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30 Day Book Challenge – Book You Couldn’t Put Down

DAY 30 – To SiberiaPer Pettersen

I was fourteen and a half when the Germans came. On that 9th April we woke to the roar of aeroplanes swooping so low over the roofs of the town that we could see the black iron crosses painted on the underside of their wings when we leaned out of the windows and looked up.

In this exquisite novel, readers will find the crystalline prose and depth of feeling they adored in Out Stealing Horses, a literary sensation of 2007.

And it is all true, I enjoyed every minute of this novel. Couldn’t put this one down until the final page, type enjoyment. Written by a Norwegian but set in Denmark, it is a beautifully written coming of age novel about a brother and sister growing up in a small coastal village in Denmark just prior to the Nazi occupation. The children’s life is their own, as their parents take little interest in their upbringing. With a authoritian mother, that is too distant, and a father that is too busy with work in order to provide income for the family, the children rely on each other for companionship and affection and develop divergent dreams as they get closer to adulthood.

There is an underlying sadness in this book, and this may in part be the author’s way of conveying the danish psyche, or it may have more to do with a child’s vanquished dreams and the realities of adulthood. If you do read it, let me know if you agree.

I read an English translation of this novel and it is a moot point just how the translation itself changes words and meanings of a text, sometimes quite radically from what the author may have intended. These nuances of language were the subject of long discussions at my Scandinavian bookclub when we reviewed this book.

Above all, it is a book you should read. It captures the impending fear of those who lived through that period of history.

I give it 9/10

And this is the final post of the 30 day Book Challenge. To see links to each of the previous days, click here (for those obsessed with numbers, and precision, the challenge took longer than a month, but I did anticipate this).

Something to Ponder About

Book review

30 Day Book Challenge – A book you hated.

DAY 29. – HUNGER by Knut Hamsun

Hunger is a 1890 novel by Norwegian author Knut Hamsun. Parts of it  were published anonymously in the Danish magazine ‘Ny Jord‘ in 1888.

It is an astonishing book for its time, belonging I think more to the avant-garde modernist writing than to the sometimes considered “proper” late 19th century.  A writer encounters difficulties financially and mentally when he loses his job, and then is left without income for food and essentials in 19th century Christiania, (the former Oslo), where he slowly and agonizingly descends into mental confusion.

George Egerton claims this book is:

“One of the most important and controversial writers of the 20th century, Knut Hamsun made literary history with the publication in 1890 of this powerful, autobiographical novel recounting the abject poverty, hunger and despair of a young writer struggling to achieve self-discovery and its ultimate artistic expression. The book brilliantly probes the psycho-dynamics of alienation and obsession, painting an unforgettable portrait of a man driven by forces beyond his control to the edge of self-destruction. Hamsun influenced many of the major 20th-century writers who followed him, including Kafka, Joyce and Henry Miller. Required reading in world literature courses, the highly influential, landmark novel will also find a wide audience among lovers of books that probe the “unexplored crannies in the human soul”

Notwithstanding the huge body of opinions that this is/was literary genius, I disliked the book, neigh, I hated the book, yet I hung on reading it to the final page.  If I was to read it now, I can honestly say I would never finish it. I found the novel too brutal, raw and dark.  If I wanted to feel utter despair at the world and at the human spirit, I would read it with a passion. But I don’t. Can this really be the role of the writer? To depress readers under the guise of giving them reality, no matter how brutal?

I want my books to be entertaining, to lighten my spirit, to take me to a place where I can momentarily forget the gloom and doom a worldly future might bring. This is not to say that I would read Romantic novels, or smarmy soap operatic stories, rather, I have no patience to be suppressed in the realms of the negative. This is why I hated Knut Hamsun’s book.

But perhaps I missed the point, for there were sections that I admired for their literary power.

