This is a slow book. Not much is happening over 572 pages. The worst thing in the protagonist's life has happened already, and has turned out to be false, before the story starts. There isn’t a quest for an mysterious author, as was the case in Mercier’s bestseller and masterpiece Night Train to Lisbon. Rather, this book takes you into the life of Simon Leyland, a translator by trade, a lover of words and languages.
All the people mentioned throughout share that fascination, which leads to many interesting discussions on terminology and the sound of certain words in certain languages. Having studied semantics and language sciences, I thoroughly enjoyed that. I also loved the philosophical touch of the book. I had wished philosophy would play just as big a role as it did in Nighttrain.
What I didn’t like so much were the many anecdotes. There were lots of side characters who were introduced with pretty much all of their life’s stories. And then they were repeated in letters.
By the end of the book, Leyland begins writing his first ever story, rather than translating or retelling other’s stories in other languages. Without giving away too much: it is then that Mercier’s book falls into place and everything makes total sense.
Leyland is probably in his early sixties, and more than once during reading I asked myself if readers of that same age category would enjoy it more than I – being 30 – did now. I don’t recognize the feeling of “being finished with life” in a satisfied way; that’s not because life treated one badly, but just because it’s been enough, one has seen everything, felt everything, and just is nourished.
"Stories from village life? Sounds boring", said my husband when I read the blurb aloud. "Amos Oz has written them, I don't think so," was my reply.
And they were anything else than boring.
Eight stories of eight people living in the same old village, who are all somehow lost or lonely: a middle aged single woman who is waiting for her nephew who was to visit, but isn't in the bus. A widowed woman that lives with her grumpy old father, a former member of the Israeli parliament, who complains about digging sounds from beneath the house at night - as if someone was digging the facade of his life away. He suspects the Arab student that lives in the house's shed, but then it turns out the student hears the noise too. A real estate agent that visits the old house he want to buy to replace it by a modern resort, but it toured the house by the owner's granddaughter and lives an intimate moment with her in the basement. A middle aged man that receives a note from his wife stating he's not to worry about her, but when she does not show up at home, he goes searching for her. Another man, living with his old mother, is visited by a stranger, who isn't clear about the subject of his visit, but slowly it turns out he seems to force himself upon the family in order to receive a part of the inheritage. A nameless single man finds himself at a singing gathering in a house where a 16 year old son committed suicide. Though there is a single woman and they seem to feel attracted towards each other, he is more attracted to the upstairs room where the tragic event happened.
And Oz is merciless. The stories create a sense of unease, the unease felt by the protoganist is felt by the reader. In every story, the protagonist is left in some disconcerting situation: in bed, without knowing where the nephew is but in possession of a random coat; in the bedroom, suddenly hearing the strange digging noise too; in a cellar in the dark with a locked door; on a park bench, waiting for his wife after searching the village for her; on a bed with both the mother and the stranger; beneath the parent's bed, the exact spot where the boy shot himself.
And we, the readers, are left just there. The story stops, and we never learn if Gili's nephew came the following they, if Beni's wife returned, if Jardena freed Jossi from the cellar, or what was the reason for the digging sounds Pessach, Adel and Rachel started to hear. This is wildly disturbing. At first, I was irritated, a bit angry even, wanted Oz to just clear the case. But after a night's sleep I realized this unease was just genius. Village life boring? Every person has his story, his fears, his package of life to carry. And they often aren't relieved in the next minute, or the next day. Why would we, the readers, have the right to be granted that satisfactory feeling then?
I decided to read this book during a visit to the Mauritshuis, where Carel Fabritius' 'Goldfinch' is one of the masterpieces on display. A good friend of mine does guided tours there and I was lucky enough to be able to take part in an exclusive one he did for his friends. Of course, he also stood still by this wonderful, though sad painting of the beautiful bird that's held captive solely for entertainment of it's owner.
Which is basically true for the main character in Donna Tartt's book and the painting, too. Young Theo and his mother are visiting an exhibition in a New York museum when terrorist attack it. His mother dies immediately, but Theo, who was in another room at the fatal moment, survives. He stays with a dying man, who gives him a ring and hints to bring it to his partner, Hobie, while slowly fading. In his confusion, Theo takes the painting that he and his mother had admired while leaving the dusty building.
