Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Ten Year Nap – Meg Wolitzer

I found this novel while filling in time at the library – my girls were taking part in a Geronimo Stilton activity. I was looking for something easy to read that didn’t require too much concentration (it was school holidays!).

Here is the blurb …

For a group of four New York friends, the past decade has been largely defined by marriage and motherhood. Educated and reared to believe that they would conquer the world, they then left jobs as corporate lawyers, investment bankers, and film scouts to stay home with their babies. What was meant to be a temporary leave of absence has lasted a decade. Now, at age forty, with the halcyon days of young motherhood behind them and without professions to define them, Amy, Jill, Roberta, and Karen face a life that is not what they were brought up to expect but seems to be the one they have chosen.

But when Amy gets to know a charismatic and successful working mother of three who appears to have fulfilled the classic women’s dream of having it all-work, love, family-without having to give anything up, a lifetime’s worth of concerns, both practical and existential, opens up. As Amy’s obsession with this woman’s bustling life grows, it forces the four friends to confront the choices they’ve made in opting out of their careers-until a series of startling events shatters the peace and, for some of them, changes the landscape entirely.

Written in Meg Wolitzer’s inimitable, glittering style, The Ten-Year Napis wickedly observant, knowing, provocative, surprising, and always entertaining, as it explores the lives of these women with candor, wit, and generosity.

At first this novel seemed a little too close to home. I have a 10 year old and I stopped working, but the more I got into it the less like my life it seemed (which is a good thing!). This is a novel about mothers and a particular section of motherhood. It is about the daily, unrelenting grind of domestic duties – keeping a family organised, clean and feed. However, it is also about stay at home mothers and working mothers. Working out what is best for everyone. I found the characters quite unsympathetic, by which I mean I didn’t really like them,  but I think that was the point. They all had more of less drifted into the positions they were now in and needed to be proactive and make changes to find contentment.

More reviews …

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/11/books/review/Green-t.html?_r=0

http://readersrespite.blogspot.com.au/2009/05/review-ten-year-nap.html

 

 

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The Coincidence Authority – JW Ironmonger

The Coincidence Authority - JW Ironmonger

The Coincidence Authority – JW Ironmonger

I bought this novel because it had a pretty cover – this image doesn’t do the blue justice.

Here is the blurb …

One seagull and four pieces of bread decide the course of one person’s life. But is the rest just coincidence? THE COINCIDENCE AUTHORITY combines the ideas of David Mitchell or Hanif Kureishi with the warmth of David Nicholls or Marina Lewycka.

Thomas Post is an expert on coincidence. He’s an authority. Every coincidence, he says, can be explained by the cold laws of chance. But why then do coincidences so afflict the life of Azalea Lewis? And why has Thomas Post’s orderly life been thrown into such disarray by the coincidences of Azalea?

This is the tale of two lost souls, each with a quest to understand the secret patterns hidden in a very random universe. It is the story of the short but eventful life of Azalea Lewis, a foundling child discovered at a travelling fair; and it is the unfolding story of Thomas Post who looks for patterns in a haphazard world, and who finds his belief in the fabric of life challenged by Azalea. From the windswept tranquillity of a Manx village, to the commuter swarms of London, to the brutal abduction of child soldiers in Africa, this is a search for truth, a search for God, a search for love, and a search for a decent pizza in North London.

This was a lovely story – despite awful things happening (although they mostly happened off screen so to speak). Azalea tracks down Thomas (the coincidence expert) because she thinks what is happening to her is more than coincidence. Coincidentally they have ‘meet’ before they were both involved in an escalator accident! Anyway, they fall in love (no spoiler there), but it can’t be because Azalea believes in fate, destiny and Thomas does not.

This was a well-written, fun, quick and easy read.

More reviews …

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/sep/14/coincidence-authority-ironmonger-review

http://beingannereading.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/review-coincidence-authority-by-jw.html

 

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The Coat Route – Meg Lukens Noonan

The Coat Route - Meg Lukens Noonan

The Coat Route – Meg Lukens Noonan

I first heard about this book at a school fund raiser and I was intrigued by the whole coat making process.

Here is the blurb …

In today’s world of fast fashion, is there a place for a handcrafted $50,000 coat?

To answer that question, Meg Noonan unravels the story of the coat’s provenance. Her journey takes readers to the Sydney studio of John Cutler, a fourth-generation tailor who works magic with scissors and thread; to the remote mountains of Peru, where villagers shear vicunas (a rare animal known for its soft fleece); to the fabulous Florence headquarters of Stefano Ricci, the world’s greatest silk designer; to the esteemed French textile company Dormeuil; to the English button factory that makes products out of Indian buffalo horn; and to the workshop of the engraver who made the 18-carat gold plaque that sits inside the collar.

These individual artisans and family-owned companies are part of the rich tapestry of bespoke tailoring, which began in 17th-century London. They have stood against the tide of mass consumerism, but their dedication to their craft is about more than maintaining tradition; they have found increasing reason to believe that their way is best — for customers, for the environment, and for the workers involved.

