Tag Archives: Lying in bed with books

Where my nose has been.

Finally the sun came out today and we decided to catch up on some sunshine poolside. This gave me the chance to finish Brick Lane by Monica Ali and I realized it had been a long while since I have done a book round up. So here it is:

Brick Lane is a book about a Bangladeshi woman who is married off to a man she has never met and moves from her small village to East London. The book traces about 15 years and over the course of the novel we meet a wide array of colourful characters that live in her neighbourhood and on her estate. These are the poor Bengali women who wear saris, walk a few steps behind their men; who drive the mini cabs that zip all over London. Ali writes these characters with such detail and empathy, I ended the book feeling that I had spent real time in their company. It is a good read, I really enjoyed it perhaps because it is predominantly character driven. For some reason it didn’t touch me as much as similar books have, and I’m not really sure why butI do recommend it highly.

Norwegian Wood was the book I finished in Sipi Falls. It is by Murakami and is apparently the most popular book ever in Japan. It is a sad, nostalgic story about one young man and the girls that have come into his life. It really is more about these strong female characters than it is about the main character. The streets of Tokyo feature strongly and I felt such bitter sweet nostalgia for Japan. I liked these people despite their total kookiness and I liked the writing which was sparse and elegant. It was a cold book in some ways, and not richly descriptive or melodramatic but in that sense it was very Japanese. The characters walk a lot, through Tokyo and the mountains of Northern Japan, they have sex a lot and they drink a lot. It is set in the late 60’s and the references to music of that decade pepper the book.

I read an Anita Shreve book called Testimony. She is what I call my rebound author. You know? Like the rebound guy you have a fling with between serious relationships. She is generally the lightest thing I read and what I turn to when I just want a good easy story. The other author in this rebound category is Jodi Piccoult.  I was looking for a rebound book and I was lent two books by friends at school. One was The Memory of Water by Karen White and the other was Testimony. I became extremely impatient with the Water book and found the characters flat and uninteresting so I put it down ( Life is too short to read a book you don’t like so put it down and don’t feel guilty) and picked up Testimony . Testimony was predictable, written by formula, flat and frankly a bit boring. But it was quick and set in the snow and did the job. By the way my favorite Anita Shreve books are The Pilot’s Wife and The Last Time They Met.

The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B Edwards is a rich and rewarding journey through one man’s life. It is the told in the voice of Ebenezer as he remembers his life on the island of Guernsey. I like this man, his memories, his friends, his island and his brutal honesty. I was sad to have to say goodbye when it came to an end, it was that sort of book. I got it as a birthday present last year from a very good old friend and he said it wasn’t easy to find. It is a rare and unknown book by a man that wrote this one novel in his whole life and died before it was even published by his good friend. It has a definite auto biographical touch to it, I wanted it to be true, in any case.

I adore David Sedaris and I bought his latest book in Heathrow on our way out here. He is my writing idol, in many ways. He writes about his own life and makes it hilarious, interesting and bizarre. The thing I love the most is the way that he sees things. It is called When you are Engulfed in Flames and it was great. I’ve read all his books and he never disappoints.

I love it when lodges and hotels have a book shelf filled with books we are welcome to read. The take one , leave one, idea is great , I, guiltily, do more of the taking than leaving, but anyway. I have had success a few times, I often find something surprising. In Ndali I picked up Rage Against the Meshugenah: Why it Takes Balls to go Nuts by Danny Evans and couldn’t put it down. It is a story about a man who goes into a deep depression and takes two years to come out. You wouldn’t think it possible, but this book is really very funny. I enjoyed it in a sort of voyeuristic way, I was intrigued by his ability to write about something quite mundane and make it readable. A bit American Jewish Trashy but fun, nevertheless.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an award winning book by a wonderful Nigerian writer. It is the story of a small family during the Biafra war and it is filled with love, joy, misery, questions of moral responsibility and the wickedness of colonialism. It is “epic” in the way that it constantly forces you to ask big questions and raises complicated issues and subjects. I am not sure if I was as haunted as I should have been, maybe I didn’t like nor care about the characters enough. Often I felt distant from the book even while I was immersed in it. Other times I was totally engrossed and appalled. Something held me back, though, and I think it was the unlikeability, for me, anyway, of the people involved in this fight for nation and home.