This is the point where Theo's maelstrom of tragedy begins. Initially, he's taken into the home of his friend Andy's family. He doesn't dare to return the painting at first and, at some point, he realizes it's now too late - especially when he starts helping out in Hobie's antiques store. Somehow he doesn't want to part from it anyway, he loves looking at it.
Just as he's going to find his way back into life because he feels loved by and part of Andy's family, his alcoholist father suddenly turns up. He takes Theo to his home and his drug dealing girlfriend in Las Vegas. It's there where Theo meets Boris, who introduces him to drugs. Theo thankfully uses narcotics to forget the actual agony of losing his mother and the happy life he could have had.
And he more than thankfully hides in delirium when newspaper articles appear about other paintings that were found after being believed destroyed during the museum's attack once he's returned to New York. At that time, he works with Hobie again, reopening the antique shop and earning money by selling furniture that Hobie restored as if they were originals. Convinced he AND Hobie are going to end up behind bars when the painting is found, he hides it in a storage safe for years, but doesn't stop his illegal selling activities nor his drug use.
Years later, Boris returns back into his life and has shocking news: he lost the painting. It's only now that Theo finds out he had never had it since Las Vegas, for Boris stole it from him when they were still teenagers and Theo never had had the guts to open up the package, in which he sealed the painting when his father had almost discovered it. He's been using it as a collateral in drug deals for years. The quest to return the painting leads them to a thrilling hunt in Amsterdam, to murder and Theo's almost-suicide - but eventually to a happy end.
This book combines coming-of-age story of a traumatized boy with a thriller and is done so so very pleasantly. I thoroughly enjoyed the extensive descriptions of, e.g., Hobie's restoration work, for I love art and all things old. At a certain point I was afraid it was going to be too much "I was so drunk/stoned and slept for 2 days straight" as in The Secret History, but there was a twist in the story just before that happened, thank goodness. I enjoyed balancing on the edge of liking-detesting the main character and to be a witness of his struggle to get through life. He isn't a typical main character, for he's not a hero and no "good guy" either. But nonetheless, Donna Tartt manages to capture the reader over almost 900 pages - not in the least because of her clever structuring - a great accomplishment.
The only thing I didn't like was the essay-like monologue by Theo on ethics and carressing things beautiful. I was somehow waiting for another plot twist, which didn't come. If those 30 pages would have been placed outside of the story by calling it Epilogue, I would have given it 5 stars, probably.
I want to give this book 6 out of 5 stars. Or 7. Or a million. Or I want to name a star after it.
I do shed a tear with books when things get emotional. I didn't throughout this book, but when reading the last 5 lines I sobbed. And still did when I reread those lines this morning. I think it requires a lot of writing talent to build up such a reaction throughout 700 pages. And Amos Oz certainly has that talent.
Through the history of his family, Amos Oz tells a history of Jews in Eastern Europe and early Israel from the late 19th century to roughly the 1960s. We learn about their fate, their courage, their hopes, their disappointments. All throughout the book we know his mother died when Amos was only 12 years old, but it's not until last two pages Oz reveals what happened exactly. But the family history, the situation in Jerusalem in the 40s and early 50s, all the anecdotes - they build up to understanding why Fania fell into depression and eventually took her own life.
Amos Oz performs magic in the way he picks his vocabulary and constructs his sentences. I do love words. When the writing is beautiful, I don't care much what actually happens in a story. But a book turns to a gem to me when it combines best of both worlds - as this does.
He carefully chooses what anecdotes to tell, and some of those he mentions several times throughout the book, strengthening their relevance.
I will often think of Fania and little Amos when I hear a blackbird sing.
Currawong Manor is Josephine Pennicott's second Australian gothic mystery novel. Elizabeth Thorrington is a photographer who travels to Currawong Manor, an old house in the Blue Mountains, NSW Australia, to work on a book about what happened at that property in 1945. In that year, her grandfather Rubert Partridge worked there as an artist. He was infamous because of his confronting paintings, whose themes were highly influenced by his time in the second world war. Also, three nude models, called 'The Flowers' were living and working for Rupert, and everyone in the little village believed there were orgies and affairs going on all over the place. In November 1945, Rupert's little daughter Shalimar was found brutally murdered in the Owlbone Woods, and Rupert was hanged after he admitted to have committed the crime.
