Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See

I enjoyed this book.  It's been on my TBR for a long time and I found it recently in the used book store.

It's the story of two girls in China in the 1800's who become laotong or life time friends.  They share a secret woman's language that they use to record messages between one another on a fan.

Lily tells the story of their becoming laotong and how their lives unfold from the time their feet are bound to make them attractive for marriage through their lives as daughters, wives and mothers.

Early in the book, Lily who tells the story says:

"I am still learning about love, I though I understood it - not just mother love but the love for one's parent, for one's husband for one's laotong.  I've experienced the other types of love - pity love, respectful love, and gratitude love.  ...I see that I didn't value the most important love - deep-heart love."

It's a book of regret and sorrow and misunderstanding that leads to tragedy. Along the way I learned about Chinese women of the period and the customs of the culture.  A good read.

For Wondrous Words Wednesdays I found this strange one in this story:

Enfeoffment - a granting of land to a person and his descendants in return for pledging to protect the Emperor.   "He received much land from the emperor as an enfeoffment..."

Published:  2005  Read: January 2015  Genre: Fiction

ISBN: 0-8129-6806-9

The Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This was a painful story of a young woman, Victoria Jones, who grew up in foster homes and as an adult cannot love except for the flowers she cares for.  I thought the character was very real and it gave me a perspective on foster children that I had never thought about.  At times it was painful to read how she rejected those who tried to love her and were concerned for her.  I think there is a little of her in all of us who protect ourselves from being loved because of our past experiences.

The story is told in two parts, flashing back to Victoria's childhood and the present where she works in a flower shop.  The back and forth was annoying and didn't blend well and could have easily been two separate books.  It seems to be a popular writing style recently that I dislike.

I enjoyed learning the meaning of different flowers and the dictionary in the end made a nice package of the book for someone buying it.

In the end, I was touched by this character and ached for her.

Published: 2012  Read: January 2015  Genre: Fiction

  • ISBN: 978-0345525550

A Widow for One Year - John Irving

I picked up a couple of authors whose names I recognized this month.  John Irving has been off my list since his A Prayer for Owen Meaney.  I didn't like it and haven't read anything of his since.

This was an early novel of his that tells the story of Ruth in three parts; the first when she is a four year old child in the middle of her parents messy life and divorce; the second when she is a renowned author researching the work of prostitutes in Amsterdam and finally as a widow with a small child.

Almost all the characters in the book are writers or work with writers.  Ruth's father is a children's author without the need to work because of the success of his books.  Her "nanny" Eddie who has an affair with her mother writes the rest of his life about the relationship.  Her husband is her publisher.

It was a compelling read in that I wanted to see what happened but in the end just another weird story without a meaningful message for me.

Published: 2003 (originally 1998)  Read: January 2015  Genre: Fiction

ISBN: 0-8129-6857-3

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Just Like Someone with Mental Illness Only More So - Mark Vonnegut, MD

I'd added this to my TB list some time ago when I'd read or heard a brief review.  It was definitely worth reading.  The author is the son of Kurt Vonnegut.  More importantly, to him, is that he also experience "episodes" in his late teens and again in his early 30's of schizophrenic and biplor mania.  His story tells how he crafted a successful career as a Harvard-educated pediatrican despite his illness and parentage.  I thought it was honest and upbeat and matter-of-fact, a refreshing view of living with a mental illness.

Published:  2010  Read: January 2015  Genre: Memoir

ISBN: 978-0-385-343379-4

Nothing to Declare - Mary Morris

Subtitle: Memoirs of a woman traveling alone

This was a paperback I picked up at Half-Priced Books when I traded in some other my DH and I had finished.  it was published in 1988 so its a bit dated.  The author travelled through Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras though in actuality she spent the majority of the story in a little town in Mexico called San Miguel de Allende.  She talks of the urge to move on and weaves her memories of growing up and her dreams into a recounting of her travels.  It's a bit spacey and a lot of "and then I did this..." writing but I might seek out one of her newer novels.

Published:  1988  Read: January 2015  Genre: Non-fiction, travel

ISBN: 0-312-19941-4