Dee's (soupdragon) Orange 2012
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Ooh, shiny new threads, how exciting! I have 27 books tagged Orange in my LT To Read list but will probably start with The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett.
Top on my list for January are still Sorry and The Magician's Assistant.
However, scrolling through the longlists and shortlists has made me aware I have more Oranges on my TBR than I had realised or tagged which has added to my list of other possible contenders. I really like Lesley Glaister's psychological fiction and have just discovered I have two of hers to read that have been on the longlist so may well read one of those. It probably will be just the one though, as I find I need a break from the darkness of her writing after reading her! I'm also considering Lullabies for Little Criminals as I've just received a copy in in a swap and have heard lots of good things about it here.
....Have returned! Amazon.com and Amazon.ca have new copies of her most recent book in stock, (Chosen (which I don't own and haven't read) and copies of some of her others are available via the marketplace.
Maybe something (else) to add to the PBS wishlist, Peggy?!
Edited to add the two that have been nominated for the Orange are The Private Parts of Women (no, I'm not too keen on the title either) and Now You See Me.
Sorry was not quite what I expected but none the less impressive for that. The title and references to Aboriginal characters led me to expect that the book would be focused on Aboriginals and their exploitation. Whilst this is a theme which Jones obviously wishes the reader to consider, the central storyline features the domestic situation of a British family: a little girl called Perdita, her mentally unstable mother and her weak and sadistic father who exploits the Aboriginal people who he is studying whilst attempting to become a successful anthropologist.
The book is beautifully written. We are introduced to the family’s life in late 1930s and then 1940s, rural Australia with elegant and poetic descriptions which are a joy to read. However the story is a bleak one and the power of Jones writing makes it particularly chilling. I was pulled right into Perdita’s life in the cluttered little shack with the increasingly difficult parents. The advent of WWII brings with it disturbing political events. There are occasional moments of happiness for Perdita which are made particularly moving by their rarity and come mainly through her friendships with a neighbour’s son and with Mary, an Aboriginal girl who comes to work for her family.
Each character finds refuge in books at some point. Perdita’s father hoards books, her mother quotes Shakespeare but says nothing else in times of stress and Perdita herself finds an escape in her father’s books. I liked this passage which followed the confusion of a non-reading neighbour who discovered Perdita and Mary reading, “otherworldly and somewhere else.”
“For those who do not read, for whom reading is not part of the texture of knowing, the gorgeous complication, the luxurious interiority, the thrilling extrapolation from black marks to alternative reals; for those who might not understand what it is to collaborate in making a world, or building a thought, or consolidating, line by line the salvage of something long gone; for those bereft, that is, and booklessly broke, those word-deprived, craving, caught in dull time, it will seem odd two girls with not too much to do, spend a few hours of each day hidden in the valleys of pages. Proxy lives, new imaginings, precious understandings.”:
After the death of Perdita's father, the story becomes bleaker still. It concludes with a personal apology to Aboriginal Mary which Jones clearly intends to be symbolic of the wider apology owed to indigenous Australians. A powerful and haunting read, beautifully done.
Next up: The Magician's Assistant which lots of people loved but HR Orangeness gave two stars to. Wonder how I'll get on? I didn't love Bel Canto as much as most people seemed to
Thanks for including that quote, makes me want to read the whole book again.
Great review for Sorry!
I am ashamed to say that so far I have not read or been attracted to Anne Patchett 's books. Hangs head in shame...
I finished The Magicians Assistant and found it a well written, unusual and moving 4 star read. Will post a full review in the next few days.
I am now reading Lullabies for Little Criminals and a non-Orange, Of Love and Hunger by Julian Maclaren-Ross. I'm enjoying Lullabies but the Maclaren-Ross is proving a little more compulsive which might delay my finishing Lullabies!
Sorry to hear that Laura and you are not as taken with Lullabies for Little Criminals . I left it for a long time -but when I finally got to it - for me it was a 5 star read! Oh course - taste does vary!;) Hmm , I'm going to have to have look at of Love and Hunger.
30: Deb, I am enjoying Lullabies while I read it but I seem to be able to put it down without it calling me back again so as a consequence haven't got very far through it! I like Baby's voice though and am finding the background of her chaotic life very believable. I'm always happy to see these sorts of lives represented in well written fiction.
29: Laura, my instinct is that it's not you! I think you just haven't found the right Orange so far this month! I had a peek at your other Orange possibilities on your thread but haven't read them so can't make a recommendation.
33: Full thoughts below, Eva! As I say at the bottom of the review, I liked this a lot more than Bel Canto.
The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett
An unusual, well-written and moving story but one which required me to initially suspend some disbelief.
Sabine is in her early forties and mourning the death of her husband, Parsifal with whom she has lived since their twenties, in Los Angeles. As well as being a successful trader in rugs, Parsifal has worked as a magician and Sabine as his assistant. We soon realise that this is a more realistic description of their relationship than husband and wife as Parsifal was gay with a partner, Phan whom he had recently lost to AIDS. Initially I had problems accepting that Sabine (who is stunningly beautiful, intelligent, well-educated and still obviously doted on by two loving parents) would devote the whole of her youth to a gay man. However before too long, I did accept this and I think it was because Patchett’s portrayal of emotion was so convincing that it began to feel callous not to believe in Sabine! There are also regular scenes where Sabine converses with Phan during her dreams which might worry those who aren’t keen on magical realism though I quite enjoyed these!
Throughout the book there are references to the act of magic. As the story unfolds we realise things are not as they have seemed and illusions created are broken. Sabine learns of secrets from Parsifal’s past including a mother and sisters in Nebraska who enter into her life. Each are affected by their loss in different ways and look to each other to understand who Parsifal really was. I found the growing relationships between Sabine and Parsifal's family to be convincing and affecting: initially awkward with some more disturbing discoveries for Sabine but also with moments of shared understanding and eventually comfort.
