Tag Archives: Books

Sea Prayer – Khaled Hosseini

Hello Loves!

Hope you’re all well and enjoying kicking up the leaves that Autumn is kindly offering us.

Today, I want to share with you a book I saw, bought and read after work yesterday. After a really long, difficult week, I decided to treat myself to a hot chocolate and a little read so headed to my sanctuary: Waterstones. I saw this book in the window and decided it was time to read it. Thank goodness I did. I soon realised that my long and difficult week was just that, only a week, a moment. Not a lifetime.

What’s it all about?

In less than fifty pages, this book has made me question so many things: life, attitudes, the world. This poignant and powerful book is a collaborative piece between Hosseini and Dan Williams. The illustrations are stunning and harrowing, just like the words within.

Written as a response to the refugee crisis, Hosseini has given a voice to the thousands of people who made the same journey from war torn Syria across the Mediterranean Sea to safety. Unfortunately, as we all know too well, thousands did not survive.

Structured as a letter from a father to his son, the night before their journey, this book starts with memories of their past, safe life in Homs. Memories of family members, the animals, the sounds of the city are all shared, creating this beautiful homage to their old life. However, this is something the son, Marwan, cannot remember.

‘But that life, that time, seems like a dream now, even to me…’

The illustrations then become much darker in hue, the words more troubled to show that life has changed. References to the protests, the siege and bombs dropping on their beloved city. Sadly, this is what Marwan knows; what he has grown up seeing on a daily basis. He and many other innocent children.

‘You have learned dark blood is better news than light.’

It is the night before their journey and on a moonlit beach people agonisingly and nervously wait for the morning. Yet, fear of what is waiting for them at the other side is also on their minds. Hosseini references the attitudes reported, the fact that they are ‘unwelcome’ and ‘uninvited’. Sadly, I too have heard reactions like this. It is answered from the words of the mother, making it, in my opinion, all the more heart breaking. The role of the mother is to nurture and protect, to understand.

‘Oh, but if they saw, my darling, even half of what you have. If only they saw. They would say kinder things, surely.’

Everyone prays for their safety, well aware of how deep and large the sea is. Everyone knows the risk they are taking. But it’s the only option. The Sea Prayer is exactly that, a prayer to keep them safe at sea. As parents, they are powerless, their protection cannot deter great seas. But they need safety.

‘Because you, you are precious cargo, Marwan, the most precious there ever was.’

The final two pages, blank and harshly white, are where Hosseini declares what inspired this moving book.

‘Alan Kurdi, the three year old Syrian refugee who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach safety in Europe in September 2015.’

Yet, it wasn’t just this little boy. It was 4,176 other lives that were taken in that same year.

Overview

It is when I stop and think about that statistic that I really consider the world we live in today. Nobody should have to live in a place where they don’t feel safe. That little boy, like the many other little boys and girls deserve to know the good of the world like we do.

This book is easily the most beautiful in so many ways. Firstly, the illustrations are sublime. But it is so much more than that. It book shows life before the hell, it shows people’s strength and it teaches us all a lesson. We must care more about each other.

With that, I’m off to hug someone I care about because we are so lucky we have the lives we do.

Big love to you all. Xx

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19 Comments

Filed under Book review, Books, New Books, Reading

RTY: I Capture The Castle – Dodie Smith

Hey Everyone!

As promised in my previous post, today I wanted to share with you my review of the book I chose for Penguin’s Read the Year Challenge. The focus for the month of September was: dive into a coming of age story you haven’t read before. I have to confess that I Capture the Castle wasn’t my first choice for this month. The first book I chose was Black Swan Green by David Mitchell but I found it really difficult to get into. So after the first couple of chapters I gave up. However, my second choice was much more fruitful. I’d heard of Dodie Smith as a little girl because I loved the story The Hundred and One Dalmatians. I really enjoyed the opportunity to read something else by this fascinating, (arguably) lesser known novelist. This coming of age story has everything, love, jealousy, frustration, upset and complete joy.

What’s it all about?

I Capture the Castle tells the adventures of the Mortmains family, struggling to life in genteel poverty in a crumbling castle during the 1930s. The novel is told through the eyes of Cassandra Mortmain, an intelligent teenager who writes everything in shorthand in her journal.

Cassandra’s father is a writer suffering from writer’s block. He hasn’t written anything since his first book, Jacob Wrestling, was published. The novel, a reference to Jacob wrestling with the angel, is an innovative and challenging modernist novel that was hugely popular. This book made Mortmain’s name huge, especially in the United States.

