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Posts Tagged ‘Books’

22-Apr-2017 Out Of Time by Miranda Sawyer

Saturday 22 April 2017 Leave a comment

I still read quite a lot – blogs, online articles, my massive feedly feed of articles. And still a few books, but not as many as I’d like.

I’d hate to think that it’s part of the dumbing down of the world, short attention spans and what not. I am into getting lots of sleep, cooking from scratch, lots of exercise, trying to balance work with play so it is just hard to fit in the time.

Anyway, virtually all of my book-reading is on my phone with the kindle app (I am into reducing devices and don’t “even” have a tablet).

I bought this book Out Of Time by Miranda Sawyer. It was about :

“a very modern look at the midlife crisis – delving into the truth, and lies, of the experience and how to survive it, with thoughtfulness, insight and humour.”

I don’t think I am going through a midlife crisis or anything but am conscious of the constant drip drip drip of time ticking by. Kids getting older, now into late teens and early adulthood, and the gradual ageing of parents ie I am getting older and you just can’t ignore that. Anyway I didn’t really like her style much and didn’t particularly enjoy the book, and very nearly discarded it a few times, although I did persevere and finish it. I found that the following paragraph really did resonate with me :

‘You’re at the life stage you’re at. Accept it. If you have children, then all things have their season, and this is the season for staying in and looking after your children. Acknowledge where you are, accept where you are, move through it and enjoy it. Because the other option is to actively not enjoy your life.’

We do go through life stages and people should just be patient and accept it rather than just fight fight fight all the time. People can do many things but they can’t do everything all at once. If you are always pushing against the grain it makes it a lot harder and a lot less enjoyable. I could go off into a rant about “mindfulness” although there is too much rubbish written about the concept, but in general there is a lot of merit to it all.

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3-Jan-2016 Still on holiday!

Sunday 3 January 2016 Leave a comment

razors-edgeI am still on holiday and hanging out at home, doing lots of sport, running, swimming, gym, possibly too much as my arms and legs are very tired and I have trouble getting out of bed before about 10am!

I finished reading The Razor’s Edge book by Somerset Maugham. I really enjoyed it … this review is better than I could give it:

In the evening, gone 1030pm, me and Dawn walked thru Bonnie Vale campsite to Maianbar and as it was low tide crossed the beach to the spit and walked back on the beach. I gave her a piggy back across the stream! We got back home approx 11.30pm, it was warm and we worked up a sweat.

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29-Oct-2014 A Fine Balance Book

Wednesday 29 October 2014 Leave a comment

afinebalanceThis month’s book for Book Club was “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry. I have read it before and loved it and I have read of bunch of his other ones also.

I loved the book again, I love the slow-paced build-up. I love the snippets into Indian life and different religions and customs but it’s not rammed hard at you. It’s good.

Obviously, it’s set in India which always puts it firmly in my radar, I love books about India. The 2 tailors, from a lower caste are definitely underdogs, I am always a fan of under dogs. Dinah and Maneck complete the key four characters, are an interesting mix of people and backgrounds but the story goes well together and I felt like I really cared for them, which is quite rare in a book. It follows that successes and failures.

Here were some cool quotes I’d bookmarked:

The proofreader nodded, ‘You see, you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.’ He paused, considering what he had just said. ‘Yes,’ he repeated. ‘In the end, it’s all a question of balance.’

Which is obviously where he got the name of the book from. Very true.

But how firm to stand, how much to bend? Where was the line between compassion and foolishness, kindness and weakness? And that was from her position. From theirs, it might be a line between mercy and cruelty, consideration and callousness.

 This is one of the great truths, most people and society in general likes order, but you can’t be impassionate about choices, there has to be some give – it’s not a black and white world.

‘The rules should always allow someone to win,’ Om insisted. The logical breakdown troubled him. ‘Sometimes, no one wins,’ said Maneck. ‘You were right, it is a stupid game,’ said Om.

 I think this is a wry comment on life – no one wins, everyone dies, rich, poor, sick, well. Even if you lead a long and healthy and fruitful life you still get to see everyone you hold dear die in front of you.

‘So that’s the rule to remember, the whole quilt is much more important than any single square.’

 An uplifting comment … the meaning is obvious. Don’t worry about one setback – put it in to perspective with your whole life.

People forget how vulnerable they are despite their shirts and shoes and briefcases, how this hungry and cruel world could strip them, put them in the same position as my beggars.’

 yes, you may have it all now, but fortune, luck or karma have a way of changing everything, even in the blink of an eye.

‘After all, our lives are but a sequence of accidents – a clanking chain of chance events. A string of choices, casual or deliberate, which add up to that one big calamity we call life.’

So true, I often remark to Dawn that life is like one big random accidental series of occurrences!

