Saturday, 30 April 2011

Fatherland by Robert Harris

Now its very rare that I write negative thoughts on a book, but this is one of those posts, if you don't like reading that type of post then please take warning.

Fatherland is our school bookgroups next read - we're not a successful bookgroup at the moment being on our third book and never having had a meeting to discuss a book as yet. As soon as this book was decided on I was wary, the novel is an imagining of what the world would be like if Hitler had won the war. I read a book on exactly the same topic a few years ago and loved it (The Children's War by J.N Stroyar, you should check it out if this type of story line interests you in anyway), so I was already wary knowing this had a high level to live up to; secondly this is a detective novel and I don't do to well at those (I recently read The Maltease Falcon and was full of scorn for the type of story and inherent sexism). Yet I have heard great things of Robert Harris, knowing several people who love his stuff and it was a bookgroup choice so I duly brought my copy (thankfully secondhand for less than £3).

In Fatherland Detective March, a divorced, work obssessed rebel (who just happens to be against that Party line) is called one night - when he shouldn't be working - to the discovery of the body of a prominent figure in the Party's death. Rather than just accept the story that the man had drowned whilst swimming March digs away at a story that clearly isn't meant to be told. Through a series of chance encounters (a young, sexy American journalist who is also a rebel and sees Berlin through America's less clouded eyes) and secret meetings, favours cashed in and sly operations March is soon in the thick of it, despite several warnings to leave well alone. He is on a mission to find out what happened to the Jewish and who knows about what.

My problem with this book was the shambles of the place and the stereotypes: the absurd amount of clues just left laying around; the fact he was told to leave the case well alone yet managed to run around Berlin, board a plane to Switzerland, get in and out of government agency buildings all without being caught; the fact that Nazi Europe is never really described and created beyond a few uniformed SS Guards; him, March, he never seemed to overly care enough about much to give all this effort and finally the poor construction of Charlie, the sexy American (to be fair nearly all characters were like cardboard cutouts of your traditional stereotypes but she wound me up more because she was meant to be intellectual). Charlie, a wealthy American survives in Berlin working for a low budget, low selling newspaper after screwing up her university placement and a job at The Times by screwing the boss - clever girl! She seemingly survives on whisky, has gorgeous men in love with her, falls in love with the potato-faced 40 odd year old March (she has a thing for older men!) and is contacted with underground news through a public payphone outside of her apartment.
I think I could have handled all the coincidences, afterall it is fiction, if Germany and the characters had been better drawn. Afterall I'm happy to suspend my disbelief, in fact I love living in other worlds through books, but I need the author to create the bones and flesh of the world a bare outline just isn't enough.

I will say in its defence, of the four of us who have read this book for this group read and finished it so far its an even mix, two of us couldn't stand it whilst the other two loved it. I'm now off to read Proust, what a juxtaposition!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Blood River by Tim Butcher

I'm not a huge non-fiction fan, but I've been trying to read 50 pages of non fiction a day for the last two weeks, and managed to read 2 great books, I'm hoping that I can make this a habit and get lots more non-fiction read.

Blood River is Tim Butcher, a British journalist who specialises in reporting from war torn countries, account of his attempt to follow H.M Stanley's journey through the Congo.
Butcher researched and spent years trying to find the right time to enter the Congo, to pass through all the red tape and the problems involved in taking such a journey. Once there he faces yet more red tape and problems. He starts off his journey trying to bike up through a region and ends up having to rely on people from various charities and organisations as there simply is no form of public transport or transport for sale. Transport he finds is the biggest problem, with petrol being scarce and his luggage tied to the bikes with old inner tubes. As Butcher moves on we watch him continously tackle this traffic problem which only seems to get worse when he wants to travel down the river.
Butcher also introduces us to a range of characters, some the shifty locals we hear horror stories of when we go on holiday - trying all the tricks of the trade to rip off the closest foreigner. But others are more honest and hard working, from locals to old expats who moved to the Congo when Belgium ruled the land, charity workers to priests come to deliver their message; all of whom played a vital role in keeping his journey going.
Butcher intersperses his journey with the history of the area, focussing on Stanley and Livingstone and the Belgium rule, as well as local moments of civil war and politics. At the start I found that the history far out-weighed his journey but as the book went on a reversal happened.
I enjoyed this read and it certainly gave me something to think about, as the Congo is somewhere which isn't really reported on that widely, or the centre of charity and awareness campaigns like some of its near neighbours.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Buddha Da by Anne Donovan

