This is one classic I was never assigned in my voyage through academia. Having recently read Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible, I decided now would be a good time to continue the focus on the Belgian Congo with a plunge into Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I found that it’s not really about the Belgian Congo so much as about the human heart. Where Kingsolver relates Congolese culture from an inside, local, personal perspective, Conrad gives literally “drive-by” impressions as his narrator pilots an English steamboat…Continue Reading “Heart of Darkness”

There are currently 1,545 reviews of this novel already listed at Amazon. What can I possibly add? Nothing. Yet I’ve just had my own personal experience of the book nonetheless. I blog partly to come to terms with reading experiences, and after such a weighty, sprawling, powerful novel as this, I feel the need to come to terms — or to find the terms — to describe and remember it. Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible centers on the family of missionary Nathan Price. In 1959, he…Continue Reading “The Poisonwood Bible”

Last year, I was dazzled by Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague. “How do people write books like this?” I wondered. “How can someone research such a seemingly unpromising subject so thoroughly — and then make it sing in a work of fiction?” March is a book I had mixed feelings about at different points in the reading, but in the final analysis I found it quite thought-provoking and satisfying. Like Year of Wonders, March is well-researched as a historical work….Continue Reading “March”

Goodnight Mister Tom is… heartbreaking. Inspiring. Eye-opening. It’s heartbreaking because it depicts two ways people can damage and destroy one another: child abuse and war. William Beech, a little boy evacuated from a London slum to the English country village of Weirwold during World War II, comes out of a home where he “didn’t get much lovin’,” as his guardian Tom Oakley puts it. In fact he has been terribly abused in ways that become apparent as the story unfolds. His mother compounds her crimes…Continue Reading “Goodnight Mister Tom”

I know. Everyone was reading and talking about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society last year, and the year before that too. I can’t say it was even on my TBR list, but I was shelf browsing at the library and there it was. So now I’ve read it. The basic story has already been summarized many times in the blogosphere. It’s a post World War II epistolary novel about life on Guernsey during and after the German occupation. It’s also a love…Continue Reading “The potato peel book”

The White Witch is a historical novel about the English Civil War(s) of the 17th century. It is surely one of Elizabeth Goudge’s best works, capturing not only the political conflict of Puritan against Royalist, but the many smaller-scale conflicts that characterize human existence. Some of these conflicts are antagonized by the war, but others are ever-present realities, whether personal, political, or spiritual: citizen vs. gypsy, Protestant vs. Catholic, trust in God vs. trust in magic, love for security vs. love for God. The all…Continue Reading “The White Witch”

I picked up this Newbery winner by Elizabeth Yates at the big book sale in our area a month or so ago. I recognized the title because I’d wanted to read it for the Decades Challenge this year, but I couldn’t get my hands on a copy and ended up reading something else instead. I thought it was wonderful. I’ve read Roots, Classic Slave Narratives, poetry by Phyllis Wheatley, and The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass, so I think (with embarrassment) that I probably approached this…Continue Reading “Amos Fortune: Free Man”