GNI BOOK CLUB [2]

In 1975, my big brother sent a novel for me from NY called The Moonflower by Phillis A. Whitney. It's a suspenseful romantic thriller about life in Japan after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. It was so gripping that my entire high school class passed it to each other and read it, and by the time I got it back, it was falling apart. Through the years I always remembered the book and the story. Two months ago I ordered it from Amazon and read it again in 5 days, like I used to read in my teens.

Leonora posted:

In 1975, my big brother sent a novel for me from NY called The Moonflower by Phillis A. Whitney. It's a suspenseful romantic thriller about life in Japan after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. It was so gripping that my entire high school class passed it to each other and read it, and by the time I got it back, it was falling apart. Through the years I always remembered the book and the story. Two months ago I ordered it from Amazon and read it again in 5 days, like I used to read in my teens.

One of the most emotional plays I have filmed, was a school plays called 'A Thousand Cranes'.

It was about  a twelve year old Japanese girl who died from radiation, ten years after the bomb at Hiroshima.

About 100 Canadian students were taught songs in Japanese and the costumes were all authentic Japanese, even the slippers.

The student who played the dying Japanese girl was so real, that there were sniffing in the audience and I could not keep a dry eye through the camera lens.

I gave a copy to a Japanese lady in my aerobics class and she replied with similar emotions.

Five hundred paper cranes were sent from Japan for the play, by an ex student. A copy of the video was sent to him in Japan and shown on their TV station, with Japanese subtitles.

 

 

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Gilbakka posted:

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Finished reading THE WOODEN HORSE by Eric Williams. I had attempted to read this novel 52 years ago when I was a teenager but abandoned it after a few pages. When 13 inmates recently escaped from the Lusignan prison by tunnelling, I remembered THE WOODEN HORSE and borrowed the e-book version from Toronto Public Library. I approached the story with a lifetime of experiences and a fair knowledge of prison systems gained from reading and two personal visits to prisons in Cuba and Guyana in 1989.

THE WOODEN HORSE is based on the real-life successful escape by three Second World War British prisoners-of-war who had been captured in Germany. Eric Williams, an airman whose bomber was shot down, was one of the trio. They built a wooden vaulting horse, placed it at a certain spot in the prison compound every day ostensibly for physical exercises, and dug a 150-foot tunnel outwards to freedom within a few months. That escape from prison was an ordeal but the greater ordeal was to get out of Germany and German-occupied European countries and return to Britain. 

While reading this gripping novel I wondered how many other prisoners it had inspired after publication in wartime and peace time.

Very, very good book. I read it back in Guyana. I was lucky to find a copy over here a couple of years ago. It's of the same calibre as "The Great Escape".

Finished reading THE BONESETTER'S DAUGHTER by American novelist Amy Tan. Published 16 years ago, the story deals with the relationship between Ruth, a middle-aged Chinese-American woman, and her aging mother fast losing her memory. A relationship that was not always harmonious. Ruth learns through her mother's written account about her family and ancestors in China. The novel gives a realistic perspective of rural life in China up to WW2. And a snapshot of Chinese immigrants' experience in California, as well as their offspring's life.

For generations Ruth's ancestors ran a cottage industry producing ink sticks for the literate Chinese market. Before writing anything, one would grind part of an ink stick into an ink stone and add drops of water to make liquid ink. According to Amy Tan, one's frame of mind determined the final result, i.e. the proper depiction of Chinese language characters on paper. A fascinating process, I think.

THE BONESETTER'S DAUGHTER is a page turner.

 

antabanta posted:

Just read Song Of Solomon by Tony Morrison - amazing story-telling.

Seems like you and I got a brainwave to read women. Toni Morrison. Amy Tan.

And now Iran-born Azar Nafisi, whose memoir THE REPUBLIC OF IMAGINATION I finished reading a few minutes ago. This book came out three years ago. It discusses mainly three American novels: [1] "Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain, [2] "Babbit" by Sinclair Lewis, [3] "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter" by Carson McCullers. To a lesser extent Nafisi also gives her thoughts on "Go Tell It on the Mountain" by James Baldwin. 

In my reading experience, one book often leads to another. So, I didn't waste time to borrow a digital copy of James Baldwin's novel from my library just now. Will start it tonight.

 

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Finished reading "Go Tell It on the Mountain" by African-American writer James Baldwin. Published in 1953, it is Baldwin's first novel and it's semi-autobiographical. It focuses on the 14th birthday of a black boy in Harlem. His father, who is actually his step father unknowing to him, gives him a brutal belting on his special day. His step father is sexton of a small church whose worshipers are African American.

