Sunday, December 7, 2008

Review of My Father's Secret War

My Father's Secret War, by Lucinda Franks, held so much promise. I was intrigued by the book jacket describing how in her memoir she discovers that "the remote, troubled father she grew up with was in fact a spy -- a secret agent who worked behind enemy lines during WWII." Unfortunately, Franks spends her memoir talking more about herself than her father, which is what I realize I should have been expecting given that it is a memoir. So this is probably as much a case as poor management of expectations on my part as it is of her failing to deliver on her part.

I was fascinated by the story of her father, but we only really get to learn about what happened to him during WWII at the very end of the book. Instead, the majority of the book is a description of her struggles with her secretive and aging father, and her laborious attempts to pull out information from him (which was just as frustrating for the reader to read about as it was for her to experience).

The best part of the book was learning about how many covert operations occurred throughout the war, and how little is known about them, even today. The government is still incredibly secretive about the undercover work that they sponsored, even over 60 years later. It made me realize how many different layers there were to WWII -- from the battles being fought in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, to the undercover battles occurring around the world.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Review of Fifth Business

I thoroughly enjoyed my first Robertson Davies experience. My book club decided that we needed to get over our fear of Canadian authors, so this book was suggested by one of the two Canadians in the club. Considered a classic, Fifth Business tells the story of Dunstable 'Dunstan' Ramsey, following him from his small-town Ontario town through WWI and his career as a school teacher.

Fifth Business was a terrific book, not only because Robertson Davies is such a good writer, but also because the characters are so rich and well defined. Davies created dynamic and complex characters, without over-writing them, and for the most part, his story arc was very engaging. There was only one part about half-way through where I felt the story lagged, but it was momentary and picked back up within 40 pages or so.

Davies is known for his interest in Freud and Jung, and his familiarity with analytical concepts emerges throughout the novel, particularly with respect to characters' relationships with their mothers. I found this refreshing, and was impressed by his ability to write about emotions and behaviors of individual characters in a way that was not forced.

What I liked most about this book was the 'voice' of the novel - it was honest, often funny, but mostly sincere.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Review of The Memory Keeper's Daughter

I picked up this book at the airport in Amsterdam because I wasn't feeling very well and wanted something light and easy to read as a distraction. The Memory Keeper's Daughter was not a very good book, but it was not so horrible that I put it down (although you should know that I rarely put a book down -- it has to be REALLY bad). Anyway, this book was neither written nor edited particularly well. She also couldn't stop describing everyone as 'angry' -- but then everyone was so damn repressed (which I guess can go hand-in-hand with being angry). To her credit, the story was compelling enough that I wanted to find out what happened at the end. But I skimmed my way through most of the second half.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

2008 Books

1. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See
2. The Inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai
3. Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer
4. Amsterdam - Ian McEwan
5. Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert
6. The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan
7. A Long Way Gone - Ishmael Beah
8. Water For Elephants - Sara Gruen
9. The Emporer's Children - Claire Messud
10. The Secret Life of Lobsters - Trevor Corson
11. Under the Net - Iris Murdoch
12. Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
13. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
14. The Known World - Edward P. Jones
15. Snow - Orhan Pamuk
16. The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill
17. Fishing With John - Edith Iglauer
18. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz
19. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - Michael Chabon
20. The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards
21. Fifth Business - Robertson Davies
22. My Father's Secret War - Lucinda Franks
23. Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

2007 Books

1. The Jungle - Upton Sinclair
2. The Island at the Center of the World - Russell Shorto
3. The In-Between World of Vikram Lall - M.G. Vassanji
4. A Bend in the River - V.S. Nailpaul
5. Eat the Document - Dana Spiotta
6. Pride and Predudice - Jane Austen
7. The Sweet Hereafter - Russell Banks
8. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
9. The Shipwrecked Men - Cabeza de Vaca
10. In the Skin of a Lion - Michael Ondatje
11. Fugitive Pieces - Anne Michaels
12. Little America - Henry Bromell
13. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling
14. Atonement - Ian McEwan
15. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
16. The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million - Daniel Mendelsohn
17. Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts