Tag Archives: lessons learned

“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.

“The woman who breathed two worlds” by Selina Siak Chin Yoke

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The book picked my interest as I knew nothing about life in Malaysia. I absorbed its 476 pages in about ten evenings and was delighted by the richness of the story. The author invested two years in researching for and writing the book and she deserves acclaim for such a rigorous and respectful approach to her culture and inheritance. It also reinforces my belief that if history books would have been written by young women or ordinary elderly of those times, we would be reading something quite different.

In times of constantly changing circumstances, books like this help relativizing and reframing. The story of a widowed mother of 10, who succeeds as an entrepreneur in the turmoil of events of the first half of the 20th century, is a great reminder of the human phoenix power. “We each had power, if only we could harness it” is a highlight of the novel I’ll take with me.

“He’s just not that into you” by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo

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The book is a hilarious and honest take on human behaviour in romantic relationships. The authors – Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo – take turns for different gender perspectives. It is fun to read how they agreed to disagree on a number of topics.

Both authors worked in the “Sex and the city” TV series and its fans will find many commonalities with the series.

“… it’s never going to be good news if you have to think of your relationship in terms of “waiting for him”. He is not a stock you’re supposed to be investing in. He’s a man who’s supposed to be available enough to talk to you, see you, and perhaps fall madly in love with you”. I find this equally valid for “waiting for her” 🙂

“The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro

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I had a truly delightful time with this book. The writing style is as mesmerizing as a warm wind in spring. Flashbacks intertwine softly with stories into a story which is both moving and unemotional at the same time.

The story is narrated by Mr Stevens, a butler at Darlington Hall in its years of fame and prosperity. His British sense of duty and order teleports readers in the behind the scenes of one of the famous aristocratic house of the beginning of the 20th century. Politics, housekeeping, father-son relations, an un-lived love, intricacies of the butler’s profession make a fine story, where values of loyalty and integrity remain central.

“The locust and the bird. My mother’s story” by Hanan Al-Shaykh

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I absorbed the book. It’s my first book by Al-Shaykh and I bet it is not going to be the last. Her writing is as honest and truthful as the crystal water of a mountain river. Listening to and making public the story of one’s mother is brave because it requires introspection and forgiveness of all.

The story of Kamila, Hanan’s mother, is both unique and telling of an era and society dominated by religious patriarchs. Forced child marriage, an early pregnancy, abandonment, dependence and poverty marked Kamila’s life, yet it did not bend her free spirit. She was illiterate, yet her wisdom is deeper than the prescriptions of many scholars. She had no social security, yet her wit and survival instinct enabled her to see all her children into adulthood through the turmoil of war and social change of her country.

I am humbled by the story. And similar stories of million of women who remain anonymous, yet without which we would not be standing here and now.

“An elephant in the garden” by Michael Morpurgo

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My child recommended this book to me. I loved it. Such a good story line.

With the war in the background of the story, the author puts empathy towards humans and animals at the forefront. It is the story of an ordinary German family from Dresden, who saved an young elephant from being killed before the city’s bombings by allies. Their refuge to west to meet the Americans was filled with hurdles, yet a certain magic enveloped them: “we must have been a strange sight for those who caught sight of us: Peter and I, stomping along together ahead, an elephant behind us with two or three children aboard, and, following them, Mutti and her cavalcade of signing children”.

This is a good book for small and big, to be read aloud on a long winter night. To remind ourselves about forgiveness and resilience.