Labfs39 resumes reading and reviewing in 2021, Part 2

Dies ist die Fortführung des Themas Labfs39 resumes reading and reviewing in 2021.

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Labfs39 resumes reading and reviewing in 2021, Part 2

1labfs39
Bearbeitet: Jul. 21, 10:37pm

Currently reading:



Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

2labfs39
Bearbeitet: Jul. 21, 10:34pm

Books read in 2021:

May/June
17. The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky, translated from the German by Tim Mohr (TF, 3.5*)
18. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (F, 4*)
19. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (F, 4*)
20. Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler (F, 4*)
21. The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui (NF, 3.5*)
22. To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey (F, 4*)

July/August
23. Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov (F, 4*)
24. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (F, 4.5*)
25. My Friend Bill: the life of a restless Yankee, William W. Streeter by Paul Schratter (NF, 4*)

3labfs39
Bearbeitet: Mai 8, 11:36am

Books read in 2021:

January/February
1. Children in the Holocaust and World War II: Their Secret Diaries by Laurel Holliday (NF, 4*)
2. Baba Dunja's Last Love by Alina Bronsky, translated from the German by Tim Mohr (TF, 4*)
3. The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne (NF, 4*)
4. The Age of Orphans by Laleh Khadivi (F, 3*)
5. The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal (TF, 4*)
6. Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz by Rena Kronreich Gelissen with Heather Dune Macadam (NF, 4*)

March/April
7. Autumn by Ali Smith (F, 3.5*)
8. The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe, translated from the Japanese by E. Dale Saunders (TF, 3.5*)
9. In Search of My Homeland: A Memoir of a Chinese Labor Camp by Er Tai Gao, translated from the Chinese by Robert Dorsett and David Pollard (TNF, 3*)
10. A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes (F, 3*)
11. Winter by Ali Smith (F, 2*)
12. The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee with David John (NF, 3*)
13. Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice (F, 3.5*)
14. The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami, translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell (TF, 4*)
15. Dora Bruder by Patrick Modiano, translated from the French by Joanna Kilmartin (TF, 3*)
16. The Note through the Wire by Doug Gold (NF, 3.5*)

4labfs39
Bearbeitet: Jul. 21, 10:34pm

Reading Globally:

Books I've read in 2021 by nationality of author:

American: 6
Canadian/Wasauksing First Nation: 1
Chinese: 1
English: 2
French: 1
German: 2
Iranian: 1
Japanese: 2
Korean: 1
Korean American: 1
New Zealand: 1
Polish: 1
Russian: 1
Scottish: 2
Swedish: 1
Vietnamese American: 1

5labfs39
Bearbeitet: Mai 8, 11:37am

List of books I've read by Nobel Prize Winners can be found here.

6labfs39
Bearbeitet: Jul. 21, 10:36pm

Book stats for this year:

I've never kept running stats before, but I saw it on other threads and thought I would try. If it becomes too labor-intensive, I will wait until the end of the year as usual. I realize that gender and ethnicity are difficult categories, but I want to prioritize diversity in my reading.

25 books total

15 countries
7 (28%) translations

17 (68%) fiction
8 (32%) nonfiction

16 (64%) by women
9 (36%) by men

10 (40%) nonwhite

7labfs39
Bearbeitet: Mai 8, 11:56am

Welcome back to my thread for 2021. I thought May 1 would be a good transition time, but then I caught a cold and haven't been on LT. But I'm back.

I finished reading Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine last night. Whereas Alina Bronsky's Baba Dunja is a fun go-to book for me, this one was a tough read. The protagonist is one of the most distasteful characters I've encountered. She is self-absorped and delusional about her own importance. She has perfected emotional abuse to an art form. I'll definitely need a palate cleanser after this.

8labfs39
Bearbeitet: Mai 8, 12:02pm

To start things off, I thought I would share a curriculum analysis with you. This is Florida Virtual School's English curriculum for grades 10-12.

Sophomore year: Non-honors students were required to read zero female authors. An excerpt of a speech by Obama was the only required reading not by a dead white guy. In the second module, honors students choose between three books by men and two by women (although one of the two was about a boy's experience). Then honors students chose between Rebecca and Jane Eyre (two white women) and in the final module read a lais by a twelfth-century woman. Evidently honors students can be exposed to women authors. Obama and Zora Neale Hurston (if you chose her book) were the only non-white authors listed.

Junior year: In a slight improvement, students were required to read one female author, Maja Angelou, who was also the only non-white author required. It was a single poem. Students who chose a woman every time they could would end the year with five works by women out of around twenty-five. Three non-white authors were possible. In a slight aside, the inclusion of King Kong with its lurid depiction of women as one of the few works for the year was deplorable.

Senior year: The first two modules feature zero women authors. Moreover, the honors selections included Rudyard Kipling, the originator of ″white man′s burden,″ and ″Song to the Men of England.″ Where are the women? Well, in module three, students are introduced to the idea of women authors. I say idea, because only about one-third of the works are actually written by women. The Obamas and Gandhi are the only named non-white authors, and Gandhi was optional, only for honors students.

As if these numbers were not shocking enough, if you look at the amount of class time spent on women or non-white (or living, for that matter) authors, even the over-represented Shakespeare would roll over in his grave. An entire year reading no works by women? Or a single poem in two years? In three years of English class, students were required to read only five works by non-whites: excerpts from three speeches by the Obamas, a poem, and a newspaper article.

Both my daughter and I have made our voices heard, and we were told that Florida has revised its standards and changes will now be made to the curriculum.

9RidgewayGirl
Mai 8, 1:30pm

>8 labfs39: That's maddening and unacceptable. Thank you for making your voice heard.

10labfs39
Mai 8, 2:10pm

>9 RidgewayGirl: Although the principal wrote a very nicely worded response, I found some of her logic deficient. For example, she said, "Traditionally, high school English courses focus on British literature and early American literature; unfortunately, there isn’t much representation in those literary periods." (One assumes she also means early British literature.) First, the argument that there wasn't much to choose from doesn't hold water. For instance, although fewer women authors were published in late 1700's/early 1800's America, they certainly exist. And women's letters and diaries of those time periods are rich and accessible. Second, it's simply untrue that the curriculum focused on such early American literature (although it did not cover current literature, why is a separate question). One assignment required students to choose two poems from seven: one by T.S. Eliot, two by Robert Frost, one by Ezra Pound, one by William Carlos Williams, and two by Carl Sandburg. Really? They couldn't think of a more diverse group of poets contemporary to these?

11msf59
Mai 8, 4:54pm

Happy Saturday, Lisa! Happy New Thread! It is so nice to have you posting again and I hope those books are treating you fine.

12lisapeet
Mai 8, 5:06pm

>10 labfs39: Aw jeez that's just lazy on her end. I'm glad you and your daughter spoke up, but it doesn't sound like much change is on the horizon. Anyway, happy new thread!

13avaland
Mai 9, 6:25am

Very impressed with your organization and stats of your reading. I seem to have thrown all that to the wind these days.

>10 labfs39: Frost, Sandburg, Shakespeare...yeah, not much change there. Kipling?! ...

Seems I did a similar thing when my oldest was in an AP English class in the very late 90s. Not only did the five books assigned not have any major characters who were women; the books assigned either represented women badly (or not at all) or they were treated badly (Catch-22, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ernest Hebert's The Dogs of March... are three of the five that I can remember). I was so mad, and after explaining to her why I was so, I sent her with an extra copy I had of the Handmaid's Tale and a copy of the Cliff Notes for her to give the teacher. Nothing changed, of course, as the curriculum was fixed. All this reminds me of the conversation Michael and I were having recently about Harold Bloom and "The Canon"....

14labfs39
Mai 9, 12:10pm

>11 msf59: Hi Mark, I have been lurking on your thread and enjoying the tales of birding and of the Pacific Northwest. Your photos reminded me of some of the great things about living there.

>12 lisapeet: I expect change will come very slowly to the Florida curriculum, but I did think it important to speak up and model that for my daughter. It's always fun to start a new thread, isn't it?

>13 avaland: Thanks, Lois. We'll see how long the record keeping lasts.

Lol, I love that you gave the teacher a copy of The Handmaid's Tale. It's sad that the curriculum for an AP class was so skewed. It's even sadder that little has changed in the intervening thirty years.

15labfs39
Mai 9, 12:14pm

After reading Hottest Dishes, I felt in the need of a strong female protagonist whom I could actually like. I settled on The Parable of the Sower. Wow. I'm sixty pages in and loving it. I had read Octavia Butler's Kindred a long time ago, and really liked it, but in the intervening years had forgotten just how powerful a writer she is.