Ten years before the novel begins, Mortmain takes out a forty year lease on a dilapidated but beautiful castle. This is the seed of inspiration for him, or isolation! However, as Cassandra tells the story, they are having to sell the furniture to survive and buy food.

Walking down Belmotte was the oddest sensation– every step took us deeper into the mist until at last it closed over our heads. It was like being drowned in the ghost of water.

Topaz, Mortmain’s second wife, is a beautiful artist’s model who enjoys being with nature, often naked in its presence. Rose, the eldest daughter, is a classic English beauty. Her focus is to meet a wealthy young man to settle with. She tells Cassandra, who tells us, that she wants to live in a Jane Austen novel.

Cassandra has literary ambitions and spends her time writing and capturing everything around her in her beloved journal. The final characters in the household are Stephen, the handsome and loyal live in son of the late maid and Thomas, the youngest Mortmain child who is just as intelligent as Cassandra. Stephen is very much in love with Cassandra but she doesn’t really notice.

While I have been writing I have lived in the past, the light of it has been all around me…

The novel changes pace when the Cottons, a wealthy American family, inherit the nearby Scoatney Hall and become the Mortmains’ new landlords. The girls are intrigued by the two handsome, unmarried brothers, Simon and Neil Cotton. These new men give the girls something new to focus on and to investigate further. Neil was raised in California by their English father. He’s very carefree and wants to become a rancher one day.

Whereas, Simon is scholarly and serious, with a passion for the English countryside. As the eldest, Simon is the heir and is already much wealthier than Neil. Although Rose isn’t attracted to him, she decides to pursue him into marriage if she can. Rose admits she’d marry the devil if it meant she could escape poverty.

When the two families first meet, each are as intrigued as the other about them. When the Cottons visit the following day, Rose openly flirts with Simon. However, she ends up humiliating himself due to her inexperience. Both brothers are less than amused by the experience and as they walk away, Cassandra overhears them saying they will cease further acquaintance with the family.

However, after an amusing episode with a fur coat and an alleged sighting of a bear, all is forgiven between the two families and they become close friends. Rose convinced herself that she really is arrested and taken with Simon so Cassandra and Topaz devise a scheme to get Simon to propose to her. This has an excellent result for the family as he falls in love with her and proposes shortly after.

Time in the novel following this is split between the castle and London. Rose and Topaz head to the city with Mrs Cotton to purchase Rose’s wedding trousseau. Whilst everyone else is away, Cassandra and Simon spend the evening together when they inevitable kiss. Cassandra becomes obsessed with Simon; it’s all she thinks about. However, she does end up feeling incredibly guilty. Simon, is of course, Rose’s fiancé. With Rose being away, Cassandra feels more and more lonely and isolated.

It came to me that Hyde Park has never belonged to London – that it has always been , in spirit, a stretch of countryside; and that it links the Londons of all periods together most magically – by remaining forever unchanged at the heart of a ever-changing town.

Over this time, Stephen continues to copy poems for her and save his money to buy her gifts. Cassandra decides that she has to tactfully let Stephen down in terms of his offer of love. She encourages him to pursue his model and film career, which has recently taken off.

…surely I could give him–a sort of contentment... That isn’t enough to give. Not for the giver.

Cassandra decides to join forces with him and Thomas to help their father overcome his writer’s block. They lock him in one of the towers, delivering food parcels to him. He becomes quite frustrated, but eventually it seems to be for a good cause. Cassandra, meanwhile, is acutely aware that her attraction is increasing. Cassandra continues to record everything in her journal.

In the background, unknown by all the characters in the novel other than Stephen, Rose and Neil have been falling in love. To conceal their growing love, they pretend to hate each other. When they eventually elope together, Simon is left heartbroken. However, for Cassandra, this means there is a sign of hope. Before Simon leaves to go back to the United States, he visits Cassandra.

“I found it quite easy to carry on a casual conversation it was as if my real feelings were down fathoms deep in my mind and what we said was just a feathery surface spray.”

Despite her feelings for him, Cassandra decides to deflect the conversation at the moment when she believes he may propose marriage, in the belief and understanding that he was still in love with Rose.

The novel ends on a rather ambiguous note. Cassandra reminds herself that Simon has promised to return to her. She closes her journal for good, still loving him.

I get the feeling I do on finishing a novel with a brick-wall happy ending – I mean the kind of ending when you never think any more about the characters.

