The Second World War has come to an end and it has changed the world forever. Just reading this book you can see the huge changes that have taken place within families and this is why this book is so enthralling. I like family stories and this book encompassed several of them - all interlinked by having connections to one street.
Parents can shout and scream and say "you have to do what I say" but there is nothing one can do when one has had a daughter move from being a stay at home, domestic, obedient girl to being one of a very crack Airforce team, assembling from salvage a plane which will go on combat missions. She is also under strict orders not to discuss any matters pertaining to her work with anyone and anyone includes her father. A little difficult for an autocratic father who has been used to implicit obedience to understand or accept - this is exactly what happens and he retorts by saying you will get a crack across your head if you do not say what you are doing!
How April Grove changed in all its aspects is the story of Moonlight and Lovesongs. The title is deceptive as it may indicate a light hearted read - the light hearted bits are there but it is much more for such a small book. The heartache of separation, sometimes forever, the loss of loved ones and not knowing whether they are dead or alive, the agony of having a prisoner of war son, and the sheer futility at the loss of human life is shown over and over again.
One thing which came out very clearly in the story apart from the human angle is the sheer grit of the British public, the absolute support for their authorities - despite the hardships, the rationing and the restrictions. The restriction on travel, the lack of petrol, the lack of proper clothing, the use of coupons, the restrictions on the food available as everything was turned to the war effort was accepted without revolt - maybe a few grumblings here and there but it seemed to be shushed at source as it was the greater good that was important.
One of the rationing aspects which was awesome was the making of an apricot tart with pureed carrots - how one could camoflauge that only God knows!!!
The book dealt with each inhabitant of April Grove from Carol who was forced to give up her baby born out of wedlock by a domineering, cruel mother to Olive who was madly in love with her husband Derek and then falls in love with a quiet man Ray despite her not wanting to. There is Diane fighting her feelings for a Yankee airman as she detests everything "American" as she feels bitterly that they came into the war too late. How some families allowed the war to drive them apart and how some families just became closer and more supportive. The stories are so personal that I could well believe that this is not fiction.
Both memes gives one an insight into what is happening in the book blogging world, what is the latest in reading and what is the best the book world has to offer!
This was a new book which I could not resist. I love his books and the seller was most persuasive!
The other three books are from my second hand book shop in Wellawatte. I never know what is going to turn up there. It could be old, old books or brand new. Its like a lucky dip.
Anne Tyler -
Norah Lofts - The Homecoming. Part of a triology but that will have to wait for discovery in the future. I liked the book mark on this one. It is part of Raleigh Library in Kensington (Australia) and the charge for taking this book is ten cents!!!
I like Monica Dickens and I like London so this was a good choice I think!
I will be reading Room at the Top by John Braine, The Quiet American by Graham Greene
and hopefully another Jean Plaidy. She got pushed back this week for other books which caught
my eye. I also like to finish the Monica Dickens this week so it is quite a lot of reading.
On a personal note Shivanthi my second daughter went back to Melbourne after a whirlwind three week holiday. I think she'd need a vacation there to get over the one here!!! House is very quiet once again.
This was a different read. So many "main" characters all important to the story. Eddie is a kind of apprentice to Ted Cole, a famous children's book author. You also get Marion his wife who is not interested in her husband or her daughter after she lost her two sons. You get Ruth never knowing why her mother is so disinterested in her/almost dislikes her it seems to the child in Ruth.
We have Eddie as a very young man madly in love with Marion - a love which he continues till the end of the book and we have Ted - almost a serial lover, seducing the young mothers of his fans, seducing anyone and everyone including Hannah - his daughters best friend. You have Ruth in the midst of this dysfunctional family - her only links to her family being the stories around her two brothers and the number of photographs of them adorning their home.
Fast forward 30 to 40 years - both Ruth and Eddie are fairly famous. Marion is missing escaping to Canada and writing under a pseudonym there. Ruth is still footloose - finding it difficult to put down roots, though she does want to get married and more importantly for her have a child. We still have Eddie hopelessly in love with Marion who is almost 40 years his senior. His love has not even waned never mind died. Ruth uses her friend's Hannah's life in her novels and Eddie uses Marion aging Marion with each book.
The story is long drawn and winding - I read the first part put it aside and then came to it much later and finished it in one go. At the end it became more tantalising as you wanted to know where Ruth was going after all this time. It came together well in the end.
This was a win for me from Sakura of Chasing Bawa and one which I looked forward to immensely. My reading of Japanese authors has been rather limited and having heard great reviews of this book I awaited it very eagerly.