“The intelligent poor individual was a much finer observer than the intelligent rich one. The poor individual looks around him at every step, listens suspiciously to every word he hears from the people he meets; thus, every step he takes presents a problem, a task, for his thoughts and feelings. He is alert and sensitive, he is experienced, his soul has been burned…”

But then again, this:

“The heavy red roses smoldering in the foggy morning, blood-colored and uninhibited, made me greedy, and tempted me powerfully to steal one–I asked the prices merely so I could come as near them as possible.”

The sad tale of this writer’s mental demons and his fight to survive without income, in a non-existent welfare state was depressingly repetitive throughout the book, and then one day: (N.B. Spoiler alert!) – he ups and leaves on a ship….. and that’s it? Ummmm, did I miss something? I read pages and pages of long detailed descriptions of hunger, and despair and mental anguish, the complete all encompassing absence of hope,  to reach a point with no closure?????  I felt completely marooned – let down by Hamsun.

Yes, perhaps I missed the point!       – Something to Ponder About

30 Day Book Challenge Update

It has been over 30 days, but I admit that I had reservations as to whether this challenge could be done. Read here

Final day of the 30 day Challenge:
DAY 30. – Book you couldn’t put down.

Architecture, Community, History & Traditions, Motivational

30 Day Book Challenge – Favourite Quote from a Book

DAY 28. Jonathan Wunrow – Adventure Inward: A Risk-Taker’s Book of Quotes

Where else does one find a quote, but in a book of quotes.

Jonathan is a rock climber and mountaineer, and has been stuck in places where he has been tired and exhausted, but nevertheless stuck. It is there he does his best thinking and problem solving.  He contemplates, death, extreme sports, personal actions and faults, in his book of quotes.  This is the quote I have chosen to highlight today:

ACCEPTING THINGS AS THEY ARE, IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM ALLOWING THEM TO REMAIN THAT WAY! – Jonathan Wunrow

Simple, but poignant. Inspiring Action!!! Do not just sit there and take it! Make change!!!

In reference to the above quote, Jonathan also adds, There are times in our life when acceptance is cause for inaction, and there are times when taking actions is the only way to accept a situation and MOVE ON>>

Something to Ponder About.

Final two days of the 30 day Challenge:
DAY 29. – A book you hated.
DAY 30. – Book you couldn’t put down.

Environment, History & Traditions

-30 Day Book Challenge – A Book that has been on your “to read” list the longest.

DAY 27 – REGAINING COMPASSION  for HUMANITY and NATURE by Charles Birch

“Charles Birch is one of the most exciting and provocative scientists writing on fundamental issues today,” according to Paul Davies.

Whether or not you agree with his theological conclusions, this book will make you think. It is especially recommended to those who think that science has all of the answers –  Paul R Ehrlich

I heard winning Australian author Charles Birch speak about the rebirth of compassion, for ourselves, each other and our planet, and  set about finding his book, (with great difficulty), many years ago, in fact, over 14 years ago. It is heavy going and the constraints of time and many other books TBR, have  thus far prevented me from reading it.

In the book, I one day will read, Birch presents a persuasive argument that only compassion has the power to enrich and heal a world which too often seems senseless, unintelligible and accidental.

An important contribution to the science/religion dialogue.

Something to Ponder About, when I get to reading it.

Book review

30 Day Book Challenge – Least favourite plot device employed by way too many books you actually enjoyed otherwise

Day 22- Wordy Title but I get it  and the least favourite plot device is….

Waking up in another person’s body or going forward/back in age in your own body.

You know those stories where the protagonist goes to sleep and dreams he or she is 40, (if they are young), or 16 years old, again, if they are middle aged. When they awake, they realize it is real. They are inhabiting another body.

Stupid, inane, detestable plot device that insults our intelligence. Waste of resources, space and our time.

I will admit to them having a small modicum of entertainment value, and note that they seem to have been used in more American films than I could count. So clearly, some people enjoy this kind of rubbish.

Do you?

