Monthly Archives: February 2015

Review: Away: A Novel

Away is a novel of epic proportions, panoramic in its landscape and a saga covering two years in the life of Lillian Leyb. Leyb is a Russian immigrant, who has fled the pograms. Her parents and husband were murdered, and as far as she knows, her precious, toddler daughter, Sophie, has been murdered also. She has emigrated to New York City to start a new life, and is very determined to assimilate and reinvent herself.

We witness her go through many changes in her desire to weave her way through the tapestries of 1920s New York City.

Survival is at the foremost in her mind. When she thinks that she has found a niche, a place of comfort where she has the essentials such as food, shelter and clothing, her life takes a turn due to some news she has found out.

Lillian’s cousin emigrates and informs her that Lillian’s daughter, Sophie, is still alive. This sparks an intense desire and passion in Lillian to try to trek to Siberia, in order to find her daughter. Lillian goes to the extremes in order to do so, trekking through expanses of land that are not inhabited, in order to make her way to try to find her daughter. Along the way she meets people of varying status and mores.

This does not deter Lillian, for she is determined to find Sophie no matter what she has to do. It might sound insane, unattainable, and sound like a journey without a happy ending, but as far as Lillian is concerned, it is one she must make.

Away, by Amy Bloom, is a novel depicting the plight of the Russian immigrant. Bloom depicts the social mores, and the ways that immigrants assimilate in order to become part of the society and country they so strongly want to live in. Away has the protaganist reinventing herself to fit her environment, only to return to her true identity.

Bloom has given us a descriptive and clear painting of love and longing, passion and strength, assimilation and identity. Her characters are flawed, but that is to be expected, as in reality, none of us are perfect. And, for those who can’t understand Lillian’s fierce will and determination, they have missed a vital part of the novel. Most of us would go to the ends of the earth to find our child, if we were in the same situation that Lillian was in, no matter how absurd it might seem. Bloom understands this, and writes with eloquence, and gives us an emotionally breathtaking novel, filled with bits of humor and filled with heart-wrenching moments within the vast expanse and panorama of America.

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I have read a more recent book of Amy Bloom’s, entitled Lucky Us, and you can read my review of it, here.

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Involved

I am currently reading a novel entitled What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarity. It has a unique story line, and I am quite involved in it.

The main character, Alice, has been injured, and has completely forgotten the past ten years of her life. She has forgotten to the point she doesn’t even know her children, who were born after the point where she can not remember her life. That, my dear readers, has me intrigued, and reading without stopping (except for coffee this morning and dinner last night, and possibly a muffin and/or lunch, and dinner later on-if I haven’t finished it by dinner time tonight). The book has almost 500 pages, and I am about 22% through it.

Big Little Lies, by her, sounds like an interesting book, and so does The Hypnotist’s Love Story. I will put those two on my e-book, to-read list.

Have any of you read a book recently that has you engrossed by the characters/story line?

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Books by Edna Ferber

I have read several books by Edna Ferber, recently. I have a couple more books of hers to read.

Her writing speaks to me on many levels, aside from the fact that she began writing in 1911-her first novel, Dawn O’Hara, the Girl Who Laughed.

It amazes me that a woman from that era could write in such a manner that her works are fitting for today’s readers. Her writings emphasize the plight of women in the world, women who initially might appear to be weak, but in actuality are extremely strong. It took a lot of courage for Ferber to deliver the impact of a woman’s place in the social spectrum, and a woman’s determination to succeed in a man’s world.

In the books I have read, I have seen great transformation of a strong woman, a woman of depth and determination to overcome all odds. Her main female characters are ever evolving, ever growing in self-esteem, and ever confident in her goals.

Often those goals override her inner creativity, surpassing the ideals of creative passion for the quest for monetary gain. Yet, that quest is often diminished upon the realization that life is for the living, and for the passions of the heart as far as creativity and enjoyment of one’s work endeavors.

Her women work hard, work for their family in order to survive, and put themselves selflessly on the back burner, so to speak. Events occur in which they eventually fulfill their inner dreams, often in a world where men rule supreme in business, etc. Social stigmas ran rampant. It isn’t much different today, in many respects. Women aren’t often afforded the same privileges as men in the working world.

