Tag Archives: book review

“The tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris

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THE-TATTOOIST-OF-AUSCHWITZI visited Auschwitz in 2000. I could not go beyond the first barracks … The atmosphere was painfully overwhelming, even after half a century.

I read “The tattooist of Auschwitz” basically in one go. It is the power of love described throughout the novel that makes it the focus of the attention. The ordeal of the daily life in most horrific times is somehow in the background. That’s the author’s merit.

The novel is based on a true story of Lale Sokolov and Gita who survived Auschwitz and reunited to live a long life together, in spite of all circumstances. It is a work of fiction based on the first-hand testimony of Lale, born Ludwig Eisenberg.

Questions like why did some survive and others not are answered by the qualities Lale had and used while in Auschwitz. His first promise to himself when he entered Auschwitz was “I will live to leave this place”. And he did so 3 years later, having overcome hunger, beatings, ice-cold winters, torture. He also saved lives of as many as he could, with a bit of bread here, a smuggled piece of chocolate there, a piece of information here, a word of wisdom there.

When you feel down, read the book. It works as an instantaneous reminder of the blessings we have.

 

“Lonesome dove” by Larry McMurtry

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It started on such an idle note that I almost abandoned it. Glad I haven’t, encouraged by reviews saying “if you read only one Western novel in your life, read this one” (USA Today). It had also the promise of a Pulitzer award winning novel.

“Lonesome dove” has the classic of the genre, good guys – the rangers Call and Augustus – and the bad guys. Characters are also nuanced, in fairness to human nature. The bravest ranger could be a coward father to a son, to whom he gave his horse and gun but not his name. The evil characters are of all colors. So are the noble ones.

This Western depicts through two female characters the choices women had during the times of land claiming by Europeans. They had to choose between whorehouses or settling to a married life on farms lost in solitude, childbearing, death and harshness. Some kept their sanity, others – not. It explains many societal attitudes centuries latter.

The story mingled with epic description of nature and evolving landscapes under the influence of humans, like the disappearing buffaloes. The author also pais his respects to the natives threatened by the dramatic change to their livelihoods.

Some dialogues are full of humour, while some – abound with sorrow and regret. All in one, almost 1000 pages of human nature during an important part of the US history.

“Little leaders. Visionary women around the world” by Vashti Harrison

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I do not know if I bought the book for my kid or for myself. Never mind, we both loved it.

The stories of little leaders are well documented. The bios of are filled with factual information in an easily accessible language. A glossary helps understanding some concepts, which could be new for young readers.

We learned a lot about women and girls who had the courage to go beyond and above what was considered “normal” for the times and societies they lived in. Like the story of Fatima Al-Fihri who funded and created in year 859 in Morocco the first degree granting institution in the world, as a precursor for universities. Or Peggy Guggenheim, the art collector who saved modern art pieces, which would have been otherwise destroyed by the nazi regime. Or the work of Sister Corita Kent who used serigraphs to spread bold messages of love and peace.

Thought of the week

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The best advice from a teacher in ” The storyteller’s secret” by Sejal Badani:

“I will also advise that when they travel in their stories, they respect the people they meet and the values they hold. Their way of life is not for us to judge but our opportunity to learn. And to never forget that when you offer a hand of respect, you will in turn be welcomed.”

“The storyteller’s secret” by Sejal Badani

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Sejal Badani is a Goodreads Fiction Award finalist for her “Trail of Broken Wings”.

“The storyteller’s secret” novel takes you to India. The novel has two story lines. One is around 1940s-50s and the other one – 30 years forward, each with their own main character: a grand-mother and a grand-daughter.

Jaya – the grand-daughter – came to India from the USA to heal her pain after three miscarriages and the separation from her husband. There, she learns the story of her grandmother from an untouchable, who worked in his grand parents’ house as a faithful servant. Jaya learns of her true heritage when her grand-mother’s secret is revealed by her by that faithful servant. She learns her mother is a fruit of the passion between her grand-mother and a British officer she loved. In healing her own pain, she re-lives her grand-mother’s tough choices of staying in the marriage her parents arranged for her; staying with other other three sons when asked by the man she loved to leave with him and their daughter; stopping to do what she loved – teach and write stories – when family duties called.

In the story, the grand-mother dies young in very tragic circumstances. The author portraits the grand-daughter as a living testament to the materialisation of aspirations of a generation who although oppressed kept her dignity and left a legacy.

The story has a happy end of healing found by those who sought it. Although it gave the book a predictable end, it was just fine, after the intensity if the two parallel life stories of the grand mother and grand-daughter, who “found” each other 30 years after through storytelling.

While some reviews find the book not very exciting, it matched my reading needs at this stage. Even it it is fiction, stories of vulnerable deserve to be told in any form and cherished by those who live to harness the sacrifices made by generations before.

“Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee

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My brain seems to be interested lately in women’s stories from all over the globe. Or maybe it is my heart. The heart of a girl’s mom.

“Pachinko” belongs to the type of the book I look forward to opening at the bed time reading. I absorbed the 400 something pages in no time.

The story spans through generations of a family who survived war, hunger, separation, discrimination and exile. The story starts in Korea and then moves to Japan. Above all, it is about soul-search and staying true to what truly matters no matter what.

The characters are authentic and their struggles and aspirations are so real you can feel it on your skin. The author did well her homework research. The book is a tribute to all silent victims of discrimination of those times on that place.

I cannot ignore the attention given to the role of women society expects from them, as described in this book and couple of others I recently read. “Women’s lot is to suffer” is reiterated couple of times in the book. That is saddening, to say the least. In fairness, the author does justice to feminine characters by endowing them with such strength of mind and spirit that it challenges the socially acceptable behavioural model for women.

Inspired by this, I bought for my daughter “Little Leaders: Visionary Women from around the World” by Vashti Harrison (more on the book in my next post).

“Like water for chocolate” by Laura Esquivel

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I love books with stories around the kitchen, where events and Mxican dishes recipes are intertwined with flavours. Reading recipes and cooking steps also makes me hungry, but that’s another story.

The story lone is built around Tita, who is given a multitude of roles throughout the book: she is a daughter, a cook, a lover, a sister, a nurse. The character has to fight for her right to decide how to live an authoritarian mother and a series of circumstances she finds herself in.

The writing style is impregnated with tenderness and a bitter-sweet taste of life in all its magnificence. It has magic, it has love. What else do you need?

I absorbed the book in no time and recommend to enjoy it with a cup of hot chocolate.