Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category
Friday, May 24th, 2013
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena Synopsis
A resilient doctor risks everything to save the life of a hunted child, in this majestic debut about love, loss, and the unexpected ties that bind us together.
In his brilliant, haunting novel, Stegner Fellow and Whiting Award winner Anthony Marra transports us to a snow-covered village in Chechnya, where eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night, accusing him of aiding Chechen rebels. Across the road their lifelong neighbor and family friend Akhmed has also been watching, fearing the worst when the soldiers set fire to Havaa’s house. But when he finds her hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.
For the talented, tough-minded Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. And she has a deeply personal reason for caution: harboring these refugees could easily jeopardize the return of her missing sister. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weave together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance. (Amazon)
The Book Beginning is:
On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones. While the girl dressed, Akmed, who hadn’t slept at all, paced outside the bedroom door, watching the sky brighten on the other side of the window glass; the rising sun had never before made him feel late.
Friday, May 17th, 2013
And The Soft Wind Blows Synopsis
Timmy Enosh is a peculiar, small man: fivethree, onehundred andfifteen pounds, and is a pharmacist in Ashton City, Tennessee. He finds himself at fortythreeyearsold as his life starts to fall apart: his threehundred pound wife disappears, his romantic interest has lost interest and has gained hatred toward him, his coworkers harass him, customers verbally assault him, and he has the strange urge to adopt his foulmouthed, eighteenyearold coworker, Alex. When things start to pile up, Timmy must find a way to deal: he turns to Alex to supply him with marijuana, starts sewing an elaborate Mr. Mistoffelees costume, finds solace in the wild, etc., etc., etc. And the soft, constant wind of change blows him on, on, and on. (Amazon)
The Book Beginning is:
“How was your day?” Timmy asked.
“Shut up,” said Mandy, her words dropping like boulders on Timmy’s head, shattering to pieces on the floor.
Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Wolf Hall Synopsis
England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?
After Hilary Mantel became the first woman to be awarded the Man Booker Prize twice, I thought it was high time I investigated what all the fuss was about. While I like historical fiction, I have read very little set as far back as the 1500s, and had heard there were an inordinate number of characters to keep track of. I often find a great narrator makes distinguishing between characters less hard work so I thought I might tackle this behemoth of a novel via audio.
I experienced conflicting feelings during the 21 hours of this audio book (yes, I did finish it).
Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
Levels of Life Synopsis
‘You put together two things that have not been put together before. And the world is changed…’
Julian Barnes’s new book is about ballooning, photography, love and grief; about putting two things, and two people, together, and about tearing them apart. One of the judges who awarded him the 2011 Man Booker Prize described him as ‘an unparalleled magus of the heart’. This book confirms that opinion.
BOOK REVIEW by Tony Ziemek
First up let me declare an interest: I have read just about everything that Julian Barnes has published and am sad enough to have some books in both UK and US editions, because… I liked the covers. For me, there is something in the author’s voice that never fails to resonate and I’m clearly not alone. On www.julianbarnes.com there was an opportunity to buy limited editions of leather and cloth bound editions of Levels of Life for GBP 140 or GBP 260 (according to leather spec and numbering) but they were sold out within days (dammit).
Sunday, April 28th, 2013
Survival Skills Synopsis
Jean Ryan’s debut collection tells stories of nature and of human nature.
The characters who inhabit Jean Ryan’s graceful, imaginative collection of stories are survivors of accidents and acts of nature, of injuries both physical and emotional. Ryan writes of beauty and aging, of love won and lost-with characters enveloped in the mysteries of the natural world and the animal kingdom.
In “Greyhound,” a woman brings home a rescued dog for her troubled partner in hopes that they might heal one another-while the dog in “What Gretel Knows” is the keeper of her owner’s deepest secrets. In “Migration,” a recently divorced woman retreats to a lake front cabin where she is befriended by a mysterious Canada goose just as autumn begins to turn to winter. As a tornado ravages three towns in “The Spider in the Sink,” a storm chaser’s wife spares the life of a spider as she anxiously waits for her husband to return. And in “A Sea Change,” a relationship falls victim to a woman’s obsession with the world below the waves.