Something to Ponder About.

See guidelines and links to previous days of this challenge here

DAY 23. – Best book you’ve read in the last 12 months.
DAY 24. – Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like/liked.
DAY 25. – The most surprising plot twist or ending.
DAY 26. – Book that makes you laugh out loud.
DAY 27. – Book that has been on your “to read” list the longest.
DAY 28. – Favorite quote from a book.

Book review, Community, Food

30 day Book Challenge – Favourite Childhood Book

Day 20 – Winnie The Pooh Series by A. A. Milne

It’s a tad embarrassing but yes, it’s Winnie The Pooh!!!!

The challenge did ask for  the favourite childhood book, as opposed to favourite children’s book. That’s my childhood, right?

All things considered, A.A. Milne had a captive market with me, and his Winnie The Pooh  series. As a child growing up in the sixties, in a lower-middle class family from the “burbs”,  we were far away from being poverty stricken, yet even so, I only had five or six books to my name, (and A.A. Milne was the author of four of them). This was due mainly to my spendthrift father who ensured we utilized the city council library, with its many literary resources,  (costing him next to nothing), as opposed to him buying books, which he clearly considered an extravagance to a child in my era. Geez, we were lucky to get a new t-shirt or pair or socks for our birthdays, let alone something as non-essential as a BOOK!

Thus, I read and re-read those Pooh books over and over, to the point where I could easily recite parts of the ‘hundred aker wood’ dialogue some 40 years later. Eeyore’s depressive comments, Owl’s wise lyricisms, (but incredibly bad spelling), the dopey but lovably loyal Pooh Bear, the neurotic Piglet and the blubbering Tigger were such a delight. I could never forget Rabbit’s attempt to ‘unbounce’ Tigger, or the discovery of the ‘North Pole’ in the flooded river when Pooh was rescuing Roo, nor Pooh getting ‘stuck’ in his quest for ‘hunny’.’

Such was the mind of the 7 year old me that it was a several years before I realized Christopher Robin was in fact, a boy. After all, the book’s illustrations had him wearing some pretty girlish attire to say nothing of his long unruly hair! Every boy I knew sported a #2 crew cut and bat wing ears, so this ‘Robin’ must therefore be a girl!

To say it was my favourite childhood book is a slight exaggeration, as I didn’t really have many other book to compare it too, only discovering classics like Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ when a friend introduced me to that series, years later. (By then, it was too late, I was hooked on the hunt for the ‘heffalump’ and the rest of Pooh corner).

When my own children came along, (being the bookworm that I am), I was determined to create a mini-library in their bedrooms, but the world had significantly changed and Pooh Bear had long been supplanted by the likes of Mem Fox, (who writes the best-ever-carefully crafted, children stories), Spot and his various escapades, Postman Pat, Thomas the Tank,  (modern editions) and several individual stories that are memorable more for their iambic pentameter and illustrations than for their author’s names.

Piglet and Eeyore didn’t endear themselves to my kids, nor did the map of the 100 Aker Wood tantalize their imagination as it did mine for theirs was the world where books were made with high tech “lift-the-flaps” adaptations. In my day, children read the words  in books and illustrations were few, and far between,  forcing imagination to create the visuals, not Disney.

Perhaps one day, I will get to see the real Pooh Corner and the 100 Aker wood in Ashdown Forest, Sussex, England and compare my memory to that which inspired A.A. Milne.

That is something like Pooh, I will spend some time pondering about.

DAY 21. – Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t
actually finished).

 

 

 

Community

30 Day Book Challenge – Author I wish people would read more.

DAY 17. –

Elsebeth Egholm  An Author I wish people would read more.

“Elspeth who?” I hear the Australians, who read my blog, say with a rising inflection!!!  For this author is almost unknown in that part of the world.  Hailing from Denmark, she has only had two of her six novels, translated to English, but given the rise in popularity of Scandinavian fiction in this country of late, and how good the books are, I am a little surprised.