16dchaikin
Mai 11, 1:34pm

Stopping by to say hello after an embarrassingly long catch up. Enjoyed your reviews and all the discussions here. Glad you’re enjoying Butler. I’ve only read Kindred (which I liked, but apparently not as much as most people who talk about it.) Hoping to stay caught up...really.

17torontoc
Mai 11, 4:47pm

Hmm-yes, as a retired teacher, I sometimes wondered about curriculum writing. Now I did -for Visual Art Grades 9 and 10 and reviewed Grade 11 and 12 for the province. Some of the Grade 11 stuff was terrible- I had to criticize " nicely " in order to have the writers revise the work. Early curriculum writing was really bad for Grade 13 ( abandoned a number of years ago by the province) A number of art teachers sat through a presentation by the writer- after hearing how she changed the work that she herself had written ( totally unsuitable), most of us did the same.

18labfs39
Mai 11, 8:39pm

>16 dchaikin: No worries, Dan. I'm glad you stopped by, but no pressure.

>17 torontoc: Curriculum writing must be difficult as it would be hard to please everyone. I think the FLVS curriculum reflects the sort of patriotic education that Trump espoused with his 1776 commission. Speeches by the founding fathers were sprinkled liberally amongst writing by the other white men of the literary canon. It's unfortunate, because in other ways, I thought FLVS provided a solid online education. The state of New Hampshire, for one, licenses their curriculum and platform for their online public school option. I'm glad to hear that change is in the works, but I fear it will be a long time before it's applied to the high school curriculum.

19labfs39
Mai 11, 8:41pm



The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky, translated from the German by Tim Mohr
Published 2010, 262 p.

Rosa knows everything. She knows that her daughter is stupid and ugly and only has a husband thanks to her. She knows that her granddaughter is smart and pretty, thanks to her care. And she knows that without her, her family would be nothing. It′s hard being the only intelligent, beautiful person around, but Rosa bears the burden.

One day her daughter, Sulfia, tells her that she dreamt about a man and is now pregnant. Rosa believes her immediately, for what man would be attracted to her ugly, dim-witted daughter? But for as much as she derides her daughter, Rosa loves her granddaughter and takes over raising her. Aminat is not as easily cowed as her mother, however, and the three are entwined in a destructive, subversive embrace.

Rosa is one of the most detestable characters I′ve encountered in literature. She is self-aggrandizing, delusional, and cruel. She has perfected the use of emotional abuse to inflict pain while professing love. Yet despite this, the book is funny at times, and I found myself admiring Rosa′s spirit, almost, even as I deplored her actions. Like Baba Dunja′s Last Love, Bronsky′s writing is crisp and acerbic with a strong female protagonist. But whereas Baba Dunja′s love for her granddaughter is self-effacing and supportive, Rosa′s is greedy and domineering. Baba Dunja sacrifices herself for others; Rosa sacrifices others for herself. I don't know how to rate Hottest Dishes, because it is well-written, but repelling.

20dchaikin
Mai 11, 9:22pm

Well, I’m entertained by review, especially the last line. (And I’m still caught up!)

21torontoc
Mai 12, 10:36am

>19 labfs39: I read the book and think that your assessment is right on the mark!

22labfs39
Mai 12, 2:08pm

>20 dchaikin: and >21 torontoc: After I wrote my review, I read ones by Brenzi and TadAD and felt they did a better job of explaining that although Rosa is despicable, there is something fascinating about her too. I got sucked into her mindset, and from that vantage point, her actions made sense. I think it takes a talented writer to pull off the plot of Hottest Dishes with humor. Europa Editions has published a translation of Bronsky's most recent book, My Grandmother's Braid, and I look forward to seeing what type of character this grandmother is.

23labfs39
Mai 14, 4:37pm



Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
Published 1993, 345 p.

Lauren Olamina is a Black teenager growing up in a world gone mad. Global warming has made water and food scarce, street drugs have created roving gangs of killers and arsonists, and a far-right, White president has made debt slavery legal. She lives in a walled neighborhood with her family, but walls and guns can protect them for only so long. Lauren believes things will only get worse, and she prepares herself as best she can for a future outside the walls. She is also filling a notebook with her observations. Gradually she comes to see these as a new religion, one where God is change, a non-anthropomorphic god that can be shaped by human design. Her goal is to escape beyond the city and build a new community, one that believes these precepts and is willing to work in order to shape the future.

When written in 1993, the year 2024 was the future, distant enough to be science fiction. But now, in 2021, too much of Butler′s world seems real. Racial tensions, corrupt cops, dwindling water supplies, and non-living wages are here. As N.K. Jemisin says in the foreword, reading the book in the 90s and reading it now are different experiences.

Unlike her other science fiction series, Parable does not rely on sentient beings from other galaxies or mind powers like telepathy to solve the ills of a dystopian world. Instead, Lauren′s Earthseed relies on the skills and determination of regular people to create change.

Prodigy is, at its essence, adaptability and persistent, positive obsession. Without persistence, what remains is an enthusiasm of the moment. Without adaptability, what remains may be channeled into destructive fanaticism. Without positive obsession, there is nothing at all.

Parable of the Sower is a powerful novel that is hard to put down once begun. The plot is fast-paced, the characters are vivid, and above all it is well-written, clean and concise. The moment I turned the last page, I began to regret not having the sequel, Parable of the Talents on hand to begin immediately. My only quibble is that the character of Lauren is a bit static. She is an exceptional, insightful girl of fifteen when the book opens and an equally exceptional young woman of eighteen when it ends. Few of the struggles of adolescence penetrate her equilibrium. I hesitate to say it, but a little teenage angst wouldn't have gone amiss. Nevertheless, it's worth reading even for those who don't usually read this genre.

24avaland
Mai 18, 8:01am

Glad you are enjoying Butler. I read all of her work many years ago. She still is a favorite.

25labfs39
Mai 19, 8:39pm

>24 avaland: I had only read Kindred previously, which I liked, but remembered thinking Beloved was better.

Now that the weather has done a 180 and it's ridiculously warm (after snow in late April), I am ridiculously busy with gardening. Adding lots of perennials to the rock garden, which requires a lot of shifting of rocks and adding of soil. And the black flies have been horrible!

26labfs39
Mai 20, 8:03am

Finally starting a new book--it's almost been a week!

27NanaCC
Bearbeitet: Mai 20, 1:44pm

>26 labfs39: I enjoyed that one, Lisa. I hope you do too. I’m editing to add that I just looked at my comments and I said that the last 20% of the book took something away from it being an excellent book. Although it was on President Obama’s favorite books list, so I felt I was in good company in my enjoyment of it.

28labfs39
Mai 29, 12:16pm

>27 NanaCC: Oh no, I hope I don't have the same impression of Pachinko. I'm loving it so far, although I haven't had much time to read.

29labfs39
Mai 29, 12:20pm

RIP Eric Carle. I love his illustrations and still read some of his books to my niece. When my daughter was a baby, Carter's had a line of clothes inspired by his art that was very cute. Sad to lose him and Beverly Clearly in quick succession.

30avaland
Mai 29, 2:00pm

>25 labfs39: Well, you know Northern New England, everything seems to involve moving rocks!

31NanaCC
Mai 29, 11:33pm

>25 labfs39:, >30 avaland: When I was in New Jersey, gardening was alway “rocky”. I used to say that we grew rocks.

32labfs39
Mai 30, 9:18am

>30 avaland: >31 NanaCC: Where do they all come from I wonder? One would think that after clearing an area, it would remain rock-free for a while. But no. I have a book on the history of stonewalls that I should read. Perhaps I would find an answer to this burning question.

33SassyLassy
Mai 30, 9:24am

>32 labfs39: Many of them come from winter freeze thaw cycles, as long buried rocks emerge over time. As the ground is worked in the spring, they become more obvious. Part of it depends on the movement of underground water. As its paths change direction or size, ground shifts. Just a couple of reasons here, there are others.

One of the things that always intrigues me is when you find a completely different kind of rock, as for example when many are slate, and all of a sudden you find sandstone. I always wonder whether someone brought it there, and if so, for what purpose.

What is your stone wall book?

34labfs39
Mai 30, 9:35am

>33 SassyLassy: Yes, I can see winter freeze-thaw cycles as being a culprit. I'm rediscovering how impactful they are. The roads are a mess despite posting in the spring. I wonder if, as more aquifers dry up, there is a slight decrease in rock "births." My guess is that some of the unexpected rock types are from seams. One of the nice things about rocks in this neck of the woods is mica. I've always been fascinated by it.

The book is Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England's Stone Walls by Robert Thorson.

35avaland
Mai 30, 1:37pm

>34 labfs39: I have that book, too.

