Monday, August 3, 2015

Stalin's Daughter | Rosemary Sullivan

"The extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva" is the whole title of this book. It is a superb read, and although it looks daunting at nearly 700 pages, it is so well written that it is a very quick read.
This is the life of Svetlana Stalin. She grew up in the Kremlin and was part of very significant events in World history. She had  contact with all the main players in Russian political life and in this book we read of how that influenced who she became.

Some parts are so extraordinary, it seems part of a novel or a movie script. Svetlana managed to defect to America in the 60's and even then, was unable to establish firm roots. She moved all the time, searching for something, someone and never quite reaching the fulfillment she desired.
Svetlana died in 2011, so most of the material which is very well researched is based on interviews with friends and family, especially Olga, her American daughter.

Incredibly well worthwhile reading this book. Very well researched and written. Insightful.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Chappy | Patricia Grace

It's been about 10 years since Grace wrote a novel, so I was excited to read this one. And it's one of her best. This New Zealand author has an amazing cultural heritage which she draws from and which add colour and depth to her novels.

This novel is set in the North Island of New Zealand, among an extended Maori family. Into this family, through WW2, comes a Japanese stowaway. They incorporate him into the tribe, he marries into it and becomes an integral part of the town and community.

As WW2 progresses, he is deported as an enemy alien. The story follows his wife's search for him and how she survives the era without him. She's a canny business woman who grows vegetables, buys an ailing bakery and mechanical workshop in the town and slowly turns around the fortunes of her family.

The narrative flows between the different characters as the story develops. It is engaging, we care about the characters and their fate and the richness of the Maori culture make this a great book.

I have read most of Grace's novels, and can highly recommend them. She is a unique voice and a fantastic storyteller.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A God In Ruins | Kate Atkinson

Another wonderful novel by Kate Atkinson. I have always enjoyed her books, and this one is superb. It is a stand alone book although one could also read it as a companion book to Life After Life. The same characters are the protagonists although Teddy is the focus in this one, as Ursula was in the other one.

This is the life of Teddy going back and forth from present to past, not in chronological order but in as he has memories of people in his past and present:  his relationships with the War, his bomber squadron, his wife Nancy, daughter Viola and grandkids.

The narrative is seamless and wanders through various character's lives and thoughts in a very skilled and readable style.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and highly recommend it, and all her other novels.