I'm in the middle of a non-fiction and Les Miserables, so thought my daytime read should be something a bit lighter, so I picked up this one which has been sat on my shelves since 2007!
Buddha Da, is set in Scotland and told through the voices of the three central characters in a broad Scottish brogue - which I know some people struggle with but I've read Scottish books before and found this just as easy as reading in Standard English.
The story starts out with the traditional Scottish father-type discovering meditation and then gradually Buddhism. The family all have to try and deal with this change in the man whom they have always known to be a bit of a joker. Anne Marie the daughter seems not to have any real issues with it, but feels that she cannot ask him any questions. Whereas his wife, Liz feels lost and angry; the man she has loved since she was 14 has disappeared and someone knew has taken his place.
We watch as the family change and also have to deal with other issues such as death, growing up and pregnancy.
I enjoyed reading this, it was a gentle book with lots of nice characters who each are exploring and changing their lives. This is a typical holiday read, where you can almost see the end from the start, something I probably will have forgotten in under a week, but enjoyed at the time.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

This book is another one, like A Tree Grows in Broklyn, which I always wanted to read because of its name, and like A Tree Grows in Broklyn I had an old copy with an ugly cover, but I loved them both!

A Town Like Alice tells the tale of Jean, a young girl who grew up being able to speak Malayan as her father had worked there. Before the war starts she wanted an adventure so went to work as a typist in Malay. But the war changed everything. When the British families in the area were gathered up to be put into prisoner of war camps by the Japanese the men where separated from the women and led of to Singapore. The group of women and children were left behind in search of a camp to put them in. As no one wanted them they were led walking from place-to-place with just a few Japanese guards to protect them. Jean becomes a central figure in the group as she is able to communicate with the local people, and even translate for their Japanese guards. During this journey she learns to live in a different way, has to accept deaths and illness and find ways to keep the rest of this group alive. The group meet an Australian who helps them for just a few days with food and medicine.
When she returns to England after the war she simply wants to put the past behind her, yet when she comes into an inheritance life has a few drastic changes in store.

When I first started reading this book I thought of abandoning it as the opening pages were really slow, but then when Jean's story abouy Malay started I was hooked. The details, her fight for survival and the way that the women were treated are described in a cool distanced way as the tale is being retold by someone who has listened to the tale. When the love story kicks in and her trip to Australia the tale certainly has the feel of a romance novel, but one with class and more to it that soppiness. The setting of Malay and the Australian outback are created before your eyes and I had a lovely picture of each in my head as I was reading this.
Certainly a book which I would recommend others to read.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith

Francie is born into a life of poverty, with a drunken but loving father who fails to hold a steady job and a hard mother who works several jobs for every penny she can get life is no joy ride. She and her brother, Neely, collect scraps of rubbish, are sent to buy the last ends of stale bread and made to live in cold rooms all in order to survive. Francie is a reader and a dreamer, determined to get an education she reads a book a day and walks 48 blocks to school.
We watch her grow up, battle through poverty, always feeling second best and never having friends. We see her through deaths and births, highs and lows.
Smith's writing creates a perfect picture of this determined little girl battling to escape the circle of life of those who live on these poverty stricken streets.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

A Human Being Died that Night: Forgiving Apartheid's Chief Killer by Pumla Gobodo Madikizela

