Sunday 7 February 2016

First post for February...

On this spring-like morning, with pretty much all the snow melted away, it’s hard to believe that the groundhog saw his shadow last week and that we will have six more weeks of winter.  I don’t quite know how to feel about this - I like the winter, but the sun, the clear walkways, the sight of grass and even the scent of spring, is intoxicating.  It’s still cool enough for me to enjoy a steaming cup of chai tea while I think about my recent reading experiences.

But first I want to let you know that the Ontario Library Association Forest of Reading Evergreen 2016 nominated titles have just been announced: 

I have read many of these titles, and have written about them in earlier posts.  I hope you have a chance to read at least a few of these, and if you are in an area where your public library participates in the Evergreen Award program, please get out and vote for your favourite in October!   

My volunteer book group met yesterday to discuss Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, a sweeping saga of twin brothers, Marion and Shiva, born of the union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon into tragic circumstances in Ethiopia in 1954 as the country hovers on the brink of revolution.  Drawn to a life of medicine, despite being abandoned by their father, both brothers come of age in a home near the hospital where their parents work as surgeons and discover their differences even as they find comfort in their similarities.  But one woman will cause an irreparable rift between them and cause one brother to flee his homeland and seek refuge in America.  In the end, though, he must rely on the two people he trusts least in his life, the father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.  This book was recommended by one of my book club members, so I put it on the list, despite knowing nothing about it.  I found a paperback copy at a used book store some time ago, so I was read to begin reading it last Sunday after finishing my post.  Well, the book was over 650 pages, with fairly small print.  Yikes!  I was never going to finish it in time for the meeting!  And discovering right from page one that it was going to be a book filled with detailed descriptions of everything, including the settings and the medical conditions and procedures encountered at the hospital, I knew it was not the kind of book I normally enjoy.  So I admit to skimming the first 300 pages, at least getting the gist of the story.  But then it got really interesting, once the twins were growing up and nearing their teens, when, in my opinion, the story actually starts.  I found the political details of events happening in Ethiopia at the time (1960s-1980s) interesting and informative, and the account of one man’s experiences growing up at a time of so much unrest and uncertainty was moving and harrowing - I have since found out that this parallels the author’s own experiences.  The choices Marion was forced to make later in life were both realistic and yet unbelievable.  It was not an uplifting book by any means, so I was happy to reach the last page.  When I got to the meeting, I saw that three of my ladies still had bookmarks in their books.  One was about a third of the way through, one nearly halfway through, and one woman has about a quarter of the novel left to read.  The last member had listened to this as an audiobook, and she said it grabbed her from the very first sentence and she was hooked to the last paragraph.  Those who hadn’t finished still enjoyed the parts they read, and planned to finish.  They loved the details of the settings, saying they felt like they were actually there.  They all agreed that the book contained “nuggets of wisdom”, usually from Ghosh, one of the surgeons at the hospital where the twins grew up.  They found the historical and political details fascinating.  We discussed Obstetric Fistula, and female circumcision, both prominent issues in the book.  Unfortunately, with so few of us finishing the novel, we couldn’t really discuss very much, so we just spent the rest of the time talking about a variety of different things, often involving books.  One of the members said that her sister knows the author, as her sister lives in the part of India where Verghese has set his upcoming book, and this member has read his previous books, My Own Country (which she really enjoyed) and The Tennis Partner (which she didn’t enjoy as much).  Would I recommend this book?  It’s definitely been recommended by other sources, and was on the bestseller list for many many weeks when it was first published in 2009.  And I believe it is being made into a film.  So I would suggest that you might enjoy this book if you like sweeping sagas with lots and lots of detail, and you do not feel squeamish when reading (many, many!) details of medical conditions and surgeries.

My preference for books are the shorter books that get right to the point, and use language clearly and concisely.  I have three such books sitting on my coffee table right now, and am looking forward to reading at least one, maybe even two, of them next week.  

But for now, I want to get outside and enjoy the wonderfully bright, clear, early-spring-like day!

Bye for now…

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