Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Kim Edwards

2005, 401 pp.

Rating: 4.5

I was impressed by this book, and especially so as it was the author's debut.

The following paragraph isn't really a "spoiler" as it happens in the first few pages of the book.

Dr. David Henry and his wife Norah can't get to the hospital in time to have their baby, so they go to his own doctor's office. The birth goes fine and a healthy baby boy named Paul is born. However, they unexpectedly have twins (it's 1964), and there is a "problem" with their daughter--she has Down's Syndrome. Due to his own family background of having a chronically ill sister, David tells the nurse Caroline to take it to a "home". Meanwhile, he tells his wife that their daughter Pheobe has died. The rest of the book goes into their marriage and family relationships in the aftermath of this "secret".

I loved the story for several reasons. First, it was very well written and was a very easy read. I read the book in a 24 hour period. Also, it is mostly set in Lexington, Ky, and I live only an hour from there. Many of the descriptions of the bluegrass area were things I recognized and appreciated. I related to almost all the main characters for personal reasons. In fact, this book was one I chose to offer about myself for the Something About Me Challenge. David feels like an "imposter" in his professional life, Norah has postpartem depression, and Paul is kept from the knowledge that his sister is alive. These were all issues that I have experienced as well.

The book is a little sad and explores the consequences of family secrets, but it is also hopeful. I look forward to Kim Edwards' next novel.

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

The Inheritance of Loss
Kiran Desai

2005, 318 pp.

Winner: Booker Prize, NBCC

Rating: 3.5

While this book has garnered much critical acclaim, I found it very difficult to complete. It took me over two months to get through it. Once I put it down, I just wasn't compelled to pick it up again. It sort of felt like a school assignment. Luckily, the last 1/3 of the book went by much faster than the first 2/3. Before reading, I would highly recommend doing a little research if you are ignorant (like I was) of Indian culture or history. One link that shed a little light on the subject for me was here.

There are two settings for the book--America and Kalimpong. Sai lives with her grandfather, a former judge, at the foothills of the Himalayas. She falls in love with Gyan, her tutor, who is sympathetic to the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF). The clash of ideals between the Indians who want change and those who wish to retain aspects of British colonialism is one of the two main conflicts in the novel.

The other conflict is that of the Indians who emigrate to the United States and the conditions of their lives once they live there. Biju, who is the son of the Judge's cook, is one of the lucky few who get a visa to go to America. But once he is there, is he really better off? The novel asks the question -- how much does each person care about their individual culture, nationality, and family. What does our "inheritance" mean to us?

While I appreciate these themes and do think the writing was brilliant at times, I wouldn't recommend this book for most readers.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Princess and the Goblin

The Princess and the Goblin
by George MacDonald

1872, 241 pp.

Rating: 4.5

This is a delightful story about eight year old Princess Irene, her great-great-great-great grandmother, and a miner boy named Curdie. Together they fight to foil the goblins' sinister schemes. Little Irene is a true princess and acts like a little lady, while Curdy is a very brave and heroic boy.

Highly recommended for all ages. I will try to read the sequel, The Princess and Curdie, sometime this year as well. I am also set to read Phantastes by MacDonald for the Fantasy Challenge. I can't wait to get to this more "adult" fantasy tale. I really enjoyed MacDonald's writing, and I am not at all surprised that he was an inspiration to both Lewis and Tolkien.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

March by Geraldine Brooks

by Geraldine Brooks

2005, 273 pp.

2006 Pulitzer Prize

Rating: 3.5

I really wanted to love this book, but I ended up only liking most of it and despising parts of it.

March tells the story of Mr. March. You know, the father in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. We didn't know much about him from Little Women, and really, maybe we were better off that way than reading Brooks' reimagined version. I did not like her "version" of Marmee, either.

Some of this book is extremely well done. The civil war scenes and the descriptions of the plight of the slaves were excellent. The characters of Mr. and Mrs. March were not. Although they both do have their admirable moments, their "reputation" is severely tarnished in this book and neither is very likable at all. Their "conflicts" felt like they were from a soap opera. I am not one who cares for soap operas and certainly do not wish to feel like I'm "reading" one in a Pulitzer Prize winning book.

I recommend it solely to those who like to read "prize winners" or to those who are Little Women enthusiasts. But be warned: you may wish you did not have these new visions of the Marches competing with the original.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Grendel by John Gardner

by John Gardner
174 pp.

Rating: 2

I didn't like this book. AT ALL. I absolutely love Beowulf, and I highly recommend reading or listening to Seamus Heaney's version. Whereas Beowulf could almost be considered a Christian work, Grendel is nihilistic. Enough said.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Thank you!

Thank you, Kristin, from This is the Life for nominating me for The Thinking Blogger Award. I really appreciate it!

According to the rules I must now nominate 5 other blogs who make me think. Many of the them are part of the NYT Notable Book Challenge, and some of them are also part of my Book Awards reading group. I really enjoy reading their posts. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Amy from The Sleepy Reader

2. Dana from Think Pink

3. Book Haven

4. Mercy's Maid

5. Lisa from Books.Lists.Life

Tag, you're it! Here are the rules:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.