Tag: Books: Nonfiction


Review: The Pigeon Tunnel

Posted 3 August, 2018 by Lianne in Books / 1 Comment

The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories From My Life
By: John le Carre
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

“Out of the secret world I once knew, I have tried to make a theatre for the larger worlds we inhabit. First comes the imagining, then the search for reality. Then back to the imagining, and to the desk where I’m sitting now.”

From his years serving in British Intelligence during the Cold War, to a career as a writer that took him from war-torn Cambodia to Beirut on the cusp of the 1982 Israeli invasion to Russia before and after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, le Carré has always written from the heart of modern times. In this, his first memoir, le Carré is as funny as he is incisive, reading into the events he witnesses the same moral ambiguity with which he imbues his novels. Whether he’s writing about the parrot at a Beirut hotel that could perfectly mimic machine gun fire or the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth, visiting Rwanda’s museums of the unburied dead in the aftermath of the genocide, celebrating New Year’s Eve 1982 with Yasser Arafat and his high command, interviewing a German woman terrorist in her desert prison in the Negev, listening to the wisdoms of the great physicist, dissident, and Nobel Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, meeting with two former heads of the KGB, watching Alec Guinness prepare for his role as George Smiley in the legendary BBC TV adaptations, or describing the female aid worker who inspired the main character in The Constant Gardener, le Carré endows each happening with vividness and humor, now making us laugh out loud, now inviting us to think anew about events and people we believed we understood.

Best of all, le Carré gives us a glimpse of a writer’s journey over more than six decades, and his own hunt for the human spark that has given so much life and heart to his fictional characters.

From the books I’ve read so far by John le Carre, I’ve really enjoyed them, so I was really curious when he released a book about his own experiences and impressions. The book went on sale a few years ago so I snatched it up but then it stayed on my TBR pile for some time–like many of my other books–until a few months ago when I just had the urge to start this book.

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Two Book Reviews

Posted 16 July, 2018 by Lianne in Books / 1 Comment

The following are two reviews (sort of) that didn’t warrant a post of their own. Unfortunately this post is a bit of a downer, but I also didn’t want to pass them off and not post about them, if that makes any sense lol.

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Love in a Cold Climate
By: Nancy Mitford
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Polly Hampton has long been groomed for the perfect marriage by her mother, the fearsome and ambitious Lady Montdore. But Polly, with her stunning good looks and impeccable connections, is bored by the monotony of her glittering debut season in London. Having just come from India, where her father served as Viceroy, she claims to have hoped that society in a colder climate would be less obsessed with love affairs. The apparently aloof and indifferent Polly has a long-held secret, however, one that leads to the shattering of her mother’s dreams and her own disinheritance. When an elderly duke begins pursuing the disgraced Polly and a callow potential heir curries favor with her parents, nothing goes as expected, but in the end all find happiness in their own unconventional ways.

This book has long been on my wishlist so it was nice to finally pick up the book and read it. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, which might be a culmination of having started it before going on vacation and then picking up and finishing it when I got back. But maybe it was my mood too as before I left I wasn’t terribly invested in the story already. There were some witty dialogue here and there, but otherwise I was just bored by the story, a lot of it was hearsay (heh, isn’t life a lot about stories we hear from other people?) which I guess it also part of the society that Polly and Fanny live in. So yeha, it should’ve been a story that should’ve interested me a lot more, and there’s a lot going on in their story, but yeah, in the end I just didn’t really care for it 🙁

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order this book from The Book Depository

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Holding on to Normal
By: Alana Somerville
Format/Source: ARC courtesy of Simon & Schuster CA

A compelling memoir about trying to live meaningfully with illness and triumph beyond it, by breast cancer survivor Alana Somerville, a teacher and mother of two young children.

I looked at all the sick people around me. Was I going to be like them? Was that already me? Did I suddenly have a time stamp on my life? Would I make it out of this alive?