I have great books waiting on my bookshelf to read and I now just have to stand there, chin on hand and pick one. Some of my  novel choices are: the underbelly of Montreal, British husbands and wives, a journalist in the Congo, a Cornish Family, Nigerian short stories, Nick Hornby’s world or the myriad that is Granta. I also have 13  new DVDs and a TV series on the same shelf but that is a different story.

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I did come here to work, you know.

I have survived my first two days at my new job. Starting at a new school is strange because there are all sorts of comparisons that float around the head. For a start this campus is big and fancy but we don’t have a computerized attendance or grade keeping system. That is partly because this is Africa and partly because it is a growing school and these things will come. Many of the teachers are from Uganda and they love to touch and hug each other. There is a lot of laughter in the air. No one is very happy to be working two weeks before the students start but I am relieved to have the time since I will be teaching all sorts of texts that I have never taught before!

I am eternally grateful to have a husband who is out on the Boda Boda shopping for furniture and organizing our house while I am here at work trying to wrap my head around a totally different way of doing things. At some point he will have to sit down and do some work too but it is a relief to have him holding down the fort, house, kids and all.

So since I have come to Uganda to work I thought I would take this opportunity to introduce you to some of the books I will be teaching this year. In a somewhat random and rambling style here, in a nutshell, is the way my school year is shaping up.

Lots of Poetry and short reading pieces (that come from a book suited to the English year 7-9 curriculum).

Some rather scary looking grammar and spelling material that I hope to make fun (!).

Frankenstein

Diary of Anne Frank

Animal Farm

Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah

The Tempest

Midsummer’s Night Dream

Dr Faustus by Marlowe

Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera

I am going to have to sit on my brand new sofa and get reading.

I have also discovered that I am going to be a year 7 ( grade 6) homeroom teacher and I will be taking them on a two day sailing trip this year.

I will be teaching Trooper ( year 8, grade 7) but I won’t be anything to do with her homeroom,.

The change from the US to British system is a little confusing. You simply need to add a year. So instead of going into grade 4 Princess is starting year 5.

Tonight we are going to try out the only cinema in Kampala. More on that and hopefully some photos coming a little later.

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Room for Women

 

 I am re-reading The Woman’s Room by the recently deceased Marilyn French. This book is considered a landmark novel of the feminist era and I think I read it in my early 20s.

I feel a strong kinship for the women in the book, their trials, their entrapment, their sacrifices and their unwitting acceptance of their lot in life. While they fight against the powers of society that grant men more choices and freedoms then they, I am feeling immensely grateful to the women who came before me, who carved out the freedoms that I now enjoy. Feminism in some circles has become a dirty word, but I am still proud to call myself a feminist and grateful that I no longer have the same need for the word that propelled women’s lives beyond dirty dishes and into the workforce. But. And it is a big But. While men’s and women’s roles in the home have meshed and overlapped, other problems have arisen. I think while many men come home from a grueling day at the office and turn to diapers and dishes, they sometimes long for the comfort and clarity of the roles their parents enjoyed. It is a tricky one and as I re read this great tome of groundbreaking feminist literature I wonder if feminism may have swapped one set of confinements for another. Not to suggest that the lives of women are not improved, they are and greatly, but are women really happier? And what of men?

My daughters. whose big brown eyes watch their dad make lunch, dinner, grocery shop and still have energy left to embrace them and make them laugh will become adults with very high expectations of their husbands. I hope those men in the future are ready for what awaits them.

I hope that my daughters will one day read The Women’s Room, find it irrelevant and close the book feeling grateful.

