Eagan is a remarkable writer and I have enjoyed the three novels I have read by her, most recently Manhattan Beach. Eagan’s earlier novel A Visit From the Goon Squad won the 2011 Pulitzer, and The Candy House revisits many of the characters from Goon Squad. Here is my book review The Candy House by Jennifer Eagan.
The Candy House
As I mentioned in last week’s book review The Immortal King Rao, The Candy House is eerily similar in it’s plot. Like King Rao, The Candy House takes us into the not too distant future, a time where living on planet earth has become all about the internet, and how everything we think say and do is connected to an online presence. Not so difficult to imagine.
As The Candy House begins we meet the brilliant Bix Bouton, a tech demigod who creates a new technology known as “Own Your Own Unconscious”. This technology is a sharing tool, where you can share every memory you have ever had and access all the memories of other people. Just like The Immortal King Rao.
The story follows multiple characters all looking for something in this world; love, hope, stability, companionship, privacy and even family. Many characters reappear from A Visit From the Goon Squad, but the reader of The Candy House won’t need to have read Goon Squad to follow the story.
And what a story it is. An imaginative, inventive and sometimes disturbing plot. Eagan’s writing style is phenomenal as she guides you through the character development sometimes writing in first person, sometimes not. One chapter presented all in Tweets. Another all in letters of correspondence. She is one of the preeminent writers of the day and The Candy House is masterful.
*****Five Stars for The Candy House. A perfect summer read. Thanks for reading my book review The Candy House by Jennifer Eagan.
Back in the USA, the place we like to spend our summers. But this summer is going to be a bit chaotic, as we have several stateside trips planned and we head off again in the fall.
As much as we love our travel life, it’s always nice to get back “home” to familiar things. Our house was painted while we were gone, and I’m very anxious to see it and my garden as well. We have a few tiny projects around the house this summer but not many, particularly since we will have so little free time.
Spending precious time with our sons, and our parents and other family is our priority this summer…time is fleeting and we are aware. We hope to have some free time to see dear friends as well.
Back in the USA – A Brief Visit
We hit the ground running on June 30th, because we depart again mid July. My husband is off to Alaska with some college friends while I am off to Wisconsin to explore with some girlfriends.
Back we both come for a few weeks at home before we head to Oregon for a week with Arne’s family in an Airbnb in Sunriver. That should be a fun time.
We return to our home in Port Orchard briefly before heading to Jolly Ole England for a quick visit. In an effort to use the last of our vouchers from a trip cancellation due to Covid, we will have a quick visit to Guernsey and Jersey before an also brief visit to Normandy and Paris France.
Returning from Europe we fly to Maine for another college reunion “camping”. Arne then heads back to Port Orchard while I head to Palm Springs for a high school girl friends reunion. Phew. This is gonna be crazy.
All of that will happen between June 30 and October 4, and then on October 20th we head out for seven months of travel that will include Maui, Roatan Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Bolivia, the Carribean and a few stateside stops.
Yep. We are on the go. I plan to keep the blog going as much as possible through it all, so thanks for all your love, comments, support, interest and encouragement. Our travel life is My Fab Fifties Life and we love having you along for the ride! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
See last week’s post about our Marvelous Malta time! And watch for next week’s post about Israel.
What a great and unexpected book. I had no idea even what it was about when I picked it up. So glad I stumbled on this unique story. Here is my book review The Immortal King Rao: A Novel by Vauhini Vara.
dystopian (dis’to pean)
We seem to be going through a phase of several remarkable books placed in a dystopian time, somewhere in the near future with a focus on a negative world, the result of an online world we have created. For reference;
adjective – relating to or denoting an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.
Not only does The Immortal King Rao take us to such a place, but the next book I picked up to read (see next week’s review) did the same. The Candy House and The Immortal King Rao were eerily similar. What the what?
The Immortal King Rao
Vara introduces us to a child, whose name is King, whose beginnings are simple and modest, whose life is based on a coconut farm in India in the 1950’s. But whose future will change the world forever.
Through a series of fortunate (or unfortunate?) circumstances and meetings as King grows into a man and travels to the USA to be educated, King Rao will become the most powerful and accomplished tech CEO and leader of the world. Until he is not.
A World In Disarray
Technology has taken over the world. Climate change is raging. King is in the middle of it all. The world is run by a corporation rather than a government, and it is only a matter of time until revolt.
Surprising to me a major part of the story takes place on two islands in Washington State, both just a few miles from where my home is. The island’s, Bainbridge and Blake, have become a shelter for people who have turned against the world order. Including King Rao’s daughter Athena.
But Athena is more than a normal human being, because through technology created by King, Athena holds in her brain all of King’s memories from his remarkable life. There are many people who would take everything to get a hold of that…everything.
