Monthly Archives: February 2008

The Ha-Ha, by Dave King

The Ha-Ha, by Dave King…I give it 5 Stars!

Howard Kapostash is a war veteran who has not spoken in thirty years. He has the same heart and mind, and is the same person, that he was before. He lives in a proverbial shell, an existence sustained with gestures and facial language.

His life begins to slowly change when the son of his old girlfriend moves into his house. He begins to open up, and experiences emotions, both positive and heartbreaking, which adds to his powerful sense of Being, and his intense inner essence illuminates even more, than it already did, before the boy entered his life.

I recommend this insightful book to everyone.

~~Book Diva

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The Same Sea, by Amos Oz

The Same Sea, by Amos Oz, is a captivating, lyrical, mystical prose poem for the heart and mind. Oz’s word-paintings fill our senses with emotions ranging from A to Z.

The novel has several characters whose lives join together and are intertwined, through the root of one particular person. The characters often cross emotional and societal boundaries in their search for peace, fulfillment, love, comittment and their search for Self. Compromises are made and broken, as familial ties and bonds become unhinged, as lives intersect.

Not far from the sea, Mr. Albert Danon lives in Amirim Street, alone. He is fond of olives and feata; a mild accountant, he lost his wife not long ago. Nadia Danon died one morning of ovarian cander, leaving some clothes, a dressing table, some finely embroidered place mats. Their only son, Enrico David, has gone off mountaineering in Tibet.”

The characters in The Same Sea are interesting, and each one has their own narrative to tell on their journey. There journeys are filled with their yearnings and longings for what was, what is, what could be. They all strive for serenity, and also for redemption. One of Oz’s characters, Rico, is on an odyssey of sorts, trying to find his place in a world filled with the void and loss of his mother. Albert, his father, also feels loss, the loss of his wife, and the loss of his son who has left to journey the world, not knowing exactly what he is searching for. Fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, lovers, friends, acquaintances are all entwined in this magical story.

Oz refers to the Bible in The Same Sea, to the beautiful “The Song of Songs“, with the dislpay of eroticism in some of his pages. The novel moves through time and place, legendary figures and geography, and through several generations of one family whose lives interweave with others. There is an ongoing family dispute. The never ending sea, a bird, and the desert are significant factors to which allusions are made. From dry humor to extreme poignancy, The Same Sea is a beautifully written tapestry, each page a thread in the fabric of life, each page almost a prose poem on its own.

Oz has a deep sense of all things unsettling, of the strong human need and quest for inner peace, and the desire for serenity within an environment of chaos and disquiet. He is subtle in his undertones regarding his nation, but nonetheless the hope is there, underlying, between the lines. A vision of peace hovers in the longings of the characters. Oz’s observations on human behavior fill the pages with words of lament. The Same Sea is extremely mystical and magical. Its pages are not only lyrical, but almost musical, evoking the serene sound of a lute or flute between the eloquent lines. The novel is beautifully written with strong imagery, enticing our imagination, beckoning us to read on. It is a novel of dreams, desires and of hope, a sojourn towards peace. It evokes ideas of life, death and dying alone, and of acceptance of the inevitability that life goes on, no matter what occurs. The Same Sea is an extremely crafted prose poem not to be missed in its creative edge. It is an insightful metaphor for life, and for the desire and hope for peace.

