"The Bridge"

The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury

I haven't got much to say other than that I didn't enjoy it. It's predictable, everybody is too sweet and perfect and it's more than a little bit unrealistic. I guess unrealistic is what everybody wants this time of year given the popularity of tv Christmas movies, but this one really stretches the limits of credibility. I can handle a reasonable amount of seasonal sap, just not quite this much.   

"All The Light We Cannot See"

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

There is so much going on in this book I hardly know where to begin. It's crammed full of characters, plot lines, and timelines, though it is written in short chapters, sometimes only a paragraph or two on a page, which makes it easier to process. It's written in thirteen sections but I couldn't see much logic in the divisions until I made a list of the sections and the main ideas presented in each one. I have difficulty understanding things if I can't put them in some kind of order or see the plan they are laid out in, so sometimes drawing "maps" of stories brings clarity. If I hadn't been leading a discussion at book club I probably would have simply read it and found it slightly disorienting. Going into it a little deeper uncovered layers of meaning I would otherwise have missed.

One main character is Werner Pfennig, a young orphan in Germany who joins the Hitler Youth rather than end up working in a coal mine, as his father did before him. He and his sister, Jutta, listen to science programs broadcast from France on an old radio, and Werner develops an interest that will set him on a course he would never have foreseen.

The other main character is Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind girl, who is the grand-daughter of the voice Werner heard on the radio. She lives with her father in Paris until the Germans move in, then she and her father go to Saint Malo where her great uncle, Etienne, lives in the house from which the radio programs were broadcast.

The chapters alternate between Werner's story and Marie Laure's: his time at the orphanage, then at the Hitler Youth training facility, and finally his service in the German army; and her time in Paris, then the changing circumstances of her life in Saint Malo before and after it, too, is occupied, her father is arrested and she begins helping with resistance efforts.

There are other significant characters whose stories are told in their own short chapters among those of Werner and Marie-Laure. And there's a diamond. A very large, cursed diamond, that may or may not have powers of its own. I'll leave you to decide what to think about that. To me it was superfluous to the story, which could have been told just as well without the supernatural aspect. I thought it took away from the gravitas of the story and unfortunately, lessens its significance.

Books that offer insight into the human condition, or that reveal hidden or forgotten historical realities are often the best books and the ones that become important either to the reader specifically or to society in general. I think this one tried to be that, but fell somewhat short. In my opinion, and I do realize it's only my opinion - this book did win a Pulitzer - it's over-stuffed with attempted wisdom, motifs, symbols, figures of speech, and imagery. I felt like it was trying too hard to be profound on every page, when sometimes what I really wanted was more story or dialogue to help me know the characters better. I found some of its proverbs unfathomable:

"The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the globe.The sea is only a receptacle for all the prodigious, supernatural things that exist inside it. It is only movement and love;it is the living infinite." 

"Beneath your world of skies and faces and buildings exists a rawer and older world, a place where surface planes disintegrate and sounds ribbon in shoals through the air."

And some of it I simply found stale and overused:

"Every outcome has its cause, and every predicament has its solutions."

"You know the greatest lesson in history? It's that history is whatever 
the victors say it is. That's the lesson."

"Sometimes the eye of the hurricane is the safest place to be"

"'Is it right,' Jutta says, 'to do something only because everyone else is doing it?'"

To be fair, there were also wonderful descriptions, figures of speech, etc, some chilling and others beautiful, many of which stopped me in my tracks to read again just to enjoy the way he put the words together:

  "One hundred children passing sleek and interchangeable in their white uniforms like livestock before the eyes of the examiners."

"The drain moans; the cluttered house crowds in close"

"Memories cartwheel out of her head and tumble across the floor."

If I was asked what this book is about, I'd start with the war story, but it's also about vision and hearing, good and evil, light and dark, water and fire, the natural world, things hidden within other things, radio technology, fear and courage, free will and choices, propaganda, the pointlessness of war, how it devalues human life, and how even in the midst of the horror some will still offer kindness. It's also about how children were brainwashed in Nazi Germany, the French resistance, Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Debussy's Clair De Lune, and the phrase "Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever" which appears throughout the book. And it's about a spooky diamond. That diamond made me feel like I was reading two different genres that somehow got stuffed between the same covers.

