Saturday, June 13, 2015

may-june 2015 books

More book stuff:
The Salmon Who Dared To Leap Higher (Ahn Do-hyun): I suppose this is a modern fable - a story of a distinctive silver salmon living its predictable life, swimming upstream to the place of its birth to spawn and then to die… but also about finding freedom and a harmony with nature in pursuit of a dream. In many ways, it echoes one of my favourite books - Richard Bach’s “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” - but I’m afraid, for me, it didn’t come remotely close to matching it. Frankly, a bit of a disappointment.
Not My Father’s Son (Alan Cumming): I do like autobiographies/biographies! However, I’m definitely NOT someone who normally reads a book about a “celebrity”! Actually, I picked up this book in Foyles and remembered seeing a “Who Do You Think You Are?” programme about Cumming’s family background. Rather typically (for me!), I don’t know a great deal about Cumming as an actor but, as I flicked through a copy of the book in the shop, I became intrigued. The television programme dealt mainly with his maternal grandfather but, while the book does address this, it also deals with Cumming’s own childhood at the hands of a violent, cruel father. A brave, honest, well-written book.
The Children Act (Ian McEwan): I know McEwan has his critics, but I like his books. This one is about a highly-respected High Court judge who is called on to try an urgent case - for religious reasons, a 17 year-old boy is refusing medical treatment that could save his life. It’s a beautifully-constructed, well-paced, intricate and sensitive story which encompasses relationships, legal argument and music (amongst other things!). Although there were one or two aspects that I found a little far-fetched(?), I thought it was a rather beautiful book – with an ending that didn’t let it down. Highly recommended.
The Enneagram (Richard Rohr+Andreas Ebert): This book provides a model of human personality modelling based on nine interconnected personality types (from a Christian perspective – and showing how it was developed in Egypt by the Desert fathers and subsequently rediscovered by a Franciscan missionary at the turn of the 14th century). I’ve never really been fascinated by personality type identification and so, perhaps not surprisingly, although I found the book interesting and enlightening, I didn’t find it utterly compelling. Perhaps one reason for this is due to the fact that I get rather bogged down (ie. confused!) by the detail. Although Moira+I both agreed on her particular personality type identification, I finished the book thinking (and this will make no sense whatsoever if you’re not familiar with Enneagram!): “I’m probably a FOUR… but perhaps there are also bits of me that are a ONE or maybe even a NINE (actually, on reflection, definitely not a 9!)”. When I asked Moira what she thought (ie. my personality type), she reckoned I might be a ONE… I’ve since re-read the section and, blow me down, I think she just might be right! This is just the first sentence of the first paragraph (entitled “The Need to Be Perfect”!): “ONEs are idealists, motivated and driven on by longing for a true, just, and moral world. They are honest and fair and can spur others to work and mature and grow…”! Rest assured, there are also LOTS of irritating traits (shock horror!) – such as: “struggle against imperfection”… “stick to a precise schedule”… “all ONEs live close to the edge of self-righteousness”!! Who moi?
The Waves (Virginia Woolf): I’d not previously read any books by Woolf. This is a rather lovely, stream of consciousness, poetic novel (first published in 1931). It begins with six children playing in a garden by the sea and follows their lives as they grow up and experience friendship, love and grief. It’s about idealism, ambition, relationships, competition and comparisons… it’s also about wonder, beauty and, sometimes, the apparent pointlessness of life as one grows old. I particularly liked how Woolf inserted descriptions of the sun’s pathway - from dawn to dusk – to represent and introduce the particular periods of the characters’ lives.  At times, I found it difficult to fully understand the train of thought, but very beautiful nonetheless. I probably now need to read “To The Lighthouse”!


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