Overview

This book is an excellent coming of age story. The family as absolutely fascinating and I found myself feeling many of the emotions described in the novel. Rose just wants to fall in love with the right person, Cassandra adores her sister and wants her to be happy. They each want their father to be able to write something so they can have furniture. Finally, who wouldn’t want to live in a castle? This is a charming book, perfect for everyone.

Hope you enjoy the autumn everyone! Get out there any kick up the vast array of colourful leaves.

Big love xxx

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Filed under Book review, Books, Read The Year Challenge

Matilda At 30 – Roald Dahl & Quentin Blake

Hey Everyone!

Welcome to October! The leaves are changing, it’s definitely getting colder and Autumn is fast upon us. What is perfect about this time of year is it’s the right time to get cosy on the sofa, in a chunky blanket with a book.

Before my Read The Year post for September, I wanted to share with you the news that Roald Dahl’s Matilda was published 30 years ago today. Happy birthday Matilda!!

I can’t believe it’s 30 years old – only two years older than me! It’s fascinating how it’s stood the test of time. That’s because it’s absolutely brilliant!! I have so much love for Matilda in my heart. The message that good will always conquer evil is one to remember, even when we feel most defeated. Also, the comfort and joy we can get from a good book cannot be understated. For Matilda, it’s all she has at some points in her life.

By pure coincidence, I’ve had a really Matilda orientated weekend. I went to Manchester to see the touring cast of Matilda the Musical. It was awesome! Just as amazing as when I went to see it in London. (see here for information!) I have a huge swell of pride about this as it started in my beloved Stratford upon Avon. It’s grown into this incredible production which is now being shared across England. Go and see it if you get chance, you won’t be disappointed!

To celebrate 30 years, Quentin Blake has released a number of drawings and illustrations which reimagine Matilda as an adult. Blake shows Matilda as a poet laureate, an astrophysicist, a special FX artist, a world traveller and the CEO of the British Library. I chose the latter cover to buy to mark this special occasion. Also, in my opinion, it’s the most likely career I think Matilda would have. Also, how beautiful is this cover?!

In true Quentin Blake style, the illustrations are just awesome. It’s so clever to be able to see the potential lives Matilda could have had. The opportunities are indeed endless. Regardless, it’s a beautiful book with the original story and illustrations within. What a relief this has been republished for the world to consider where the incredible little girl would be now.

So, happy birthday Matilda! I hope this novel continues to give hope to those who need it, shows that good will conquer evil and shares the love of learning. Matilda, you are a beauty.

Happy reading everyone!

Big love.

18 Comments

Filed under Books, Children's Literature, New Books, Weekend Trips

I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai

Hey Lovely People!

How are you all? I hope that September has treated you well and like me, you’re keeping warm from the rain outside. I noticed yesterday the leaves are starting to turn, clearly Autumn is upon us. Today I wanted to share with you one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read: I Am Malala. Wow. There aren’t enough words for this book. Malala Yousafzai is a name that everyone has heard of so I wanted to read her story and what an amazing story it was for me.

What’s it all about?

The book is written in five parts, covering various points in Malala’s life. Part One covers Malala’s life ‘Before the Taliban’. She describes her childhood home in Swat Valley where Malala, her father Ziauddin, her mother Toor Pekanbaru and her two younger brothers Khush and Atal, lived. Ziauddin’s father, Rohul Amin was an imam and a teacher. Ziauddin studied a Master’s in English at Jehanzeb College. Malala was therefore surrounded by great thinkers and educated minds. Malala is very honest in her narrative, they are a normal family and her brothers irritate her.

“I don’t want to be thought of as the “girl who was shot by the Taliban” but the “girl who fought for education.” This is the cause to which I want to devote my life.”

Her father opened the Khushal School with a partner Naeem, who had to leave himself due to financial problems. So, Ziauddin found a new partner, Hidayatullah, who helped him to bring the school into profit. This profit enabled them to open more schools in the area. Toor Pekai would bring any children who were in need to live with them and Ziauddin would give them free places in the school where they could learn and thrive.

Malala spends time in her narrative explaining the changes in political regimes in Pakistan, the first drone strikes in Pakistan in 2004, following 9/11 in America and the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. I remember 9/11 in particular because it was my first day at secondary school. Just like Malala, many of us can relate to and remember events in history that have happened that have shaped our world today.

In Part Two, subtitled ‘The Valley of Death’, the narrative centres on the growing rise of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in Swat. Back in 2006, Fazlullah began an ever increasingly popular radio broadcast where, initially advice was given on matters such as ritual ablution and drug abstinence. However, the focus of this changed to the condemnation of music and dancing. Finally, the instruction came that women were to stay in the home. To Malala, who loved to go to school with all the other girls, this was a complete travesty. Nevertheless, this did not stop her from getting her education. Malala was absolutely determined to go to school.

“Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow.” Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”

The war in North-West Pakistan was still raging and the return of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to Pakistan has devastating results. As an activist for women’s rights, her return led to her assassination. This murder was just the start as the Taliban began to commit further murders. Ziauddin Yousafzai continued to speak out against such violence. His daughter, Malala, began to write a BBC Urdu blog under the pseudonym Gul Mukau, sharing tales of how life was during this time.

“If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?”

More woe descended upon Swat when after a Taliban edict in 2009, Malala’s school was forced to shut down. Malala and her family had no choice but to move to Shangla for the next three months.

Part Three is entitled ‘Three Girls, Three Bullets’. It is in this part where Malala describes her horrific ordeal with the Taliban.

“The Taliban could take our pens and books, but they couldn’t stop our minds from thinking.”

By 2009, the army have fought off the Taliban in Swat and the Yousafzai family return home. Malala’s school re-opens and she visits Islamabad with her school friends. Here she meets Major General Arthar Abbas and gives a public speech. Malala is used to giving regular public speeches with her father in various interviews. Each one bares the same message: criticism of the Taliban and the ineffectiveness of the army.

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”

Mother Nature adds to the destruction of Swat, the 2010 Pakistan floods destroyed many buildings and left many people without food, clean water and electricity. Also, things are still very politically charged in Pakistan. CIA agent Raymond Davis murders two men and the Americans kill Bin Laden. The consequence of this is widespread mistrust of American influences in Pakistan by the public.

However, for Malala, it was like as usual. Malala began to win numerous prizes for her activism. She continues to speak out about a girls right to education. She appeared on Geo TV and visited the mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Due to her courage at standing up for what she believes in, Malala started to receive death threats. This worried her parents immensely. In August 2012 when Zahid Khan was shot and killed, Ziauddin expected to be the next target. Malala also begins to worry that she too is a target but her focus is on her exams and she is desperate to study hard and do well.

“We were scared, but our fear was not as strong as our courage.”

However, what follows shocked me to my core, along with the rest of the world. After her Pakistan Studies exam on the 9th October, two men stop her bus and come aboard. They shout one thing: “Who is Malala?” Then three shots are fired.

“I told myself, Malala, you have already faced death. This is your second life. Don’t be afraid — if you are afraid, you can’t move forward.”

Part Four is subtitled ‘Between Life and Death’. We learn that one bullet travelled from Malala’s left eye to her shoulder and her two friends, Shazia and Kainat were also injured. Thankfully, not fatally.

Ziauddin gave a speech with the Association of Private schools before rushing to the hospital to be with his daughter. Her mother was learning to read and rushed home to pray. Malala was taken by helicopter to the Combined Military Hospital in Peshawar where she was then airlifted to a military hospital in Rawalpindi. On the 15th October, Malala was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham aboard a United Arab Emirates jet. However, her father refused to come as the rest of the family could not travel without passports. She made the journey with her medical team, alone.

“I reassured my mother that it didn’t matter to me if my face was not symmetrical. Me, who had always cared about my appearance, how my hair looked! But when you see death, things change. “It doesn’t matter if I can’t smile or blink properly,” I told her. “I’m still me, Malala. The important thing is God has given me my life.”

Part Five is called ‘A Second Life’. Malala woke up in the Birmingham hospital on the 16th October. However, her thoughts were not of herself or her injuries. She was obsessed with the location of her father and the safety of her family. She knew full well that she and her family could not afford medical treatment. Finally the medical team answered her questions.

Malala received 8000 cards and many many presents. Her family arrived 9 days later to join her in her recovery. In November Malala underwent major surgery to repair her facial nerve. The following January she was discharged from hospital. In February she underwent further surgery to get a cochlear implant.

The story ends with her new life in Birmingham. She missed Swat and her friends terribly. Yet, she decided to continue her activism, to spread the word about the importance of education. She wants to become know for “the girl who fought for education” rather than “the girl who was shot by the Taliban”.

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

Overview

This book was so inspiring, so shocking and everything in between. Education is a massive part of my life. I remember as a young girl going to school, never questioning it or even realising how lucky I was. Reading this book has made me appreciate my education so much more. As a teacher, I want to share this book with everyone. I’m not really into reading about political history but because this was in my lifetime, I felt I appreciated it more. Obviously, it is something that has been in the press a lot so I valued having Malala’s own words. This girl is so inspirational, thank goodness for her.

