Since we don’t celebrate any of the holidays in December, the month usually means a bonanza of reading time for me when the stores are closed and my husband is off work. 2014 was no exception.
Mystery books are in a separate post.
The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier, illustrated by Shelden Cohen, translated by Sheila Fischman (Nonfiction, Picture book, Canadian)
It’s impossible to say anything about this book and keep it to a paragraph or two. So I am going to have to write a separate post so that, if you are Canadian, you will know that you must be familiar with this story and treasure this part of your heritage (despite our Prime Minister’s opinion that there is no Canadian identity) and if you are not Canadian, you will understand a little about what makes this country tick.
Adé: a Love Story by Rebecca Walker (Fiction, Contemporary, Literary)
This is subtitled a “love story” but this is no romance novel. An American (or was she a Brit? It doesn’t matter really) falls in love with a native Swahili man while in Kenya. When an epidemic breaks out, they attempt to flee to the first world.
Adé is a love story in the tradition of Romeo and Juliet. Haunting and heart-breaking, it deserves to be a classic of 21st century literature. I have not been as touched by a book in a long time as I was by Adé.
I’m not saying more—you’ll just have to read the book. It’s short, it’s lovely, and it will stay with you a long time.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Fiction, WWII Pacific front)
This 2014 winner of the Man Booker Prize is a look into the construction of the Thai-Burma Railway (“The Death Railway”) during World War II by Australians in Japanese POW camps. They worked in horrendous conditions in the Burmese jungle.
The modern-day part of this novel was annoying and superfluous but the WWII events will stay with you. Harrowing and powerful.
Sheep by Valerie Hobbs (Fiction, Children’s Chapter Book)
This chapter book for older children and adults, that tells the tale of a homeless border collie (his sheep farm burned) looking for a home, and an orphan, will pull your heart-strings.
It’s told from the point of view (mostly, as I remember) of the dog.
A great story that I’d like to read to my grandchildren.
There is a sequel called Wolf, which I’ve added to my reading list.
The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (Fiction, Children’s Chapter)
In the woods next to her family’s new home, young Robin finds an abandoned house. Inside she finds beautifully decorated rooms, including her favourite: a room done entirely in plush – the velvet room of the title.
If I had read this as a child, I would have loved it. And I think it would stand up to a rereading as an adult. But finding it for the first time in my seventh decade was not a perfectly satisfying experience.
Other People’s Lives by Johanna Kaplan (Fiction, 1970s)
This is a book that I requested from NetGalley because I was intrigued by the cover and title. I had hoped, I think, to peek in many apartments and many lives.
Instead, the book focused on one woman and her rather odd story.
Of course, that’s only my opinion. Other People’s Lives was the winner of a Jewish Book Award and was a finalist for the 1976 National Book Award.
The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell (Fiction, Contemporary)
This is another book that I chose to work through the trauma I had felt going through my deceased’s mother home and belongings.
This fiction offering deals with adult children disposing of their hoarder mother’s ‘stuff’. It should have had a big impact on me but I don’t remember the plot at all.
The Children Act by Ian McEwan (Fiction, Contemporary)
I loved McEwan’s Atonement and was prepared to enjoy this book very much.
Judge Fiona Maye is dealing with an impending split in her marriage while she is reviewing a difficult case in her court. The case involves a blood transfusion for a seventeen-year-old minor who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
It perhaps goes without saying that I was disappointed in her court decision, but I knew it could go either way – that’s real life.
However, McEwan’s portrayal of Witnesses is so off that it was completely wrong. Their vocabulary, their explanation (or not) for their stand, and their reaction to the ruling were all very wide of the mark.
It appears to me that he studied only one court document of an actual case like this one, and it makes me question the authenticity of any characters he represents in his other novels. It completely put me off McEwan and I couldn’t assign this even one star.
Holy Bible by Vanessa Russell (Fiction)
Another portrayal by an outsider to a faith – in this case, I believe it was based on the author’s youth in the Christadelphian ecclesia.
I am not, nor have I ever been, a Christadelphian, but I did have a well-adjusted, kind, and intelligent aunt who was.
I categorically cannot believe what is portrayed in this book. Perhaps some of the practices Russell describes in Holy Bible are based on fact, but they surely have been satirized to an extreme for effect, without explicit indication of this to the non-Christadelphian reader.
I did not find it at all conducive to opening up understanding and tolerance of other faiths.
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So a month of reading HIGHS and LOWS.
Have you a favourite book that defines your country’s identity as I feel The Hockey Sweater does Canada’s?
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