All rivers flow to the same sea.”

~~~~~~

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The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million

Daniel Mendelsohn will be signing his book, The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million on Wednesday February 13, 2008, at Davis Kidd in Memphis, TN. I wish I could be there for it. Unfortunately, I can’t.The Lost is an excellent book, and compelling family chronicle that takes us on a journey all throughout the world. It is part tour-de-farce, at times comical, yet the undertones are serious, strong and insightful. It is searing, tearing, and our hearts are in our throats, flying along with him through so many countries, jetting across the world in a frenzy. He didn’t have time for jet lag, he only had time for truth and knowledge.

Mendelsohn’s childhood was somewhat bizarre. His grandparents and other extended family members would cry whenever he walked into a room. To them he was the spitting image of an uncle he never knew, his uncle Schmiel, who died during World War II. He became curious, wondering what was it about that uncle that made his relatives cry. What are the stories behind the man, the mysteries of his life, and the lives of his other long-lost relatives. What evoked such tears in his aunts and uncles. It was a given, it never failed to happen. This was the spark that caught the flames of his curiosity.

Mendelsohn was fascinated with genealogy as a youth, and considered himself to be the family historian. Little did he know, then, that the history he would be researching, documenting and accounting, would take him on a journeys and escapades to Israel, Australia, the Ukraine, Scandinavia and other countries in order to interview witnesses who knew his family members. He would become passionate, obsessed, untiring in his quest for the truth. Mendolsohn was like a man possessed, and he couldn’t stop to even breathe until he put his family members to rest, in his search for identity, and truth. We feel Mendelsohn’s urgency, his unrelenting need to know, and feel anxious, ourselves.

Reading Mendelshon’s The Lost is involving, a page turner, like an intriguing mystery or spy novel. The historical content is extremely well-researched and amazing. The documentation of Mendelsohn’s and some of his family members’ travels in order to to find out what happened to six relatives during the time of the Holocaust is a descriptive blend that fills our senses and tears at our emotions. It is heart-wrenching, yet Mendelsohn does bring us a bit of comic relief here and there, between the pages. He also writes with intensity about ancestors and the past, and how families hand down tales and stories (often shielding their own pain or shame), from one generation to the next until the distorted truth is even believed by the original story teller.

Mendelsohn refers to The Bible, alluding to The Book of Genesis and Cain and Abel, in order to demonstrate brothers, betrayal, loss, familial ties, love, destruction, war. He ties the Biblical references together with the history of the Holocaust, contrasting and comparing events of The Bible to his own family’s background…they were from a small Shtetl, Bolochow, in the Ukraine. He scrutinizes each word verbalized, each word in each document in order to find the truth of the fate of the missing family members. The Lost is a book about the choices we make, and the consequences of those choices, whether positive or negative. It is also a story about origins/beginnings, and a story about travels towards truth, answers and endings, written in almost mystical fashion.

The historical Holocaust accountings in this book are amazing…so many witnesses…so little time. Stories needing documentation, and needing telling, stories needing remembering. Witnesses needing to speak, lest we forget. And, Mendelsohn, himself, along with other family members…I can’t even begin to describe my thoughts and feelings, while reading their reactions to what they see and discover in Bolochow…there’s a lump in my throat while I am writing this. I read this book a while ago, and it has continued to stay with me. That is the power of Mendelsohn as an author.

Mendelsohn is brilliant, and a masterful story teller and writer. His almost mystical manner of writing is not only articulate, but beautiful. Word images prevail on every page, and in almost every line, with drama and flair. His book is a tribute to those “Six of Six Million“, and a tribute to his own perseverance and endurance to set the story straight, to write it correctly, unedited and uncolored in time’s continuum. Mendelsohn’s journey was a personal one, and a sojourn and commitment to family, to those who perished and who were lost, to those living, to future generations. But, most of all, it is a compelling and poignant read, and it is an incredible tribute to life…life in every realm.

I personally own and have read this book.

~~~~~~

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The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean

The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean…I give it Four Stars!

“Sometimes it requires all her wits to piece together the world with the fragments she is given: an open can of Folgers, a carton of eggs on the counter, the faint scent of toast.”

And, so, begins the story of Marina, a woman caught between her past, and her present, as her life weaves back and forth, memories often overlapping the lines between the here and now. From 1941 Leningrad, and the German siege that follows, to relocating to America, the book resounds with ghostly images of starvation, bombings, and paintings by the great Masters of old.

Marina is one of the tour guides in the Hermitage Museum, one of a few staff members who are responsible for packaging up the great paintings, themselves, while leaving the frames on the walls, as a reminder of what was, and what eventually would be returned to its proper place in the Hermitage.

