Cloud Atlas Readalong

Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 10: Letters from Zedelghem (second half)

Introduction
Part 1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (first half)
Part 2: Letters from Zedelghem (first half)
Part 3: Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (first half)
Part 4: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (first half)
Part 5: An Orison of Sonmi~451 (first half)
Part 6: Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After (whole story)
Part 7: An Orison of Sonmi~451 (second half)
Part 8: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (second half)
Part 9: Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (second half)

Part 10: Letters from Zedelghem (second half)

The Story So Far . . .
October 10th, 1931. Two days have passed since Robert Frobisher‘s last missive to Rufus Sixsmith. Composer Vyvyan Ayrs has been ill for several days, which leaves Frobisher to his own devices and his own composing. Friend of the Ayrs clan Morty Dhondt takes Frobisher in his motorcar to a cemetery in Zonnebeke: it seems Frobisher has made inquiries to the War Graves Commission, who believe that his brother Adrian, killed in the charge on messines Ridge, might be buried. He looks through the graves in the F section but can find no trace and so lays his bouquet of flowers on the next closest grave, thinking perhaps that Adrian and this other soldier might have encountered one another at some point.

We also learn that the young Robert was mercilessly compared (and found wanting) to his deceased, sainted brother at home, which he’ll never forgive his parents for. He recalls how aural his brother’s letters from the front were, full of sounds of explosions, bullets, and screams.

Tyne Cot Cemetery in Zonnebeke, image from http://www.greatwar.co.uk

Continue reading “Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 10: Letters from Zedelghem (second half)”

book review

Prairie endings and beginnings: a review of Napi’s Dance by Alanda Greene

Snake Woman and Eleanor Donaldson live in two very different versions of the Canadian prairie in Alanda Greene’s debut novel Napi’s Dance. Snake Woman grows up at a time of upheaval. The palefaced people are making inroads into indigenous land, bringing with them weapons, alcohol, and values foreign to the Blackfoot people. Decades later, Eleanor falls in love with the wide open spaces and huge sky when her family moves from Aurora, Ontario, to a homestead in Medicine Hat, Alberta.

“All this beauty given us, to move through across Napi’s great body to know the stories that guide us on a true path. We will fiercely fight to keep this.”

Napi’s Dance, Alanda Greene

Snake Woman and Eleanor Donaldson live in two very different versions of the Canadian prairie in Alanda Greene’s debut novel Napi’s Dance. Snake Woman, who begins the story as Snake Child, grows up in a time of upheaval. The palefaced people are making inroads into indigenous land, bringing with them weapons, alcohol, and values foreign to the Blackfoot people. As political strife and outside danger rips at the fabric of her world, Snake Child and her foster mother Mountain Horse are tasked by the mysterious Women’s Society with the honour and responsibility of hosting a Bundle Spirit in their lodge. Several decades later, Eleanor falls in love with the wide open spaces and huge sky when her family moves from Aurora, Ontario, to a homestead in Medicine Hat, Alberta. As the Donaldsons adjust to farming life in a sod house, they are visited by representatives of the Royal Ontario Museum who wish to bring Aboriginal artifacts back to Ontario, to preserve this dying way of life.

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Uncategorized

To experience the art: A review of Girl Reading by Katie Ward

Seven women in seven different eras contemplate reading and art in Katie Ward’s ambitious debut novel Girl Reading. Each section introduces a new story, a new set of characters and circumstances, and a new work of art that was inspired by and includes the likeness of a girl or woman reading.

“I look through your notes again and they seem so delicate, dropped leaves. I like the unfinished poems best because it feels as though you have been interrupted momentarily, called away to make a decision about the horses or the baking, will be back shortly to shine them up.”

Girl Reading, Katie Ward

Seven women in seven different eras contemplate reading and art in Katie Ward’s ambitious debut novel Girl Reading. Each section introduces a new story, a new set of characters and circumstances, and a new work of art that was inspired by and includes the likeness of a girl or woman reading. In doing so, Ward gets to create rich stories in different time periods while discussing the nature of art and the role of reading in women’s lives.

