Saturday, July 3, 2021

Atonement by Ian McEvan - Novel

Atonement by Ian McEwan is set in an English town in 1935 and covers the time span into the world war and beyond. The main characters are teenagers in this first part of the novel.  The reader is enticed to witness the antics of these characters, one being a writer with talent. 

In this three part novel, McEwan illustrates the  family dynamics between the upper-class Tallis family and the staff working for this family. The reader witnesses the love relationship between the housekeeper's son, Robbie and Cecilia the elder daughter of the Tallis family.  The second daughter, Briony observes this relationship flourish.  The reader is confronted with intrigue as Briony causes mayhem for this relationship. 

McEwan illustrates how the children grow up during WWII creating situations that brings in remorse and the children's career paths that are unusual and yet appears typical of any family. 

Atonement by Ian McEwan has an unusual plot that weaves in a variety of family nuances that keeps the reader interested until the end of the story. 

Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Magic Circle by Katherine Neville - Novel


Below is an excellent review by Beth Dora Reisberg of January Magazine. 

My comments are at the end of this post:

The Magic Circle, her third novel, is Neville's most ambitious book yet. It is a story about the big picture and transformation; it is the story of an aeon -- a 2,000 year cycle -- that began at the rise of the Roman Empire and the birth of Christianity and that is approaching its completion right now. This book is about humankind's quest to harness the power of the earth and heavens for such a transformation.

The heroine of The Magic Circle is Ariel Behn who calls herself a "girl nuke," and works as a nuclear security expert in Idaho. When we first meet her she is driving in treacherous snow conditions on her way back to Idaho from San Francisco where she left her brother's shrouded remains in a casket, blown apart by some unknown bomb while operating in an advisory capacity for the military. His death is as sudden as his disappearance from her life some years ago.

Ariel soon learns that she's been bequeathed with precious family papers that her brother, Sam, had inherited from their grandmother. Why she has been given these documents and why everyone in her family wants them before she can uncover what they are is what Ariel must find out. But this wouldn't be a Katherine Neville novel without huge amounts of history and science, puzzles and etymology thrown in. As Ariel pursues the meaning of the manuscripts she uncovers the hard truths about her complex family and their role in major twentieth century events such as the Boer Wars in South Africa and World War II.

Like Scheherazade, the story teller in One Thousand and One Nights, Neville weaves tales within tales, only this time they go backwards into history as we learn about ancient initiation and transformation rituals, runes, Uranus, power spots, who Jesus might have been, and what the Song of Solomon may actually mean.

Neville's historical segments are delicious and compelling. The reader becomes a local observer of, for example, the last week of Jesus's life, seeing the events from Pontius Pilate and Joseph of Arimathea's view.

The magic circle evokes a place to do ritual, to connect with our community, be it the neighborhood, our families, friends or the planet. It is for each of us to enter into the magic circle and transform. This book provokes questions and imaginings, and rereading. Neville delivers another tour de force, and leaves us wanting more.

My comments: In The Magic Circle, Katherine Neville takes the reader on a quest of learning and discovery as the story intersperses through two historical eras and current day situations. The author's back and forth of these periods of time keeps the reader interested and intrigued as the story unfolds in a suspenseful manner with dramatic outcomes. It is an excellent read.  

Monday, May 31, 2021

A Good Neighbourhood by Therese Anne Fowler - A Novel

Therese Anne Fowler, author of A Good Neighbourhood, describes the story of a neighbourhood set in North Carolina. It is a close-knit community of Oak Knoll where the neighbours know each well and socialize frequently as in regular book club meetings. The main characters, Valerie Alston-Holt, a black American professor of forestry and ecology is widowed and was married to a white professor. Xavier is their son. The Whitmans, the other notable characters, purchase a property here and create a mansion with a backyard pool. 

Issues surface when the next door neighbour, Valerie Alston-Holt is affronted as her historic oak tree, in her backyard, is gradually dying due to the aggressive creation of the mansion next door.  Then comes the blossoming romance between Xavier, a teenager, and the Whitmans' teenage daughter. This brings in added tensions between these two neighbours. 

