Tuesday, June 29, 2010

March by Geraldine Brooks


"March" tells the story of John March, known to lots of us  as the absent father  in "Little Women", Louisa May Alcott's classic American novel.

I would normally avoid novels like this one, where the author has taken a character or characters from someone else's novel and creates another novel around them.

It always feels to me like they are sort of cheating. What do you think? Is this a reasonable thing to do with someone else's original work? Despite my reservations on this method of creating a novel when I heard that March had been written I decided to give it go, if only because 'Little Women' is one of my all time favourite novels.

Well did I do the right thing giving March a chance? No, not really as I doubt I would ever have read this if it had not been about a fictional character whose existence I already knew of. Although of course I did not know much about him, as he is away at war in Little Women.

There is no doubt that Geraldine Brooks has produced a well researched novel basing the character of the protagonist John March on her studies of the letters and journals of Louisa May Alcott's father Bronson Alcott.

So from 'Little Women' and her other research she created the fictional world of Mr. March's experiences as a chaplain during the American Civil War. As an abolitionist he finds the war very testing of his beliefs, especially when he witnesses acts of cruelty and racism.
Much of the story is written in the form of letters home as he promised to write often to his beloved  wife and daughters telling of his experiences. He protects his family from the true horrors of his wartime experiences but this inability to tell them the truth causes him distress in its self.

In other parts the story is told in flashbacks to us by John March himself. Telling how during the war he meets once again a young slave girl, Grace who had a great impact on him in his youth.

Grace appears for a third time when an injured John is sent to a hospital in Washington and as in the original novel his wife is sent for. This part of the novel is told by Mrs March herself giving her voice the chance to express the grief felt as she is reunited with her husband, whom she finds tormented by what he sees as failure. The final chapters are once again in the voice of John March. Physically but not mentally he is soon well enough to go home. Finding he does not want to it is to Grace he turns only to be gently told that 'home' is where he is needed.

Using the character of John March, Geraldine Brooks has created a touching well written story which is in my opinion a decent read but nothing more.

It seems I may well be in the minority holding this opinion as I learnt that the novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006.  This award is presented to a 'distinguished' work of fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_(novel)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulitzer_Prize_for_Fiction

More information about March and Geraldine Brooks can be found on her website.

Geraldine BrooksPhoto by Randi Baird

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby



This is Nick Hornby writing at his sharp and amusing best, I was laughing from page one with the very first sentence. 'They had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a toilet'  They being the protagonists of the novel Duncan and Annie an odd couple indeed. Living in a nondescript northern seaside town which seems just about as dull as their relationship. Annie is waking up to the fact that she has just wasted the last fifteen years of her life with a man whose only interest in life seems to be an obsession with a passé singer songwriter called Tucker Crowe. Tucker Crowe is the third person in their relationship and the other main character in the novel.

It is when Tucker Crowe unexpectedly releases previously unpublished work in a new album that Annie finally lets her suppressed opinions bubble to the surface.  She lets Duncan and his obsessive friends know exactly what she thinks on a website dedicated to Tucker Crowe. This sets in motion a set of events that lead to life changing consequences for our three protagonists. I do not believe in spoiling a book by giving away too much, so to find out what happens read it for yourself, if it appeals.

Besides the wit and hilarity, relationships and ambitions are probed in a thoughtful manner and I found myself in sympathy with both Annie and Tucker, though not so supportive of Duncan. He just came over as a complete wimp.

Nick Hornby has created realistic characters in these three, all flawed in different ways and a unique plot on a modern wavelength with the importance of the internet and peoples obsession with celebrities. I found it a different and intriguing novel, that got better and better.

I would love to know what others make of this so I have decided to send this out on its travels.  Two of my friends over on Goodreads have already expressed an interest. So if any of you reading this are keen to read this and would like to join in with this Bookcrossing adventure, please leave me a message.

For those interested I am including some background information.

Nick Hornby, 2009 courtesy of Wikipedia  

Born 17 April 1957 in Redhill, Surrey, England


Video courtesy of YouTube and Penguin Books - Juliet, Naked - Nick Hornby interview

Nick Hornby can also be found on Facebook where he has a Fan page with over 28,000 members!

Official website for Nick Hornby

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Pendant by Mirella Patzer



This novel caught my interest as it is set in Italy, however the historical genre  and  the medieval period  that it is set in were not so appealing but I decided that I was interested enough to give it a try.