In 2000, Elizabeth and Nick, the author of the book-to-come, meet Ginger, one of the former 'Flowers' who is now in her 70s, at Currawong Manor. They interview Ginger about how she came to be a Flower and want to find out what really happened back then, because they do not believe in Ruperts responsibility for his daughter's death. About half of the book is therefore told from Ginger's perspective - but it turns out she is not a reliable narrator at all, and that she is lying to Elizabeth as well as to the reader...
Josephine Pennicott is a REALLY talented author. Her descriptions of the house, its gardens, its interior, Ruperts paintings and the woods are extremely vivid. I could visualize it all so well while reading, even if I've never been to Australia. Also the characterization of the personages is done greatly. The older Ginger would be my favorite: a highly eccentric woman who hasn't lost her sex appeal in all those years, even if she's in her 70s now.
I loved the gothic/suspense atmosphere, which origined in the old, dusty house with its towers, the mysterious, creepy woods, the mist that would cover the manor, the witch-like character of Dolly Sharp and the currawong crows that were believed to foretell when someone at the manor was about to die... A great read indeed.
Raimund Gregorius is a middle-aged (57 year old) teacher of classical languages. One day, while he walks to work, he encounters a young woman on the bridge who seems to be desperate and indending to jump. He saves her. They don't talk, but she writes a phone number on his forehead and tells him that she is Portuguese. Since it is raining, he takes her to the school, where she can dry up and stay in his classroom for the time being. She leaves his classroom without saying anything, instead, she puts her finger on her lips and just disappears. This encounter is a turning point in Gregorius' life. Not long later, Gregorius goes, too, leaving his books and his students behind. He is intrigued by this woman from Portugal and goes to the Spanish bookstore he knows well, since his ex-wife is Spanish. In the Portuguese section he finds a book written by Amadeu de Prado, entitled "A Goldsmith of Words". Being a lover of language and words himself, he asks the owner of the book store to translate a the first paragraphs and he is enchanted immediately. He decides to buy the book together with a Portuguese language course and a dictionary. He spends the night learning basic Portuguese and translating a couple of chapters of De Prado's book. De Prado writes about life and reflects on why people do what they do, and this touches Gregorius extremely. It turns out he is in a kind of crisis himself and decides this is the time to just do what he feels like doing instead of playing his role in society and act like people expect him to act. To leave the life he has been living behind; and start anew. He writes a letter to his headmaster saying he will not be at work for an unknown period, and boards the train to Lisbon. He is dertermined to find De Prado, the man behind the words. When it turns out that he has passed away, he visits people that have known him, talks with them and gets to lean Amadeu through them. The reader follows Gregorius on a quest through history, ideas and reflections on life.
Pascal Mercier is the pen name of Peter Bieri, a Swiss philosopher. This novel contains his philosophical ideas on life and free will. And those aren't just thoughts that I can identify with real well; it is also written beautifully. A book that I will always treasure.
I'm always sceptical when it comes to hypes. So when The Hunger Games became a hype, I didn't feel like following the masses and go see the movie nor read the books. It is thanks to my husband that I did start to read Suzanne Collins's trilogy (he wants to see the movies and I want to read the books first). I'm glad about it: I finished the first book within two days and am looking forward to starting its sequel.
The Hunger Games is a dystopian book for young adults. In an unknown future, North America no longer exists. Instead, the land Panem has risen. Panem is reigned from The Capitol, a rich capital where people are wealthy and - probably as a consequence - rather blunt. Panem consists of 12 districts that have no contact to each other. The districts are poor and their citizens live in sometimes medieval conditions: some need to hunt for food. It used to be 13, but the 13th district has been defeated by the Capitol after the great rebellion of the districts against the Capitol. To remind the citizens of the districts of the Capitol's power or their own obedient position, so-called Hunger Games are being organized every year. In these games, a boy and a girl for each district are sent to a huge arena to compete against each other in a cruel battle: only one of them can return home alive.
