The Sea – John Banville

 

The Sea image

Published 2005 by Picador

 

I have very mixed feelings about ‘The Sea’ but, overall, it is hard to deny that John Banville has set the English language on fire with his truly bespoke use of words.

Max the narrator is in the throes of losing his wife and fluidly takes the reader through this ordeal, past it, and into the summer holidays of his childhood by the sea (a noticeable ebb and flow of storytelling).

Initially, it seems that the recollection of his meeting of the Grace family on one particular holiday is no more than a demonstration of the nature of memory during a time of grief; revisiting the first feelings of love – watching it grow, change direction.

But it is more than that. It is as if his wife’s death is a reminder of an event that he has carried with him all his life – waiting for a catalyst to force expression. ‘The Sea’ is a tribute to the fates of its characters, forcing life, love, grief, and death into stark relief.

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The Tiger’s Wife – Tea Obreht

The Tiger's Wife image

 

 

Published 2011 by Phoenix

 

I love this book!

Natalia relates the story and the result is a woven tapestry of storytelling; mixing folklore, history, and the power of memory to create a story with layers of depth.

The themes are constructed in such detail, together with the rich descriptions and interactions between characters, that it becomes a book that is almost liveable. Everything interlinked in a carefully-crafted work that quickly became one of my favourite works of fiction.

I am overwhelmed that someone who should have such a young voice has written a book whose style deserves its place amongst the modern classics.

Suite Francaise – Irene Nemirovsky

Suite Francaise image

 

Published 2009 by Vintage Classics (first published 2004)

 

‘Suite Francaise’ is an extraordinary work. Knowing Irene Nemirovsky’s fate at the hands of the Nazis made this book more than a novel – it is a moving record of human character in wartime. The sincerity and real grit of the tales, written in fluid style, makes every scene real.

With ‘Storm’ comes the stories of people from all walks of life evacuating Paris for safety from the invading Germans. One gets the sense that the threat was somewhat underplayed in the minds of the Parisians as they become increasingly desperate to survive – something that brings everyone to a basic level of humanity.

‘Dolce’ explores the interplay between German conquerors and rural French as they strive to live together in the dwindling years of the war in France. This section of the book is especially moving as one comes to realise the amount of experience that has gone into the writing. Nemirovsky is kind in her portrayal of the Germans. They are benevolent, unless crossed, although the French sentiment is very much one of grief and surrender to the loss of local soldiers and their country.

The tragedy of this comes upon reading the appendices to the book – Nemirovsky’s notes and manuscripts, which add a huge deal of perspective to the characters and events of the book, and letters pertaining to Nemirovsky.

I found myself tearful as I read the letters detailing the persecution and uncertainty that plagued her final years, and more so when I read her husband’s desperate appeals to everyone he could think of to save her life.

‘Suite Francaise’ has crept into my soul for all of its optimism, hope, and love in the midst of what was definitely a time that was a stain on human history. How lucky we are that she left this book as her legacy.

“Only the person who has observed men and women at times like this can be said to know them. And to know themselves.”

Guest blogger Jenetta Barry on her book, ‘Full-Circle Rainbow’

FCR - book cover
In 2005, Jenetta Barry lost her 16-year old daughter Jennifer, to suicide. This book initially covers that loss and subsequent grieving, but then moves through into the inspiring account of how Jenetta found that Jenny was resonating in new ways even though her 3-dimensional form had ‘left’. Through receiving sometimes blatant and at other times subtle interactions, Jenetta has been able to chronicle these special and meaningful happenings with Jenny in a way that opens up possibilities and gives hope to all those who have lost loved ones.

Foreword by Dr. Jane Greer – NY Therapist  – “Full-Circle Rainbow is a remarkable book about a remarkable love that continues to live on between mother and daughter through the grace and abundance of remarkable happenings”.