In fact, the books are so good, she has, to my mind, toppled the great Nesbø of his pedestal! [Pondering the ensuing riot in the comments section, right now!]

Egholm, (pronounced “E” holm),  is a Danish born journalist who writes a series based on investigative journalist: Dicte Svendsen, who lives in the University town of Århus, in Denmark. There are I believe, plans for three films/mini-series based on the novels. Please correct me if anyone has more accurate information.

Elsebeth claims to have been inspired by Nesbø and Liza Marklund, another favourite author of mine, from Sweden, who also has a journalist heroine, ( although somewhat atypical). I also like that Egholm’s protagonist has come from a dysfunctional and rather unique background, that of being raised in a religious cult, and fell pregnant at 16.

In Egholm’s book Next of Kin, the author chillingly foresaw the videoing of the Muslim be-headings that were published on the net so very recently, except in the book’s case: a video CD was sent to Dicte’s newspaper, and not the net as a messenger. This story unearths some unpalatable moments from Dicte’s past and it is a story written at the time of the Iraq war and the pervading terrorism phase of our history, – so its very topical.

Next of Kin and the Later novel, which I am yet to read: Life and Limb, published 2011 and 2012 respectively. Take a look.

Next:

DAY 18. – A book you wish you could live in.
DAY 19. – A favourite author.
DAY 20. – Favorite childhood book.

Something to Ponder About

 

 

 

 

Book review

30 Day Book Challenge – A Book Character Who You Can Relate to the Most.

DAY 15. – A character who you can relate to the most.

The Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks

I read a lot of thrillers/mystery fiction so I can’t say I relate to the victims, in those stories, but Anna in Geraldine Brook’s historical fiction novel: The Year of Wonders, grabbed my attention, for she is an extraordinary person.

Anna is a housemaid, who is in service to the village pastor in 17th century England. An infected bolt of cloth brings the plague to the village in 1664, and decimates the population. There are many important themes addressed in this book, as the Village Rector spearheads a campaign to quarantine the village, in an attempt to stem the spread of the disease, albeit via religious motives.

Anna, a servant of low class, shows intelligence, strength and resourcefulness in facing the catastrophe decimating her village. As the disease progresses, she does not succumb, physically or emotionally, but rather blossoms into a leader and heroine.  She exhibits a keenness to learn, and it is her eagerness to attain knowledge that not only landed her the initial job with the Rector, but also facilitates her transition to independent survivor and healer in the novel. Those in authority whom she once feared, and kowtowed to,  she feared no more.

The overriding message for me  in this book is “Knowledge is empowerment” and it is for this reason I identified and liked the character of Anna.  Knowledge and the attainment of knowledge, through education or informal learning, is of fundamental significance in improving the status of women in the world, especially so, in developing countries.  And so it was for Anna.

I also felt this novel was also critical, well, perhaps suspicious, of the intentions of religion and Anna was someone that kept her options open, as her knowledge developed. “Perhaps the Plague was neither of God nor the Devil, but simply a thing in Nature … We could simply work upon it … knowing that when we found the tools and the method and the resolve, we would free ourselves …”

Anna personified the ideal that kindness will be rewarded intrinsically or extrinsically. As one reviewer puts  it,

“The image of freedom, independence and escape from the past, from death and from convention is realized in a sequence of symbolic potency shortly after the plague fades away, when Anna, with no permission, takes charge of Mompellion’s great stallion, Anteros: “The wind rushed by, blowing off my cap and freeing my hair so that it blew out like a banner … We live, we live, we live, said the hoof-beats, and the drumming of my pulse answered them. I was alive, and I was young, and I would go on until I found some reason for it.”    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/neither-of-god-nor-the-devil-20130719-2q8du.html#ixzz3JHvKijXo

The novel is littered with old French and Middle English terms and this added to the book’s feel and authenticity. An interesting epilogue to the book is that the real Rector in the village of ‘Eyam’ sent his family away prior to quarantining the village, but his wife died anyway.