I really enjoyed this unusual story, somewhat difficult to describe, but totally worth a read. As is next week’s book the Candy House. I hope you enjoyed my book review The Immortal King Rao: A Novel by Vauhini Vara.
We were supposed to visit Malta in May 2020…well you know why we didn’t. So it was exciting to be able to add Malta back into our travel itinerary. In 2020 our plans were to spend 10 days on the island of Malta and an additional six on the island of Gozo. Our rescheduled trip however needed to be shorter, so we spent our time on the main island of Malta with a quick day trip to Gozo. I fell hard for this beautiful and ancient place. Marvelous Malta – A New Favorite.
Two Years Later
This itinerary was pretty tight, as we attempted to resurrect our original trip we were on when the Pandamit made its nasty entrance. At that time, you might remember, we fled Israel to Cyprus but were locked down in Cyprus for two months. Eventually abandoning the remaining itinerary, which included Malta, and making our way back to the USA to wait it out. Wait it out we did, with the rest of the world, and two years later we are out here again…Marvelous Malta – A New Favorite.
Marvelous Malta – A New Favorite
From the moment we arrived in Valletta, the fortress city on a peninsula, I knew this was my kind of place. So much history as well as pre-historic history, yet alive and so incredibly beautiful. The most surprising thing we found was it is CHEAP. By far the cheapest country we have visited in the European Union. Gotta love that!
Malta is also friendly, clean, delicious and just about everyone speaks English. English is an official language, but the local Maltese language prevails. It is an interesting mix of Arabic and Italian.
Where We Stayed
We stuck pretty close to Valletta, opting for an Airbnb in the historic area rather than a resort in the more cosmopolitan areas of St. Julian or Sliema. In hindsight I think with more time I would have also enjoyed a night or two inside the walled village of Mdina, and a longer more leisurely visit to Gozo Island.
There is no shortage of accommodations all over the island, which is only 17 miles long and 9 miles wide. Depending on what is important to you (history, nightlife, beaches) you will find something to match your desires.
Malta can trace it’s history back to 5200BC. I mean wow. That is crazy right? I love this kinda stuff so much and it is one of the astonishing things about Malta that caused me to fall in love with it. In recent years some incredible pre-historic ruins have been found, known as the Hypogeum. The Smithsonian Foundation claims this site to be the most significant pre-history site in the world. (Tip – only 80 people a day are allowed to visit the Hypogeum. Plan ahead for this. Unfortunately we did not get to see it.)
From the arrival of man Malta became a place everyone wanted to get their hands on, due to it’s central location in the Mediterranean. Over the centuries the island was controlled by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians and the Byzantines. Then came the Arabs, followed by the Normans and then the Knights of St. John before the Ottomans arrived. Napoleon gave it a try, but the British secured the island for 170 years. In 1974 Malta became independent.
This vast and diverse history is evident in the architecture, language, people and food. Absolutely fascinating to a history geek like me.
Recommended Things To Do
First of all Malta is surprisingly affordable compared to most of Europe. We were astonished at how cheaply we could eat, drink, shop and be entertained. Malta uses the Euro and credit cards are accepted everywhere. A dinner with wine or beer for two could be had for around 45 Euros.
Some of our favorite things we did were;
As you likely know I love to take a food tour whenever I visit a new destination. I usually try to do it early in my itinerary because it is always both a history lesson and yummy. We booked our tour through Viator with Best Tours Malta and our guide Chris was not only knowledgeable about food but we learned a great deal about the history of Valletta.
We rented a car for two days to get out of Valletta and see some sites. Seeing some significant archeology sites made us thankful we made the effort. Hagar Qim is a significant pre-historic site on the island of Malta dating to 3200 BC. It is one of several UNESCO sites in the country and it is fascinating. A very well done interpretive self-guided tour is included with your admission. At the Hagar Qim site you will also see another pre-historic temple site called Mnajdra. Both sites worth your time.
There are multiple other ruins on the island of Malta and on Gozo as well. I wish we had the time to see more. We briefly visited Dingli Cliffs, not known for ruins although there are some, but known more for the spectacular views of the cliffs and the beautiful sea.
Because we were short on time, we only did a day trip to Gozo. Our original itinerary had us spending six days there with a car. I sure wish we could have done that, because a day trip did not do it justice. Partly because we were with way too many people and it just was not enough time. IF YOU ONLY HAVE A DAY, here is what I recommend. Take an ECab (Malta’s version of Uber and highly recommended over a regular taxi) to the ferry, walk on the ferry, and prearrange a PRIVATE GUIDE to meet you on the other side. This way you can gear your day to the things that are important to you; architecture, pre-history, churches and cathedrals, agriculture, salt pans and more. I’m still glad we went but if I did it again I would definitely spend the money for a private tour.