36dchaikin
Bearbeitet: Mai 31, 3:52pm

>33 SassyLassy: >34 labfs39: glacial till. 🙂 (ok, some people know this, in concept, if not in terminology, and some don’t. For the latter: glaciers ground up everything they ran over “up slope” and mixed it somewhat indiscriminately, and then dumped it as they melted. So New England and Wisconsin and whatnot got dumped with a lot of rock medly mud stew. Today it’s soil constantly birthing seemingly random and unrelated types of rocks.)

>23 labfs39: noting. I liked Kindred, but haven’t seemed to be able to match everyone else’s enthusiasm. So not sure if I’ll read more OB.

ETA .... >34 labfs39: noting that book too...

37labfs39
Mai 31, 4:07pm

>36 dchaikin: Ah, yes. Glacial till. Theorhetically it all makes sense. Glaciers, frost, aquifers. But when I run over the umpteenth rock with the lawn mower after spending months picking rocks, it seems as though more sinister forces are at work. You would think the top foot of soil could remain rock free for at least a season. Perhaps it's the fault of trolls like those in Frozen.

38labfs39
Mai 31, 4:11pm

>36 dchaikin: If it helps, I liked Beloved more than Kindred as a time travel/slavery novel, and Parable of the Sower more than Kindred as science ficiton. The latter two were very different.

Cindy the Librarian called Friday and said Parable of the Talents is in, and I can pick it up tomorrow.

39dchaikin
Mai 31, 4:29pm

>37 labfs39: definitely trolls. I don't think they like lawnmowers.

>38 labfs39: I can't compare Kindred with anything Morrison wrote, well maybe because I have put Morrison up there in the with the literary gods (and goddesses). I have a little bias. But I think Morrison pressed harder and deeper, and got her hands dirty by digging well into the uncomfortable territory. Kindred certainly has some complexity and discomfort, but it has a somewhat clean sense of ethics that the reader can nod along with. Morrison confronted and challenged the readers ethics. I mean, I felt bad for Dana, but Seth...phew...I don't have any brief description for all that.

40SassyLassy
Jun. 1, 9:50am

>36 dchaikin: Glacial till as well - absolutely right. There are parts of this province where it is really evident in huge boulder strewn over the landscape like giants suddenly left their bowling game. Also here, depending upon the winter storm surges, now getting stronger each year, there are rocks washing up from the sea. It's amazing to hear them rumbling under the waves along the beach during those storms.

>37 labfs39: I sympathize. I do like to see lovely granite pieces emerge though and then I crowbar them up for use elsewhere. That doesn't happen too often though.

41labfs39
Jun. 1, 12:40pm

>39 dchaikin: Beloved is an amazing piece of literature and my favorite of her works. Was Morrison one of your themes? Have you read all her books? Which were favorites? I have only read Beloved, The Bluest Eye, and Song of Solomon, which I didn't care for although I read it a long time ago and don't remember why.

>40 SassyLassy: I read about the sound of rocks rumbling below the waves in the book No Great Mischief, which is set on Cape Breton. I would love to hear that. Granite is ubiquitous in this area (as in yours). NH is the granite state and my college's alma mater has the rather cheesy lines:

They have the still North in their hearts,
The hill-winds in their veins,
And the granite of New Hampshire
In their muscles and their brains.


I'm not sure why we want to tout that we have rocks for brains, but there you have it.

42dchaikin
Bearbeitet: Jun. 1, 1:56pm

Curious school song. Maybe it's a sneaky insult and "they" actually refers to those who went to other schools?

Morrison was an early successful theme read for me and she helped encourage me to stick these themes out. I really enjoyed reading all her novels. And I read her shortly after finishing the OT, which allowed me to pick up on and enjoy many of her bible games - especially in Beloved and SoS. My favorites are the three you read and also Sula. I just found them brilliant angry works by author who harnessed that anger and made some great stuff with it. SoS is my favorite because I found it warped in a fun way. (which shows we are all different readers). I was mixed on her later works, partially because I felt they didn't measure of to those four. (I did like Tar Baby a lot, which is another earlier novel, but not as successful as what I see as her big four.). I'm enjoying Mark's path through Morrison this year.

43labfs39
Jun. 1, 10:01pm

>42 dchaikin: I read Song of Solomon back in the 90s and unfortunately don't remember details. Without a review of my own to fall back on, I read yours. Ah, Milkman. Yes. Perhaps it was the wrong book at the wrong time, but I'm not eager to give it a reread.

I picked up Parable of the Talents from the library today. I'm eager to get to it, but want to finish Pachinko first. Perhaps this will be the incentive I need to finish it. I am enjoying the story and read a good chunk both times I've sat down with it, but long stretches pass between readings. Not sure why.

44dchaikin
Jun. 2, 12:21am

>43 labfs39: I wrote that review in 2013... just seems so long ago. Good luck with your reading.

45avaland
Jun. 6, 5:24am

>39 dchaikin: I might agree with your thoughts on Morrison & Butler.

>41 labfs39: LOL. I have always loved the rocks....

46msf59
Jun. 6, 7:03am

Happy Sunday, Lisa. What do you think of Pachinko? I liked it but didn't love it like others did. I also plan on rereading more Morrison. She is an author worth revisiting, her prose is so rich and deep.

47dchaikin
Jun. 6, 10:56am

>45 avaland: nice map.

48labfs39
Jun. 6, 9:17pm

>44 dchaikin: Considering I read Song of Solomon in the 90s, 2013 is yesterday :-)

>45 avaland: Ha! You are welcome to as many of my rocks as you can carry off to NH, Lois. I love rocks when they are where they are supposed to be: stone walls, jetties, fireplaces, and the Harvard Museum of Natural History. My lawn is definitely not where they are supposed to be.

>46 msf59: Hi, Mark. I am halfway through Pachinko and enjoying it much more than my reading speed would indicate. My only fear is that the last bit will be disappointing, as Colleen reports.

>47 dchaikin: Yes, the map was a nice change from all the covid-related maps that I've been seeing for the last year.

49BLBera
Jun. 7, 9:36pm

I have been following your discussion of curriculum, Lisa, and when I taught a class of dystopian fiction recently, we did read Parable of the Sower. One of the students, who loved it, told me she had never read, in school, a book with a black female protagonist. I suspect that is true for most students.

In one of the high schools in our city, a parent complained when her daughter was assigned The Painted Drum, so even teachers with latitude shy away from books that they know will cause parent complaints.

50labfs39
Jun. 8, 9:23am

>49 BLBera: How tragic that are children are being exposed to such a narrow band of white (and often male) authors. How can we engage children and inculcate a love of reading, when they never see themselves in the books adults give them? When Trump announced his "patriotic education" commission, I thought to myself, How much whiter, male-dominated, and Founder-centric can it get?

51avaland
Jun. 9, 9:20am

>45 avaland: If the rocks could talk they would argue and point out that they were here long before we were. Rocks in a lawn is an excuse for a garden.

>49 BLBera:, >50 labfs39: I suspect schools are always behind current culture in their reading. My daughter's AP English class in '97-'98 offered no female writers or authors of color among the six books they had to read. Not only that, the novels chosen all presented women as either sexual objects or otherwise in a negative light. As a mother I was fairly pissed off (but I suspect I was an outlier)

52avaland
Jun. 9, 9:25am

>45 avaland: If the rocks could talk they would argue and point out that they were here long before we were. Rocks in a lawn is an excuse for a garden.

53labfs39
Jun. 9, 3:53pm

>51 avaland: And pick rocks out of the garden? Nah, raised planter beds are the way to go

54labfs39
Jun. 9, 3:58pm

> And here we are 23 years after your daughter’s AP class and nothing has changed. How far behind the current culture does curriculum have to lag? It’s frustrating

55avaland
Jun. 9, 5:24pm

>53 labfs39: That does solve the problem one way!

>54 labfs39: The younger daughter did her senior years in Belgium, and I fairly certain my son did not take AP English, so I have no comparisons.

56labfs39
Jun. 9, 8:22pm

>55 avaland: High school in Belgium, that's interesting. Which languages were her classes in?

57markon
Bearbeitet: Jun. 11, 2:30pm

>54 labfs39: I totally agree. I don't have kids in schools, but I certainly hope that literature classes in our high school where upward of 50 languages are spoken are teaching more than white male authors. Fifteen years ago we got lots of requests from students for Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe, but I can't say anything in particular stands out recently.

There are so many good books out there to choose from with female authors, or African-American authors (how can you not teach at least one Toni Morrison book?)

58labfs39
Jun. 11, 3:17pm

>57 markon: I hate to dwell on the subject of curriculum endlessly, especially as you all are already on that bandwagon, but it seems so obvious wrong and so easy to fix.

