I had never read this classic and popular story by E.M. Forster but I had definitely seen the 1985 Merchant Ivory film adaptation (glorious) and have also seen the play adaptation on stage ( which includes the full skinny dip scene – hilarious).
Reading the book however I found a bit more difficult, wading through the English tendency to talk in circles. The story of a young English girl looks at the social class structure of England as it began to shift in the early part of the 20th century.
Like other similarly written stories of the time, a strong-willed but naive young woman (Miss Honeychurch) walks the reader through a series of events beginning in Florence Italy, continuing on to Rome and returning back to England. The events look at the sometimes ridiculous social etiquette of the era, with a lot of romance, confusion and sometimes long drawn out English conversations.
Both sweet and funny, with one of the funniest scenes in literature playing out when the young ladies happen upon the young men skinny dipping in the pond, the comedy of errors is a fun if sometimes slow read, but a classic to be enjoyed.
Four stars for A Room with a View by E.M. Forster.
I picked this book up in an airport to read on the plane. And I read almost the entire book on just one four-hour flight.
I had never heard of Lauren Groff but she has some full length novels. This book however is a collection of short stories, all based in Florida or about Floridians. Having recently spent a lot of time in Florida I found it really interesting, and Groff’s writing style poetic. In fact since finishing this book I have read reviews of her other works, not all favorable. But she seems to have a unique quality as a short story writer. Each story creating engaging characters and sometimes gripping scenarios. Stories of snakes and boys, abandonment and small girls, adults with issues, families in despair.
Florida is as unique and diverse as the state itself and I enjoyed this easy and beautifully written collection.
I took advantage of Amazon’s free book download a couple of months ago, in celebration of International Book Day. As they did last year, Amazon offered up several books by international authors for free. I downloaded about a dozen books, and The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia was the first one I read.
You might think a free book would be bad. Not.
I really loved this book and this story by Mexican author Segovia.
Segovia brings the reader to pre-revolution Mexico, where landowners and tenant farmers, corrupt politicians and revolutionaries are walking a fine line of survival and power in early 1900’s.
The Morales family is a hard-working and upstanding family with generations of land ownership being handed down from father to son. But their lives will be forever changed when anciently old Nana Reja discovers a newborn baby…a child with mysterious ways and the power to change everyone’s lives forever.
Segovia’s talent for story telling and use of some third person chapters and some first person chapters creates a lovely rhythm to the book and you will find yourself lulled into the characters and their lives and in particular the peculiar and fascinating child named Simonopia.
Like the swirling bees that follow Simonopia everywhere he goes, this book buzzes with the frenzy of the developing plot, believable characters, stunning narrative describing the rich and beautiful scenery and most of all the love and sacrifice of family.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Five stars for The Murmur of Bees by Sophia Segovia.
Although I enjoyed this story, I expected a bit more, given how long I was on the wait list to get this book from the library.
It’s good. Just not great. The best part for me was learning about a particular minority ethnic group in China I was not familiar with.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: A Novel by Lisa See is a compelling story of the remote Akha mountain people of China. The Akha in 1988 when the story begins, are still a very superstitious and traditional people, living a poor existence in their remote region with little food, power or plumbing. Their traditions and tea farming life go back thousands of years and have changed little over the centuries.
But slowly the modern world approaches and the long-established customs of these people are challenged in every way possible. The book follows the life of Li-yan, a girl from a family of tea farmers. It is her generation that will be directly affected by the challenges to the conventional and somewhat ignorant way of life, and the encroachment of the modern world.
Li-yan faces scandal and gives up a baby girl, then leaves the village to go to college and eventually becomes a highly successful tea broker. Back in the village life is changing dramatically as the cultivation of the now highly prized Pu’er tea is making all the village extremely wealthy.
But Li-yan never forgets the daughter she abandoned and wonders about her always.
It’s not too hard to come up with how this will end, and a few too many coincidences bring it all together in the end.
But the book is interesting for the education I received about the very lucrative world of tea, the fascinating culture of the Akha, and the heart-tugging topic of the one-child society of China.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: A Novel, by Lisa See
An engaging story of family and dysfunction with some lovely writing that includes occasional brilliant descriptive prose that took me by surprise and made me admire this writer.
The story, Ridker’s debut novel, spans several continents and decades as it wanders through the life of Francine, her husband Arthur and their children Ethan and Maggie.
Francine passes away of cancer and after her death the family learns that she has amassed a fortune in stock that even her husband knew nothing about. But in her will she gives it to her children and leaves nothing for her Professor husband who has never gained tenure and has lived his entire life regretting choices he made in his youth.
Ethan, gay and insecure, and Maggie, angry and dealing with an eating disorder, have zero relationship with their father following the funeral and thus the story unfolds as the author takes you through the inner thinkings, struggles and personalities as well as the mistakes and choices that have brought this family to where it is in this story; on the brink of disaster.
I enjoyed this book very much. I found this family sad, believable, pathetic, and endearing.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for The Altruist: A Novel by Andrew Ridker
Read last week’s review of The Children of Blood and Bone.
I have read dozens of Holocaust books, many of those just in the last few years as a glut of such stories have blanketed the market (Sarahs Key, Mischling, The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas, The Book Thief etc.). Although this story is interesting and shows the powerful will to survive during the worst possible circumstances, it falls flat for me.
Perhaps because there have been so many brilliant novels with this theme that have come before, or perhaps because I found the writing clipped and rushed – I didn’t love this book.
Based on a real person Lale Sokolov who spent three years as a prisoner in Auschiwitz during which time his job was the tattooist, tattooing the numbers on each arriving prisoner. Behind the prison walls he meets and falls in love with Gida and their love for each other keeps them alive. Lale’s positive personality is tested beyond its limits as he watches innocent men, women and children die all around him, but his one goal in life is to keep Gida alive so they can have a future together.
The author admittedly writes that this story was originally a screenplay. And it feels that way. Perhaps I would like it better as a movie. I don’t know. Heartbreaking and interesting I can’t write it off completely, and if you love a novel about this time period and how love survives, it may be for you.
⭐️⭐️⭐️Three stars for The Tattoist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.
Whoa. This book. As the name implies, it’s not equal, it’s not what you think. And it’s not symmetrical.
Say what? Yes, it is a bit difficult to pull the pieces of this book together, but I loved it just the same. Told in three very distinctive parts, Asymmetry, Halliday’s debut novel, sets out to explore the imbalance of human relations and bias of inequities of age, power, wealth, fame, nationality and justice.
How does she explore these questions? First with a story called Folly about an unexpected romance between Alice and a much older and very famous author. Just as I am really falling for these characters and this unusual romance something unexpected happens.
The story ends.
Next Halliday offers a story called Madness. This story by contrast is about Amar, an Iraqi-American who is detained by immigration officers in London. Again you find the character compelling and you feel helpless for him to find justice.
Still waiting for these two separate stories to connect in some way, Madness also suddenly ends.
You are left wondering what Halliday wants you to think. Finally she wraps the book up with a somewhat humorous and interesting radio interview of the older author from story number one.
This book is unique of all normal aspects of novel-writing and yet it provides a way to look at the questions of inequity through an inspired and powerful new style of novel-writing.
Although not for everyone, I give Asymmetry five stars. Because four is too symmetrical.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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