Sunday, April 1, 2012

Our Choices for Book Club

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
This book is  being enjoyed by many of the bookclubs and I am sure its going to be popular with ours - thats why I have the Kindle edition too!
When Alice finds herself in the rapidly downward spiral of Alzheimer's Disease she is just fifty years old. A university professor, wife, and mother of three, she still has so much more to do - books to write, places to see, grandchildren to meet. But when she can't remember how to make her famous Christmas pudding, when she gets lost in her own back yard, when she fails to recognise her actress daughter after a superb performance, she comes up with a desperate plan. But can she see it through? Should she see it through? Losing her yesterdays, living for each day, her short-term memory is hanging on by a couple of frayed threads. But she is still Alice.
I read her second book last month - Left Neglected - and loved it. I have since learned that she has a degree in Biopsychology and holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. She is a member of the Dementia Advocacy and Support Network International and Dementia, USA and is an online columnist for the National Alzheimer's Association. No wonder she writes with such empathy and experience!

The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal.
Edmund de Waal is a renowned ceramic artist who's work has been exhibited in Tate Britain and the Victoria and Albert Museum. He can trace his ancestry back to a wealthy Ukrainian family who made their fortune from grain exporting and later banking, and who had spacious and luxurious homes in Vienna, Tokyo and Paris. When Edmund inherited a collection of 264 tiny Japanese netsuke carvings from his Uncle Ignace, he felt prompted to investigate their place in the family history. The Hare With Amber Eyes is the result.

The book opens with De Waal studying in Tokyo in 1991 while on a two year scholarship, visiting his Uncle Iggie (Ignace) in his home in Tokyo, which he shares with Jiro, his partner of 41 years. Ignace has a wonderful collection of netsuke which has been in the family since the late 19th century. Three years later, Uncle Iggie dies, and Jiro writes and signs a document bequeathing the netsuke to Edmund once Jiro himself has gone.
When Edmund eventually owns the netsuke he finds himself greatly intrigued by the history of this remarkable collection, and realises that all he really knows are a few anecdotes, which become thinner in the telling. The only answer is to carry out a proper investigation into their story - and off he sets to visit the locations the netsuke have resided in and to investigate those who owned them before.
The Hare with Amber Eyes is a lovely book. I have read similar accounts of family history where too much is assumed, where scenes are guessed at, conversations created where none could possible be recalled, and personalities are elaborated until they are far too larger than life. Edmund de Waal seems to be a very careful writer. He has only written about what he knows and what he can prove from primary sources. This gives the book a far greater sense of authenticity than many others. In addition, as an artist himself and a creator of fine porcelain objects, he is well suited to trace the course through of these netsuke over the last 150 years - he is wholly equipped to understand the meaning of such things and is adept at communicating his love for them with his readers.
When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
Young Elly's world is shaped by those who inhabit it: her loving but maddeningly distractible parents; a best friend who smells of chips and knows exotic words like 'slag'; an ageing fop who tapdances his way into her home, a Shirley Bassey impersonator who trails close behind; lastly, of course, a rabbit called God. In a childhood peppered with moments both ordinary and extraordinary, Elly's one constant is her brother Joe. Twenty years on, Elly and Joe are fully grown and as close as they ever were. Until, that is, one bright morning and a single, earth-shattering event that threatens to destroy their bond for ever. Spanning four decades and moving between suburban Essex, the wild coast of Cornwall and the streets of New York, this is a story about childhood, eccentricity, the darker side of love and sex, the pull and power of family ties, loss life. More than anything, it's a story about love in all its forms. I think that this is a book that you will either love or hate! Either way it will create an emotional response from the reader. I enjoyed the first half better than the second  - but still a good read!
The Kashmir Shawl by Rosy Thomas
We had a few of Rosie Thomas's books and they are enjoyable in a gentle and endearing way. We loved Iris and Ruby. The Kashmir Shawl is an epic set in the time of war, family secrets and forbidden love, set against the stunning exotic backdrop of 1940s Kashmir. Amazon says "Within one exotic land lie the secrets of a lifetime…Newlywed Nerys Watkins leaves rural Wales for the first time to accompany her husband on a missionary posting to India. Deep in the exquisite heart of Kashmir lies the lakeside city of Srinagar, where the British live on carved wooden houseboats and dance, flirt and gossip as if there is no war.But the battles draw closer, and life in Srinagar becomes less frivolous when the men are sent away to fight. Nerys is caught up in a dangerous friendship, and by the time she is reunited with her husband, the innocent Welsh bride has become a different woman.
Years later, when Mair Ellis clears out her father’s house, she finds an exquisite antique shawl, a lock of child’s hair wrapped within its folds. Tracing her grandparents’ roots back to Kashmir, Mair embarks on a quest that will change her life forever.
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
Nigella write `If this was just an account of life as a restaurant critic, it would be interesting enough. But Ruth Reichl somehow makes this an investigation into personality. In order not to be recognized when on the job as The New York Times' restaurant review, she adopts a number of disguises and notes the effect this has on her own character and behavior. Oh, and the food she writes about what she's eating, I just salivate' --Nigella Lawson, I stumbled across this book and thought it sounded entertaining and combines our book club love of food and fiction. I hope I wont have to eat my words!

Lets hope the books are well received and read. Will let you know next month!


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