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Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

    I recently re-read Homer’s The Iliad, which I read in high school probably 45 years ago. I had forgotten much of that story, but definitely think it should be called “Let’s Just Kill Everybody”. But the re-reading helped me really enjoy with renewed meaning The Song of Achilles. A fascinating book. Here is my book review The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

    Even if you don’t know The Iliad and the story of the Trojan War, you still will enjoy The Song of Achilles. Miller has taken the age old story and rewritten it with an emphasis on Achilles and even more emphasis on his companion Patroclus.

    Told from the viewpoint of Patroclus the story begins when he is a young prince. An unfortunate accident gets him shunned from his father’s halls and he is sent to live with King Peleus and his golden son Achilles – “the best of the Greeks”.

    Achilles and Patroclus could not be more different. One brave and confident the other quiet and meek. But in each other they find a bond, a common need for companionship and rapport. As young boys they learn the ways of war and prepare for their future. But as they grow to young men they find love for each other as well. Miller’s imagination creates a retelling of their relationship, a true love story, heartfelt and beautiful.

    When Helen of Sparta is kidnaped the Greeks lay siege on Troy and the decade long Trojan War begins. Much is written about this war and the heroes. The Song of Achilles goes deep into the personalities of both mortal men and gods, the women in the shadows and the egos of the leaders. Miller’s imaginative dialogue and storyline is far more interesting to me than the Iliad, though the ending remains sad and bloody just the same.

    I highly recommend The Song of Achilles for it’s intelligent, thoughtful, moving and fresh look at this ancient tale.

    *****Five Stars for The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

    Read last week’s review of What We Carry.

    My current read A Thousand Ships

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review What We Carry: A Memoir by Maya Lang

    Reading Wednesday

    This is one of the best books I have read about dealing with Alzheimers in a parent. I loved the book Her Beautiful Brain by my friend Ann Hedreen. And this book was just as good. Here is my review of What we Carry: A Memoir by Maya Lang.

    Some of you know my father has Alzheimers and has been living in a lockdown facility now for three years. He no longer knows who I am. As I read this book and the account of the author with her mother’s spiral into Alzheimers it was all very familiar to me.

    Like Hedreen’s book, Lang shares her day to day struggles with her mother’s dementia; from the early days when she just seems confused, to the anger and finally placidity before no memory at all.

    During this journey with her mother Lang learns a great deal of history of her family that she never knew. Through her formative years she had idolized her brilliant doctor mother for immigrating from India and making a life for herself and her family in the USA. But as the dementia slowly tears her mother apart, Lang learns astonishing and heartbreaking information that makes her question her family and decisions her mother made along the way.

    It’s a beautifully written tale of mothers and daughters, families and the foundations we build through facts and fiction we are fed as children. A wonderful memoir for anyone who has a parent with Alzheimers and frankly, anyone who has a parent.

    ****Four stars for What we Carry: A Memoir by Maya Lang

    See last week’s review of About Grace by Anthony Doerr

    My current read Run by Ann Patchett

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review About Grace by Anthony Doerr

    Gosh I wanted to like this book. I really, really did because to this day I still find Doerr’s eloquent book All the Light You Cannot See one of the best reads of my life. But, sigh….About Grace just didn’t do it for me.

    Doerr’s way with words is amazing, even in this book. He really can conjure compassion. He can conjure emotion. He can even conjure the weather for the reader in a way you will feel frostbite on your toes or sunburn on your cheeks. Alas though, for me, About Grace was too discombobulated and unbelievable.

    Interestingly, About Grace has it’s champions, and to me that is one of the fun things about reading…no two people look at a novel the same.

    In this book we follow the very confused life of David Winkler from Alaska to the Caribbean and then all across the USA as he searches for his daughter and searches to find peace in his own mixed up life. Winkler has spent his life fearing his dreams will come true, after one dream does when he was just a child. When he dreams as a young father that he will drown his own child, he flees from her trying to distance himself in an effort for the vision to not come true.

    But over the decades he is tormented, haunted and at times crazed. Following him through this book can be both painful and inconceivable. I found myself loathing this character.

    You may like this book more than I did. You may even like it more than All The Light You Cannot See. You will need to decide for yourself. Thanks for reading my book review of About Grace by Anthony Doerr.

    ***Three stars for About Grace by Anthony Doerr.

    See last week’s review of The Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.

    My current read The Broken Circle

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

    This is the fourth, maybe even fifth book I have read by Neil Gaiman. This story most reminded me of Gaiman’s American Gods, possibly his most well known book. Anansi Boys was written in 2005, but I had never read it. I listened to this book on Audible while we were driving around Iceland and Audible is a great choice for the way Gaiman writes. I hope you enjoy by book review Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.

    Gaiman is known for fantasy and magic in his novels. His work often creates character who are just your average, often under achieving, people going about their daily lives. That is until something or someone “magical” enters their humdrum life. So it is with “Fat Charlie”, a less than inspiring Londoner leading an uninspired life.

    Until Fat Charlie’s father, known as Mr. Nancy, passes away unexpectedly in Florida. Fat Charlie leaves his boring job and uninspired wedding planning fiance in London to fly to Florida for the funeral. It’s here that Fat Charlie learns some surprising history about his father and family. His father is a god, and Fat Charlie has a brother who also has magical traits. Mr. Nancy is named for the African God Anansi (Spider God) and Fat Charlie’s brother is named Spider.