So far I have read:

So Big (Edna Ferber won a Pulitzer Prize for it)
Fanny Herself
Buttered Side Down
Showboat (yes-the musical was based on this book)
Roast Beef Medium (I have about 30 more pages to go)

Edna Ferber’s books speak of time eras with illuminating depictions through word-imagery. From city life to country life, she leaves nothing untouched, nothing to the imagination. We see towns and cities through her knowing eyes.

I am looking forward to reading the other books I have downloaded.

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70th Anniversary of “Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima”

Flags of Our Fathers: Heroes of Iwo Jima, by James Bradley and Ron Powers is an extremely important contribution in detailing the intense battle at Iwo Jima.

The book is filled with graphic word-imagery, and with the compelling and classic photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal of six Americans raising the American flag at Iwo Jima.

The aftermath of war, and of those six men has been haunting and tragic for some of them, and for some of their family members. James Bradley is the son of John Bradley, on of those brave men who braved the dangers of war to signify patriotism and American ideals.

Read this book, it is a must, for young and old alike.

My father was in the army during WWII. He saved clippings of this image, and the image has stayed with me through my life.

iwo U.S. Naval Institute

Today, February 23, 2015, is the seventieth anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize winning “The Raising of the Flag” photograph, captured by Joe Rosenthal.

The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial depicts the specific flag raising at Iwo Jima. It is heartfelt and awe-inspiring to see in person.

Sorry for the update-I left a link out.

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Italian Immigrants

Having Italian ancestry in my family, books regarding New York City and Italian immigrants are quite popular in my reading genres. I enjoy both the historical fiction books and the nonfiction books.

I am currently reading a novel called Elizabeth Street, by Laurie Fabiano. The story line takes place during the first decade of the 20th century. The book depicts based on the author’s own Italian immigrant family. So far, the pages are filled with the essence of the hardships of daily living and survival during a harsh time period. Fortitude, desire, and the will to assimilate and conquer the living conditions, crime and social inequalities forced upon Italian immigrants seem to be the basis for the book. I am fascinated with what I have read, so far.

I have read other books regarding Italian immigration, and New York City immigrants, in general. Each book has given me new snippets to ponder.

How the Other Half Lives, by Jacob Riis, is an extremely compelling book.

Vita: A Novel, by Melania G. Mazzucco, is another compelling read regarding the Italian immigrant experience.

Openwork: A Novel, by Adria Bernardi depicts three generations of Italian families, and their journey from Italy to New York City.

I also recommend The Shoemaker’s Wife, by Adriana Trigiani

This past Tuesday I watched a show on PBS entitled The Italian Americans. It is a two-part four-hour series. It ends on Tuesday February 24th. You can watch episodes online.

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Books Re U.S. Presidents

Today is Presidents’ Day, in the U.S., which reminds me of books I have read, regarding our presidents.

The first one I read, as a young adult, was-Those Who Love: A Biographical Novel of Abigail and John Adams. I was enthralled by it, and couldn’t put it down. I loved the story of their lives together. I found it to be quite fascinating regarding our nation’s history, the revolution, and our Constitution. I read it when it was first published in 1965.

Since then, I have read more books regarding presidents, and below is a list of a few (there are more than I list):

Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow
FDR, by Jean Edward Smith
No Ordinary Time: The Homefront in WWII, by Doris Kearns
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, by Walter Isaacson
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, by Jon Meacham
John F. Kennedy: U.S. President, by Mart Randall
Abraham Lincoln” Great American President, by Brenda Haugen
JFK: A&E Biography, by Philip Lord
Jimmy Carter: President and Peacemaker
The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama
My Life, by Bill Clinton

I could list more, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, I have many more presidential biographies and autobiographies.

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One of My Favorite Authors

Oh my, have I ever been busy reading. I just finished reading James Michener’s amazing novel, The Source. There are reasons he is in the top ten of my favorite authors.

With over 1,000 pages, it kept me reading, and reading. Michener is brilliant with his word-imagery, down to the most minute detail. I felt my senses filled with sight, sound, touch, hearing and taste. I loved every page of this amazing historical novel.

I have been an avid James Michener fan for decades, yes, decades. Some of his other books I have read and totally enjoyed:

The Covenant

Centennial

Chesapeake

Sayonara

Hawaii

Alaska

Poland

The Drifters

There are other books of his that I have read, aside from the ones listed above. His works have always touched a core with me. There are a few I have not read, and I hope to get to them, eventually.

I will write a proper review of The Source at some point in the future. For now, I am still savoring the story line, reflecting on the thought-provoking story and magnificent novel that James Michener created.

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