This book was an amazing read and I'm probably about to butcher it with this review, so I would suggest Eva's review here which made me go out and but it in the first place.
Black clinical pyschologist Madikizela is taken through the Truth and Reconciliation Commitee to interview Eugene de Kock, a man commonly refered to as 'Prime Evil' who has come to symbolise the violence and aggression of the apartheid government.
Madikizela seeks to find answers with this man, including why some of his victims families have forgiven him and feel a sense of empathy for this notorious man. She finds de Kock to be a thoughtful and sensitive man; fighting with the things he has done, with his own reasons and explanations for having committed such crimes and with the abandonment of the apartheid government who had sanctioned his crimes.
This book becomes about more than de Kock's answers, but Madikizela's fight with her empathy for him and about the question of evil: can one be both evil and caring? Can we forgive? Should we forgive?
For me the book was five stars from page one, but the final meeting between de Kock and Madikizela had my heart in my mouth:
"Have I ever killed any of your friends or family?"
The words bounced around the large room like an echo in a cave. I actually turned and looked around, expecting perhaps to see someone else in the room other than the guards at the door. Yes, I had heard de Kock's voice. I was sure that was what I'd heard...but had I just imagined it? Standing there stunned, in conversation with a broken man who had been an angel of death, I felt as if I were in a mist of a collision of scattered meanings within these prison walls that had enclosed our conversations. De Kock's words hovered in the room; I was struggling to understand them before I could take them in.

The tension created by this moment and then her subsequent answer made my heart pound, what if he had killed someone she loved, how would she cope with being so close to him and how would he cope, this man who started to seem so fragile.

For someone who rarely reads non-fiction I sped through this, and I'm sending it on a small journey through bookcrossing to a few other readers before it returns to me when I'm sure to read it again. I recommend you to beg, borrow or steal a copy. And I've already picked my next non-fiction read 'Blood River' about the Congo.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Les Miserables - Part Two: Cosette (SPOILERS)

As with my discussion of Part One this post will undoubtebly contain SPOILERS as I can't discuss it without revealing the fate of the characters in part one. As I discussed in the earlier post, I'm reviewing this book in sections as I don't know how I'd be able to review this monster as a whole.

Summary: This section starts off with a long description of the Battle of Waterloo, thanks to CJ James for the heads up, I skimmed over it and read a synopsis of it on the internet - cheating, but these classic authors do need a good editor! After that things picked up, Valjean a prisoner on board ship rescues a falling sailor and uses this moment as a way to escape. Months later a mysterious man (to dense readers) shows up and befriends Cosette, whose pitiful life we witness at the hands of the Thenardiers. He quickly makes off with her, when Hugo finally reveals his identity as Valjean, for the not so sharp readers.
From then the pair live in seclusion, before Javert comes hunting for them. A night on the run and a few timely coincidences leave them happily living in a Convent safe, for now, from the hands of Javert.

I loved this section and have spent this evening reading it, gulping down page after page. This section reminded me of The Count of Monte Cristo; the escapes, the moments of safety and the knowledge that danger still lays ahead. Valjean is quickly becoming one of my favourite characters in literature, he's rich but lives a poor mans life, he dotes on Cosette and his spiderman-like ways as he climbed that wall! Yes, its full of coincidences, and much like The Count of Monte Cristo we get the sense that our hero will survive and out witt anyone, yet that's all part of its charm.
My only gripe is Hugo's unnecessary detail in places - him and Tolstoy clearly had the same problem - the Waterloo scene and the vast description of the Convent (chapters and chapters of it) add nothing to the book, nor does his need to lecture and explain.

Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden

Sorry for the double post today!
Tomorrow, When the War Began has sat on my shelf for a good year now and I never quite got around to it. This week I saw Darren from Bart's Bookshelf and Vivienne from Serendipity both mention the book along with a post about it on bookcrossing so I thought I'd grab it and see what it was like.
The novel starts off very 'teeny' to the point where I almost gave up - a bunch of teenagers go off on a camping trip, all fairly young, mixed gender, driving illegally and off to somewhere dangerous, as you do! A few days in they spot a large number of planes flying over head, make a few jokes about war and then forget it.
When they return home to dicover what has happened my interest rose, the book started to feel dystopian and more exciting. They return to find the streets of their homes abandoned, animals (they are farmers) left to die and all the powercut. The only one source of light in the town is the park ground which is heavily guarded by armed soldiers. From then on its a battle to survive.
I really enjoyed the pace of this (after the first 20 pages), the construction of the town,the dystopian feel and also the knowledge that there is more to come and they are all in print so I don't have to wait. My criticism would be the love triangle - can someone write a YA book without a love triangle and the ending, which certainly relies on you reading the next book as there is so much left to happen.
I'll definitely get the next one, although randomly my library only has books 1,3 and 4! so I'll be waiting for my next amazon order.

Library Loot

I haven't written a library loot post for ages, but then I haven't had many books from the library in ages - I seem to have gone a little mad this week, forgetting my resolution to read my own books! Luckily I'm off work for two weeks and we have several bank holidays coming up so I should be able to read a lot more than normal.

Wicked Lovely,Melissa Marr I've seen this one talked about a lot and thought I may give it a try for the Once Upon a Time Challenge.
Swann's Way, Marcel Proust for a group read-a-long which starts on May 1st over on, I'm going to have to start early as this is already reserved for another reader.
Weight, Jeanette Winterson this is the myth of Atlas and Hercules retold, another read for the Once Upon a Time Challenge. I've read and loved a few of her books so I'm looking forward to this.
Death at Intervals, Jose Saramago this novel is for a library thing group where they read a particular author for a few months, I read Baltasar and Blimunda for this author earlier this year and loved it so I thought I'd try another before they move on to the next author.
Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, Duvrakva Ugresic is another mythological read for the OUaT challenge, I read a few stories about Baba Yaga when I read a bunch of Russian Fairy Tales so thought a longer retelling would be good.
The Provencal Tales, Michael de Larrabeiti is a collection of Shepherd's tales from rural france for the folk tales section of the OUaT challenge.
The Open Road, Pico Iyer you know how when one person mentions something then so does someone else well this happened with this book. One of the teachers at school was talking about reading a book by the Dalai Lama and how much it influenced her, then Eva from A Striped Armchair mentioned Pico Iyer having written a great book about the Dalai Lama, then there was a mention of him on the radio so I thought I'd get the book and discover a little about him.
Whatever You Love, Louise Doughty I'm noy really sure how this ended up on my reservations list, I must ahve seen it somewhere, it doesn't look like my normal type of read, but we'll see if I get to it.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Les Miserables: Part One - Fantine (with spoilers)

When I read War and Peace I really didn't know how to review it at the end and ended up saying no more than a paragraph, I don't want that to happen with Les Miserables so I thought I'd write up something for each part of the novel. This will contain SPOILERS as I would not be able to write about later parts of the novel without giving away bits of the plot.