This book follows Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old that joins the Games in her little sister's place. What follows is an exciting description of her struggles against thirst, hunger and her competitors, as well as actions conveyed by the Gamemakers. Those are people from the Capitol who design the Hunger Games and influence them in order to make them as spectacular as possible for the people who follow them in TV. Because that's what happens: everything that happens in the arena is recorded by numerous cameras and broadcasted in television. For the citizens of the Capitol, it is just entertainment, whereas the districts pray or cry for the children that are captured inside the arena.
The book is a real page turner, and even though one knows upfront that Katniss will survive, it remains exciting. The idea of the state's absolute control fascinates me, because it's frightening close to truth. Aren't we controlled by those who have the money? Isn't Big Brother watching every step we take?
Katniss and Peeta survived the Hunger Games together. But because Katniss signaled to rather die together than to bow under the Capitol’s rules, she became the face of the revolution – albeit involuntarily. President Snow himself is aware of the danger and threatens Katniss – if she doesn’t try her very best to convince the people in the districts that her action was only because of love for Peeta instead of rebellious, he will kill her family. But the agitation in the districts already is there – more and more people dare to stand up against the Capitol.
And so Snow has a new plan: for the 75th Hunger Games, the tributes will be chosen from the pool of winners. That means: Katniss has to go into the Arena again.
What follows is another fight against the game maker’s tricks and the other tributes. Instead of being alone most of the time, Katniss and Peeta now fight together with a couple of other tributes.
The book is exciting, but somehow it wasn’t as convincing as the first book. Somehow this time in the Arena was boring to me, predictable, dull, not engrossing enough. I think this is an example of a sequel that just builds up the story to a point where a grand finale can start. I had hoped to read more about the rebellions in the districts, but that’s already difficult because of the point of view – the reader learns everything through Katniss’s eyes. Nevertheless, it was quite entertaining and it DID make me want to continue to the third and final book.
Thanks to a smart yet dangerous game of Haymitch, a couple of winners from other districts and the new head of the game makers, Plutarch Heavensbee, Katniss is saved from the Arena once more. Peeta couldn’t be saved, however, and he is now in the hands of President Snow.
District 12 was bombed after Katniss had destroyed the power field around the Arena. Only a handful of people – including Katniss’s family and Gale, could escape to District 13. Just like in the old times, District 13 is now the basis of the rebellion. And the rebels, led by President Alma Coin, now want Katniss to act actively in their propaganda and be their “Mockingjay”. Once again, Katniss has to convince people for a certain case, even if she herself just wants her family and loved ones to be safe. She feels deep hatred for President Snow, but mainly because he tortures Peeta. Gale, however, wants war.
I really liked this book. I think it’s great how it is empathized how much propaganda can cause. I love how Collins shows there is no “good” and “bad” side in a conflict. And I enjoyed the personal struggles Katniss has while being the Mockingjay for a war she doesn’t support in her heart. I was surprised that not everyone survived whom one wanted to survive. And I think the epilogue was very realistic.
Brilliant, nervewrecking finale of the Hunger Games trilogy.
I bought this book as a part of the Popsugar 2016 reading challenge, as „the first book you see in a bookstore“. The beautiful cover of this German edition caught my eye immediately. The blurb also sounded interesting, and the comparison with Agatha Christie, whose works I love, made me really curious for the book.
Two things up front: the blurb gave me a very different impression of the story than the story I actually got, and I don’t see any resemblance with Agatha Christie (as, for example, there is no murder mystery at all).
Ariel and Zeva are teacher and student in Artificial Intelligence in Boston. Ariel is invited to speak at a conference in Amsterdam, and he and Zeva plan to spend a romantic weekend over there – far away from everyone they know. Zeva will travel via Brussels, Ariel will arrive in Amsterdam and pick up Zeva from the train – but Ariel never appears.
The story starts with Ariel in an old cab, driving to a hotel in the English country, somewhere really far from London. Due to the heavy mists, his connection flight from London to Amsterdam was cancelled, and all airport hotels were full, at least, that is what Ariel later recalls, when he asks himself if he was involved by the choice of hotel at all.
In his desperate attempts to reach Zeva (his mobile phone doesn’t have any signal in the hotel, nor does the landline work), Ariel soon finds himself in the companionship of a strange family that has been staying in the hotel for an unknown amount of time. The way they behave and the things they say appeared almost surreal to me. Ariel ends up in a whirling roller coaster of events and emotions that seem too bizarre to be true – and still he, with his academic, mathematic way of thinking, tries to find logical explanations for all of it.
