Sunday, 26 June 2011

twenty-nine.

The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer (1974)


A black man is found dead on Mehring's farm and none of his boys know who the man is. Because he is black, the police doesn't care and they bury the body right there because they can't take it with him.

The start of the book was easy to follow, then it all got in to a blur. Someone's thoughts are all over the book, I was guessing it was the farmer, but then at the end I was no longer sure and I can't remember the last time I read a book that made me this confused. And I don't like reading books that I do not get, but because this was a part of Ann Helen's reading circle, I didn't throw it away, although I should have.

Nadine Gordimer won the Nobel Prize in 1991 and she was brave for writing about the apartheid at the time it was going on and many of her books were banned in South Africa. The apartheid is present in this book as well as it deals with the relationship between the white farmer, his black workers and the Indian shop owner nearby. And the setting and the first part of the book are interesting, but there's no continuity in the story and it is too full of someone's bloody thoughts and memories for my liking. But at least I can cross another Nobel Prize winner off my list. I also have July's People in my bookshelf, but I won't be picking that one up in the near future.

twenty-eight.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann (2009)A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

"Now, as I examined my creased map, none of that mattered. I looked up at the tangle of trees and creepers around me, and at the biting flies and mosquitoes that left streaks of blood on my skin. I had lost my guide. I was out of food and water. Putting the map back in my pocket, I pressed forward, trying to find my way out, as branches snapped in my face. Then I saw something moving in the trees. "Who's there" I called. There was no reply. A figure flitted among the branches, and then another. They were coming closer, and for the first time I asked myself, What the hell am I doing here?"

Percy Harrison Fawcett was a famous explorer of the Amazon, and he disappeared in the jungle with his son and his son's friend in 1925 when he was looking for an ancient city called Z. Fawcett became even more famous after his death, many disappeared into the Amazon when trying to find him and people even established cults devoted to him.

David Grann tells the excellent tale of the explorer's life and his disappearance, but also about his own adventures into the Amazon 80 years after Fawcett. He hopes to find more clues about the disappearance and the city Fawcett was looking for.

I loved this book. David Grann has done an excellent job researching Fawcett and the Amazon. It is a thrilling adventure and I really felt the jungle while reading. As I read it on my Kindle, I highlighted parts of the text because I really liked what I read.

"The electric lights went out in Manaus," the historian Robin Furneaux wrote. "The opera house was silent and the jewels which had filled it were gone... Vampire bats circled the chandeliers of the broken palaces and spiders scurried across their floors."

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

twenty-seven.

Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah (1994)

"The boy first. His name was Yusuf, and he left his home suddenly during his twelfth year. He remembered it was the season of the drought, when every day was the same as the last. Unexpected flowers bloomed and died. Strange insects scuttled from under rocks and writhed to their deaths in the burning light. The sun made distant trees tremble in the air and made the houses shudder and heave for breath. Clouds of dust puffed up at every tramping footfall and a hard-edged stillness lay over the daylight hours. Precise moments like that came back of the season."

Yusuf grew up on the East African coast. The man who Yusuf has
called his uncle lets him travel with him on his next journey. What Yusuf doesn't know is that the man is a rich merchant and Yusuf is taken to settle his father debts. Yusuf starts working in a small shop somewhere by the sea, and then he gets to travel with the merchant to the interior regions to trade with the savages.

The story is set right before World War I or World War II, I'm guessing because of the increasing activity of German settlers. I'm also guessing that the story is set in Tanzania or Kenya because of the vague geographical clues. It is rich with details about the complex mix of people and culture in Africa, the traders are descendants of Arabic and Indian settlers and they bring with them Islam to the noble savages. The savages have their superstitions and traditions, and the book is full of stories about jinns and other strange creatures. And then there is the strange myths about the Europeans.

This book is great and beautiful. Some parts of it reminded me of A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul, but that is probably because it somewhat has the same setting. I recommend both. And I'm looking forward to read By the Sea by Gurnah.

Monday, 13 June 2011

To celebrate that I have bought an apartment and survived the first year of teaching (unless I fail at the finish line this week), I have ordered myself 30 new books. Which is crazy when you look at the list of unread books I have. But I always stumble upon a book or five that I really want to read and buying books online is so easy. I'm quite pleased that I bought books from every continent except Australia.

I have no idea which books I will read this summer, but I have two glorious months of reading ahead of me. Just need to get done with the move and school first.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

twenty-six.



When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro (2000)

Christopher grew up in the International Settlement in Shanghai in the 1910s. His father suddenly disappears one day, and not long after, his mother also disappears, leaving Christopher as an orphan. He is shipped off to England where he eventually becomes a famous detective. He goes back to Shanghai on the brink of the Japanese invasion in 1937 to solve the case of his missing parents.

After spent weeks reading crime novels, I wanted to read something entirely different. My sister had disorganised my bookshelf at home completely, so the only book I could find that I hadn't read yet, was this. I sighed when I read the back cover, but decided to give it a try on the airport. And I'm glad I did. It is not a crime novel, more like figuring out the past.

It took me a while before I got into the story, but then I really did. And although the story never amazed me, it's been haunting me all day. I can't really put my finger on why, though. Maybe it is the lost opportunities of love, or the sadness of the orphans, both Christopher and Jennifer, the orphaned girl he takes care of.

It was great to revisit the setting of Shanghai during the Japanese invasion, having previously done so in Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard. I definitely want to read more novels set in this time, so if you know any, let me know.

Friday, 3 June 2011

twenty-five.


Ravnene by Vidar Sundstøl (2011)

Lance Hansen finally solves the murder by Lake Superior. But while he is looking for the solution, his family is in a lot of trouble and especially his 17 year old niece, Chrissy.

It is hard to say something about this book without spoiling what has happened in the previous two. So this is just a post to mark that I have read it.

Read the trilogy, it is good.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

twenty-four.


Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves (2010)

Jimmy Perez and his fiancée, Fran, are visiting his parents at Fair Isle, the most remote of the Shetland islands. But his holiday is cancelled when an ornithologist is found murdered at the bird research centre. And the murderer has to be one of the other visitors to the centre. The case is complicated by the stormy weather which means no aeroplanes and boats can reach the island so Perez is alone with the case.

Who'd knew bird-watching could be so exciting and full of intrigues? And for once I actually guessed the murderer and the reason for it and who the next victims would be. I loved the reference to Agatha Christie, because the whole setting definitely reminded me of Poirot.

But this is the first time a thriller has made me tear up. I could say a lot about the reason why, but that would certainly spoil it, so no. Is this the final book about Shetland and Jimmy Perez? I'm torn between hoping no and hoping yes. But I will definitely read more Ann Cleeves.

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