Is it a public high school, Ardene? Wow, 50 languages. I realize that in my original diatribe I focused on female and Black authors, that is probably in part because there were no Latinx or Asian American authors at all. In four years.

I wonder how Things Fall Apart became THE book by an African author for students to read? It was assigned to me as a freshman in college in the 80s, and you say roughly 15 years ago (c2006) it was the novel students were requesting. Considering it was written in 1958, that's a long time for one novel to represent all African literature.

And yes, Toni Morrison is a great example of someone who could be included. If only they asked Club Read members to write the curricula!

59labfs39
Jun. 11, 9:33pm

I have finally finished reading Pachinko. It took me three weeks, and I'm not sure why. I enjoyed it and read sizable chunks when I did sit down with it, but days would pass before I picked it up again. Anywho, I'm done. Now for the review, and then on to Parable of the Talents, before it is due back to the library (it's an ILL and can't be renewed).

60dchaikin
Jun. 11, 11:52pm

Glad you finished.

61labfs39
Jun. 12, 5:40pm



Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
published 2017, 502 p.

In 1910 the Japanese occupied Korea, beginning a decades-long colonization that only ended at the conclusion of World War II. Throughout this time, as life in Korea became increasingly difficult and food scarcities more widespread, many Koreans emigrated to Japan to seek a better life, but for most Koreans, life in Japan was equally harsh, and the discrimination they faced was daunting. Even second- and third-generation Korean Japanese were denied citizenship and struggled to find acceptance. Pachinko parlors were one of the few places where Koreans could find jobs. Although gambling is illegal in Japan, pachinko parlors were, and remain, big businesses, often associated with the yakuza.

Pachinko begins in the early 1900s and ends in 1989, three generations later. The novel opens in Jeongda, an island off Busan, where Hoonie the fisherman is more concerned about feeding his family than the politics of colonization. His daughter, Sunja, meets a sophisticated Japanese-speaking businessman, and her innocent life is set on a new trajectory. She marries a Christian minister, who takes her to Osaka, where she and her family will live throughout the rest of the occupation period, World War II, and the Korean War. Buffeted by historical events, economic hardships, and discrimination, her children and grandchildren struggle to find success and happiness in a culture that never fully accepts them.

There was much about Pachinko that I loved. The author did years of historical research and interviews with Koreans living in Japan, and her efforts show. The plot touches on many of the events of the time without seeming forced, and the themes of assimilation, what it means to be successful, generational conflict, and being a minority Christian are handled deftly. The characters are well-developed and vivid, and I had no trouble keeping track of who was who, unlike in some family sagas. The tone was of quiet strength, exemplified by the women who held the family together. Some readers felt the last third of the book, dealing with the third generation of characters, was less interesting or engaging. I felt like it was a natural development, as the old mores gave way to foreign education and modern sensibilities. It may not have been as romantic, but it felt real.

My only quibble is that I found myself putting it down for long periods of time before picking it up again, but I think the fault lies with me not the book. If I had read it at a different time, perhaps I would have remained better engaged.

62dchaikin
Jun. 12, 6:33pm

terrific review. I've been on the fence with this, probably because I sense the time commitment. But this review encourages me.

63labfs39
Jun. 12, 6:39pm

>62 dchaikin: The plot is very interesting, not only because of the historical setting, but in and of itself. Unfortunately, I was very wary of spoilers and said almost nothing. Rest assured, it is a good one.

64NanaCC
Jun. 12, 11:10pm

>62 dchaikin:, >63 labfs39: I agree with Lisa, Dan. It is a very good book. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Lisa.

65BLBera
Jun. 13, 12:58pm

I am another Pachinko fan, Lisa. Great comments.

66labfs39
Jun. 13, 5:01pm

>64 NanaCC: >65 BLBera: I considered trying Free Food for Millionaires, Min Jin Lee's debut novel, but the reviews, mostly by readers who had read Pachinko, were almost all disappointed.

67avaland
Jun. 15, 5:20am

>56 labfs39: She was in Bruges so her classes were Flemish, although she took French also (I remember she was reading Georges Simenon's Maigret in that class). I'm sure there were English classes, too; but I don't think she took them. When she first arrived the other students happily talked to her in English (which they were learning) but after about a month, her newness had worn off and they stopped attempting to talk to her in English. In December she was at a low point, missing home and thinking she could never master the language, but by January it all just clicked and everything was fine after that (this was an exchange program sponsored by Rotary International).

68japaul22
Jun. 15, 8:43am

I will be very interested to see what my children read in school when they get older (they are in 5th and 2nd grade currently). They go to a very diverse elementary school (their school of 600 kids in Northern Virginia outside of D.C. has 37 different languages spoken in the homes). This definitely waters down as they go to junior high and high school, but Fairfax County pushes a pretty diverse curriculum, at least in the media. I'll be interested to see what it is in reality!

I also really loved Pachinko!

69BLBera
Jun. 15, 10:18pm

I did also like Free Food for Millionaires. It was very different from Pachinko.

70labfs39
Jun. 16, 8:34pm

>67 avaland: That sounds like a fabulous learning experience for your daughter, Lois. I would love to hear more about it at our impending meetup ;-)

>68 japaul22: My daughter attended a progressive school in Seattle for Preschool-8th grade, and the curriculum was fantastic. I would have thought that Florida's curriculum standards would have been more diverse given the diversity of the state. My daughter was in the state's online school (FLVS), which serves not only Florida students. The state of NH, for instance, licenses FLVS for their public school students who attend online. So it's reach is quite broad. Unfortunately, they are hampered by Florida state's standards as FLVS is a public school, albeit online.

>69 BLBera: Did you write a review of Free Food for Millionaires, Beth? I would like to read it, if you did.

71labfs39
Jun. 18, 8:53pm

Wow. I finished reading Parable of the Talents tonight and am still half in that world. I will write a review soon, but wanted to pop in quickly to say that if you feel that The Handmaid's Tale was prescient about issues in today's society, you should read the Parable books.

72labfs39
Bearbeitet: Jun. 19, 10:36am

73labfs39
Jun. 19, 12:35pm



Parable of the Talents by Olivia E. Butler
Published 1998, 423 p.

Parable of the Talents picks up where Parable of the Sowers ends. Lauren Oya Olamina has created her first Earthseed community and is continuing to take in those in need. She is considering next steps in spreading her Earthseed vision when Texas Senator Andrew Steele Jarret is elected president. He is the head of the Christian America movement and his ultraconservative platform of ″Make America Great Again″ resonated with the evangelical right. Once in office, his supporters receive tacit support for vigilante violence. Immigrants, non-Christians, the poor, and women are all targeted by Jarret Crusaders wearing uniforms reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan. Labeled a heathen cult, Lauren′s Earthseed community is in the cross-hairs.

In Parable of the Sowers Olivia Butler created a world that seemed a mere step away from our own: corrupt cops, climate change, walled communities for those who could afford it, homelessness and violence for those who couldn't. In Parable of the Talents, that world felt even closer. Despite having been published in 1998, the election of an ultraconservative president who promised security and stability at the cost of individual rights was scarily prescient. That Jarret uses the slogan ″Make America Great Again″ made it impossible for me to think of the fictitious president without thinking of the all too real one. Certainly readers in 2021 will have a completely different reading experience than those who read it in 1998.

In Talents, one of the themes that is explored in more detail is how a single charismatic leader can ignite a religious movement. Lauren Olamina starts writing down "truths" as a teenager and in Sowers gathers enough followers to start a community. In Talents she has to abandon her plan of creating a network of communities and envision a new way of spreading the Earthseed doctrine. I found the initial descriptions of God is Change to be compelling, but felt by the end of Talents that Butler was struggling to write the religious "excerpts."

A major change between the two books is the shift from a single first person narrative to multiple. Talents is narrated by Lauren's daughter, but the majority of the book is told in Lauren's voice through journal entries, a technique familiar to readers from Sowers. Excerpts from writings by Lauren's daughter's father and uncle are also included when needed to provide additional perspective. It sounds confusing, but it works well and flows smoothly.

Once again, Butler impresses with her crisp writing, well-developed characters, and matter-of-fact tone. Originally intended to be one book, the Parable books are best read back to back. At the time of her death, the author intended to write a third and final installation in the series, but the two books stand on their own. I didn't feel as though the reader was left hanging. I would highly recommend the Parable books for anyone who enjoyed The Handmaid′s Tale. Note that both works, but especially the Parable books should have trigger warnings for rape, child abduction, and violence.

74msf59
Jun. 19, 1:19pm

Happy Saturday, Lisa. I hope you enjoy The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir as much as I did.

75labfs39
Jun. 19, 4:56pm

>74 msf59: Thanks, Mark. I'm almost half way through The Best We Could Do and enjoying it. It reminds me of Maus. Both authors are second generation Americans who are dealing with the weight of their parents' pasts. Whether the Vietnam conflict or Auschwitz, the trauma has a profound impact on the children of survivors.

