Saturday, March 13, 2021

Best British Short Stories 2018 Edited by Nicholas Royle

Nicholas Royle, editor of Best British Short Stories 2018 put forth twenty short stories by authors with a variety of styles and interests that surface in each of these stories.  It takes the reader to a variety of places within Britain and abroad that gives a British perspective in each of these stories. 

These stories depict the trials and tribulations of human life--some of which are adventurous while others are morbid and depressing. The reader is taken on a journey of exploring each author's style of writing as it relates to the themes of each story.  Some of the themes include tragedy, mystery, family drama, and betrayal.

Best British Short Stories 2018 is an eclectic story collection that gives the reader pause to reflect on life's twists and turns.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick - Fiction

The author, Phaedra Patrick, of The Library of Lost and Found creates a cast of characters living in a coastal village of England. Everyone knows everyone and are intertwined into each other's lives.  

Patrick captures the nuances of family life that highlights the unusual nature of these family members. The main character, Martha Storm, stumbles into a book of stories that she remembers writing with her grandmother who died a long time ago. 

Thus begins a new journey for Martha as she tries to unravel the discrepancies that surround her grandmother's death. During this process she becomes independent and develops her own way of living without constantly pleasing everyone she is close to. She speaks her mind and challenges those who question her much to the chagrin of her family members. 

It is a riveting tale with favourable and unfavourable surprises that Martha confronts as she develops this new sense of freedom by thinking and acting according to her wishes and desires. 

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick is a very interesting story that has many bizarre situations; some appear unrealistic, but Patrick makes it real for this family. 

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm - Non-fiction

Erich Fromm, author of The Art of Loving discusses the meaning of love in a non-traditional manner.  He rejects the notion of "falling in love" as it is not a true sense of being in love. The genuine art of loving needs to be separated from the emotional effect of being in love. Fromm delves deeper into the process of loving. It is a skill that needs to be learned and developed in its many forms and over a period of time.  

The author illustrates the importance of loving oneself before one can love another. It is a process of knowing, caring, respecting and taking responsibility for oneself. Only once there is self-love can one project genuine love to another; be it to a neighbour, sibling, parent or another individual.  He promotes loving all mankind to obtain that higher level of true love. 

The title encapsulates the theme of Fromm's take on being in love. It is an art form that needs to be cultivated through discipline, concentration and patience in all aspects of life. 

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm is an extraordinary enlightenment on the topic of love. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Saturday by Ian McEvan - Fiction

Saturday by Ian McEwan is a thrilling story that spans a full winter Saturday in the heart of London, England. The main character, Henry Perowne, is not only a distinguished neurosurgeon but is happily married to a successful newspaper lawyer, with two children who are now adults, moving in and out of their lives as these children explore their future lifestyles. There is happiness and contentment in this family life. 

The author weaves in and out of various characters as they impact the lives of the Perownes. On this Saturday morning the main character encounters a very unpleasant interaction while he was driving through the streets of London avoiding the marching protesters decrying the imminent Iraq war involvement. The story unravels as this one incident becomes a constant thorn on the sides of the Perowne family.  Eventually, Henry Perowne is struggling to save his family from being critically harmed by this one interaction on that Saturday morning. 

It is a story that keeps the reader captivated as each scene is vividly described bringing in anxiety and wonder of what will come next. The main character tends to reflect and analyze the various situations he encounters and appears to be accepting of what transpires during this day. It is an unusual story with well-researched information on neurosurgery with gory details of a brain operation that is translated to easily digestible data for an average reader. These sections bring authenticity to the novel.

Saturday by Ian McEwan is a gripping read with many twists and turns throughout the novel and concludes with unexpected outcomes. 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner - Fiction

My personal comments follow this review sourced from the website of Kirkus Reviews

In which the author scrupulously investigates his upper-middle-class upbringing to confront its messy interior of violence, betrayal, and mental illness.