Some additional links:

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25-Sep-2014 Love in time of cholera

Thursday 25 September 2014 Leave a comment

loveinthetimeofcholeraI finished this month’s book club book a little bit early : Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez [wikipedia link].

Previously I had only read his famous Hundred Years of Solitude that I hated so wasn’t looking forward to this but I actually quite enjoyed it.

Here is part of the New York /times review:

As we grow older it gets stranger, until at some point mortality has come well within the frame of our attention, and there we are, suddenly caught between terminal dates while still talking a game of eternity. It’s about then that we may begin to regard love songs, romance novels, soap operas and any live teen-age pronouncements at all on the subject of love with an increasingly impatient, not to mention intolerant, ear.

At the same time, where would any of us be without all that romantic infrastructure, without, in fact, just that degree of adolescent, premortal hope? Pretty far out on life’s limb, at least. Suppose, then, it were possible, not only to swear love ”forever,” but actually to follow through on it – to live a long, full and authentic life based on such a vow, to put one’s alloted stake of precious time where one’s heart is? This is the extraordinary premise of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s new novel ”Love in the Time of Cholera,” one on which he delivers, and triumphantly.

The main guy falls in love as a teenager and writes many many love letters (reminds me of myself as a teen …) but the girl turns him down and he waits 50 years for her husband to die and be in with a nother chance. He has some affairs but never marries and is always focussed on getting her the right house and is just thinking about her. They do (amazingly) get another chance but by then they are old people in their 70’s. It really makes you think about love as you get older, something I am facing !! gadzooks!

Yeah, a great book… much better than the the solitude one.

Some links:

  • Buy it on Amazon [link]
  • New York Times review [link]
  • Review and comments on good reads [link]
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13-Sep-2014 City Day Out

Saturday 13 September 2014 Leave a comment

It’s pretty obvious, to me at least, that a day out in the city is a weird thing for me to do, given I am there Monday to Friday and that I hate shopping, but it was a family thing. Chelsea was going to work and Kody was with friends at the Cronulla Spring Festival.

It was Dawn’s birthday on Monday and she wanted to get some clothes and things and Jazmin wanted to go also, so I tagged along. yawn. I really don’t like shopping. especially clothes shopping and even more especially when none of it is for me! However it was nice to be out with family, so that was good. They both got quite a few things so it was semi-worthwhile…

After we got back I went for a short run to Jibbon and along the beach and had a swim. The water is not quite as icy, but not really warm in any known description. Lots of bluebottles also but I went along the beach to the tucked on corner so missed them, thankfully.

imurderedmylibraryOn the train I started and finished reading a Kindle Singles book (ie very short, cost $3) : I Murdered My Library by Linda Grant. I found it from this article in the Guardian.

What happens when you begin to build a library in childhood and then find you have too many books? From a small collection held together by a pair of plaster of Paris horse-head bookends to books piled on stairs, and in front of each other on shelves, books cease to furnish a room and begin to overwhelm it. At the end of 2013, novelist Linda Grant moved from a rambling maisonette over four floors to a two bedroom flat with a tiny corridor-shaped study. The trauma of getting rid of thousands of books raises the question of what purpose personal libraries serve in contemporary life and the seductive lure of the Kindle. Both a memoir of a lifetime of reading and an insight into how interior décor has banished the bookcase, her account of the emotional struggle of her relationship with books asks questions about the way we live today.

I really enjoyed it and it resonated with me … I have been reading since I was about 5 years old and have had many many books, and am finally trying to part with them. I too use my Kindle a lot more now (actually the kindle app on my phone).

12-Sep-2014 Update from Bangladesh

Friday 12 September 2014 Leave a comment

This week I got an email from Shahed :

Second Term exam is started in Subornogram Foundation’s School for the Cobbler Community Children at Bagmucha, Sonargaon on 6 September. 102 students are attending the exam. The exam will continue till 13 September.

The teaching in the school is going on very well despite several challenges and limitation of resources. This year 4 of our students of class five will appear in the Government exam in coming November.

This was great news but I felt like I wanted to know more ie it raises more questions than it answers.

He also sent a couple of photos:

Mandir Pathshala 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rishipara Mandir Pathshala 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As an aside, I also read a free ebook called “The Flinch” – you can download it from Amazon here for free. This was basically about pushing you to do stuff that scares yourself, moving outside your comfort zone where you’d normally “Flinch”.

Anyway, after I had went to Bangladesh last year and met Shahed and Chris, I had thoughts of getting more involved with the school .. not really sure how but raising some money to help them and stuff. I think I still want to do this although am nervous about jumping in with both feet as it’s then hard to extract myself some years later. Still I would like to get more involved, just need to think how. It seems to me that even raising $1000 a year is a big deal for that school and really that’s only finding 50 people willing to donate $20 per year .. surely that’s pretty easy.

I guess I will think about it some more.

