Rating: 4 stars
Read for the Reader’s Room March Madness Challenge.
In Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien tells a family saga lived through the tumult of political upheaval in Communist China. The story moves from Canada in 1989, in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square student-led rebellion, to China in the years following the Communist victory in the civil war, through the land reforming Great Leap Forward to Mao’s Cultural Revolution and on to the events that took place in and around Tiananmen Square. It’s a political novel, but in a quiet way. It talks about loss of beauty as well as loss of freedom. It talks of how music inhabits us, is part of everything we do, has a power in people’s lives every bit as potent as politics. It talks about the violence of politics under an autocratic regime, but matter of factly. It is a thing that happens, it is devastating, but life goes on. Continue reading
Rating: 4 stars
I bought this recently after looking for poems set in Grand Central Station. It came up as a prose poem and its subject matter intrigued me.
This, from Yann Martel’s foreword, encapsulates the book:
This is a book about one creature’s obdurate desire to love and be loved, no matter what. Smart was lucid, resilient, hardworking, and responsible in her love-madness.
Elizabeth Smart was in London and picked up a book of George Barker’s poems. She fell in love with his words, so the story goes, but more than that. She decided she was in love with him and needed to meet him. Smart felt awakened by Barker’s poems. It took her three years to engineer a meeting with him. Her memoir of their love, a mix of long form poetry and sanguine reflection, begins with that meeting.
I was expecting gushing romance, a whirlwind of passion, something that would wrench my heart and take my breath away. Instead I found a still small voice of calm. Continue reading
Rating: 4 stars
I love Margaret Atwood. She is my literary goddess. Although I blithely say that Haruki Murakami is my favourite author, and that’s true because he’s the only author whose works I will buy immediately because I can’t bear waiting for the paperback release, it’s a close-run thing with Ms Atwood. She has been in my life since I was a teenager, and read The Edible Woman. I have read almost all of her novels, and a handful of her short story collections. I wrote an essay about her for a booklet published by my local library service in 1999 for International Women’s Week. I’m shameless, so I’ll add it at the end of this review.
It’s almost a year since I read anything by Ms Atwood, and I saw Stone Mattress on the shelf in my local library, where I was carrying out a random hit and run selection on the As (that garnered me The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, someone I’ve never read before).
What I like about Margaret Atwood’s short stories is that she understands the format. She knows that it’s not for throwaway ideas that might or might not be worked into novels. She understands that the reader still needs to feel drawn in by the story, and satisfied by its ending. Not all writers have the skill to craft a truly good short story, but Margaret Atwood does. Whether it’s 50 pages or 10, she gives you everything you need to know to make the story real.
This is my second post in the 3 Days, 3 Quotes series that came out of a nomination by Weezelle.
Today’s quote is from The Edible Woman.
She felt them, their identities, almost their substance, pass over her head like a wave. At some time she would be — or no, already she was like that too; she was one of them, her body the same, identical, merged with that other flesh that choked the air in the flowered room with its sweet organic scent; she felt suffocated by this thick sargasso-sea of femininity.
The Edible Woman is the first book I read by Margaret Atwood. It was a life changing book for me, because I felt recognised. I think it was the first time I experienced that with a work of literature. It was a new experience of reading for me.