For me the book was not an easy read, despite a delightful font (a pet grouse of mine!) and a short book. Chihiro has lost her mother after a prolonged illness and is a bit estranged from her father. Her relationship with Nobu who comes with a chequered past is intriguing. Are they in love or are they just comfortable with each other. Has Chihiro drifted into the relationship because of the lack of any other focus in her life and is Nobu selfish in wanting to cling to someone because he is generally not good with people.
This was my first read of a Yoshimoto novel so I have nothing to compare her writing with. The characters seem to deal with past issues more than with the present. The past is so complex that it colors their whole present and makes progress rather difficult. The story attempts to move from darkness to light - from past traumatic histories to a more pleasant, lighter future.
The appearance of the lake, the mystery surrounding it, the two characters which occupy the house which Nobu had lived in added to the mystery which I did not understand very well. Neither could I connect it to the main story very well. It seemed a bit far fetched to me at this point.
I hope I do get to Yoshimoto's earlier novels later on as they have been huge successes. This one was not for me.
This is a most glum cover for this book. The one I have is a very intriguing one of a very enticing girl on the cover and I cant find it to put here. This is becoming a recurring complaint.
The story set between the two World Wars deals with Charley whose Christmas present is a holiday to Paris. It should have been a bright breezy story with Charley enjoying the sights and sounds of Paris but instead it changed his life. He met Lydia a Russian emigre who is displaced and fatherless and who longs for a husband who is in prison for life (drugs and murder).
As we go through the story the contrast is very apparent between Charley - close to family, very English, aware of what is expected in his life and wanting to conform, not to create waves and disrupt anyone's life, and then you get his friend Simon - friends from childhood rude, crude and ruthless. The very antithesis of Charley.
The stories of Lydia and Simon disrupt Charley's very placid world - to the extent that he knows that he can never view the world in the same way as before he visited Paris. It is the contrasts of the two characters - Simon and Lydia on one side and Charley on the other, which make the whole book.
Slightly old fashioned as against my other reads - this takes a little getting used to. Not old fashioned in the Jane Austen sense which I would love to read over and over again, but different.
The weather in Sri Lanka is hot, humid and unbearable. If anyone out there has any cold weather, please send it here.
Mailbox Monday is on tour right now. The host for August is Staci from Life in the Thumb. I am combining it with another meme It's Monday What are you reading hosted by Book Journey.
The two memes links one to a host of bloggers which would give you an insight into the very latest in books, trends, and what is happening in the book world.
Please visit both blogs and see whether there is anything that is of interest to you.
Only one book came into my house (which is not such a bad thing). This was a win from vvb32reads. Thank you Velvet and Helen Hollick who sent it on to me so very promptly.
Came in a record six days! Sea Witch deals with pirates and is a new subject for me. Looking forward to reading this one.
For this week I do have a pile of reading to get through. The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto (strangely despite glowing reviews I am struggling with this one), Christmas Holidays by
Somerset Maugham (am on a Maugham reading jag right now), there are two Jean Plaidy's
also on my list. Hopefully I will be able to get through the lot.
Now to visit the other blogs. Always such a pleasurable thing to do.
This was from the beginning a sad book. From being the only very loved child of Henry VIII and Katharine, she went in turns to being declared illegitimate, brought back and forth into the spotlight when it suited her father and knew always that Elizabeth was going to outshine her.
I read Queen of the Realm just a while ago and I am glad I did because it gave me a sight into the same events described in this book from the point of view of the Princess Elizabeth. This book delved into the same period from the point of view of Mary Tudor. So similar and yet so different.
Throughout the book Mary Tudor although wanting to be Queen, wanted more than anything else to bring back the Roman Catholic religion to the country. She however did not want the blood of those who did not believe in the faith on her hands - and despite constant entreaties to her to be more cautious of Elizabeth, she wanted to believe that Elizabeth loved her as a sister and only wanted what was good for her. She refused to believe that Elizabeth was scheming and out for the main chance - to get the throne for herself. Mary Tudor just wanted the love of her husband (which she did not get) and a child (this was an overwhelming need and one which was very cruelly not fulfilled). The latter was specially harsh because she went through the symptoms of a pregnancy which was later declared a phantom one.
With the death of Edward, Mary was declared Queen and her reign marked by so much bloodshed got her the ambiguous title of Bloody Mary. Guided by advisors who were only interested in furthering their own ends, Mary was too weak to stand up for herself unlike Elizabeth who knew exactly what to do.
Deprived of her mother whom she did not see again, deprived of a father's love and concern and finally not even getting the affection she wanted from her husband, Mary Tudor's life was a sad, hollow one. The machinations of court, the fear that you never knew when you were going to be "in" or "out" added to the sadness in her life.
