Tag Archives: entertainment

Queens and balconies

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Once upon a time here lived queen Darejan, a mother of 23 girls and boys. Her king built a palace for her on the incline to Sachino. She was also a builder and she furthered it to its glory of the XVIII century.

She fought for whom she loved. She lived the best she could in those troublesome times, and saw her end on Earth in exile on foreign cold land.

Today we can take the same walking paths she took thanks to the reconstruction funded by tax payers of Georgia. And we can admire the city from the beautiful blue framed balcony, perhaps from the exact same spot the queen used to.

“The great circle” by Maggie Shipstead

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I anticipated a one-of-a-kind journey. It was. In a sense… putting aside the many short cuts I took (alias chapters skimping in the 600 page book).

The lives of three central female characters with different backgrounds and from different eras sounded appealing. Yet their stories do little to support each other in one novel. I wonder if the author considered a trilogy at some point and then decided to go for one novel… Nevertheless, one can still feel the dominance of one character – Marian Graves, the fictional pilot, who took it to the sky regardless of social norms of her times (30s-40s of last century). We get to know her a bit through the experience of her mother, a troubled woman who took her own life, along with dozens others, by presumably blasting a boat, whose captain was her unaware husband. I wish there were less pages on Marian’ sex experiences, as it does little to unveil her character. She likes sex, with both men and women, we get that. There is no apparent need to delve on it. I skipped almost entirely the chapters about the third female character – a fictional Hollywood starlet of our times. Her inner struggles and confusions do little justice to Marian, whose character she is supposed to play in a movie about the legendary flight around the two poles.

The book is said to be well researched for historical events and surroundings spanning over 100 years on different continents. A truly commendable effort. At times it felt as if the author actually lived there and then, at other times, it felt a bit too documentary to me.

This book had many DNF reviews. I also almost dropped it, yet if you are patient or selectively skipping parts of it, you might be rewarded when you get to “The Flight” chapter on the actual culmination of the life of Marian.

I always read the “Acknowledgement” section. There are always little treasures there if you look. This time it was a writing app – Scrivener.

I always give 5 stars to books, and my review is very personal, which has little to do with the author’s labour, which I cannot judge.

“A traveller at the Gates of Wisdom” by John Boyne

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Some human stories on this planet are universal. Father – son relationships, revenge, unfulfilled potential, unhappy marriages, rich and poor. Same goes for human emotions of fear, faith, greed, contentment, courage, love and hate. What is curious is how Boyne constructed the plot or rather the succession of plots to tell us this universal story. He takes the reader on a journey in time and a globetrotting of some sorts spread over a thousand years of struggle to reach peace.

The main character (Boyne himself, I think) meets known and unknown characters and lives through historic events as he attempts to give sense to his own life. A rather futuristic last chapter of life on an orbit was rather unexpected to me, yet, I gather, it is meant to give the reader an optimistic and hopeful ribbon to hold on to perhaps.

“Ten Things About Writing” by Joanne Harris

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Joanne Harris knows a thing or two about writing, as a world renown author and the Chair of the Society of Authors. I was delighted to discover her book about writing. I love it when people are generous in sharing their knowledge.

The book will take you into the insights of the writing process from start to the publication and beyond. It will unveil the secrets of what makes a story, characterisation and detailing. And it is all written with honesty and no-non-sense. Joanne is incredibly encouraging towards aspiring writers: “Remember, … , that just writing is an act of bravery. You have the courage to do what it takes to give your voice the chance to be heard. Don’t do it because you want to be the next J.K. Rowling, or Maya Angelou, or Margaret Atwood. Those are already taken. Do it because your voice is unique. Only you can take this chance. No one else will ever be you, or tell your story the way you can”.

After this book, I also realized that I am more demanding as a reader. Joanne is right. If after 10 pages I am not fully absorbed by the story or if the author states the obvious (“the rain is wet” ), I will close the book and look for something else to read.

“A thousand years of good prayers” by Yiyun Li

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I am usually not a big fan of short stories. Yet, “A thousand years of good prayers” made me adore each story on their own unique merits.

The love story of Granny Lin in « Extra », the prison of shame in « After a life », the vulnerability to time of cultural figures in “Immortality”, the nobleness of keeping a promise in “Love in the Marketplace”, breaking away from the traditions in “Son”, emotional barriers to communication in “A thousands years of good prayers” are some of the themes we’ll find in the collection along with mythology and storytelling for a great authenticity of Chinese characters. In sum, such an exquisite mastery of the plots makes each story a fully fledged novel.

The interview with Yiyun Li included in this edition offers numerous insights and provides a glimpse into how she writes in her unique way. Highly recommended.

“Five quarters of the orange” by Joanne Harris

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Yet another wonderful piece from the author of “Chocolat“. I enjoyed reading both. Harris’ pen manages to touch my inner chords by her distinguished touch to all that makes us human: our fears, our hopes, our pain, our aspirations. Her characters feel alive. And the scenery is vivid as we glance through the pages of the book, even on a Kindle. I could easily relate to the characters of this novel, especially Boise (i.e. Framboise).

The story, told by Boise, develops on a small farm run by a widow battling mental health issues, while raising her three children, against the WWII background in rural France. I loved that Harris chose to narrate events through the eyes of a nine year old. War, violence, relationships, food, housework – they all look different to children and adults need to learn to respect that. The story line is on rewind and forward, from Boise’s childhood to her adulthood, to remind us not to judge by appearances, as we never fully know what others went through.

“The single ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village” by Joanna Nell

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That was a fun reading. Light and thoughtful, loving and self-ironic. An introspective and retrospective view into inter and intra-generational relationships. An ode to youthful playful souls even when the replaced knees and pacemakers demand otherwise.

“What I loved” by Siri Hustvedt

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“What I loved” is a work of fiction rooted in research on human behaviour in a variety of disciplines. Leo, the narrator and one of main characters, tells us the story of his family and his closest friend’s family in the decor of the art world of New York.

The human tragedies entangle in seemingly distinct yet interconnected stories. Female and male friendships, the integrity of art dealerships and the father-son relationship will touch any reader’s mind in a sophisticated way, infused with the sadness of human failure to love one another.