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”

Finally, on a different note, today is the first day of Autumn. To celebrate, I’m launching a new swoosh at the bottom of every post. Hope you like it!

Big love all xxx

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Filed under Book review, Books, Education, Reading

The Red Notebook – Antoine Laurain

Hello Everyone!

Happy September!! You’ll be pleased to know my great disappearing act has come to an end. In all seriousness, the last of my summer holiday went in the blink of an eye and my return to work came all too suddenly. Therefore, I apologise for all the wonderful things I’ve missed. I’ll endeavour to catch up with them all.

Now I’ve got a pocket of time to myself (meaning I’m currently ignoring the Macbeth scheme of work I need to write) I wanted to share with you a lovely little book I read over the summer. This book made me smile in abundance. It was one of those reads that grabbed you by the heart and whisked you on a little adventure.

What’s it all about?

The novel centres around Laure and Laurent and how their lives are brought together. For the majority of the novel, the main voice we hear is Laurent’s. However, it is through his narrative we learn about Laure.

On her way home from work, Laure is mugged. Her attacker knocks her head with a heavy object which causes her to fall to the ground. The attacker runs away, taking her handbag with him. Many people around her try and help but Laure believes she is completely fine. She doesn’t realise that she has sustained quite an injury to the back of her head. Laure doesn’t wish to return home, despite feeling ok. Therefore, she checks herself into a nearby hotel and meets a friendly night clerk. She explains how she’s been mugged and needs a place for the night so in the morning she can go and report it to the police where she will then be able to pay for the room. The night clerk agrees to let her stay and gives her a key to a room. She settles down for the night.

The following morning, the women working on the front desk reads a note left by the night clerk telling them what happened with the mysterious woman. They patiently wait then decide they should go and check on her. When they enter they room, what they find shocks them. She’s lying unconscious and in a pool of blood. She is then taken to a hospital where it is revealed that she is in a coma.

Meanwhile, Laurent decides to leave his bookstore to go for a walk around the city. He’s pondering his life, feeling rather dissatisfied and contemplating whether or not he should leave his overpowering girlfriend, Dominique. He spots a woman’s handbag from afar and reflects how his ex wife, Claire, used to never part with her bags. He has his suspicions about this bag being stolen. After conducting a little investigation, he discovers no wallet, adding to his earlier suspicion. He takes the bag home and rescues it from the trash.

‘How many things do we feel obliged to do for the sake of it, or for appearances, or because we are trained to do them, but which weigh us down and don’t in fact achieve anything?’

Once at home, he pulls out all the contents of the retrieved bag and among them finds a necklace with hieroglyphics on it and a red notebook. There are plenty of odds and ends such as a lipstick, perfume bottle, a book signed by a lesser known author and some hair pins. His attention is mostly held by the red notebook and he realises it is a diary. Temptation gets the better of him and he starts to read it. This gives him the window to learning about this woman. He learns that she is kind, creative, witty and passionate. He feels deep down that she is someone he would want to get to know.

‘He drank some more wine, feeling he was about to commit a forbidden act. A transgression. For a man should never go through a woman’s handbag-even the most remote tribe would adhere to that ancestral rule.’

However, back at the hospital, Laure is dreaming in her coma. Her dreams take her back to being a child playing in a beautiful garden. Her memories intrude on this blissful dream and her former husband, Xavier, appears in the garden. This then pulls her fork her dream to the reality of his death. She recalls the government phone call, informing her of his death in the Iraq War as he was taking war photographs. She fights back the reality and the pain of this situation and reverts back to the garden, holding Xavier’s hand.

Laurent finishes reading Laure’s diary and realises how Dominique pales in comparison to this woman he has never met. Ironically, at this moment, Dominique shows up at his apartment. Laurent quickly hides all of Laure’s items in her bag and hides it. Yet, as soon as Dominique enters, she can smell another woman’s perfume. Laurent is adamant that no other woman has been there but she doesn’t believe him. When they attend a party that evening, Laurent’s mind drifts to how Laure would behave at a party. He decides that this is unfair on her and ends their relationship.

‘She was an enigma. It was like looking at someone through a fogged-up window. her face was like one encountered in a dream, whose features disolve as soon as you try to recall them.’

The following day Laurent’s friend Pascal tells him how foolish he has been in terminating his relationship. After all, Laure is still unknown to him really. Pascal had different morals to Laurent and he wishes his friend followed in his own footsteps of being more of a ladies man. As they part ways, Laurent is determined to find Laure and reunite her with her bag. The police are less than interested in the matter, claiming the paperwork is too lengthy.