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Hedgehogs and baby girls

My daughter just flung a virtual hedgehog in the air. She is changing before my very eyes. One minute a small girl, looking for a rest in Mama’s arms, the next a giggling pubescent MSNing with one boy or two. If one of those boys is playing a video game, why, she must quick-smart head to that game and try it out, thereby having a reason to continue the MSN chat. So when I walked past the computer this evening and saw a poor defenseless and bright orange hedgehog being lurched into space only to discover that his merciless bottom was spewing psychedelic stars, I felt a little confused. Where had that sweet little girl gone? Why was the word of some spotty 12 year old boy so important that she would hit the virtual arcade? Something she has never been interested in before.

 

I have always hated video games. Really hated them, to a point of looking down my nose with snobbish derision at the person playing them. Which is ridiculous really. I mean who am I to have such an opinion? I just don’t get it. I have students who hand homework in late because they were up to 1 am playing some new hot game that just came out. I have a husband who gets on that computer the minute he gets an opportunity and loves nothing more than visiting a friend who has a Wii. The one that really spun me round is a fabulous and creative group of students that, it turns out, are game addicts! Maybe I am the weird one that doesn’t get it. 

 

Is there really any difference between blogging and gaming? Obsessive compulsive photoshopping activities and internet surfing? Is the gaming an equally creative distraction? How can I have an ounce of wisdom on this one when I haven’t played a video game since pac man?

 

I just don’t understand how simply unproductive and time wasting it appears to be. Not to mention that most games are violent in nature.  I suppose everyone gets to choose how to waste their own time. Perhaps I should get myself a little virtual education so that I can actually know what I am talkIng about.

 

In the meantime I would like my daughter back.  The one that left home and was replaced by that giggling dudette on the computer.

 

 

 


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Bonus

Rarely something happens to make me realize that I must be doing a good job. I know that teaching is the best job in the world, I feel that most days, but teaching doesn’t have a way of monitoring return on investment. Most companies in the corporate world have a means of assessing your worth, sometimes it even leads to a big bonus. So it is rare that I have proof that I am actually teaching these kids something other than the obvious, something a little special that might stay with them for a very long time.

 

Well I got proof, I got my bonus and it is right here.

 

 


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To Kindle or not Kindle, what shall it be?

Margaret Wente, an esteemed and valued institution in Canadian Journalism writes the following in The Globe and Mail.

 

It took 38 years for 150 million people to get a TV. For the cellphone, it took 14 years. For the iPod, it took seven years, and for Facebook, five. “


She is writing about the Kindle and how it has a merry place in the future. In her opinion those with an attachment to ink on paper will be soon be considered as archaic as those who still prefer vinyl to the iPod. Having written and pondered the question of my book collection I was fascinated to read her opinion. Imagine having access to 1500 books with the touch of a finger? Imagine replacing shelves and shelves of dusty books with one slim white device? Imagine carrying tons of books, newspapers and magazines on a plane and they all have a combined weight of 10.2 oz? Imagine in 45 seconds having any book on your wish list downloaded straight from Amazon for $9.99?  The Kindle can connect to 250,000 books and blogs! That means no getting up from your desk and walking to a book store, and no waiting for the Amazon post man to arrive.

 

Ahhh. Sounds so good. Right? And they have even made it ergonomic and easy on the eye. Is this the future? Will my 40 boxes of books, crossing the Atlantic numerous times make me look like a dinosaur?  Can I really part with my lovely books, their smell, their smooth covers, the memories, the shelves filled with words? And what of the bookstores I so love to roam? I can lose myself in a London bookstore for hours, fingering the covers, leafing through the pages, picking up a paperback and flicking it over to read the back.

 

I am inclined to say NO to the Kindle. But I may be wrong. I am not a technophobe; I love my computer as much as the next addict person, but this might be my last holdout, the last great standoff.
What do you think? Could you exchange walls of books, face clean empty space, lose the soft gentle books filled with ink on paper and move towards the Kindle? Could you let it light your fire?

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Help! I am drowning and I love it

 

I have no idea where we will be in 6   5 months, as I have mentioned on a few occasions. When I really feel like being good and stressed I start to think about my books.

