Tag Archives: literary reviews

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 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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Two Lives, by Vikram Seth

Two Lives, by Vikram Seth…I give it Five Stars!!

This beautifully written memoir is one that you will remember, long after you have finished the last word, on the last page. It is one of those memoirs that stay in your heart, in your mind, for a long time.

“When I was seventeen I went to live with my great-uncle and great-aunt in England. He was an Indian by origin, she German. They were both sixty. I hardly knew them at the time.”

And, with these opening lines begins the journey through the lives of Shanti Behari Seth, Helga Gerda Karo, and, the author, Vikram Seth, which culminates in an emotional ending. Vikram Seth, chronicles the lives of his great-uncle and great-aunt, with exacting details, which some might find over-reacting, or over-zealous in his endeavors. But, we must remember, this is a memoir, a factual story of lives, and all the details need to be relayed and interwoven into the family fabric, the family quilt of their lifespans. This is not a novel, or fictionalized account, but, rather an actual documentation of their lives.
We watch the friendship and love grow between Shanti, who was born in India, and studied dentistry and medicine in Berlin; and Helga, a German Jew. Two very different cultures, and two lives, lives which receded and ebbed within The Holocaust, Auschwitz and Israel, in an ocean of torment, hate, persecution, and, love. From 1908 India, to 1908 Germany, and the years that follow, in a Germany ruled by Hitler, we follow the journey of Shanti and Helga, to England, and also the journey of the author, Vikram Seth, into the lives of this childless couple.

These two lives couldn’t have been more different, yet more alike, than either of them could have imagined…overcoming racial and ethnic hatred, and genocide, their lives become fulfilled and realized, with the inclusion of Vikram Seth into their family. This is a memoir weaved from cultural threads, threads of understanding and love, woven into a quilt of unconditional love, compassion and the overcoming of adversity.

It is a must read for everyone who is interested in World War II, The Holocaust, India, England, and a love that crosses all the cultural boundaries. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down.

~~Book Diva

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The Zahir, by Paul Coelho

The Zahir, by Paul Coelho…I give it Four Stars!

Paul Coehlo has managed to capture the emotions of a man in search of his missing wife, but, in the end, realizes that he was searching for his own Self.

“Zahir, in Arabic, means visible, present, incapable of going unnoticed…someone or something, which once we come in contact with, gradually occupies our every thought until we can think of nothing else, considered a state of holiness or madness.”

The narrator is obsessed with finding his wife, and wonders if she ran off on her own, was she kidnapped, has she been murdered, etc. He is also obsessed with his own independence and freedom, and will do almost anything to be free, including having affairs, and going out of his way to make sure that what he considers his independence is not hindered in any way.

The narrator meets the man, named Mikhail, who his wife disappeared with. Being a man of privilege and celebrity, and a man used to getting and having his way, the narrator wants Mikhail to lead him to his wife, immediately. This does not happen, and in a series of meetings, and talks, we see the narrator begin to realize the substance of life, the emotional and spiritual substance of who we are, of who and of what he is comprised of.

The narrator, obsessively, yet slowly, finds his way towards his wife, and in an almost parallel way, finds his own sense of independence. He is both a man who journeys through madness and obsessiveness, towards love and spirituality.

Bravo to Coelho for always searching and questioning.

~~~Book Diva

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The Pianist, by Wladyslaw Szpilman

The Pianist, by Wladyslaw Szpilman…I give it five Stars!

The Pianist is the poignant and courageous story of Wladyslaw Szpilman’s determination to survive the WWII Holocaust, during the time when the German Occupation began in Warsaw, Poland. Szpilman was a pianist, a Jew, but most importantly, he was a human being, who was caught up in events he never dreamed possible. He was a gentle man, an artist, a pianist whose hands were his lifeline. The film is visually graphic with details, and we sit horrified as we watch those events unfold. The book, on the other hand, is more overwhelming and filled with details that the film did not convey, and, again, we sit horrified, as Szpilman’s words paint unspeakable atrocities and images before our eyes. We learn about the German Officer who helped him survive the last days of the German Occupation (and who has been recognized as Among The Righteous).

We are privvy to the German’s own journal, which in itself, is testimony to the atrocities forced on the Jews. The book gives us insight into this aspect that the film did not touch on. The book is a testament to Szpilman’s inner strength and courage…to his determination to start life over, once more, after the war ended, in his native city, where he lived out the rest of his life.

I keep rereading portions of this book, because I can’t let it go. It has a permanent place in my collection of books on the human condition, and books on Judaism.

© 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.
~~BookDiva

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The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

I recommend this book to those who enjoy reading Jane Austen’s works. From Austen’s book excerpts/quotations, to the six characters (five women, one man) who meet once a month, and are involved participants in the Jane Austen Book Club, the book flows smoothly. Each of the characters brings their own perspective to Austen’s works, and each one manages to have similarities to the characters in Austen’s books. Their discussions bring those characteristics into full view.

This book is a quick read, and not one that you will get bogged down in.

Austen, herself, could have written this novel, often humorous, often poignant.
~~Book Diva

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