I was grabbed by the story right away, and was fascinated by all of the unanswered questions the author leaves the reader with. For me, the amount of obscurity I was left in just balanced on the ledge to irritating.
Synchronous with the disappearing fog, things get clearer for Ariel – and the reader. The clue was unexpected, yet satisfying (“logical” in a way). A very nice, fresh read - unlike everything I've read so far!
An old house in a tiny village on the northwest coast of Tasmania... the Poet's Cottage. A family history, a brutal murder, secrets and lots of mystery. The recipe for a great story if done well - and Josephine Pennicott did it greatly.
There are two alternating stories - one set in the present with Sadie as main person, and one story set in 1935/36, which is told by Birdie Pinkerton, a friend of Sadies murdered grandmother Pearl. Birdie wrote a book on Pearl years after her death, and it's fascinaThere's an old house standing in a tiny village on the northwest coast of Tasmania... a house that is called 'The Poet's Cottage'. The house has ever authors to it ever since... and so it comes that Sadie moves there with her teenage daughter. Influenced by the ghost stories that still go around the little fisher's town, Sadie is triggered to find out the truth about the death of her grandmother, who was found murdered in her own house in the 1930s. The book is about a family history, a brutal murde and it contains secrets and lots of mystery. The recipe for a great story if done well - and Josephine Pennicott did it greatly.
The book consists of two alternating stories - one set in the present with Sadie as main person, and one story set in 1935/36, which is told by Birdie Pinkerton, a friend of Sadies murdered and grandmother Pearl. Birdie has married Pearl's husband after Pearls death, after having been in love with him forever, and wrote a book on Pearl years after her death. Because Birdie is personally involved with Pearl and is not free of suspect, It's fascinating how the reader has to doubt the full truth of this part of the book.
I loved the character of Pearl and I think the author did a great job on her. I could visualise her so well and I somehow felt sympathy for her, even if she was extremely eccentric, egocentric and rather mean... But one could feel that there was a lot of sadness behind this mask. It was lovely to lose myself in the 1930s - I could hear the jazz music and see the gents and ladies dressed up sipping their cocktails, flirting and talking gossip...
A funny thing to note her is that I was reminded of Daphne du Mauriers "Rebecca" while reading. In the author's afterword (which is great to read as I, the city girl, learned there are indeed villages like Pencubitt, and there really are stories like Poet's Cottage), Josephine Pennicott mentions Du Maurier is one of her favorite authors.
After I finished Lyrebird Hill I had this special feeling in my stomach - I loved this book. It went deep under my skin. Lyrebird Hill is an intriguing, intelligent story about the history of a family, about lies and treason and love. It has two story lines; one takes place in 1898 and is about Brenna, a girl that marries a man twice her age to save her fathers property at Lyrebird Hill as well as the beloved aboriginal tribe that lives there. The other story settles in 2013 I just finished Lyrebird Hill five minutes ago and I have this special feeling in my stomach - I loved this book. It went deep under my skin. Lyrebird Hill is an intriguing, intelligent story about the history of a family, about lies and treason and love. It has two story lines; one takes place in 1898 and is about Brenna, a girl that marries a man twice her age to save her fathers property at Lyrebird Hill as well as the beloved aboriginal tribe that lives there. The other story settles in 2013 and is about Ruby, a 30-year old woman that lost her sister in a tragic accident at the age of twelve, and can't remember what has happened in the year around her death. Both stories are alternating between chapters. I couldn't decide which I loved more - I didn't want to leave Brenna from the 1890s but was also eager to know what would happen next in Rubys search for her lost memories.
I had to hold my breath more than a couple of times, and the closer the stories came to their ending, the more exited I got - that's a great piece of climaxbuilding going on in this book. As I already noted in my review of Thornwood House, Anna Romer writes very lively and naturally sounding dialogues. Furthermore the decriptions of nature, the smell of flowers and the sounds of birds make me feel like being transferred to the Australian outback and being with the characters. Sigh. I loved this book as much as Thornwood House. I love your writing, Anna Romer. I hope many more books will follow the first two.