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text 2017-02-02 05:58
Reading Challenge update - January 2017
His Bloody Project - Graeme Macrae Burnet
The Hanging of Mary Ann - Angela Badger
Amokspiel - Sebastian Fitzek
Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks
Nutshell: A Novel - Ian McEwan
Cold Earth: A Shetland Mystery (Shetland Island Mysteries) - Ann Cleeves

It's been a good reading month for me. I've been feeling generous so there are some five star reads in there. Classics and non-fiction fell by the wayside (no surprise there) but I did manage a book in German so I'm pleased with that.

 

So, my January reads:

 

His Bloody Project

Not really sure if I could include this one as I finished it on January 1st (feels like a bit of a cheat to me). I thought it was a true story at first and when I found out it wasn't I was impressed by the author's skill in capturing the writing style of the day.

 

The Hanging of Mary Ann

Another sad story of a woman being made example of. Simply because she was a woman.

 

Amokspiel

Not the best Fitzek I have read. It was full of clichés but entertaining.

 

Nutshell

I confess to not being Ian McEwan's biggest fan but I loved this wine-swilling, philosophizing baby.

 

Year of Wonders

The book was rich in language and culture. Loosely based on true events, it inspired a little research on my part in to the events in Eyam in 1665.

 

And the disappointment of the month award goes to ...

 

Cold Earth

The strong and silent Jimmy Perez has disappeared from Shetland and in his place we have a flat character who seems to be handing over the reins to his girlfriend. The story was formulaic and there wasn't an original character on the island. Glad I only borrowed it!

 

Just to complete the stats that's a total of 1465 pages read (excluding His Bloody Project) at an average of 47 pages a day.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-10-30 03:45
Year of Wonders
Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks

***Note: this review assumes that you've read the book.***

 

One-sentence summary: this novel was a beautiful work of historical fiction until the last twenty pages, which were so unbelievable and out of context that the book was ruined for me.

 

The writing. I absolutely loved the research and the language of this novel. Ms. Brooks did a beautiful job of depicting a 1600s English village--especially the brutality of their hard-scrabble life. Everything was small and gritty and real. The research regarding mining in the 17th century and life in a mining community was fascinating. The prose was almost poetic at times.

 

Distance of the main character. However, I struggled throughout the novel to feel close to Anna Frith. This book demands closeness--we are, after all, stuck in a village of some 300 people, quarantined with them by the plague--but I felt like I was observing her from a distance. I respected Anna, I admired her, and enjoyed watching her growing (and believable) strength in that isolated community, but I didn't feel she was...real? I still wonder how this happened: was it her relative perfection? The way even her flaws were excusable, particularly from a 21st-century feminist morality? Somehow she was a bit reserved and formal, even to me, even while experiencing such pain and revealing her inner thoughts. Why?

 

The ending. This absolutely killed the novel, in as little twenty pages. Such a disappointment! It would have been quite unusual enough (and a great ending) for Anna to become a healer in her own village--to replace the Gowdies. But instead Ms. Brooks throws twists and impossibilities our way: the rector that Anna (and we) admired turns out to have been a horrible husband to Anna's best friend and a religious fanatic. Anna rescues a newborn baby and runs away to North Africa, marrying an old Barbary doctor (but in a platonic arrangement, which seems unlikely), becoming a midwife for Muslim women, and raising her two daughters in the "safety" of the doctor's harem. WHAT.

 

My second try. This was my second Geraldine Brooks novel. I found the historical sections of People of the Book to be a bit cold and distant, and the melodrama and feminism of the contemporary sections to be overwrought. Year of Wonders is clearly the work of the same author, with a mysteriously distant main character, and an unnecessarily melodramatic ending--meant to be cathartic to the reader, but instead being so impossible and unrealistic as to be disappointing.

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review 2015-09-27 00:00
Year of Wonders
Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks I have never thought about The Plague in these terms. This book really personalizes it. My thoughts on the subject are forever changed.

Anna lives through so much pain. Many people would have just given up at some point. She looses her husband, kids, parents—all her family. . . actually 99% of the people she's ever known. People are dying, going mad, committing insane acts. Anna stays pretty solid throughout. She's still open to friendship and love. She still tries to help, even as the world is destroyed around her. This is almost an apocalyptic tale. For me, the last part of the book was the best. Her life after sounded very interesting. I wouldn't have minded having more details there and a little less of all the bad stuff, but I think that was the point of the book. She made it through ALL of that.
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text 2015-08-31 18:25
August Roundup
Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks
A Plague of Lies - Judith Rock
Death Ex Machina (An Athenian Mystery) - Gary Corby
A Duty to the Dead - Charles Todd
The Red Book of Primrose House: A Potting Shed Mystery - Marty Wingate
Sacred Treason - James Forrester

Despite a nasty book slump the last week or so, I managed six books this month, half of them 4 stars.

 

Best reads: Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks (despite the bizarre epilogue), A Plague of Lies, by Judith Rock, and Death ex Machina, by Gary Corby.

 

No worst read, as nothing under 3 stars.  But Sacred Treason, by "James Forrester" (Ian Mortimer), was a slight disappointment - a rare case of a historical mystery where my problem, for once, was most definitely not on the historical side, which was done well, but with the plot/mystery element, which was too convoluted.

 

For September, I hope my book slump disappears! 

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review 2015-08-20 17:08
Year of Wonders
Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks

Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks' first novel, focuses on a year in the life of an English village, Eyam (EE-m), in Derbyshire - the plague year 1665-1666 - seen through the eyes of housemaid Anna Frith.  The title, Year of Wonders, is taken from the poem Annus Mirabilis, by John Dryden - which Dryden was either using ironically, or to suggest that "yes, the Plague and Great Fire of London were horrible, but hey, it could have been much worse!  God is the man!  Thank you, God!"   (The real-life village of Eyam did this; the only place in England which did so of its own volition.)

 

This village, under the leadership of both its current Church of England pastor, and its past one, a puritan, decides to quarantine itself from the world, to prevent the further spread of the plague, which has already started to spread in the town.  The local earl has agreed to leave food and supplies for them at the Boundary Stone.

 

It is a read that is naturally full of death, but also full of the growth of the narrator.

 

I found the epilogue a bit far-fetched, however.

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