandelions and finds shards that look like flower petals : hyacinth and wisteria and lilac. 

She finds scraps of celadon and cucumber and jade, specks of pea and powder and aquamarine. 

Truth be told, I did not like the way the story had to end, but all in all, the plot was based on true events that occurred during that time, and it was a pretty 'educational' read in a way. The story had such great potential for further development, I found it disappointing that the beginning of the book was a little draggy, but when things started to speed up towards the end, I was begging for more details that just weren't there. All in all, this is recommended if you like somnolent reads, made for long, lazy Sunday afternoons. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Hundred and One Days : A Baghdad Journal

  • A Hundred and One Days : A Baghdad Journal 
  • by Asne Seierstad
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (April 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465076009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465076000

It would be difficult for me to put into words what I felt after reading this book. It is a journal detailing the journey that Asne Seierstad takes in her efforts to cover the Iraq war. The book is split into three parts : Before, During and After. In each section Asne Seierstad does a great job encapsulating all the events that occurs in a very straightforward, journalistic approach. 

So many emotions are captured very vividly by the author as she goes about her work. The frustration at being denied proper access to interviews, the hawk-eyed control of the Ministry of Information, 

I am here to find dissidents, a secret uprising, gagged intellectuals, Saddam's opponents. I am here to point out human rights violations, expose oppression. And I'm reduced to being a tourist

the discretion that people insist on practicing, and most of all there is an air of distrust amongst neighbours because you never know who'll betray you. It is a book set in the harsh times during the reign of Saddam Hussein and in each sentence, you feel the oppression of the people. 

We are exhausted from lack of sleep. It is as if we are ice cold inside, immune to feelings of happiness, to brandy, fear, hunger. We walk the earth in a numb existence, an existence filled with trauma and insomnia. 

At times, the book left me teary eyed, especially at the loss of innocent lives. Readers get a first hand description of the images that will never make it in newspapers and TV because staring at the vacant eyes of infants would be dancing too close to the line of reality. 

All in all, this is a good book for those of you who would like an insider's point of view on the happenings of the Iraq war. Asne Seierstad has done a remarkable job in bringing in the fear, the frustration and the fruitlessness of war. The book is really about the Iraqis and their voicelessness and inability to command the hands of fate that sets their destiny. 

They're forgetting one thing, Yves says, looking out through the taped balcony door. The battle for hearts. He empties his glass - That too must be won. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mailbox Mondays

A week has flown by so very quickly and it's time for Mailbox Monday again , a meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. This week has been pretty productive for me, and readers of my other blog might already know what I've been up to .. :p So, this week, these books came into my home. 

This requires no introduction, being the winner of last year's Man Booker prize was enough to pique my curiosity. 

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb. I've been meaning to read the previous book, This Much I Know is True, but then I saw this lying around in the bookstore and decided to pick it up first. 

Curiosity got the better of me with The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie. 

Another author on my To-Read list is Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and when I saw Half of a Yellow Sun the other day, I just had to grab it. 

Nobel laureate,  V.S Naipaul's Magic Seeds was going for a steal the other day at a local bookfair and I just couldn't resist the temptation to bring it home with me. 

I like Anita Shreve's books and I've been meaning to read Sea Glass for some time now. Finally decided to bring home a copy when I saw it at a book clearance sale the other day. 

That's all for this week's Mailbox Mondays. What books came into your home ? 

P.s : I've finished Guardian of the Dawn and A hundred and One Days is proving to be a really good albeit frustrating read. Reviews on both coming up! :) Have a good week ahead everyone!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mailbox Mondays

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page, and I've loved reading about what other bloggers have been adding to their book collection. So, here's my latest bookish acquisitions :)

Guardian of the Dawn by Richard Zimler

Picking up where he left off in The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, Zimler tracks the travails of a young Jewish manuscript illustrator who flees with his family from Portugal to India to escape the Portuguese Inquisition in the last decades of the 16th century. Tiago Zarco, whom his family calls Ti, is the precocious protagonist, and he and his family constantly face religious persecution, particularly when Ti's sister Sofia develops an ill-fated attraction for her cousin, a Moor nicknamed Wadi. Ti, meanwhile, has his own troubles, which revolve around his romance with Tejal, the beautiful Hindu girl he hopes to marry. Family betrayal eventually leads to the arrest of Ti's father for his involvement with the "secret Jews," a group targeted by the Catholic authorities. Ti ends up in prison as well, but, upon his "confession" and release, he embarks on a complex mission to avenge his father. The narrative and dialogue are occasionally melodramatic, but the historical authority in Zimler's prose is impressive, as is his surefooted plotting and formidable character writing. The riveting final chapters pick up the pace, a welcome change from the novel's overall slow burn. Still, Zimler's treatment of an obscure period of history makes for an exotic, colorful novel. 

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A hundred and One Days by Asne Seierstad

I picked this up because I read the Bookseller of Kabul and fell absolutely in love with it. This book comes after the Bookseller of Kabul and I can't wait to continue reading on Asne Seierstad's future explorations of Baghdad. 

This is an international bestseller that has been made into the movie starring Patrick Swayze. The story centers on the slums of Calcutta, ironically known as Anand Nagar or 'City of Joy'. It's a tale of resilient human spirit, compassion and love in the worst conditions. A tale that is bound to tug at heartstrings and make you ponder.

Separated by Time 

From his grandmother, Alex Cross has heard the story of his great-uncle Abraham and his struggles for survival in the era of the Klu Klux Klan. Now, Alex passes the family tale along to his own children in a novel he's written - a novel called Trial. 

Connected by Blood

As a lawyer in early-twentieth-century Washington DC Ben Corbett represents the toughest cases. Fighting against oppression and racism, he risks his family and his life in the process. When President Theodore Roosevelt asks Ben to return to his hometown to investigate rumours of the resurgence of the Klu Klux Klan there, he cannot refuse

United by Bravery 

Arriving in Eudora, Mississippi, Ben meets the wise Abraham Cross and his beautiful daughter, Moody. Ben enlists their help, and the two Crosses introduce him to the hidden side of the idyllic Southern town. Lynchings have become commonplace and residents of the town's black quarter live in constant fear. Ben aims to break the reign of terror - but the truth of who is really behind it could break his heart.