I was glad I read it mainly to get the Tudor period from another aspect. With so much emphasis on Elizabeth, this was a different read.
From the very beginning you know you are in for a treat. Ms. de Belle Byrd gives us the full gamut of Southern ladies, their style, their conversation (which is a treat) and you are in for a very pleasant time.
The manner in which Southerners seem to look at life was vivacious and animated. Nothing was quiet or very prim and proper. It was very much taken at face value and worked at accordingly.
My knowledge of the American South is minimal - just to cookbooks which will speak of corn bread and such, and the ladylike charm of the Southern belle. Here you get a good eyeful of how
a Southerner looks at life, family and obviously family is extremely important when the author even starts to plan a wedding when the subject of a boyfriend is mentioned by her daughter!
A humorous look at life and one you can pick up read, keep aside and come back easily. Sent to me by the author. Thank you Ma'am.
My copy of this book is a gorgeously old fashioned green and white Penguin but I dont seem to be able to find one to put on the blog so this is the alternative.
Set in Yorkshire and London in 1933 the murder happens whilst on a flight to France. The pre-meditated murder is so meticulously planned and executed that I was surprised that the person actually got caught! The murderer is revealed almost at the beginning of the story and for me was my first example of what is called the "inverted detective novel". Unusual.
Charles Swinburn is 35 years old, a steady, prosperous man who has built up by sheer hard work a small industry producing electric motors. Businesses all over England have been hit by a recession and Charles has not been spared. In his favour Charles is concerned for the workers and their families and how loyal employees are going to survive. At this point in the story Charles has fallen in love and he knows fully well that this love is not going to last unless he is a well established man. Una is not going to like a failure. It is this focus that makes Charles's mind turn to murder.
Charles's alibi is perfect - he is on a cruise when the murder takes place, but as usual unexpected, unforeseen events cast their shadows and the relentless pursuit by Inspector French who leaves no stone unturned.
Another unusual aspect of this story is that though the Inspector solves the murder, he takes almost a back seat in the story. He explains in the last chapters how he solved the murder, but it is the murderer himself who takes prominence in this story.
A story of three German families in the prelude to World War I trying to cope with the changes coming so fast that they find themselves a bit confused as to what should be done and how should things be done. Two Catholic families and one Jewish family from Berlin form the crux of the story. We have the Feldens - they look after their two chimpanzees as part of the family, eccentric and quirky, they do not see another way of life and look askance at others and the way they live. We next have the Bernins - more active in the political life of the country, a government minister, people holding positions of importance and next we have the Merzes a house full of extended family whose endless arguments and conversations lead nowhere other than to more complicated confusion than before.
Almost comedy because we have all the characters bar one living in a time capsule of their own, no relevance to present and coming events. We only have Sarah who is aware of coming events as well as her life as it is, realizing very early on that her husband is a no gooder and deciding to separate from him to the horror of the whole community.
In other reviews it has been mentioned that the attitude of families like these led very easily to the horror of the Nazi regime. That each family lived in its own vacuum never seeing what was in front of them. It is a question that I could not answer from this book. It was not an easy read despite being a smallish book.
A story of three German families in the prelude to World War I trying to cope with the changes coming so fast that they find themselves a bit confused as to what should be done and how should things be done. Two Catholic families and one Jewish family from Berlin form the crux of the story.
I do not even know how to start to review this book. Based on some of the author's own experiences and life the story depicts how a convicted Australian bank robber and heroin addict spends ten years in India.
Narrated beautifully, so descriptive as to be almost unbelievable the story starts with his arrival in Bombay enroute to Germany. Deciding to stay back, befriended by Prabaker a guide who becomes a true friend - after having been robbed of all he owns, Lin as he is now known lives in the slums of Bombay as part and parcel of the teeming city, befriending many, setting up a clinic of sorts and helping people in the slums. Being in such close contact with the people of the slums he learns Urdu, Marathi and Hindi and amazes those around him with the way he adapts to the local environment.
Reading it one feels that it is biographical but the author says that he has taken only some events from his own life and added to it. This is a book which takes you into every level of Indian society - from the village with its simple rural folk, to the slums of Bombay with the mass of humanity - poor and striving to get out of this poverty, then the middle class and the uber rich. The different layers of society are very clearly marked and revealed all in its respective place - forming the whole which is Bombay. The corruption in both the police and justice systems, the gangs that operate and control every aspect of life, the foreigners on the periphery are all depicted in this story.
