Holiday Reading

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Hm, I’m looking at my holiday reading pile and not being much enamoured of it; I think I made the pile too early!! I thought posting here might inspire me to look forward to them…

GEORGE ELIOT – Middlemarch
JOHN GALSWORTHY – The Forsyte Saga (first 3 books in one)
*A.M.HOMES – This Book Will Save Your Life
*JONATHAN LETHEM – The Fortress of Solitude
*KATE MOSSE – Labyrinth
PAUL SCOTT – The Division of the Spoils / The Towers of Silence

* are books that Matt and I both aim to read

Think that’ll last us 2 weeks?

SAMARES MAZUMDAR – Sky Over the Mountain Vol 2

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Acquired 15 Aug 2007 – from the publisher

Right – I’ve finished Vol 2 and sent my review in to the publisher – I’m going to make this friends-only until I’ve had it confirmed that I can put the same review out in the world at large!

Samares Mazumdar – “Sky Over the Mountain”

As I am not familiar with the Bengali literary tradition, I am unable to fit this novel into that tradition. But as one of the target readership for this new venture, to translate Bengali literature for a wider, Western audience, I find a wonderful read, lyrical and exciting at the same time, which has a lot to say about modern life, revolution and redemption.

We meet four young revolutionaries, Joyeeta, Sudip, Kalyan and Anand. Their aim is not specifically made clear until part way through the first volume; we learn that they are dissatisfied with the “modern” way of life their parents and their peers are adopting, with affairs, misdeeds, greed and arrogance. Interestingly for the British reader, the book seems to be set in the 1980s, with Thatcher mentioned, and this outlook is similar to the “me me me” 80s outlook we experienced here. The four reject their parents’ aims; they look to the Naxalite rebellions of the 1970s for their heroes, and in fact we find they are linked to them in ways they had not imagined.

So, their manifesto is announced:

We have heard all about the humanitarian policies that the different political parties seem to believe…. And every one of these theorists will grow old and die, still only talking about their theories. There will be no change in the condition of the common man. But when they see that four young kids are attacking these establish power brokers they’ll realise that it can be done, that they too can bring about some change. We respect the naxalite revolution, but we are not following their path. We have to be the masters of our own destiny…” [Vol. 1, p. 336]

And later:

“[Most parents] do not realize that it is their responsibility to shape up the next generation. It is this next generation that is going to take the country ahead” [ibid.]

But this novel is not so much about revolution, as about what happens when you try to implement revolution. About flexibility, if you will.

First of all, Joyeeta’s father surprises them by offering help at risk to himself. Then Anand’s mother reveals some truths which confirm him on his path but lead him to think differently of his father. At the end of the first volume, the tension grows as they attempt, after a successful bombing campaign, to escape Calcutta and make their way to Nepal.

And it is in Nepal that the real challenge to their revolutionary fervour comes, when they find themselves living in a tiny hill village. The people are desperately poor and disorganised. After several divisions between the four, Anand takes charge and they work quietly and hard to improve the lot of the people who have taken them in. Kalyan and Joyeeta redeem themselves, Sudip tries to and fails, and Anand is part of them, but always apart. And their manifesto has changed:

“Marx sahib’s idea was to create a path that would make life easier for common people. Every tortured society in the world sought that path… While building this politics-free society, Anand had constantly felt that what they had done in Calcutta was wrong. Killing wasn’t a way to a revolution. A true communist gave back life, not took it away.” [Vol. 2, p. 374]

As well as a book about politics, and that is important, especially in this age of terrorism and manifestos of hatred, it is a warm, human read and one that appeals to the reader’s emotions as well as intellect. There are comments scattered throughout about Bengali literature :

“’You know I can’t read anything other than thrillers. I can’t even get through the first two pages of these Bengali novels. All either sentimental melodramas, or family soap-like, or some soppy love story. This [Bengali] novel is supposed to be more political. Must be a gimmick to sell more books.’” [Vol. 1, p. 292]

and the characters’ relation to the West is important – they have only experienced snow in European novels and tune in to the BBC. There is also a theme around colonialism

“’The people of Taplung will never become self-dependant as long as we are here. They need to learn to stand on their own. Moreover, I don’t know about you guys, but I am really tired.’” [Vol. 2, p. 351]

and on the role of women in revolution and in life. Another point that must be mentioned is the author’s evident love for the landscape of the Himalayas, which are beautifully and lyrically described, providing a counterpoint to the human striving at their feet.

