Saturday, January 31, 2009
Jonathan Stroud. The Amulet of Samarkand
Date read: 1/30/2009
Rating: 3*/5 = good
I enjoyed this fantasy featuring the djinii Bartimaeus. I liked his footnote asides and his trying to fulfill his missions without getting caught. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Golem's Eye.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
In his sixty-seventh year, Trond Sander purchases a house in the Norwegian countryside and seeks the solitude and silence for which he longs.
All my life I have longed to be alone in a place like this. Even when everything was going well, as it often did. I can say that much. That it often did. I have been lucky. But even then, for instance in the middle of an embrace and someone whispering words in my ear I wanted to hear, I could suddenly get a longing to be in a place where there was only silence. - from Out Stealing Horses, page 5 -
Trond’s only company is a dog named Lyra and an older man who lives in a cabin near the river not too far from Trond’s home. There in the desolate and beautiful wilderness and as he gets to know his neighbor, Trond begins to remember the summer of 1948 when he was fifteen years old and on the cusp of becoming a man. It is these memories which drive the novel forward - a slow unraveling of one fateful summer where everything changed. As Trond reveals the multiple layers of his past, he comes to grips with his present and begins to gain an understanding of the man he has become.
Out Stealing Horses is in part about a boy’s relationship with his father which is both touching and compelling. Trond’s father is a complex man with a mysterious past - a man who worked for the Norwegian underground during the Nazi occupation, and who has formed connections which the young Trond is just beginning to understand.
Of course I had my father, but it was not the same. He was a grown man with a secret life behind the one that I knew about, and maybe even one behind that, and I no longer knew I could trust him. - from Out Stealing Horses, page 174 -
Petterson seamlessly moves between the past and present, gradually revealing each character and putting together the pieces of Trond’s life. This is a novel rich with emotion, one that explores pain, betrayal, identity, and loss. The language of the novel is evocative, simple and luminous.
I was mesmerized by this book. Seemingly a simple tale, it later reveals itself to be a complex study of grief and loss. This is not a book to be read quickly, but one which should be savored.
King Christian IV was the King of both Denmark and Norway from 1588 until his death in 1648. Known as a reformer, King Christian IV implemented a series of domestic reforms, built new fortresses, and initiated a policy of overseas trade during his nearly 60 years as Monarch. The year 1629 ushered in a period of financial distress, and domestic unhappiness when the King discovered his second wife - Kirsten Munk - was sustaining an extramarital affair with a German officer. King Christian IV ultimately expelled Kirsten from Copenhagen to live out her days in Jutland - the western, continental part of Denmark which separates the North Sea from the Kattegat and Baltic Sea.
It is this part of King Christian IV’s reign (1629 - 1630) which serves as the backdrop to Rose Tremain’s Whitbread/Costa Award winning novel Music and Silence. This lush story is told from multiple points of view. The manipulative and seductive Kirsten Munk is introduced through her journal entries.
Well, for my thirtieth birthday I have been given a new Looking glass which I thought I would adore. I thought I would dote upon this new Glass of mine. But there is an error in it, an undoubted fault in its silvering, so that the wicked object makes me look fat. I have sent for a hammer. -From Music and Silence, page 7-
Her self-centered musings create a character who is perhaps one of the most intriguing villains in literature…one who is blackly humorous, yet ultimately sad.
The reader also meets Peter Claire - an English lutenist who arrives in Denmark to become part of the royal orchestra - only to become smitten with Kirsten’s female companion Emilia. Throughout the narrative, Tremain intersperses the life of the King in his youth (and his friendship with Bror Brorson which haunts him), with his dreams, turmoils and fears of adulthood.
In Tremain’s competent hands, this historical novel becomes a symphony of romantic twists and turns, and a saga which encompasses all the excesses and political intrigue of royal life in seventeenth century Europe. Tremain explores such complex themes as order vs. chaos, love vs. hate, dreams vs. reality, and betrayal vs. loyalty - all through the metaphor of music and silence. The novel’s thematic elements are connected beautifully to setting, as when King Christian journeys to Norway to spearhead the development of a silver mine during the harsh winter months. He gazes at a waterfall - the Isfoss - which has frozen solid, and imagines the tiny crystals of ice forming in the roaring water.
They acquire thickness, length and weight. The water is transparent clay, moulding them, layer upon layer, and as the layers accumulate, the roar of the river has become muffled. The human ear has to strain to hear it. And then, in the space of a single night, it falls silent. -From Music and Silence, page 107-
It is the beauty of these kinds of images which transform Tremain’s novel from an historical piece of fiction into an extraordinary work of literature. Music and Silence is exceptionally wrought - a delicious tale which I highly recommend.
UPDATE: JANUARY 6, 2009 - CHALLENGE COMPLETED!
Many thanks to Ariel for hosting this fun challenge. I ended up reading a total of 9 books from 6 different authors. By far, my favorite authors from this challenge are Per Petterson, Kate Grenville, Rose Tremain, and Daphne du Maurier…all authors I will visit again in my reading!
Here are the authors I read:
- Per Petterson (COMPLETED Out Stealing Horses January 6, 2009; rated 5/5; read my review)
- Pat Barker (COMPLETED the WWI Trilogy consisting of Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road - December 25, 2008. Click on the titles to read my reviews and see my ratings)
- Kate Grenville (COMPLETED The Secret River October 13, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
- Rose Tremain (COMPLETED The Colour August 25, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review; COMPLETED Music and Silence October 10, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
- Daphne Du Maurier (COMPLETED Rebecca November 7, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
- Alice Munro (COMPLETED The View From Castle Rock September 26, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)