Saturday, March 29, 2014

Book Recommendations

My mom and I have read some good books together lately that I've I'm been meaning to write about, but I've been so busy working on other things that I haven't had the time. So today you get three books in one post!

Last December we read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. Here's a short synopsis of the book: When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

This book was about the Holocaust and it was told through the eyes of a child. This offered a different perspective on the Holocaust than most books I've ever read about it. It was well-written and I really enjoyed it. After my mom and I finished reading it we watched the movie. It was also enjoyable, but not nearly as good as the book since so much of the storyline was left out and/or changed.
Last year I heard about a memoir entitled Twelve Years a Slave (by Solomon Northrup) that was being made into a movie. It sounded really good and I knew it was right up my alley when I found out it was a true story and I knew I had to read it. Here's a short synopsis of the book: This unforgettable memoir is the basis for the Academy Award-winning film 12 Years a Slave. This is the true story of Solomon Northup, who was born and raised as a freeman in New York. He lived the American dream, with a house and a loving family – a wife and two kids. Then one day he was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery in the deep south. These are the true accounts of his twelve hard years as a slave – many believe this memoir is even more graphic and disturbing than the film. His extraordinary journey proves the resiliency of hope and the human spirit despite the most grueling and formidable of circumstances.

This was also an excellent book. Knowing that it was true made parts of it really difficult to get through because there were some horrific accounts of the way the way the slave owner brutalized his slaves. As much as I would love to see this movie, I don't think I could stomach watching the vicious attacks depicted on screen. It just makes me sick thinking how anyone could treat other human being so deplorably. This master looked at his slaves as being less than animals and treated them far worse than the animals he owned.

Solomon kept his identity (of being a free black man) and the fact that he could read and write a secret from everyone the entire time he was enslaved since this would've put an even larger target on his back. It was apparent from Solomon's account that he was extremely intelligent and even though he didn't write his story until years later, he was able to recall facts, names, places and dates with remarkable clarity. Solomon was such an articulate writer and his book was so good.
Last month my mom and I started reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Here's a short synopsis of the book: The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette's brilliant and charismatic father captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn't want the responsibility of raising a family.

The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.

I've seen many people mention The Glass Castle on their blogs and/or "to read" lists, so I've been meaning to give it a go for a while. I'm glad I did because I loved it! Jeannette's upbringing was so unusual that it made for a compelling read. I'm amazed that Jeannette turned out as well as she did since her parents didn't know the first thing about caring for children. Her mom and dad were both extremely selfish and sadly, their children weren't their first priority so the kids were left to fend for themselves much of the time. I enjoyed this book very much, though, and I'm glad I read it. It reminded me of another excellent book that I loved: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

*I cannot in good conscience recommend The Glass Castle without mentioning the fact that it does have quite a bit of language in it, some of which is strong at times and/or the Lord's name is taken in vain. I just wanted to make that clear so that you can steer clear of this book if that would bother you. Trust me, it bothers me, but fortunately my mom skips the bad language. 
We've all been told not to judge a book by its cover, and I would say the same for this book. It's really a gem of a story that's hidden within a simple, unremarkable cover.


Julie said...

Those books sound interesting, especially The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

I know what you mean about not seeing the Twelve Years a Slave on the big screen. I can't watch anything (Like Oliver Twist) where children or adults get hid.

In the '70's I watched the tv series Roots. Some parts really upset me & one of the reasons I can't watch those type of prgrammes & films anymore.

I'm reading Jay Osmond's autography at the moment, which I'm really enjoying.

Take care & Happy Mother's Day from the UK:)

Julie said...

* hit not hid

* pajamas not pyjamas. I think we spell it like this in the uk.

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