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julieb43 has commented on (46) products.

Old Filth by Jane Gardam
Old Filth

julieb43, March 6, 2015

Old Edward Feathers can be difficult to like at times. He calls his housekeeper 'Mrs. Er,' continually forgetting her name although she's worked for him a number of years. He takes both she and his gardener, who are quite devoted to him, rather for granted even going so far as 'firing' them when he thinks he can live alone.

But he is getting on in years, almost 90, and has lost his wife of many years. He is often as disagreeable as he is sympathetic. He doesn't seem to want to admit that he's old and should be more careful. He does risky things despite his employees' best intentions to protect him. But Edward (or Old Filth) is beset by repressed childhood memories that begin surfacing after his wife dies and their routine safe existence is shattered.

Gardam has created memorable full-bodied characters and a realistic story of aging, memory, and acceptance. The story weaves in and out of the past, much as Feathers' memory, until all the pieces come together.

It's good to know that there are two other novels in this trilogy that will explore more of Edward's past.
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The Disappeared by Kim Echlin
The Disappeared

julieb43, October 21, 2014

The power and beauty of the prose render this novel one of the best I've read in a long time. Its subject is devastating, that of the Cambodian genocide during the Khmer Rouge years and afterward. Echlin weaves the love story of the two main characters, the 16-year-old Anne and the young Cambodian exile Serey, against this brutality. Their story spans a decade, beginning in Montreal then moving to Cambodia and back again to Canada.

Echlin writes in a lyrical way, with the novel at times feeling like a long prose poem. The sights and sounds of Cambodia come alive, placing the reader at the heart of the action. It's a heartbreaking story of love and determination against all odds.
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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

julieb43, September 28, 2014

Although the subject matter is grim (the Chechen war), the author weaves the story with such beauty and magic that the reader cannot help but smile through the tears.

Each character is fully drawn, giving us a sense of his hopes, fears, and way of life. Horrors abound throughout the story, but somehow shreds of dignity and love prevail amongst the characters.

The only small drawback for me was the circling back and forth to tell the story--it can get confusing at times because of the large cast of characters. The strength of the writing, however, as well as the powerful story itself kept me reading.
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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

julieb43, June 23, 2014

The novel is well-written and engaging but the protagonist's blogs about race in America start to wear a bit thin, as do the lengthy scenes regarding the protagonist's hair braiding. It seems like the premise for the blogs is the author's platform for her own opinions. Many of the secondary characters sit around and talk about race issues. It's interesting for a while but tends to drag on. I did like the scenes surrounding Obama's run for the presidency.

I liked the main characters, Ifemelu and Obinze, and enjoyed the first part of the novel when they meet in high school and become sweethearts. I think the novel could have been pared down, though. It seemed somewhat bloated, and toward the end read like a soap opera--will the separated young lovers reunite after a long absence...

The novel is positive since it provokes discussion about race, class, immigration. It just needed to be better edited.
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(1 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)

An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel
An Experiment in Love

julieb43, March 21, 2014

This is a slim novel, but it packs quite a punch. There are various issues simmering below the surface of this tale about female students at a London college in the late 1960s/early 1970s.

Hilary Mantel's writing is brilliant, full of sharp witty observances. The characters are not easily likable, but they are fascinating. The novel focuses mainly on class and gender issues. One of the characters is anorexic; several have abortions. The girls' lives are not easy whether they come from impoverished backgrounds or wealthy ones.

This is not a fast-paced story, but one full of psychological details and dark witticisms.
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