It's a book that deserves more than a cursory reading. There are dots to connect all the way through, and interesting things to uncover - like the foreshadowing of one character's death and the exquisite irony of someone ending up in the very position he had compromised all his standards to avoid. There are puzzles in the story, and the story itself is a puzzle.   

Although there were aspects of the book I didn't enjoy, I don't want to leave the impression that I didn't like it at all. It showed me things I'd never seen, taught me things I didn't know, and will stay with me, I'm sure, for a long, long time. It's a moving, in some ways beautiful story and most definitely worth reading, I just think I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn't tried so hard to say so much about so many things.  

 One last thing. There is something about this book that I find disconcerting. I think this is the third book I've read where the reader is meant to sympathize with the Nazi character. Now before anybody gets defensive, I'll state for the record that of course I know the German people suffered. Bombs and bullets killed and maimed Germans just like they did other people and Nazis grieved their dead the same way as anybody else. I also realize not all German people were supportive of the Nazi regime. Having said that, I wonder if lines are being blurred, and I wonder why. The Nazi cause was evil and I think we absolutely must remember that so it never, ever, happens again. The bombing by the Allies that takes place in this novel and which we are meant to find horrifying, had some hard consequences yes, but it doesn't begin to compare to the horror of the Nazi bombing campaigns. The Allies were pushing back the darkness the Nazis were spreading. There may be good and bad on both sides, there always is, but the bottom line is the Nazi agenda was evil and it was right to stop it. That is a line that should never be blurred.

"The Name of the Rose"

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Well. This sure wasn't light, summer reading. I kept wanting to put it down to read something less strenuous but then I'd find myself another thirty pages in and by the time I got to 400 there was just no way to abandon it. It's over 600 pages, and it's not easy reading, still there's something about the writing, and the story, and the characters that wouldn't let me go.

The setting is a fourteenth century Italian abbey. A monk, Matthew, and his young assistant, Adso, have been sent there on a particular mission, but when they arrive they are asked to investigate the murder of a young monk. In the seven days they are there, other crimes occur and they are drawn into the darker side of monastic life. Some of it deals with ordinary human weakness and sin, but there are other passages, long and philosophical, about things like the purpose of laughter and whether it's good or evil.

There's an ancient library on the abbey's top floor, a dark and musty labyrinth, the secrets of which are known only to the Abbot and the appointed librarian. Matthew and Adso have to figure out how to get in and out, how all the rooms connect and why one room seems to be missing. The book has diagrams thank goodness or I'd have been as lost as they were.

Although this is a murder mystery, the mental workout you get while you're reading it makes it far more. It will have you turning back to try to figure out what just happened, or to understand how he got you started on this particular train of thought, or to see how this new piece of the puzzle fits into the whole. It quickly becomes clear that the author is a scholar with a brilliant mind and that your job as his reader is to hang on and try to keep up. By the time I was finished, I was simply grateful for the amazing world he created and allowed me to share. As one reviewer said, the detective story is just "the frosting on a rather rich cake".

Another review called it "a philosophical and intellectual exercise". I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it was worth the effort. The rich, detailed history; the ideas; the architecture; the character types, the glorious books - it was an education. If I was asked if I liked it, I wouldn't know what to say. Like seems a trivial word for such a book. I am very glad I read it, and I know I will never forget it.

Eight Books, One Post

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield (Book 1 in the Provincial Lady series)

I loved it. Written as a fictional diary but based on her own life, it's witty and fun and I love her writing. She lives a lifestyle I can't even imagine but still she makes herself relate-able in various ways. She's intelligent but scatterbrained, attractive but awkward, well-to-do but always short of money. She can see the ridiculous in everyday situations and she knows how to tell a story. Very, very entertaining.

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

Having long ago seen a movie based on this play and not being particularly impressed with it, I have to say I enjoyed reading it a lot more. I found it deeply emotional, more atmospheric, more intelligent and altogether a better story.

Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This year I’m reading some Canadian history as part of my own ‘Canada 150’ celebration and this was one of my choices. I’d forgotten how beautiful it is, beautiful and sad and a wonderful story to get lost in. Worth reading and re-reading. See also post Catching Up.

