Sunday 14 December 2014

Books and tea on a mild, overcast December morning...

I had no sweet treat this mornong, so to fill my empty, growling stomach I had toast with peanut butter and a delicious Mediterranean Medley jam (figs and dates) before I sat down to drink my tea and write.  I had to ad lib with my tea this morning, as the yummy masala chai I have been drinking as a treat on Sundays for the past 6 or 7 years is no longer available – that is a drag! But my improvised tea for this morning is pretty good, despite being different.  I need to track down someplace that sells loose black tea, as I think that may be the answer to my problem.

This past week has been rather disjointed in terms of reading consistency.  I finished reading a Young Adult book for work, Eric Walter’s Between Heaven and Earth, which is one of the books in the Seven Series.  I mentioned this series in one of my posts in the summer, as I read Shane Peacock’s Last Message in one sitting and was very impressed.  This series is made up of seven books by seven different Canadian authors and are told from the points of view of the seven grandsons of revered David Maclean, now deceased.  While attending the reading of his will, each grandson is taken aside separately and given instructions detailed by David to complete tasks that he himself had been unable to undertake and complete during his lifetime.  Between Heaven and Earth is told from the point of view of DJ, or David Junior, the oldest and most responsible of all the grandsons.  At nearly 18 years old, DJ’s task is to take his grandfather’s ashes and scatter them at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.  He is to go alone, and he figures this task is going to be quick and easy;  after all, how long could it take to climb a mountain?  What he learns during his adventure is that the journey is as important as the destination, and that one must appreciate every step of the way.  This book was an excellent read, and I would recommend it to readers aged 12 and up, including adults.  I would love to find the time to read the other five in the series, and read the next series, Seven:  the sequels, but juggling what I read is becoming a real challenge.  I wanted to read this one in particular, as Eric Walters is coming to one of my schools in May, so I wanted to be familiar with this popular, award-winning Children’s and Young Adult author.  I will try to find time to read one or two of his many other titles, including the one that had recently been nominated for the Forest of Reading Red Maple award, Rule of Three.  So man books, so little time…

I finished this book on Tuesday night, so I had the rest of the week to start something new, which is always a dilemma, as I know I won’t have time to actually finish a book by Sunday’s post (I like to start a new book on Saturday or Sunday and finish it by the end of the week).  I decided to concentrate on one of the many titles I have in a pile waiting to be reviewed.    I picked up A Map of Betrayal by Ha Jin.  I have been interested in reading something by this award-winning Chinese-American author for years, and have a copy of The Crazed on my bookshelf, waiting to be read.  Anyway, I started reading Map of Betrayal and had high expectations, but the first 20 pages or so did not grab me, so I put it aside.  I then picked up the latest novel by award-winning Australian author Richard Flanagan, whose works I have also been interested in reading.  I have had The Sound of One Hand Clapping sitting on my bookshelf upstairs for several years now, but fining the time is tough.  Well, his latest offering, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, grabbed me right away, despite the plotline:  it tells the story of Dorrigo Evan, a celebrated war hero and surgeon in the Second World War who survived the building of the Death Railway between Siam and Burma in 1943, an undertaking instigated by the Japanese using Asian civilian labourers and allied POWs.  Tens of thousands of these people, both civilians and POWs, perished as a result of this undertaking, due to lack of food, water, rest and appropriate tools and machinery.  In this novel, Dorrigo (Dorry) relates his experiences leading up to the war, during his service as a war doctor, his imprisonment and treatment while he was in command of a battalion of mostly Australian POWs, and his later life during which he must deal spiritually and emotionally with his fame as a survivor and war hero (a documentary had recently been made of his war experiences).  He is conflicted by this adulation, as he does not see himself as a hero, despite trying to do his best for the men under his command. He is constantly torn between following his own desires and trying to live up to their expectations.  Flanagan writes at one point early in the novel, “They (the other prisoners) were captives of the Japanese and he (Dorry) was the prisoner of their hope”.  He is unable to make sense of the senseless death and destruction the war wrought over the land, and the unnecessary losses of life that go along with this.   It also tells of his early life in the service, and the dilemma he faces when, while practically engaged to socialite Ella and accepted into the embrace of her aristocratic family, he encounters Amy, a woman for whom his passion burns, even while she is unavailable to him.  This quest for the “unattainable she” goes hand-in-hand with his search for logic and meaning in the senselessness and insanity of war.  This is not really my type of book, and there are many graphic scenes of horror and despair, but it is also one of the most absorbing, thought-provoking novels I’ve read in a long time.  Well, that’s not true;  Ian McEwan’s novel, The Children Act, was also thought-provoking, but not horrible.  Anyway, I’m about a third of the way though and will write more when I have finished reading this wonderful, awful novel.

Oh, and I forgot to mention in last week’s post that one of my book club members reread, or reviewed, Louise Penny’s Beautiful Mystery, and thought she came up with the reason the sentences were all so fragmented and disjointed:  she thought the jerky, awkward, jarring language and sentence structure was used intentionally to represent the underlying decay and corruption of the monastery and the brotherhood, and also the addictions the various police members had, when in all cases, the appearance was of beauty and order.  This makes sense, but it still doesn’t’ make me want to read it!  Good for her, though, for giving this challenging book so much thought and consideration (if you recall, my group totally trashed this title in September).

Have a good day, and Happy Reading!

Bye for now…

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