76dchaikin
Jun. 21, 12:38am

>73 labfs39: enjoyed your review and fascinated by that slogan in 1998. I'm pondering the titles. I think i can make out how the Parable of a Sower works with that novel, but not sure I understand how the Parable of Talents relates to this second book. Curious. And I liked The Handmaid's Tale a lot... noting.

>74 msf59: interesting comparison.

77labfs39
Jun. 21, 9:56am

>76 dchaikin: Evidently "Let's Make America Great Again" was first used by Ronald Reagan in his 1980 presidential campaign. Trump shortened it in 2016. What is old is made new again.

As for Talents, I was a confused too. At first it seemed like For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away would be more apropos. But I read that if the talents God has given humans is defined as the ability to learn and shape the world, then those who make the most use of those gifts will reap more rewards than those that don't. It makes sense since the Earthseed religion is basically that: God is change and those who can learn and shape that change will fare the best in the long run.

78markon
Jun. 21, 10:50am

>73 labfs39: Great review Lisa. It's been many years since I read these two Butler novels. May add them to the reread list one of these days

79dchaikin
Jun. 21, 1:50pm

>77 labfs39: ah, i see now. Thanks for that explanation.

80labfs39
Jun. 21, 3:04pm

>78 markon: If you do reread them, I would be curious to hear what you think of them in the post-Trump era. I couldn't escape the parallels.

>79 dchaikin: I hope it made sense, Dan.

81labfs39
Jun. 21, 3:06pm



The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui
published 2017, 329 p.

In 1978 three-year-old Thi Bui and her family fled Vietnam and became one of the hundreds of thousands of ″boat people″ seeking asylum in other countries. Her memoir, in graphic novel form, is both a family history and a glimpse of how becoming a mother influenced her understanding of that history. Her illustrations are stark and entirely in orange and black, well-suited to a war setting.

The book begins factually, with the birth of her son, and ends philosophically with a reflection on what she has learned as both a daughter and a mother. In between are the stories she learned from each of her parents about their childhoods, as well as their life together as they try to build a family amongst the war and its aftermath. The things they lived through are horrible, as are the life-long effects of the trauma. That trauma is shared by the children of the survivors both directly and indirectly.

The first graphic novel in which I encountered the multi-generational effects of wartime trauma is Maus by Art Spiegelman. In it he recounts not only the experiences of his parents at Auschwitz, but also the effect that weighty history had on how he was raised and his uneasy relationship with that history. Similarly Bui wrestles with the stories she has heard from her parents and siblings, and how those stories have influenced her identity.

The structure of the book is confusing in places, as the author moves recursively through time from various perspectives and her extended family moved repeatedly as their political alliances changed and the war surged. But I think it adds to the feeling that this is almost an oral history that Bui has attempted to capture and recount. The book was widely acclaimed when it was published in 2017, and she has since gone on to collaborate with Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer, on a children′s book.

82labfs39
Jun. 22, 7:12am

Next UP:



To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

Although I had promised myself to start Wolf Hall, and I was tempted by the two other Vietnamese books I have on the TBR (The Mountains Sing and The Sympathizer), I felt the need for a quick easy read, which this promises to be.

83ohmyrugman
Jun. 22, 7:42am

Anyone got any recs for books they've read recently and enjoyed? Always looking for good recommendations, fiction or non-fiction. Currently reading the little friend by Donna Tartt:)

84dchaikin
Jun. 22, 10:18am

>81 labfs39: i was wondering about your connection with Maus mentioned above. Maus is special. Noting. (I haven’t picked up a graphic novel in a long time)

>83 ohmyrugman: welcome to LT. You might be better off posting this question in a thread more suited to it.

85stretch
Jun. 22, 11:57am

>81 labfs39: I felt similarly that this one reminded me a lot about Maus while I was reading it. It was structured differently but to me it fits with the overall confusion of the Vietnam War, with the all the swifting alliances and never really knowing what comes next. One of the reads from last year that has certainly stuck.

86labfs39
Jun. 22, 7:13pm

>83 ohmyrugman: Welcome. You might pose your question to the group Book Recommendations Requests. You might also find the thread of someone whose reading tastes match yours and browse their reviews. Good luck finding the right book

>84 dchaikin: Ah, Maus and I had a torrid love affair when I was in grad school. ;-) It was my first graphic novel, and it was love at first sight. I was studying at the Russian and East European Institute and guess who came to speak? Art Speigelman himself. I have a signed copy with a cute little Maus dedicated to me. Any who, I've read a fair number of memoirs since then, and I agree, Maus is special.

>85 stretch: Interesting that you were reminded of Maus as well. The Best We Could Do had a lot of different strands; I would start following one, and the perspective would change or the time period. I found myself flipping back and forth some in order to keep people and the timeline straight. There's a lot there.

87dchaikin
Jun. 22, 7:29pm

>86 labfs39: I might be a little jealous

88msf59
Jun. 22, 9:32pm

Hi, Lisa. I remember really enjoying To the Bright Edge of the World. I hope you like it too. Good review of The Best We Could Do and I like the comparison to Maus. The Complete Maus is easily one of my very favorite GNs.

89BLBera
Jun. 22, 11:05pm

I'm sure I wrote something about Free Food for Millionaires. I'll look for my comments.

90labfs39
Jun. 23, 3:46pm

>87 dchaikin: Ha. I sent you a photo of the inscription ;-)

>88 msf59: I'm only about 45 pages into Bright Edge of the World, Mark, but am caught up in it already. I like how Ivey incorporates all the faux documents: Allen's and Sophie's diaries, letters, and even photographs. Very fun.

Have you read Metamaus? It's dense, but very interesting. I've only skimmed it, and this conversation makes me want to revisit it. Unfortunately my copy is buried somewhere in the boxes of history and biography books still awaiting bookshelves in the new house. My contractor went AWOL a couple of months ago, and I have yet to find another.

>89 BLBera: I would be interested in reading your review, if you find it, Beth.

91dchaikin
Jun. 24, 12:10am

>90 labfs39: got your evil wonderful picture.

also, for what it's worth, my old review of Metamaus: https://www.librarything.com/topic/185746#5000787

92labfs39
Jun. 24, 8:15am

>91 dchaikin: Glowing review. I'll reread Maus and then tackle MetaMaus, once I find them amongst the boxes.

I see you have an autographed copy as well, and yet you let me gush about mine. You should have stopped me mid-gush. For this fan, listening to Spiegelman speak about his work was wonderful though, and I was (am) still excited about my very own little Maus.

93dchaikin
Jun. 24, 12:09pm

>92 labfs39: oh yeah…our copy is signed. The autograph is to my wife. (She introduced me to Maus.) I’ve never seen Speigleman in person. So I’m still jealous. : )

94labfs39
Jun. 27, 11:23am

To the Bright Edge of the World incorporates many First Nations myths. I'm familiar with Raven/Old Man/Trickster, but I don't know and can't find stories about a baby being born from a spruce tree. Does anyone know where that comes from? Maybe it's strictly an invention, but it doesn't feel like it.

95avaland
Jun. 27, 5:35pm

>73 labfs39: Enjoyed your review of the Butler, it was nice to revisit the story. It's been centuries..er...decades since I read her stuff.

96labfs39
Jun. 28, 7:07pm

>94 labfs39: The story of the spruce baby comes from the story " Xay Tnaey" in Our Voices: Native Stories of Alaska and the Yukon. I found the answer in the acknowledgements.

>95 avaland: Lol. It's taken me decades to read the Parable books, but fortunately they have stood the test of time well.

97dchaikin
Jun. 28, 8:16pm

>96 labfs39: Our Voices sounds interesting!!

98labfs39
Jun. 28, 8:47pm

>97 dchaikin: It's available on Project Muse, if you have access. I was able to read excerpts without an account.

99dchaikin
Jun. 28, 8:50pm

i'm not familiar with Project Muse.

100labfs39
Bearbeitet: Jun. 28, 9:10pm

Project Muse hosts digital content, much of it open access.

Project MUSE offers open access (OA) books, journals, and digital humanities works from several distinguished university presses, scholarly societies, and independent not-for-profit academic publishers. Through our open access hosting programs, we are able to offer publishers a platform for their OA content which ensures visibility, discoverability, and wide dissemination. These materials are freely available to libraries and users around the world.

101dchaikin
Jun. 28, 9:12pm

Thanks Lisa. Cool.

102msf59
Bearbeitet: Jun. 28, 9:34pm

I had not heard of Metamaus, Lisa. Wow. Interesting. I am currently enjoying Festival Days. Have you read Beard?