The Pride of the Peacock by Victoria Holt

I have no idea where I got this book or how many decades it’s been on my shelf, but I got tired of seeing it there so I finally read it. It wasn’t anything special, but it was ok as light reading in the romance/adventure category.

Islands In The Stream by Ernest Hemingway
I don’t know what to say about this book. I loved Hemingway’s writing as always, and I did enjoy parts of the story, just not so much the rest of it. The first part is about his life on a Caribbean island, the last part about his war experience. I am fascinated with his writing, the simple perfection of sentences that are never choked with adjectives and adverbs. It's like breathing pure air. It's all plain truth and real living and it’s exhilarating. It almost doesn’t matter what the story is, as long as I can immerse myself in the crystal clear air of his writing.

The Road to Confederation by Donald Creighton

I knew my understanding of the events leading to confederation was patchy but I had no idea how much I didn’t know. This book filled in all the blanks. I learned a lot, almost fell asleep a couple of times in the slower parts, but soldiered on and finished it. It’s well written, has a lot of interesting stories about the people involved and was well worth reading. On the negative side, it’s deplorable that a book like this contains no reference to the people who lived here generations before the English or French ever decided to come over and claim it for themselves. 

The Provincial Lady Goes Further by E.M. Delafield  (Book 2 in the Provincial Lady series)

As enjoyable as the first book was. Taking a break from the series to read our Book Club book and a couple of others I want to get finished. I’ll do the last two in the series later.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

I did not enjoy this one. I had high expectations because of reviews that said it was a breakthrough for women, showing one woman’s journey through her own sexual and cultural awakening. Unfortunately her “awakening” led her not to enlightenment or joy or wisdom, but to choices that could not ever be considered good for her or anyone else. A lot of potential, a big disappointment. 

"Nicholas and Alexandra"

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

This account of the last Zsar and his family begins in 1894 and ends in 1918, but there are lots of stories from before that time filling out this jam-packed account of Russia's fascinating, if sometimes bloody, history. All I'd ever read was bad Zsar/good peasants accounts in school books, but knowing nothing is ever that simple I wanted to learn more. This book, published in 1967, looked intimidating but was instead a riveting story that kept me up reading late into the nights. What I thought was just another history book turned out to be so very much more.

Massie is truly a great writer. He makes history come alive and lets the reader feel like it's all happening to them, now. He has done extensive research, sources listed chapter by chapter at the back of the book, and shows us the Imperial family from all sides, good, bad, and ordinary. He takes us into their personal relationship as husband and wife, and their day-to-day family life with their five children. Knowing how the story ends makes it all the more poignant and real.

I learned more about Russian and European history than I ever expected to get from any book and the exceptional thing about it is that it never gets boring. Massie's writing is conversational, easy to read,  and grippingly interesting, even the political and military parts which can easily become dry when it's told only in facts and dates. When Massie relates a fact, he tells you about the people involved, who they were and why they did what they did, so you get not just the facts but an understanding of the situation. This is what draws you in and keeps you hooked.

As I got toward the end, after getting to know this family and what makes them tick, I didn't know if I could make myself read what was coming. I did decide to see it through and was relieved to see it told simply and quickly, without any of the long, drawn out sensationalizing of tragedy so prevalent in today's story telling. Now I'm putting off watching the movie, afraid they won't have shown the same restraint. Maybe one of you can tell me if I should watch it.

At the back of the book there are family trees for both Nicholas and Alexandra that were incredibly helpful, and the insides of both covers are maps of Russia so you can locate the different areas where the story is played out. There is also a section of family photographs in the book's center that I found myself referring to again and again. A couple of interesting things I learned from the family trees: 1. Queen Victoria is great great Grandmother to both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. 2. At the time of WW1, the King of England, The German Kaiser and the Zsar of Russia were all first cousins. In fact, just about all of Europe's royalty were and are related through Queen Victoria's offspring.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. If you like history or family sagas; politics, royalty, biography or intrigue; or even if you just want to get lost in a good (and true) story, I think you'll find what you're looking for in Nicholas and Alexandra.