 

I have a lot of books. Besides these book shelves which is just a snippet of the picture, I have boxes and boxes of books piled up in a storage room off the garage.

 

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I suppose that altogether I have well over a zillion books. ( I have never counted.) Should I think about selling the books, paying to store them or paying to ship them? What is the point of all these books? Is it time to let go? Has this woman never heard of a library! I am the sort of person who borrows a book from the library, then likes it so much that I have to go out and buy it. 

 

My books are my babies! I have carted them from London to Winnipeg, to Montreal and now to Trinidad. I am working on the “less possessions” is best theme but with my books and make up and shoes and clothes and jewelry and art and photo albums and kids momentos and trinkets and plates and pottery it is really hard.  ( And believe me, I am not a fan of clutter. I have already weeded out the unnecessary.) I think I might be able to part with my furniture. But that’s it.

 


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Put some fiction in that basket

The world is going to hell in a basket and I am hiding in my class room teaching Macbeth. While outside across an ocean or two the stock market is crashing, house prices are plunging and Iceland is trying to stave off bankruptcy I am immersing my students in the perils of a 12th century Scottish King. Strangely I am finding parallels.

In order to reach apodictic change the world needs to come crumbling down before it can start its steady climb back up again. It is part of the cycle of greed and respite. People need to stop buying cars and houses that they can’t afford and borrowing the hell out of banks, making other people rich. Once you jump deep into the well of consumption enough is never enough.

Macbeth who starts out tempted by the idea that being King would be grand ends up on a killing spree that no idea of hell can prevent. His greed infects him to the point that he sinks deeper into sin just to retain what he has gained, lest he think of obtaining more.  While the whole Kingdom seems to be turning against him he must safe guard his crown that was never rightfully his. And if his problems were not enough, his wife keeps telling him that he is not a “real man” and that only weak women worry about scruples and consequences.

Few 16 year old teenagers can think beyond their next algebra test or boyfriend crisis to find a link between Macbeth’s troubles and the present state of the world.  But some can. When it happens it is pure magic.

A great book or a great film can transport one out of the hell basket or drop one into a different one. Parallels can be drawn or life can be escaped but in any case hiding under my duvet with a fabulous book or sitting in a dark theatre before a celluloid screen is my absolute favorite thing to do.

I have seen two films in the last two days. Both these films made me feel like I had been dipped into a deep book. The camera took its time, pausing for long moments on a face, allowing the story to wash over us rather that pull us in and yank us back. Both these films were also desperately sad with stories of lost individuals searching for new lives to cover gently the memories that haunted them. Whether absorbed in these characters’s lives or talking about Macbeth and his choices I am reminded how important it is to turn to a fictional life to remind us that all dilemmas are really universal.

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Lying in bed with books…

Since arriving in Trinidad I have been eating books. I have always been an avid reader but I often went through dry patches when I would not pick up a book for a while. Maybe as long as a month or two. Now I finish one book at 4pm and pick up another at 9pm as I climb into bed. It has been quite the literary journey. So here in a nut shell is my attempt to put down and remember every thing I’ve read in the past 14 months.  

 

Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards : Read this one month before we arrived. I was sitting on a sofa in Lac Manitou in the rain.  Light weight, perfect material for the Lifetime network movie of the week that it became.  Disappointing ending.

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: Also read this just before arriving. On a Muskoka chair in Eastman, sipping Mohitos and reading passages aloud to Alexandra. I know this book divided the women of the world into those who loved it and those who hated it  but I loved it. Once we realize that, yes, she is self-obsessed, living a year that no mere mortal mother could dream of, then it is a book that is at once inspiring and beautifully written. If this were written by a lessor writer it would be sappy pulp.

 

A Thousand Splendid Sons by Khaled Hosseini: Read this one In Tobago days after arriving here. A great epic story that gripped me to the end and that I actually preferred to The Kite Runner.  He is no Rohinton Mistry but still, a good tale.

 

Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda: I read this one before our furniture even arrived! Here I was in an empty house in Trinidad reading about three people in an apartment in Paris. Loved it. Very evocative and memorable. 

