Tag Archives: book review

“Winston Churchill” by Katie Daynes

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I loved to read the book my kid picked last week from the school library. Actually, she read it. And I re-readed with her.

The author did a very good job with explaining in plain language the life of one of the most fascinating personalities of the last century. The pages with the story of Churchil’s life from age five to his last days are filled with pictures of his life’s events.

Kids and adults alike can learn lessons of resilience from the man who hold jobs which required decisions that impacted millions of lives. Next time I would get bugged by a trivial matter at work, I’ll gently remind myself about it.

We also learned that Churchil’s hobby was painting. Another take away from the book: balance your professional/school demands with something which makes you happy. Balance your brain hyperactivity with works of hand, as my grandmother would say.

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“Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts

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I loved the story. It is a story of a human, filled with his life’s joys and tragedies and many in-betweens. The author tells his own story of an armed robber and fugitive who found escape in Mumbai, India. He opens his soul to judgement in a vulnerable yet self-accepting way. Lin, the name of the main character, gives his best to the city which adopted him, curing slam dwellers in a free clinique he set up and serving mafia with skill and devotion.

To me, it is story of unmet childhood needs and choices as an adult. His longing for a father’s love, he never had as a child, makes him loyal to a mafia boss, up to the point of joining him on a deadly mission to Afghanistan. His love of a woman he meets in Mumbai – Karla – is unshared, as his heart is filled by regret and broken by so many wars he fought with heroin, addiction and violence he brought and suffered.

The author’s depiction of simple Indian men and women is heartwarming. He pays tribute to their traditions and customs with a delicacy and tact of a respectful guest in a country, which adopted him without a question about his past. It is the place which baptized him Shantaram – “man of peace”. “…they saw something in me that I didn’t know was there.”, said Roberts in an interview to BBC.

The author finishes the novel with the start of a new adventure, softly inviting the reader to open the sequel ” The Mountain Shadow”.

“Stories of Dinosaurs” by Russel Punter

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The Usborne Young Reader collection has some good and funny books. My kid picked the “Stories of Dinosaurs” from the School library. The book has three stories. In one, a brave Kriposaurus fights a Megalosaurus. In the second, two carnivore Raptor brothers save their restaurant opening by successfully improvising with a vegetarian dinner. And the third story…..I’ll let you discover it together with your young reader.

The Giving Tree

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I was looking to upgrade our bedtime stories. With Jessica Joelle Alexander’s recommendation http://www.jessicajoellealexander.com I found “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.

The book was first published more that 50 years ago.

The book teaches the value of nurturing relations in a mutually beneficial way. It helps to explain to children that a balanced give-and-take is a good foundation for friendships they begin to develop.

It is a heartfelt story of a relationship between boy and a tree. At first, their relationship is loving and mutually nurturing.

It is a story about faithfulness and borderless generosity: As the boy grows, so do his demands for entertainment and support. The tree is a constant supplier and satisfies all his needs with all it has until it becomes a stump. The tree demands nothing in return. It is just happy to be there for the boy.

A beautiful story for bedtime reading. For both children and adults.

“Jubilee” by Margaret Walker

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The novel is a true story of a girl born to a white plantation owner and his black mistress reflecting the times of the southern Civil War and the years of the promised Reconstruction. The author is the grandchild of the main character -Vyry. She heard the story in the family and researched the history of those ¬† times for thirty years to write what is known as the “first truly historical black American novel”. New York Times called Margaret Walker “one of most memorable women of contemporary fiction”.

The ¬†novel has 3 chapters marking the stages of Vyry’s life interlinked with historical events of the Civil War, slavery abolishment and beginning of reconstruction. Vyry is a survivor who get through pain and devastation again and again to keep her family well and to live to see her dream of having her children go to school to learn to write and read. Through hurdles and horrors she kept her faith and the love in her heart. And this to me is the main message of the book.

Her message to her son in preparation of his separation from her to go to school is worth a Nobel prize for peace, by me: “I wants you to be good and try to git along. Mind your manners and make friends with people. Friends and good manners will carry you where money won’t go. You is born lucky and it is better to be born lucky than born rich cause if you is lucky you can git rich, but if you is born rich and ain’t lucky you is liables to lose all you got. But you gotta use mother-wit long with education else you won’t be nothing but a fool. Get up in the morning early and say your prayers. Early bird catches the worm. And don’t you be mean and ugly in your heart toward nobody. Remember, sweet ways is just like sugar candy, and they catches more flies than vinegar. I wants you to be good and make a real man out of yourself”.

“Baltazar and Blimunda” by Jose Saramago

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My “To read all authors on the Nobel Prize for Literature list” brought me to 18th century Portugal. Jose Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize for literarure in 1998. 

“Every man follows his own path in search of grace, whatever that grace might be” is the central idea of his “Baltazar and Blimunda” book. The book narrates in details the times of King Dom Joaa and of Padre Bartolomeu Lourenco de Gusmao, a historic figure and a pioneer of aviation. It is the story of “one handed solder who ironically became a manufacturer of wings”. Phrases like this had me spellbound from the first page. 

I was mesmerised by the central feminine character – not the queen, but an extraordinary ordinary women – Blimunda. Her mother was burn for witchcraft and she had a special gift of seeing what others do not see and the ability to collect the wills of dying. When the “wings” – the flying machine they built together with Padre Bartolomeu – took him away from her into the unknown she keeps looking for him, to find him in Lisbon, after nine years of continuous search throughout the entire country, in a procession leading to a fire burned by the inquisition. 

The book demands patience. It took me months of reiterated reading and putting it down. The “search of grace”, as we know it, is a painful process. Or at least humans are skilful at making it painful. Due to this and very long phrases, it is a challenging reading. It was the first time i read a book written in this style, and it was worth it every single page. 

“The high mountains of Portugal” by Yann Martel

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25489094This magic realism novel has three parts – Homeless, Homeward, Home, which, at first, seemed unrelated. Each chapter has a main character: Tomas, Eusebio, Peter. Again, they seem at first unrelated. Page after page, feelings of surprise, sadness, compassion, wonder, despair and of a relentless quest accompanied my reading. “What is this character looking for?” kept popping up on my mind. And on their journey, each of them chose to object.

The first character – Tomas   – objected to the loss of dear ones by back walking in “Homeless”. Another character – a priest – objected to slaves’ life injustices  by having a monkey on a crucifix he donated to a church. In “Homeward” the objection is less explicit until the coroner sews a body shut with the deceased’s wife inside. In “Home”, a senator objects to his wife death by finding companionship in an ape he buys from a research center. They both object to the civilisation by taking refuge in his parents village in the high mountains of Portugal. They all object to the grief which took them away from home, as each understand it.

The multidimensional concept of home appears to me like a bridge between the seemingly unrelated parts. It made my understanding of the trilogy whole and complete. It still left many questions unanswered. But who said magic realism is about answering it all?