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Showing posts from March, 2012

Book Snapshots: "The Snow Child" by Eowyn Ivey.

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Confession:  I purchased The Snow Child
solely on the basis of its wonderful dust-jacket.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is an unusual novel, and that may make it worth reading for some folks.  Set in 1920s, it is about a couple who, at about age 50, move to Alaska to homestead.  This couple, Jack and Mable, have no children and the pain they feel over this is the book's central issue.

Amid the hardship and isolation of homesteading, Jack and Mable either see or imagine a little girl living in the wilderness.  Mable thinks the girl may be a child they created out of their love, longing for a child, and snow.  She recalls that during her own childhood, she read a Russian fable about an old couple who had done such a thing.  Eventually Jack and Mable meet the mysterious little girl, and the novel unwinds from there.  Who, or what, is the child?  and what will happen to her?

Author Eowyn Ivey, a native of Alaska, does great work showing life on the frontier, its challenges and beautie…

"The Cat's Table" by Michael Ondaatje: A beautifully written story with a splash of mystery and danger.

The Cat's Table is a wonderful novel.   It is set primarily in the early 1950s and the majority of the action takes place on a passenger ship.  Traveling alone on this ship is an eleven-year old boy named Michael.  Michael is leaving his family in Sri Lanka to join his mother in England.  For his meals, Michael is assigned a seat at a table with nine people.  "'We seem to be at the cat's table,'" quips one of the group, "'We're in the least privileged place.'"    

This cat's table includes an interesting group of hard-to-categorize adults as well as two other boys, Ramadhin and Cassius.  The story follows the boys adventures on the ship, although the word "adventures" seems too strong a word for this gentle, insightful read.

Three elements of the book stand out:  First, it is grand to see people and events through the eyes of the boys on the ship.  Second, I like the contrast between the world of an 11-year old and later c…

"1222" by Anne Holt: Was the Suspense Lost in Translation?

Haiku to 1222
Snow blast, train crash. Trapped. Foul play. Hanne save the day? Nice; but low suspense.
Norwegian author Anne Holt is reportedly a very popular author of crime/mystery books in her home country as well as in Germany, Italy and Sweden.  She has written eight books featuring police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen.  1222 is the both the latest book in the series and the first to be translated into English.

The book has interesting elements, but to me they didn't add up to very much suspense.  In 1222, a passenger train crashes at an isolated mountain station during a brutal blizzard.  The passengers take refuge at a nearby hotel.  Subsequently, one of their number is murdered.  Isolated by the storm and mountain location, Hanne Wihelmsen, a retired police inspector who is wheelchair bound as a result of being shot in an earlier book in the series, is reluctantly drawn into solving the murder.  Sounds exciting, right?  Unfortunately, it wasn't for me. I found this read a …

The Tucson Festival of Books is This Weekend.

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The Tucson Festival of Books starts tomorrow.  I'm planning my schedule now.

"Today" by David Miller: An interestingly constructed novel that has a lot to say.

Thirty pages into Today, David Miller's short novel about the reactions of family and friends to the sudden death of one of their number, I thought, what is going on here?

I finished the book a few hours later and thought, what was that?

Then, after considering the book for a few days, I read it again.  Like certain works of poetry or jazz compositions, it asks the reader to bring something to the piece, which makes Today engaging and interesting to unpack.  I found this tasteful novel to be well worth reading - and even worth reading twice.

Today takes place over a few days in August 1924 during which the author Joseph Conrad becomes ill, dies and is buried.  Conrad wrote such classics as Lord Jim, The Heart of Darkness, and much more.  He was born in Poland in 1857.  In 1896 he married Jesse George, an English woman, and they had two sons.  By 1924, Conrad and Jesse live near Canterbury, where the action in Today takes place.  In the book as well as in real life, Conrad had a se…

Welcome March!

Is March coming in like a lamb or a lion where you are?  Strong winds have been blowing around my home for several days now.  Perhaps March is historically windy.  When I was a little girl in grade school, the arrival of March guaranteed an art class in which we made kites.  Which reminds me that it's fun to fly kites, and maybe I'll get around to doing that this month as we segue into spring.

What I am definitely getting around to in March is reading Roberto Bolano's novel, 2666.  Here is a link to Janet Maslin's 2008 review of the book in the New York Times.  Maslin found the book "mesmerizing"; I think it will be challenging to read.  March seems like the perfect month to take it on, this final work by the Chilean author and poet who died in 2003.

Good Night, Night Circus
March is also the time to tell you that after months of having the book, I've only gotten through 82 pages of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  I am not going any further with it. …