Sunday, July 17, 2016
When I first read it, I had already seen the movie with Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Thompson (two of my most favourite actors!), and I already loved it. This is unfortunate, because the movie predisposed me to see things that aren't too apparent with the book (unless you already know what to look for).
Remains is a departure from the first two books, with a culture heavily steeped in a British culture that is almost extinct now (or the book would have you believe so), it was extremely interesting and absorbing to read about the life of a servant in a large country estate, and the measures he took to be an excellent butler. I am in awe of how Ishiguro has taken me from Japan in the first two books to England in the third and has managed to steep me in the distinct experience of each country. I am very excited to see where he will take me next!
Thursday, July 14, 2016
I have been slowly rationing out the reading of them over a few months, but I plan on reading the lot this year, and I am alright with that, because these are books that I will come back to again and again.
A Pale View of Hills is Ishiguro's first novel, and the first of two books known as his Japanese novels. I should admit that a few years ago I had read An Artist of the Floating World, and that when I had finished I was embarrassed because I didn't know much about that time (post World War II). So I have made a point of getting informed about Japan. I have studied customs, food, history and geography. I really wanted to understand these novels, get the cultural references etc. It is still not an easy job to do, and Ishiguro is the first to say that he did not write in the Japanese style (what ever that is), but just about characters in Japan. I want to understand and to know more about the Japanese art of storytelling, but I have barely begun reading Japanese authors (I have a list of who I would like to read next!)
This time around, I felt I had a better grasp of what Japan is about (but still a very small understanding of such a rich and beautiful culture!). So reading this book, I was happy to see that I had a better awareness of it's content (there was a lot of "Oh, I know what this is!" instead of "Huh?").
Sunday, June 26, 2016
I have made an earnest effort to read a lot of Newbery winners and honors this past school year (more than usual), and it has been my pleasure to be able to read all of the contenders for the past couple of years (it's a lot tougher to find them from years ago, but thankfully, if the local library doesn't have the actual book, their electronic library service more than likely will). It's nice to be up to date. I'm not usually a person who reads all of the new stuff just come out, it takes me a couple of years to catch on to something that everyone else has raved about (like four years ago!), because I am so busy reading stuff from a hundred or so years ago so it's nice to be current or in the now. Of course, it is much easier to be up to date with children's literature.
That being said, it's a nice picture book. I saw lots of teaching opportunities in it for the classroom (and at home too!). When I read it aloud to a class, I just touched briefly on class awareness, prejudices, community spirit and the clever use of metaphor. For a teacher I could see a comprehensive unit being taught about this book, language arts, social studies, art, community service, cooking, you name it, you might be able to apply it to this book.
This was done just for the fairy tale portions at the beginning and the end.In no other work has music spoken so loudly to me. It was a symphony of words, each story was a movement, each section a crescendo of emotion, a part of history full of it's own horror. The characters in each arc had their own part to play in a piece that wasn't revealed until the very end of the book. At the last section I was in tears, because by that time I saw much more than just four separate sad or scary stories but a symphony that was rich and poignant.
Echo, in my opinion, should have won the award.
What a treat! Picked up because it is the 2016 Nebula Award Best Novel recipient, I was pleasantly surprised. Surprised because lately the award winners I have been reading have been somewhat yucky (yep I think I will stick to that...they were yucky!). Yucky because these award winners were ugly, corrupt, violent, coarse, and full of bad people. Uprooted had the same kind of characters and events in it but wasn't yucky. There was ugliness, corruption, violence and bad people, yet the difference for me, I suppose, is that the coarseness was absent, and of course this isn't realistic fiction in any way.
Uprooted drew me in immediately, and was an engrossing read all of the way through. The story was fresh and new (though it was liberally steeped in folklore of the Slavic persuasion). It was wonderful, exciting and a little romantic (the 'happily ever after' of this new folktale).
I am excited over the resurgence of these kinds of books. I have students who don't really believe me when I tell a group that the original folktales were not meant for children, and then try to explain why (without traumatizing them with some truly gruesome, or should I say Grimm, examples). I love Uprooted, it is like the standard folktale, but with new twists, making what was old, new and fantastic again, giving life to while paying homage to the old... and this time, giving it back to the grown ups!
Saturday, June 18, 2016
You don't really need a time-travelling shtick to get in to this book, like everything else I have ever read by Willis, you are drawn in almost instantly. Last night I just decided to indulge myself by reading Bellwether until I couldn't stay awake any longer, and then I picked it up first thing this morning and read on until the finish (it is a habit with me to 'ration' out the good books by only reading small amounts at a time, trying to make them last longer), so not only am I breaking my rules by reading more than one of Willis' book in a year, I am swallowing them whole as well.
It felt like my IQ had gone up a few points when I was done. The overall theme to this story is chaos theory (and the fascinating way fads originate and apply to it), and I am impressed with how it was used as a story telling device. I think that when I get back to doing the re-reads on Willis' work, I will confirm that this is used in her other works too. Chaos theory as plot device.
An interesting thing to note is that later this morning I was looking at Pinterest for the first time in a few months, and my whole outlook on it has changed drastically after reading Bellwether.
To conclude, a Connie Willis book will, make you laugh, learn something new, increase your intelligence and change your world views. Maybe I should make t-shirts!
Friday, June 17, 2016
But today I am talking about To Say Nothing of the Dog. I read this in February, and it was the last of her books written about her Time Travel series. I really hope that she will write more, they are just that good! It won the Hugo and the Locus award.
This book was mainly situated in the Victorian era. As usual, a couple of things go wrong for the historians visiting there and the protagonist Ned Henry is sent to fix things up. Unfortunately for Ned, he has been time travelling a lot recently and he is suffering from 'time lag'. After being shoved in to the time net, he has forgotten half of his damage control instructions, thus making the mission go 'pear-shaped' in a comically tragic way.
The main things I love about these stories is that I learn a lot of history (and it's all very interesting), there are a lot of literary references (which I love to follow up on... this time I bought the Kindle bundle of Jerome K. Jerome's complete works), and there are lots of unforgettable characters. When things go wrong it's all very engrossing, exciting, and best of all gets me chuckling throughout the read, greedily gobbling up pages of the story to the very end.
What is also nice, I suppose, is that even though you have finished the book, there are lots of things to look up and read about, so it helps to keep me busy and not think too much about there not being another book in the series.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Admittedly, this one was a toughie. Tough because I will always feel guilty over the plight of the Australian Aborigines, though I personally have not done anything either way to hurt them or to help them. There is just no way that I can feel any sort of affinity to them, I just don't know enough about them. I have more of an understanding of the First Nations that I live and work with here in Canada.
That Deadman Dance helped me to understand a little bit, and I am grateful for that. The story is told by a Noongar named 'Bobby' Wabalanginy at various stages of his life, and in the style of his people. The way he weaves in and out of the narrative with his dreamings of what was and what could or should be was magical and mesmerizing. It was a powerful way to tell this story (which was about first contact between Europeans and the aborigines), and a perfectly simple and creative way to help us see it from the Noongar's point of view. I will be seeking out the rest of this author's work, I love his way of telling the story.