Lydia by Clare Darcy

  • This is my first Clare Darcy novel.
  • It is, like the two Georgette Heyer novels I've read, a frothy Regency romance.
  • Plot: a young woman, her brother and their grandmother arrive in England for the purpose of improving their financial condition, through marriage or rich relatives, the method doesn't really matter. Lydia, beautiful and fiesty, is linked romantically with various wealthy suitors but falls for the one person she swears she could never be interested in. These novels all end the same so it's not really a spoiler to say that all the main characters end up with true love, great wealth and enviable social standing. No surprises, no sadness - that's why we read these books, right?
  • I like this time period in any novel, but I like those better that were actually written in that time. I know the authors of the newer ones do lots of research to make sure the fashion, manners, morals and language are authentic, but I feel like they're trying too hard. There are too many details brought to the reader's attention that don't advance the story in any way, and so much Regency slang used that it becomes tedious to read. All the tricks they use to make the novel authentic backfire and make it feel false. They sell though, and I guess that's the goal of the authors and the publishers. Jane Austen's wonderful books would probably get nowhere in today's publishing world.
  • I always find it disappointing, after reading a novel meant to convince me I'm experiencing life in a bygone era, to later discover it was written in 1973. That's not a critique, just a quirk of mine. I guess the reason I look in the first place is because something about the book doesn't feel authentic and it's a let down to find out there's a good reason for that. There are of course thousands of books set in history that are so well written you never even question the authenticity, but these are not those. 
  • Darcy and Heyer are authors I might turn to when I want to read something I don't have to think about, a harmless distraction from real life and weightier books. I may not read a lot of them (or I may, who knows...), but I am keeping their names on my go-to list for light reading. Very light reading. Not that there's anything wrong with that.  

"The Disappearing Spoon"

The Disappearing Spoon and Other True Tales of Madness, Love and the History of the World from The Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean

  • The title describes the book perfectly. It's a wild ride through the periodic table with scads of stories about the elements themselves, the scientists who discovered them, and the way the elements are used in the world. Some funny, some serious, some mind-boggling.
  • Some pages were slow going for me but within another page or two I would always find something to catch my interest again and I'd be drawn back in. 
  • It's a goldmine of interesting tidbits you can use at your next book club or dinner party to impress people with your wonderful knowledge of sciency things.
  • Some of the chapter headings: 4.Where Atoms Come From:"We Are All Star Stuff"; 10.Take Two Elements, Call Me In The Morning; 11.How Elements Deceive; 12.Political Elements; 13.Elements As Money; 14.Artistic Elements; 15.An Element of Madness; 17.Spheres of Splendor:The Science of Bubbles. How could anyone not want to read this?
  • I recommend The Disappearing Spoon to anyone who is fascinated by science but not so much by dry textbooks. This book is fun.  

Final Day of National Poetry Month - Day 30

National Poetry Month - Day 29


Oh, I was born a lyric babe
(That last word is a bore -
It's only rhyme is astrolabe,
Whose meaning I ignore.)
From cradlehood I lisped in numbers,
Made jingles even in my slumbers.
Said Ma: "He'll be a bard, I know it."
Said Pa: "Let's hope he will outgrow it."

Alas! I never did and so
A dreamer and a drone was I,
Who persevered in want and woe
His misery to versify.
Yea, I was doomed to be a failure
(Old Browning rhymes that last with "pale lure"):
And even starving in the gutter,
My macaronics I would utter.

Then in a poor, cheap book I crammed,
And to the public maw I tossed
My bitter Dirges of the Damned,
My Lyrics of the Lost.
"Let carping critic flay and flout
My Ditties of the Down and Out -
"There now," said I, "I've done with verse,
My love, my weakness and my curse."

Then lo! (As I would fain believe,
Before they crown, the fates would shame us)
I went to sleep one bitter eve,
And woke to find that I was famous. . . .
And so the sunny sequels were a
Gay villa on the Riviera,
A bank account, a limousine, a
Life patterned dolce e divina.

Oh, yes, my lyric flight is flighty;
My muse is much more mite than mighty:
But poetry has been my friend,
And rhyming's saved me in the end.