Blue Grotto and Sea Caves
On Malta’s south coast you will find the most beautiful blue water. The Blue Grotto viewpoint is definitely worth a stop (it’s on the way to Hager Qim) and with more time you can also take a boat to the Blue Grotto and the Sea Caves. We did not go in the boat but it looked really fun. It is a beautiful spot.
St. Peter’s Pool
St. Peter’s Pool is a popular swimming and sunning site of St. Peter’s Pool. Although we were the oldest people there (easily by 30 years), we had a blast!! Stunning location. Parking is tight, but there is overflow parking for busy days. On the day we visited it wasn’t terribly crowded but I understand it can get very crowded. Try to go on a weekday. So much fun and worth the effort to get there.
After our swim we continued on to the beautiful fishing village of Marsaxlok. We had a delicious lunch on the seaside.
Mdina & Rabat
With our rental car we went to the inland walled city of Mdina, which is surrounded by the newer city of Rabat. We were really glad we arrived an hour before our 11am guided walking tour because the village was abandoned and so quiet. And boom, at 11am all the tour buses from the cruise ships arrived. Wow, suddenly it was like Disneyland! We learned a lot from our walking tour and our guide was exceptionally knowledgeable in the history of the two cities. I am so glad we did this and recommend it definitely if you visit Malta. In hindsight it would have been fun to spend a night or two inside the ancient town.
On a whim we looked up what our options were to attend a live performance in Valletta. This is something we have come to enjoy in places we visit around the world. The only thing on during our short visit was a dance performance at the remarkable and historic Teatru Manoel right in old town Valletta. The performance, an interpretive dance about the life of Frida Kahlo, was incredible, but the historic theater was astonishing. We would not of visited the theater if we hadn’t decided to go to the performance so I am so glad we did.
Marvelous Malta – A New Favorite
Sometimes I am flabbergasted at the wealth of history and beauty we discover in our travels. It never ceases to amaze me and Malta was all that and more. I am so very glad we finally made it to this fascinating island nation. I hope you can visit too. Marvelous Malta – a New Favorite.
Maggie O’Farrell wrote the phenomenal Hamnet, my favorite book of 2021. And I am on pins and needles for her new book, The Marriage Portrait, due out this fall. I have read two other O’Farrell works, Instruction for a Heat Wave and I Am I Am I Am, neither as good as Hamnet, but this one…ah this one was really good. Here is my book review The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell.
Not unlike another story I read a couple years ago, The Women They Could Not Silence, O’Farrell takes us back in history to a dark time when husbands, fathers and even brothers could commit women to asylum’s…often for absurd reasons.
This is the basis of the plot of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. When Iris Lockhart learns she has an aunt she never knew existed, who is being released from Claudstone Hospital after being locked away for 61 years.
Iris begins to unravel the story of Esme Lennox, sister to her grandmother Kitty – a grandmother who has never mentioned Esme and has always claimed to be an only child.
The author takes the reader back and forth between the viewpoint of multiple characters (Esme, Iris and Kitty) and through the past and the present day as she magically weaves the plot and the sad story.
I didn’t love the ending…it kinda leaves you hanging. But nonetheless I really enjoyed this book. I hope you enjoyed reading my book review The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell
Why Senegal? I’m not exactly sure why, except I had heard it was one of the more progressive nations on the African continent. Having visited Burkina Faso in West Africa as well as several other nations in North, South and East Africa, I was curious about Senegal. It was an easy hop from Morocco where we had been to attend a wedding, so why not? We spent five days. Senegal – What I Experienced in My Short Visit.
The country of Senegal is home to 16 million people, and more than three million live in Dakar. Dakar, though more cosmopolitan than many African cities, is fraught with traffic and air pollution. Although a brand new international airport opened last year, other infrastructure is lacking and traffic is a mess. An incredible amount of construction of apartments and condominiums is going on. Our guide told us these are all privately funded and very expensive so not intended for the local people, who on average earn about $600 a month.
I don’t pretend to understand the government in Senegal (see Wikipedia on Senegal here), but from my brief observations there seems to be a disconnect between leadership and the people. Of course this is not uncommon in many nations, and especially developing countries. Although Senegal has never had a civil war or a coup, it’s not hard to imagine a ticking time bomb. During our visit teachers were on strike and had been on strike for several months. School children have nothing to occupy their days and…trouble ensues. Bored teenagers with no focus are the same around the world. Unemployment is 40%. Young men out of work wander aimlessly looking for fun and trouble.
How will this end? It was something on my mind as I pondered Senegal – What I Experienced in My Short Visit.
We hired a guide from Senegal Odyssey Tours to help us explore the area. On our second day, Omour met us at our hotel and we spent a couple hours in the morning touring the city of Dakar, seeing colonial sites (Senegal was a French colony until 1960), and learning some history.
