Sunday, 19 April 2015

Happy Birthday, Julie's Reading Corner!

WOW, it’s hard to believe that I started this blog four years ago!  It’s been so much fun for me to share my thoughts about books and reading in general, and also to give you my views of the books I’ve been reading and listening to in particular.  I look forward to having this opportunity every week (and not just because of the tea and treats!), so thanks for continuing to read this blog.
I read a delightful novel by a Canadian author this week, Nothing Like Love, by Sabrina Ramnanan.  Ramnanan is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Education Creative Writing Program, and this is her debut novel.  It opens with Vimla hurrying back to her rented room, where she is met by her landlady, Ms. Nelly, who gives her a letter.  Ms. Nelly is so curious about the contents, about which Vimla reveals nothing, that she opens the letter to find only scraps of colourful fabric.  When questioned, Vimla simply says that these are “reminders to keep going”.  Step back to Chance, Trinidad, 1974, where we encounter Vimla and Krishna, two young lovers  who are planning their future together despite resistance from their parents.  Their plans are thwarted when they are discovered together late one night holding hands, a meeting that has  drastic repercussions for both parties.  Vimla, the smartest girl on the island, loses the teaching position promised to her by the headmaster.  Krishna’s actions bring shame on his father, a Hindu pundit, or holy man, and he is immediately betrothed to Chalisa, a young woman who lives in a village two hours away and so has not yet heard of his shameful act.  Neither Krishna nor Chalisa want to go through with the wedding, which is set to take place the next month.  Krishna is then sent away to stay with Auntie Kay, his father’s estranged sister, in Tobago to study scripture until the wedding, which will be arranged while he is away.  Meanwhile, Vimla pines for her lost love and plots with her friend, Minty, to bring Krishna back to her and build a future together.  Along the way, we meet a cast of characters both fierce and hilarious.  Chandani, Vimla’s mother, is so ashamed of her daughter’s actions that she goes on strike, confining herself to her room for days and leaving her husband and daughter to fend for themselves.  Om, Vimla’s father, finds solace in the local rum shop with his friends.  Sangita, Minty’s mother, is having her own clandestine meetings with Faizel Muhammed, while her husband drinks rum with Om.  When Chalisa’s grandmother receives news about an upcoming event that may change the way Krishna’s family feel about the planned wedding, she moves the wedding date forward in an attempt to save her granddaughter from the shame and ostracism she will surely experience due to her own shameful actions.  Blackmail, deception and discovery feature prominently in this race against time.  Will a wedding take place?  And who will marry whom?  Can true love find a way?  And will anyone find happiness in the village of Chance?  All of this takes place in just two weeks, two weeks that could change Vimla’s, Krishna’s and Chalisa’s lives forever.  While reading this novel, I felt like I was reading a Jane Austen novel, a comedy of manners, only set in Trinidad in 1974, in which marriages are arranged according to class and social standing, and women are not meant to have any aspirations other than to be good wives and mothers, but where a whole underside of activities are taking place without the men knowing anything, where the women really are really the ones who make things happen.  This novel will surely appeal to readers who enjoy a lighthearted love story with a twist.  Ramnanan is definitely a Canadian author to watch.
I recently watched a teen movie on TV, “The Moth Diaries”, which was not award-winning material, but it reminded me of one of my favourite books in grade school, Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan.  I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow it from one of the school libraries, and am having fun rereading it after so many years.  This novel, originally published in 1976, tells the story of Rachel, a 15-year old girl living with her family in Albuquerque, whose family learns of the recent death of Rachel's aunt and uncle, along with the young woman they hired to help out around the house.  Her parents immediately leave for the small house built in the Ozarks to bring back their niece, 17-year-old Julia.  Rachel, who has two brothers, one older and one younger, is not entirely thrilled at the idea of suddenly having a ready-made big sister, but she does her best to be welcoming when her parents return with Julia.  Immediately, Rachel senses something is not right about her.  Perhaps it’s those haunting, haunted eyes, or her strange accent and way of speaking, when she speaks at all, perhaps it’s the fact that Rachel’s gentle, loving dog, Trickle, dislikes Julia the instant he encounters her… but no one will believe Rachel, even when strange things begin to happen to her family and her neighbours.  Could Julia really be a witch?  And how is Rachel the only one to recognize her for what she is?  It’s interesting reading this book now, after nearly 35 years, because I recognize many of the features or aspects of this book, which I read when I was 12, which are also present in some of my favourite books and films today.  The haunting, mysterious tone reminds me of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca.  The fact that only Rachel recognizes what is going on reminds me of the film “Rosemary’s Baby”, the original film with Mia Farrow, not the remake (I’ve only read the book once or twice, but know that it is a fairly true adaptation).  This recognition tells me that my reading tastes haven’t changed much in nearly four decades, although I hope I’ve significantly expanded my selections to include other genres.  Anyway, it’s fun to reread this Young Adult novel, which I hope to finish today.
Also, I wanted to mention that the annual CFUW Book Sale is taking place at First United Church in Waterloo this weekend (http://cfuwkw.org/index.php?page=annual-used-book-sale).  Even though I don’t “need” any more books (what I really need is more bookshelves!), I am planning to go on Friday after work and likely again on Saturday near the end, when everything is half-price or “fill a bag for $5.00.
That’s all for today.  I think I’ll go out and treat myself to a piece of “birthday” cake!

Bye for now…
Julie

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