Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mrs. B's 2009 Book Reviews -- 4 Stars The End

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (Book Club Selection)

A fascinating tale of the journey of a rare, illustrated Jewish prayer book and the people it came into contact with from its inception in the 15th century to its final resting place. Wonderful characters, interesting sub plots (with the exception of a silly romance; why do authors feel it is necessary to throw this unrelated drivel in?) and mystery as the primary narrator of the book, a woman in charge of restoring it, attempts to put the puzzle together as to where it originated and the places it had been to using as clues small artifacts left behind in the book itself.

This was my first exposure to Geraldine Brooks. Immediately after finishing it, I put “March” on my Christmas list, which I devoured a few weeks ago (and also gave four stars). I’m looking forward to reading everything Brooks has written/will write. She’s in the same league with a few of my other personal favorites who also excel at character development and interesting tales; namely, Pat Conroy, Amy Tan and Anne Tyler.

Roots by Alex Haley

Highly interesting, engaging, moving and significant from so many different perspectives.

Roots was and is obviously an important work in telling the tragedy of slavery, but, also, as a reminder that we all have roots somewhere and the importance of remembering our ancestors. In this case, the history and stories had all been oral; passed down to Haley through his maternal grandmother (his mother having passed away at an early age) all the way back to "The African" Kunta Kinte relaying what he could, in his broken English, to his daughter on a plantation in Virginia (about where he came from, what happened to him, how he was taken from Africa on a ship to a place called "Napolis" (Annapolis, MD) and a few words in his native language); which is how Haley eventually tracked down where in Africa he came from.

A few things that really struck me from reading the story (that didn't from watching the TV miniseries) was how and why the telling of the story changed voices: Kunta, then his daughter Kizzy, then her son Chicken George, then his 4th son Tom, etc.; these being the primary carriers of the tale and Haley's direct ancestors. And, as a tiny mirror of how terrible the actual gut wrenching pain must have been when slaves were sold away from loved ones; certain voices just simply and abruptly stopped.

As was intended, I found the section of the book where Haley recounts going to Africa and finding where his ancestor came from and hearing from a aged story teller the long lineage of the Kinte clan and where and when "he was never seen again" (when he was stolen by slave traders) quite moving.

I listened to this on audio; 24 CDS! It was read extremely well by an Avery Brooks.

The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler (CD)

If you like Anne Tyler's style, you'll love this book. It spans several generations and perspectives/the telling of the story alternates between the major characters. As many of her other tales, it takes place in Baltimore, MD and involves typical middle class American families with strong roots to their original heritage (in this case, Polish).

The marriage in question is that of Michael and Maxine who meet during start of WWII and get caught up in the emotion and drama of boys signing up to go off to war. They hook up, marry, and spend the next several decades trying to figure out why they did; all the while attempting to raise their three children and then, later, take in a 4 year old grandson after his mother goes missing.

This is an engaging story with no nicely tied up happily ever after ending, but, rather, a realistic one. It is never dull!

I believe the narrator was the same who narrated "Digging to America". She's very easy to listen to.

So, there you have it! You have, with this posting, just read thirty-seven book reviews!

Mrs. B


Jon said...

So you liked "People of the Book"?

I thought it started good....but the book lost my interest with the Rabbi-Priest chapter. I rather would have had the romance.

Very rare that I don't finish a book. It seems Geralding Brooks is 0 for 2 in my book.

Mrs. B said...

I did like it, Jon, as I did "March".

My guess is you're not engaged by her writing style. That happens!

I'll let you know what I think about the next one of hers I read!