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Search tags: Fathers-and-Sons
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review 2017-12-09 21:57
“I decided to work and survive.”
The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between - Hisham Matar

Having read both of Hisham Matar's novels, In the Country of Men (4*) and Anatomy of a Disappearance (4*), I approached his third book with enthusiasm. This one was somewhat different, however, being a memoir, mainly centred around Hisham's relationship with his father and his life-long battle to find out how his father died and when.

It has been over twenty years since anyone heard from, or saw, Jaballa Matar. He was abducted from his adopted home of Cairo and imprisoned in the notorious Abu Salim prison in Libya for many years, but then the trail went cold.

Based in London, Hisham has battled with authorities for all these years, writing hundreds of letters to the Libyan government, humanitarian organisations and other influential people all over the world. Yet closure seems no nearer.


Once the Qadaffi regime had fallen, Hisham, his mother and brother, make their way back to the country for the first time since their exile to Cairo. Hisham meets many of his relatives and friends of his father's. Some of these people may even have been saved from their incarceration by Hisham's continuous efforts, but Jaballa was presumably assumed to be the ring-leader, and was never released.


It's a distressing story and Hisham's lack of closure and yearning for his father is palpable, but it also rather repetitive and was not particularly well received by my book group. An interesting account and an eye-opener into Libya behind the scenes, but I enjoyed this less than his novels.

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review 2017-11-17 16:58
Fathers and sons in America: A Matt Phelan Masterpost
Bluffton - Matt Phelan
The Storm in the Barn - Matt Phelan

I had said in last week's post that today I'd be writing a Matt Phelan 'masterpost'. Typically this means that I cover 3+ books by a single author (or multiple authors writing together in a series). However, today I'm just going to talk about 2 books because honestly that's all I could get my hands on and so that's all I managed to read. :-) I picked up Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton and The Storm in the Barn with fairly high expectations based on the work I had seen by Phelan in the Comics Squad compilation I read and reviewed not too long ago. On the one hand, I was not at all disappointed. The illustration style is most definitely up my street. He is excellent at drawing evocative expressions on people's faces. I think where I was let down was on the overall reading experience. Let me take each of the books separately so that I can (hopefully) explain what I mean.


I read Bluffton first because it featured a circus and I am all about that circus lifestyle. Firstly, when I grabbed this book I somehow missed the subtitle and therefore was shocked to discover that one of the main characters in this book is that famous star of vaudeville, Buster Keaton. Secondly, I went into this book expecting a rollicking good time and instead got a somewhat borderline depressing narrative of what the childhood of Buster would have entailed since he was a performer from infancy. It's about the expectations that a parent has for their child and how those might be vastly different from the aspirations that the child holds for themselves. It's also about the nature of friendship and jealousy (especially when one of the friends is an itinerant performer). It's a coming of age tale that paints a rather grim picture of child stardom and how the experiences of our youth shape us into the adults that we will one day become.


Then there was The Storm in the Barn which I can only categorize as a Debbie Downer type of book. I'm not sure that this falls under any one genre. It's most certainly historical fiction as it depicts a little boy, his family, and his community as they struggle during the time of the Dust Bowl in Kansas circa 1937. However, it also contains fantasy elements of which I can't really go into without spoiling the plot... It's certainly rooted in reality because Phelan does not shy away from the harsh conditions that these characters face (don't even get me started on the rabbits). He covers bullying from both peers and parents. The protagonist is forced to watch a beloved sister struggle with a possibly fatal illness. The entire plot is fraught with tension and a dark cloud seems to hover over every page. What I'm trying to say is that if you're looking for a light read to send your tots to sleep at night then you should probably keep looking. BUT if you wanted to teach your kids about an era of history that's not usually dwelt upon in the classroom then this might indeed be the right selection for you.


