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Home by Marilynne Robinson

Not for the faint hearted.

This book was magnificently crafted and a pleasure to read. However, although it was incredibly insightful, it was difficult to get lost in the narrative because it was so slow. While there was a great deal of thinking and musing, parts of this tale were lost because of the novel’s pace (or lack thereof). Nonetheless, the last 100 pages were gripping and the end was superb. This book covered some very complex issues: family relationships, self esteem, religion, racism. There was much to digest and perhaps, at times, the author could have made some of these themes less subtle.

Despite the fact that this book is clearly a masterpiece in terms of its writing, I was disappointed. The reviews predicted something grander. The publication of this book saw Robinson touted as “one of America’s greatest contemporary novelists”.  Apparently it’s “like Jane Austen in a different key”. While this might be true, at least Austen’s book are littered with wonderful innuendo and humour! Perhaps the key to revelling fully in this text is to read the prequel, Gilead!

Some other reviews include:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/oct/04/fiction

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/home-by-marilynne-robinson-958248.html

An interview with Robinson http://www.theparisreview.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5863

Book Cost is A$12.47 http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9781844085507/Home

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The Search

The Search by Maureen Myant

Surprisingly, this is (so far) my book of the year. Not only is this story fascinating, but it is told with such tenderness and innocence that the reader is literally left reeling by the emotion that fills the text. The book presents this awesome narrative from the perspective of a young boy and through his eyes, we are forced to contemplate the meaning and impact of complicity in the context of abhorrent acts. This book is confronting and austere, yet well worth the read.

One of the most interesting aspects of this novel is that it is a narrative account of World War II and the Holocaust from the perspective of a non-Jewish boy who is by all accounts only incidentally involved in any conflict. His story highlights the far reaching impact of the Nazi regime – including this carefully described ‘abduction’ and ‘rehabilitation’ (read ‘Germanisation’) of children (orphans and otherwise) and their subsequent adoption into German families. I have since discovered that this policy fell under the Lebensborn organisation, which was established by SS leader Heinrich Himmler.

For further information about the Lebensborn programme see:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/Lebensborn.html

“Lebensborn Children Break Silence”, http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,446978,00.html

“Secret Nazi Lebensborn Children Go Public”, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15548608/

Book Cost is A$12.47 (no postage) http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9781846881039/The-Search

The Horse Boy

The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson

This is one of those magnificently written books that every parent should read. It is heartfelt, honest and gripping. The author’s commitment to his son is inspiring and his quest to find peace for his son’s dysfunctional behaviour is admirable – if not a bit extreme. There were a few anomalies though – specifically, his wife’s voice is largely absent and on some levels this is quite disconcerting. It was hard to ascertain whether her absence was simply a consequence of the dominance of his voice or whether she was indeed absent from this child’s life. Alternatively, perhaps she was against Rupert’s desire to take this journey … It is impossible to know. One thing that we do know is that she is a strong woman who is prepared to put aside her own fears and hesitations for the greater good of her family.

Nonetheless, the characters that this family encounters along their journey are fascinating and bring colour to what would otherwise be a very intense account. Finally, the author’s revelation toward the end of the novel that his son does not have to be “cured”, his autism “removed”, and that the family’s focus should be on enabling him (and in turn, them) to live a high functioning life, is wonderfully fresh and gives hope to all those people who have suffered a similar experience. An outstanding book. Well worth the rewarding read.

To buy the book:
http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9780141033631/?a_aid=Justinesaidman

As an aside, this is one of those books that is worth researching further. Some of the following links are fascinating!

“Healing Autism with Horses”, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/14/healing-autism-with-horses/

“A Gallop Toward Hope”, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/15/books/15horse.html?_r=1

“Autism Therapy on Horseback”, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7GHzselNmA

You can also view the trailor for the film: http://www.zeitgeistfilms.com/displaytrailer.php?directoryname=horseboy&size=low&extension=avi

Jasper Jones

JASPER JONES, by Craig Silvey

This book places itself clearly between the writing of Harper Lee (To Kill a Mocking Bird) and JD Salinger (Catcher in the Rye). At times the allusions to these two iconic texts are a bit too obvious and pushy. However, this book is actually fascinating in its presentation of adolescence and life in small town, rural Australia. More interesting than the allusions to the books above, is the subtle interplay of teenage angst and the desire to be a “hero” or “superhero”. This undercurrent is where the text’s strength lies. In short, the moral of the story seems to be that even the most ordinary person can be a hero or do heroic things. Without doubt, however, the highlight of this book is the relationship between the protagonist and his friend Jeffrey. Their dialogue is littered with funny exchanges and various puns which belie both their ages and their intelligence. This was a surprisingly enjoyable read.

As a note: for those who have not had the pleasure or reading either Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye or Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, this should not deter you from reading Jasper Jones. Lack of knowledge of these texts will not detract from your enjoyment of this quirky novel.