Laurent decides to track down the author of the signed book which was in the bag. Upon finding him, he cannot remember who the owner of the book is but can describe what she looks like. Rather conveniently, he has another author in the store doing another book signing who can read hieroglyphics. He translates the necklace which reveals her full name. The overwhelming sense of relief is immense from Laurent. He knows her name which means he now has a better chance of finding her.

Unbelievably, he does find her, in a coma in one of the hospitals. Upon his arrival he sees another man there called William. He is a colleague of Laure’s and has been taking care of her pet cat. The doctor introduces him as Laure’s brother but Laurent and the doctor know that this isn’t true. It is assumed that he is Laure’s boyfriend and he fails to contradict him. Laurent feels bad about lying about his relationship but when he is asked by William to stay at her house to cat sit, he doesn’t look back.

Laure is still deep in her dream but more and more of the real world invaded them. She hears nurses discussing a television show and is aware that she is in hospital. But, she is not willing to wake up just yet.

Laurent stays at Laure’s house for several days. He spends time looking through her personal items, like her photo albums, books and collections. It helps to add and further create an image of her in his head. He starts to feel an increasing amount of guilt because of his behaviour.

‘There, it was over. How was it so easy to disappear from someone else’s life? Perhaps it was with the same ease that you enter it. A chance meeting, a few words exchanged, and a relationship begins. A chance falling out, a few words exchanged and that same relationship is over.’

Later in the day he meets with his daughter, Chloe. She asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend when her friends appear. Initially, this upsets him but he plays along to keep his daughter happy. He is also aware that the boys are less likely to come near her if they think she’s got an older boyfriend. He confides in Chloe about what he has been doing with the handbag and the notebook. Chloe finds it all very romantic despite her father sharing his guilt with her.

‘Chloe sighted, then continued, ‘She’s very attached to the past – the mirror is ancient, a famili heirloom; perhaps it was her grandmother’s. And she uses an unusual perfume – no one wears Habanita any more – she writes weird things in her notebook, she has a book signed by an author you admire…’ Then she concluded with an ironic smile, ‘She’s the woman for you.’

As Laure finally wakes up from her coma, William is by her side but Laurent is not. Earlier in the day, he dropped the keys to Laure’s house off at William’s office. She is released from hospital and returns to her home. She stumbles upon a note from Laurent apologising for what he has done. Amazingly, she is not upset, but rather, more moved by his efforts to get her belongings back to her. Thus, she begins her own mission to find him.

Nevertheless, Laurent is morose. Chloe knows why this is and manages to convince her mother and stepfather that one of their picture frames need touching up. She does this because she has learnt from Laurent that Laure was a framer in the town. She goes to several framing stores until she finds the one where Laure works. She tells her exactly where she can find Laurent.

Immediately, Laure goes to the bookstore. She approaches the counter and asks him about a book that features a woman whose handbag had been taken and a man who runs all around town to find her. It dawns on Laurent that it is Laure and takes her into his arms. They live blissfully ever after.

‘It’s the story of a bookseller who finds a handbag in the street one day, takes it home with him, empties out its contents and decides to look for the woman who owns it. He succeeds but when he finds her, he runs off like an idiot.’

Overview

This book gave me such a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Whilst the attack was absolutely awful, I was desperate for the two to meet. Sometimes I just really appreciate a happy ending. This short little book was such a joy and gave me the happy ending I so desperately wanted. Chloe gave me the biggest surprise character wise as she initially appeared to be a bit of a diva. Yet, she’s the one that brings the two together. This is a perfect little book for a quick read on a drizzly afternoon.

Enjoy the rest of the week lovely people!

Big love xx

18 Comments

Filed under Book review, Books, Reading, Romance

RTY: Exit West – Mohsin Hamid

Hey Lovelies!

Hope you’re all enjoying the August weather. Whilst it’s pouring down outside (I can’t believe it myself!) I thought I would take the time to review my August book for the Penguin Read The Year Challenge. The focus for this month was: Choose a book which tells a migration story. This is not something that I would usually pick so I relished the chance to branch out once again. I did a bit of research and found Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. I knew nothing about the author or the novel, so I read this with completely fresh eyes. I wasn’t disappointed!

What’s it all about?

The novel centres around Nadia and Saeed. They meet when they are working students in an unnamed city. The two are different, Saeed is much more conservative and still lives at home, as custom requires. Whereas, Nadia is much more independent, choosing to live alone and has been disowned by her parents for doing so. As war breaks out and militants start attacking their beautiful city, the two fall in love.