    Of course Fat Charlie is skeptical, confused, and a little pissed off that all this information has been kept from him all these years. But when brother Spider arrives at Fat Charlie’s London flat, a wild and raucous adventure begins that includes travel to far off mystical places, loosing his fiance but gaining a girlfriend, outrageous behavior by Spider, criminal activity by Fat Charlie’s employer and on and on.

    In true Gaiman fashion the story will come together happily in the end, with all characters finding satisfaction in this crazy magical world of the gods. I hope you enjoyed my book review Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.

    ****Four Stars for Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

    Read last week’s review of America’s First Daughter

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review America’s First Daughter by Dray and Kamoie

    In our neighborhood we have one of those little free lending libraries. You know the kind mean…take a book, leave a book. I stop by the little library from time to time, just to see what’s available, even though I do most my reading on Kindle. A few weeks ago I found this book…and I am really glad I did. I hope you enjoy my book review America’s First Daughter by Dray and Kamoie

    History and Legend

    Using the 18,000 letters Thomas Jefferson wrote in his lifetime as the core research of this book, we are transported to Revolutionary America, Jefferson’s Monticello, Paris France and the White House through the eyes and ears of Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph.

    Meticulously researched but presented in a novel of fiction, America’s First Daughter takes the known facts, exact words and language and sprinkles in assumption and fictional intrigue to develop a book I could not put down. Patsy Jefferson was a witness to history that formed and transformed our country…during a time where women silently yielded power and council. And Patsy Jefferson did it brilliantly.

    America’s Greatest?

    As time has shown the tarnish of Jefferson as a man, Patsy spent her life time as his companion and protector of his vast secrets and faults. Even while she battled her own love loss, and difficult marriage, she never faltered in holding up her father as the greatest American, even in her knowledge of his many lies and ambiguities. Despite his unwillingness to grant her her own happiness, she dedicated her entire life to him. Jefferson always put his country before his family and she accepted and embraced that man and the myth.

    I learned a lot from this book…expanding on knowledge I already had of both Thomas Jefferson and this period in American history. This work was very enjoyable and I am glad I picked it up at the little library. I hope you enjoyed my book review America’s First Daughter by Dray and Kamoie.

    *****Five stars for America’s First Daughter

    Read last week’s review of Washington Black

    My current read Run by Ann Patchett

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

    I both loved and didn’t love this book. Mostly I loved it. It’s a very unique look at the life of a slave, who, without trying became a world traveler and brilliant marine biologist. I hope you enjoy by book review Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

    A Slave

    Washington Black was born a slave in Barbados on a sugar plantation. He both loves and fears Big Kit, the slave women who watches over him. From a very young age “Wash” is in the fields working alongside Big Kit. When the “Master” dies and his son arrives from London to take over the plantation, Wash and the other slaves lives change to a life of fear.

    Unexpected

    The new Master’s brother Christopher arrives for an unexpected visit when Wash is eleven and nothing will ever be the same. Christophe is an eccentric “scientist” fascinated with flight and chooses Wash as his personal assistant to both live with him and help him with his scientific work.

    This relationship will define who Washington Black will become. Working next to Christopher Wild Wash will learn to read and write, will fly through the air in a hot air balloon contraption, will crash land and sail on from Barbados to the Arctic. Wash will also be the only witness to a suicide, and the resulting blame for the death will haunt him for his entire life. But Christopher takes him under his wing to protect him,

    When Christopher abandons Wash, a third life will begin for the teen.

    Love

    As Wash “survives”, his travels will continue from the Arctic to London where he will discover two things he loves; marine biology and a girl named Tanna. But always Wash can’t stop thinking about Christopher abandoning him when he was just a boy. And so Wash will search out his friend in the far reaches of Morocco.

    Adventure

    More adventures than one boy could ever imagine make up the life of Washington Black…an unexpected life of a slave child from Barbados. Sometimes parts of this story seemed so far-fetched to me a scoffed at it, and yet Edugyan writing kept me wondering how this wild ride for this boy/man would end.

    I hope you enjoyed my book review of Washington Black by Esi Edugyan.

    ****Four stars for Washington Black by Esi Edugyan.

    See last week’s review of A Single Swallow by Zhang Ling

    See our Reading Year in Review 2020-2021 here

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review A Single Swallow by Zhang Ling

    Clever. Heart Warming. Brutal. This new English translation of Zhang Ling’s unforgettable novel will have you on the edge of your seat. Here is my book review A Single Swallow by Zhang Ling.

    When Emperor Hirohito announces Japan’s surrender to the Allies, three men make a pact, agreeing that after thier deaths their souls will return to this Chinese village each year. The village is where they have met, fought and befriended each other.

    But it takes seventy years before all three will find themselves together again, their souls converging on the tiny Chinese village where their story began. An American missionary, a gunner and a local Chinese soldier. How these three men from very different backgrounds will touch each other’s lives is a remarkable journey.

    And of course there is a girl. Her name is Ah Yan also called Swallow. Her profound impression on the three men in unique and very different ways will change her life, and the lives of each man.

    The best part of this remarkable book for me is the telling. Ling’s beautiful writing narrates in the voice of each man from beyond the grave…a unique telling of the story as each man looks back on his life and the impact Ah Yan has on it. I hope you enjoyed my book review A Single Swallow by Zhang Ling.

    Remarkable book and beautifully written and translated.

    *****Five stars for A Single Swallow by Zhang Ling

    Read last week’s review of Unsettled Ground.

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