Tuesday, June 19, 2012

No One is Here Except All of Us

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Sometimes I am guilty of choosing a book for its cover. I know. I know. I'm basically the worst librarian ever. Whatever. I picked up this book not just because of its cover, but because of its name. Pretty cover, cool name, I'll at least give it a shot.

Generally I feel books that cover difficult topics are done great justice when they're told in a storytelling manner. Something about that style makes the books more real, gives them a feeling of being personal and accessible. No One Is Here Except All Of Us explores how we use storytelling to survive and shape our own truths, specifically in relation to one Romanian village in 1939 as they feel the Holocaust close in on them. The villagers re-invent themselves, and where they live, as they themselves say “Dear God, We did not start again because it wasn’t beautiful enough. The world we make will be much smaller and less glorious than the one you made….We are content to accept this small circle of land as our entire universe, so long as we are safe here.”

The thing about this book is there's something in it that I struggle with - and I don't mean that in a good way. One reviewer suggested that the same stories that sustain Lena and the villagers also distance the readers from the full horror of the events leading up to the Holocaust and maybe even the characters themselves. It's a fascinating premise for a book and I really did want to love it but... there is something of a disconnect.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams

There are very few books that I would say defined my love of reading. Anil's Ghost is one of them, so is Man of the Century I read both as a kid (ok, more like 15, whatever) and they cemented what to this day I hold as books I still read when I want to remember why exactly I'm a (sort of) librarian. The third book that rounds out my love of reading is The Colony of Unrequited Dreams.  My grandpa was a Newfie, born and raised on the rock, till he ran away to Ontario when he was 15 and rebellious. Grandpa hated confederation, but loved Joey Smallwood. I was raised with a picture of the Queen on the wall, and knowing exactly why cod were important.

My grandpa died when I was 8, and when I was 15 my grandma died. I was a teenager, and sentimental, and was telling my teacher about how much I missed both my grandparents. My English teacher, brilliant man that he was handed me Colony. This brilliantly written book summed up the history of Newfoundland in the best possible way. It followed the life of Joey Smallwood, and Wayne Johnston reels his readers in with his heartbreakingly wonderful history of the Island's entry into confederation. Fielding was a wonderfully unique character, Smallwood became real and the love and longing they had for each other, and their home was wildly apparent.

It is a fictional biography, but in the best possible way. The majority of the facts are true, and written in a way that felt like I was talking to my family. The book is funny, wonderful, heart breaking, lovely and very very real.

Love you Gramps. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded

Ok, I lied. I'm going to blog about another Simon Winchester book. Why? Because it's my blog, and I can. Also, because I had a bout of insomnia last night, and I read Krakatoa again. Yup. Again. Not even because I knew it would put me to sleep.

In the things that most people don't know about me, my ridiculous love for Krakatoa is one of them, right along with my insane adoration for Tesla. By love, I guess I actually mean total fascination of, but again, semantics. Krakatoa basically affected the entire planet, and conspiracy theories aside (also, which are hilariously fascinating, and one involves Tesla, life complete) Winchester wonderfully combined history, technology and anthropology to explain the full impact of this world event. He does talk about weather patterns, dust issues, tsunamis, 2 year winter, scientific understanding and all that. The thing is Winchester does it in a way that makes you want to learn more about it.

Krakatoa is varied, and interesting and gets more so the deeper into the book you getThe story was varied and interesting and got even more so as it got deeper into it. I love how the book also covers the development of the telegraph system and how the Explosion of Krakatoa made the telegraph viable, and therein turned the world into a global village.  I think what I love most about Winchester's writing is that he really brings the story full circle. His covering the Dutch settlement in Java and Sumatra and the explosion's utter devistation and impact on the earth itself makes his writing easier to read then a lot of non-fiction. He also talks about the lingering social impacts of the explosion full into the current situation and the rise of Islam in Indonesia.

Pick it up! Or, really, any of his books. He'll have one on a topic you geek out on.