THE NECKLACE : THIRTEEN WOMEN AND THE EXPERIMENT THAT TRANSFORMED THEIR LIVES. By Cheryl Jarvis
Jewelia is the name of the necklace in this book, named after Julia Child, heroine to many. This alone made me snigger into my cup of tea. A true story, the premise behind the book is rather nice I think, a group of women in a Californian city band together to purchase a beautiful diamond necklace that each has for a month at a time to wear or lend out or whatever they want to do with it, passing it onto the next person. Much like a book club I guess. Each of the 13 chapters focuses on a different woman in the group, detailing a bit of her background, how she felt about the concept, her 'relationship' with the necklace, how wearing it affected her, because funnily enough it seems to affect all of them in some way. Mostly from a self-esteem point of view, as if the necklace has been endowed with some sort of magical charm. And this is my problem with this book. California is probably the new age/self-help capital of the world, and that is what this book is all about. I found it all a bit ridiculous really, reading about how a necklace is able to transform lives. But on the other hand, if people feel better about themselves because of it then great; I just don't think a book needs to be written and published documenting it. Nevertheless the real world does intrude in the form of petty arguments and differences between the women, and little power plays that go on in any 'committee' or club where people meet for a common cause. One woman for example gets upset when another woman, on her turn, lends the necklace out to the daughter of a family friend for a special occasion, before her own daughter gets to wear it for a similar event. I don't think it is brilliantly written, it is almost as if it has been put together in a hurry, there is very little depth to it. I am not really sure what the purpose of the book was - to tell us about 13 women and their relationship with the necklace, or the 'management' and 'ownership' of the necklace, or its use as a fund raising tool, which is barely touched upon but could have been quite interesting to find out more about.
THE WHITE TIGER By Aravind Adiga
A number of us have now read this book. We all enjoyed it very much, primarily for its sheer story telling. Set in modern day India it tells the rag to riches story of Balram, a young lad from 'The Darkness', an area of extreme poverty and deprivation, where all the wealth, such as it is, is held in the corrupt and dirty hands of a few. It is narrated by Balram himself in the form of a letter to the Chinese Premier who is about to make a state visit to India. He is basically telling the Premier not to believe all the gloss and hype about India, but to look a little more closely and he will see the evil, the corruption, the insidiousness of the caste system, and the inability to escape it unless you are prepared to take some very drastic action which is what Balram does. At many times he is not a likeable character, but the writing is skilful enough that the reader does sympathise/empathise, and wants him to achieve his goal, ie get rich! It is probably a very simplisitic view of modern day India, and many Indians probably do not like it, but for sheer storytelling, and pace, you can't go past this as a good read. And unlike many Man Booker winners of the past, it is a jolly good read.
PEOPLE OF THE BOOK By Geraldine Brooks
Another great read, with excellent story telling, tonnes of history and social commentary, and excellent characterisation. The 'Book' is a Haggadah, a book of prayer used in the Jewish Passover ceremony. Geraldine Brooks' novel is a fictionalised account of a Haggadah that has been preserved and hidden and protected all over Eastern and Western Europe since the 1400s. You can google it, and see illustrations of it, and read all about its real history. It is absolutely fascinating. The central character, other than the Book, is Hanna, an Australian book restorer, who finds herself in Sarajevo restoring the Haggadah. From a number of items she finds in the book, and some marks and illustrations on the pages, the story of it unfolds back through the centuries. Parallel with this story is Hanna's own story as she travels from Sarajevo to Austria, New York and Australia. And that is also very readable. In the past we have read other books by Geraldine Brooks - Foreign Correspondent, Year of Wonders, and March. I don't think any of us have read all of them, but we have enjoyed what we have read. I personally think this is a marvellous story, gripping from beginning to end.
DIRT MUSIC by Tim Winton
Multi layered, beautifully written, descriptive and atmospheric. A love story revolving around a love triangle, but also a journey of self discovery for each of the three troubled characters, each with more baggage than an inner city railway station. They are a mess, and so are the relationships. Set against the raw and rough and unforgiving land and sea scape of Western Australia, beauty and love and forgiveness somehow happen amongst these three damaged individuals. What remains with me the most is the power of the human spirit to overcome and that where there is life there is hope. It is not a sad story by any means but there are a number of obstacles and challenges. Georgie Jutland, in her early 40s, an ex-nurse who somehow finds herself living with fisherman Jim Buckridge, sad widower with 2 young sons, in a fishing town on the coast. Jim has a hard man reputation to live up to which is not really him. Georgie has come to the realization her life has no meaning but does not know what to do about it other than drink and roam the beaches in the middle of the night. Lastly there is Luther Fox, probably around the same age, born and bred in the same area, who is dealing with losing his family in a tragic vehicle accident, of which he was the only survivor. He is also leading an aimless life, trying to make a living by fishing illegally. The clash when the lives of these three merge keeps you turning the pages. I have read 'Cloudstreet', an early novel of Tim Winton's, which I did not really enjoy, but I am glad I persevered with another of his books.