                                   Robert William Service

National Poetry Month - Day 28

National Poetry Month - Day 27

National Poetry Month - Day 26

National Poetry Month - Day 25

National Poetry Month - Day 24


If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: 

   If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
 If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 
   Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
   Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: 

  If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
  And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
 And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
    And never breathe a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch, 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 
    If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And - which is more - you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

National Poetry Month - Day 23

National Poetry Month - Day 22

National Poetry Month - Day 21

A Psalm of Life

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! 
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest! 
And the grave is not its goal; 
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way; 
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle.
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle! 
Be a hero in the strife! 

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant! 
Let the dead Past bury its dead! 
Act, -act in the living Present! 
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate; 
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Winnie-the Pooh"

Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

  • I'm quite horrified that I didn't read it in childhood, but I guess 'better late than never' applies to this! 
  • It's a delightful book full of charm and wonderful characters, and the writing is a treat to read.
  • I was familiar with some of the characters: Winnie, Christopher Robin, Piglet, and Eyeore, but I didn't know what their personalities were like or how funny they are. These are characters worth getting to know. 
  • The natural world is a lovely part of the stories, as I find it is for most stories set in England.
  • The stories have themes of friendship, loyalty, kindness and imagination, all without lecturing and without the over-sweetness of some children's books.
  • I loved it!

National Poetry Month - Day 20

National Poetry Month - Day 19

National Poetry Month - Day 18

National Poetry Month - Day 17

National Poetry Month - Day 16

National Poetry Month - Day 15

National Poetry Month - Day 14

National Poetry Month - Day 13

National Poetry Month - Day 12

The Day Is Done

The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.

For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.

Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

National Poetry Month - Day 11

National Poetry Month - Day 10

National Poetry Month - Day 9

National Poetry Month Day 8

National Poetry Month - Day 7

National Poetry Month Day 6

National Poetry Month - Day 5

National Poetry Month - Day 4

National Poetry Month - Day 3

National Poetry Month - Day 2

National Poetry Month Day 1

Trying to post a poem a day with no plan at all, entirely random choices. Some are my favourites, some are my own, and some will be interesting things I happen upon in the next 4 weeks. Beginning with my all time favorite:

A poem. About nothing.

"Elizabeth and Her German Garden"

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim

  • I couldn't resist this book because of it's title and because Elizabeth Von Arnim wrote The Enchanted April, which I love. I figured anything she wrote would have to be enjoyable.
  • I was right, it was enjoyable. Her writing is pure delight to read and it's a shame her books ever end. 
  • My feelings about this book are very mixed. I love the writing, the setting, and her dry humour, but, oh my goodness, she irritates me sometimes. She lives a privileged lifestyle that few women will ever experience, and yet she tends to look down somewhat on others who don't feel about life as she does. She spends much of her time outside enjoying her luxurious gardens because she prefers that to being confined within walls and she has all the freedom in the world to do so. She has 2 gardeners who do all the work in the garden she's so proud of building, a nurse for her three small children so she has only to play with them and read to them,  a cook to make the meals and do the cleaning up, and maids to do the housework. She does admit to how fortunate she is, but it's a little hard to swallow when she's less than gracious to those less fortunate. At one point she calls her servants "the menials".
  • Conclusion: I enjoyed the reading of it. If I can find more novels by her, I'll read them, but her sometimes flippant attitude toward other people took away some of the enjoyment I might otherwise have found in this personal journal.  

"The Trouble With Goats and Sheep"