Customer Reviews :
Jessica Brown, Cape Town, South Africa
Jenetta’s raw honesty in this book gives her the freedom to really and truly go through the motions of the loss of her daughter.If you have had a loss of this kind this is a must read. It gives the reassurance that it is ok to go through one’s emotions no matter how terrible and come out on the other side far stronger. Thank you for sharing this with us Jenetta, it could not have been easy
Melanie Mitchell, Melbourne, Australia
Jenetta’s strength is so inspiring……..a wonderful book and a beautiful story,A great piece of work that I am sure will help many people
Sarika Butler, Johannesburg, South Africa
I received (Jenetta’s)  book and finished reading it in one day – I couldn’t put it down! Thank you for sharing this, it was amazing …
I am so glad and grateful to Jenetta for writing this book.
Kes Smith, Nairobi, Kenya
It is possibly the hardest thing in anyone’s life to lose your own child to suicide, even worse following an argument where you could potentially feel guilt to add to your pain. Jenetta has had to come through that on top of dealing with cancer, divorce, loss of her Father, the needs of her family and a whole career change with the challenge of making a new life for herself. Jenny will always be there as both the pain of loss and a joy of being, but in finding the tools to deal with it all, Jenetta has emerged a glowing, inspiring, loving person, whose work and being helps so many others. This book is full of powerful emotion, inspiration and so worth reading.
Suzi Davey, Durban, South Africa
I have finished your book and it gave me goosebumps.  I lost my father over 25 years ago and I often feel his presence….protecting and guiding me in life.  Also when we see butterflies…my kids comment how that is Grannie Audrey…my husband’s mom who died 7 years ago!  I also can relate to the numerology in your story ….countless accounts of serendipity and synchronicity!

Quotes: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

This is what it means to be alone: everyone is connected to everyone else, their bodies are a bright liquid life flowing around you, sharing a single heart that drives them to move together. If the shark comes they will all escape, and leave you to be eaten.

 

Page 243

 

She is not a bulldog, only a woman pressed into the shape of a small jar, possibly attempting to live in there. It shows in the way she places a seashell on a windowsill, a red-painted chair in the corner: she is practiced in the art of creating a still life and taking up residence inside it.

 

Page 276

 

I should like to write my books only for the dear person who lies awake reading in bed until the last page, then lets the open book fall gently on her face, to touch her smile or drink her tears.

 

Page 471-2

 

I don’t hate much and I don’t love much. I’m a free man.

 

Page 477

 

What we end up calling history is a kind of knife, slicing through time. a few people are hard enough to bend its edge. But most won’t even stand close to the blade.

 

Page 478

 

Life proceeds, it enrages. The untouched ones spend their luck without a thought, believing they deserve it.

 

Page 611.

 

The most important part of a story is the part you don’t know.

 

Page 652

The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver

The Lacuna image

 

 

[Published 2010 by Faber and Faber. First published 2009.]

 

‘The most important part of a story is the part you don’t know’.

 

This novel, made up of journal entries, newspaper clippings, and personal letters has the power to transport the reader from colourful haciendas in Mexico, to America, and back.

 

Barbara Kingsolver has achieved a literary feat in this historical novel that explores a range of themes. Introduced to Harrison Shepherd, the author of the journals and letters that forms the basis of this book, as a child, the reader bears witness to the maturation of this young man through his writing. As the book goes on, these writings become almost a discarded history (if not for his stenographer, Violet Brown).

 

The result is a sincere account of a young man’s story – one that leads him into the house of Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo, where a lifelong friendship with this extraordinary woman develops. He becomes secretary and cook within the household and his services are retained for an exiled Lev Trotsky. The atmosphere is set as a time bomb of emotions and politics, as these powerful characters are recorded by Shepherd the scribe.

 

As if by osmosis, and in the wake of tragedy, Shepherd moves to America, towards its hopefulness, in order to start a new life. But, throughout the book, the reader is alerted to the fact that Shepherd is a strong, solitary character – looking for his place in the world, yet relishing its loneliness in some respects; using a life of passion to harness his deepest dreams. And yet, in acquiring fame, he still yearns for invisibility, and history repeats itself as he is now the underdog who has made it big – being misquoted and misrepresented by newspapermen.

 

Rather than being the land of possibility Shepherd had initially hoped, America is evolving into a land of paranoia and Cold War suspicion; where, like the surrealists and muralists, of dreams and politics, popularity wanes and grows based on the whims of the times. It is a piece of modern history this young author unwittingly parallels with ancient Aztec society in his novels of historical fiction. Truth and presumption merge and then suddenly are in conflict – something that makes for superbly interesting reading.

 

‘The Lacuna’ is filled with themes that are explored, left, and later revisited in fluid, detailed writing. It is heavy with symbols. If I have any advice for readers thinking of delving into this book, it would be to allow yourself the time to read it slowly and consistently. Kingsolver has created a rich story, a tapestry of events that is a very human mix of optimism and tragedy. And yet, when you reach the end, you can feel the lacuna – the gap in the manuscript that leaves an unquenchable sense of incompleteness, the gap between the rocks under Mexican waters that leads to who knows where.