By: Michael Ondaatje
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
In a narrative as beguiling and mysterious as memory itself, shadowed and luminous at once: we read the story of fourteen-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945, just after World War II, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel.
But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings’ mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing?
A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn’t know and understand in that time, and it is this journey–through facts, recollection, and imagination–that he narrates in this masterwork from one of the great writers of our time.
I’ve been eyeing this book since it was first released and then longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2018: aside from its rather mysterious book covers, the premise sounded interesting and promised to be unique. I finally picked it up a while ago for my Kobo and read it rather recently.
The Winter Soldier
By: Daniel Mason
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Vienna, 1914. Lucius is a twenty-two-year-old medical student when World War I explodes across Europe. Enraptured by romantic tales of battlefield surgery, he enlists, expecting a position at a well-organized field hospital. But when he arrives, at a commandeered church tucked away high in a remote valley of the Carpathian Mountains, he finds a freezing outpost ravaged by typhus. The other doctors have fled, and only a single, mysterious nurse named Sister Margarete remains.
But Lucius has never lifted a surgeon’s scalpel. And as the war rages across the winter landscape, he finds himself falling in love with the woman from whom he must learn a brutal, makeshift medicine. Then one day, an unconscious soldier is brought in from the snow, his uniform stuffed with strange drawings. He seems beyond rescue, until Lucius makes a fateful decision that will change the lives of doctor, patient, and nurse forever.
From the gilded ballrooms of Imperial Vienna to the frozen forests of the Eastern Front; from hardscrabble operating rooms to battlefields thundering with Cossack cavalry, The Winter Soldier is the story of war and medicine, of family, of finding love in the sweeping tides of history, and finally, of the mistakes we make, and the precious opportunities to atone.
The main character is a medical student, the story is set in Central Europe during World War One? Count me in! I actually brought this book with me when I travelled to Central Europe back in early January, to put me in the mood 🙂
Bookish and Not-So-Bookish Thoughts is a weekly blogging event hosted by Bookishly Boisterous. It allows book bloggers (and non-book bloggers) to write about pretty much anything, bookish or otherwise (i.e. share exciting plans for the weekend, rants on things they’ve encountered during the week, etc.).
- It’s Nurse’s Week here in Canada, almost halfway through the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, and all we got is COVID *rolls eyes*
- In all seriousness, I’m doing okay, my family’s doing okay. For now lockdown and social distancing measures continue, although my province is slowly beginning to reopen businesses but in keeping with physical distancing. Sounds like emergency measures will continue until the first week of June so more of the same will remain. Work remains cautious, though policies keep changing every week. Anyway.
- Kinda sucks how all this happened this year as this year has a number of milestones in my family and it seems celebrations have been placed on hold (fancy restaurant-style celebrations, anyway). That meme that says we were expecting the roaring 20s and instead got the Great Depression hit a little too close to home.
- Classes eventually ended last month, but my God, even with the switch to online delivery and all the talk about making it easier for us because of all the uncertainty happening about COVID and work it was still torture to complete the semester and then go through final exams. So done with everything tbh.
- Because I’m not heading to Paris any time soon (had lofty ideas for my trip last month to have a long layover in Paris, but of course all plans were then cancelled) I bought myself a purse from Polene. It’s going to be so pretty when it arrives.
- Books I’m currently reading right now: well I’m slowly re-reading The Lord of the Rings when time permits. I need a bit of comfort reading in my life right now. Edit: I’m off for the long weekend, maybe I’ll marathon LOTR? Also started reading Albert Camus’s The Rebel. Not sure what I think about the book so far.
- My review won’t be going live until the end of the month but I would say John M. Barry’s The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Plague in History is essential reading. I know we have the advantage of hindsight, but the progression is similar (despite the fact that the 1918 H1N1 and COVID-19 are of the same coronavirus family), the uncertainty, the human response.
