Tag Archives: novel

“Between shades of gray” by Ruta Sepetys

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“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth?” in this world. A watch of a grand father for the life of a young boy?

This is not an easy reading, as it permeates with human suffering beyond understanding. The plot unfolds in soviet Lithuania of 1941 and takes us on the forced journey of a Lithuanian family to Altai and, then next to the arctic circle. The unbelievable hurdles they go through and their stamina are humbling.

I lived in the soviet Union in the years of its glory and we knew nothing about the price people paid to build the infrastructure and resources we benefited from. It took years for the veil over repressions, forced labour, mass deportation to come down after the fall of the Berlin wall.

I am grateful to authors like Sepetys who do the research, talk to people who lived through it all and then put it on paper for us to read, even as historical fiction.

“The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera

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This is the kind of book review which starts with “hm, where do I start?” The plot? Characters? Story line? Or all of them mixed, shaped and projected into a cinema room with several movies screened in parallel? That was my impression of the book.

I loved the merciless writing style. At times it was as if Kundera worked with a scalpel on the human mind. You cannot but wonder how deep can the human mind’s illusions and delusions go. Kundera shows us quite some shades of these: “The old duality of body and soul has become shrouded in scientific terminology, and we can laugh at it as merely an obsolete prejudice. But just make someone who has fallen in love listen to his stomach rumble, and the unity of body and soul, that lyrical illusion of the age of science, instantly fades away.”

Those interested in the history of the Soviet invasion of the Czech land in 1968 might find some eye opening perspectives in the book. The novel was after all prohibited in his home country until 1989. Probably, these lines would have sufficed to ban it: « Anyone who thinks that the Communist regimes of Central Europe are exclusively the work of criminals is overlooking a basic truth: the criminal regimes were made not by criminals but by enthusiasts convinced they had discovered the only road to paradise. »

“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.

“Never let me go” by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Ishiguro is an acclaimed author and a Nobel Prize winner. Both the title of the book and his reputation determined my choice on an autumn evening’s trip to the book store.

The novel is a dystopian science fiction. It is a sad story. My suggestion is not to read it when you feel low.

The story is narrated by Kathy – the main character – who grows in a sort of boarding school. She introduces other characters, colleagues and friends, with whom she shares the daily life. It was only towards the second part of the book that the author let’s the reader understand that the group of youngsters are actually clones, created for humans heeling and transplants.

“Because somewhere underneath, a part of us stayed like that: fearful of the world around us, and no matter how much we despised ourselves for it – unable quite to let each other go” is so human, when you think of it.

„My name is Red” by Orhan Pamuk

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I am happy my “Read all Nobel Prizes in Literature’ project took me to the Turkish land of the 16th century.

I finished the book. Wished it would have lasted for at least few extra dozens of pages. It’s a dazzling story of a murdered artist in the Istanbul of that time. The story surrounds very talented miniaturists who have been commissioned by the  sultan to illustrate  a book to celebrate his life and times. One of them disappears and here it goes…

It is an unusual book. Each of 59 chapters takes the reader to a different planet. With a renewed passion and freshness. From the world viewed by a corpse, coin, horse to a world seen and told about by a  murderer, color red, two dervishes. I’ve learned tons of facts from Ottoman history, traditions, culture, beliefs, values. On a basic human dimension, the universal lunge for love (which is mentioned 321 times) is omnipresent.

It’s a book to love: it’s quite inspirational – yielded inspiration for at least two dozens of posts. To exemplify but few „paining is the silence of thought and the music of sight’, ‚God must’ve wanted the art of illumination to be ecstasy so He could demonstrate how the world itself is ecstasy to those who truly see’. „Beauty is the eye discovering in our world what the mind already knows’…

My deepest appreciations go also to the translator, Erdağ M. Göknar. His choice of words has given the best gift a reader can hope for: total loyalty to and authenticity of atmosphere.