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.
This book is exactly how I know Annie Proulx: a bit harsh, a tad mysterious, and taking place in a small forgotten town somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the United States. The story centers around Quoyle, a middle-aged man who lost his parents after they jointly committed suicide. He’s married to an abusive woman, Petal, who openly sleeps with other men and does drugs. When she and her drug-addict boyfriend try to sell Quoyle’s daughters, Petal dies in a car accident. The police returns the two girls to Quoyle, whose life is really falling apart at this time. Without having to much of a plan, he drives to Newfoundland, where his father grew up and his aunt Agnes is still living. Agnes convinces him to stay and build up a life of his own here. He finds a job at the local newspaper, where he’s to write about accidents as well as incoming and outgoing ships; the shipping news.
He meets several locals and step by step learns more about his ancestors. The life on the wild island transforms him. It’s like he’s finally finding to himself, discovering his inner worth, and emerges from his shell. This allows him to develop a close friendship and eventually a relationship to a woman, Wavey. He learns that human relationships can be enriching and not just threatening. Beautiful!
Max Havelaar was a VERY important book in shaping and modifying the Dutch colonial policy in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
The protagonist, Dutch colonial administrator Max Havelaar, tries to battle against a corrupt government system in Java, which was then a Dutch colony. Multatuli’s book made European readers aware of the fact that their wealth was only possible because people on the other side of the world were suffering. It illustrates the hypocrisy of wealthy Dutchmen in the colonies, who rather looked away than act against the exploitation of poor natives by the Indonesian government – because it helped them and their home country The Netherlands become wealthier too, of course.
This is one of those books that really made a change in history. People warned me that it was boring, but I didn’t find it that boring at all. In fact, the chapters by Droogstoppel were super funny, and the chapters taking place in the Indies were so intriguing/fascinating they couldn’t be boring.
It takes quite some courage to write a book (and a 1000-pager on top of it) with a selfish, shallow, profit-driven main character. But Margaret Mitchell does it. Even the best thing is: she does it só well that Scarlett isn’t even detestable. Somehow, you can understand her motives, you know what’s driving her to act like she acts, and that makes her likable in spite of all her flaws.
When I started the book, I expected it to be a slushy romance, a bit kitsch. To blame for this expectation was especially the blurb stating the work to be “The greatest romance of all time”. Well, that’s debatable, to my humble opinion. If you consider Wuthering Heights a romance, then this is certainly is!
Rather it is a fantastic historical novel combined with a coming-of-age story. I’ve got a weakness for American history, and after having read books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Uncle Tom's Cabin or Twelve Years a Slave, I found it exceedingly interesting to learn about the opposite perspective for once. It taught me – once again – that history is never black or white.
Margaret Mitchell knew her stuff, undoubtedly, and she knew people, too. Her main characters never get predictable: think of Rhett’s sudden decision to enlist, to Melanie’s courage in precarious situations, Ashley’s lust, and even Scarlett’s got her weak moments. The dialogues are genius (oh how I enjoy Rhett’s sarcasm), the historical backgrounds dosed in perfectly.
The ending, too, encompasses everything one did not expect (nor hoped for) and it kept me sobbing during the last ~40 pages. And I love books that make me sob. Consequently, this book got a prominent place on my jewels-pearls-treasures shelf.
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.
"Emma" is said to be Jane Austens best novel. I think I agree. The characters are just perfectly designed, and all of them could play a main role in his or her own story. Emma herself is smart, perfectly good hearted and very cheerful. It is impossible not to like her. There are a couple of very funny characters in this book which made me laugh repeatedly: Mrs Elton in her smuggy stupidity, Mr Elton who is sulky after being rejected by Emma, Mr Woodhouse and his everlasting sorrow of getting sick and the chatty, adorable Miss Bates.
Like in all of Austens novels, the main theme is marriage and finding the right partners for the singles in the upper class society of a small provincial town in England. I love the irony Austen lays in describing the ever polite conversations and visits. The realism of the story (this book could just as well have been a true story) is its main strength.
Even if this story is 200 years old, it's still appealing today just because of that. The search for the right partner just never gets outdated.
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.
This went straight onto my "jewels" shelf - what a gem!
Larry McMurtry takes us on an epic cattle drive from southern Texas to unsettled Montana. On the road, disasters of all sorts occur to the cowboys: sand storms, Indian attacks, snakes, a grasshopper plague, thunderstorms, theft and revenge. There's gambling, whoring, drinking. There's disputes and despair. But even the first 100 pages, where nothing much happens, are gripping. McMurtry's excellent and subtle humorous writing made me feel totally content with reading on for 800 pages about everyday life in the "fart of a town" Lonesome Dove.
The characters are splendid - they all have their own ways, their history, and throughout the story one really gets acquainted with any of the main characters (which are quite a few). I love how McMurtry does not put just one character in focus, but one gets to learn the thoughts and feelings of at least fifteen people. This gives the book so much dimension.
But the Hat Creek outfit leaves Lonesome Dove and crosses the plains all the way to the Canadian border. On the road, we also get to meet a sheriff from Arkansas, his unhappy wife and his deputy, whose lives we follow for a while. We see a friend of the outfit wander off, we see a girl getting kidnapped. Except for the natural disasters, there's love, betrayal, revenge and personal histories that influence the characters, their goals and their relationships.
Every page is worth reading. I've grown so attached to Call, Gus, Deets, Newt, Lorena and Clara that I hugged my book after finishing it. I'll miss them!!