Fowler's scenes create realistic situations about racial interactions in an established, prosperous neighbourhood.  Throughout the novel there is suspense and strained interactions among the neighbours as they face the difficult act of getting along with each other, no matter what the racial or mixed backgrounds of the individual neighbours. 

A Good Neighbourhood by Therese Anne Fowler--a white American author, has created a novel that illustrates the America of today and the challenges of maintaining a good neighbourhood. This new America raises many questions on how this country will evolve over time. An excellent read.  

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Beauty: The Invisible Embrace by John O'Donohue -

John O'Donohue in writing Beauty - The Invisible Embrace takes the reader on a journey of discovery into the spiritual aspect of life.  He re-defines beauty by separating it from the outer appearance of defined features of the physical self that tends to lure into glamour.

O'Donohue delves deep into the heart and espouses on the true meaning of beauty as it pertains to our inner soulful being.  In doing so, he highlights the beauty of the natural landscape and its impact on the human heart. He elaborates his concepts through the Celtic art, culture and literature.  His descriptive illustrations enables the reader to develop a new sense and experience of beauty as an invisible embrace. 

O'Donohue emphasizes the importance of encountering ultimate stillness and a deep dive into being silent; this he indicates brings one to appreciate and embellish a different kind of beauty within one's heart. It is the human spirit--a kind and gentle awakening of an inner self. 

Beauty - The Invisible Embrace by John O'Donohue is a refreshing and powerful examination of the art of being beautiful in a spiritual sense.  

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Montreal Stories by Mavis Gallant - Fiction

 Banks, in his introduction to Montreal Stories by Mavis Gallant writes:  “In Gallant’s stories, the conflicts, obsessions, and concerns – the near-impossibility of gaining personal freedom without inflicting harm on those whom you love and who love you; the difficulty of forgiving a cruel and selfish parent without sentimentalizing him; or the pain of failed renewal – are limned with an affectionate irony and generated by a sincere belief in their ultimate significance, significance not just for the characters who embody them, but for the author and, presumably, the reader as well.”

There are fifteen stories set in Europe--mainly in and within the environs of Paris and in Montreal, Canada. These stories are poignant and authentic that brings to surface the realities of life.  Gallant illustrates these realities in a variety of themes that depict an international flavour within each story.

Montreal Stories by Mavis Gallant deftly illustrates the trials and tribulations of human life in a diverse yet captivating manner. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith - Fiction

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith is a Comoran Strike novel. The private detective, Comoran Strike is commissioned by the wealthy Chiswell family to solve the mysteries embodying their family. These mysteries vary from blackmail to murder coupled with the head of the family--Jasper Chiswell being a Government Minister. 

It is an extensive dive into private detective work mixed with personal and professional issues that surface throughout this novel. There are vivid and detailed   descriptions of each scenario that encapsulates a complete chapter. The reader is exposed to the details of detective work performed by a small private detective agency with a meagre staff complement.

Galbraith manages to weave in suspense throughout leaving the reader wanting to continue reading, if only, to determine the ultimate outcome.  At times it appears exhausting just as the characters in this novel experience the exhaustion and the sheer tenacity to continue solving the mysteries surrounding this family; their income depends on their pursuance of the cases presented to them during their quest for resolution.

Lethal White is an interesting read despite its length. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Best British Short Stories 2018 Edited by Nicholas Royle

Nicholas Royle, editor of Best British Short Stories 2018 put forth twenty short stories by authors with a variety of styles and interests that surface in each of these stories.  It takes the reader to a variety of places within Britain and abroad that gives a British perspective in each of these stories. 

These stories depict the trials and tribulations of human life--some of which are adventurous while others are morbid and depressing. The reader is taken on a journey of exploring each author's style of writing as it relates to the themes of each story.  Some of the themes include tragedy, mystery, family drama, and betrayal.

Best British Short Stories 2018 is an eclectic story collection that gives the reader pause to reflect on life's twists and turns.