103labfs39
Jun. 30, 3:36pm

>102 msf59: I have not, but I've been hearing lots about her lately on LT.

104labfs39
Jun. 30, 3:37pm

Next Up:



Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov

I picked this up after reading Dan's review and am loving it. Very funny and poignant, not things I thought about Nabokov after reading Lolita.

105Yells
Jun. 30, 4:35pm

>104 labfs39: Ha! I picked up a copy for the same reason. Glad that you are enjoying it as well. I have a 4 day weekend starting tomorrow so I will bump this to the top of the pile.

106labfs39
Jun. 30, 6:27pm

>105 Yells: Hi, thanks for stopping by my thread, Danielle and/or Rob. Do you have a thread? I looked in Club Read and couldn't find one. We share a lot of books. :-) Yes, I'm enjoying Pnin enough that when I saw Pale Fire at the library book sale today, I snapped it up.

107labfs39
Jun. 30, 6:43pm

Ok. So I purchased nine lovely books from the library book sale today. Yay! But when I tried to post a picture here, it came out sideways. Boo! Is there a secret I'm missing?

Sans picture, I'll have to make do with a list:

Pale Fire by Nabokov (not only was I influenced by my enjoyment of Pnin, but it is the same cover series as Pnin and The Defense)
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett (because I love Bel Canto)
Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan (because the spine was arresting enough for me to pick up the book, and it looks interesting)
A Mercy by Toni Morrison (need I say more)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (because I think I am the only person in Club Read who has not read it)
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (although I have only read "meh" reviews, I couldn't help myself)
Akin and The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue (Room was such a difficult story for me, that I haven't read any of her other books, but here were two that sounded interesting: one with a WWII tie, so, of course, and one published last year set during a pandemic)
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks (I have read five books by Brooks and enjoyed them all, although it is People of the Book that blew me away)

All for $5! I love library book sales :-)

108Yells
Jun. 30, 7:47pm

>106 labfs39: It’s Danielle :) I used to post here but fell off the radar for a few years when my reading declined. These days I maintain a thread in the 1001 group and lurk everywhere else. I probably should start a thread as I seem to have found my reading groove again. Maybe I’ll make that my long weekend project.

I loved the Donoghue book - all her stuff is so different and this one is nothing like Room. Good haul btw!

109dchaikin
Jun. 30, 8:13pm

>107 labfs39: wow. I want to read Patron Saint of Liars. And, of course, I opened Pale Fire this morning. I've read the forward... but now I'm mildly overwhelmed in deciding how to read the rest.

>104 labfs39: 💙 So happy you're enjoying Pnin.

>105 Yells: Hi Danielle. More Pnin! I'm really happy to see people here reading and enjoying poor Pnin. Glad your still around LT. My myopic LT experience doesn't get very far from CR these days.

110markon
Jul. 1, 10:43pm

>107 labfs39: Quite a haul! Which one will you read first, and why?

111labfs39
Jul. 2, 4:32pm

>108 Yells: Hi Danielle, I too used to be an LT/CR regular but fell off for a couple of years and have only come back this year as my reading picked up again. I'm trying to remember if we used to follow each other back then, but it's been a while. In any case, it's nice to have you stop by. I do hope you start a thread. I have marked your current 1001 thread (what a commitment!) but haven't caught up yet. I would love to talk to you about why you decided to read all 1001 and which version you are following. Earlier this year I did an online quiz to see how many I had read and was surprised at the selections. Maybe you discussed this in your first 1001 thread. I can try to find it.

Which Donoghue book were you referring to, Akin or Pull of the Stars? I found both at the book sale. You say you've read several of hers, do you have a favorite(s)?

>109 dchaikin: So, Pale Fire. I'm curious as to what you mean about how to read it, Dan. I avoid forewords like the plague, as they are always so full of spoilers. I'll wait to hear your thoughts on it before I take a go.

It was so hot the last few days that I haven't read much, but I am still enjoying Pnin. I feel like I've read the first half at least twice already, because I keep rereading passages that I especially like. I have so many post-its sticking out of it that it's starting to resemble a hedgehog. For instance, take this little snippet:

Marriage hardly changed their manner of life except that she moved into Pnin's dingy apartment. He went on with his Slavic studies, she with her psychodramatics and her lyrical ovipositing, laying all over the place like an Easter rabbit, and in those green and mauve poems—about the child she wanted to bear, and the lovers she wanted to have, and St. Petersburg (courtesy of Anna Akhmatov)—every intonation, every image, every simile had been used before by other rhyming rabbits.

Oh, and check out that second sentence, Dan. It's not even one of his longer ones.

>110 markon: Hi Ardene! Nice to see you. Hmm, I'm such a serendipitous reader that I never know what I'm going to read next until I actually crack the book open. That said, I am leaning toward The Pull of the Stars. I'm curious to see what a book written during the pandemic, about a pandemic is like.

112labfs39
Jul. 2, 4:44pm

By the way, how do you pronounce Nabokov? I found this post amusing:

As to pronunciation, Frenchmen of course say Nabokoff, with the accent on the last syllable. Englishmen say Nabokov, accent on the first, and Italians say Nabokov, accent in the middle, as Russians also do. Na-bo-kov. A heavy open “o” as in “Knickerbocker”. My New England ear is not offended by the long elegant middle “o” of Nabokov as delivered in American academies. The awful “Na-bah-kov” is a despicable gutterism.

113labfs39
Jul. 3, 5:03pm



To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
Published in 2016, 413 pages

In an expedition loosely based on one undertaken by Lieutenant Henry T. Allen in 1885, the fictitious Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester and two subordinates intend to travel up the Wolverine River to find a Northwest passage in Alaska. The river route has been attempted before, but failed due to either impassable terrain or hostile natives. As if these challenges were not enough, Forrester is confronted with fantastical events his logical mind refuses to accept, and Lieutenant Pruitt is haunted by his role in the Elk Creek massacre. Meanwhile, back at the Vancouver Barracks in Washington Territory, Allen's wife Sophie is dealing with challenges of her own.

Their stories are told through their diaries, a few letters between them, and some official correspondence regarding the expedition. This epistolary style works well, allowing both Allen and Sophie to relate their experiences in the first person. This timeline is encapsulated by correspondence between Walter, an elderly descendant of Sophie's, and Josh, a young Alaskan museum curator to whom Walter wants to entrust the diaries. Although it may sound complicated, it reads smoothly and the layers of narratives allows for interpretation and perspective. For example, Josh and Walter are able to discuss the differences between Allen's diaries and his official reports, the impact the expedition had on the native peoples, and cultural loss.

Allen's story is one of adventure interspersed with Athabaskan myths. Although I was familiar with some of the stories, such as those of Old Man Raven, others were new, and I went online to learn more about the Fog Woman and The Spruce Tree Man. Sophie's story was no less compelling, and she may have been the more developed character, with a better-developed back story and more introspective writing. She is a naturalist and photographer in an age where both are seen as male occupations, and her intelligence and desire for self-determination make her interactions with the other officers′ wives and the post doctor complicated.

I loved Eowyn Ivey′s first novel, The Snow Child, and was not disappointed with her second, although Snow Child is still my favorite. I was immediately drawn into this story, but felt things bog down a bit, before I was swept back into it. I think Ivey′s strengths are her characters and her ability to integrate myth and fairy tales into her plots. Her deft handling of the epistolary style in this book reminds me of Daniel Stein, Interpreter: A Novel in Documents by Ludmila Ulitskaya. After only two novels, Ivey feels like not only an accomplished writer, but also one with a distinctive style, and I look forward to her next work.

114AlisonY
Jul. 4, 6:12am

>113 labfs39: Great review. I definitely enjoyed The Snow Child more, but this was also a good read.

115lisapeet
Jul. 4, 9:19am

>113 labfs39: Nice review. I've got both of hers on my shelves, and looks like either would be a good pick (though I'll probably go with The Snow Child first.

116labfs39
Jul. 4, 10:21am

>114 AlisonY: Thanks, Alison. I hope Ivey comes out with another book soon.

117labfs39
Jul. 4, 10:23am



Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
Published in 1953, 191 pages

Having only read Lolita, my perspective on Nabokov was narrow. I thought of him as a difficult author to read, with dark humor (if any). Then I read Pnin, and my impression did a 180.

Everyone at the small college where Timofey Pnin teaches thinks he is a ridiculous figure with his humorous language faux pas and bumbling ways. In the era of McCarthy, teaching Russian is as low on the academic spectrum as it is possible to go, and neither his colleagues or his few students respect him. Pnin stumbles through life with bemused good humor, and it is only when he is with his fellow Russian emigre compatriots that we see the well-spoken, confident intellectual that lies below the surface.

