Book wire

Book review
The Mirror Magazine takes a look at some interesting reads for the weekend

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (fiction)

Leaving personal tragedy behind, Whit O’ Conner abandons his life as a lawyer for another as the monk Brother Thomas in a Benedictine monastery. This monastery on Egret Island houses a beautiful relic – a chair ornately carved with mermaids and dedicated to a saint, who before she converted to Christianity, was a mermaid. Or so the legend says.

Both the chair and Brother Thomas exert a profound fascination over Jessie, who is summoned home in the aftermath of her mother’s seemingly inexplicable act of violence. With a feeling of near relief, Jessie abandons her staid life as a mother and wife, a life “moulded to the smallest space possible,” to dive headfirst into a personal renaissance.

As Jessie finds herself falling in love with the Thomas, both of them must weigh the sacrifice each must make to be with the other. Jessie must face Hugh, her devoted husband of many years, while doubting Brother Thomas is mere months away from his final vows.

As in her first novel ‘The Secret Lives of Bees,’ the author imagines a cast of eccentric, wise, and wildly unforgettable women. Against the backdrop of the marshlands, of secluded tidal creeks and skies filled with majestic egrets, Jessie herself must struggle with impetus desire and her need for restraint. But her biggest struggle is not over which man to love but how to love herself. And somewhere, close to the heart of things, lies the mermaid chair itself.

What transpires now will unlock the secret behind her mother’s torment and Jessie’s deepest loss. Vividly imagined, ‘The Mermaid Chair’ braids together the lives of mermaids and monks, of sinner and saints, brilliantly illuminating the conflict between the passions of the spirit and the ecstasies of the body, and the awakening of a woman to her innermost self.

Still Life by Melissa Milgrom (non-fiction)

With the exception of those dedicated hunters who crave trophies to mount on their walls, a stuffed animal is for most of us, a thing of beady glass eyes and frozen limbs. But for author Melissa Milgrom, each furry statue has a tale to tell. In ‘Still Life’ she writes about the men and women who, like Norman Bates, love nothing better than to gut and stuff things. Here she dutifully follows the development of the art of taxidermy from its halcyon days in the 19th-century where a natural history boom meant specimens were in great demand to its utter fall from grace, where it’s modern practitioners are more likely to inspire revulsion than respect.

With great thoroughness, ‘Still Life’ introduces you to the art, revealing everything you ever wanted to know and on occasion more than you care to know about erosion-moulded rats and replacement lips, ears, and eyelids. Still, it’s the men (and occasionally, women) with iron stomachs and steady hands that that practice the art of skinned carcasses and stretched hides--those who wield “the calipers and the brain spoons” - that Milgrom’s is most fascinated by.

Beginning as a wide-eyed visitor to a third-generation stuff shop, she moves through an underworld of auctions, artisans, scientists, and the ultra competitive (albeit insular) World Taxidermy Championships, ultimately trying a queasy hand at squirrel-stuffing herself.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (fiction)

Death is the narrator of Liesel Meminger’s extraordinary story. Her tale is woven into the great cataclysm of World War II. We meet her first, at the tender age of 9, when she is taken to live in Molching, Germany. Her foster family is working class, and her new neighbourhood is populated by rough, street smart children, sarcastic mothers, and men who must labour to feed their families.

Liesel is the book thief of the title, and she arrives in Molching clutching the loot of her first act of thievery. ‘The Gravediggers Handbook’ is her prized possession. Not least because her foster father uses it to lull her into sleep when she struggles with the terrible nightmares in which she relives her younger brother’s death.

As the late 1930s, the 1940s unfold, Liesel continues to collects more stolen books and adds to her circle of acquaintances and friends, many of whom are as peculiar in their own ways as she is: Rudy is a young boy, Max a Jewish refugee, then there’s the mayors reclusive wife (who opens up her own library from which she then allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents.