DAY 16. – Most thought-provoking book.

Something to Ponder About

Book review, Community

30 Day Book Challenge – A Book that Disappointed You

Day 13 –  The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

I can hear the howls of protests now: that I dare speak of Annie Proulx’s books in these terms! But, it’s true. I WAS sadly disappointed with this book! After all the Pulitzer-prize -winning hype and hearing the author speak, not only in an interview about the book, but also of her insistence at hand-writing all her manuscripts to avoid a certain writing style she felt came with writing on a computer keyboard, my expectations were high for The Shipping News. Maybe a little too high?

Firstly, there was nothing much to love about ‘Quoyle’s character; well, there’s the fundamental problem! If you don’t like the protagonist, things aren’t going to go well with the book, generally speaking.

Quoyle’s character is that of a

…defeated man, He knows the taste of brack and seaweed.” Even his name, “Quoyle,” is a mariner’s term for a coil of deck rope to “be walked on.” People walk all over Quoyle, a clumsy man whose doughy and weak-chinned face is “camouflaged torment with smiles and silences.”says one Goodreads review.

And then, I didn’t like the plot, either. Boom! Another death knell in the coffin for the Shipping News, at least in my eyes. Seemingly predictable, the storyline ensured the ‘bored and skipping pages look’ started to appear in me, during my reading of the Shipping News.

So, if it was this bad, was there anything I did like?

The setting was different and it really made me want to visit Newfoundland. I was also intrigued by the eccentric and wiry characters in the Killick Claw community. I imagined them to possess a totally different persona from other parts of America, but I could be way off in my estimation there, as American anthropology is not my strong point. I do remember Newfoundland was a Viking area long before Columbus sailed in to America, wasn’t it? So there’s one point, at least in the book’s favour.

Furthermore, I liked the almost Dickensian names, the rich vocabulary, the scenic imagery and poetic adjectives often inherent in Proulx’s writing such as:

“Waves bursting. Exploding Water. Silence and the gnawing sea”… “and the woman with arctic eyes”. (Names like: Petal Bear, Wavey Prouse, Bunny and Sunshine, etc)

And finally, I loved the sailor’s knot depicted at the start of each chapter. That was a cute and unique addition to the book.

But overall…. if the plot fails, the book fails, and it fell ever so quickly and resoundingly on the ‘NRAP” – ‘Never read again pile’

My apologies to Proulx fans.

Something to Ponder About

DAY 14. –  Book that made you cry

 

 

Community

30 Day Book Challenge – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t.

DAY 12. – The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

After selling more than 90 million copies and combining the genres of detective, thriller and conspiracy fiction, I must be the only person who has NOT read this book in the western reading world.

Being a fan of thriller and detective novels, I have always been intrigued, but there has been so much talk and media about this novel, that it never seemed a priority to buy it. (no pun intended).

I once read an account of the Historical figure of Jesus Christ, as opposed to the legendary or spiritual), and I was initially hoping this book would be of the same ilk, but it appears to be completely fictional or so it’s critics claim.

Did Jesus in fact, marry or have an intimate relationship with Mary Magdalene? Are these Kings really descended from Jesus? Even if Jesus died without a progeny, someone must be related to him, distant. I seem to be related to half of Denmark, from my Danish genealogical research going back 500 years.

Getting back to the book itself, one day I will have to obtain a copy, but because of the media hype, it will most certainly come from a library, and not a book shop!

Something to Ponder About

Still to come:

DAY 13. – A book that disappointed you.
DAY 14. –  Book that made you cry.
DAY 15. – A character who you can relate to the most.
DAY 16. – Most thought-provoking book.
DAY 17. – Author I wish people would read more.

Book review

30 Day Book Challenge– A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving.

 DAY 10.

