Imagine wanting to learn to write and your palm and finger your only “paper and pen”… Inimaginable, right?
From the gaps and holes in history of women mentioned in archives, the author built the story of Helena, a maid in Netherlands, who knew René Descartes for more than a decade. Some say this is the story of Helena’s strugle to learn. For me, it was equally the story of Descartes’s strugle to learn. It was the time before his first publication, which is considerate to date as the basis of modern science and which required numerous explorations from him.
It is also the story of a woman’s aspiration to be independent and free from social expectations and bounds.
It is the story of a loving mother, who passed on to her daughter the love of letters and thirst of knowledge. It is the story of a mother’s grief for her child and her rebirth as a mother through the birth of her second child.
It is the story of a children book writer and her belief that all children – boys and girls – need to learn to write and read.
It is the story of female sisterhood and friendship.
It is a story of love, as impossible as it seemed in that century.
And, it is beatifully narrated.
for such a warm welcome on my bday with my family
for the fun in water
for your blend of tradition and excellency in hospitality
for a picture perfect design with nature at its center
and last and not least, for decadent desserts and … the coffee which took me by surprise – it was hot! A first in France 🙂
In the July 13, 1960 The New York Times, reviewer Herbert Mitgang dubs Mockingbird “a winning first novel by a fresh writer with something significant to say.”
I read the novel in 2019. This book made me laugh. It also filled my eyes with tears. I tend to think its effects on me as a reader had to do with the author’s choice to narrate the story through a child’s eyes:
“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” “If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I’m beginning to understand something. I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all this time . . . it’s because he wants to stay inside.”
The above is a dialogue between two siblings, a brother and a sister. The story unwinds in a small fictional Southern town in the USA in mid 30s. The kids characters make sense of the world around them through friendships, time at school, peculiar relations with neighbours and other white and non-white communities. The story gains intensity as their father becomes a defense lawyer of an afro-american accused of a white woman rape he has not committed. The father becomes a “nigro-lover” in the eyes of the community and his kids are verbally and psysically attacked. The displays of courage and compassion in the face of racism, prejudice, violence and hypocrisy were admirable back then, and, perhaps, even to a greater extent – now.
Writing a review for this book was difficult. I found it so profound that could not believe it that it ended, when I read its last sentence. In spite of its 384 pages.
The main character – the Captain – is a very complex character. He was a child of a French priest and poor Vietnamese, born out of wedlock, to become an assistant to a Vietnamese general, a spy for Americans, a killer, a devoted friend, a follower, a master and slave of words, and finally – a survivor.
The plot develops on Vietnamese and USA soil in 70s. There are different interpretations of the historical events of those times. I did not perceive the book as an account of those precise events. I felt that the author wants us to reflect and to learn. He asks very tough questions, from the depth of the human vulnerability in birth, love, camradry and torture: “What is more precious than independence and freedom?”, “how a revolution fought for independence and freedom could make those things worth less than nothing” and many more.
The writing style impressed me – the power of words is striking, compeling, edifying. There is so much pain and hope combined that I could not read some pages, in particular those on what a human can do to another human. At the same time, I savoured the fine sarcasm of some lines: ” I had an abiding respect for the professionalism of career prostitutes, who wore their dishonesty more openly than lawyers, both of whom bill by the hour”. Or “Cognac made everything better, the equivalent of a mother’s kiss for a grown man”. Or “I liked my scotch undiluted, like I liked my truth.” And this last one, is to me the essence of this novel.
This week, Brené Brown shared with us “What Toni Morrison Taught Me About Parenting”. I warmly invite you to read it. There was a specific part, Brené quoted from a Toni Morrison’s interview, which drew my attention: “Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they (kids) walk in the room my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see?”. These words resonated with me on many levels, as a kid, as well as a parent.
I was raised under the vigilant lenses of “not enough” of a soviet time. My school socks were not white enough, my hair was not well enough braided, my voice was not loud enough in pioneer marches … My parents got in the spirit of “not enough” and kept a faithful devotion to it at work and at home.
“Let your face speak what’s in your heart” reminded me of my grandmother. She was the only one who looked with wonder every time she saw me. Her face would light up, regardless. Mismatched socks or not. Braided hair or not. Scratched knees or not, dismissing with a smile my parents’ worry of “how would you look on the school play pic?!” Who cares 10-20-30 years later? Back then, pictures were black and white anyway.
When I became a mother, some family members would almost demand that the baby smiles at them. They probably thought babies come with a smile button on their back or that I have it on a remote control. My response was and is “she brings joy by her mere existence. She does not need to do anything special for anyone”.
I know that she knows that today, as well as she did when she was a baby. Because when I put shoes’ laces first, she does not hesitate to remind me of what’s important in parenting, with love.
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