Pnin is a story of estrangement and belonging, assimilation and cultural difference, good-humored self-deprecation and simmering anger. It′s also a story within a story. There is an unnamed narrator telling Pnin′s story, and at the end of the novel, the motives of this narrator are called into question, and the reader is left wondering if this really is Pnin′s story after all.

Metafiction creates a tension between the protagonist and the writer. In most novels, there is a lulling sense that the protagonists true self is being revealed, but in metafiction this is disrupted. We are constantly being reminded that we are reading fiction, fiction created by a biased author, even when the author is claiming to be reciting the facts.

Some people—and I am one of them—hate happy ends. We fell cheated. Harm is the norm. Doom should not jam. The avalanche stopping in its tracks a few feet above the cowering village behaves not only unnaturally but unethically. Had I been reading about this mild old man, instead of writing about him, I would have preferred him to discover, upon his arrival in Cremona, that his lecture was not this Friday but the next. Actually, however, he not only arrived safely but was in time for dinner—a fruit cocktail, to begin with, mint jelly with the anonymous meat course, chocolate syrup with the vanilla ice cream.

By professing to tell the truth, rather than his own inclinations, and following that with an account of a mundane act too detailed not to be true, the reliability of the narrator is made more questionable, not less. The writer doth protest too much, methinks. But Nabokov handles this tension playfully and hides how much of himself is reflected. Certainly he, like both the narrator and Pnin, was a Russian emigre educated in Paris and a professor at small colleges in the United States. Is one aspect of Nabokov′s ego poking fun at another aspect?

On the surface, however, Pnin is a delightful romp with delicious descriptions and laugh-out-loud humor.

...Judith Clyde, an ageless blond in aqua rayon, with large, flat cheeks stained a beautiful candy pink and two bright eyes basking in blue lunacy behind a rimless pince-nez, presented the speaker…

Marriage hardly changed their manner of life except that she moved into Pnin's dingy apartment. He went on with his Slavic studies, she with her psychodramatics and her lyrical ovipositing, laying all over the place like an Easter rabbit, and in those green and mauve poems—about the child she wanted to bear, and the lovers she wanted to have, and St. Petersburg (courtesy of Anna Akhmatov)—every intonation, every image, every simile had been used before by other rhyming rabbits.

Blue lunacy and rhyming rabbits, I love it.

118dchaikin
Jul. 4, 1:01pm

This is a fun thread. A small list of stuff to comment on..

>111 labfs39: The "introduction" in Pale Fire is part of the novel. (Like in Lolita where the we learn the end only in the introduction). Basically he tells you what he has presented (in his warped way). It's... well, if you get there you will see.

>113 labfs39: enjoyed this review

>117 labfs39: but, really, yay Pnin! Great review. The book is wonderfully quotable although the only one I wrote down was on a Pnin's pencil sharpener when he briefly has his office to himself. I had to share with Kevin here (see his thread). But I certainly remember his marriage and his psychodramatic wife, and her theft of poor imitated Anna Akhmatova's style. And I really do remember the idea of that unethical underachieving avalanche. I enjoyed your analysis of the metafiction within.

>112 labfs39: Is that Nabokov being quoted? It he the "My New England ear"? Sound familiar to me anyway. I'm grateful I don't need to pronounce his (or Pnin's) name out loud.

119BLBera
Jul. 4, 1:08pm

>107 labfs39: Nice book haul.

>113 labfs39: I loved The Snow Child as well and am glad to hear that her second novel is also good.

>117 labfs39: Great comments on Pnin.

120AlisonY
Jul. 4, 2:04pm

>117 labfs39: Well you've sold me on Pnin. Sounds like a must read.

121labfs39
Jul. 4, 3:26pm

>118 dchaikin: Sometimes when I'm thinking about Nabokov, my mind jumps to James Joyce. Something about intensity or, as Updike says about Nabokov, writing ecstatically. I'm starting to lump Pale Fire in with Ulysses, and I haven't even read PF yet. I find polyglots intimidating too. Nabokov included bits of Russian, German, and French in Pnin, and I forget how many languages are included in Ulysses. 10? 12?

I did see your quote about pencil sharpeners on Kevin's thread. I love how Pnin "Pninized" his environments.

As for the quote about pronouncing Nabokov, the link I provided says it's "From an interview Nabokov gave Robert Hughes for Public Television in October, 1965." I assumed it was Nabokov speaking, but I didn't check the actual interview.

122labfs39
Jul. 4, 3:36pm

>119 BLBera: Thanks, Beth. Wasn't The Snow Child something special? I think I reread it shortly after finishing; the only other book I remember rereading as soon as I finished was In the Shadow of the Banyan. Interestingly, they were debut novels for both authors, and both have only written a single novel since.

>120 AlisonY: I was pleasantly surprised by Pnin, and it's less than 200 pages, so not a huge investment if you don't like it. It's on the 1001 list, if that is something you refer to for suggestions.

123labfs39
Jul. 4, 8:38pm

Next Up:



Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

124kidzdoc
Jul. 5, 12:25pm

Fabulous review of Pnin, Lisa! I'll look for my copy this week or next and add it to my summer reading list.

125dchaikin
Jul. 5, 5:10pm

>123 labfs39: yay! Another lured into our evil group read trap. : )
( >124 kidzdoc:, also Yay!)

126labfs39
Jul. 5, 8:23pm

>124 kidzdoc: Hi Darryl, it's nice to see you on the threads. I hope you enjoy Pnin as much as I (and Dan) did. I was particularly impressed by Nabokov's precise use of language. I get the feeling that every word is carefully chosen. It's not lyrical, but vivid and clear. Sometimes I felt like the author/narrator was letting the reader in on a witty inside joke. So many things to talk about in such a short book.

>125 dchaikin: Yes, yes, I succumbed and am reading Wolf Hall. :-) I was busy with family events today, so I didn't get to read. I hope to make some progress tonight. I was a bit disappointed that there is a 27 year gap between chapters 1 and 2. I would have liked to have known how Cromwell went from vagabond tough boy to educated lawyer working for a cardinal. Maybe a prequel? My daughter has promised to find some history documentaries for me to help fill in my sketchy knowledge of Tudor history.

127avaland
Jul. 11, 8:06am

Just stopping by to see what you are reading. I enjoyed revisiting Pnin through your review. I can't comment intelligently on Nabokov at this point, my obsession with dead Russian authors is long behind me. However, the legacy of that earlier obsession manifests nowadays as: if I see some interesting fiction by a living Russian author, I might pick it up...i.e. Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, Viktor Pelevin, Sergei Lukyanenko...or other authors who may not be Russian but set their work in, or are somehow connected, to Russia i.e. Finnish author Rosa Liksom's Compartment No 6, Gillian Slovo's The Ice Road or Elisabeth Elo's two books....

128msf59
Jul. 11, 8:28am

>107 labfs39: This is an excellent book haul, Lisa. Many fine titles. I still want to read The Pull of the Stars. I am surprised I haven't yet.

Good review of Pnin. I remember loving that one too. Is this your first time reading Wolf Hall? If so, enjoy! It is a fantastic novel.

129labfs39
Jul. 12, 9:51pm

>127 avaland: Hi Lois! I hope you are still afloat after all this rain.

I too used to be a Slavophile, especially during and after grad school. Although I stopped reading the tomes of the Russian giants, rebeccanyc used to inspire me to pick up new-to-me Russian/East European authors (Anton Szerb, Vladimir Sorokin, Vasily Grossman, Dubravka Ugrešić, to name just a few). Although I still read a lot of WWII-related books, these days I find myself gravitating more toward Asia. So many wonderful authors writing all over the world, if only I had more time to read!

>128 msf59: Thanks, Mark. It is my first time reading Wolf Hall. I put it off for a long time fearing that it would be too dry, especially since I know nothing of the Tudors. I'm so glad I finally committed to reading it. I'm over halfway through and am trying to shoehorn in reading time whenever I can. Saturday, while waiting for my nephew in a parking lot, I was stretching my legs and reading while walking. I haven't done that in a while! Fortunately it was not a busy lot, and I didn't get run over. ;-)

130labfs39
Jul. 14, 3:54pm

I stopped by the library book sale again today and was happy to find a few more books, despite the selection being picked over at this point.

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck (to replace my copy which was rather tattered)
A Hero of France by Alan Furst (the most recent in the Night Soldiers WWII espionage series)
Juliette Gordon Low by Stacy Cordery (because once a Girl Scout...)
My Friend Bill: The Life of a Restless Yankee by Paul Schratter (small press memoir of a Mainer)
and a board book for my niece, Hands are not for hitting.

131avaland
Jul. 15, 7:04am

>130 labfs39: Always nice to pick up some new books....

