Friday, June 5, 2015

May Reading


At Book Club I was reminded of Ann Cleeves and have been on a binge. I first discovered Cleeves via the television detectives series about Vera Stanhope. Loved the series, and discovered I love the books too - although, as always, there annoying changes to the stories for no apparent reason. Cleeves has several detectives that she has written about and they are all good, although I think I like the Vera books best - possibly because she is a woman not too far from my age. So without reviewing each one, these are what I've been reading:
Hidden Depths (Vera Stanhope)
The Healers (Stephen Ramsay)
The Baby Snatcher (Stephen Ramsay)
Red Bones (Jimmy Perez)
Blue Lightning (Jimmy Perez)


Bloodhound: Searching for my father by Ramona Koval
Ramona Koval is an Australian broadcaster, writer and journalist, and I bought this book after hearing her being interviewed on Nine To Noon on National Radio. Her parents were Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland who had settled in Melbourne a few years after the end of World War 2. But their relationship was an uneasy one. Some years after her mother's early death in her late 40s, Ramona began following up the clues that her parentage wasn't as straightforward as it seemed. The book is a lovely mix of her hunt for information about her parents, along with stories of her own life and many others. It also contains a lot of introspection and self-examination in a real way without being ponderous. I  have been disappointed in the past, when reading a book after hearing the author speak - this was not one of those times. I thoroughly enjoyed it even as it challenged my white, middle-class, colonial privilege.

The Wisdom Seeker: Finding the Seed of Advantage in the Khmer Rouge by Pisey Leng as told to Jennifer Colford
This is the story of a woman whose life was turned upside down when she was seven. She was the daughter of well to do people living in Phnom Penh when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. They - in fact virtually all of the people of Phnom Penh - were driven out of the city, with no time to gather more than a few belongings. Her story of their treatment at the hands of the Khmer Rouge is harrowing. She had an amazingly strong mother who got them through these years (although her father died), through the subsequent 'liberation' by the Vietnamese, and then through their time in a refuge camp in Thailand. By the time they were in Thailand she was growing up and she took advantage of every opportunity to gain education, including learning some English. The last part of the book is way too full of positive thinking, 'The Secret' type of thinking, and 'putting it out there to the universe, but as that seems to have been what got her through in her new country, then all power to her. And her new country? Well, as well as working as an anesthetist technician in Hamilton, New Zealand, she owns the bakery / takeaway shop in Raglan, ten minutes away form my home. Which makes her story all so much more real to me - 'brings it home to me' in more way than one.
The book is not particularly well written, but the story is mesmerizing, and well worth reading.

Our World text by Mary Oliver, photographs by Molly Malone Cook
I didn't discover Mary Oliver's poetry until the last ten years, but she's been published for decades. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and is one of the most celebrated poets in America. Her life partner, Molly Malone Cook, was an early advocate of photography as an art form. The book is a quiet celebration of Molly's life and of their life together. It is beautifully presented: the phographgs are amazing, and, as always, Mary's words reach instantly into my heart. Mary writes about how Molly taught her to see with an artist's eye, which goes part of the way toward explaining her poetry which is so filled with careful observation and detail. I love this book. If you want to read it, you'll have to get it elsewhere - I'm not lending this book out to anyone!

Swan: poems and prose poems by Mary Oliver
As I slowly read Our World, I pulled out this book off my shelf and interspersed my reading with poems. So many lovely poems that make my heart sing. You can't borrow this one either.

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