Adam, the center and occasional narrator of Lerner’s (The Hatred of Poetry, 2016, etc.) essayistic and engrossing novel, enjoyed a privileged adolescence in the Kansas capital during the 1990s: He competed nationally in debate, had plenty of friends, and was close to his parents, two psychologists at an illustrious foundation. (Lerner is again in autofiction mode; he, too, competed in high school debate, and his parents are psychologists who’ve worked at Topeka’s Menninger Clinic.) But all is not well: Fred Phelps’ homophobic Westboro Baptist Church recurs in the narrative, a childhood concussion has left Adam with migraines, and his parents’ marriage is strained. 

Lerner alternates sections written from the perspectives of Adam, his mother, and his father with interludes about Darren, a mentally troubled teen who committed an act of violence at a party that Adam feels complicit in. How much? Hard to say, but the book sensitively gathers up the evidence of abuse, violation, and cruelty in Adam’s life. Though the conflicts are often modest, like Adam's mom’s fending off Phelps-ian trolls angry at her bestselling book, Lerner convincingly argues they're worth intense scrutiny. 

As a debate competitor, Adam had to confront a "spread"—an opponent's laying out a fearsome number of arguments, each requiring rebuttals—and Lerner is doing much the same with his adolescence. How do childhood microaggressions build into a singular violent act? Were the rhetorical debates between the Phelpses and the foundation a rehearsal for contemporary Trumpian politics? Few writers are so deeply engaged as Lerner in how our interior selves are shaped by memory and consequence, and if he finds no clear conclusion to his explorations, it makes the “Darren Eberheart situation” increasingly powerful and heartbreaking as the story moves on.

Autofiction at its smartest and most effective: self-interested, self-interrogating, but never self-involved.

My Personal Comments: As I read through this novel I became captivated by the nuances of a family embroiled in struggles with great achievements on the debating stage. I was intrigued by the poignant family dynamics that creates an agonizing reality of their lives.  Ben Lerner's Topeka School is an excellent read. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Walls: Travels Along the Barricades by Marcello Di Cintio - Non-fiction

In Walls: Along the Barricades, Marcello Di Cintio writes a gripping narrative about the people who live near barricades of some sort; wire fences, steel walls, and concrete blocks. These people are escaping war, seeking a better lifestyle or are shut out of their original places of birth.

The author travels to different parts of the world that include Belfast, Cyprus, U.S.-Mexico border, Palestine and even Montreal in Canada. His quest is to understand the rationale for building these walls. From the many conversations with these refugees, he discovers their plight of being stuck in camps near the walls with continued efforts to cross over or around the barricade to get on the other side for a better life.

No matter where the wall is erected, it is not a solution. Instead it generates hate, fear, feelings of separation and division. As a result it becomes more of a problem that is fortified in grief and loss of dignity for the refugees. As Di Cintio takes the reader into these areas it becomes evident that the author portrays a hopeless situation with no solution. 

Walls: Along the Barricades by Marcello Di Cintio is very interesting to absorb as it leaves the reader with many questions and thoughts to ponder about.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Opening Heaven's Door by Patricia Pearson - Non-Fiction

In Opening Heaven's Door, the author, Patricia Pearson takes the reader through a well-researched topic relating to the end of life and beyond. Pearson describes incidents that illustrate the immediate sensations witnessed by the living after the death of a loved one. She outlines personal anecdotes of her experiences of the death of her father and sister along with other narratives she captured from her research on this topic. These reminiscences are brilliantly linked to the research captured from the scientific professionals in this field. 

The author portrays a good balance between the current research that is linked to the narratives she has gathered for this project. It is authentic and gives credence to the experiences of the dying, immediately after death and during the grieving process. Pearson attempts to answer the long asked questions on this topic. Also, she includes stories from those who experienced death only to return to life as changed persons. 

Ultimately there are no definitive answers except experiences that vary from individual to individual. It is very interesting to read through the research that leaves the reader more informed and yet left with further questions with the possibility of accepting the research as part of life's experiences. 

Opening Heaven's Door by Patricia Pearson keeps the reader engrossed with a constant need to read continuously to the end.  It is a well-documented project that captures authenticity.