A drive and all day event to consider someday:

https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/new-hampshire/two-story-bookstore-in-nh-is-like-...

A nice day trip about two hours from you. The town, a small college town, is scenic with a variety of small restaurants. There were three other used bookshops in the vicinity but I don't know if they are still running.

132labfs39
Jul. 15, 7:13am

>131 avaland: Wow, that looks amazing, Lois. Is it near you? Maybe we could do a meet up...

133avaland
Jul. 15, 2:34pm

It's about an hour's drive north, 35 miles (we just went there today (!), came home with at least six books. Had a nice lunch at the pancake house and I stopped in at my favorite quilt shop and did some damage there). If you decide to go there, we would certainly arrange to meet you there. The old guy who runs no#6 told me the other bookshop in town is defunct as its owner passed away last year.

Will let you know about any plans I have to come up your way, I have several visits to the area to schedule.

134SassyLassy
Jul. 16, 8:14am

Wow, I've driven through Henniker a couple of times, and had no idea. I'm sure it will take me a lot longer next time.

135labfs39
Jul. 17, 3:07pm

>134 SassyLassy: So when are we going? :-)

136labfs39
Jul. 18, 9:32am



Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Published 2009, 532 p.

I finished Wolf Hall! Woohoo! I must admit, it was very good and not at all dry or overly difficult. Granted, I would have gotten more out of it if I were more conversant with English history, but I didn't have to Google incessantly in order to follow along. The list of characters and lineage chart at the beginning were very helpful. I had never been interested in Tudor history, but Mantel's depiction kept me fascinated and interested in learning more. I've started watching some mini-documentaries to flesh out some topics/people. I will definitely read the next volume, Bringing Up the Bodies, which I already own.

A few other jumbled thoughts:
-Why is the book called Wolf Hall, when the Seymours are only peripheral in this volume?
-I like how she made Thomas More not entirely evil. Given the things he did, that would be easy to do, but at the end, I felt conflicted, much as Cromwell seemed to feel. I was glad he wasn't eviscerated.
-I was sorry that Anne Cromwell died. I would have liked to see what she became.
-Two of the topics I want to learn more about are the sack of Rome in 1527 and the Münster rebellion.

I'm not going to write a review for this one as there are already 595 reviews in LT.

137RidgewayGirl
Jul. 18, 11:48am

>136 labfs39: I find Tudor England to be one of the least interesting bits of history and I loved Wolf Hall. As for the title, it becomes clearer as the trilogy progresses.

138NanaCC
Jul. 18, 12:05pm

>136 labfs39: One of the things I love about historical fiction, Lisa, is all of the rabbit holes it sends me down looking up the factual information. And I agree with Kay, the Tudor period is extremely interesting.

139stretch
Jul. 18, 12:32pm

>136 labfs39: With everyone liking {Wolf Hall, I really should give it a try. It's just never sure I want to sink so much into a political drama, even if it is the Tudors.

140msf59
Jul. 18, 1:29pm

I love your thoughts on Wolf Hall, Lisa. I am so glad you liked it. I think Bringing Up the Bodies will be an easier read for you. If you can find the the mini-series of this one, do so. It is excellent!!

141labfs39
Jul. 18, 3:22pm

>137 RidgewayGirl: I have the same feelings about the Tudors. Or at least I did. Even though I know what's coming (the big picture), I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

As for Wolf Hall, I know it's the home of the Seymours (and of course, Jane), but in this book it doesn't figure largely, as it will later on.

Hmm. What would I have named this one? The Ice Queen Cometh? Wolsey's Protégé? Who's Sleeping with Henry Tonight?

142labfs39
Jul. 18, 3:27pm

>138 NanaCC: I too love rabbit holes, Colleen, at least when they are entered voluntarily. If I had had to look up every name/place/event, I wouldn't have enjoyed the book.

>139 stretch: I understand completely, Kevin. My thoughts exactly... until I started reading. Mantel had me at the first chapter.

>140 msf59: Mini-series? Ah, PBS is broadcasting the BBC mini-series. I must watch! Thanks for enlightening me, Mark.

143rocketjk
Jul. 19, 11:28am

Just had myself a long catch-up here. Really enjoying the conversations and your reviews, Lisa.

Just a note on >107 labfs39:. Say You're One of Them is a great short-story collection in my opinion, one of my all-time favorites, in fact, but not to be read if you're looking for something light. The title story in particular is quite disturbing.

144labfs39
Jul. 19, 4:35pm

>143 rocketjk: Thanks for the head's up about Say You're One of Them, Jerry. I look forward to reading it, but have a few things in the queue ahead of it.

145labfs39
Jul. 19, 4:38pm

Next Up:



My Friend Bill by Paul Schratter

146avaland
Jul. 21, 5:19am

>145 labfs39: Now where did you pick that book up? (as you are the only Lter with a copy...) Will look forward to your thoughts on it.

147markon
Jul. 21, 1:22pm

Glad you enjoyed Wolf Hall. I tried it several years ago as an audiobook on a road trip, and it put me to sleep. I may someday try it again as a book, but not in the near future.

>143 rocketjk: I agree with Jerry that the stories in Say you're one of them are excellent, and I figure as someone who regularly reads about the Holocaust & World War II you've got the stomach for it.

148labfs39
Jul. 21, 9:46pm

>146 avaland: I sat down with My Friend Bill tonight and had a lovely half hour or so. I'll write my review shortly.

>147 markon: I think Wolf Hall would have been a difficult audiobook for me. First, I needed to flip back to the list of characters and lineage chart frequently, and second, I stopped and googled things occasionally, usually to satisfy curiosity as to the historical accuracy of an event or person. Anticipating a difficult read, I was very pleasantly surprised to get swept up in it.

My interest in Say You're One of Them is definitely piqued now. It's odd. As you say, I read a lot about the Holocaust, war, genocide and my stomach is okay. Ask me to read true crime or books like Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and my wame curdles.

149labfs39
Jul. 21, 10:31pm



My friend Bill: the life of a restless Yankee, William W. Streeter by Paul Schratter
Published 2015, 59 p.

I picked up this little gem of a book at my local library book sale. Being a Yankee myself, I was intrigued by the title, the cover image, and the quality of the design. It's an homage to an interesting character by his equally interesting friend, who was ninety-three when he wrote the book.

Bill Streeter grew up on a "dirt farm" in Cummington, Massachusetts. His childhood was typical New England: canning, maple syrup sugar shack, self-sufficiency, and a stern father. Despite his intelligence and intellectual curiosity, he had trouble in school because he was dyslexic and dropped out when he was fifteen. He joined the army and was stationed in Nuremburg during the Nazi trials, although he was a cook and didn't interact directly with the proceedings.

Because of his varied interests, Bill had a variety of jobs over the years. He had a country store, was an aide for veterans with PTSD, and owned a luggage and leather repair shop. It was this last enterprise that led him to his true passion: bookbinding. He became an expert and restored many valuable original editions and documents, took on apprentices, and co-authored a book called Before Photocopying. He was invited to speak at Harvard on the latter. Bill was also very involved in local affairs and, among other things, was instrumental in founding the Kingman Tavern Museum of History and wrote several books about local history.

The author, Paul Schratter, is interesting in his own right. He was born in Vienna and escaped to America alone at the age of sixteen. His father and other members of the family died in the Holocaust. He served in the army in the tail-end of WWII then studied at the Maryland Institute of Art, Johns Hopkins, and Suffolk University.

My Friend Bill was published by Levellers Press and is a delight to hold. It has high-quality paper, French flaps, and interesting sketches and photos. For such a small book, I received quite a bit of pleasure reading it.

You can learn more by watching "Bill Streeter: Scholar, Historian, Bookbinder" on YouTube.

150labfs39
Jul. 22, 8:42pm

Next Up:



Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

151markon
Jul. 22, 9:07pm

>148 labfs39: "my wame curdles" - what a great expression! Will be interested to hear your take on the stories when you pick them up

152avaland
Jul. 23, 3:42pm

>149 labfs39: Interesting. Sounds like a book my father would love to read (except he died in '84). How lovely his friend kept his memory alive.

153labfs39
Jul. 23, 8:04pm

>151 markon: Don't the Scots have the most wonderful words?

>152 avaland: Actually, the author passed shortly after finishing the book, and Bill lived another two years. But yes, the book is a nice testament to a life well-lived.

154labfs39
Jul. 23, 8:08pm

I'm fifty pages into Bring Up the Bodies and loving it, so far perhaps even more than Wolf Hall. When I started reading, I felt like Mantel's writing was even better, smoother, more accomplished, if such a thing is possible. Another difference I'm noticing is that Crummy seems a little less amiable than he was in the last book. It seems like some of the less pleasant aspects of his character are given more weight.