Wednesday, 23 January 2008

What I Read on Vacation

I was off on vacation last week (a big family get-together at a resort in Mexico) and got some reading done, both in transit and there.

Finished January 12
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, translated by Anne Born
This gem of a book was recommended by another librarian that I am on a committee with, and he was right about it being a good one. I had actually bought it before he recommended it, being drawn to it by both good reviews and an interest in Norwegian writing (I'm one-quarter Norwegian heritage).
The main character, Trond, has retired to the country a couple of years after the death of his wife in an automobile accident. He bought a run-down cottage on a nice piece of land near a lake and is gradually making the house habitable. One night he hears his neighbour calling his dog and goes out to talk to him. Afterwards he realizes that he knows the man from a summer when he was a youth. That summer a tragedy occured in the other man's family that impacted on both families and eventually caused both families to break up. As Trond recalls this summer from his past and the feelings that it engenders, he also looks at the more recent tragedy in his life and how he has reacted to that.

Finished January 12
Twilight by Stephanie Meyers
I bought this book on my stopover in the Houston airport as my niece had been raving about it and hinting that she'd like her own copy. I decided to read it and then give it to her. It is the first in a vampire romance series for teens, and therefore when I got a nosebleed on the plane and bled all over it, it somehow seemed appropriate! She thinks the bloodstains add interest and she can tell exactly what part I was it when it happened.
The main character, Bella, is seventeen and has chosen to go live with her police-chief father in a small town on Washington's Olympic peninsula (a very rainy part of country). Her parents have been separated for years and her mother and her have lived in Phoenix ever since, but she wants to give her recently-remarried mother some space. Her father has tried hard to make her as comfortable as possible including buying her a used vehicle. She makes friends fairly easily as school, but finds herself drawn to Edward, part of a family that seems to have ostracized themselves from the rest of the school. Edward is equally drawn to her, and as the two become closer she learns that he is a vampire. Edward's clan hunts wildlife rather than people, but still doesn't want others to know of their special nature. When other vampires come to the area to visit, Bella becomes involved in a lethal game where her life is at stake.
I found this a good read, and can see the appeal for my niece. I'll be reading the others in the series too (and maybe buying them for her).

Finished January 16
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
This historical novel is engrossing. The main character, Aminata Diallo tells her story as she looks back on her life from her final years in London, England.
Aminata was kidnapped from her village in West Africa when she was eleven after watching her captors kill her mother and possibly her father. She is forced to walk to the coast with other captives, a journey that takes months and that not all survive. Once arrived at the coast, she is put on a ship to South Carolina with other captives and endures many horrors during the trip to America. Once there she is sold to a slaveowner to work on an indigo plantation and is taken under the wing of the slavewoman healer there. Eventually, after being sold again, she ends up in New York during the American Revolutionary war and becomes one of the Black Loyalists who emigrate to Nova Scotia. Time and again, Deena, as she becomes known, is separated from the family she has created, and alone agrees to join the new colony of Freetown in Sierra Leone.
The book uses a combination of real historical events and good characterization to grab the reader and make the story come alive. This is definitely one of my favourite books of recent reads.
Hill has included an excellent epilogue where he talks about the history that he drew this story from and he also includes a list for further reading.

Finished January 16
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This is another book I had been meaning to read for awhile and once I started I had to agree with one of the blurbs that said once started it was nearly impossible to put down. I found myself a spot in the shade and read all afternoon, taking a break for a swim and dinner, and then continuing reading in the evening until I finished the novel.
The postapocalyptic novel follows a father and his young son as they struggle to survive in a world that has been ravaged. They are making for the coast, although they don't know that things will be any better there. As they travel they must find provisions and avoid other travellers, particularly those that might do them harm. The relationship between the father and the son is a big part of this book, and really makes it what it is. The son is really the only thing that keeps the father going, with the hope that he can find a better life for him.
I have been recommending this book to others ever since I finished it, and it is one I will definitely be rereading.

Finished January 19
Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali
I read this one on the plane coming home.
This story is set in Portugal and looks at life from the point of view of a number of residents and visitors to a small village there. Some are native Portuguese, others are long-term residents from England, and still others are tourists. There is a range of ages as well from ten up through eighty-four. Some are reminiscing about the past, some living in the present, and others looking to the future. As they deal with the world as its changes come to them, they also look at it in the context of their own familiar lives.
Ali writes beautifully and with great humour and her characters are what make this book. They come to life and illuminate the landscape they reside in.

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