The Annunciation and Two Saints by Simone Martini. Image from en.wikipedia.org

While called a novel, this is, in fact, much closer to a set of seven themed short stories or very short novellas. They range in place, time, and context, while maintaining a similarity of tone throughout. First is Italian master Simone Maritni using an orphaned girl as his model of Mary in his Annunciation in 1333; next a deaf woman named Esther works as a maid in the household of Dutch artist Pieter Janssens Elinga in 1668; third, a celebrated female portraitist paints a likeness of a dead poetess for her grieving lover, a Lady in British society who has fallen into despair in 1775. Continue reading “To experience the art: A review of Girl Reading by Katie Ward”

Cloud Atlas Readalong

Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 9: Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (second half)

Introduction
Part 1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (first half)
Part 2: Letters from Zedelghem (first half)
Part 3: Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (first half)
Part 4: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (first half)
Part 5: An Orison of Sonmi~451 (first half)
Part 6: Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After (whole story)
Part 7: An Orison of Sonmi~451 (second half)
Part 8: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (second half)

Part 9: Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (second half)

The Story So Far . . .
We last saw Luisa Rey as her car plunged into the icy waters around Swannekke Island, forced off the bridge by the nefarious assassin Bill Smoke, who works for Seaboard CEO Alberto Grimaldi. As she fights her way clear of her seatbelt and struggles to open her window to escape the car, she sees that the Sixsmith Report is ruined, hundreds of pages swirling through the dark water, and she fears she has “paid for the Sixsmith Report with her life” (p. 392).

The scene changes. Isaac Sachs is on a plane with Alberto Grimaldi. He is musing about the nature of time and memory: is the actual event that happens in the past superseded by the collective memory of what we think happened? As people who were on the Titantic die, are we left with a different version of the Titantic‘s sinking, a “virtual past” that is malleable and based upon the whims and beliefs and hearsay of the present? Does the flipside exist, a malleable “virtual future” based upon our daydreams and beliefs of what the future will hold? He proposes:

“One model of time: an infinite matryoshka doll of painted moments, each ‘shell’ (the present) encased inside a nest of ‘shells’ (previous presents) I call the actual past but which we perceive as the virtual past. The doll of ‘now’ likewise encases a nest of presents yet to be, which I call the actual future but which we perceive as the virtual future.” p. 393

Time: Inside view of matryoshka dolls. From http://satre.itrnet.com/

Continue reading “Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 9: Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (second half)”

book review

How to live with her dying: a review of The End of your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

Will Schwalbe’s mom, Mary Anne, is a human rights activist, a champion of refugees and of world literacy. She has traveled widely, is a formidable fundraiser, an excellent listener, and a voracious reader. And she has been diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer.

“I guess if we keep reading books at more or less the same time, then it’s sort of like being in a book club,” I added….
“But you don’t have time for a book club!” Mom said.
“I have time to read. And we’ve always talked about books. So if we’re reading the same books, and talking about them, why can’t we call that a book club?”

The End of your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe

Will Schwalbe’s mom, Mary Anne, is a human rights activist, a champion of refugees and of world literacy. She loves her grandchildren, and theatre, and Vero Beach. She has traveled throughout Africa, to Pakistan and Afghanistan and Burma, to Geneva and London, and many other ports of call. She is a formidable fundraiser, an excellent listener, and a voracious reader. And she has been diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer.

In this simple and moving memoir, Schwalbe details the last two years of his mother’s life, with sidetrips into the experiences of people Mary Anne has influenced or been influenced by. Returning home from a humanitarian trip to Afghanistan, Mary Anne becomes quite sick, and doctors diagnose her with a rare form of hepatitis, not surprising given where she’d come from. But as her condition worsens, the diagnosis changes: cancer, the kind that tends to kill in a matter of months. But while Mary Anne’s cancer isn’t curable, it is treatable. As Will and his mom sit in endless waiting rooms together, in sessions of chemo and waiting for scans and before speaking with doctors, they find themselves asking each other what they’re reading, and Will proposes a very special book club: why don’t they read the same books at the same time and discuss them?

