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review 2017-09-05 07:00
The Sleeping Dictionary - Sujata Massey

"THE SLEEPING DICTIONARY" is one of the best novels I've had the pleasure of reading this year. Sujata Massey, also known for her Rei Shimura mystery novels, is fast becoming one of my favorite writers. This is a rich, multi-layered, intense, thrilling story centered on the life of a young woman from West Bengal during the latter days of the British Raj. She began her life as Pom in a small village that was wiped out by an ocean wave, leaving her to cling to life on the highest rung of a lowly tree til she manages to draw the attention of a small rowing boat, which takes her to shore.

 

As a 10 year old orphan in 1930, Pom ends up in a British boarding school, where she (renamed Sarah) works as a servant and discovers she has a gift for languages. She learns to read and develops a passion for books and a remarkable facility in the English language, so much so that she can speak it like any well-heeled Briton. While at the boarding school, Sarah strikes up a friendship with Bidushi, an Indian girl of similar age from a well-to-do Brahmin family who struggles to learn English. Sarah helps Bidushi with her studies, and over time, their friendship grows, making them deeply bonded to one another.

 

Bidushi's family has made arrangements for her to marry Pankai, a fellow Brahmin who is studying law in London. The family encourages both Bidushi and Pankaj to maintain a correspondence. Bidushi shares Pankaj's letters with Sarah, and asks her help in writing letters in response to him. As a result, Sarah learns a great deal about Pankaj (who is among those Indians determined to achieve independence for their country from the British), and this proves to figure prominently in Sarah's later life. A life full of twists and turns that sees her forced out of the boarding school before she could complete her studies, and find refuge in Kharagpur. There she faces many challenges and experiences the darker, more sinister side of life before again, she finds she must flee. From Kharagpur, Sarah moves on to Calcutta in the late 1930s. There Sarah takes on a new identity, friends, work, and a deep, abiding commitment to the growing independence movement. The novel never flags. One you pick it up and read a few chapters, you're hooked.

 

I highly recommend "THE SLEEPING DICTIONARY" to everyone. It has an English/Hindi/Bengali reference guide that will further enrich your reading experience. And for those readers with a love for Indian cuisine, a few recipes are provided at novel's end under the title "A Taste of Old Calcutta."

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photo 2017-07-31 17:44
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review 2017-07-26 18:01
The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects - Barbara G. Walker

A wonderful work on the study of symbols and sacred objects as they relate to the female. It's an excellent companion to the marvelous "The Book Of Symbols: Reflections On Archetypal Images" offering insight on the feminine roots of many of our symbols.

 

Just as an example, one such symbol is the fish, widely accepted to be the symbol of Christianity, but which is actually FAR older. Ichthys was the offspring of the ancient Sea goddess Atargatis, and was known in various mythic systems as Tirgata, Aphrodite, Pelagia, or Delphine. The word also meant "womb" and "dolphin" in some tongues, and representations of this appeared in the depiction of mermaids. The fish is also a central element in other stories, including the Goddess of Ephesus, as well as the tale of the fish of the Nile that swallowed part of Osiris' body (the penis), and was also considered a symbol of the sexuality of Isis for she had sexual intercourse with Osiris after his death which resulted in the conception and birth of his posthumous son, Harpocrates, Horus-the-child. So, in pagan beliefs, the fish is a symbol of birth and fertility.

 

Before Christianity adopted the fish symbol, it was known by pagans as "the Great Mother", and "womb". Its link to fertility, birth, and the natural force of women was acknowledged also by the Celts, as well as pagan cultures throughout northern Europe.

The Romans called the goddess of sexual fertility by the name of Venus. And thus it is from the name of the goddess Venus that our modern words "venereal" and "venereal disease" have come. Friday was regarded as her sacred day, because it was believed that the planet Venus ruled the first hour of Friday and thus it was called dies Veneris. And to make the significance complete, the fish was also regarded as being sacred to her. The similarities between the two, would indicate that Venus and Freya were originally one and the same goddess and that original being the mother-goddess of Babylon.

 

The same association of the mother goddess with the fish-fertility symbol is evidenced among the symbols of the goddess in other forms also. The fish was regarded as sacred to Ashtoreth, the name under which the Israelites worshiped the pagan goddess. And in ancient Egypt, Isis is represented with a fish on her head.

Great stuff. Wonderful for those of us who do dream work, and who look for the deep plumb line of the Sacred that runs through all time, all people, and all place. More evidence the world is full of wonder, magic, and miracle.

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review 2017-04-18 21:49
War of the Words
Frindle - Andrew Clements,Brian Selznick

I had never heard of Frindle despite it being an award-winning book (2016 Phoenix Award) with many admirers (teachers, librarians, and children alike). Written by Andrew Clements with illustrations by Brian Selznick, this is the story of Nick Allen who is the premier 'idea man' of the 5th grade...until he meets Mrs. Granger. It's then that Nick's place among his peers is questioned as she challenges him to think more creatively than ever before. The humor, inventiveness, determination, and perspicacity of our main characters makes this an instant favorite for all ages. This is a super fast read (I read it in an afternoon commute in its entirety and I'm not a particularly fast reader.) and I think it would be a great one for reluctant readers especially if you're reading with them at home. Bonus: It's educational without ever really making that a big thing which is the perfect recipe for this age group especially if they're reluctant readers. *hint hint* This book is full of heart and more than a few surprises (this might give the little ones in your life some especially mischievous ideas) which means it gets a 10/10 from me. XD

 

Source: Book-A-Day Almanac

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url 2017-03-06 20:47
10 Words You Didn't Know Existed

Wouldn't it be great if we all had the time to read through the entire dictionary? Okay, maybe not for all of us, but there are so many words in the English language that we don't know about because they're not used often. We went on a hunt to find some of the most interesting words that aren't used in everyday speech, but should be!

 

Read more here.

Source: www.bookstr.com/article/10-words-you-didn-t-know-existed/3232?trr_article_source=post-ribbon-module&utm_campaign=687014_newsletter_170603&utm_medium=email&utm_source=The%20Reading%20Room%20&dm_i=2P56,EQ3Q,Z2B5Q,1I8XH,1
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