How often can you say that there was nothing at all you disliked about a book? Not too often but this is what  I said about Simon and the Oaks by Marianne Fredriksson. When I first heard the title and the subject matter, let me tell you, I wasn’t champing at the bit to read it, but it was on the list for the book-club, so read it I did. I didn’t regret it.

An uplifting and sad tale about a gifted boy growing up in Gothenburg, Sweden during World War II, who is sent to a school where sons of the working class do not go. Here he makes friends with a Jewish boy and during his formative years some truths are revealed about his own background that destroys his close relationships and makes him question his future.

There are so many layers to this story, and Marianne tells it with empathy, sensitivity, and a little bit of daring. The characters are highly believable, especially that of Simon and his parents, and the descriptive prose almost engrossing. A great book to discover the history of this era and its effects on everyday life, particularly in countries not directly involved in the conflict. ( Sweden maintained neutrality during WWII)

The book was made into a Swedish movie in 2011 and deservedly won a multitude of awards. A young Skårsgard (Stellan’s son) plays the leading role giving a outstanding performance as Simon.

If you haven’t read this book, please do.

Tomorrow DAY 11. – Favorite classic book.

Something to Ponder About

Book review

30 Day Book Challenge – Most Overrated Book

Day 9- The Shell Seekers

Despite being nominated by the British public as one of the top 100 novels (I am not sure where in the top 100 of the ‘Big Read’),  I thought the 1987 novel, The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher, to be lacklustre. It did not grab my attention at all, and I yawned all the way through, waiting for the fun to begin. It didn’t.

The only thoughts I have on this book are:

Did Penelope really love her children Noel and Mary or did she subconsciously resent them for being like Ambrose and therein affecting the relationship?

They also speak about the shock of epilepsy, but it was epilepsy, and not leprosy.

She claimed to be Bohemian and accepted Doris for her frailties but could not do the same for her own children.

As a parent of adult children, I can relate to some of these feelings, and there is one passage, that describes being in love, that did weave a little ‘magic’ for me:

Now day to day her inner vision cleared and her preceptions were sharpened by a new awareness…. a sharpened sensitivity.

Needless to say that was the first and last novel by Rosamunde Pilcher I have read.

Something I won’t be pondering about for long!

Upcoming posts  in this challenge-

DAY 10. – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving.
DAY 11. – Favorite classic book.
DAY 12. – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t.
DAY 13. – A book that disappointed you.
DAY 14. –  Book that made you cry.
DAY 15. – A character who you can relate to the most.
DAY 16. – Most thought-provoking book.
DAY 17. – Author I wish people would read more.

Book review

30 Day Book Challenge DAY 7

A guilty pleasure book

Strange Fits of Passion by Anita Shreve

Unusual choice for guilty pleasure? Yes, but perhaps this book has more to do with guilt, than pleasure. A journalist’s story of her experience with domestic violence and the re-telling by another journalist, 20 years later. There are several different perspectives in this book which assist in highlighting how each incident can, and might, be perceived differently, by different people. The book also makes the reader aware of the change in attitudes towards domestic violence that occur, with the march of  time.

The location the main character escapes to with her child is described brilliantly and 10 years on, I can still visualize the images I constructed in my head when I read that book, and it is for that reason it is today’s choice.

Despite the unpalatable subject matter, many of us have moments when we would like to run away and start a new life, unencumbered by the ghosts and anchors of the past. The  idyllic and somewhat isolated village of Maine, would be one that offers much needed security the character in this book was looking for.

The subject matter may be trite, and or tragic for some readers, but it is reality for some women and epitomizes not only the victim as helpless and sometimes being their own worst enemy, but the ‘truth’ as being relevant to the era in which it was spoken and who spoke it!

The analogy of the mess of manuscript strewn across the floor to me indicated that the story would be told differently, yet again.

Tomorrow: DAY 8. – Most underrated book

Something to Ponder About