"Prisoner of Tehran"

Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat

Marina Nemat was a teenager at the time of the Islamic revolution in her homeland of Iran. Until that time she had enjoyed the freedoms of most girls her age: school, friends, pretty clothes, parties, boyfriends, etc. Then things began to change. Freedoms were lost, especially for women. 

Marina began to resist the restrictions put on her and she spoke out. At the age of 16 she was arrested, interrogated and tortured. Standing before the firing squad, her guard intervened and made her an offer: he would save her life if she would marry him and convert from Christianity to Islam.

In this memoir of her time in Evin prison, she tells the powerful  story of her own experience and those of the other women she met and befriended there. It's a story of pain, grief, courage and hope that changed her and her family forever.

It's not an easy book to read, but it's worth the effort. Learning what life is like for women living under sharia law may be shocking but I'd rather be shocked than uninformed. And in the end, it's about forgiving and moving on to live the best life you can.

"A House In Sicily"

A House In Sicily by Daphne Phelps

It's been a while since I read an I-left-it-all-and-moved-to-Italy book. This one proved to be quite different in that the author had no intention of staying - she was there only to settle her uncle's estate and sell his house. But the house, the country and the people all grew on her, and when she found a way to make it work financially, she decided to stay.

The house, Casa Cuseni, is the main character in this story. The cast of characters is large, with changing staff, guests (paying and otherwise), neighbours, friends and family all contributing to Casa Cuseni's story. There are a few pictures in the center of the book, but I wish there was more description of the house. I know it was beautiful, but I want to know how it was beautiful.

If you're a fan of this genre I think you'll find this one interesting. The author took up residence just after world war two, when times were hard, and money and supplies scarce, so it's quite different than the usual story of well-to-do people simply choosing a more exotic place to live. She had no money of her own, which meant a lot of compromising and making-do, an aspect of the story that was particularly refreshing to me.

Daphne got involved in the lives of the locals around her and had many visitors coming and going, some as paying guests to help with the expenses of the property. She's an interesting character herself so her stories are fun to read. As travel books go, this is one of the better ones. Hope you enjoy it too!


Anyone else having problems with Blogger?

Is anyone else having problems with their blog site? I can't add any more titles to my "2013" list. I've been trying for days and I can make the changes but it won't post them. I thought it might be just that particular list so I added another list and called it "Also read in 2013" but again, it saves and it shows up in "layout" but not on my blog page. Blogger Help is no help at all. I dread the thought of moving my blog somewhere else -  three years of posts and comments and lists and links seems more than a little overwhelming.

If anyone out there can shed any light on my problem, I'd be very grateful.


"The Painted Veil"

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

Walter and Kitty Fane are posted in Hong Kong, he a bacteriologist, she a socialite who married him because it was time to marry somebody and no one else was showing any interest. She quickly becomes bored and has an affair with the utterly charming, utterly shallow, utterly married, Charles Townsend. When Walter, who truly loves her, finds out about it, he offers her a choice: he will divorce her if Charles will marry her, or she can forget Charles and go with her husband to his new posting in a remote village overrun with cholera.

Kitty goes to Charles, expecting him to assure her of his undying love, and is horrified to find that he wants her to go with Walter. He has no intention of leaving his wife and children for Kitty, so to him, this looks like the perfect solution. Defeated, Kitty goes.

In the village, Kitty gets involved with the nuns who nurse the sick and provide a home for orphaned children. This is a setting in which she is forced to look outside of herself and she begins to grow up a little, then she meets up with Charles again.

Kitty will leave you shaking your head. She reminds me of Scarlet O'Hara with her drama and inability to make a wise decision, but she does learn and grow over time, finally becoming someone you can hope is going on to live a better life.

 I enjoy Maugham's writing. I loved it in "Of Human Bondage", though the main character in that nearly drove me crazy with shooting himself in the foot over and over again - and I loved it in this book. His dialogue is natural and flows well, and he builds characters with both strengths and weaknesses, portraying human frailty particularly well.

The Painted Veil is worth reading, and it's a small book so it won't require much of a time investment if you decide to give it a try.

"Love Anthony"

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

Olivia is grieving the death of her autistic 10 year old, Anthony.  Her marriage has crumbled under the strain and she has come to Nantucket Island to live alone in the cottage she acquired in the divorce settlement. Beth, mother of three girls and a permanent resident of the Island, has just learned that her husband has been unfaithful. These two women are about to become involved in each other’s lives in a way that even they find hard to believe.  

The author takes us inside the mind of Anthony, an autistic boy, at least as much as anyone can do that. It’s impossible to know exactly how anyone else thinks, but with a Ph.D. in neuroscience, Lisa Genova probably has a better chance than most of us at guessing. She’s draws a fascinating picture of a boy who wants to communicate but can’t, giving the reader access to the thoughts his mother could only imagine. You can’t help but love him and ache for the pain of his parents.

I thoroughly enjoyed half of this book and not so much the other half. I found Olivia’s story well written and as a character Olivia herself was very relatable. When I was reading her sections I got completely involved and didn't notice time passing. When I read Beth’s chapters I wondered if they were even written by the same person. I found them boring, and the character herself not believable, but had to read through Beth's parts to get back to Olivia’s story. It was a curious reading experience. 

The story gets a bit strange in the latter half. There’s a lot of talk about Beth “channeling” the dead boy and receiving messages from him for his mother, and the author mixes that in with Olivia’s turning back to God and the Catholic church. I don't know a lot about the Catholic church, but I don't think communing with the dead is their thing; correct me if I'm wrong. It was a confusing mix of spiritual philosophies that for me cheapened and ruined what could have been a beautiful story.  

I was disappointed, but maybe it's just me. I’d like to hear what you thought of it.