August 15, 2005

The Almond Picker - Simonetta Agnello Hornby

An interesting novel set in Italy really provides an inside look at Italian life in the early 20th century. The story begins with the death of Mennulara, a maid in the service of one of the declining elite Italian families. She, however, held a uniquely powerful position, having for many years been responsible for family business affairs. Her funeral requests and panic over their ignorance of the source and status of the family fortune cause extreme distress for the Alffalipe children who are nothing more than spoiled and stupid adults. Mennularas friendships with Dr. Mendico, the town doctor and Father ----- the priest are the major means by which the story of her life is revealed to us. They seem to be the only people who know what an honest, trustworthy and beautiful person she is.
The incredible ignorance and immaturity of the Alffalipes carries through to the end and although one of them has some insight into the true character of Mennulara as she is remembering her childhood, none of them end up drawing any conclusions that are remotely accurate about her. They blunder through the book and go their destructive way.

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Posted by Priscilla at 08:48 AM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2004

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

This is a very different type of book which describes in vivid detail the activities of the various inhabitants of a London neighborhood during the course of a summer day. I was at first put off by the writing since none of the characters are named but rather referred to in reference to their apartment number, the man in #19, the couple in #21, etc. But I quickly found myself getting very involved with these people in the ordinary struggles of their lives so that I couldn't wait to see what, if anything, would be resolved for them. And all the while knowing that that they are bonded together by a tragic event which is yet to be revealed to me.

The writing is superb providing such exquisite detail that you feel immersed in the story. The surprise ending, foreshadowed at the start of the book, makes you want to go back and re-read the beginning to see things from that perspective again.

Posted by Priscilla at 07:09 PM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2004

The Member of the Wedding - Carson McCullers

Very similar to her other book "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" with the main character Frankie (F. Jasmine) being a young girl 11-12 yrs old, intense, unhappy, searching.
It's a good read. Likeable characters, especially Bernice, the Black cook/mother figure. Not much happens - it all occurs in the span of a summer in the hot south but there are some really profound kind of observations made by this little girl about life/momentary connections with other people, longing for love, closeness, meaning in life. One noteable conversation with Bernice about how we're all stuck in our own skins without being able to escape, with others yet separate from all. Frankie prefers to describe it as "loose".

Posted by Priscilla at 07:11 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2004

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers

With Carson McCullers books coming back into popularity I wanted to see what this classic book was all about. The story held my attention throughout but overall was rather sad. The events intimitately involve several characters all having in common their friendship with deaf-mute Mr. Singer. There's Mick, the adolesent girl with a passion for classical music, trying to make her place in the world. Jake, the stranger in town, frequently drunk and always with this inner passion for the workers of this country. Dr. Copeland, the black doctor, consumed with his desires to better the negro plight yet nearing the end of his usefulness. And finally there's Biff the restaurant owner who recently lost his wife, but is mainly concerned with his own personal choices. McCullers gives us a vivid picture of the personal struggles of these individuals over the course of a hot southern summer. All form a special bond with Mr. Singer, who comes to stay in the boarding house of Mick's family. The characters are united in their belief that Mr. Singer can help them to work out their problems simply because he is so peaceful and willing to "listen". They all become dependent on their visits with him but no one is aware that he too is desperately struggling with the issues of his own life.
I highly recommend this book as a realistic look at the disappointments of life in a small southern town.

Posted by Priscilla at 07:30 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2004

Faith Fox - Jane Gardam

An entertaining story about people surrounding baby Faith after her mother Holly dies in childbirth. Set in the English countryside with unusual characters, the events that unfold are surprising and not at all what you would expect. Very good and humourous this is a quick and enjoyable read.

Posted by Priscilla at 04:21 PM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2004

Downhill Chance - Donna Morrisey

Set in Newfoundland this is a sad, unbelievable and pretty depressing book, interesting only in it's depiction of the characters and way of life in an isolated fishing community.

Kit lives with her aunt and her retarded mother Josie. She is looked down upon by members of the town since she no one knows who her father and has a constant struggle proving herself. Her aunt is her staunch defender constantly bragging about her high marks in school. But when her aunt dies suddenly she is left to fend for herself, and learn how to deal with her crazy mother. She makes a fast friend in schoolmate Sid who chops wood and helps her to keep the house running through the long cold winter. Eventually she gives in to the fact that she is madly in love with Sid, the pastor's son. The pastor is her worst enemy mainly because he is constantly trying rid the town of her and Josie.
There is quite a turn of events at the end of the story which are never resolved in any kind of fulfilling way. I was rather disappointed with the outcome.

Posted by Priscilla at 09:15 AM | Comments (0)