Also this was to be my first opportunity to read a book on my E-reader Post on E-reader

The year is 1270 and the young Duke Amoro Dragone has returned to his home Castle Dragone in Genoa, Italy to attend the funeral of his father Duke Bartolomeo Dragone.

He died as the result of an ambush and according to Amoro's mother Caterina, it was his father's dying wish that the feud between the Dragone and Monterossa should be resolved. He felt that the only way this was ever going to happen was if his son married into the family.

Amoroso is not happy about this as he had plans himself to marry for love Laria Malaeresta, although in his heart of hearts he knew this would never come about.

So with Roberto the commander of his fathers army he travels to Portovenere to try and learn the true identity of his father's killer and to settle the feud by asking for the hand of the Contessa Morena Monterossa in marriage. This action should settle the long running feud between the families over a previously broken marriage contract.

Things do not go quite as planned as he is unable to gain an audience  with Umberto, Morena's father and he learns of an existing betrothal between Morena and Ernesto of Savonna a renowned scoundrel.

It is a month before he manages to meet the Countess Morena and tell her of his intentions.

What follows is a story of, murder, mayhem, passionate lovemaking, forceful sex and some bloodthirsty fights which the authoress Mirella Patzer has managed to convey to the reader in a very realistic manner with her descriptive writing.

She writes well about this period thanks to her fascination with both Women in History, Medieval History and her passion for Italy.

Here's a little bit about the book from Mirella Patzer herself on her Blog, click Women and History for the full article.
A medieval tale of murder, desperation, and true love.
A lost ancient treasure.  A 100 year family feud.  And a woman with a passion richer than the bloodstone pendant she wears around her neck.  In medieval Italy, as spirited and stalwart as any man, the brazen Contessa Morena is betrothed to the impoverished, black-hearted Count Ernesto, a man desperate to escape his mounting debts.... continued here

In conclusion as I have already admitted I am not a huge fan of this genre but I did enjoy this and would recommend it in particular  to those who include this genre amongst their favourites. Also as this knowledgable author is definitely worth a read to anyone looking for something different from their normal choice.

Mirella also has another Blog dedicated to Historical Fiction You can also learn more on her Website



Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sony E-Reader

 This is a continuation of my last Wordless Wednesday post, the words to go with the picture.


As an ex librarian I have never been very keen on the concept of eBooks! I was never going to want to read one.  

Then I was offered the chance to review a book offered in this format. I nearly turned the opportunity down as I do not like the idea of reading books on the computer and this would have been my only option!

It was therefore a surprise when my husband offered to buy me a Sony E Reader for my Birthday.

The Sony E Reader actually feels like handling a small book so I am finding it much more reader friendly than I expected it to be.

I have also realised how useful it is going to be when we are travelling. No more trying to squeeze extra paperbacks in the suitcase. I am sure we will still take real books with us, but the extras I have always packed in the past, just in case we run out of reading material can now be in eBook format.

It must be obvious to you all that I love books, otherwise why would I be here writing this Blog? I always thought I tended towards the viewpoint that reading was all about the book. It was only when I started to think about this new to me concept of digital books that I realised that this is not actually true. For many years I have actually been listening to novels first on cassette tapes, then CD's and enjoying the experience. So it is time for me to embrace 21st century technology and start listening to more podcasts and reading eBooks. Which ever way I choose I am still going to be able to discover new characters and places.

I have learnt that my love of books is just as much the physical handling of books as the stories or facts they contain. When we lived in the UK I had a vast collection of books which I trimmed considerably when we moved to Italy. Thanks to sites such as Bookcrossing and Bookmooch I have learnt to be far less possessive about my books, especially paperback fiction.  Of course that raises a downside, as eBooks cannot be passed on to others via sites such as these.

I will never part with my non fiction library either though, as for me using the computer to look up facts is just not the same as browsing the pages of a real book!

I have already discovered a couple of other advantages to owning one, besides travelling which I have already mentioned. It is easier to hold in bed which is a bonus. Secondly it takes up less room in my handbag for those times when I am waiting somewhere!

There is also of course the green issue to consider in that more eBooks means we are saving paper. I am concerned though on the impact eBooks will have on the future of libraries and book publishing in general.  I am torn on this one as I do like to think I care for the environment!

Although my  Sony-reader is never going to replace my beloved books it is a gadget that I am sure I am going to enjoy owning.

What do you think?