Alana Somerville—wife, teacher and mother of two small children—was thirty-three years old when she was diagnosed with stage-two, triple-negative breast cancer. The diagnosis changed her world and the relationships she had with everyone around her. Suddenly she was faced with endless medical appointments, multiple surgeries and procedures, the challenges of chemotherapy, and all the decisions involved in her treatment. She also had to deal with the trauma of realizing that her support network—sometimes even her closest friends—could struggle with how to help or even how to react to her anymore.

Throughout the course of her illness, Alana learned to maneuver through the medical system, to advocate for herself, and to build a truly supportive network. She also discovered how to keep her positive spirit intact while undergoing a double mastectomy and ongoing treatment. She is now living cancer-free—a survivor and an advocate.

Alana’s story is not unique. It’s a story that will resonate with anyone who has suffered illness and found themselves navigating a whole new world upon diagnosis. This is an “everywoman’s” journey through the experience of cancer, tracing the emotional, physical and psychological steps that are common to all. In the end, this memoir will offer hope that one can live a healthy, fulfilling and happy life beyond diagnosis. Holding on to Normal is for anyone who is suffering—or knows someone who is suffering from—a setback in life, and who is looking for inspiration on how to navigate their own journey.

I tried to start this book a few times since receiving it from Simon & Schuster CA (unsolicited, but anyway, I give unsolicited books a chance should they pop up in my mailbox) but I just could not. It’s not to say this book is not worth checking out or whatever, it’s just that given my job in healthcare and working with patients who are living with a cancer diagnosis (though they shouldn’t be at my hospital as my hospital is a rehab/continuing care facility) and moreso patients having had a history of cancer, it’s just not something I’d read about on my spare time. I might go back to it at some point but for not I’m nowhere inclined to read it.

Rating: DNF

Visit the author’s official website || Order this book from the Book Depository

Review: The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe

Posted 13 June, 2018 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe
By: Joseph E. Stiglitz
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

When Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz posed this question in the original edition of The Euro, he lent much-needed clarity to a global debate that continues to this day. The euro was supposed to unify Europe and promote prosperity; in fact, it has done just the opposite. To save the European project, the euro may have to be abandoned. Since 2010, many of the 19 countries of Europe that share the euro currency—the eurozone—have been rocked by debt crises and mired in lasting stagnation, and the divergence between stronger and weaker economies has accelerated. In The Euro, Joseph E. Stiglitz explains precisely why the eurozone has performed so poorly, so different from the expectations at its launch: at the core of the failure is the structure of the eurozone itself, the rules by which it is governed. Stiglitz reveals three potential paths forward: drastic structural reforms, not of the individual countries, but of the eurozone; a well-managed dissolution of the euro; or a bold new system dubbed the “flexible euro.” With trenchant analysis—and brand new material on Brexit—The Euro is urgent and timely reading.

I had been eyeing this book for ages. I came across this book as I was looking up books about the current state of the EU with the euro crisis and ongoing issues that the EU is faced with; I just wanted to read what people were thinking and what their alternatives were to the present situation. I finally got my hands on it a while ago but had to wait until I finished the school year to read it as I wanted to give it my undivided attention.

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Review: Citizen of the World: the Life of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, 1919 – 1968

Posted 9 May, 2018 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Citizen of the World: the Life of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, 1919 – 1968
By: John English
Format/Source: Paperback; was a Christmas gift

One of the most important, exciting biographies of our time: the definitive, major two-volume biography of Pierre Elliott Trudeau – written with unprecedented, complete access to Trudeau’s enormous cache of private letters and papers.

Bestselling biographer John English gets behind the public record and existing glancing portraits of Trudeau to reveal the real man and the multiple influences that shaped his life, providing the full context lacking in all previous biographies to-date.

As prime minister between 1968 and 1984, Trudeau, the brilliant, controversial figure, intrigued Canadians and attracted international attention as no other Canadian leader has ever done. Volume One takes us from his birth in 1919 to his election as leader in 1968.