This novel is set in Jim Crow USA, a period of racial segregation and intense persecution of blacks by white people. All the characters in the story are affected negatively in that environment. But they maintain strong Christian faith and hope for betterment.

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Finished reading THE COMPANY WE KEEP by Robert Baer and Dayna Baer. The authors worked for the US Central Intelligence Agency [CIA]. This is their memoir, published in 2011. It takes the reader from the US to France, the former Yugoslavia, Tajikistan, Russia, Morocco, Lebanon and Iraq.

Robert and Dayna met while on assignment in Sarajevo. Both were married but estranged from their partners due to duty. Before the book ends, Robert and Dayna are husband and wife who left the CIA but whose professional past follows them everywhere.

I have read a fair number of fictional spy thrillers. This non-fiction book shows that spies' lives are just as intriguing, daring, death-defying, exciting and romantic as that of their fictional counterparts. 

Finished reading STORY OF A DEATH FORETOLD by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera. Salvador Allende was a democratically elected President of Chile. He ran a coalition government from September 1970 until his violent death in a coup on September 11, 1973. 

This book is highly analytical, dealing with Allende's political career, his ascension to power, the destabilization of his government by big Chilean and US businesses and the Nixon Administration and, critically, the Chilean Armed Forces. The main goal was to prevent the consolidation of "another Cuba" in Latin America.

STORY OF A DEATH FORETOLD was published on the 40th anniversary of Allende's death.

 

Finished reading THE SHADOW OF THE CRESCENT MOON by Afghanistan-born Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto.

This novel was published in 2013 and is set mainly in Waziristan which lies on the border with Afghanistan. For decades that region has been problematic for successive Pakistani governments. There have been insurgencies and deadly Sunni-Shia conflicts. The rest of the country regard Waziristan people as untrustworthy separatists.

It is Eid in the story. A Friday. Three brothers decide for the first time to worship at three separate mosques. They don’t want a bomb blast to kill them together, leaving their widowed mother in terrible grief. What happens this Eid day will be tragic for this Shia family anyway.

This is an impressive debut novel by Fatima Bhutto.

Finished reading “OCTOBER: The Story of the Russian Revolution” by China Miéville. This book was published just a few months ago in time for the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

There were two revolutions in Russia in 1917. One in February [old-style calendar] that overthrew Tsar Nicholas II and installed a provisional government. The other in October that kicked out the provisional government and established what was touted as a socialist government led by V. I. Lenin.

The October revolution was by far the more significant of the two, with far-reaching consequences internationally.

China Miéville starts his book in January 1917 and devotes succeeding chapters chronologically to the months that followed up to October.

In his Epilogue he writes: “... the months and years that follow [October 1917] will see the revolution embattled, assailed, isolated, ossified, broken. We know where this is going: purges, gulags, starvation, mass murder.”

But the author says the October 1917 revolution is a basic yardstick to measure social change globally.

“It is not for nostalgia’s sake that the strange story of the first socialist revolution in history deserves celebration. The standard of October declares that things changed once, and they might do so again,” he writes.

 

Gilbakka posted:
antabanta posted:

Reading "All The Pretty Horses."

That's a nice novel by Cormac McCarthy. I read it two years ago. The guy's writing style is unusual but perfectly clear.

Yes. Had my doubts about the clarity of a novel without any quotation marks but it was easy to understand.

Finished reading ORHAN'S INHERITANCE by Aline Ohanesian. This novel was published last year and most of the events occurred in Turkey a century ago.

World War I was fought between Germany and its ally Turkey on one side, and Britain along with France and Russia on the other side. That Turkey was ruled by Ottaman Muslims who feared that the empire's Armenian minority would fight the enemies' cause.

Thus started the Armenian genocide in 1915 in which 1.5 million Armenians perished. The characters in this novel are all an integral part of the tragedy --- both Turks and Armenians.  

 

Iman just finished "Tarmac" by Lynne Heitman" a suspense novel on what goes on behind the scenes at airports,shady characters selling refurbished parts which cause crashes. Now reading a suspense novel "The hammer of Eden" by Ken Folett. 

Finished reading THE DARK BLUE WINTER OVERCOAT & OTHER STORIES FROM THE NORTH, edited by Sjon and Ted Hodgkinson. It consists of 15 short stories by writers from the Nordic countries --- Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Faroe Islands and Aland Islands. It's the first ever selection of Nordic stories in English. 

The Nordic region covers a vast and varied terrain geographically and culturally. Mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, fjords etc. Yesteryear that region had unjust and unforgiving societies but they are now welfare states.

Themes addressed in this book include alcoholism and other substance abuse, marital infidelity, lesbian love, and parent-teenager conflict.