In order to escape the ravages of war, Marina creates a “Memory Palace” in her mind, remembering and visualizing each painting, each stroke of the brush, of the Madonnas and angels within the paintings. The minutes and hours pass by, and life is created within Marina’s mind, often blurring the borders of reality and fantasy. These fantasy images are what help her to get through her horrific situation, both during the war, and during the last years of her life, when the past takes over the present, guiding and comforting her towards the end of days.

Dean bring us a poignant novel of wartime, a beautiful, yet ghostly reminiscence of what was, and how we deal with the emotional pain of loss. She gives us food for thought, and her compelling images leave us to wonder about emotional borders, and where the line ends, or begins, between fantasy and reality.

~~Book Diva

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On Beauty, by Zadie Smith

The novel, On Beauty, by Zadie Smith was awarded The Orange Prize, in June 2006, which is an award going to the best novel of the year, published in England, and written by a woman.

In On Beauty, Smith’s intensity and insight brings us to the forefront of the issues concerning beauty, and has us questioning and wondering what beauty is actually all about, and how do we define it within today’s cultural diversity. Is it physical, is it emotional, is it cultural, is it intelligence, or is it a combination of all, of some, of those factors. On Beauty is a cultural and psychological study on marriage, politics, self-esteem, infused with bits of humor, and is a must-read.

She has written two previous novels: White Teeth, and also The Autograph Man.
The Autograph Man deals with celebrity, conflict and loss, and how lives are shaped by those factors. This novel has won awards, including the 2003 Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize for Fiction. Smith’s insight into obsession and loss, and the need to find answers, the need to know who we are in the scheme of the world, is intense in this excellent novel.

Ms. Smith was born in 1975, in London. Her mother is Jamaican, and her father is English. Her first novel, White Teeth deals with cultural diversity in London, and won several awards, honors and prizes, including multi-culture awards, and the Best Female Newcomer award, to name two. We feel the struggle for identity and love within the brilliance of Smith’s writing. White Teeth goes beyond cultural differences, binding the reader to the novel, nonstop, until we have finished reading it.

~~Book Diva

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City of Dreams, by Beverly Swerling

City of Dreams, a novel, by Beverly Swerling

This is a well-researched book that is filled with excellent historical value and factual information. Swerling recreates the time periods with fluid blends, giving our imaginations a peek at what life was like during the generations that span the novel, beginning with Amsterdam, when it was first settled.

From the beginning, one is amazed at the details that embrace the story, from how the first settlers built the city from scratch, to the harshness of life in Amsterdam, including the crime and moral standards. We see families trying to gain contro of land and peoplel, however they can, no detail is spared in conveying the situations. From brother and sister, who have close familial ties, to separations within families, each side feeling they are correct in their anger and beliefs, each side coming out somewhat the loser for their hatred…Swerling leads us through the bitter streets of Amsterdam.

The novel swells with culture, both religious and lifestyle…we are shown the various dwellers that inhabit the Island, and how each one must try to come to terms with the ethnic environments that surround them.

In the end, we find that times haven’t changed that much…the diversity of the population and the religious backgrounds, fed hatred then, as it continues to do so in modern day. It may be a different time period, and except for the way of life/lifestyle and what was available during that time period, most societal issues have not changed, only the technology has.

~~~Book Diva.

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Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat, Pray, Love, a book by Elizabeth Gilbert…I Give it Five Stars!

Eat, Pray, Love is a work of non-fiction, a memoir of a woman’s journey to find her essence, her soul, her very Being. We are taken on a journey, through the emotional elevator of her life, after her divorce.

From humor to tenderness, there is no let up in her search for Self. I found myself laughing throughout the pages, at the whimsical, crazy and caring characters she has written about, on her passage through Italy, India and Indonesia.

From learning to speak Italian, to eating (and gaining 23 pounds), to learning to pray and find spiritual comfort, to finding the meaning of love and balance in her life, this book is filled with poignant moments, joyous moments, and moments to illuminate our own lives. Gilbert gives us food for thought (no pun intended), and brings us one woman’s passage through the flavors of spirituality and serenity.

~~Book Diva

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