Sunday, 30 June 2013

thirty-one.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927)


 The Ramsays are spending the summer at their Scottish summer house with a few friends. From their house they have the view of a lighthouse and the children, and especially James, want to visit it. But Mr Ramsay says that the weather won't be suitable, which brings tension to the house.

The novel suddenly shifts, both in style and theme. The Ramsays have abandoned their summer house and the house is in decay. The most interesting thing is the deaths of some of the children, which is just mentioned in brackets, while the decay of the house is the main focus. And then there's another shift, 10 years on and the remaining family members and friends return. But will they get to the lighthouse this time?

Virginia Woolf is a master of the streams-of-consciousness style. I have a hard time following the narrator's train of thought. Last year I read Mrs Dalloway which I found really hard and I feared that To the Lighthouse would be just as hard. Luckily, it was easier to read, but there were parts, and especially in the beginning where I had no idea what I just read. But other parts were really well-written and I really enjoyed those sentences. 

This was June's read in Line's 1001 books challenge





Friday, 21 June 2013

thirty.

the Twins by Tessa de Loo (1993)

 Anna and Lotte are twins born in 1916 in Cologne. After their parents die, at the age of 6, they are separated and Lotte grows up in the Netherlands, while Anna stays in Germany. They don't see each other again, except on two brief occasions, once during the war and once after, until they suddenly meet each other at a peat bath in Spa, Belgium, 70 years later. 

The meeting brings up painful memories for both sisters, and they tell each other stories, mainly from when they got separated and until World War II ended. It is easy to see that the sisters hold a grudge against one other, and that the war has made them enemies.

This is one of those stories which suck you right in and keep you there. I loved it from the beginning to the end, and it is such a fascinating read. I really like how the war is the background, and how Anna and Lotte blame each other sides for letting Hitler carry on. The history of Anna was the one which I found most interesting as I haven't read much of ordinary life in war-time Germany before. 

A definite must-read if you're interested in European history or just want a really good story. I have put the film version (and another book by Tessa) on my wish list. 

Friday, 7 June 2013

twenty-nine.

the Sisterhood by Helen Bryan (2012)

Menina Walker was the miracle in a terrible storm in a South-American country when she was found alone in a fishing vessel with a medal around her neck and an ancient book. She was adopted by American parents and had a nice upbringing. Now, at nineteen, she is going to Madrid to research a medieval artist, but bad weather and a stolen purse eventually leads her to a remote convent. Bored out of her mind, she tries to make sense of the convent's numerous paintings and starts reading the ancient book which has always been with her. And unveils a remarkable story about the convent and its secret gospel.

The same old story, just a new setting. Which means that it is predictable and I was right in all my guesses how it would turn out. Luckily, the setting, with the Spanish Inquisition and the Sisterhood, was to my tastes, otherwise I'd give up pretty soon as the plot and language in the beginning when you get to know Menina are terrible. 

It is definitely the historical context which saves this book. I have made notes to learn more about the Spanish Inquisition, both in Spain and South-America, about the Spanish settlers in South-America and the Incas. And it irks me that there is no Wikipedia page about the book, or author, yet as I'd like to know whether the convent and the Sisterhood are based on historical facts or entirely made up.

If you like the genre, you'll enjoy it. And I have a feeling that this will be one of the summer's must reads for many women.