“To love is to enter into the inevitability of one day not being able to protect what is most valuable to you.”

The two are struck with devastation as a stray bullet kills Saeed’s mother whilst she’s searching for a stray earring in her car. The sense of loss, particularly for Saeed’s father is huge. Nadia moves in with Saeed and his father but she doesn’t want to marry Saeed, as propriety requires.

The militants successfully gain control of the city from the government and violence becomes a normal part of every day life. Nadia and Saeed hear rumours of doors in the city that serve as a means to get to safer places. However, these are only rumours at this stage and the doors that do exist are heavily guarded by militants. Nevertheless, they take a risk and bribe someone to let them through. Saeed’s father chooses to stay. He cannot possibly conceive of a life where he is not near his wife’s grave. He doesn’t want to be a burden to them or bring them down. He asks Nadia to promise him to never leave Saeed until they are safe and settled.

“We are all migrants through time.”

It was a risk that paid off as the couple end up in Mykonos amongst other refugees and settle in a tent city. Over time, they become friendly, Nadia in particular, with a Greek girl who feels really compassionate towards them. She helps them to further their journey, this time to a luxury home in London.

“When we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.”

When they arrive in this luxury home, they settle and make it their own, not really believing their eyes or their luck. The owners are no where to be seen thus granting themselves ownership of the property.

More and more migrants arrive in London which results in increased tension and hostility between migrants and native born individuals. There are cases of threatening behaviour and mob rule. After time the migrants are sectioned off into a ghetto type place with minimal food and electricity. This is named ‘Dark London’.

“It might seem odd that in cities teetering at the edge of the abyss young people still go to class—in this case an evening class on corporate identity and product branding—but that is the way of things, with cities as with life, for one moment we are pottering about our errands as usual and the next we are dying, and our eternally impending ending does not put a stop to our transient beginnings and middles until the instant when it does.”

Tensions come to a head when a raid goes horribly wrong. The natives decide to try and work together with the new migrants to clear the land for Halo London. The promise with this is that they will all receive 49 metres of space and a pipe, resulting in access to utilities. Nadia and Saeed are well aware of the distance growing between them to throw themselves into working.

Nadia and Saeed are one of the first on the list which means they will be one of the first to obtain a secure home. Despite this promise, Nadia has hopes for something more. They chance their luck through another portal, arriving in Marin County, California.

Both are welcomed there and seem to be quite happy. Nadia soon finds work at the food co-op whereas Saeed becomes even more religious. The pair realise that they have lost the spark between them, they no longer have feelings for one another. Nadia leaves Saeed and moves into a room at work, forming a new and vibrant relationship with the cook there. Meanwhile, Saeed married the native born daughter of a preacher.

“And so their memories took on potential, which is of course how our greatest nostalgias are born.”

Fast forward fifty years and Nadia returns to the country of her birth. She meets up again with Saeed who offers to take her to see the stars in Chile one day.

Overview

Despite this not being the type of book I would normally choose, I did really enjoy it. It opened my eyes to a time and a place where people had to fight for survival, where people took massive risks. It’s a short and powerful novel which does leave you grateful for what you have. It did me anyway. It’s a shame Nadia and Saeed’s relationship initially broke down. However, there was a sense of inevitability there. The ending gives me hope for the future, for their future. I’ve walked away from this novel thinking I need to take every chance I get. It’s not so easy for others in the world and it’s easy for us to forget that. Onto my next read!

Big love all xxx

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Filed under Book review, Read The Year Challenge, Reading

RTY: The Shadow Of The Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafron

Hi guys!

Amazingly, I have a spare couple of hours now whilst I’m sitting on a train, so I thought I would post my review of my choice of book for June for the Read The Year Challenge. I wholeheartedly promise that I did read it in June, I just didn’t quite get around to posting it in time. But it’s here now!

This month proved slightly challenging as the topic was ‘Pick up a book that delves into the experience of fatherhood’. Now I have some clear limitations here, obviously, but I think I found a book that fits. The Shadow of the Wind. Whilst not explicitly being centred around fatherhood, there are a number of fathers and/or father figures in it. The beauty of this reading challenge means that I have read something I’ve never even heard of. The bigger present – I enjoyed it!

What’s it all about?

Set in Barcelona, the novel centres around a young boy, Daniel Sempere. Just after the Spanish Civil War, Daniel’s father takes him to the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books. This is a place where old, forgotten books are loving preserved by a select few people. According to tradition, everyone initiated into this secret place is allowed to take one book and must protect it for life. The book Daniel chooses: The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax.