I particularly liked the way the characters can balance their professional lives as being hit men, murderers, gangsters with their private life of being good Hindus, Muslims or Christians. The two were distinct entities and one did not infringe on another. A difficult balancing act but which is done perfectly in the story.
The story is in turns swashbuckling, very pirate ish!, gruesome, and uplifting. The degrees of friendship and brotherhood that develops between some of the characters is inspiring and the level that people will stoop to, to achieve power and glory are also awesome.
For me Georgette Heyer is in the category of Agatha Christie, Jane Austen and Joanna Trollope. Absolutely comfort reading specially when I am pressurised and harassed! as I am right now. I love to read her books and gently drift into a world where schedules, on time deliveries, deliveries which get late, bankers who are obstructive and the general tea world in Sri Lanka in an uproar are so far apart from this gorgeous world of tea parties, whist drives, drives in St James's park, romantic interludes and dinners that sound like banquets but which are actually everyday fare are normal everyday things.
This story of twin brothers, falling into scrapes from boyhood - one covering up for the other and the ultimate cover up with one brother actually wooing the bride of the other! and winning her heart eventually. With a mother who is much loved but drives them both to exasperation with her attitude to money, Cressy - the bride who is nonplussed but realizes very early on what is happening, the usual dismal relations who are horribly boring but very interesting to read about and a romance which you know will end happily.
Beautifully written in the first person, the story told from Elizabeth I's point of view is crafted so cleverly that it seems like a memoir as well as a story as we go through her entire life. From the age of four when she knew that trouble was afoot with her mother Anne Boleyn to growing up in the shadow of so many step mothers and siblings the story goes step by step to what Elizabeth eventually became.
It was very interesting to see how focussed Elizabeth was from the very beginning, knowing that it was quite possible that she will one day reign over England. Once the thought got into her head, and it did quite early in her life, this was uppermost in her mind and the country and the people were of paramount importance for her.
A brilliant strategist and politician, she seemed to be weak where men were concerned liking those who flattered her and wooed her! At the same time domineering and conciliatory when it suited her Elizabeth was a brilliant sovereign who used every opportunity and person in her court to her benefit.
The one sad feature of her reign was her overwhelming love for Lord Dudley which she repressed as she felt that being single was a better proposition for the country than if she got married and allowed someone to "commandeer" her. This heartbreak and her guilt which she carried for ever whenever she ordered an execution were the two emotional features of her story.
A fascinating woman and a magnificent sovereign as depicted by Jean Plaidy.
I will not be around till Wednesday unless I get access to the internet somewhere so this is why both the meme's are coming up early on Sunday morning here. Mailbox Monday originated from Marcia of The Printed Page. Presently on tour the host for August is Staci from Life in the Thumb.
Both memes deal with what books came into your home and what you read/intend reading over the week. The links on both are fabulous as it gives you an insight into what is happening in the book reading world.
I had a fabulous mailbox. Jean Plaidy by the score and Penguin books as well. Unfortunately I do not seem to be able to get the plain, simple penguin covers I want!
Another Somerset Maugham to read next week. Christmas Holidays sounds good.
The only Georgette Heyer in the pile. False Colors.
Another one on Marie Antoinette. Like the Tudors something I will not get tired of.
I like the era WWI and WWII are favourite periods of mine. This cover says it all.
Also a film (which I have not seen) like the look of this one.
Another c lassic. Graham Greene The Quiet American. I am coming to the classics rather late but better late than never.
Mine is a penguin but this cover is also good.
Mine is a classic green and white penguin cover which I love.
The murders of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard dealt in this book.
The Razor's Edge read and reviewed a few days ago. This cover does not do the book justice at all. It seems so dull in comparison to the wonderful book it dealt with.
I will visit the links a bit late but looking forward to them all. I hope to get to some bookstores in Singapore as well as visit the second hand book shops in Bras Basah.
I have the classic Penguin cover but try as I might I could not find this! The story set in 1919 has Somerset Maugham as the narrator of the story throughout. I liked this and I think its the first time I have read a book with the author as the narrator (other than a memoir).
Larry a fighter pilot post WWI is dissatisfied with his life - though engaged to Isabel, he wants to "loaf" for two years before he decides to marry. The situation is unacceptable to not just Isabel but also to her family, the engagement is broken amicably and Larry disappears to Paris to find himself. We then have Eliot - Isabel's uncle, Isabel's mother Louisa, the author himself and a few characters to flesh out the story.