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19-Aug-2014 Half of a Yellow Sun

Tuesday 19 August 2014 Leave a comment

book-halfyellow

As I was away for a while in England I got behind on the latest book club book “Half of a Yellow Sun” by by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I finished it today.

At first it started off like an end-of-empire book about privileged whites and Africans but it quickly dived into the history surrounding the emergence of Biafra and the war for independence in the 1960s when it broke away from Nigeria.

I don’t much about Africa really (never been to Africa) but it was a great read and I really enjoyed it. I feel quite inspired to want to go there now. One of the people at book club, Michael, lived in the area in the 1960s and really rated the book. Quite fascinating.

You can check out the book at Amazon, and a review in the Guardian – and extract here:

Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, takes its title from the emblem for Biafra, the breakaway state in eastern Nigeria that survived for only three years, and whose name became a global byword for war by starvation. Adichie’s powerful focus on war’s impact on civilian life, and the trauma beyond the trenches, earns this novel a place alongside such works as Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy and Helen Dunmore’s depiction of the Leningrad blockade, The Siege.

Adichie takes her time in reaching the privations of war. Covering the decade to the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967-70, the novel first develops its characters in a period of peace and – for some – plenty after Nigerian independence in 1960. Among the protagonists are Odenigbo, or “the Master”, a radical maths lecturer at the University of Nsukka – in what became the secessionist Igbo land – and Ugwu, the village teenager who becomes his houseboy, but whom he enrolls at the university staff school. A novel that descends into dire hunger begins with Ugwu’s devoted creativity in the kitchen, confecting pepper soup, spicy jollof rice and chicken boiled in herbs. Beer and brandy flow as he serves the Master’s friends while absorbing snippets of intellectual debate in the era of Sharpeville, de Gaulle in Algeria and the struggle for US civil rights.

Ugwu’s domain is encroached upon by Odenigbo’s lover, Olanna, the London-educated daughter of a “nouveau riche” businessman in Lagos, and the household is later disrupted by its links with Olanna’s periodically estranged twin sister Kainene and her English boyfriend, Richard.

Ethnic differences are signalled between the mainly Igbo protagonists – whose persistent switching between English and Igbo languages is wonderfully conveyed – and those such as Odenigbo’s Yoruba colleague, Miss Adebayo, and Olanna’s ex-boyfriend from the north, the Hausa prince Mohammed. These differences assume lethal significance after the ostensibly Igbo-led 1966 military coup, which becomes a pretext for anti-Igbo pogroms after the counter-coup six months later. As Olanna and others become caught up in the violence, the novel captures horror in the details of “vaguely familar clothes on headless bodies”, or corpses’ “odd skin tone – a flat, sallow grey, like a poorly wiped blackboard”.

As Biafran secession “for security” brings a refugee crisis, a retaliatory Nigerian blockade and all-out war, and the world (bar Tanzania) refuses to recognise the fledgling state, the focus is on the characters’ grief, resilience and fragmenting relationships. Tending her adopted daughter, Olanna endures the descent into one-room squalor, food-aid queues and air raids without self-pity. But there is anger at the “bleakness of bombing hungry people”, and the deadly kwashiorkor, malnutrition that afflicts children, dubbed “Harold Wilson syndrome” for the former colonial power’s complicity. While Ugwu’s forced conscription involves him in an atrocity whose legacy is lasting shame, the issue of forgiveness between the twin sisters subtly echoes that of warring political groups.

A history of colonisation is alluded to, not least in the tragicomic figure of Richard’s anglophile servant Harrison, who prides himself on serving roast beef and rhubarb crumble, but adapts in wartime to roasting lizards and bush rats “as though they were rack of lamb”. While Richard identifies with Biafra and intends to write the history of the war, it is Ugwu who takes up the pen and the mantle. As Richard concedes, “The war isn’t my story to tell really,” and Ugwu nods. “He had never thought that it was.”

There are other quiet revolutions in the novel. Odenigbo, the “revolutionary freedom fighter” with endless certainty and self-belief, succumbs to drink and despair, while the seemingly compliant Olanna draws on profound strengths. The master-servant relationship is upended, as the “houseboy” returns with fondness and irony the Master’s way of addressing him as “my good man”.

The novel’s structure, moving in chunks between the late and early 60s, is not without blips. At times I wondered how far Ugwu’s omnivorous reading was reflected in his development. But these are quibbles in a landmark novel, whose clear, undemonstrative prose can so precisely delineate nuance. There is a rare emotional truth in the sexual scenes, from Ugwu’s adolescent forays and the mature couples’ passions, to the ugliness of rape.

Literary reflections on the Biafra war have a long and distinguished history, from the most famous poet to have died in the war, Christopher Okigbo, to Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi and Flora Nwapa. Born in 1977, Adichie is part of a new generation revisiting the history that her parents survived. She brings to it a lucid intelligence and compassion, and a heartfelt plea for memory.

The author’s own website is here.