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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Names on a map by Benjamin Alire Saenz

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The Espejo family of El Paso, Texas, is like so many others in America in 1967, trying to make sense of a rapidly escalating war they feel does not concern them. But when the eldest son, Gustavo, a complex and errant rebel, receives a certified letter ordering him to report to basic training, he chooses to flee instead to Mexico. Retreating back to the land of his grandfather—a foreign country to which he is no longer culturally connected—Gustavo sets into motion a series of events that will have catastrophic consequences on the fragile bonds holding the family together.


I cannot say enough times how much I love this author. He is now 3 for 3 for the books I have read of his. Each one is in a different style with a completely different storyline, the only link being they are all set in El Paso, Texas and involve Hispanic families.

The character development in this novel was as superb as ever from this author and, again, I could relate very closely to characters that had absolutely nothing in common with me or my life, ever!

He takes a tragic situation but does not overly glamourise or over dramatize what must have happened to a large number of families of that time.

Despite each chapter being from a different characters voice and each one being of a random length, some very long others just a few sentences, it was very easy to follow each persons story.

If you have not read any of this authors books, please just pick any one up, I am sure it will not disappoint. 5 out of 5.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

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The Hours tells the story of three women: Virginia Woolf, beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway as she recuperates in a London suburb with her husband in 1923; Clarissa Vaughan, beloved friend of an acclaimed poet dying from AIDS, who in modern-day New York is planning a party in his honor; and Laura Brown, in a 1949 Los Angeles suburb, who slowly begins to feel the constraints of a perfect family and home. By the end of the novel, these three stories intertwine in remarkable ways, and finally come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace.

Well I now need to watch the movie of this to see if it helps in my understanding of the book.

I liked the writers style and it was quite easy to follow, despite being written over three very distinct times. I didn't think I was enjoying it for a while but then kind of got drawn into it. 

I must admit I completely missed the link between a couple of the characters over time and I am interested to see if this was just me because I was distracted when I was reading it or whether the rest of the book group missed it as well.

I didn't have high hopes when I started this book but was pleasantly surprised at my level of enjoyment of it. More a 3.5 out of 5 but not quite a 4 so rated at a 3. Not a rush out and read book but, if you stumble across it and have nothing else to hand, then not a waste of time either.

The Sense of an ending by Julian Barnes

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This short, intense new novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he never much thought about--until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance, one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony Webster thought he'd left all this behind as he built a life for himself, and by now his career has delivered him into a secure retirement much as an amicable divorce has left him still fond of his ex-wife and daughter, who now has a family of her own. But suddenly Tony is presented with a mysterious legacy that obliges him to reconsider a variety of things he thought he'd understood all along, and to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world.

Hmmm, a bit torn about my review on this one. I enjoyed reading it especially the very Britishness of it but it was trying to hard at times to be overly intellectual.

It started well, wandered about in the middle and then came it's saviour, the punch in the stomach ending.

It is a short book so well worth a read but I am glad it did not go on much longer. Lots of unexplained parts that even several book group ladies together could not fathom but they did not ruin the book, only slightly distracted one as a reader


The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake


The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name. Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves. 

A bookgroup choice that I am not sure I would have picked up on my own. It was an interesting read although not a "you have to read this" book. I felt (and my bookgroup concurred) that the story started well but got a bit lost and wandering in the middle. It went off it what I felt was the wrong direction of all the directions it could have gone.
It made an interesting discussion because of all the time periods and subject matter that was covered but this was also one of the faults of the book, as it kept wandering off the path of the most interesting part of the story.

The author got bogged down at times at what a lot of us felt were unnecessarily detailed descriptions of the scenery.

I would really give this a 3.5 but not quite a 4, as it was a worthwhile read but could have been a lot better.