 

Blink and the Tipping Point by Macolm Gladwell: I am putting these together as I read them as if they were one book. I read them on the beach, on my sofa and in bed. Highly readable and informative non fiction books that make us think about how marketers target us to use their products and become part of giant sweeping trends.

 

The Purple Cow by Seth Gordon: Like Malcolm Gladwell is a fascinating commentator on how we interact with the products we live with.  All three of these books helped me in my Media and English course that I had never taught before.

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatji: I read this in the first weeks of being here, I had no friends, no TV and no internet and I was looking for a book that would transport me. I am a huge Ondaatji fan but I don’t believe this was one of his best. I kept wanting the first half of the book to connect with the second.  Felt somewhat like a gimmick, albeit a beautifully written one. This is a writer who could make the phone book poetic.

 

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks: I had been putting this book off for 10 years. I never wanted to read it but knew that I should and it finally fell of the book shelf and into my hands.  What an extraordinary read. Painful and beautiful.  He writes about war like few do.  The only other “war” book I liked as much was Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Actually I preferred that since I loved the characters more.

 

Charlotte Gray: So once I loved Birdsong and I had previously enjoyed Girl and the Lion D’or I thought I would try a third. Truth be told this is the only book on the list that I never finished. Life is too short to read books that you hate.  I was reading this on the beach in Grenada and after reaching the half way point I put it down, went into the hotel library and picked up Bill Bryson’s The Thunderbolt Kid.  Ahhhh…what a relief. I kept the book, loved the telling descriptions of life in 1950’s America, found young Bill totally endearing and felt like I had left school and gone on vacation.

Engleby: a fourth Faulks book and totally different from the others. I thought I would give him another chance after Charlotte Gray. This book was weird, wonderful and confusing. A mystery told by Engleby himself and like him or not, this is a book that stays with you.  Faulks doesn’t necessarily write likable characters but he can write a page turner.

 

Restless by William Boyd: A great spy, mystery tale. My second Boyd, this confirmed for me that he is a great story teller. I read this everyday after school and it transported me from the hot tropics to the English country side. 

 

David Golder by Irene Nemirovsky  :  I had enjoyed Suite Francaise and wanted to try another. In fact scenes from Suite Francaise have stayed with me despite the fact that it felt unedited and unfinished. David Golder was read by my husband before me and he had liked the brutal and honest description of this heartless and lonely wealthy banker and his eventual demise.  The book is short and cutting. A great character study. She was an astute observer of human character. I recall reading this in two days, late at night, in bed.

 

Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry: Such sweet memories. I loved this book.  So much so that I regret that it was borrowed from the school library and I don’t own it. Might need to purchase it for my collection. Loved it. Loved it. Transported me to India, into the living room of one family and their day to day existence. Without a doubt one of the best writers alive today.  Read this one day and night. Not sure if I fed my family or even spoke to them over the 3 days it took to read.

 

A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler: borrowed from the library and I honestly  don’t remember it. Not a good sign.

 

Unburnable by Marie-elena John : This book was the first of many books leant to me by Daniel’s mother, one of students. A group of women here are in a book club one morning a month and since I can never go she had her son drop books on my desk, I am forever grateful to her for introducing me to this strange and wonderful book. Not necessarily an easy read but it certainly led me to Dominica, a caribbean island I had never heard of. This tiny island is the setting for this book and in turn the history of the Carib peoples through the journey of one woman searching for her roots. Excellent.

 

 

The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan: Our librarian at school seems to have the largest expendable budget in the building. Thank God. Because of her our school certainly has the best library in Trinidad. From light to educational, the great author to the not so sublime we have our picks of anything our heart desires. At this point, half way through term 1 and in the middle of a grading frenzy I desired something light but well written. Preferably funny. This book was the ticket. Loved the daughters, more American than Indian and the mothers more Indian than American. A lovely story.

