I finished The Innocents last night, and I’m still trying to process all that occurred within in the space of the last few chapters.
At first glance, The Innocents is a story of survival–how a brother and sister fend for themselves in a deserted cove off the shores of Newfoundland. Diving further into the book, however, there are nuanced layers and disturbing themes I didn’t foresee. The ending left me disturbed, shocked, and contemplative. I was reminded of the Romantic English poet, William Blake’sSongs of Innocence and of Experience. Especially the contrast between the “The Lamb,” in the first section and “The Tyger’ in the latter. I felt the characters in this book were a merging of the two contrasts: innocent, and yet so far from innocent at the same time.
November has been my best month reading-wise. I read eight books this month, which I don’t usually manage to do, and many of them averaged between 4.5 and 5 stars. It’s really hard to pick a favourite as I enjoyed the variety of books I read. The genres I covered were: nonfiction/memoir, YA fantasy, middle Grade, and historical fiction. I hope December will be just as successful. I’ve currently read 45/40 of my reading goal, and want to make it to 50 before the end of the year.
Its been awhile since I posted, and also some time since I did a proper book review, even though I’ve been keeping track of the books I’m reading on my instagram. I’m hoping to get back into the flow of book reviews as I’ve already read four books this month and have many more on my book cart waiting for me to read.
The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline came in for me at the library and I devoured it between that afternoon and the next. I simply couldn’t put it down. Set in the 1840s, this novel tells the story of how female convicts were banished to Australia for the slightest offence, such as stealing a silver spoon or for simply being pregnant out of wedlock.
This is a story of hardship and heart-wrenching loss, cruel injustice and discrimination, as well as also being a story of perseverance and resilience in spite of opposition, and the powerful bonds of friendship and togetherness in the face of trials.
There are three main characters in this book, and each of their stories are equally heartbreaking.
Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste is a powerful and heart-wrenching debut set during the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974, the demise of Emperor Haile Selessie, and the terrifying military regime that followed.
Alternating between multiple perspectives, this book chronicles the struggles and sacrifices of one family through a diverse and intricate cast of characters and voices.
There is Hailu, a distinguished surgeon at the hospital in Addis Ababa, struggling with his beloved wife’s declining health, the friction between his younger son, Dawit and himself, and his duty as a doctor in a country whose government is brutally torturing and killing its citizens.
When Derg soldiers bring in a severely tortured prisoner and order Hailu to heal the victim so they can torture them some more, Hailu struggles with his conscience and ultimately makes a decision that will put his life in jeopardy.
Goldengrove devoured my sister every time I closed my eyes.”
Woman 99 by Greer Macallister
Goldengrove is a privately owned institution designed for those in need of mental health care. From the outside it appears to be a tranquil, welcoming place for rest and recovery. However, it may not be as healing as it seams.
Set in the late 1880s in a time where many outrageous treatment practices for mental illness were being performed, Woman 99 by Greer Macallister portrays what life was like in a mental health institute or asylum of that day.
Charlotte and Phoebe Smith are two close knit sisters of a wealthy and privileged family in San Francisco. Image is everything to their mother, and they must put on the best front, or risk embarrassing the family name. When the older sister, Phoebe begins to show signs of recurring mania and melancholy, her parents commit her to a nearby asylum run by family friends. Just like that, Phoebe is locked away, cut off from corresponding or visiting with her family, almost as if she wasn’t part of the family in the first place.
Desperate to get her sister back, and believing Phoebe has been wrongfully admitted, Charlotte devises a rash and impulsive plan to get her sister back. She will become a patient of Goldengrove and she will find her sister and bring her home. Feigning despair, Charlotte enters as ‘woman 99’. Now she is only a number, and with her unknown identity she hopes she can locate her sister. However, once admitted, Charlotte realizes its much harder to get out than in.
Carefully crafting the world around which forgery thrived, The Book of Lost Names opens a door into the underground world of the 1940s, and gives us a glimpse of what it could have been like to work in the secret cells of the Resistance.
Alternating between 2005 and the 1940s (with the majority of the novel set in WW2) it chronicles how this illegal act became a vital source of resistance work and one of the core means of survival and escape in World War Two.
Eva Traube is a young Jewish Frenchwoman living in Paris and attending university when she is told a shocking and unbelievable rumour: thousands of foreign-born Jews are about to be rounded up in Paris. Although, Eva herself is French, her parents are Polish and could be in danger if these rumours are true. And yet first, Eva doesn’t believe them–they are too horrible, too unimaginably unjust to be plausible until the unimaginable happens.
I’m currently reading too many books at the same time, but there’s so many good books out there I can’t help myself! I recently purchased The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré and am loving it. I’m pretty sure it will be a five-star read for me. It’s one of my favourite books so far for 2020. I’ll post a review once I’m finished it.
I also love that I have a hard copy of the book. E-books are a great way to access books, especially during COVID times and I really appreciate that I can access e-books through my library system and through Open Books and Net Galleyand I’m also very attached to the hardcover and paperback versions. I just love the feel of holding a book and turning the pages, rather than staring at a computer screen.
I started reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi through my local library system. I was struck by Yaa Gyasi’s breathtaking prose from the opening paragraph. Her writing is simply beautiful! I’m looking forward to reading this book.
Wings of a Flying Tiger by Iris Yang is a haunting and heartbreaking novel set in China just before the beginning of World War Two. It shows a side of history that can be overlooked and offers a raw, vivid picture of the atrocities committed in the name of war and country.
The pages are filled with so much anguish and unimaginable suffering that it can be hard to take in at times, and at the same time it voices the courageous inner strength and convictions of it’s central characters. It is a story of pain and injustice, as well as a message of hope and perseverance in the face of bitter brutality.
The novel opens days before the Nanjing Massacre in 1937, which is also known as the Nanking Massacre or the Rape of Nanking, where thousands of Chinese soldiers and civilians were slaughtered, and an estimated 20,000 women were raped and then killed.
Jasmine is a courageous, daring young woman, who must at times hide her beauty to protect herself, and fight for survival in her war-torn home. When she discovers Danny, a fallen American pilot who is part of a movement called the ‘Flying Tigers,’ Jasmine goes to great lengths to protect him, falling in love with him along the way. However, loving him may come at a great cost.