He takes the book home and reads it cover to cover. This sparks the need in Daniel to try and find other books by this unknown author but can’t find any. What he does discover are strange narratives of a man calling himself Laín Coubert. What is extraordinary about this is that name is the name of one of the characters in the book – the Devil, who has been finding Carax’s books for decades, buying and burning them.

“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”

Structured as a story within a story, Daniel starts a quest to find Julian’s other works. In turn, he becomes involved in tracing the entire history of Carax. One of the father figures in the novel is Fermin Romero de Torres. He was imprisoned and tortured in Montjuic Castle for his involvement in an espionage against the Anarchists during the war. His background in government intelligent helps Daniel in numerous days. However, their probing into he past of people who are long dead or forgotten takes him to the path of Inspector Fumero, whom he had dealings with previously.

“Fools talk, cowards are silent, wise men listen.”

This narrative has long since been buried. However Daniel starts unravelling it, clue by clue. Daniel and Fermin find a love story, the beautiful yet tragic story of Julián and Penélope, both of whom have been missing since 1919, thirty years earlier. Julián, the son of a hatter, Antoni Fortuny and his wife Sophie Carax and Penélope Aldaya, the only daughter of the extremely weather Don Ricardo Aldaya and his narcissistic American wife developed an instant love for each other and lived a clandestine relationship, only through faint smiles and few glances for around four years. After this time they decided to elope to Paris. They were completely unaware that the shadows of misfortune had been creeping their way upon them ever since they met.

“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.”

Miquel Moliner, also the son of a wealthy father, was Julián’s best friend. He helped meticulously plan their elopement. It is eventually revealed that the loved Julián more than any brother and finally sacrificed his life for him. Julián eventually got to Paris. Penélope did not.

“Destiny is usually just around the corner. Like a thief, a hooker, or a lottery vendor: its three most common personifications. But what destiny does not do is home visits. You have to go for it.”

The memory of Penélope burns inside Julian’s heart and eventually this forces him to return to Barcelona in the mid 1930s. What greets him is nothing less than heartbreaking. She was nothing more than a memory. She had never been seen or heard of again by anyone after 1919. Daniel discovers from the note left for him by Nuria Monfort, that Julián and Penélope were actually half brother and sister. Her father had had an affair win his mother and Julián was the result. Tragically, after he had left Barcelona, it is revealed that Penélope’s parents imprisoned her because they were full of shame about her commuting incest with him. She was also pregnant with his child. The child, named David Aldaya, was stillborn. Penélope died during childbirth because her parents ignored her screams. Her body was placed in a family crypt along with her child’s.

“Memories are worse than bullets.”

When returning to Aldaya Mansion, Julián is bitter and angry by the news of his love’s death along with their child. He hates everyone and everything. Every second feels wasted; his books pointless. So he sets upon burning them all. Thus, the adventure of then and now is joined. Along the way. Fermin and Daniel know they’re in trouble with Inspector Fumero. They’re followed, they’re beaten up. Yet still their quest continues.

“A story is a letter that the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise.”

After Daniel finishes reading the book, he marries Beatriz ‘Bea’ Aguilar. He’s loved her for a long time, since 1956. Shortly after Bea gives birth to a son. They name him Julián Sempere, in honour of Julián Carax. 10 years later, Daniel takes his son to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books where the copy of The Shadow of the Wind is kept.

“Once, in my father’s bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return.”

Overview

The role of fathers or father figures in this book is paramount. Daniel’s father is a strong and quiet character. He doesn’t push Daniel to discuss what is going on. He’s quietly there for him.

Fermin takes a natural role of a father figure, becoming that partner in crime person for Daniel. He even sacrifices his life to help find out what he wants to know about Carax. Daniel and his father took him in and saved him from his past. He sees fatherhood as part of his future with his blossoming love and romance.

Julián’s loss of fatherhood is all the more tragic. You can tell he’s been grief stricken ever since Penélope failed to arrive. When he learns the truth he is a broken man.

Daniel too is a father at the end of the novel and how these role models have shaped him, lead us to know that he will be an excellent father to his own child.

This book was a complete surprise for me. I’d never heard of it before and I didn’t know anything about the author. However, I’ve really enjoyed it. Sometimes stories within a story can be quite confusing but this was weaved together seamlessly. I’m so glad I found it.

Enjoy the sunshine all!!

 

Big love xx

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Filed under Book review, Read The Year Challenge, Reading