 

Killing me softly by Nicci French: Lent to me by a fellow teacher at the school for the “naughty” bits. Dark,miserable, obsessive tale of the dangers of lust. Awful book. Hated it. Couldn’t put it down and then was so happy it was over.

An Unaccustomed Earth by Jumpa Lahiri: Like Rohinton Mistry Lahiri is one of my all time favorite writers. I simply love everything she writes. This was my third book by her after The Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake and I was the first person to take it out of the library, on the day it arrived.  Loved every story and didn’t want it to end. Ever. Can’t wait for her next book. She writes about the Indian diaspora with poetic insight.

Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: Wasn’t sure I would like this one. My mother “lent” it to me ( I never give back to ones I like!) and i was intrigued having read many of his other works.  This was a Booker book but the subject matter put me off. It is about a group of children cloned and raised to be medical donors. This is always implied, never moralized or spelt out and it told with heartbreaking realism. A frightening look at what the future may have in store. Highly readable and enjoyable and left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

 

We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver; I read this months after it was a book club choice for my wonderful book club in Montreal. I knew it would be a hard read and having started it once and put it down (on holiday in Egypt) I thought the time was right. It is a story told as letters from a mother to her husband about their son who committed a high school shooting. An amazing story that raises some questions you might not want to ask but should. It is hard to use the word “enjoy” in relation to this book” but I was certainly amazed and propelled to read on. 

 

A Short History of Tractor’s In Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka: Well this one came highly recommended so I bought it in Border’s in New York,  but I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. Not particularly funny, interesting or likable characters and not a particularly good story. Truthfully couldn’t really care less. Sorry.

 

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger:  Again this was leant to me by the mom of my student and I thank her heartedly. Wasn’t convinced by the somewhat supernatural nature of the story but ended up loving it. Read it in London, a wonderful and thankful reprieve from a family Christmas.  I hid in the spare room and read to my heart’s content.  An unlikely choice for me but it is written with heart and it’s strangely realistic despite being a love story about a man who time travels and the consequences this has for the love of his life.

A Handbook to Luck and Monkey Hunting by Christina Garcia: I am putting these two together since I read them one after the other and loved them equally.  Garcia is a writer I like and admire and thankfully our trusty librarian has stocked all her books. She is Cuban and writes about both Cuba and the Cubans who have emigrated. Monkey Hunting is about Chinese Cubans and a Handbook to Luck is about a young Cuban American and his magician father. Her first book, Dreaming in Cuban, I studied at University and with some ambition decided to teach to my grade 12 Media Class. Suffice to say her brand of magic realism did not go down too well with my class of super realistic and imagination challenged 17 year olds. They did not love Ms Garcia as much as I.

 

On Chesil Beach by Ian Mcewan: I bought this one for myself in London despite being in hardback. There are very few writers who have this honour but that is how much I love Mr. Mcewan. With this book I have now read all his books except one, Black Dogs and I will get to it soon.  This is a small book with a big idea.  How one night and one decision based on a a repressed childhood and decade can have repercussions that last a lifetime. Not my favorite Ian Mcewan, that honour goes to Atonement but anything by him is a tonic.

 

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: Again thanks to my trusty book club mom for this one. I recommended it to my old book club and they all enjoyed it. Impossible not to like this little book about a man’s life in the circus. One of the best descriptions of a elderly man’s mind I have ever read. I enjoyed this at the end of term 1 just before leaving for London and it was a sweet read. Strangely or perhaps not, it seems everyone who read this also read The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Glass Castle.

East of Eden by Steinbeck: Well here is the big one.  I read this at the start of term 2 and did no work, cooking and barely any talking for close to a week. I owned this book for a year before reading it, waiting, I suppose for the “right” time.  This book is a giant tome that wrapped itself around me and has never let go. It is now in my top 5 off all time. Read it. It is a masterpiece.