A Brief Summary of Events: Les Miserables starts with the introduction to Myriel, a saint of a man. He is a Bishop who believes deeply in God and lives every part of his life in a way he can help others - whether this is visiting the sick, economising to the point of poverty so he can give his money to those in need, or opening his door to anyone. One day along comes ValJean a convict who has finally been released from prison after many escape attempts. Turned away at every door he is welcomed into the Bishop's house. But, true to character cannot help but steal the Bishop's last valuable item. The Bishop, saint that he is, lies to the police and ValJean is shown the value of trust and respect and appears to have become a good man.
Alongside this, we see Fantine, a naive girl who falls for the wrong man who then abandons her in her pregnancy. Both Fantine and ValJean head to a new place, for a new life, with a new identity - Fantine leaving her child with a family she comes across and ValJean renaming himself and becoming the local owner of a Jet Factory and eventually the Mayor. Their lives follow different destinies, while ValJean is becoming richer, more powerful and yet a better person Fantine's life is in tatters. She is unemployed, being tricked into paying more and more for her daughter Cosette, and finally ends up a prostitute.
ValJean and Fantine are thrown together when Javert - the towns local policeman, arrests Fantine. ValJean, under his guise as town mayor comes to rescue her and they quickly become friends, he intending to discover her child for her while she lays on her sickbed. Finally, whilst this is happening ValJean hears of another man being tried for his crime, he goes and gives himself up. In the final scene his identity is revealed and Fantine dies.
(Not brief at all then!)
My thoughts on the characters:
I loved the priest, although I can never believe that anyone is so good. However, his trust in ValJean certainly had positive effects and completely changed this mans destiny.
ValJean in his final scene, where he escapes from the police cell, looks like he may be back to his old tricks - I'm hoping he is still good and with go and rescue Cosette.
As for Fantine, she was naive and stupid, I can't understand why she couldn't have passed herself off as a widow and kept her child. Her actions are all intended for the best of the child but only seem to harm her more.
What I liked and disliked:
I loved nearly all of this so far. Hugo's way of drawing the characters, and creating the situations has been well done. I did find some of the coincidences a little contrite, but then this is fiction after all.
What I'm excited to discover next:
I'm looking forward to seeing if ValJean fulfills his promise and rescues Cosette, or if Javert will get there first just to persecute him a little more.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Finishing the Read-a-thon

Hour: Finished
Time Reading: 13 hours 50 minutes
Books Read: House of the Sleeping Beauties, Rituals by Cees Nooteboom, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Toast
Books currently reading: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (audio), The Court of the Air,
Currently Feeling: Time to get dressed, and perhaps read some more.

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
Hour 10, when I gave in to my headache and went to bed - should really go to the opticians and get some new glasses!

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
This year I didn't end up reading my usual mix of YA which I don't think helped. I didn't read any books I would rate above 3 stars.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Not really. I didn't get as many comments as normal, I'm not sure if this was because of the way the cheerleading was organised or because the people I normally follow weren't participating this time.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
The up-dates were good as usual. All in all I think it worked really well.

5. How many books did you read?
4 (listed above) plus part of an audio book and half of a book.

6. What were the names of the books you read?
See above

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
Toast by Nigel Slater (a British Chef)

8. Which did you enjoy least?
Rituals by Cees Nooteboom

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I didn't try to get to everybody in my section just went every 5th person. I think personal messages work best so I liked being able to read people's posts rather than trying to greet everyone with the same message.

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
I've been a cheerleader the last few times and think maybe next time I will just be a reader. I still go and visit people's posts throughout the whole thing and that way I could spend more time reading. Also I noticed some people onle have one post for the whole 24 hours which I think I may try next time.

Thanks to the hosts and those that came and visited. Until next time!

Read-a-thon Update 4

Hour: 22?
Time Reading: 11 hours 40 minutes
Books Read: House of the Sleeping Beauties, Rituals by Cees Nooteboom, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Toast
Books currently reading: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (audio), The Court of the Air,
Currently Feeling: Wide awake and can't stop eating!

I finished another bookcrossing book, so that is 4 now that I can release to other readers and free from my stacks. And a non-fiction to boot! I'm now going to spend some time looking at some other read-a-thoners and then get back to reading The Court of the Air so I can get a big chunl of it finished, although it won't be completed during the read-a-thon.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Read-a-thon update 3

Hour: 18
Time Reading: 8 hours 30 minutes
Books Read: House of the Sleeping Beauties, Rituals by Cees Nooteboom, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Books currently reading: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (audio), The Court of the Air, Toast
Currently Feeling: Much more awake. Breakfast has been eaten.

Picking a short book and turning off the computer certainly helped me to focus. I read and completed the novella Miss Jean Brodie since my last post knocking off my third bookcrossing book this read-a-thon - notice that they are all teeny books.
I'm going to check my googlereader and then start Nigel Slater's Toast.

