Archive for April, 2006

Alan Marshall: I Can Jump Puddles

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006

An autobiographical story about a boy hit by polio, and thus crippled (a word used in the book). I expected to learn more about growing up as a disabled person, instead, I learnt a lot about living in the Australian bush, and how to ignore the disability. And about hospital life, sometimes so lively described it sent shivers down my back. No puddles are jumped, but I guess they are not real ones. And the ambitions the little boy had, they were fulfilled all right.

Helen Dunmore: House of Orphans

Monday, April 10th, 2006

A historical, early 19th century, novel based not on the writer’s home country — although I understand Dunmore lived in Finland for a while. The characters are quite believable, the events interesting and exiting, it is a pleasure to read. But, but, it’s not enough to live in a country, it’s better to look up things, too. Like, the Finns have been able to read and write since the 16th century, otherwise, you wouldn’t have been able to marry, so two characters (one of whom says she can’t read, but does, and an other who really can’t) they would have been a big curiosity, something remarked upon — and sure thing, the authorities took orphans to school without any fail. (At the time the book depicts, free four/six year school had already been in Finland for some time, not just the one the church had.) Things like that, it lessens the enjoyment.

Small point: I am also very interested in the name, as both in Swedish and in Finnish, it’s home of orphans, not house.

Octavia E. Butler: Bloodchild and Other Stories

Monday, April 10th, 2006

On 27th February 2006 I learnt that Octavia E. Butler, one of my favourite SF writers, had died. The same day I read this short story collection, her only one. Yes, her novels were great. But so are also the short stories, especially the ‘Bloodchild’ and “Speech Sounds”, the latter will stay with me for long. And others, too. And the essays. It’s great pity Butler hated writing short stories, she could have given us so much with them, too. I had the honour of meeting her once, in Liverpool, UK. How I wish there would be more meetings. How I wish she was still with us.

Ian McEwan: Saturday

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

Second reading, for the bookclub.

I still agree with my earlier notes on the book, I still love it. Also the covers — my airport edition has the morning scene Henry Perowne has at the start of the book, but in the back cover, we see Henry Perowne in the window, looking out but also at the reader; in this book, we see what he sees while we see him

And his marriage, some reviewer said it was refreshing to read about somebody in a happy marriage, well, I would have fallen in love with him, had we both not been happily married… He was so real with all the strengths and weaknesses, all the self-searching, especially that day, when people in London we protesting against the war — is there a simple answer to the question; how to get rid of Saddam without people getting hurt, without making things worse — as they have now become.

I loved so many things. I loved young Andrea, who started her real growing up after she got through the operation. I loved the way Henry in the end forgives Baxter, doesn’t want to out him through more hell than he already is….

Salley Vickers: Mr Golightly’s Holiday

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

I wasn’t very keen on Miss Garnet’s Angel, read for the book club, so this books was pleasant surprise, much better than the first.) Also read for the book club. The main character and his profession and so on aside, this a piece of real living, lost of interesting characters, although it took time to get used to the ever-changing viewpoint. It was a slice of a living, with its love and pain, and nothing really has a happy nor unhappy ending ever after. It’s life.

David Landes: The Wealth and Poverty of Nations — Why Some Are So Rich and Some Are So Poor

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

Recommended as a different view from Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, this time culture and economics being more influential on people’s development. Well, yes, but a very American Free Trade Saves All -view, and with optimism that really has no base on reality. One critique from Hungary commented that the facts weren’t quite right, I say the same with the claims from Finland, lots to say, but the delivery is careless.

Brian Keenan & John McCarthy: Between Extremes

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

A story of an unusual friendship, that of Brian Keenan and John McCarthy, based on their shared imprisonment in Lebanon. Now, in freedom, they do something they dreamt about in those dark days; go to Chile. (Although not quite make the yak farm planned.) Interesting going, in parts very funny, lets the reader at least think they know these two remarkable men. An unusual but well-written travel book with two intelligent voices to guide.

Helen Dunmore: The Siege

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

Somehow, with a book situated in Russia, former Soviet Union, I expected it to be longer, although not necessarily boring. But it isn’t, its an Anglo-American book. A good one, too, the hell of the 41/42 winter in that time Leningrad gone through with one family. I ate a bit of cake, when I read it — it gave me a bad conscience. A good read, but not especially good.

Julian Barnes: Arthur & George

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

With some books by Barnes I’ve really had hard time with, but some, like this one, I can buy gobble it up, read and read and enjoy every moment. This is a story of two men, Arthur and George, who are born and live worlds apart, but whose lives cross for a moment, when Arthur Conan Doyle tries to prove George Edalji was innocent for the crimes he’d been found guilty of and been incarcerated for. (Yes, he clearly was innocent.) These two men really come to life before the reader’s eyes, and yes, truth is stranger than fiction, but with a fiction writer like Barnes, it becomes superior.

Cory Doctorow: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

Contemporary — yes. But of our time and life? I am not so sure… In the Toronto we know, we have Alan (or any other first name starting with the letter A, his mother, a washing machine, wasn’t very good with names), a bookseller and writer and a builder of communities — and people who seem to fit in rather well in this scenario. Or not. A pity I can’t go to the island, one of Andrew’s brothers, to think it all over, or feel sad about the Russian nestling doll brothers he lost, but I guess Anders will come through. (I took time to get used to the changing names, I must admit.) A very unusual, funny and sad book, but I am not quite sure how I emerged from it. It may take some time.