Zusak, who collected a whole host of awards for this novel, has created a novel that is as original as it is mesmerizing. His experiments with style lead him to poetic syntax, a technique that has the reader deliberating over a turn of phrase or choice of word, even as the steady unwinding of the plot impels them onwards. As you might expect, Death is not prone to sentimentality, but with from his omnipresent perspective can produce many intimate details, allowing the reader to explore the man turns of fate, the mingling of chance, folly and fulfilled expectation that make up Liesel’s story.

Palestine by Joe Sacco (Graphic Novel)

Joe Sacco has often been dubbed the first comic book journalist on the basis of his seminal graphic novel ‘Palestine.’ The novel is based on several months of research and a lengthy visit to the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the early 1990s. There the author lived the life of a local, conducting over a 100 interviews with both Palestinians and Jews. The result was hailed as a major comic work of political and historical nonfiction.

Sacco claim to journalism lies in his insightful reportage from the front lines of a lengthy and bitter war. Busy marketplaces are reduced to chaos by shootings and tear gas, soldiers beat civilians with reckless abandon and impunity, and journalists often find themselves on the wrong side of a roadblock. Sacco encounters and interviews with prisoners, refugees, protesters, wounded children, farmers who had lost their land, and families who had been torn apart by the Palestinian conflict provide a very human picture of a terrible conflict.

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen (biography)

What kind of person would write Little Women? ‘Louisa May Alcott’ tells the story of a writer whose personal life was as engrossing as that of her most beloved character. Like Jo March, Alcott lived a somewhat tumultuous life, marked by courage and willingness to step beyond the dictates of convention. Harriet Reisen creates a compelling portrait of the author, chronicling the effect of her father’s self-indulgent utopian schemes and her family’s struggles with poverty and displacement.

It also tells of Alcott’s loss of her health and her addiction to opiates, her only relief from migraines, insomnia, and symptomatic pain. Woven together out of the pages of Alcott’s journals; her equally rich letters to family, friends, publishers, and admiring fans; and the correspondence, journals, and recollections of her family, friends, and famous contemporaries, the book provides a lively account of the author’s classic rags-to-riches tale.

Thanks to the success of her novels, Alcott would become the equivalent of a multimillionaire in her lifetime, surpassing in wealth and renown the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Henry James. This biography explores Alcott’s life in the context of her works, all of which are to some extent autobiographical. Alcott herself is the best of surprises: she secretly authored pulp fiction, harboured radical abolitionist views, and devoted herself to heroic service as a nurse in the Civil War. ‘Louisa May Alcott’ is in the end also the story of how the classic tale of the March family came to be.

Top to the page  |  E-mail  |  views[1]
SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Other Magazine Articles
Rassagala: Scenic beauty that prompted a hike
Making waves in the ocean
The songs they sang
It’s showtime with the Revelations Academy
Shadow puppetry across three continents
Spice up your plants
magazine -- Cover of the week
Mirror Magazine Articles
Debate and dialogue
Inspiring to achieve
Setting the stage stable
The journey of growing old
Book wire
Boogie down to the flashback sounds
Free cloud storage in the sky
Under the Sea
Things I wish I knew back then
In a different league
Night of a thousand stars
‘Strange Tales’ at the Punchi Theatre
TV Times Articles
Bonjour Cinema at BCIS
A real woman and a real triumph
Wing with King Khan
A Hunt for a husband
Teacher-pupil brings Kathak dance
‘Gladiator Premaya’ at Punchi Theatre
Taste of India at Amrith
‘Elephant Reach’ celebrates four years of success
Go Indian at Galadari
New Website for Harpo’s Café & Restaurants
Soul Funk Sunday @ Park Sreet Mews
Jazz at Dusk at Cinnamon Lakeside


Reproduction of articles permitted when used without any alterations to contents and a link to the source page.
© Copyright 2010 | Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka. All Rights Reserved.| Site best viewed in IE ver 6.0 @ 1024 x 768 resolution