Donna's Orange Books
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The name has changed but I'm still feeling Orange! I'll leave the year off so my thread can go on...
and on...just like these migrating birds.
Sorry by Gail Jones
The Giant, O'Brien by Hilary Mantel. 3.9 stars. From 1999 LL. I was happy to find this older book by a favorite author at a library book sale. She was and is a great writer.
The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. 3.3 stars. 2013 LL. *Possible SPOILER* I had trouble accepting the decision to keep the baby!
Old Filth by Jane Gardam. 4.3 stars. 2005 SL. I loved this book about Edward Feathers. The other two books in the trilogy were just as good and added to the complete story.
May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes. 3.7 stars. 2013 WINNER. I was very disappointed in this choice by the judges. I thought the writing was very good (hence my rating). The story didn't grab me.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. 3 stars. 2013 SL. Another meh book for me. It read like a YA book imo.
***Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. 4.6 stars. 2013 SL. This one got my vote for the Winner!***
NW by Zadie Smith. 3.7 stars. 2013 SL. Not my favorite by this author.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. 4.1 stars. 2012 WINNER. This book was out of my usual comfort zone but it charmed me. I thought the judges did well in their choice.
What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn. 3.2 stars. 2007 LL. A fairly enjoyable but easily forgettable read.
Read in 2012...
One by One in the Darkness by Deirdre Madden. 3.9 Stars
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. 4.5*
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (2012 longlist)
Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (2012 longlist)
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (2006 shortlist)
Read in 2011...
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna
The Road Home by Rose Tremain
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Sorry by Gail Jones. 4.5 stars.
Secrets are not always bad things, except perhaps when you keep them from yourself. Someone is murdered on the first page of this book. It is only through the slow release of the story that we find out the reasons why.
Set against the background of WWII and her mother's frequent recitation of Shakespeare's words, Perdita is growing up in a lonely part of the world. Her parents didn't want children and do their best to ignore her. Her father works as an anthropologist in a remote area of Australia and her mother is in and out of mental institutions. Perdita relies on her two friends: Billy, a deaf mute neighbor and Mary, a teenage Aboriginal servant to be her family.
This is not a happy story, but the eloquent writing makes up for the bleakness. Perdita became aware of the unfairness of life at the age of ten: "Between the four of them they spent many hours at cards, and for a brief period at the beginning of 1941, it was a rational system surrounding them all, an inconsequential orderliness, reassuring and trite. Newspaper cuttings had begun reappearing on the walls. Once Perdita glanced sideways during a game and began to read what was before her. The Germans and Italians had engaged in conflict with the Greeks, and British, Australian and New Zealand forces had been dispatched from Egypt. Perdita imagined armies in the night, marching orders, columns of uniformed look-alike men. At once she knew with startling clarity, like a punch in the ribs, one of the terrible unassimilable anomalies of this world: that there is always war somewhere and peace somewhere else, that there are people dying and at the same time there are people playing cards..." (94) Perdita's life lessons get crueler and closer to home as the story unfolds.
Repeating, this is not a happy story. But it is a memorable one and has implications much larger than Perdita's story. It was longlisted for the Orange Prize in 2008. I'm pretty certain it would have garnered my vote.
It looks like I read a total of ten Orange books in 2013 which I have listed in Msg. #2. I have been reading the books, just not adding them here. Hopefully, I will do better in 2014.
I try for 8 in Orange January & Orange July and then at least 1 per month the rest of the year. But it is really hard when the lists come out not to go for those on the lists, ya know?
I was really bummed by last year's winner. There were so many that were better........even on the long list.
Oh well, it is what it is & will keep reading Oranges because on the whole I find them the best 'prize listed' books out there.
I am currently reading The Ghost Road which was on the 1996 Longlist after winning the Booker Prize in 1995. Billy Prior is a wonderful "rascally" character, and I am glad to get back to his story about the ill effects of WWI.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter, J.K Rowling
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
The Secret History, Donna Tartt
I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
Beloved, Toni Morrison
Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell
We Need To Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver
The Time Traveller's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
Middlemarch, George Eliot
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
The Colour Purple, Alice Walker
The Women's Room, Marilyn French
I have read 17 of these, 18 if I count the first Harry Potter book. Looks like I need to read I Capture the Castle and The Women's Room.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. 4.3 stars. On the OP 2014 Shortlist.
A long, detailed story woven around the theft of a famous painting after an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art which kills Theo's mother. He spends the next 14 years mired in drugs and finding comfort in the exquisite art piece which he knows he should return. A memorable read.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. 4 stars. On the OP 2014 Shortlist.
Agnes is accused of a double murder and sentenced to die. End of story, right? It could be if you just wanted the facts of the last execution in Iceland. However, Hannah Kent takes the facts in the case and expands on them to give Agnes a voice to tell her story. It's a bleak story but one that gets under the skin and deep into the heart. As Agnes tells her side of the story to her confessor, a young Assistant Reverend who had once helped her cross a cold river as a young girl, she is overheard by the family who has custody of her until her death sentence is carried out. Their hearts are softened toward her as they begin to think of her as a human being instead of a murderer. At the same time Kent is exploring the humanity of the characters she describes the brutal beauty of a remote part of Iceland and the harsh conditions in which the people of the 19th century lived. This is not a happy book!
