Tag Archives: parenting

“The strange adventures of H” by Sarah Burton

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A “from rags to riches” story line in London’s epic times of plague and big fire, this novel is heartwarming. H, a 15 year orphan, survives the streets of London without loosing her humanity, kindness and integrity, against all odds.

It is a truly epic journey of a girl in only a two year time lapse to remind us that “there is no disaster which can befall humanity, that we will not fail to make worse by our own hands, for it is fear that makes us cruel.” A happy ending, a marriage on a ship, justice restored and new born babies will bring a smile to the reader’s face at the end of this epic journey.

“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.

“Breathing lessons” Anne Tyler

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Realism is what Tyler is known for. This novel is infused with such a realism that I felt as if I was in the same room with its characters. So, if you a looking for a escapist reading, look somewhere else. Unless you want to escape to Baltimore of 1988, when the novel was published.

The story line has Maggie and Ira as main characters, whose marriage seems impossible yet lasting. In all they do, “Ira [is] forever so righteous and Maggie so willing to be wrong.” Other characters – their son, daughter, daughter-in-law, granddaughter – seem all to come into play just to testify to that. Tyler manages to make you pissed of with Maggie’ constant intrusion in other people’s lives, just to redeem the character towards the end, by revealing her sweet vulnerability and pure desire to help. Maggie and Ira’s quarrels throughout the novel made me smile at the thought about how much energy we spend on minor things in life, at the expense of what’s important: love, respect, empathy, courage to speak up and courage to shut up, sometimes.

“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.

“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.