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Archive for the ‘4 Stars’ Category

I read this book in completely the wrong conditions. I’d never thought too much about how my life’s conditions really effected the quality of my reading but after giving it some thought during this read, I thought back and realised that so often it does. How many good books have we cast aside because of our own mental state? Or how many books that are generally marred as terrible are glorified because at the time we relate?

I read this book on the train (my usual reading venue, not ideal, but not overtly bad) but it happened to be during my last week of work, which turned out to be the busiest and most stressful of my entire time there. I had exactly the same amount of time I usually would but my head buzzed with the stresses and strains and thus my experience was diminished. Being a light read anyway I wasn’t overly concerned but I liked the idea it raised, that we as avid readers really do have such a deep connection with literature, so much so that how we feel directly impacts the story and its effect on us. I like that.

So the book. It really is a summer read. The type of book you should throw in your bag as you head out to the beach. It’s light, it’s pretty, it deals with fantastic human follies and its about ballet which of course makes you dream of your own childhood dance classes and the dormant thought that you should sign up for some adult ones.

The story follows Galina, a Russian Ballerina from her life in the Imperial Ballet School in pre revolutionary Russia, through her career with Ballet Ruses in France and how she came to be in Adelaide, South Australia. Galina begins writing her life story, as a way to set things straight, when a former colleague appears back in Adelaide and old wounds are reopened. Being a lover of all things ballet, the depiction of the ballet world is beautiful to read but it was the depiction of human characteristics that I liked most about this book. I love how Galina complains of the lack of discipline and commitment the little girls have to their ballet classes! It made me laugh out loud when she says ‘don’t they realise ballet is serious’. It was such a typical Australian folly seen through the eyes of a Russian. I also haven’t experienced ‘spite’ so well described on the page before. Galina has held onto her grudge towards her old colleague for over 20 years and she does it with so much Russian passion and vigor. Without ruining too much of the ending I also love how simple acts can wash away years of anger and rage in just a few seconds – so real, so true.

Although it isn’t the most amazing book in terms of style and language this really is a nice read. It’s an interesting story, takes you through interesting places and deals with real feelings and issues. So next time you are heading on a beach holiday or lazing at a picnic give it a go.

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Happy Australia Day everyone! I hope you all had as good a day as we did. We enjoyed a fantastic BBQ, good friends and a swim in the pool. Although I didn’t once sing the national anthem, I felt our day spent enjoying Australian past times was sufficiently patriotic! What did you all get up to?

This weeks book is a good old-fashioned, skeletons in the closet, family secrets kind of story. Written in a very ‘Bronte Sisters’ style, it takes a few pages to adjust to the tone but once you’ve got it the language is rather beautiful, possessing a quality often only found in the ‘classics’. 

The story begins in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia Canada where James Piper, a determined entrepeneur, meets 13-year-old Materia, the eldest daughter of a rags to riches Lebanese family. In their home to tune the family piano, James instead finds himself in love. He secretly courts Materia in the following weeks and soon enough they have eloped. Upon discovery they are disowned by Materia’s family and find themselves friendless and alone in an out-of-the-way town. The story spells out the recipe for disaster at every turn. It’s not unexpected when Materia doesn’t warm to the role of wife, housekeeper and mother nor when James wonders how this little girl ensnared him with her seduction. Materia is like a ghost, lost with no identity or family, and no longer the object of James affections. It is her children who eventually give her life joy, and it is them, the four Piper sister who’s lives we trace through this epic. 

Against the backdrop of early twentieth century Canada and New York the girls lives weave through religion, rebellion, mystery, memories, music, death, love and hope. Each sister is so unique and so defined by her experience, memories and history. They are interesting characters and the heart of this novel is in their relationships and the way they shape each others lives.

I actually really enjoyed this book, which surprised me because I often have difficulty with books that are too tragic. I think the reason is because the characters, though vivid, multifaceted and deeply constructed, were at the end of the day just characters. I didn’t find myself deeply involved with them, trying to warn them off decisions or rejoicing in their triumphs. And although I have considered this to be of my own doing, on further reflection I actually think it has been a tactical move by the author. By keeping the reader at arm’s length she almost has permission to take her story anywhere she wants it to go. There is after all no fear of offending the sensibilities of her readers. Thoughts? I’d love to hear what you think of this idea. Do you totally disagree? Did you get wrapped up in the characters?

It’s easy for me to recommend this book. If you are a Bronte lover, the language alone makes it an enjoyable experience. For everyone else the story, with its twists and turns, mystery and intrigue makes for great reading. It’s not a happy book but I’m gradually learning that that is okay. Something doesn’t have to be lovely to be beautiful or perfect to be memorable.

A warning for the cautious reader, this book contains themes of incest.

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This is the first book in ages that I have had the time to read through in only a few sittings. I don’t usually have the opportunity with work and life demanding attention, but with the Christmas holidays I found myself with the opportunity. I was interested to see what Niffenegger had come up with after The Time Travellers Wife (let me know if you’d like to know more about this one) which was a really enjoyable book.

The story is a little complicated but basically Elspeth, one half of a set of identical twins is dying of Leukaemia. Upon her death her will is executed leaving her apartment, money and possessions almost completely to her estranged twin sister’s twin daughters who she has never met. The will is full of conditions that don’t allow the twins parents to ever enter the apartment etc etc, which opens up the major mystery of the novel. Living in America at the time they discover their luck, the twins travel to London to live in their new apartment. They meet their neighbours, one the former partner of Elspeth who works in the famous Highgate Cemetary, the other an OCD sufferer whose condition keeps him from leaving the apartment to pursue his wife who has left him. They also meet Elspeths ghost who is trapped in the apartment.

Mystery, ghoulish encounters, human behavioural insights and a dash of romance give the novel a really unique, enjoyable quality and you can’t help but turn the pages a little faster to find out what happens next.

The major flaw however of this book was exactly the same as it was in The Time Travellers Wife. The author seems unable to give the reader what they want for an ending. And there is nothing more validating than to see Hollywood agree when they change the story for film to exactly what feels right. Now some of you might disagree but who can argue that seeing Kate die while Anna lives in the movie version of My Sisters Keeper (book by Jodi Picoult) felt better than the ending of the book? Or seeing Henry at the end of the movie (The Time Travellers Wife) time travel back to his wife after a reasonable amount of time? I just can’t get over the need to have the books I read resolve themselves. I find myself recreating the ending when the reality just won’t do.

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