Books

24 December 2014

Happy Christmas

I would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas (or holiday season) and to thank you for being such persistent blog followers during the past year - it has been most encouraging. I hope that 2015 will be exceptionally wonderful for you all, in all ways, bringing you much happiness, harmony and success.

My next post will be on the 3rd or 4th January 2015 when I will be continuing with my book reviews.

21 December 2014

Hughes by Andrew Riemer


This amazing book about the art critic Robert Hughes (photo on the right from The Guardian), written by a friend of his from university days, is well worth reading. It is beautifully written and gives an extremely perceptive picture of both the man and the critic. 

Riemer (on the left - photo from auslit.com) sees the education Hughes received at the hands of the Jesuits in Sydney as the creative force behind Hughes's international success not only as a critic but also as a person who deeply and accurately understood art and its place in society. Hughes himself outwardly rejected Catholicism, but it was actually the discipline of that religion that gave him the insights and the understandings that eventually propelled him into the limelight. 

His accumulated knowledge and power of analysis allowed him to see what others around him failed to grasp, be it the death of modernism in America or Australia's cultural emptiness. As Riemer writes: Though it is never stated explicitly, the prevailing impression left behind by Hughes's record of his return to Australia is of a cultural and social emptiness, akin to the emptiness of the great open spaces, but without their spiritual consolation.

Hughes may have rejected conventional, traditional religion but he was very aware, no doubt because of those early years with the Jesuits that, in the end, '... art and religion are the same thing.'.

17 December 2014

The Light Between Oceans by M.L.Stedman


I read this book on the advice of someone who had read it and loved it. I was not disappointed. While the main character, Tom Sherbourne, joins together, not only the other characters but also events stretching from WWI through to the 1950s, it is the lighthouse that has the central position. 

The description of the lighthouse, off the south-west coast of Australia, and the area around it, is beautiful, and it permeates the entire book. There is a delicate balance between poetic descriptions of natural features, both on the island and on the mainland, and the suspenseful telling of the story. 

Without going into too much detail, the discovery, by Tom, the lighthouse keeper, and his young wife, Isabel, of a dead man and a baby washed up in a small boat initiate an overwhelming sequence of events. Right and wrong become blurred at the edges and decisions made, for whatever reason, draw heavy lines across the lives of all those involved. In fact, like the horror of Tom's experiences in WWI, these choices and experiences embed themselves in each and everyone of the people affected, stretching across decades. A book well worth reading.
(The photo of M.L.Stedman is from www.elle.it)
Watch the video. 






14 December 2014

Quotes



This time, I decided on something a bit different: two thought-provoking quotes, one in English and one in Swedish (for my Swedish blog followers).

Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran  
Agresto (an American sent to Iraq to do something about the universities) believed that Iraqis hadn’t focused on ethnic and religious divisions before the war, and it was the CPA’s (Coalition Provisional Authority) quota system that had encouraged them to identify themselves by race and sect. . .’ P.284

Förbländningen av Elias Canetti
De handlar och vet inte vad de gör; de har sina vanor och vet inte varför; de vandrar hela sitt liv och känner ändå inte sin väg: sådana är de, massmänniskorna. P.82

10 December 2014

Lilian's Story by Kate Grenville

If you want to be part of the book Giveaway on the 16th December (the winner can choose either The Space in Between or Room Nineteen), you must have subscribed to my Newsletter by the 15th December.


Lilian's Story is the story of Lilian Singer (aka Bea Miles), who is born into a middle-class family but who eventually ends up as a bag lady, quoting poetry for a few pence, on the streets of Sydney. Lilian's early life, coloured by prosperity, advantage and the incestuous advances of her father was lived during an age when the words education and women were very rarely uttered in the same sentence, and it was only thanks to her independent spirit and strong will that she eventually gained admission to university.

An extremely intelligent woman, Lilian refused to conform to others' expectations, and, although her life took many turns for the worse, she always retained a cheerful and positive outlook on everything around her.

When I was a child, I often stayed with my grandmother, who lived in Paddington when Paddington was still working class. We would catch the tram along Oxford Street, and, sometimes, we would glimpse Bea Miles walking along the street. “That is Bea Miles,” my grandmother would say, not without a touch of sympathy in her voice. When I read Kate Grenville's book, it was with the feeling that I already had a 'connection' with the main character. The book takes those sketchy images from my childhood and expands them into a real person. Lilian's Story is a wonderful book - extremely sad, exasperating and, in parts, even humorous. I would definitely recommend it.


Photo of Kate Grenville from www.news.com.au

06 December 2014

If on a winter's night a traveller by Italo Calvino



I read this book some years back, and, apart from it being a great book, I thought I would mention it here, directly after Cloud Atlas, because David Mitchell, the author of Cloud Atlas, was fascinated by Calvino's book when he first read it as an undergraduate. Even though, many years later, after a second reading, he noted that he “didn't find it ‘breathtakingly inventive’ as he had the first time...”, he goes on to stress that “however breathtakingly inventive a book is, it is only breathtakingly inventive once – with once being better than never.”

The structure of If on a winter's night a traveller, with its broken chapters and its separate stories, obviously had a very positive ‘once being better than never’ impact on the future author of Cloud Atlas. It also had a a very positive impact on me.

In essence, the book is about reading, and you are the main character in the book. At the beginning of the book, you discover that the pages in the book you are reading are in the wrong order, and you return to the book shop to get a new copy. There is another person having the same problem as yourself, and, eventually, the two of you meet, and you both set out to find a complete version of the book.

The book is divided into twenty-two sections or chapters, where every odd-numbered section (in second-person) tells about your quest to read the book you have started (a quest that always seems to be thwarted in one way or another), and every other section is about those books - a delightful mix of genres, topics and geographical locations. Forget beginning, body and conclusion, because If on a winter's night a traveller shows that such structural limitations are not necessary in the telling of a suspenseful and interesting story (or stories).

The photo of Italo Calvino is from www.roncaney.it 

03 December 2014

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell


This would have to be one of the best books I have read in 2014. At 529 pages, it is not a book that can be read in one sitting, but it is a book that is difficult to put down. Mitchell weaves together six totally separate stories from different time periods and different parts of the globe into a whole that stretches beyond place and time.

I found it fascinating how he changes styles, and even language, between the stories: for example, in the first story, set around the mid-nineteenth century, he uses a slightly archaic English, while in the story entitled 'Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After', he takes the liberty of creating completely new words and ways of expressing them.
 Photo of David Mitchell from www.theguardian.com

His grasp of factual knowledge in the areas forming the basis to his stories: music, the exploration and subjugation of the South Pacific, corporate greed... is admirable, and, as the novel progresses, it can be seen how the totally separate stories merge with each other in subtle ways. At the heart of the novel is the possibility of reincarnation and the idea that life - as a life source - continues, no matter what.

Everything is connected and interchangeable; life and death are part of the same process; nothing is wasted, everything is important. I think that the book can be best summed up in the words of one of the characters, Zachry, who says: 'Who can say where the cloud's blowed from or who the soul'll be tomorrow?' 

In 2012, Cloud Atlas was made into a film by Lana and Andy Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer. Watch the official   trailer.