Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

A seductive and evocative epic on an intimate scale, that tells the extraordinary story of a geisha girl. Summoning up more than twenty years of Japan's most dramatic history. it uncovers a hidden worlds of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation. From a small fishing village in 1929, the tale moves to the glamorous and decadent heart of Kyoto in the 1930's, where a young peasant girl is sold as a servant and apprentice to a renowned geisha house. She tells her story many years later from the Waldorf Astoria in New York; it exquisitely evokes another culture, a different time and the details of an extraordinary way of life. It conjures up the perfection and the the ugliness of life behind rice-paper screens, where young girls learn the arts of geisha - dancing and singing, how to wind the kimono, how to walk and pour tea and how to beguile the most powerful men. 

Published by: Vintage - Fiction
Pages: 428
ISBN: 978-0099498189

At times I had to remind myself that this was in fact a fiction not a memoir. It was so well written taking you back to a time when young girls were sold by their families, usually due to their circumstances and not being able to provide for the children.  In this instance the young peasant girls mother is terminally ill and her father has no work leaving him only one option but to let his daughters go.  The two girls initially think they are going to be adopted but soon find themselves living in the tea houses of Kyoto. Once separated the two sisters only see each other once more.  Initially the younger daughter is to be trained as a servant to the resident Geisha but when they see how striking the colour and shape of her eyes they decide she may well be perfect for training as a future Geisha.  It takes many years of practice and attending Geisha school until her mentor decides she is ready.  As a child she had met a man she refers to as the Director. He had been very kind to her and had given her his handkerchief when she was upset.  She had always kept it. Once a fully fledged Geisha she always hoped that the Director would become her sponsor for she had fallen in love with him as a child and had continued to love him into adult hood.  Eventually she moves to America and this is where she is now retelling her story from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. 

Through all the heartache she experiences from child - adult hood her story is essentially a love story but will it have a happy ending?

This was a bookswap with my bookswap colleague.  I did enjoy reading the book and I believe it was made into a film so it may be one I will have to try and find on dvd to watch to see how near to the book it is.

If you are looking for a nice holiday read I would certainly recommend this one. 


Saturday, 21 June 2014

Cider with Rosie - Vintage Lee

Cider with Rosie is a wonderfully vivid memoir of childhood in a remote Costwold village, a village before electricity or cars, a timeless place on the verge of change. Growing up amongst the fields and woods and characters of the place, Laurie Lee depicts a world that is both immediate and real and belongs to a now-distant past.

Publisher: Vintage Classics - Paperback
Year: New Ed edition November 2002
Pages: 232

Cider with Rosie is my return to school read for June. My sister read this one for her A Levels. In this delightful memoir Laurie Lee describes his childhood, growing up with his brothers and sisters in a small Cotswold village. He tells of his time at school and the friendships he made including Rosie.  Throughout the book there are lots of anecdotal stories and little sketches and it was a delightful entertaining read. and one I am glad I revisited even if it was on behalf of my sister. 


Friday, 20 June 2014

The Girls in Blue - Lilly Baxter

The Girls In Blue' by Lilly Baxter

When her home is destroyed in a bombing raid over London, Miranda Beddoes is forced to take refuge with her grandparents down on the Dorset coat. With both her parents doing their duty for king and country, Miranda longs to do the same. She joins the WAAF and is soon working hard to help win the war.  Despite her determination to dedicate herself to her work, Miranda falls for charismatic fighter Gil Maddern - a man known for his reckless and passion for flying. As the battle rages in the skies above them and she learns that Gil's plane has been hit, it is only the friendship of her fellow girls in blue that keeps Miranda going as she waits for news.
Published by: Arrow
Year:2012 - Paperback
Pages: 464
ISBN: 978-0099562665

Miranda and her mother are living in London when their home is bombed. Her French born mother is requested to take on secret work for the government and therefore Miranda has no option but to stay with her grand parents in Dorset.  Once off the train she befriends Rita who had come down to Dorset to stay with a family friend from London.  The girls get talking whilst waiting to be collected, some 40 minutes later they realise no one is coming and they decide to make their own way and from then on the girls forge a friendship that will last a lifetime.  The girls are going to need to find work and find jobs at the local department store,  Miranda soon realises this is not for her and makes a decision to join the WAAFS, if her parents are away defending King and country then so can she.  Whilst in the WAAFS she meets Gil, it is not love at first sight but when his plane doesn't return she begins to realise just how much she does care for him. Gil's plane has gone down but he has been picked up, having sustained injuries and Miranda is determined to help him back to health, but his mother has other idea's. 

