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Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Wandering Pine by Per Olov Enquist

(Book received from, and review written for,
My rating:  3/5

This is a drama of Per Olov Enquist's life - at least that is what I have taken it to be.   
Written  using the third person (he) instead of the first person, the narrative commences in 1935, when the author is born, humorously depicting life in a small village in Sweden, so insular  that anyone moving in from a place more than 10km away was considered an immigrant.  Skiing to school is the norm and the protagonist's interests range from football to God and Flash Gordon .  He becomes aware that half of the village are God fearing, and the other half  (the non-believers) can be identified by their playing football on a Sunday.   This part of the author's life is told from a child's viewpoint, with all the confusions and misunderstandings of adults actions that a child's perspective is full of

University follows swiftly and amusingly, including success in sport, and in the 1960's the author explores  politics, ideology and  culture and gets married - the latter covered in a couple of sentences. 
Fears and doubts of writing ability are felt when the author reaches his 30's, at which time he is working on  "The Investigator" about the extradition of Baltic soldiers from Sweden to the USSR, and the reader is given an insight into the extensive research, including considerable personal risk, that went into the writing of this book.  Also the far-reaching, and chilling, outcome from the publication.   

In 1970 PO (as he refers to himself in the book),  and his family, move to West Berlin and experiences the unrest taking place there, as he turns his writing to sport and politics.  The horrors of the Munich Olympic Games follow, before the drama moves to the world of plays and theatre.    Change continues to happen  - sometimes for the good, often for the bad, including a visit to an Icelandic  hell.  The book takes the reader up to the recent past (the book was copyrighted in 2008)
How much of the book is biography and how much is fiction I am in no position to judge - and perhaps that is part of the point of the book.    One thing is that is certain however, is that Per Olov Enquist has had a full and varied life, with much acclaimed success in writing. 

For the traveller, there are few touristic details of the many places visited in this book, including Berlin, Paris and Los Angeles, although much political background is offered.  
I found the first third of this book quietly humorous and charming, and enjoyed  learning about life in a remote Swedish  village.  The book weaves its way through time and countries, with characters that are easy to follow.  The second third I found a little dry, although it contained many interesting observances on major world events over the last 60 years.  The final third was deeply moving.  My enjoyment of this book was certainly hampered by this being the first time I have come across this author and playwright, and perhaps I prefer  a book with a little more insight into personal feelings and emotional insights that this book offers. 

Certainly a fascinating account of the life of a prize winning novelist and playwright.

Monday, 13 April 2015

House of Ashes by Monique Roffey

(Book received from, and review written for,
Novel set in the Caribbean                      My rating:     5/5

Loosely based on the attempted coup d'etat  in Trinidad in 1990, the action in this fast moving story takes place on a fictitious island in the Caribbean.   However, as the author says, the action has much in common with attempted coups in other parts of the world, and (in my opinion) gives an insight into much of the unrest that is taking place all over the world today. 

The story starts as seen through the eyes of Ashes, a quiet studious family man.  Ashes thinks that his religious "Leader" has many of the answers that he is seeking in life, so says "yes" when asked to participate in the coup, not quite understanding what he is agreeing to, but following his charismatic leader.   Then one afternoon Ashes turns up to prayers,  and by the time he leaves his life has changed for  ever. 

As events unfold, not quite as the revolutionaries imagine, the action shifts  to the House of Power - and the narrative moves between Ashes and Mrs Garland, Minister for the Environment, one of the hostages. 

The fears, emotions and doubts experienced by hostages and captors are portrayed expressively, and the action rises and falls according to what is going on inside the House, and what can be observed of the outside through the windows - at one stage Kate Adie is seen, so you know things are bad!   
At the end of the book the story is rounded off well.

I found this a fascinating and gripping book.   The perspective of Mrs Garland (hostage) was very thought provoking, and some of the conversations she has with the revolutionaries made me compare these fictional events to current world affairs.   Her discussions about the realities of government, compared to the version fed to the young gunmen, and her thoughts as to what the future of these young impressionable men should be once the current events have run their course, are very thought provoking.  

Some of the characters appeared so seldom in the book, that I needed, on a few occasions,  to flick back to check who they were, but that may say more about my memory for names than anything else!  The author uses words peculiar to Trinidad in her writing, and it is a pity that these are not translated at the back of the book.  However a quick internet search brings up definitions.   

For me this is a book that I will be thinking about for some time to come, and has certainly given me a new perspective on world events.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali

 (Review written for

A fascinating, and harrowing, insight into the life of girls, and women, in Yemen.
My rating:   5/5
A fascinating, and harrowing, insight into the life of girls, and women, in Yemen. Nujood packs this short book full of detail – including a brief description of the politics and background of the country, which puts her story into context.
This brave girl risked so much to escape from the clutches of her forced marriage, and defy the customs of Yemen. Her story is inspiring.
If you do not know Nujood’s story, I recommend you read her book before looking her up on the internet, so that you can follow the events as they unfold without pre-knowledge.