I'm Back

Hour: 16
Time Reading: 6 hours 40 minutes
Books Read: House of the Sleeping Beauties, Rituals by Cees Nooteboom.
Books currently reading: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (audio), The Court of the Air
Currently Feeling: Not as refreshed as I'd like.

I ended up going to bed at quarter to ten (end of hour 9) as my eyes were so tired I could barely keep them open. I had woken up Friday night from a horrid dream and I couldn't get back to sleep so was tired anyway. Then tonight the same thing happened, so I'm no where near as awake as I'd like and have images of a giant fish flapping around dieing in my bath to contend with!
After my last update I read 100 pages of The Court in The Air a 500+ page fantasy, and listened to some more of the audio. I'm going to get back to reading and drinking tea but I'm going to grab The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for a quick read.

Hope you're all still doing well, I'll come say hi later on.

Back to reading

Me and my reading companion spent the last 45minutes cheerleading and are now off to read some more, must go and pick a book now!

Read-a-thon Update 2

Hour: 7
Time Reading: 5 hours 5 minutes
Books Read: House of the Sleeping Beauties, Rituals by Cees Nooteboom.
Books currently reading: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (audio) Currently Feeling: Headachey. Not sure if it was the bad book or just my eyes getting tired.

I just finished my second book, Rituals by Cees Nooteboom one which I really didn't enjoy but persevered with as it was short, I could tick it off my 1001 list and it could be used for a read from Holand.
I'm now going to spend some time cheerleading and drinking Licorice tea. Hopefully in that time I will have decided which book I want to read next and the headache will have disappeared.
How are you all doing?

Read-a-thon Update 1

(Taken on my phone in glaring sunlight, so noy great quality - this is where I sat reading for a few hours, being passed by canal and motor boats, cannoists, dog walkers, runners and families - bliss)

Hour: 4
Time Reading: 3 hours 15 minutes
Books Read: House of the Sleeping Beauties
Books currently reading: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (audio) and Rituals by Cees Nooteboom.
Currently Feeling: Relaxed and the time is rushing past, bring on the next book!!!

It's now the fourth hour of the read-a-thon and time is flying past. I went for a long stroll with the lovely Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in my ears. Then stopped and read all of House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories by Yasunari Kawabata. In typical Japanese fiction style this was a very strange collection of 3 stories, which I will talk about when the read-a-thon is finished.

I hope everyone is coping well with the first couple of hours, I've had about a half an hour break so I'll be checking my google reader and then getting on to the next book which is Rituals by Cees Nooteboom.

Read-a-thon Begins

I'm not out as expected, although I'm off to sample some of the sunshine in a moment as my frontroom is cold and outside is lovely and warm.
A quick answer to this Meme first

1)Where are you reading from today?
To start the read-a-thon I'm actually wandering down to the river for a wander through the meadow, under the trees, past the horses and to the canal boats, audio book in ear. I will stop for a while a read if I can find somewhere comfy which isn't occupied.
2)Three random facts about me…
a. I have a house bunny called Alba
b. I'm currently trying to learn sign language, cookery, all about fairytales and photography.
c. The kids at school nickname me smiler (and probably a few horrid things I'm best off not knowing.

3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
I've not made a pile this year, so will have the choice of 400 odd books to pick from.

4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
I'm aiming for 18 hours reading, a few hours cheerleading and some sleep. I'm hoping to tackle 6 books, 4 of them bookcrossing books so that I can get a few books moving again.

5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?
I have done this 4 times, I do allow about 4 hours sleep so that I'm not horrid all of next week and that tends to be fine. Audiobooks are great for when you want to move around. I'll go for a couple of walks, especially one before it gets dark so I don't get restless. Keep the books short/light and have some short stories or graphic novels on hand.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Read-a-thon Preparation

