Category Archives: Fiction

Review: Blue Diary

Blue Diary, by Alice Hoffman, takes on several moral questions within the pages. Lies are the foundation of the story, and they set off a chain reaction of events.

Ethan and Jorie have been married for fifteen years. They have a son, named Collie. Their marriage appears to be stable, loving and filled with joy. Everyone in their small town feels the same way, whenever they see the two together.

Enter Kat, a young girl who happens to be watching a TV show that shows Ethan’s photograph, and depicts him as a murderer of a fifteen-year old girl. Her best friend, Collie, is the son of a supposed murderer. She is in shock.

That shock turns to a moral question, and one she fulfills by telephoning the police from a telephone booth, in order to have him investigated.

Ethan is arrested and brought to jail. Jorie is in total shock and denial, as is her son. She can’t imagine how the man she married could possibly be a murderer. Herein lies a question: Do we ever truly know the person we are married to? Know in the sense of their moralistic and ethical standards.

Ethan has depicted himself to be upstanding, a hero who has saved the lives of a few people, a volunteer in the fire department. He is a man who is esteemed by the majority of the citizens residing in the town. They have nothing but respect and admiration for Ethan, who in fact, is actually Byron Bell, a murderer.

Superficiality and deceit, denial and truth, are at the heart of this novel. Hoffman depicts the family’s reactions, as well as the town’s reactions quite vividly, leaving nothing to the imagination. We visualize everything, and we are privy to Jorie’s innermost thoughts, as well as Kat’s thoughts, and the thoughts of others of importance in the story.

I didn’t really like the characters in the book, not even Kat, who wrestles with seeing the outcome of her decision to turn Ethan in. I didn’t like the fact that the e-book I borrowed was poorly edited with many errors, quite liberally. I am glad I didn’t pay for the book.

The truth comes back in a haunting fashion, evoking moral questioning within the pages. Can one who has murdered an innocent teenager redeem himself over the course of fifteen years? Has he paid for his crime, by being an upstanding citizen? Do his decent deeds warrant forgiveness and a legal pardon, or were they part of his personal quest for respect in case his past was revealed? Does he truly love his wife, or is his selfishness still a vital part of his soul?

So many questions, but this reader answered them all, to herself.
“`
Excuse the update, I forgot to link the book.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Book Diva's Book Reviews, Family Dynamics, Fiction

Review: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

What would you do if faced with the same situation that Dr. David Henry was faced with. Can you say for sure? The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, by Kim Edwards explores situations and choices we make.

After delivering twins during a blizzard, the doctor is faced with the fact his second-born, a daughter, has Down’s Syndrome. Deciding, during a time of intense pressure and making a split-second on-the-spot choice, the doctor feels it is in the best interests of the child, to have the baby taken away, to an institution. He feels it is for her own good, and convinces himself he is doing it for the baby’s own good. He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby to an institution.

Caroline, chooses to raise the baby as her own daughter, and does it rather successfully, fighting for her daughter’s rights in every phase of her life, making sure she is able to sustain herself and care for herself. She has devoted herself to who she considers to be her child.

Dr. David Henry obsesses with photography, which has become his outlet for the guilt he constantly feels over his decision. His choice has left a void within his family. It is a void that only he can cure by being forthright. His apprehensions prevent him from that, and he keeps the secret of his choices.

This is a good psychological study on strength, caring, guilt, parallel lives, and the power to forgive and be redeemed, through the capability of love’s strength.

Kim Edwards manages to fulfill us with her amazing ability to bring us delicate, yet, compelling prose, emphasizing the haunting choices each character has made. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is a book that is compelling and illustrative of choices we make, and choices made that we often regret.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Diva's Book Reviews, Family Dynamics, Fiction, General, Literature/Fiction

Artwork Sagas

I have read two books recently that involve the restoring/returning of stolen art, during wartime, to the rightful owner/s. One deals with art stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The other book tells a story of a journey to find whether a work of art was stolen during World War I.

The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, by Anne-Marie O’Connor, is a true story, and it is the book that the recently released film, The Woman in Gold was based upon.