 

Finished reading DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER by British spy thriller writer Ian Fleming. This is Fleming’s 4th James Bond story. It deals with diamond smuggling from a British government-owned mine in the then colony of Sierra Leone to the United States in the early 1950s. A ‘Sunday Times’ newspaper article on diamond smuggling prompted Fleming to write this novel.

A former journalist, Fleming researched extensively on the subject. I noticed that in the story he referenced the 1951 US Senate Kefauver Commission Report on crime in America.

‘Diamonds Are Forever’ was first published in 1956. Reading it now, I noticed some changes in the world. Idlewild Airport is now John F. Kennedy Airport. BOAC is now British Airways. Pan-American Airlines is now defunct. And so on.

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Gilbakka posted:
antabanta posted:

Just finished The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Pure genius.

You beat me on that one. 

It's on my TBR list. I shall read it in the new year. 

You're beating me to a lot more. In case you don't know, he doesn't use quotes for dialog. I thought it would be a big problem when I started All The Pretty Horses but it wasn't.

Finished reading REVOLUTION IN THE REVOLUTION? By Régis Debray. This book discusses armed struggle and political struggle in Latin America during the 1950s and 1960s. Fidel Castro’s successful revolution in Cuba in 1959 inspired leftists throughout Latin America to take up arms against dictatorial regimes embraced by US political and economic interests.

French-born Debray arrived in Cuba in 1961, met Castro and other guerrilla fighters, and observed closely the workings of the revolution. He was granted access to numerous unpublished documents directly related to the 1956-58 insurrection.

Later Debray spent long periods in South America, studying radical political parties, movements and guerrilla fronts. He noticed that some of them were employing strategy and tactics copied from earlier armed struggles in Russia, China, Vietnam and Spain that were basically unsuitable for Latin America. He believed the Cuban model was more relevant.

“Revolution in the Revolution?” was first published in 1967. I had read it in my youth but couldn’t grasp everything at that time. Now, reading a recently published 50th anniversary edition, I have a fuller appreciation of the book which is regarded among leftist circles as an important historical document.

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Finished reading WHAT HAPPENED by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Published recently, this memoir recalls what happened during the 2016 US presidential election campaign. From Hillary Clinton’s standpoint, of course.

The last election had promised to be historic, if only the first woman president had been elected. Alas! Donald Trump became president although Mrs Clinton received 2.9 million more votes than he got.

In this book Mrs Clinton blames her loss on, firstly, excessive news media coverage of her personal emails; her emails got three times more coverage than all other issues affecting people’s lives combined. Secondly, she says Russia carried a massive misinformation campaign against her and violated US sovereignty by interfering in the presidential race. Thirdly, she asserts that Republicans let loose an avalanche of fake news against her person, Barack Obama and other Democrats. Fourthly, she says, sexism is still a dominant force in American politics; millions of people harbor a conviction in this 21st century that a woman must not govern in the White House.

Hillary Clinton is also self-critical in her memoir. “I’ve tried to give an honest accounting of when I got it wrong, where I fell short, and what I wish I could go back and do differently. This isn’t easy or fun. My mistakes burn me up inside.”

Though this is a political memoir, it is readable to the average person. And instructive too, regarding the American system.

 

After starting it more than a month ago, I’ve finished reading the 784-page “NO HIGHER HONOR: A Memoir of My Years in Washington” by Condoleeza Rice. Under President George W. Bush, Ms Rice served as the first female African American Secretary of State. Before that she was President Bush’s National Security Adviser.

The Bush years 2001-2008 were marked by some startling events: The 9/11 terrorist attack in New York. The US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and the overthrow and killing of Saddam Hussein. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. Islamic terrorist attacks in India. The emergence of Iran and North Korea as nuclear-weapon-capable states. Bloody regional conflicts in Georgia, Russia and Sudan. And other pressing international disputes that required frequent long distance air travel by the US Secretary of State.

Condoleeza Rice’s memoir reads like a diary of her busy schedules in the White House, the State Department, and foreign capital cities. Before reading this book I was one of those persons who thought President George W. Bush was a dummy. I don’t think so anymore. On the contrary, I now view him as an intelligent and practical man.

 

Finished reading A CARIBBEAN MYSTERY by British crime writer Agatha Christie. This novel was first published in 1964 when, excluding Jamaica and Trinidad, the West Indian islands were still colonies.

It is set on a fictional island, St Honoré, where a British couple own and operate the Golden Palm resort. One popular cocktail among guests is called Planters Punch --- a mixture of dark rum, lemon juice, syrup and Angostura bitters.

