Banned Books Week - September 24 - 30

Thursday, September 13, 2012

BBAW Day Four--Pimp that Book!


I read the books that follow before I started book blogging.  I really loved them and I feel they deserve recognition.

Before she won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011 for A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan wrote a wonderful book called The Keep.  What can only be called a gothic story with a twist, I absolutely loved this book.  If you like Jennifer Egan's writing, or even if you haven't read her yet, you really must read this book.




From National Book Award finalist Jennifer Egan, author of "Look at Me" ("Brilliantly unnerving . . . A haunting, sharp, splendidly articulate novel" --"The New York Times"), a spellbinding work of literary suspense enacted in a chilling psychological landscape--a dazzling tour de force. 
Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank whose devastating consequences changed both their lives, reunite twenty years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe, a castle steeped in blood lore and family pride. Built over a secret system of caves and tunnels, the castle and its violent history invoke and subvert all the elements of a gothic past: twins, a pool, an old baroness, a fearsome tower. In an environment of extreme paranoia, cut off from the outside world, the men reenact the signal event of their youth, with even more catastrophic results. And as the full horror of their predicament unfolds, a prisoner, in jail for an unnamed crime, recounts an unforgettable story--a story about two cousins who unite to renovate a castle--that brings the crimes of the past and present into piercing relation.
Egan's relentlessly gripping page-turner plays with rich forms--ghost story, love story, gothic--and transfixing themes: the undertow of history, the fate of imagination in the cacophony of modern life, the uncanny likeness between communications technology and the supernatural. In a narrative that shifts seamlessly from an ancient European castle to a maximum security prison, Egan conjures a world from which escape is impossible and where the keep--the last stand, the final holdout, the place you run to when the walls are breached--is both everything worth protecting and the very thing that must be surrendered in order to survive.
A novel of fierce intelligence and velocity; a bravura performance from a writer of consummate skill and style.


Long before I had ever heard of Stieg Larsson and his famous Millennium trilogy, there was another Swedish author who knocked me out with her book, Blackwater.  Swedish authors really know their stuff.  This thriller was so astounding and the characters were so real.  I highly recommend this book.



On Midsummer's Eve, 1974, Annie Raft arrives with her daughter Mia in the remote Swedish village of Blackwater to join her lover Dan on a nearby commune. On her journey through the deep forest, she sumbles upon the site of a grisly double murder--a crime that will remain unsolved for nearly twenty years, until the day Annie sees her grown daughter in the arms of one man she glimpsed in the forest that eerie midsummer night.

Like Gorky Park and Smilla's Sense of Snow, Blackwater is a unique trhiller in which the hearts and minds of the characters are as strikingly compelling as the exotic northern landscape that envelops them. 

This one will probably seem obvious, as I'm sure many may have already read it, but for those who haven't, you simply must read Life of Pi by Yann Martel.  Do it now! Before the film comes out.  It is one of the most magnificent books I've ever read.



Life of Pi is a masterful and utterly original novel that is at once the story of a young castaway who faces immeasurable hardships on the high seas, and a meditation on religion, faith, art and life that is as witty as it is profound. Using the threads of all of our best stories, Yann Martel has woven a glorious spiritual adventure that makes us question what it means to be alive, and to believe.

Growing up in Pondicherry, India, Piscine Molitor Patel -- known as Pi -- has a rich life. Bookish by nature, young Pi acquires a broad knowledge of not only the great religious texts but of all literature, and has a great curiosity about how the world works. His family runs the local zoo, and he spends many of his days among goats, hippos, swans, and bears, developing his own theories about the nature of animals and how human nature conforms to it. Pi’s family life is quite happy, even though his brother picks on him and his parents aren’t quite sure how to accept his decision to simultaneously embrace and practise three religions -- Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam.

But despite the lush and nurturing variety of Pi’s world, there are broad political changes afoot in India, and when Pi is sixteen his parents decide that the family needs to escape to a better life. Choosing to move to Canada, they close the zoo, pack their belongings, and board a Japanese cargo ship called the Tsimtsum. Travelling with them are many of their animals, bound for zoos in North America. However, they have only just begun their journey when the ship sinks, taking the dreams of the Patel family down with it. Only Pi survives, cast adrift in a lifeboat with the unlikeliest of travelling companions: a zebra, an orang-utan, a hyena, and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Thus begins Pi Patel’s epic, 227-day voyage across the Pacific, and the powerful story of faith and survival at the heart of Life of Pi. Worn and scared, oscillating between hope and despair, Pi is witness to the playing out of the food chain, quite aware of his new position within it. When only the tiger is left of the seafaring menagerie, Pi realizes that his survival depends on his ability to assert his own will, and sets upon a grand and ordered scheme to keep from being Richard Parker’s next meal.

As the days pass, Pi fights both boredom and terror by throwing himself into the practical details of surviving on the open sea -- catching fish, collecting rain water, protecting himself from the sun -- all the while ensuring that the tiger is also kept alive, and knows that Pi is the key to his survival. The castaways face gruelling pain in their brushes with starvation, illness, and the storms that lash the small boat, but there is also the solace of beauty: the rainbow hues of a dorado’s death-throes, the peaceful eye of a looming whale, the shimmering blues of the ocean’s swells. Hope is fleeting, however, and despite adapting his religious practices to his daily routine, Pi feels the constant, pressing weight of despair. It is during the most hopeless and gruelling days of his voyage that Pi whittles to the core of his beliefs, casts off his own assumptions, and faces his underlying terrors head-on.

As Yann Martel has said in one interview, “The theme of this novel can be summarized in three lines. Life is a story. You can choose your story. And a story with an imaginative overlay is the better story.” And for Martel, the greatest imaginative overlay is religion. “God is a shorthand for anything that is beyond the material -- any greater pattern of meaning.” In Life of Pi, the question of stories, and of what stories to believe, is front and centre from the beginning, when the author tells us how he was led to Pi Patel and to this novel: in an Indian coffee house, a gentleman told him, “I have a story that will make you believe in God.” And as this novel comes to its brilliant conclusion, Pi shows us that the story with the imaginative overlay is also the story that contains the most truth.

If you do happen to pick up one of these books upon my recommendation, I would love it if you would stop by and let me know what you thought. =O)

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6 comments:

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  1. I've been wanting to read The Keep for a while now. I need to get on it.

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  2. I have read the Life of Pi.. the other books sound wonderful.. i love historical fiction as well

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  3. I'm headed to Half Price books soon - which means I'll have money I need to spend before I leave there. Will have to keep these in mind - The Keep, in particular, sounds perfect for this time of year.

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  4. The Life of Pi has been on my TBR list ever since it came out. I must read it soon.

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