Monday, February 20, 2012

2011 Winter Books (Jan - Feb) 8 books

Life can be rough sometimes.  2011 started out rough.  I figured life seemed rough in Africa so I started out my year on an African Literature kick.  

No. 1 Ladies detective agency
Author:  Alexander McCall Smith
First Published: 1999
Genera: Fiction
Goodreads recommendation from Rachel Dahl

Where I read it:  I listened to this book and others in the series sitting in the January and February which started off really rough for me due to some intense family drama.  These books were a good escape.  

The review: When I originally read the title I thought it would be another Mrs. Pollifax set in England.   But I was wonderfully mistaken!  This book puts you smack into the heart of Africa and shows a sinister and charming side of African life.  I'm glad so many of my goodreads friends recommended this one other wish I'm sure it would have passed me by.   The heroin Precious Ramotswe feels like a friend.  I'd love to spend a few weeks with her sitting under the tree drinking bush tea and looking out at the Kalahari.  I recommend this book to women.  It feels matrimonial.   Read it in the summer on a long June night before the solstice after you put your babies to bed.   If you enjoy it, the rest of the series is just as charming.  

P.S. Jan 2012 update.  The BBC miniseries of these books is well worth watching.   Local libraries should have it.   

I also read:
Book 2: Tears of the Giraffe  - 4 stars
Book 3: Morality for Young Girls - 4 stars
Book 4: The Kalahari Typing School for Men -3 stars
Book 5: The Cupboard full of Life - 3 stars

Cry the beloved country  
Author:  Alan Paton
First Published: 1948
Genera: Classics
Where I read it:  I read this one during my ‘winter of 2011’ African literature kick.  

The review: I remember fellow students raving about this one back in my AP English days of high school.  It didn’t disappoint.  I love the explorations of the different kinds of Africans.  The characters were real.  Their struggles become very meaningful to my life.  I felt the pain of both fathers losing their children.  My favorite part was Arthur Jarvis’ letters and his enlightening views on racism in South Africa.  When his father read them his heart was changed, I think my heart changed too.  I will read this book again someday.  

Things fall apart -
Author:  Chinua Achebe
First Published: 1958
Where I read it: I listened to it in my car as I commuted to work during early winter.  

The review: I originally read this one back in my high school AP English days.  I really liked it.  Reading it and thinking about it made my 17 year old self feel smart.  I liked saying that I’d read it.  It seemed intellectual.  So naturally l added  it to the Que during my winter 2011African literature kick.  This story hadn’t changed, but as an adult with more life experience and insight (at least I like to think so!) I got more out of it.  I read it on the heals of Cry the Beloved Country and couldn’t help but compare the way Christianity influenced the protagonists of each book so differently.  Cry the Beloved Country is set in the 1940’s after Christianity had infiltrated itself into Africa.  In Cry, Catholicism is a great support to the afflicted and helps to comfort them.  Things Fall Apart is set in the 1890s and explores the introduction of western religion to local African culture.  The new ways provide no comfort to to protagonist Okonkwo as as he tries to protect his family.  Christianity destroys the only life he knows.  

For me both times I’ve read this book the last few paragraphs have been the most poignant.  A traveling European attempting to write a “history of Africa” gets the last word in “Things Fall Apart.”  (A big nod to Chinau Achebe for that use of literary irony.) He examines Okonkwo’s life as one might examine a beetle.  This epilogue begins with the thought that Okonkwo might be an interesting enough specimen to be the main character of a on second thought not an entire novel, but perhaps a chapter, no,  not enough substance for a chapter but maybe worth of a few paragraphs or at least worth mentioning.  Okonkwo’s life which has so captivated the reader for hundreds of pages is reduced by the white man to a mere mention.  Brilliant ending.    

Ella Minnow Pea
Author:  Mark Dunn
First Published: 2001
Genera: Modern Lit
Book Club with Lizzie
Where I read it:  Lying in bed at night.  

The review: This book drove me crazy.  Why? (don’t laugh)  It drove me crazy because of all the misspellings.  Me. Annoyed.  By. SPELLING. MISTAKES!?!?!?!   My family and friends are now rolling in their seats.  I’m the queen of “creative spellings”  I can barley spell my name.  Call me hypocritical. Call this irony.  I can dish out spelling mistakes but I can’t take them.  I know it is “wierd.”

To get the Book Hook remember:

1.  Make a comment about one of my book reviews (upcoming) on one of the next 4 blog posts where I will review all the books I read in 2011 per season.  Let me know if you liked one or more of the books, or liked/disliked my reviews -or- post your own review of one of the books. 
2. Leave a comment on the Book Hook Post and tell me how you would use the book hook.  Be creative. 
3.  Become a follower of my blog. 


Evenstar said...

Testing . . . 123

Tiana said...

I didn't like Ella Minnow Pea either. Everyone else thought it was "so clever" but I just thought it was weird.

Michemily said...

Spelling mistakes drive me mad, too. They distract from the story.

Hannah said...

I read Cry the Beloved Country right after I got home from South Africa. Of course I loved it. But is it fair? It is associated with: 1. a month with my sister in one of the world's most beautiful countries; 2. a cute tour guide turned brother-in-law, and 3. my exceptionally smart and fun nephews. Oh, and 4. "Inside Story" chocolate bars. Yum.