Next we headed to Goree Island via ferry, the most significant site in Dakar as far as history. The Portuguese arrived in the 1400’s to Goree and quickly secured it due to it’s strategic location for protection.
But in 1536 the Portuguese launched the slave trade, realizing the immense profitability awaiting them by trading human beings rather than goods. For the next 312 years, more than 20 million African people – men, women and children – were brutally captured, detained, raped, beaten, imprisoned and THEN loaded by the hundreds on tiny ships and sailed off to points west. Many would die before arriving. Many would survive but never see their families or children again.
Goree Island tells this story for the visitor by allowing visitors to see and feel the tiny prisons. Goree Island has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978. Learn more here.
We took a day off between tours and just relaxed and did some catch up work on the computer, as well as a short walk around our neighborhood of Almadies near our hotel called La Residence. This neighborhood is “upscale” and home to several embassies including the US Embassy.
But then the next day bright and early Omour was there to pick us up again as we began the nearly two hour drive to the fishing village of Kayar. The drive was long and slow and Senegal was experiencing a significant desert dust storm and I was wondering if this would be worth it. Oh yes it was.
Kayar was an astonishing site, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. This is the most important fishing village in Senegal and we luckily arrived at the height of the morning catch frenzy. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Hundreds of boats. Thousands of people. Millions of fish. Highly competitive, a bit frantic and a bit frightening. The catch of the day included tuna, snapper, herring and barracuda. Fish were being pulled out of the boats by the thousands, no bad smell as they were completely fresh. Some of the fish is used in payment to the workers, some goes to local regional restaurants while much of it is frozen for the Asian market.
I had heard about the Pink Lake, but Omour didn’t want me to be disappointed so he made sure I understood the lake was not always pink. In fact the pink/rose color, which is created by algae, is most prominent on clear sunny days. And honestly due to the air pollution and sand pollution a clear sunny day is rare.
On arrival we found more of a dirty brown lake, in some places a blood red color. We took a small boat out to see the salt being collected. Salt mining in the lake is what most the local people do for a living in this region. We learned that only men do the salt collecting because it was determined a few years ago that women were having miscarriages from the salt.
The men cover themselves in Shea butter and only spend four hours in the four foot deep water. Here they scoop the salt from the bottom with a shovel, into a basket they hold down with their feet. Then they dump the heavy load into a boat. The salt can be a grey color, but once exposed to the sun it turns white.
Until 1978 this spot was the culmination point of the Paris to Dakar car rally. We took a dune buggy ride to see some of what remains of that route, and to see the crashing Atlantic ocean as it breaks onto Senegal’s western shores.
Senegal – What I Experienced in My Short Visit
Senegal is one of the most developed African nations and I hope for the people here who need jobs and education to help catapult them forward. There is so much untapped human potential. I hope the government and the people can make it happen. I am glad I came. Thank you for reading my post Senegal – What I Experienced in My Short Visit.
Elie Wiesel survived. Millions did not. I have known about this book most of my life, but for some reason it never made it into my hands, until I picked it up when I was in New York at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Here is my book review Night by Elie Wiesel.
There are many World War II and Holocaust survivor books worth reading. I have read many. But this short and even simple story is so personal, so heartbreaking, so real. It took Elie ten years from the time he was liberated from the Nazi death camps to even talk about the experience. And in 1956 he finally did, in the book Night.
When Elie was 15 years old, he was deported with his family (father, mother and sister) from Hungary to the Auschwitz – Birkenau camp in Poland. Elie’s mother and sister were likely killed shortly after their arrival, but he never knew. Elie’s father died a horrible slow death. Elie was the only one to survive.
Over the years the book has had it’s critics questioning its factuality. Of course it has. There are those who think the holocaust is a hoax. But the pages of Night tell a nightmare of a young boy pulled from his studies in his home in Hungary and thrust into unimaginable horrors.
Night was a watershed moment for the holocaust literature. It has been translated into thirty languages and is often on the syllabus at universities. It contains profanity, violence and horror, as told through the eyes of a young man living it. Wiesel would live the rest of his days (he died in 2016) with regrets. He would go on to write dozens of books and in 1986 he would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Wikipedia writes –
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee called him a “messenger to mankind”, stating that through his struggle to come to terms with “his own personal experience of total humiliation and of the utter contempt for humanity shown in Hitler‘s death camps”, as well as his “practical work in the cause of peace”, Wiesel delivered a message “of peace, atonement, and human dignity” to humanity. The Nobel Committee also stressed that Wiesel’s commitment originated in the sufferings of the Jewish people but that he expanded it to embrace all repressed peoples and races.”
I am so glad I finally read this masterpiece. Thanks for reading my book review Night by Elie Wiesel.
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