Chris Cleave’s Little Bee beats Incendiary

 

 

incendiary

I’ve just completed Chris Cleave’s book Incendiary.   I read this one because I had loved his book, Little Bee so much.

Little Bee was an amazing combination of  the unexpected, the unlikely, the really insightful and funny, and then there are a couple of just horrific scenes which never leave your mind after you finish.  I would say that I (pretty much) loved Little Bee.  And Incendiary was almost as satisfying.

Incendiary was, like LB ,  insightful, surprising, very thoughtful and memorable.  I most appreciate Cleave’s ability to describe the attachments we have for one another, and how the pain of loss is  physical, emotional, spiritual, and often permanent.

6a00d83452008269e201156f2f1bf8970c-320wiBut in both books it  bugs me continually that Cleave is writing the thoughts of a woman from his very masculine perspective.  And he doesn’t quite understand how women think or where they find comfort.  He’s writing in both books about women who are trying to recover themselves after unimaginable trauma, and he gets some of it right.  But he wants to sooth their heartache in a very masculine way.  Women don’t automatically solve their emotional issues with sex, as Cleave seems to think.  Women may attempt to  solve our problems with men, but the goal and the point at which we find satisfaction is different.   Still, both books are  worth reading as they are well structured, with compelling story lines and extraordinarily memorable characters.

Incendiary is a good beach read.    Little Bee is fine for vacation reading, but I would not read it anywhere near a beach, at least not the end of the book.

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I think that Little Bee ,  and the book club discussion it launched, have shoved me off in the direction of reading about Africa.  So, the next three books are all about Africa.    First, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s  In the House of the Interpreter,  which is the autobiography of a Kenyan’s experience of the Mau Mau uprising and its aftermath.   Then, Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid:  Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa.  And with a title like that, I don’t need to summarize.

I am also reading Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which was suggested as a good choice by a gentleman who grew up mostly in Nigeria, his father having been s a British colonial judge in Nigeria in the 40’s.    His plug  for  this book was that it gave an accurate view to life in Nigeria as he knew it.   I’m thankful for such a glowing recommendation.

 

Book club tonight

Book club has snuck up on me again.  Tonight we’re talking about Kafka’s The Trial and my own husband is leading the discussion.  By the look of things, he has prepared for this in just the  professorial manner one would expect from him.  I, on the other hand, have not even finished the book.

For those of you who have read about our book club dinners before, I think you’d agree that they are really the envy of book clubs everywhere.  My neighborhood is remarkably dense with gourmet cooks and wine connoisseurs, as well as people who disdain television and read voraciously.  American, French,  English and Canadian  chef/readers, and the conversation is always lively.  Tonight’s menu is “Hungarian with a Jewish twist”.  I am making Hot Hungarian Potato Salad, and there’s a mouth watering array of grilled meats, grilled vegetables, and for dessert, pastries which I cannot go near, but that’s OK.

So, I am not finishing the book right now, as I am using the time to write a blog post.  Poor time management?  Yes, probably.   But I also cannot find a quiet place to read anyplace on the piece of real-estate I call home.
People seem to like to hear about our ongoing hullaballoo, and so I will describe today’s episode here.

David, the oldest, is preparing to begin filming a movie shortly, and so we are in “pre-production” mode here.
Costumes are being drawn, sewn, dyed and (when we’re lucky) acquired from Value Village.  So we’ve spent some of the day realizing they need far more than they thought, and so the scramble for medieval clothing is now at high volume.  My sewing skills are fairly basic, but I can see now that they are about to be ramped up.  Groovy.  We went shopping, hunting, scavenging  and came home with a paltry amount of stuff and low spirits indeed.  On Tuesday, after I take my mom the the airport in Buffalo, I expect I will be hunting in shops down there.  Anybody know of a good medieval costume shop in Buffalo….I should mention this is a low budget film.

So, moving along, we arrived home a little bedraggled, we saw Daniel (who is not quite eight yrs old)  racing down the road with……yes, indeed…..he had a bottle of beer in his hand.  He dashed up to our neighbor Mark’s house.   I was looking around for somebody who might be able to tell me what was going on, when Dan reappeared at the side of the van where he breathlessly broke the magnificent news that he just bought Mark’s old  computer for the paltry sum of one cold beer and a hand tied fishing lure.
Now Daniel is busy upstairs rearranging the furniture in order to create the perfect spot for this gigantic piece of equipment.  This will be our tenth computer, by David’s count.   But the first one we got on a trade for a cold bottle of beer.

Overlapping the costumes and the computer there is Michael in the backyard building and now launching rockets.  This draws quite an ogling crowd, and I find myself calculating the cost of new windows whenever this kind of thing is happening.

And my mom has been here for several weeks, and our visit has been really nice, but I find that this she has been ill for much of her time here, as has become the expected routine.  My neighbor Brigitte’s 80 year old parents were just visiting from France, and her experience was similar to mine.  I so much appreciated her good moral support as we talked about the unexpected changes as we see our parents grow older.  In her delicious French accent she declared “Things are seldom as we might desire or expect.”    We had this chat while rockets were being launched toward her dining room windows.  She was completely unruffled, though her whippet was in a full scale panic.