Continue reading “How to live with her dying: a review of The End of your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe”

Cloud Atlas Readalong

Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 8: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (second half)

Introduction
Part 1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (first half)
Part 2: Letters from Zedelghem (first half)
Part 3: Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (first half)
Part 4: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (first half)
Part 5: An Orison of Sonmi~451 (first half)
Part 6: Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After (whole story)
Part 7: An Orison of Sonmi~451 (second half)

Part 8: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (second half)

The Story So Far . . .
From a grim future and dire consequences, we return to a yarn that seems rather more frivolous. When we parted company with Timothy Cavendish, he had suffered what seemed to be fireworks in his head. He has had a minor stroke, and takes several days in early November to regain his senses. Assuming the “little witch” he saw just before arriving at Aurora House was dressed the part for Halloween, he hasn’t been out too long, but it takes him until early December to really come back to his old caustic self. He remembers that he is not a patient but a prisoner, and that the old people around him aren’t his friends but senile fellow inmates. He begins to refer to them as “the Undead” and “zombies,” and they in turn act the part.

Attended by Dr. Upward, who seems irritated by sick people, and plagued by doubts about why his brother Denholme has left him imprisoned for over a month—for surely the joke has worn thin by now?—Tim looks for escape. He wonders if his brother has found out about the dalliance between Tim and Denholme’s wife… He finds a form of limited escape in reading, and changes his opinion of one of the few things on hand to read, Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery. Giving the half of it that he has a thorough edit, he decides the book has great potential. “The insinuation that Luisa Rey is this Robert Frobisher chap re-incarnated” will have to go, however (p. 357). He thinks that’s just silly.

Continue reading “Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 8: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (second half)”

Cloud Atlas Readalong

Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 7: An Orison of Sonmi~451 (second half)

Introduction
Part 1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (first half)
Part 2: Letters from Zedelghem (first half)
Part 3: Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (first half)
Part 4: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (first half)
Part 5: An Orison of Sonmi~451 (first half)
Part 6: Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After (whole story)

Part 7: An Orison of Sonmi~451 (second half)

The Story So Far . . .
Sonmi~451‘s interview picks up exactly where it broke off, so we are thrust somewhat violently back into the narrative. Hae-Joo Im, it turns out, is a member of Union, the dissident rebel group mentioned as a threat to Unanimity in the first part of the story. Sonmi trusts him even though he lied about his ID, and goes with him before the enforcers can reach them. They meet Mr. Chang and escape in his ford, whereupon Hae-Joo and Xi-Li cut open the tips of their index fingers and extract a “tiny metallic egg”: their Souls, with which consumers of Nea So Copros are tracked, identified by name and strata, and spend dollars. As they make their escape, their car is rammed and Sonmi wonders why the feeling is familiar. Xi-Li is hit with a Unanimity phosphate fire shot, and Hae-Joo shoots him to save him the agony of that death.

They reach the conurb of Huamdonggil, which the Archivist says is an “untermensch slum” (p. 315). This, Sonmi explains, is a place of the wretched, where consumers go when they can only afford euthanasia or to be dropped into an oubliette, where migrants hide, and where crime flourishes. It is tolerated by the government because it teaches the respectable downstrata a lesson: stay in line, or end up in a place like Huamdonggil. Once there, they enter a building and wait for the arrival of Ma Arak Na, evidently a higher-up within Union’s ranks. She is addressed by Hae-Joo as “Madam” and only appears through a ceiling hatch. Mutated or perhaps the victim of a botched facescaping, she has webbed lips and “gem-warted” fingers, and it isn’t explained why she only ever peers through ceiling hatches.

A slum in Guyrong, South Korea

Continue reading “Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 7: An Orison of Sonmi~451 (second half)”