- I started exercising regularly a few weeks ago. I’ve always been meaning to but somehow I never kept to a regular schedule either due to external stressors or events happening but so far I’ve managed to incorporate it to my everyday routine. While perhaps physically it doesn’t seem like much has happened, I do feel a lot better, lighter if that makes any sense. I’m not as dying during rounds now at work lol.
- Now if only my creative projects would just get going, life would be grand.
- Ahahaha I caved after exams last month and watched Tiger King. My God I couldn’t believe half that stuff is actually going on in the US…I have Unorthodox on my list of things to watch yet despite it being only 4 episodes long I have yet to watch it. Maybe this weekend?
And that’s it from me! How are you all holding up since my last post? Stay safe, everyone 🙂
The Good People
By: Hannah Kent
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Hedged in by gossip and joined by their desperation, three women in nineteenth-century Ireland are drawn together in the hope of rescuing a child from a superstitious community, determined to rid itself of the strange and unknowable. Bereft after the loss of her husband, Nora finds herself alone and caring for her young grandson Micheal–a boy whom she recalls as having been a happy and healthy infant but now, in the wake of both his mother’s and grandfather’s deaths, can neither speak nor walk. Mary, a servant girl from more rural parts, comes to the valley to help Nora just as the rumors are spreading: the talk of unexplained misfortunes and illnesses, and the theory that deformed Micheal is a changeling, a fairy child to blame for the bad luck the valley has endured since his arrival.
Determined to banish the evil in Micheal, Nora and Mary enlist the help of the elderly Nance, a recluse and wanderer once revered by her neighbors for her healing powers, but now condemned as a fraud and a threat by the new priest in town.
As the trio’s situation grows more dire, their folkloric practices become increasingly daring–culminating, at last, in a stunning and irreversible act that will put all their lives in danger. Terrifying, thrilling, and wholly original, THE GOOD PEOPLE is a startling examination of absolute belief and superstition taken to their extremes, of the universal yearning to belong, and of love, both tender and harsh.
I think I bought this book the other year but I took a long time getting around to reading it. I loooooooooooooooooved Burial Rites (review) so I guess I was both apprehensive but also wanting to savour her next book. Anyway, finally got around to reading it last year so yay 🙂
By: Andromeda Romano-Lax
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
2029: In Japan, a historically mono-cultural nation, childbirth rates are at a critical low and the elderly are living increasingly long lives. This population crisis has precipitated a mass immigration of foreign medical workers from all over Asia—as well as the development of refined artificial intelligence to step in where humans fall short.
In Tokyo, Angelica Navarro, a Filipina nurse who has been working in Japan for the last five years, is the caretaker for Sayoko Itou, an intensely private woman about to turn 100 years old. Angelica is a dedicated nurse, working night and day to keep her paperwork in order, obey the strict labor laws for foreign nationals, study for her ongoing proficiency exams, and most of all keep her demanding client happy. But one day Sayoko receives a present from her son: a cutting-edge robot caretaker that will educate itself to anticipate Sayoko’s every need. Angelica wonders if she is about to be forced out of her much-needed job by an inanimate object—one with a preternatural ability to uncover the most deeply buried secrets of the humans around it. While Angelica is fighting back against the AI with all of her resources, Sayoko is becoming more and more attached to the machine. The old woman is hiding many secrets of her own—and maybe now she’s too old to want to keep them anymore.
In a tour de force tapestry of science fiction and historical fiction, Andromeda Romano-Lax presents a story set in Japan and Taiwan that spans a century of empire, conquest, progress, and destruction. Plum Rains elegantly broaches such important contemporary conversations as immigration, the intersection of labor and technology, the ecological fate of our planet and the future of its children.
I first heard of Andromeda Romano-Lax when I picked up her first book, The Spanish Bow (review), which is still a favourite read of mine. Since then I would pick up whatever is her latest book when I come across it. So I had no idea this was her latest book until I was browsing Indigo one time.