The world is at once a beautiful and perilous place, Jean Ryan’s stories tell us, and our lives are defined by the shelters we build. (Ashland Creek Press)
Survival Skills by Jean Ryan is one of the more unique offerings I have come across in my recent quest to read more short story collections. The collection consists of 13 standalone stories ranging from 6 to 21 pages in length. There is a real clarity and strong sense of purpose about each story, but common to all is Jean Ryan’s refreshing voice and open-minded and unadorned perspective.
Monday, April 22nd, 2013
The Start of Everything Synopsis
In this stunning psychological thriller for readers of Tana French, Kate Atkinson, and Donna Tartt, Emily Winslow has crafted a literary prism told through the eyes of her many intricately drawn characters. Masterly and mesmerizing, “The Start of Everything” will captivate until the very last page.
“If you don’t want to see me again, say so. But it’s not right to say nothing. It’s not right to go silent. You know what to do.”
Cambridge, England: Outside the city, the badly decomposed body of a teenage girl has washed up in the flooded fens. Detective Inspector Chloe Frohmann and her partner, Morris Keene, must work quickly to identify the victim before the press takes off with the salacious story. Across the hallowed paths and storied squares of Cambridge University, the detectives follow scant clues toward the identity of the dead girl. Eventually, their search leads them to Deeping House, an imposing country manor where, over the course of one Christmas holiday, three families, two nannies, and one young writer were snowed in together. Chloe Frohmann begins to unravel a tangled web of passions and secrets, of long-buried crimes and freshly committed horrors. But in order to reveal the truth–about misaddressed letters, a devastating affair, and a murdered teenager — she may have to betray her partner. (The Book Depository)
Emily Winslow opens The Start of Everything through the eyes of an intriguing character, a young woman named Mathilde Oliver. It quickly becomes apparent that Mathilde has some form of autism, given her hypersensitivity to the people and objects around her. This viewpoint is utterly captivating and before you realise it, this book becomes impossible to put down.
Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
Harlequin’s Costume Synopsis
The year is 1871. Prince von Ahrensburg, Austria’s military attaché to St. Petersburg, has been killed in his own bed. The murder threatens diplomatic consequences for Russia so dire that they could alter the course of history. Leading the investigation into the high-ranking diplomat’s death is Chief Inspector Ivan Putilin, but the Tsar has also called in the notorious Third Department – the much-feared secret police – on the suspicion that the murder is politically motivated. As the clues accumulate, the list of suspects grows longer; there are even rumors of a werewolf at large in the capital. Suspicion falls on the diplomat’s lover and her cuckolded husband, as well as Russian, Polish and Italian revolutionaries, not to mention Turkish spies. True to his maxim that “coincidence and passion are the real conspirators,” Putilin seeks answers inside the diplomatic circus as well, which leads him to struggles with criminals and with the secret police itself. When the mystery is solved, the only person who saw it coming was Putilin.
Harlequin’s Costume is the first volume in a series whose main character is based on the real-life Ivan Putilin, the Tsar’s Chief of Police in St. Petersburg from 1866 to 1892. The entire trilogy, Chief Inspector Putilin, appeared as a mini-series on Russian television in 2007.
Brilliantly translated by Marian Schwartz, Harlequin’s Costume is now for the first time being published in English.
BOOK REVIEW by Tony Ziemek
Successful detective fiction creates a landscape (often an unfamiliar one) into which the reader is drawn and allowed to wander a little. The landscape is often strewn with incidental (or are they?), atmospheric details inviting our gaze, as we hunt for clues alongside the central character. Harlequin’s Costume exquisitely recreates 19th Century St Petersburg and is rich in such details.