The book is a vivid depiction, not only regarding Adele Bloch-Bauer, the woman who posed for the artist, but also a compelling story of a work of art, and how one woman’s passion and perseverance led to the finding the provenance of the painting. The trials and tribulations in order to ascertain provenance, in order to prove that the work of art belonged in her family, and that it was stolen, outright, by the Nazis, lasted for a decade.

The Austrian government did not want to release the valuable painting, claiming legal ownership. Maria Altmann, the niece of Adele Bloch-Bauer, claimed otherwise, stating she was the legal heir to the painting.

The story is illuminating in many aspects. The reader is given snippets of life in Austria, life of the wealthy and how they lived, where they lived, and what the valued. It also is the story of the intricate and minute details involved in trying to gain proof of ownership or provenance. Word of mouth does not work. Documents do not often work, either.

I saw the film, and it was well-done. If I compare it to the book, I would have to say the book was more detailed, whereas the film encompassed dramatic visuals of the time period. I enjoyed both the book and the film, and give them equal share on my enjoyment scale.
~~~

The second book, entitled, The Girl You Left Behind: A Novel, by Jojo Moyes, depicts one family’s struggle to survive during World War I, in a small town in the outskirts of Paris.

Sophie Lefevre’s husband Edouard is a painter. He painted a portrait of Sophie, which is stunning. He eventually must leave in order to fight the Germans. Those Germans eventually occupy the town, and take over the small bar/cafe enterprise that Sophie and her sister operate. The Kommandant and his soldiers are to have dinner prepared for them every night, no questions asked. It is a command that can not be refused.

Fast forward to the present, and Liv Halston, a widow of four years, has the painting hanging in her home. From there the story begins to move quicker.

She is quite insistent that the painting, bought by her husband, for her, is legally hers. She involves herself and others in a battle for ownership. From the living heirs to Liv, herself, the story line unfolds with intensity, and with incredible details of search methods and documentation.

The historical aspect is well-done, and well researched. I was surprised by some of the facts, and did not realize that during World War I, the Germans stole artwork, furniture, silver items from homes, anything and everything they felt useful, was taken. That was revealing for me.

How does the story end? You will have to read the book to find out.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogrolls, Book Diva's Book Reviews, Family Dynamics, Fiction, Historical Novels, Non-Fiction

Review: Station Eleven

Station Eleven. by Emily St. John Mandel, is an interesting read on how the end of the world, our world, affects the few survivors that remain.

I say “few survivors”, because a flu pandemic, known as the Georgia flu, has literally killed off about 99 percent of the entire earth’s population. The flu was transported and transpired in a matter of days, and for some in a manner of hours. The effects of the pandemic created a wasteland of sorts. Cars left on the highways and freeways, and roads to the airport. Some left empty, some with the deceased. There was no electricity, no gas that was usable, little food, and no comforts of home, obviously.

Survivors ravaged empty homes of everything they could use, leaving the interiors a shell of a house. People slept wherever they could. There was a bit of lawlessness, but not so much of that as there was a lackluster mood, a mood of concentrating on coping, and of traveling back to the past. The past was a big part of the story line, as it kept jumping from then to the current situation.

The memories never leave the survivors, and it is almost as if they are reliving their lives in a time warp or continuum through the past. There isn’t much hope emanating.

Learning to survive with basically no comforts is a central issue, and one that is consumed by a traveling Shakespeare company, created by a former actor. His role seemed to be a bit of a farce, in my opinion. He wasn’t entirely present in a majority of the novel, yet his presence was certainly felt by the survivors, as they tried to travel to where he was located. He reminded me of a mythical character, who sight unseen, manages to rule society through his former actions of legendary proportions.

I didn’t find the reality of the fact that art, in all its forms, became a central theme of the novel. For me, there were more immediate concerns that needed caring for. The basics of life were of vital importance in my way of thinking. I did not find that surviving in order to watch a traveling Shakespeare company was primary over other survival skills and necessities.

Yes, the plays and music brought cheer, but they also brought a sense of melancholy to those who watched. The past was revisited in their present.