Born into a wealthy family in Montreal, Trudeau excelled at the best schools, graduating as a lawyer with conservative, nationalist and traditional Catholic views. But always conscious of his French-English heritage, desperate to know the outside world, and an adventurer to boot, he embarked on a pilgrimage of discovery – first to Harvard and the Sorbonne, then to the London School of Economics and, finally, on a trip through Europe, the Middle East, India and China. He was a changed man when he returned – socialist in his politics, sympathetic to labour, a friend to activists and writers in radical causes. Suddenly and surprisingly, he went to Ottawa for two mostly unhappy years as a public servant in the Privy Council Office. He frequently shocked his colleagues when, on the brink of a Quebec election, for example, he departed for New York or Europe on an extended tour. Yet in the 1950s and 60s, he wrote the most important articles outlining his political philosophy.

And there were the remarkable relationships with friends, women and especially his mother (whom he lived with until he was middle-aged). He wrote to them always, exchanging ideas with the men, intimacies with the women, especially in these early years, and lively descriptions of his life. He even recorded his in-depth psychoanalysis in Paris. This personal side of Trudeau has never been revealed before – and it sheds light on the politician and statesman he became.

Volume One ends with his entry into politics, his appointment as Minister of Justice, his meeting Margaret and his election as leader of the Liberal Party and Prime Minister of Canada. There, his genius and charisma, his ambition and intellectual prowess, his ruthlessness and emotional character and his deliberate shaping of himself for leadership played out on the national stage and, when Lester B. Pearson announced his retirement as prime minister in 1968, there was but one obvious man for the job: Pierre Trudeau.

Pierre Elliot Trudeau is a titan in Canadian history and Canadian politics, having brought so much Canadian politics and changing the political landscape as we know it. Charming, teasing, relentless, a thinker…He was quite the character. I had received the biographies for Christmas a few years ago but took a while getting around to them. Of course, I decided to read them at a bad time, it being super busy during the second semester of my bridging programme. So I had started it but then did not get around to reading the rest of it until after my exams were completed.

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Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews

Posted 3 May, 2018 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

Hallo everyone! This is my first review here on the blog in quite a while, and suffice to say I’m starting off small because I read a small bit in the last few weeks but unfortunately didn’t jot down enough notes to remember them all in-depth. So here we are instead 😛 Included in this batch are:


Drafts, Fragments, and Poems: The Complete Poetry
By: Joan Murray
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

The first appearance of this award-winning writer’s work since the 1940s, this collection, which includes an introduction by John Ashbery, restores Joan Murray’s striking poetry to its originally intended form.

Though John Ashbery hailed Joan Murray as a key influence on his work, Murray’s sole collection, Poems, published after her death at the early age of twenty-four and selected by W. H. Auden for inclusion in the Yale Series of Younger Poets, has been almost entirely unavailable for the better part of half a century. Poems was put together by Grant Code, a close friend of Murray’s mother, and when Murray’s papers, long thought to be lost, reappeared in 2013, it became clear that Code had exercised a heavy editorial hand. This new collection, edited by Farnoosh Fathi from Murray’s original manuscripts, restores Murray’s raw lyricism and visionary lines, while also including a good deal of previously unpublished work, as well as a selection of her exuberant letters.

Okay, I never heard of Joan Murray until I saw the Instagram account for NYRB post about this upcoming collection and posted a few snippets of her poetry. I was intrigued–read a lot of high praise about her work–so I decided to check her work out. Admittedly I read this book a few months ago and did not write any notes anywhere so my memory of my reaction to this book is a bit hazy but I remember enjoying it, the imagery choice she uses was quite intriguing. But the impression that was left in my mind first and foremost was that reminder that poetry can be whatever you make it to be, however you want to express yourself using the words at your disposal, arranged by way your mind, perspective, and creativity makes of it.

So yeah, if you’re looking for new poets from the early twentieth century to check out, definitely look in to this book! It’s great that NYRB is showcasing so many different poets from different periods, I’m finding out about lots of new poets this way 🙂

Rating: ★★★★☆

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