This was essentially a love story with a few twists and turns along the way.  I really enjoyed this one, just goes to prove I'm still an old romantic at heart and even better this is another one from my yet to be read bookshelf.  Would recommend as an easy read and with the summer holidays approaching definitely a good holiday read.

Happy reading one & all


Monday, 16 June 2014

Twelve Years A Slave - Solomon Northup

In 1841, the educated musician Solomon Northup, a free man living in New York who is cruelly deceived by the promise of a job in Washington, is drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery. Once Solomon arrives in New Orleans, he is given a slave name and soon realizes that any mention of his rights as a free man is sure to bring cruel punishment or death. Denied his freedom and ripped away from his family, he spends twelve emotionally and physically grueling years on a Louisiana cotton plantation enduring the hardships and brutalities of life as a slave. When Solomon eventually finds a sympathizing friend, a daring rescue is attempted that could either end in Solomon's death or restore his freedom and reunite him with his family.

Solomon Northup was a renowned fiddle-player who was kidnapped and enslaved for twelve years before he was rescued by an official agent from the state of New York. 

Published by: Harper Perennial Classics - Kindle Edition
Pages: 154
Year: 2013 for Kindle
ISBN: 1494297396

Solomon Northup was born in 1809. He marries his wife in 1829 and they go one to have three children. Solomon goes to Washington for a possible job opportunity and for the next twelve years his life is completely changed. He is sold into slavery, given a new name and for the next twelve years works on the cotton plantations of New Orleans. He managed to get a message to his family but there was nothing they could do to expedite his release. Eventually nearly twelve years later he meets an official from New York who is visiting with the plantation owner and reveals the truth about his past. By the time he is released and returns to his family his three small children he had left behind are all but grown.

Solomon Northup's account of his capture, his time on the plantations and his eventual release is very comprehensive. I can quite understand why Steve McQueens wife thought he should make it into a film.
I've not yet seen the film but having read the book I would like to see how it is interpreted onto the big screen.

Happy reading one & all


Friday, 6 June 2014

The Storyteller - Jodi Picoult

For seventy years, Josef Weber has been hiding in plain sight.

He is a pillar of the local community. 

He is also a murderer.

When Josef decides to confess, it is to Sage Singer, a young women, who trusts him as her friend. 
What she hears shatters everything she thought she knew and believed.

As Sage uncovers the truth from the darkest horrors of war she must follow a   twisting trail between terror and mercy, betrayal and forgiveness, love - and revenge.

Published by: Hodder Paperbacks - Fiction
Year: 2014 - Paperback
Pages: 428
ISBN: 978-1444766660

Sage Singer is a young women of Jewish descent.   Her Polish grandmother is a holocaust survivor but has never spoken of the tattoo on her arm and her time in the concentration camp. Josef Weber is an elderly German immigrant. Whilst working at a local bakery Sage befriends Josef a harmless old man who comes to the cafe where she works everyday with his little dog Eva.  Josef confides in Sage about his past as an SS soldier asking for her forgiveness of the wrongs that he has committed and asks for her help to end his life.  Sage cannot believe this harmless old man could be the person he says.  Not knowing what else to do she contacts the authorities and with the help of her grandmother sets on a course to find out exactly who Josef Weber really is.

I am not too familiar with Jodi Picoult novels.  This was a book swap with my work colleague who is a big fan. She told me I would be gripped by this book and she certainly wasn't wrong. Once again my poor D would find me at every moment possible with my nose in this book. It was absolutely brilliant and a definite must read especially if you are already a Jodi Picoult fan,  

Have you a Jodi Picoult novel you would recommend?

Happy reading one & all