Patchett’s writing impressed me. It was affecting with a light touch and had a light touch without being lightweight. As I’ve said elsewhere, I wasn’t wowed by Bel Canto but am now wondering if I missed something! I will be looking out for more by Ann Patchett.
Below are my mixed thoughts on Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O' Neill
I found this book a difficult book to rate because there were some aspects of it that I loved and others that I found frustrating.
The novel is centred around twelve year old Baby who has been brought up by her single, heroin addict, dad. I loved the character of Baby and her creative, imaginative approach to life which seemed the prefect response to her early life experiences. She also completely gained my sympathy without ever obviously looking for it. There is a passage where she desperately wants someone to rescue her from a nasty piece of institutionalised abuse at a detention centre which will stay with me for some time. Looking at Baby's life it made sense that she should use whatever strengths she had. When her main strength appeared to her, to be her sexuality, I could understand how certain events happened, even though as a reader you know it can only end badly for her and are willing her to make different choices.
So there was a lot to appreciate but I had a big problem with the structure of the book. It did not really read as a novel to me. I didn't feel that one section was leading to another section. When I put the book down there didn't seem to be anything I had just read that would pull me back to read more. Characters are introduced and then dropped continuously through the book and I didn't get to really know anyone except Baby and her father. I do realise, however, that this was probably reflective of Baby's life and telling myself this helped me to continue. If things had been wrapped up well at the end I might have felt better but I thought the ending was quite weak too!
I do think that this book had a lot to offer but that it would have been improved by some editing or by more thought going into its structure. Maybe a series of inter-connected stories would have made it more digestible for this reader at least.
I did love Baby though and after some thought am giving the book 3.75 stars!
Might be starting The Magician's Assistant next. I have been wanting to read it for a while, but your review has just pushed it up to the top one or two in my TBR stack! :)
40: Thanks Bonnie. Funnily enough, the narrator of Lullabies has kind of stayed with me and I think the book has left a real impression on me. If I'd read it at a different time, I might have had more patience with the structure of the book.
That is so true. I just had an experience with that--I tried to read another Orange book, The Hiding Place, in 2010, and as you say, I just didn't have the patience for it. Hence, I thought it was boring. But I was encouraged by readers who loved it to give it another chance, so I did, and this time it was a 5 star read. Time, place and mood are all very important indeed!
I finished Helen Dunmore's The Siege which as many of you know was wonderful! I haven't got anything to add to the excellent reviews by Deb, Laura, Jill, Bonnie, Donna, Rebecca and others (plus I'm feeling a bit lazy) so I will just say: if you haven't already, read those reviews and then read the book!
Edited to adjust touchstone
It was shortlisted in 2009.
In Scottsboro, Ellen Feldman has written a fictionalised account of the prolonged trial in the 1930s, of nine young black men and boys (the youngest was thirteen) who were accused of raping two young white women on a train to Memphis. In the novel Alice, a fictional journalist is created who has a strong interest in human rights and befriends Ruby Bates. Bates is one of the girls who initially accuses the boys of rape but she later testifies that rape had not taken place.
The Scottsboro story is well worth re-telling. It is a chilling reminder of the dangers not only of race hatred but also of poverty and ignorance. I liked the way Feldman makes clear the kinds of lives Ruby Bates and her friend Victoria Price led and how the events leading to the injustice occurred. However, there was something missing for me. Although the facts in themselves were powerful and shocking, Feldman's writing fell a little flat to me and didn't seem to add much to the facts. I never felt very involved in fictional Alice's story and in the end, it seemed to detract from the main one.
I am glad I read the book however and it has motivated me to read more about the case. Many thanks to Jill for sending it!
I'm now reading The White Woman on the Green Bicycle. I wasn't sure at first but followed the Nancy Pearl rule and am now onto page fifty and hooked!
The White Woman On the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey
Roffey's writing is vivid, earthy and visceral but not always comfortable. When I started reading, I felt shock at the sudden immersion into a strange new world and didn't immediately take to the central characters Sabine and George, ex-pats who appeared neither likeable or sympathetic. Yet it didn't take me long to become drawn in by Roffey's Trinidad. I quickly warmed to the minor characters and started to become intrigued by the ex-pats in their seventies with a love-hate relationship with Trinidad.
The first half of the book is told in the third person and is a vibrant description of Trinidad in the present day. After a shocking conclusion to Sabine and George's story, the book goes back to the 1960s when Sabine and George first arrived in England. Sabine expected this to be a temporary arrangement but George became obsessed with the country and refused to consider leaving.
In part one of the book, Sabine accused George of never thinking of anything or anyone else once he arrived.
"You fell in love, lost your senses."
As for George,
"Truth was, he preferred Trinidad - always had. He preferred these wild emerald hills, the brash forests, the riotous and unpredictable landscape of Trinidad to the prim hazy pastures of his own country, England. He wanted this bold land. Not the mute grey-drizzle of Harrow on the Hill. He liked the extrovert people, not the prudish and obedient couples his parents had mixed with. He felt alive here, unlike Sabine."
The second part is told by Sabine and has a calmer tone. Here the reader reaches a clearer understanding of Sabine, her marriage and the events which led her to be who she was when we first met her in part one and which also led to what she eventually does. We also learn more about Trinidad's recent history. Colonalism, racism and political activism become part of the story effortlessly and without a hint of polemics.
An evocative, believable story and I think, well worth reading.
I should also add that there is some violence against an animal which I know put Jill off the book. I can understand this but I was able to accept the incident as it did seem relevant to the plot. I think Roffey used it to indicate what sort of mental state Sabine was in at that time and it was also a precursor to... hmm, better not say anything else in case of spoilers!