Fascinating, surprising, and entertaining, The Coat Route is a timely love song to things of lasting value in our disposable culture.

As I am interested in textiles, I found this book fascinating. I hadn’t even heard of Vicuna, but I now appreciate why it is so expensive (although I do want to know if it is available in colours other than black, navy and brown). All of the steps involved in making the coat were interesting and very labour intensive. It is quite unsettling that these people might be the last people to make these objects. Surely the world will be a worse place if all we have is cheap fashion made by people who don’t earn a living wage. And what a fabulous opportunity for John Cutler – to be able to make the perfect coat (with no financial considerations).

I know it does sound a bit obscene a $50 000 coat, but what about a $6 000 coat the lasts for thirty years? I can understand the argument for good quality clothing that lasts a long time.

As an Australian, I found Australia being described by an American a bit odd. Robert Hawke who’s that? Oh she means Bob! And John Thompson? Surely she means Jack and I don’t think I have ever heard of Manly being described as a resort town six miles north of Sydney. But, this book is written for a global audience and not ‘know it all’ Australians.

I think if you are interested in Textiles, Bespoke Tailoring, Slow Fashion or just traditional crafts, then I think you will find this book interesting.

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Maddaddam – Margaret Atwood

Maddaddam - Margaret Atwood

Maddaddam – Margaret Atwood

This is the third and final installment of Atwood’s post-apocalyptic series. Once again, I thought Atwood’s writing was spectacular.

Here’s the blurb …

Bringing together Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, this thrilling conclusion to Margaret Atwood’s speculative fiction trilogy points toward the ultimate endurance of community, and love.

Months after the Waterless Flood pandemic has wiped out most of humanity, Toby and Ren have rescued their friend Amanda from the vicious Painballers. They return to the MaddAddamite cob house, newly fortified against man and giant pigoon alike. Accompanying them are the Crakers, the gentle, quasi-human species engineered by the brilliant but deceased Crake. Their reluctant prophet, Snowman-the-Jimmy, is recovering from a debilitating fever, so it’s left to Toby to preach the Craker theology, with Crake as Creator. She must also deal with cultural misunderstandings, terrible coffee, and her jealousy over her lover, Zeb.

Zeb has been searching for Adam One, founder of the God’s Gardeners, the pacifist green religion from which Zeb broke years ago to lead the MaddAddamites in active resistance against the destructive CorpSeCorps. But now, under threat of a Painballer attack, the MaddAddamites must fight back with the aid of their newfound allies, some of whom have four trotters. At the center of MaddAddam is the story of Zeb’s dark and twisted past, which contains a lost brother, a hidden murder, a bear, and a bizarre act of revenge.

Combining adventure, humor, romance, superb storytelling, and an imagination at once dazzlingly inventive and grounded in a recognizable world, MaddAddam is vintage Margaret Atwood—a moving and dramatic conclusion to her internationally celebrated dystopian trilogy.

I love the way Atwood puts words together …

‘…the grey lichen on it, frilly and intricate and see through like whore’s underpants…’

And it is humourous, for example

Delirium had not set in, however; though how would he be sure?

or any of the occasions when Toby has to tell the Crackers a story.

Because if nothing ever died, but everything had more and more babies, the world would get too full and there wouldn’t be any more room.

No, you will not be cooked on a fire when you die.

Because you are not a fish.

No, the bear wasn’t a fish either. And it died in a bear way. Not in a fish way. So it was not cooked on a fire.

Yes, maybe Zeb said Thank You to Oryx too. As well as to the bear.

[…]

No, snowflakes have nothing to do with Snowman-the-Jimmy. I don’t know why part of his name is almost the same as snowflake.

I am doing this thing with my hands on my forehead because I have a headache. A headache is when there is a pain in your head.

Thank you. I am sure purring would help. But it would also help if you would stop asking so many questions.

This story has a point (well several points), but it is sugar coated in a great story. Science and big business combine to devastating effect, people are separated into business compounds or the pleebands depending on their wealth and education.

I found the life in the cob house after the plague fascinating – they still managed to band together and create a community (with all of the good and bad things community involves – protection and jealousy). Humans are suprisingly resilient and the Crakers may prove to be more human (and adaptable) after all.

 

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Catching Up

Holiday Reading

Right, it occurred to me that I am never going to catch up on my back log and the bigger the gap between my reading the novel and writing a review the worse it is (I am ashamed to admit how little I remember). I’m just going to write a list and move on.

Questions of Travel – Michelle De Kretser

I liked this one except for the ending. She is a brilliant writer and her word combinations are fascinating.

You Had me at Hello – Mhairi McFarlane

I bought this in Singapore as my light reading. It is fun and an easy read. I will be looking for her next novel.

Keeping the Castle – Patrice Kindl

This novel reminds me of I Capture the Castle. It is a fun, quick read.

The Lighthouse – Alison Moore

I wasn’t as taken with this novel.

 

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