Review

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the CrematorySmoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This interesting and informative book was recommended to me by a friend.

Caitlin Doughty writes intelligently and concisely. What may seem a ghoulish book becomes a deep understanding of what happens to our mortal remains (in modern day United States). Doughty brings in the cultural differences surrounding death and dying. I believe this is important for us to take on board. What may seem macabre to us in the Western Industrialised nations is not necessarily so in other cultures. Doughty does not mince her words and I think this is the foundation of her reasoning. The book is not gloomy in any way shape or form. In fact parts of it are amusing. Above all, it is a thoughtful treatise.

There are some excellent reviews of this book on Goodreads and I encourage you to have a look if you are interested in the topic.

For myself, I am glad that I read this book. For one thing it has stimulated me to make an effort to set down what I want to happen to my body when I die. Avoiding the thought of death is ridiculous. Death has to happen to all of us, sooner or later.

The Order of the Good Death is a group that Caitlin Doughty has put together with like-minded people. Her website also offers some interesting reading.

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Review

Review: The Bookshop on the Corner

The Bookshop on the CornerThe Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Such a lovely light book – helpful after the rather traumatic Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles. No rape, racist killing or guns in The Bookshop on the Corner. Lots of books and romance. I guess this book could be classified as Chick Lit? Anyway, I enjoyed it. I loved reading about the back-blocks of Scotland. For light reading.

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Review: The Bookshop on the Corner

Review: In the Garden of the Fugitives

In the Garden of the FugitivesIn the Garden of the Fugitives by Ceridwen Dovey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Often when I read a novel, I find myself skimming through and then doubling back to read in more detail. Sometimes I’ll read the end chapter and then skip back and forth to bits that need more explanation. In the case of Ceridwen Dovey’s In the Garden of the Fugitives this is unnecessary. From the very beginning, Dovey lays out the story. There is no need to dart back-and-forth. However, toward the end there is a hidden, secret denouement. I read past it at first then had the “Aha!” moment. Even if you skip to the end, this moment will not be evident unless you read the entire book.

Ceridwen Dovey is a skillful, intelligent writer. She knows her subject, whether it be the archeological realm of Pompeii or the ins-and-outs of psychotherapy methods. I would venture that the two protagonists are pitted against each other in the same psych. arena. I only realised this after I finished the book and had to return to where I felt, or rather I sensed, where and when the denouement occurred. In retrospect, I realise that the timeline is not necessarily linear either.

If you do attempt this book, do not be put off by the format – letters (or emails). Be alert to the strength and significance of Dovey’s writing. It is illuminating. It is surprising. It is subtle and nuanced. It is unsettling and haunting.

This book, for me, is extraordinarily, mine.

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Review: In the Garden of the Fugitives

For the Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser

For the Most BeautifulFor the Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really tried not to read this enchanting story too quickly.

As far back as I can remember I have been fascinated by the Greek myths; the stories, the heroes, the gods and goddesses. Thank you to my good friend Suzie Leaderbrand for recommending this book.

A more complete review will follow sometime soon.

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For the Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser

Review of David Guterson’s East of the Mountains

East of the Mountains Harcourt Brace & Company, 1999

This is the story of a voyage of personal discovery. I needed to read this book and reading it on Yoga Retreat in Bali was exactly right.

Briefly, Ben givens is 73 years old – the same age I am now. He is a retired heart surgeon of some renown. He has terminal cancer of the colon. Thank heavens I do not. This is his physical journey that takes him through parts of the American West that I’ve never heard of, but now I feel I know. We’re talking about the Columbia Basin of Central Washington State.

The spiritual journey is difficult, more difficult than the physical although both are harrowing. If I relate the story to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, I find that there are some allegorical similarities. Where the symbolism in East of the Mountains reflects the hardships and the enlightening moments, the reader is able to identify with Ben Givens more so than one may with Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress. This reader was able to identify, maybe not all readers.

Memories of death, fear of pain and the reality of pain stalk Ben Givens. His medical background as a specialist heart surgeon gives him practical insights into the progress of his own mortality. This is not necessarily a good thing.

The disconnect between Ben Givens’ love of his two hunting dogs and his killing of birds and animals gives me pause for thought. His saving of lives in his career as a heart surgeon serves to emphasise the incongruity. There is a complexity in this story. There are stories within stories, narrative within the narrative. I believe a slow, intense reading of the book is required to retrieve full meaning.

Apart from anything else, I learned some interesting historical facts about this area of the United States. For example, in the early days, African camels carried freight in the area. And “Rich kilted Scotsmen ran ten thousand sheep herded by indomitable miniature dogs and by men who spoke the Basque tongue”. (Page 66).

Above all, there are strong women in this story. All the women are strong, all of them.

 

Review of David Guterson’s East of the Mountains

Review, such as it is, of the charming book, The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared

Jonas Jonasson's The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Trivia-On-Books)Jonas Jonasson’s The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a quirky book from Jonas Jonasson. It puts me in mind of A Man Called Ove and I thoroughly enjoyed that. Something about Nordic authors – the books are either bleak and terrifying, such as The Keeper of Lost Causes or witty and charming like this one. That is not to say there isn’t violence and cruelty in the story, but there is an underlying joy of life. Maybe, because I am older, the age of the main character draws me in. It makes me realise that life goes on.

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Review, such as it is, of the charming book, The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared