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

Review: The Starlit Wood

The Starlit Wood: New Fairy TalesThe Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales by Dominik Parisien

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoy fantasy and I enjoy short stories. The Starlit Wood ticks the boxes.

Some of the stories are disturbing but in good way! There are only a couple that didn’t appeal. The best ones to my mind are an amazing take on Little Red Riding Hood by Seanan McGuire, Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar. Garth Nix doesn’t disappoint with Penny for a Match, Mister? Not to be missed The Briar and the Rose by Marjorie M. Liu. Possibly my favourite is Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. I love the way that, in most of the stories, the empowerment is given to the character who is downtrodden in the original.

I felt quite sad when I finished the final story.

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Review: The Starlit Wood

Oyster – repost of Review

OysterOyster by Janette Turner Hospital

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There were times when I thought, “I can’t continue”. Oyster is best taken in small doses. Janet Turner Hospital is a master of her craft. She draws you in and shakes you up. The horror of some scenes – and they are ‘scenes’ – hurt me physically.
Oyster is set in outback Queensland, in the throes of drought. Outer Maroo, an off the map settlement in an off the map location, and the strangest population of any settlement anywhere.
If I put on my academic’s hat, I’d say this was postmodernism at it’s peak, but that’s a personal opinion.
Strangely, since I read the book, I keep coming across references to Quilpie (which does exist) and other ‘real’ places in Outback Queensland that are mentioned in the book.
If you’re up for the challenge, I encourage you to read this book!

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Oyster – repost of Review

The Lovely Bones – Review

The Lovely BonesThe Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first The Lovely Bones seemed too confronting for me but I persevered. The story of Susie Salmon keeps reflecting in my mind. The awful death of this child echoes within her own family, the community and in the society. As the reader I also longed for revenge on her murderer.

The Lovely Bones is described as being “luminous and astonishing … it finds light in dark places …”

I found it so, so sad. The story will stay with me for a long time.

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The Lovely Bones – Review