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld. 3.5 stars. On the OP 2014 Longlist.
The title is a misnomer as the book is more suspenseful than bucolic. Set in both Australia and an island off the coast of England, it is a mystery about who or what is killing Jake Whyte's sheep in a brutal way and also a trip back in time to see why she is in hiding.
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. 3.9 stars. On the OP 2014 Longlist.
A death, a disappearance, and a presumed attempted suicide all occur on the same day in January of 1866. It is the height of the gold rush in New Zealand and a small fortune in nuggets, flakes, and gold dust is the center of these mysterious events. The tangled web is slowly unwoven when Walter Moody seeks to steady his nerves with a drink and encounters a diverse gathering of twelve men in a Hokitika hotel smoking room. They relate their knowledge of the story to him in detail…360 pages of detail in Part One, which mercifully has a summary before we leave the bar reeling from all these tales. Some readers may run out of patience before everyone tells the story from his own perspective.
I mostly liked this 2013 Booker Prize Winner, but then I don't mind a long, complicated story. What I don't like, however, are gimmicks in books. While I mostly ignored the astral aspects, I couldn't help but be suspect about the structure of the book. Ms. Catton chose to have the twelve parts of the book wane like the moon. That's why Part One was so long. Part Two was half the length and the final part was only two pages long. It didn't bother me while I was reading, but I couldn't help but think that the wordiness in the first part of the book was mainly to set up this convoluted structure. I wish the author had spent more time on character development than counting words. She got close a few times as she did in one of my favorite scenes when Anna and Emery Staines get their first glimpse of New Zealand and marvel at the albatrosses. Anna offers to leave so Emery can enjoy the scene by himself but he objects. "Oh, no. Solitude is a condition best enjoyed in company. Especially the company of one other soul." Anna goes on to compare an albatross to a ship:
"Heavy ships are so graceful in the water. Compared to lighter crafts, I mean. If a boat is too light--if it bobs about on the wave--there's no grace to its motion. I believe that it's the same with birds. Large birds are not buffeted about by the wind. They always look so regal in the air. This fellow. Seeing him fly is like seeing a heavy ship cut through a wave." (630)
With writing like that, I can see why Ms. Catton is a prize-winner at such a young age. While I enjoyed this book, I'd have to say I was more impressed with it than in love with it. It was an interesting mystery in a terrific setting. The coincidences even made sense. As Walter Moody observed, "…what was a coincidence but a stilled moment in a sequence that had yet to be explained?" Too bad those explanations went on a little too long for me!
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. Read in 2013. 3.5 stars. On the OP 2014 Shortlist.
Lahiri's second novel focuses on two brothers and the political unrest in India in the 1960s that came between them. Subhash is the elder by only 15 months. He is reserved and lets his younger brother Udayan take the lead in many of their activities. However, the Naxalite movement that is pushing India toward Communism using guerrilla terrorist techniques divides them. Subhash goes to Rhode Island to continue his education while Udayan gets deeper in trouble.
A family emergency calls Subhash back to Calcutta. In his effort to fix things, he returns to the U.S. with an Indian wife and a baby on the way. Some problems are so deep they have no solution. Their melancholy lives made for large sections of drab reading. Even Lahiri's exquisite writing can't put emotion into the lives of a family so disconnected. I wanted to love this book but ended up liking it mainly for its historical value and the vivid descriptions of Calcutta and Rhode Island.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Read in 2013. 4.5 stars. On the OP 2014 Shortlist.
There is no doubt that Adichie is a gifted author who writes passionately about Nigeria. In this book she centers her focus on African Immigrants and racial relations in the United States. Ifemelu grew up in poverty in Nigeria, but was exceptionally talented academically and qualified for a scholarship at a Philadelphia university. She had to leave her boyfriend Obinze behind but they both hoped he would be able to follow her in the near future. Unfortunately, life had other things in store for him. Times were hard for Ifemelu at first and she made a shameful mistake which caused her to cut off her ties to Obinze. Eventually she made new friends and created a popular blog about her experiences in America.
It's interesting that Ifemelu didn't think much about racial differences until she left Nigeria. She learned the difference between an American-African who might live in America but had African values and the African-Americans who are descended from slaves. She found out that blacks and whites often work together but play together infrequently. Furthermore, when Non-American blacks come to this country, they are not known as Nigerian or Jamaican, they are just Black. Ifemelu is a keen observer of behavior and started her blog -- "Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black" -- as a way to express her serious views in a lighthearted manner. It turned out to be a passion and a way to make a living and a name for herself. The entries are both entertaining and insightful, but do they serve as a way to further the story (remember, this is supposed to be a novel) or does the blog provide a means to promote the theme of racism in America? This may be a minor point, but the episodes that wind up as material for the blog take up much of the middle 300 pages or so of the book.
I really enjoyed this book and think Adichie is an amazing writer. However, just as Ifemelu began to speak in an American accent and relax her hair so it could swing like a white girl's and start to become a true "Americanah," the book likewise began to sacrifice the story to the point where it was beginning to sound like an agenda. Thankfully, Ifemelu dropped the affected accent and began to wear her hair in a short Afro and the story got back on track when she moved back to Nigeria after over a decade in America. Despite my slight complaint, I thought this was a fine book that is a likely and deserving candidate for the Booker Prize and will end up in my Top Ten for 2013.