An airport also plays a major role, as all aircraft was literally stopped, from the moment of the pandemic’s beginning. In fact a plane was grounded and quarantined due to sick passengers. It sat far removed from the airport, throughout the entire novel. The reader is cognizant of the fact that the dead passengers’ bodies are on the plane. Many survivors have chosen to live in the airport, portioning off sections and making the section their home.

Chaos is depicted in many forms, and I must say that the author was brilliant with her word-imagery. Every aspect of the landscape is described so the reader does not have to really think too long on envisioning what is being portrayed.

I won’t go on any more with my thoughts. If I do, I will then be rambling in a negative manner. The book has gotten mainly excellent reviews and awards, and I don’t want to spoil anything for you, a possible reader.

I read Station Eleven for a book club. It is not my usual story line read. Did I like it, yes and no, more on the negative side than the positive side. The book was dark, and unbelievable in sections, as far as I am concerned. But, I did read it all the way through. It does have a moral of sorts, which is a plus.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogrolls, Book Diva's Book Reviews, Fiction, General

Review: Aquarium: A Novel

The novel, Aquarium, by David Vann is a novel that takes place in 1994, and is narrated by a twelve-year old girl named Caitlin Thompson.

Caitlin lives alone with her mother, Sheri, in a small apartment. There are just the two of them, and her mother is a hardworking single mother. When Sheri comes home from work she just wants to flop on the bed. And, at times, Caitlin flops down with her.

Sheri can’t afford child care, so Caitlin spends her after school hours at the Seattle Aquarium. It was less expensive to buy a season pass, than pay for child care for Caitlin who is not legally allowed to be home alone.

While at tne aquarium one afternoon, she meets an elderly man. He begins speaking to her regarding the fish they are looking at. This interaction continues each day after school, and a friendship begins to form between the two of them. She trusts him, completely, and is not afraid of him. Eventually, he tells Caitlin he would like a favor of her-he wants to meet her mother.

Once the meeting takes place, trouble begins. ‘Trouble’ is actually an understatement and putting it mildly. I must admit that I was shocked at Sheri’s behavior, after she sees the elderly man. I was horrified regarding her actions.

Enough, if I go on any longer, I will give the story line away.

I found Vann’s writing to be lovely when he was writing about the aquarium, and the fish and other sea life that live within the aquarium environment. His word-images were beautifully written. They were masterfully crafted images that illuminated aquarium life. I have been to aquariums several times recently, and I could visualize what his writing depicted.

I also was captivated by how Caitlin compared her daily life to an aquarium. Her apartment was her aquarium, her bedroom, her school, every facet of her life was an analogy to an aquarium. It was an interesting concept.

For me, the novel was a metaphor for survival, not only survival of sea life, but survival of individuals within an environment of hardship and adversity. Single mothers with little education have a difficult time tying all ends together in order to provide shelter, food and clothing for their child/ren. Within the pages, this becomes a primary issue.

As a whole, I was not overly happy with the story. Aquarium is a dark and haunting novel, and not one that I found to be a positive read (other than the word-images of aquarium life). Yes, it is true, Caitlin was a sweet girl, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy me.

2 Comments

Filed under Blogrolls, Book Diva's Book Reviews, Family Dynamics, Fiction

Review: Missing Mom: A Novel

Joyce Carole Oates never ceases to amaze me, not only with her story lines, but the depth of the characters in her novels.  In her novel, Missing Mom , a tribute to her own mother, who is no longer living, Oates has gone one step beyond herself, and given us insight in a magnificently crafted novel.  I feel that this book must have been a catharsis, of sorts, for Oates, to help her through her devastating loss.  She most certainly must have helped others, dealing with the loss of a mother or a father.

Having lost my own mother 11/11/2004 (Veterans Day of all days), this story line captured my attention, and I could not put the book down until I had finished it, reading it straight through, overnight.  It was a sobering and compelling read, and filled with true-life situations.  This reader could feel the pain that emanated between the lines. I saw myself in several of the painful situations.

In the character of Nikki, I saw the reality of what denial can do to a person.  She had several dimensions, but most of them were superficial.  In the end, she became the person she feared she would become.  Realizing that she had become that person, she slowly adjusted to that facet of her being.  Oates illuminates the varied phases and emotional conflicts quite brilliantly.