 

Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See: My dear friend Jane mailed this to me from Denver sensing that not only would I enjoy it but that I somehow needed it. She was right. It is a lovely book about a time in China when feet were bound and female friends were invaluable in the lonely life of a young girl. Placed me with a gently thud into China where I nestled for a good few days. Ummm…

 

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve : Okay so everyone needs an in between author, like a rebound boyfriend in between the serious ones. Anita is my girl.  She is what I call good fluff, light. readable and distracting.  She writes a good story that is pretty weightless but guiltless, somewhat like a yummy chocolate bar.  This one is about Maine, a place that I adore, and the romance that buds between between a girl and two brothers.  I think I read it between East of Eden and Continental Drift.

 

 

Continental Drift by Russell Banks: I knew nothing about this prolific American writer other than that the Sweet Hereafter and Affliction were two movies based on his novels.   This book was given to me by my good friend Robert and after reading it I passed it on to Francois so that he could read it in bed beside me and prolong the pleasure a little longer. I am supposed to pass it on but I won’t. This one needs to stay in my collection. There are scenes from this book that have stayed with me in the same way that movies do. It is a highly visual, readable book with compelling characters. Can’t wait to pick up another Russell Banks. But will it be as good?

The Space Between Us by Thrifty Umriger: I am a real sucker for books set in India and this one is bittersweet. A good story, a sad tale, a lovely read.

 

Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger: I read this one for the third time as I was teaching it to grade 9. Each time I read it I see something different and I love it more. Plus the kids in my class contribute to the experience. Some loved it as much as me, others found Holden a whiny, ineffectual and annoying character. Either way this book continues to be relevant and I will always teach it.

 

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai: I bought this is New York because it had won the Booker and was supposed to be SO good. Well. The writing is beautiful. Some passages are so gorgeous that I even copied them down but the story is not good enough for all the lovely words. Proof here that a good book needs a good story. Period.

 

Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb: Another book I bought at Borders that came highly recommended. This book introduced me to Ethiopia in a way I never knew about. It didn’t dig deep and stay in me, perhaps a fault in the writing and the character development but nevertheless some great subject matter here and a gentle read.

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon: This is the second book from the writer of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, a highly enjoyable read.  This book is another treat about families and their dysfunctions.  Light but well written. Enjoyed by both people in my bed.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: Read this one in Erika’s bed in Montreal. Summer.  Very readable and slightly shocking story about the craziest family I have ever encountered. Can it really all be true? Shakes up our ideas about what is normal or should be.

 

Love Falls by Esther Freud: Bought in Montreal and read as soon as we got back to Trinidad. I like this writer but have on occasion been disappointed by her. This one is okay. A little of the fluff side but a lovely dip into the country side near Sienna, Italy.

The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud:  It’s hard to write about this one. Liked it very much while I was reading it but the glory has worn off a wee bit. A good read about a group of New Yorkers who are listless and entitled. 

 

 

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult: People have been telling me to read this book for ages but frankly I was a bit of a snob so I never bothered. Then one day in the library when there were no Anita Shreves left I picked it up. Far better than I expected and the writing was not half bad. The story was painfully sad and at times unbelievable but I think I have found a new Anita.

 

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth: A present from my dear friends Pat and Adam. When you read Philip Roth you remember what real writing really is. This is an eye opening excellent book.  I thoroughly enjoyed every page.

 

Shakespeare by Bill Bryson: I was intrigued. I love Bill’s writing but was there anything he could add to the mountain of words already written on the great bard? Well, my hat goes off to My Bryson because with no pretension and with a great amount of wit he has condensed all that has been written about Shakespeare into one little uncomplicated book. This is easy to read and so informative and yet my head never hurt once. And I even laughed.

 

The Birth House by Ami Mckay: Loved this one. Took me all the way to 1930’s Nova Scotia and a small community of women who relied on a  midwife for all their births and ailments. A really lovely read that reminded me of the importance of a sisterhood of women.

 

 Whew.  That is it for now.  I am in the middle if another book but we’ll just call that one the start of a new list.  Do you detect a pattern in the books I love the most? Immigrants, travel, characters who yearn and search for more, India, places undiscovered.  All these books become my friends and rest softly in a place within me.

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