And then, somebody said something like “Where’s Maggie” which set off an alarmed scramble for the 3yr old.

And here is where I found her.

All alone in Jon’s wood shop with the big loud power tools, she was trying to hammer nails into the headboard of the sleigh-bed Jon’s making.  By the time I had my camera in hand, corrections had been completed and she was on to the next thing, as you see.

Crazy stuff happens when I am not looking, so Kafka will not get finished by me today.    I do love to read Kafka though.  I feel so much at home in his crazy, stream of consciousness world so full of weird and wacky detail.

The Cellist of Sarajevo

The Cellist of Sarajevo is a fictionalized account of real events in Sarajevo during the war in that city in the 1990’s.  During that time, with buildings being bombed daily, and snipers shooting at civilians continually, a cellist with the Sarajevo string quartet  brought his cello into the streets every day for 22 days to play.  He played in memory of 22 individuals whose deaths he had witnessed when  a bomb struck them as they waited in a bread line.  The cellist was Vedran Smailovic.  He didn’t approve of this book or appreciate Galloway’s portrayal of him.  There was some disagreement within the group last night about whether or not the author should have interviewed Smailovic before writing a book in which he was featured.  I say he should have spoken to him, as the reputation of this man is involved.  But, Gallager did not.  Smailovic was not pleased.  Most of the group last night disagreed with me.  I wonder what other peoples’ opinions are on this question.

We generally agreed that we had known very little about Sarajevo and the war that was fought there from 1992 until 1996.  Jon mentioned that it is very thought provoking that this siege  occurred, and was allowed to continue unchecked, in the very city where WWI got started.  How interesting and sad that it was ignored by the rest of the world, and by media such as CNN (who had covered every bit of action in the first Gulf War in 1991, so why not go film Sarajevo?)  It would seem that the US and Europe were so much afraid that Russia’s support of the Serbs in this war might have brought  another world war, and so the conflict was ignored. It is  always difficult when outside forces intrude upon a civil war, and so often problems are made larger.

There was also a good bit of speculation about how things might go in Ontario during the next 25 to 50 years, as ethnic groups fill this area, some of whom hate one another.  Looking at the difficulties brought upon Sarajevo by the presence of ethnic groups who despised one another seems a bit worrying to some in our group as they see people moving to Canada and perhaps bringing with them prejudices from other countries.  It would be lovely to see these prejudices melt away.  Time will tell.

And then there was the meal.    It’s kind of an ironic thing, and very nearly an embarrassment to some of us, that this feast was inspired by our reading of the Cellist of Sarajevo , as the city of Sarajevo was starving to death in the book.
But we will rejoice in the bounty given to us, not forgetting that it is a gift and one to be taken with thanksgiving.
The basis for our menu can be found at  This website which Jon discovered , in case any of you want to have a Balto Croatian feast.  Here’s a little idea of what people made and brought to us.

Proja (or perhaps the one Judy made was Projara) which is a Balkan corn bread,

Ajvar, tasty roasted eggplant and peppers served on top of various kinds of bread,
Burek, super delicious filled filo pastry.
Duvek, a smoked sausage stew with peas potatoes parsley…this was a big hit!  And the biggest surprise in this was that it was made with vegetarian smoked sausage.  Nobody suspected!

We also had roast rabbit (cooked by neighbor David of Christmas goose cook-off fame), Jon did a grilled stuffed lamb with leeks and chestnuts and other nice things.

Also Balkan beer, Balkan wine, and mineral water with a pretentious French name.

There were those who had a bit of Serbian Plum Brandy with dessert, which was a fruit and nut cake, amazing!  Also yogurt with fruit and sweet chestnut sauce.  And the most delicious home-made Turkish delight I have ever tasted.

Long about that time, every one was

becoming uncomfortably stuffed….
Later there was much discussion at our house about how the descendants of the biblical Canaanites have moved all over the globe fulfulling biblical prophecies about them, all through recorded history and up to today.  But that is perhaps a whole different blog post for a whole different day.

Another Book Club Title

[Gathering_071026024950433_wideweb__300x484.jpg]Add another book to the list…….. The next book to be read under the heading of “Bookclub Requirements” will be Anne Enright’s The Gathering.
Anybody outside the Whitevale bookclub interested? It’s to be read by March 21, plenty of time.

It’s a Man Booker award winner. About an Irish family, sounds like a child is lost in the story.

I am now finishing Howard’s End, which is such a delightful book. Of the eleven or so I have finished on my list, it is the one I have enjoyed the very most. Not a grind to get through at any point, just pleasant reading. I have loose ends to tie up with Ulysses and The Iliad, I will read the Odyssey with the kids over the next few weeks, and I am giving up on A House for Mr. Biswas for now, and saving him for some relaxing summer afternoon.
I should mention that Ulysses is being read for a crazy splinter group of our bookclub, and we are taking it so slowly that we don’t expect to finish until June. We want to make T-shirts, and we’re not a very organized splinter group, so we need plenty of lead time to get sizes from everybody, agree on a color, and worst of all….design the logo.