I'd rate both books about the same. In terms of imagery and writing, they're both 10/10. The issue is that I held expectations about these books (as readers do from time to time) and I finished both of these feeling somewhat let down. I understand that not all books are going to be rosy, sweet, and fun. I know that not every book has a happy ending. And yet when these two books delivered hardship, sadness, and loss I was ill prepared and disgruntled. I can't honestly flaw these books and say that from a reviewer's standpoint they were faulty...but I still find it difficult to give them full marks just the same. Does this make sense? I guess my point is that a book can tick off all the boxes and still fall short based on the assumptions of the reader and/or their relative mood when they picked up the book. ¯_(ツ)_/¯


Now let's take a look at Buster from Bluffton followed by a page from The Storm in the Barn:


Source: YouTube



Source: books4school


What's Up Next: Ghost Waltz: A Family Memoir by Ingeborg Day


What I'm Currently Reading: Kid Authors: True Tales of Childhood from Famous Writers by David Stabler

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-01-26 18:25
A sad story but didn't work for me.
The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between - Hisham Matar

After reading about this book I thought I absolutely had to read it. While studying at university in London, author Matar's father is kidnapped. Matar never sees his father again (this is not a spoiler as it's on the flap and was noted in several book previews). Yet the author hopes that his father might very well be alive, despite the horrors of the Gaddafi's regime. The book is the story of his journey and his search.


The book was a struggle. I really wanted to like it (perhaps that's not quite the right word, considering the content...) but I found it was a difficult to get into. There is a bit of an emotional distance and the book seems to meander here and there. I understand his actual journey was probably something like this (where does one to begin when so much time has passed and when the jailer has no care for keeping "records".


It could be very much a matter of style. I had thought (and maybe expected too much) that this book would be more straightforward retelling of his story. I didn't find the writing as beautiful as others did and honestly found it to be a distraction. Overall, the book wasn't for me.


Glad I borrowed this one from the library.

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review 2016-11-26 04:54
Fear of death
Three Shadows - Cyril Pedrosa

Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa is a tension-filled story of just how far a father will go to keep his son safe. The story begins with a depiction of a nearly idyllic family complete with mother, father, and son who are living off the land in perfect bliss until...the three shadows appear. It is a story of fear, determination, and the lengths a father will go to when he feels his son is threatened. It's also about grief and the inevitability of death. I think this is an important book for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if there is someone in your life who is currently struggling with a loss it could provide a measure of comfort that they are not alone. Secondly, if a parent is trying to explain life and death to their child then this might be the way to go. I know there are other children's picture books that touch on this topic but this definitely discusses not only the sadness but the fear of death which I think adults relate to even more so than children. Thirdly, the artwork really complements the story. It's without color, straightforward, and charming. I'm giving this one a 7/10.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2016-07-01 16:41
Well, you can't say it's not informative
John le Carre: The Biography - Adam Sisman

If the goal of a biography is to both inform the reader about their subject (in this case an author) and encourage them to read their subject's entire body of works then John le Carré: The Biography by Adam Sisman accomplished that goal. If you're looking for a fast-paced thrill ride then you're paging up the wrong book (did I take that metaphor too far?). Firstly, this is one of those weird occasions where the biographer's subject is still living. (I just checked and the last biography I read was I Am Scout back in May 2014 and it was also about a living (at the time) subject.) It is abundantly obvious that Sisman did his homework which is due in large part because he had the cooperation of the man himself. I must first inform you that John le Carré is not the author's true name. He is actually David Cornwell, an Englishman and former member of MI5 and MI6. (This isn't a spoiler as apparently it's a well-known fact and I'm just slow on the uptake.) A large part of Cornwell's life had been shrouded in mystery because of his prior career but in truth it was just a minor aspect of what made him into the author that he has become. Sisman explores at length Cornwell's family life and his upbringing and how that came to mold his character (and the characters in his novels). In particular, David's relationship with his father is harked upon multiple times in both Sisman's biography and in the works of le Carré. Honestly, a chronological timeline of all of Ronnie's movements wouldn't have gone amiss as that man was all over the place. I found the pacing of this book extremely slow and I felt it necessary to take frequent breaks so that I wasn't bogged down by the facts (it felt at times like I was being set up for a quiz on dates which I always fail). My overall feeling was that the book was very dry and as a result I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I had hoped I would. :-/ However, it served the purpose of instructing me on the topic of the author known as John le Carré so there's that. So I guess I'll give it a solid 4/10 because I did find it somewhat disappointing.


I'm definitely going to check out more of John le Carré's books though. In fact, I have a copy of Smiley's People that's been lurking for entirely too long on my shelves...

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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