Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fiction and Non-Fiction

I have many new followers, Hi Followers! So, for you who are new to GoCrochet... I also love reading. But since I want this blog to be at least 98% crochet, I put a bunch of books in one post once every six weeks or so, so that I don't drag them out taking up precious crochet content time. Here's what I've been reading:

I just finished reading The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein. Mr. Bernstein was 96 when he wrote this book, a memoir of his childhood in post-WW1 London. He lived on a segregated street, on one side Christians and on the other side, Jews. The story feels like fiction. It has all the drama and intrigue of fiction. It has colorful interesting characters. I very much enjoyed the story which centered around his older sister, who began a friendship with a Christian boy. All the people, family, neighbors, revolved around this taboo relationship. A very, very good read.

It makes me wonder, though... about the definition of a memoir. I do not at all suspect Mr. Bernstein of embellishing or fictionalizing his story. But when you are remembering back 75-80 years, I wonder how much he had to trust he feelings about the situation when he perhaps didn't remember a detail or two?

It makes me think of that author who said he wrote a true story and was interviewed on Oprah and then later it came out that he "embellished" a little. Everyone's reality is different. How real is a memoir? 100% fact? 50% fact and 50% fiction? 10% fact and 90% fiction? Just wondering.

Before I go on, let me tell you a little about how I choose books. Many times, I just take one off the stack at our County Library. They make a "monthly selection" and I often take one regardless of what it's about so that I can "expand my horizons" and attempt to read something of value. Also, our branch library chooses a monthly selection for their book club. I often grab one of those too. I don't ever get to the discussion group, but I enjoy chatting about the book with the branch librarian who runs the group. (Hi Monica!) Sometimes, I pick books that friends have recommended. Sometimes, I just pick a random book off the shelf that catches my attention. As a last resort, I grab a book from a popular fiction best-selling writer, knowing that I'll be entertained but that I won't likely be "expanding my horizons".

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
This one was a monthly selection by the County library. It seems that the older I get, the more likely I am to abandon a book part-way through. As my other librarian friend tells me (and Zoe's mom) that there are too many other good books out there to waste time on one you don't like. I read about 75 pages of this one. It is (so far) about the differences between the Mormon Church of the Latter Day Saints and the Fundamentalists Mormons who, in some cases, practice polygamy. Also there is some discussion in the book about the abuses that have occurred.

Suddenly, I was thrown back to Freshman (in college) Spoken Word class (speech). We learned that every speech has a purpose, to entertain, instruct, or persuade. (and sometimes more than one of these). While reading this book, I began to wonder about the author's purpose. Is he trying to instruct or persuade? This question bothered me enough and he failed to entertain enough, that I gave up.

The Sisterhood
by Michael Palmer
I listened to this one on audiobook and was very entertained. Not only was I curious how it was going to turn out, this medical mystery/drama, but it didn't kill me emotionally, which is nice. It's ok if a book tugs at my heartstrings, but I don't like to read book after book that makes me sob. This one was good. It is about a surgeon who had a tragic past trying to resurrect his career. Simultaneously, there is a secret society of nurses who believe in euthanasia that interferes with the surgeon's livelihood. Again, at the same time, a few other mysterious deaths occur. Are they a result of the doctor's incompetence, are they the work of the Sisterhood of nurses? or are they the work of someone else... duh, duh, dum (dramatic music).

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult
Wow. I just closed this one. In usual Jodi Picoult style (consider "Her Sister's Keeper") this book pushes and prods the gray areas of ethics in our lives. This story is about a little girl with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bone disease). The family all wrestle with the contradiction between loving this unique child and coping the with the extra difficult circumstances her disease creates. At some point a "wrongful birth" lawsuit is filed. Every nuance of this difficult topic is probed. I won't give away the ending, but Wow. It was a very good book, but I don't know if I want to read more of Ms. Picoult's heart wrenching exploration of human ethics.

A Cedar Cove Christmas by Debbie Macomber
A sweet story with a wink and a nudge to the Original Christmas story. A cute, quick, easy read. Few pages, big type. Still, it's a little disturbing the main character, MaryJo, being loosely compared to the Virgin Mary. MaryJo, who had a child out of wedlock under less than pure circumstances... but if you can put that aside, it was ok.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMaurier
The first several pages were so frightening that I almost didn't continue. Not frightening in the slasher movie sense, but frightening in the chilling reality of how a villain could be in the real world, how a villain could be in a family. Set in the moody moors of England in the winter, main character, Mary, is forced to join distant family and keep a promise. She soon finds that the promise to live with them was a promise that she made in haste without knowing what she was getting herself into. It reminded me of the movie "Cape Fear" that same kind of creepy, icky scary. I finished the book. It was good, I find though, that I get impatient with too much description and finding myself wanting to skip to the dialogue. DuMaurier also wrote the epic Rebecca, which I think I have read, but I can't remember at all.

Up next, The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

4 comments:

Kimberly said...

Ellen-

I am going to start The Help next too, and then my mom gave me The Lace Reader... she said it was excellent.

Happy Reading! Kimberly

PS have you read 1000 White Women? It's my all time favorite

Crochet Friends of Stamford said...

I love book review day! I just finished Girl With the Pearl Earring. It is a historical nonfiction about the painter Vermeer. It was a really fast read and I loved it! My reading time is slowing down - honestly, I don't know when you sleep girlfriend!! Have a great day! :o)Haley

Ghost said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your review of these books. Great entry idea.

Molly said...

I decided to make me another blog just for my books so I could separate them from my crocheting. I love coming by here to read your reviews, I get some great ideas for my "next" books. Don't ever change it, please.