The entire story revolves around Larry with others as being almost satellites of him. He is a loner, very much of a peace and love thing long long before it became popular. As a result to those around him, he seems alien almost not quite right in the head as most people cannot understand what he is looking for. Those around him are searching for the material aspects of life - security, love, marriage, property whereas Larry is looking for God and the Infinite.
The style of writing is chatty - almost always the story unravels in a cafe, over dinner or at a lunch on the Riviera. The background is idyllic - Europe at its best and it is a nice background for a story.
I have picked up quite a few Penguins (coming up for Mailbox Monday) and this was a particularly good one. I liked very much the mix of American and European philosophy with a dash of the Eastern - to spice things up.
Beverley, Charmaine and Evelyn three sisters living in Maryland - all wishing their lives would be different. The three sisters are all different - Evelyn, educated wealthier than her sisters, a husband who seems steady, well employed. Charmaine with a lying, drug taking husband who does not seem to even accidentally tell the truth, and then you get Beverley single turning 30, desperate not to be alone. All three want the security of a partner and marriage even though the partner could be the most undesirable person around! The fear of being alone, growing old without a husband is paramount in the sisters minds.
The bickering between three grown up sisters is unbelievable. I do know that sisters quarrel - but for grown up women to bicker and irritate each other was not quite right. Anything could trigger it off and everything was an implied criticism of each other. The complexity of human relationships is very apparent in this book. The sisters do love each other, they do support each other but they are envious of Evelyn and her money, they are each critical of Clarence who is a dead beat and who they feel is a drain on Charmaine and each sister seems to think that she knows best where everything is concerned.
Evelyn has two children, wants to do a P.Hd and Charmaine just wants to get back to college eventually and finish her degree. Beverley just wants to get married. Things unravel in each sister's life - Charmaine discovers Clarence taking his lying and prevarication to another level, Beverley discovers Vernon cheating on her and for the first time starts a relationship with a white man, and Evelyn discovers faults in Kevin never seen before.
What is also very remarkable in this story is that the world is divided into two categories. them and us. Black and white. Whether it is a pretty girl, a neighbourhood, eating habits, clothes, whatever - in this book it is distinctly marked and the girls themselves live with the feeling that they are always going to be second class citizens, they seem to have a chip on their shoulder and always having to fight for what they want, or what they feel is their due.
A very, very interesting read for me. My experience/knowledge of racial integration or rather segregation is limited so for me educational as well.
My last weekend was spent in Mannar - a ten hour journey away from Colombo. Mannar is where we have an orphanage for girls. The place is dry, arid and desert like but the place where the orphanage is built is like a little oasis. A sea of green amidst the brown. All because water channels from a huge tank nearby run through this land. As a result agriculture can be done year around - the home is already self sufficient in rice, onion cultivation along with chillies is going on apace and things seem so settled.
A few photographs from there.
Some of the smaller children.
Children getting ready to go to the temple on their bikes. It was a special festival day on Saturday.
This weekend is exciting for me. We leave on Sunday for Singapore. My son is going with us and will then proceed to Melbourne. My second girl in Melbourne will join us in Singapore and return home with us.
My book has a much more interesting cover than this one though I could not locate it! The story is so much more interesting than this rather vapid cover! a romantic triangle always existed from time immemorial in fact and the 1870's of New York was no exception.
We have Newland Archer and May, very rich, very conservative ( I found it hard to imagine Americans being this!), very set in their ways and oh so rigid in what is right, correct and wrong. The family is described as being tribal and will close ranks against outsiders who dare to think they could infiltrate into what is a very closed society. Outsiders will remain outsiders till the end of the book when we see a disintegration of this exclusivity and the freedom of society for which most of us view America as being.
Archer and May are people from their own society - hidebound by rules though Archer does hope to break away from the rigid outlines set out by society. May is determined to carry on just the same as her predecessors. To this we add the third side of the triangle - Ellen - broken away - married a foreigner, albeit a Count and now back in a kind of disgrace as she has dared to even think of divorce. The disgrace is to the clan - not merely Ellen - and here the whole family aligns itself together with the exception of Archer who understands why Ellen is seeking a divorce. To the rest of the family, irrespective of why and how and the validity of the reasons is the fact that a married woman's place is by her husband irrespective of whatever the husband will or will not do.
The story deals with how society and family moulds an individual and how we all tend to stay within these barriers (more or less). Maybe we break out more today than in the 1870's but in Newland Archer's day the family and society were the make or break in your life and you jolly well followed society's rules if you knew what was good for you. How Newland and May stay together, how Ellen goes back to Paris and how life continues in the same mould as before is the story of the book.
A happy ending for Newland and May's son - a twist in the tale almost but you must read the book to know that. A classic this one!