El Lector

Our library serves people speaking many languages. Here is one of them.

image-of-el-lector-by-schlink1En El Lector de Bernhard Schlink; Michael es un adolescente enfermo de hepatitis, un día al volver a casa se siente mal y una señora lo ayuda. Siguiendo los consejos de su madre va a buscarla y agradecerle lo que hizo por él. Pero ¿qué creen? Esto fue más que un agradecimiento, ¡él se convierte en su amante! En sus citas clandestinas él empieza a leerle libros. En estos momentos yo me  preguntaba ¿por qué? A ella le encantaba por supuesto hasta que un día ya no la vio más. Se  había marchado del lugar donde vivía sin ninguna explicación. Con el correr de los años, la vuelve a ver pero en el banquillo  de los acusados. Ella es condenada a cadena perpetua, Michael empieza a mandarle grabaciones de libros. Lo hizo por muchos años hasta el día en que iba salir de la cárcel. Ella fue indultada después de pasar 18 años en la cárcel. Pero nunca salió. ¿Qué creen que pasó? Esta historia me gustó mucho, y está escrita en un lenguaje bastante sencillo. Aún no he visto la película pero debe ser muy buena por que la actriz principal se llevó el Oscar. Entonces, queridos amigos a leer, encontrarán algunas sorpresas.

           ~ Marcela C-V

Many readers (and moviegoers) may be familiar with Bernhard Schlink’s book Der Vorleser in its English language translation, The Reader.

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms, by Gail Tsukiyama

cover-of-a-street-of-a-thousand-blossomsI haven’t really thought about the lives of ordinary Japanese people during World War II  until I started to read The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama. The concepts that were deeply rooted in my mind were how the war and Japan’s soldiers brought disaster, tragedy, and despair to the Chinese people and to the foreigners who lived in China at the time, as seen in Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking or Empire of the Sun by J. G. Ballard. But the war also brought extreme tragedy to ordinary Japanese people.

The story starts in 1939. Two orphaned brothers, Hiroshi and Kenji, live with their loving grandparents. Hiroshi has a dream to become a great sumo wrestler, while Kenji is fascinated with mask-making for the Noh Continue reading “The Street of a Thousand Blossoms, by Gail Tsukiyama”

Salem Witch Trials

As a girl growing up in Massachusetts, I was obsessed for awhile with reading anything and everything about the Salem Witch Trials.  Though my reading interests have broadened since then, I am still fascinated by the maelstrom of social, political and psychological events that led to witchcraft accusations and mass hysteria.  Recently I have been staying up way too late reading a new novel called Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent.  I just can’t seem to pull myself away from the feverish world of early 17th century Salem.  Narrated by Sarah Carrier, daughter of the accused witch Martha Carrier, this book provides a window into an intriguing time period.  Though mother and daughter were often at odds with each other, they are pulled closer together by the terrible ordeal of accusations and imprisonment.  Sarah and Martha Carrier were real historical figures, and the author Kathleen Kent is one of their descendents. 

 Another mesmerizing novel about the Salem Witch Trials is I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Conde.  This gripping tale is narrated by the West Indies slave who was at the center of the witchcraft hysteria.  Although the historical record is pretty thin regarding Tituba’s life, Conde fleshes out her childhood in Barbados, her years as a slave in Salem, and her old age.  In this telling, Tituba is endowed with a strong wit and she provides a searing criticism of the racism and sexism practiced by the “good citizens” of Salem.

Historical Fiction

OK, I admit it, I know more about history from reading novels than from reading nonfiction.  But what’s wrong with that?  If you read novelists who are sticklers about historical accuracy, you can enjoy a good story, immerse yourself in a different time, and learn something in the process.

Unlike some readers who never want to stray from a certain time period and place – Victorian England, say – I like almost any historical fiction that transports me to a different era.  I want to know what it felt like to be alive in a certain time and place.  The exact time and place is less important to me than the vividness of the details – the creaking of the wooden wagon wheels, the smoky air from the sconces, the smell of the straw-covered dirt floor. 

My favorite author of historical fiction is Sharon Kay Penman because her novels set in medieval Great Britain are lush with historical detail and fully-drawn characters.  Her mysteries featuring Justin De Quincy, a sleuth in the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine, are good, but I like her meatier – and longer – fiction even better.  There is some romance woven in, but romance doesn’t take center stage as it does in Philippa Gregory‘s enjoyable but light novels that focus on tempestuous intrigue amongst the royals in medieval Britain.

An exotic world – 17th century Persia – opened up to me through the book The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani.  After the death of her father, a teenage girl and her mother must leave their village to live as servants in the household of the girl’s uncle who is a wealthy rug-maker for the Shah.  The girl, who is a gifted but untrained carpet-knotter, wants to learn her uncle’s craft.  Meanwhile, she is being pressured to accept an undesirable temporary marriage contract.  What mesmerized me more

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Destination Venice

If your interest is piqued by ancient cities with mazes of streets and canals, of hidden plots and secrets, then you must like reading about Venice.

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt begins on January 29. 1996 the day the Fenice Opera is destroyed by fire. Berendt’s citizen interviews reveal the intricacies of customs, society, politics, the city’s decades of decay and preservation. Among them are Archimede Seguro, an aging glassblower who makes 100 vases depicting the fire as viewed from his window only feet away. Berendt learns much about Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, his paramour, whose art collection disappeared in mystery from the home she still inhabited. The inside story of the Palazzo Barbaro (where scenes from Brideshead Revisited were filmed) and so much more brings Venice off the page in a chatty and informative way.

Travel back to the time following the 1527 sacking of Rome, as the wealthy courtesan Fiametta Continue reading “Destination Venice”