Saturday, November 14, 2009

Catching Up on Book Reviews

As promised, I've returned to review (briefly) a few of the books I've read over the past few months. Some of these have been light and easy going reads, while others where a little more challenging. I'm reviewing from most recently read to those read a while ago. So I just finished these 2 yesterday while recouping from a medical procedure.

The Distance Between Us, by Bart Yates. This was reviewed at ebooks as a 'gem' and attracted me because I like to see how authors can write about the real experiences of life. I'm also a lover of classical music.

The story is about the family of Hester Parker, a classical concert pianist, whose career was cut short due to an accident, closely followed by the children. Two of the children have inherited the gift of music, while the 3rd child struggles with her inability to match her brothers or mothers standards.

It's a powerful story of a family that unravels after the suicide of the middle child. The author captures the readers, with his ability to express the emotions - especially of the mother - of their grief, turmoil and pains.

While a main character in the story, the young gay tenant in Hesters home, Alex is the gentle presence that carries Hester through one of her most difficult times, as she faces the loss of her husband, eldest son and her home.

I enjoyed this read - although it reminded me, sadly, of my own family dynamics.

Very Valentine, by Adriana Trigiani, was a fun light read (just what the doctor ordered yesterday). The story, a 33 yr old woman, finally deciding on her lifes' vocation - shoe making - is faced with the challenges of a failing family business and failing love life. Somehow she brings both her lifes desires into perspective and the story has a happy ending.

My favourite parts included the tomato garden on the roof top of their Manhattan factory/home, the walks along the Hudson River with her man, her grandmothers love affair, and the ultimate - her trip to Italy, with all it's highlights of shoes, fashion, fancy hotels, discoveries, boat rides to secret bays, and the kiss.

This book engaged me, and kept me captured until the end.

How to Paint a Dead Man, by Sarah Hall. I like what the back cover says: 'Sarah Halls' writing is powerful as well as delicate, and How to Paint a Dead Man affords the deepest pleasures fiction has to offer, She weaves together the four stands of the story with supreme conviction, beauty and emotional intelligence.'

There are four stories - the famous artist of the 1960's, Signor Giorgio, who tells his story from journal entries - the Scottish landscape artist, Peter Caldicutt, whose story unfolds with crazy antics demonstrating the egocentric flaws of a passionate man - the blind but fragile & young flower seller, Annette Tambroni, whose story is one of her mothers eternal protection and catholic paranoia, and her discoveries of the world around her - and finally, the daughter of Peter Cadlicutt, Suzi, who is struggling with the her own extreme grief of having lost her twin brother.

I loved all four story lines, although it took me a while to join the dots. Once I did join the dots, and the time line, I was able to see that Sarah Hall had indeed weaved the story. My favourite aspects of the story included the reflections of Giorgio, as told through his journals, his wisdom and his age and also the confusion of Suzi's grief and her drug of choice, a sexual affair. I found Peter Caldicutts story a little too close to home - as his antics reflected those of my father - also a creative force that survived the 70's...Those chapters were aptly titled 'the fool on the hill'.

Brida, by Paulo Coelho, was my first Coelho novel, and I doubt it will be my last. I picked it up while volunteering in India, out of the common room library, and once I started I couldn't put it down. I read this as part of my Lost in Translation Challenge 2009.

Now it's a while ago - so, from memory, the story's about a young woman who's searching for her calling in life and finds her path through a collection of individuals who teach her and mentor her. (like other bloggers I've looked up) doesn't reveal much, but says 'The conflict within all of us to be with someone whom we have known since long [before], or to be with someone whom we have known for a lesser time but who touches our heart more, or to just leave everything and submit ourselves to a lone path with no partner, forms the crux of this story. There are not too many sub-plots but the ones which are there (hint - voices, previous life) are short and will bring back you to the story very quickly.'

I was definitely captivated by the story line, and found many connections between Brida's challenges and my own - especially as I was in the midst of a alternative experience, living in India, surrounded by alternative spiritual paths and far from my family.

Considering this as a part of my Lost in Translation challenge, I loved Coelho's writing, which obviously translated well into English (and apparently 65 other languages). In reading other reviews about this work in translation, I am obviously no alone in my position.


Karen said...

You have been doing some great reading! I skipped over your review of How to Paint a Dead Man - I will come back and read it when I have finished the book.

jem said...

I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the Sarah Hall. I've still got that on my shelf from last years Booker. Still looking forward to it though.

Good to see you are still enjoying Murakami. I love it when you find an author you like and they have a big back catalogue to work through. So frustrating on the other hand when you find a new author that you love but then you have to sit and wait for them to write something else.

Thanks as ever for your faithful interest in my sometime blog.