So, to summarise, an excellent and engaging read, which has something for everyone – politics, human relations, intellectual stimulation and some good old-fashioned police chases and excitement. I would encourage anyone with an interest in any of these facets to read this novel.

SAMARES MAZUMDAR – Sky Over the Mountain Vol 1

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Acquired 15 AUg 2007 – from the publisher

Bengali novel sent to me for review from the publisher. I will post a review when I’ve finished reading Vol 2 and had clearance from the publisher. These will be available on bookrings at some stage.

DEBBIE MACOMBER – Back on Blossom Street

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Acquired via BookCrossing 19 Aug 2007 – BookRing

Another lovely book in the Blossom Street series. We meet the ladies from the Flower shop (Julie/Audrey haven’t you just bought one with the Flower shop in the title – is it part of this series?) and struggle with Alix as she deals with her wedding being taken over. The Colette story didn’t ring as true, but was still fine.

Ready to send off with Book 2 to Audrey, who will then be in official Debbie Macomber mini-bookring heaven!

From Anglersrest and Scotsbookie

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*snort* and where do you think all their rings come from…!

What kind of bookcrosser are you

Your Result: Thematic dropper

You release in themes. The pianotuner in a jazzbar, a suitable boy at the gifttable of a wedding of a friend, the Minotaur in the centre of a maze, a prayer for Owen Meany in a baseball stadium, name the title, you release it somewhere suitable.

Obsessive releaser
Playfull RBACKer
ring in bundles
Talk of the toy
Love to meet
strange looking bystander
lucky lurker
What kind of bookcrosser are you
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz


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Bought 02 May 2007 – I think another Amazon purchase

Seventh in the Elm Creek Quilters series, this one was solely a historical novel with no mention of the modern-day quilters. This was a bit disappointing, and the book was good but, because of that, maybe not *so* good [Julie, I think you read this recently and found the same?]. I got a little frustrated as I’d gathered the importance of the quilt and the mystery around two of the characters way before it was revealed to us- maybe this was a clever way of rewarding the patient and practised reader, though.

I can’t remember if the characters in this one are connected to those in the modern-day books, apart from by location. Anyone know?

Here endeth the reviewing catch-up for today!

ADRIANA TRIGIANI – Home to Big Stone Gap

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Bought 28 Apr 2007 – I think an Amazon purchase with a Christmas voucher

The fourth of the Big Stone Gap novels and we’ve travelled forward in time to see Ave Maria and Jack Mac alone again in their old house. Health and friendships become tremulous, knocking Ave Maria back into her old ways of loneness and worry. An interesting interlude in Scotland beckons, and some mysteries are made right by the end.

I like the Big Stone Gap novels a lot more than her other ones, and hope there may be one more…?

NELLA LAST – Nella Last’s War

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Acquired via BookCrossing 10 Aug 2007 – BookRing

A wonderful book based on the Mass Observation diaries of Nella Last, a housewife in Barrow-in-Furness [Rosie — have you got this? You really should as it’s a beautiful portrait of Barrow and its surroundings]. She comes into her own in the War, as so many women did, amazing her peers with her abilities to make do and mend, but always modest about it. Her observations on her husband, son and friends are very well put and indeed, she could have been the writer she craved to be.

An engaging story, warmly told and well-edited, with enough editorial comments to make things clear. All the more meaningful to me because I am a Mass Observation diarist myself (it’s all answers to directives these days rather than diaries, but still very interesting to do) and I hope I’m in such a good book one day in the future!

MALCOLM BRADBURY – All Dressed Up And Nowhere To Go

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Bought ?? May 2007 from ?? charity shop?

An interesting satirical look at the 1950s, written in the 1980s, so a period piece all round. It aims to help the reader negotiate the tricky patch between English buttoned-up-ness and the new, American, freedom of purchase, speech and ideas. Very much informed by the cut and thrust of the 80s, amusing, and important in the exposition of his ideas on sociologists etc, explored to devastating effect in his campus novels.

RANULPH FIENNES – Atlantis of the Sands

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Bought 01 May 2007 – charity shop

Touted as the story of his search for the lost city of Ubar, this was more of an autobiography, with a lot of SAS and polar exploration stuff and a desultory bit on the search near the end. As such, it was OK, but not really what I’d been looking forward to!

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