Guests are tourists and expatriates from Britain, North America and Venezuela. A notable guest is old Miss Jane Marple who, having survived a bout of pneumonia in England, is recuperating on the island. She is the story’s unofficial detective character.

One guest, a retired British Army Major who had served in colonial India and Kenya, is murdered suddenly in his bungalow one night. That tragedy is swiftly followed by the killing of a Golden Palm employee and another guest. Miss Marple takes it upon herself to figure out the identity of the killer. Who? That’s the Caribbean mystery.

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Finished reading HOMBRE by Elmore Leonard. This is a western/cowboy novel set in Arizona in 1884. The main character, John Russell, is a brave and cool Apache Indian who grew up among whites. Russell has a few aliases including ‘Tres Hombres’ and ‘Hombre’.

The book was first published in 1961 and six years later a movie based on it was produced, starring Paul Newman. That movie was screened in Guyana and a Portuguese guy was so impressed that when he opened a gents boutique on Robb Street between Hinck Street and Avenue of the Republic in the early 1970s he named it HOMBRE.

I like Elmore Leonard’s writing style. Sixteen years ago I read another of his westerns, CUBA LIBRE.

 

Gilbakka posted:

Finished reading HOMBRE by Elmore Leonard. This is a western/cowboy novel set in Arizona in 1884. The main character, John Russell, is a brave and cool Apache Indian who grew up among whites. Russell has a few aliases including ‘Tres Hombres’ and ‘Hombre’.

The book was first published in 1961 and six years later a movie based on it was produced, starring Paul Newman. That movie was screened in Guyana and a Portuguese guy was so impressed that when he opened a gents boutique on Robb Street between Hinck Street and Avenue of the Republic in the early 1970s he named it HOMBRE.

I like Elmore Leonard’s writing style. Sixteen years ago I read another of his westerns, CUBA LIBRE.

 

Love that story. Other blockbuster movies based on Elmore Leonard's books include Valdez Is Coming, Get Shorty, 3:10 To Yuma, Mr. Majestyk starring Charles Bronson.

Finished reading WHY BAD GOVERNMENTS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE by Danny Katch. Published earlier in 2017, this book tries to explain why and how Donald Trump hijacked the Republican party and became President of the United States.

The election of Donald Trump has sent the United States and the world into uncharted waters, with a bigoted, petty man-child at the head of the planet’s most powerful empire. Danny Katch indicts the hollowness of the US political system that led to Trump’s rise and puts forward a vision for a real alternative: a democracy that works for the people.” So says a blurb on the book.

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Finished reading THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene. First published in 1948, this novel is set in the West African British colony of Sierra Leone during the Second World War. Green worked as a British Foreign Service Officer in Sierra Leone during 1941-43 and his experience there prompted the novel.

Its central character is Scobie, Deputy Commissioner of Police and a devout Catholic. He is in the colony 15 years already. He is honest and committed to maintaining order and justice. But he is in a loveless marriage that produced a daughter who died young.

Mrs Scobie feels unwanted in Sierra Leone and suggests to her husband that they go back to England or someplace else. He prefers to stay in Sierra Leone. Mrs Scobie asks him to send her to white-ruled South Africa for a vacation. He doesn’t have money and his bank rejected a loan request. He borrows the money from a notoriously corrupt Syrian businessman and later has to abandon his principles by abetting his benefactor in diamond smuggling and other illegal acts.

While his wife is in South Africa, Scobie starts a romantic relationship with a young widow and has constant pangs of guilt that torment his Catholic beliefs. A series of unfortunate events confront him and he says: “I carry suffering with me like a body smell.” All of which leads to a bad ending.

While reading this book I discovered the presence of West Indians in Sierra Leone. Curiously I googled and learned that in 1819 the British had deported Jamaican maroons and Barbadian rebels to that African colony, with Trinidadians following. In time those West Indians and their offspring became civil servants, journalists and other professionals there.

 

Finished reading CAUSE FOR ALARM by British spy fiction writer Eric Ambler.

Nicholas Marlow needs a job. He's engaged to be married and the employment market is pretty slim in Britain in 1937. So when his fiancé points out the Spartacus Machine Tool notice, he jumps at the chance. After all, he speaks Italian and he figures he'll be able to endure Milan for a year, long enough to save some money. Soon after he arrives, however, he learns the sinister truth of his predecessor's death and finds himself courted by two agents with dangerously different agendas. In the process, Marlow realizes it's not so simple to just do the job he's paid to do in fascist Italy on the eve of a world war.

This wraps up my reading for 2017. During the year I finished reading 54 books, 42 by male authors and 12 by female authors. Out of the total, 4 were Classics.

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