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

  • I was drawn immediately into the community setting where neighbours all know each other. I felt quite immersed in Britain while I was reading it and that's always enjoyable. I'd rather a book be set in Britain than anywhere else. Except maybe Middle Earth.
  • It begins: "Mrs. Creasy disappeared on a Monday. I know it was a Monday, because...". I think that way of beginning a story is getting worn, but what follows thankfully drew me in very quickly
  • Though I don't really like mysteries as a rule, this one is nicely quirky, and unfolds in a way that had me often stopping to think "hmmm". It showed me things to consider instead of telling me what to think, and built the story gradually. And it's more than just a mystery. It's really the story of a neighbourhood told though the mystery that takes place there.  
  • I have to say I liked the first 3/4 of the book better than the last 1/4, but I'm not sure that's any problem with the book. I think I just prefer getting into a story more than I do wrapping it up. I've noticed lately I'm enjoying the first part of every book better than the rest of it. I'm finding there's something so sad about leaving the world you've been living in for the past few days. I miss people, places, houses.  
  • I love the title. It's unusual, and by the end of the book you don't have to wonder why it was chosen. 
  • Some chapters are narrated in the first person by a young girl. Others are written in the third person, letting the reader keep tabs on the various other characters, of whom there are quite a few. I kept a list to sort it all out. The child's chapters are priceless. Children may not understand all that they see and hear, but they are refreshingly honest and direct and I think the author captures that well most of the time. There was only one instance where I thought the reasoning attributed to the little girl was more sophisticated than was probable for child of that age.
  • I quite enjoyed the writing. I found it fresh and even poetic at times. A few examples:
"People drove their cars with the windows down. and fragments of music
littered the street." 

"He had tried to carve into the quiet with the television and the radio, 
and the sound of his own voice, but his noise just seemed to grow the silence
 and make it taller, and it followed him from room to room, 
like water pouring from a glass."

"My words faded in my mouth, because they couldn't decide 
if they wanted to be true."     

  • Somewhere in the second half it began to feel a bit muddled, and at the end I was still thinking "hmmm" about many things. I'd like to read it again (but other books keep calling from the bookshelf), taking notes this time to pick up on any of the more subtle clues I think I must have missed. I enjoy endings that aren't all neatly tied up, but I really do think I missed some things in this one. My first thought after closing the book was how I wish I could talk it over with my book club. There would be so many questions to ask and so many theories to test out; what a fun discussion we'd have had. 
  • Conclusion:  Thought provoking story, fresh writing, engaging characters, appealing setting. Just a little confusing at the end. Very glad I read it. 

"The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake"

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

For the first time in almost a year, I've read a book that makes me want to say something about it. Excited? Yes. Intimidated? Yes. Here are the somethings I want to say:
  • If I hadn't read great reviews I'd never have picked it up. At first glance the cover suggested the book might be fluffier than I like, but I think this picture represents the title, and it's a good title, rather than the story. The lemon cake is the door to the story, but there is so much more.
  • When I finished reading, I felt much like I had when I finished Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarter. Exhilarated. Grateful for a writer who can still surprise me. Wishing the book was longer because I wasn't ready to be done yet. 
  • So many times I wanted to underline certain perfect descriptions of emotion, or perfect insights into what it is to be human, but I couldn't because it wasn't mine, it belonged to the library. 
  • I liked every character. Not that they were in any way perfect, they were flawed and confused and just getting through the day the best way they could. In the past few months I've read book after book where I didn't like any of the characters, or at least not enough to really care what happened to them. Finally, a story world I didn't want to leave and couldn't wait to get back to. Why are these books never 500 pages long?
  • The book requires a suspension of disbelief. If you go into it wanting only the reality you know, or want to know, you might not like it. Be prepared to consider that your assumptions about what is possible and what is not may have to be adjusted, that Hamlet was right when he said there were more things in Heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy. 
  • Aimee Bender has that wonderful ability to make the reader feel the ache the characters feel. Or maybe it's simply that these characters ask you to look inside yourself and admit your own ache. Either way, she's good at it.  
  • There is no villain in this story. Nobody to be hated, nobody to be defeated, beaten, killed or moralized away. Just people, strong in some ways and weak in others, who find their own individual ways to adjust to the strangeness, the sadness of life. 
  • This is not a book about light and sweet things. It is a book about living with whatever you are given to live with. There's an existential angst that is neither dark nor depressing. If anything, it's hopeful that there is almost always a way to live with life. And when there isn't, well, there isn't.  
  • This is writing that made me want to swallow the book whole and let the words live inside me. Page after page that made me wonder why I can't say things like that.
  • Back to the cover. I want it to be more serious, something more profound, that would give a potential reader some indication that there is weight to this story. 
  • I'm adding this book to my short list of favourites.
  • Henceforth, I may be more careful about judging a book by it's cover. Maybe.