Nikki’s mother was constantly in her life, although, no longer living (I can definitely empathize and relate to that aura).  From her clothes to the house decorations, to the entertaining of friends/family, we see she is her mother’s daughter, guilt-ridden, yet caring and loving, at the same time.  Loss has no barriers in the time continuum.

This reader felt Nikki’s loss, felt her denial, felt her pain, and watched her take baby steps in healing.  Even though she continued to heal and move forward, I understood that she would always be missing her mother. The void of loss would be a constant for Nikki, yet the will to find a sense of acceptance resonated quite vividly.

The bereavement process is a difficult time in a person’s life.  Joyce Carole oates has written a story line so poignant, heart-wrenching and a story extremely filled with the consumption of death and its after-effects and after-affects, in her novel, Missing Mom.

© Copyright – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my expresss written consent/permission.

2 Comments

Filed under Blogrolls, Book Diva's Book Reviews, Family Dynamics, Fiction, Literature/Fiction

Review: Waiting For Robert Capa

Waiting For Robert Capa: A novel, by Susana Fortes, is a book that held my interest from beginning until the end, not only because of the photojournalism aspect, but also due to the romantic interests, and the historical aspect.

Andre Friedmann, was a struggling photographer, living in Paris. He was a Hungarian exile.  He had an assignment to take pictures for publicity purposes for a life insurance company. Within that realm, he finds a woman named Ruth Cerf, and asks her to model for him.

Ruth was suspicious, and told him she was bringing a friend along.  Her name was Gerta Pohorylle.  From there, begins a story line that mingles fact with fiction, and encompasses a story of romance and photojournalism like you have never read before.

Andre and Gerta become known as a couple.  And, couple, they did (pun intended).  They were two young and brilliant individuals trying to maintain a relationship and garner assignments in Spain in order to document the war.  And, in order to do so, Gerta came up with the bright idea to change their names in order to gain recognition.

First she changes Andre’s name to Robert Capa, eliminating his Jewish surname.  She becomes his self-appointed “agent”. Eventually she changes her name to Gerda Taro.  She wanted to be independent, and be recognized for her own work, rather than her photographs be included in Robert’s work without a byline. She literally became the first female war photographer who involved herself in the midst of battle.  He became infamous in the world of photography for his extremely hardline images, leaving nothing to chance or to the imagination. To say they found themselves in unbelievable circumstances, is an understatement.

They were right there, within the action, each one, documenting war through photography, putting their lives at risk in order to capture the ravages and horrors of war.  Those efforts and circumstances changed the face of war photography forever.  From that point forward, war was seen by millions of individuals in ways that they never imagined.

His photographs depict tumultuous moments.  Robert’s photograph “Death of a Loyalist Militiaman“, became the poster child, so to speak, for the Spanish Civil War.  It is an incredible image, and one that depicts the moment of one man’s death, literally.  With one click of the camera, he captured death as it occurred.  He never lived that image down, due to speculation that it was staged.  He denied it, but there were the nonbelievers. It followed him for the rest of his life.

As a side note-I knew of Robert Capa’s war photography, especially his work regarding D-Day, and other images during that document World War II.  I knew of Gerda Taro.  But, I did not know about their relationship.

I won’t go any further with details, because the novel is too compelling and intense.  Suffice it to say, the love story is depicted with realism and deep intimate moments.  The war angle and photography moments are intensely written and portrayed. Susana Fortes is masterful at keeping the reader interested, and masterful in illuminating her word images.

I recommend Waiting For Robert Capa: A Novel, to everyone.  The historical information, alone, makes it more than an excellent read.  Combine that with the romantic story of two brilliant individuals whose work will live on, and keep their brilliance and efforts alive, and you have a book difficult to put down.

~~~

To view some of the incredible photographs that were taken by Robert Capa, visit Magnum Photos. I was absorbed in all of them, but the ones from Italy 1943-1944 spoke to me, as my father was involved in the liberation of Italy. I was also amazed at the D-Day photographs, and remember seeing many of them while growing up, in various literary magazines and in newspapers.

3 Comments

Filed under Blogrolls, Book Diva's Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical Novels, Literature/Fiction, World War II