Sunday, August 25, 2013

Book Review: "The Giver" by Lois Lowry

Before today, I had never read this book. Apparently, it's quite popular on reading lists, but I was never required to read it when I was younger. I think I turned out just fine, however, I'm really glad to have read The Giver as an adult.

I watched an interview with Lois Lowry after finishing the book in one afternoon sitting. In the interview, Lowry discusses the perplexing fact that since the book was published in 1993 it has been listed on the nation's "most challenged" book list. People challenge the book's inclusion in schools and in public libraries. I didn't know this fact while reading the book, but I can understand why this book causes people to feel ill at ease.

The story begins with Jonas facing the prospect of an impending Ceremony in his Community that will set him on his path toward adulthood. The Ceremony will announce what occupation he will be trained for and work at for the duration of his adult life. This decision is based upon years of meticulous observation. During this time of Jonas' introspection, the reader learns that this Community is different. We are led to assume that the story takes place in the future in a society that has been structured to secure peace and safety. In order to secure peace and safety the Community has elected transformation into Sameness.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book Review: "Life After Life" by Kate Atkinson

I just finished reading Kate Atkinson’s novel “Life After Life,” and I thought it was a great book. I read quite often and I was a Lit major in college, but after the years of academic analysis I stopped writing about the stories that I experienced. I write my own stories now, but in thinking about how lonely my blog is with its sparse postings – I have decided to write a bit about what I read. If I were to take this on as a task of critical review I would tire after the first sentence. I am not a critic, just a reader. So here we go.

“Life After Life” follows Ursula Todd through many different versions of the same life. It always starts with her birth, a snowy night on February 11, 1910 (Aquarius! Which I feel is purposely symbolic). Ursula is born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. The story explores all versions of this evening by focusing on multiple character perspectives and the different outcomes all spurned from choices made by each character involved. From there Ursula’s story takes many different paths. In one version of her life she drowns and in another she is saved from the ocean by an artist who was painting her and her sister. In other versions she falls out a window, succumbs to the Spanish Influenza, is raped by one man and later marries an abusive man who kills her – all because she makes a single decision. And with every new life she makes a different decision somehow haunted by premonitions and intuitive urges that steer her in a different direction.