Archive for September, 2009


Geraldine Brooks is one of those authors I keep meaning to read. I had her book “Year of Wonders” by my nightstand for quite a while and never cracked the cover. One of my perpetual problems is actually getting past the first few chapters. I joined a bookclub recently at my library which is great because it forces me to read these books! The other nice thing about this club is that I don’t have to go hunting for the book or buy it since the library provides our own copy. I semi-belong to another group but don’t often go because they pick their books only 4 weeks in advance which doesn’t give me enough time to get it from the library or get it from a friend. (My book money is reserved for school books!)

So People of the Book is one of my favourite reads of the year. I have had a great year for reading books including The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Historian, Book of Negroes, The Book Thief, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night among others… It’s funny how you can have such a good run of books while at other times it’s a virtual desert.

The People of the Book centers around the story of Hannah Heath an Australian rare book expert and her opportunity to analyze and restore the Sarajevo Haggadah. The real protagonist of the story is not Hannah but the book itself. Hannah’s story in Sarajevo is interspersed with vignettes featuring the history of the Haggadah. Like the Jewish people, the history of the Sarajevo Haggadah is just as tumultous and full of persecution. As Hannah examines the Haggadah she finds various clues that provide a window into the history behind the book’s history.

I couldn’t put this book down and raced through each section of it.  I loved Hannah’s story and found her relationship with her mother both aggravating and fascinating. I work with ancient texts everyday but never with the real scrolls. It was really interesting for me to hear how much went into the production of an ancient text like the Haggadah. Brooks did a great job of capturing the enduring life of a book rather than seeing it as an ancient witness of one time period. Instead the Haggadah becomes a witness of each successive generation that possessed it. This is best illustrated by Hannah’s refusal to remove the wine stain from the manuscript since it has become part of the story.

After reading this I realized how ignorant I was of Sarajevo and its history. I lived through the events of the Bosnian war and saw the bombing on TV. But it was a distant reality and reading this book made me realize how passive we are as a society. Having read both this and The Historian has made me curious about central and eastern Europe. Perhaps a trip is in order.

I highly recommend this book. In light of this, I will definitely have to give Year of Wonders another try.

Rating: 9.5/10


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I had heard of this book from a friend but didn’t think it was something I’d like to read. The other day at the library I found it in the “Staff Picks” section. It’s an interesting concept for a book: a series of post-it notes between a mother and a daughter left on the fridge. Really the author is brilliant – each page only consists of a few lines!  What is really interesting is how much the characters develop in such sparse writing. We are never given physical descriptions of the mother or daugther and very little personal information is revealed. It’s like listening to a private conversation and picking up what you can from it. Without giving the book away – it involves the normal stormy relationship between a teenage daughter and a working mother. To add a further complication a mother dealing with illness and how to share that with her daughter. I thought the book spoke wonderfully to the complicated relationship between mother and daughter. I found myself cringing at times at the brutal honesty and can totally remember having similar fights with my own mother.

It was a quick read but a good one. I would give it 7/10.

I’m currently reading “The People of the Book” by Geraldine Brooks and absolutely loving it. I’ll have a review up hopefully by the end of the week.

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R.I.P. Challenge

rip4150The long days of summer are nearly over. School has started and it feels like autumn is coming soon. I’ve never participated in a reading challenge before so this will be a new experience. Since many of my fall choices seem to fit this category I’m hoping to get through a few of them!  Here are my choices:

1. Dracula by Bram Stoker

2. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

3. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

4. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Some of these are on hold at the library so hopefully they will come in on time!

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3WVDR8CANC7VP4CA820TRWCAXN5J9ACAMPKS4KCAOXP702CAM9AWZMCA5NCKX3CAQN1F6ZCASBR28YCA2ORP7GCANX1D46CAE1VNOHCA239225CAT3KF1TCA4XVBORCA763SZPCAD2CGYECAQHWUS3CAUA8QUIVampires seem to be everywhere today. From Twilight to True Blood to the new show Vampire Diaries. I’m not sure why we are fascinated with these dark creatures. Is it their eternal life or that they never age? Or is it that they exist outside the morals of society? Whatever it is – clearly our interest is continuing to spawn many vampire books and movies. I haven’t been immune to this wave of vampire mania. I devoured the Twilight series in a weekend and have been making my way through the Sookie Stackhouse novels. As wonderful as those stories were they remained “lighter” fiction and not necessarily helping me to read more literary works.

So to my delight – I was given a copy of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Her first novel in which she explores the real man behind the folklore of Dracula. Her tale literally drags the reader throughout Europe from Amsterdam to France to Romania to Hungary and to Bulgaria. Although a vampire story – this is much less action packed. As the title implies this is a novel for the academically minded. Much of time is spent with the main characters poring over ancient manuscripts in monasteries or beautiful libraries. As a doctoral student, I found this aspect fascinating as it showed how history can come alive. The ancient people or cultures that we study are not far removed from us as we might have thought.

This book raises a lot of questions regarding knowledge and the power of books. They are shown to be tools to educate and illuminate but also can help promote tyranny and injustice. Libraries and collections of books are very central to the novel and it made me wonder how much can we tell about a person based on what books they read?

My rating for this book is a 9/10.

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A tentative start…

It’s 11:17am and I should be working on my dissertation. Instead I thought a better use of my time would be to start my very own blog. I suppose a little introduction is in order. I’m a thirty year old PhD student living just outside of Toronto. I have always been a big reader and always have 4 or 5 books on the go. Unfortunately with the stress of school I sometimes tend to read lighter fiction that is not very demanding and my pile of good literary fiction just keeps growing. There’s nothing wrong with reading lighter books but I really do want to tackle some of those great books out there.

In terms of my favourite books to read. I have a bit of an eclectic tastes in books. My favourite books have to be very character driven and I have to really care what happens to them – whether they are the hero/heroine or villain! Lately I’ve been a bit obsessed with vampire fiction and as we’re heading into the fall season I don’t see it lessening any. At the moment I’m reading the Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and really loving it. I’m almost finished and it’ll be my first book review.

As for what this blog will be about. I’m not too sure at the moment. I’ll definitely post my reviews of books and since I’m such a geek I’m going to have a “Word of the Week” post. Perhaps I’ll pick a fun/strange/difficult word from a book I’m reading. I might also do the same for fun expressions – I’ve always been fascinated by language and the evolution of words/phrases. Haven’t you ever wondered where the expression “a murder of crows” derives from?

That’s all for now.  I’ll be back with a review of the Historian.

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