I'm Excited that today the read-a-thon starts. I thought I would pop a quick post up now as I may not be around at the beginning. The weather here is stunning so I'm planning on spending the first hours of the read-a-thon down by the river and meadows near my house, with a few sandwiches an audio book and a book. It means I'll be able to have a good walk and get some sunshine which will hopefully mean I'm less restless later.
Now normally this is where I would post a picture with a pile of books. However this week I haven't been at all in the mood for reading (very worrying given I'm now hoping to read for 18 hours!)so I'm avoiding making a pile, as it will just be whatever interests me there and then. I've also been reading 30 pages and deciding the book just isn't for me, hopefully I'll be more consistent today.
So rather than specific reads my goal is to finish 6 books and four of those should be bookcrossing books registared by other members that I need to send off on their book travels again.
I'll be cheerleading for 3 hours, which will be dispersed between hours 6-12, I always like going visiting other blogs and seeing what other people are doing to celebrate.
As for food I'm on a diet, and after a curry and McDonald's yesterday (last day of school celebrations) I will be having to behave. I'm off to grab and cut up fresh pineapple and mango, yogurts, rice cakes and ingredients for dinner soon.
I wish you all luck, its always nice to have comments but more important during the read-a-thon so please say hello.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Short Story Quest: Revisiting, Revising and Revamping Sleeping Beauty

The Once Upon a Time Challenge has certainly broken my no book buying rule, I have a selection of retold fairy-tales and a few non-fiction books about fairy-tales winging their way to me via amazon at the moment.
I have spent today reading versions of Sleeping Beauty. From what is believed to be the inspiration for the Grimms version Basile's 'Sun, Moon and Talia' and Perrault's 'Sleeping Beauty in the Woods' to versions of the tale set in our modern world with a Sci-Fi twist to them.

Giambattista Basile's 'Sun, Moon and Talia' tells of a young girl who falls into a deep sleep after having a piece of flax from a spindle wedged under her fingernail. Locked in a castle in a deep sleep she is visited by a king, and eventually two children who suck at her fingers dislodging the flax and thus waking her. From this their entreats a tale of jealousy and violence. Perrault's version 'Sleeping Beauty in the Woods' is far closer to the well known version with the fairies warning that a spindle will cause her harm and the whole castle being laid to sleep with her and awoken when her prince arrives.
For the Grimm's version of the tale I went to Maria Tatar's 'The Anotated Classic Fairy Tales' this version is the disney version we all grew up with, finishing with Sleeping Beauty (or Brair Rose as she is called in this version) awakening. Unlike the two previously mentioned stories their is no jealousy and violence, and no canibalism and rescue at the hands of older women. Tatar's version is accompanied by notes about various versions, as well as selections of art which has been used to depict the tale over the years.

I then went onto read two retellings from the collection 'Black Swan, White Raven' and one from 'My Mother she Killed Me, My Father he Ate Me'. The first 'The Black Fairy's Curse' by Karen Joy Fowler I think I will need to read again. It was very short and started with a woman escaping into the woods on horse back, the fast pace has her escaping up a tree and then she is suddenly with a man by a river. These seem a dream-like imagining, which later has her waking up with a man above her who she fears. I really enjoyed the pace and the way each iamge was created, but need more time to think over what was happening.
'Snow in Dirt'by Micheal Blumlein had a very different feel to it, and certainly had my favourite opening:
It can happen. Once a lifetime it should. I found the girl of my dreams in the garden. She was covered by dirt. I was digging a hole [....] She was hidden in soil, tucked between roots, still as a statue, beautiful.

Discovering this secret beauty, loner Martin takes her into his home. Gradually after days of wondering he takes her to the hospital to run tests - she is a conundrum they can't understand. When one day she suddenly wakes up he marries her, and then begins their life. Unlike a fairy tale, all is not happiness, but then it isn't all bad either.
The final version I read 'A Kiss to Wake the Sleeper' by Rabih Alameddine, features a first person narrator who is a watcher of all the happens. The girl is sent to the forest, to be treated by the sleeping beauty in an attempt to free the girl from a world trapped inside a protective bubble. The story led to a sexual encounter - fairly vividly described, which I wasn't expecting in the slightest. A clear tale of sexual awakening with violent overtones.