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Author Topic: What are you reading?  (Read 15666 times)


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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #75 on: February 06, 2021, 11:28:20 am »
I read this book back in October, the perfect season for a book about ghosts and hauntings. The author did a great job of creating Alfred Hitchcock's chills and suspense. It is one of this year's Whitney Award Finalists in the YA Speculative Genre.

Lifelike by Sheila Nielson




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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #76 on: February 13, 2021, 12:47:10 am »
The Black Death by John Hatcher, a story of the Great Plague of the 1340s in one English village. It reads like a historical account, but the people & events were created through the authorís research into Catholic Church records, village archives, & other records of the time, which he examined exhaustively to learn about the lives of ordinary people & everyday happenings.

We all know that for most of human existence, history was written from the viewpoint of those in power, so much of this story had to be created from scratch because almost everyone in the 14th century was illiterate. Priests, doctors, village clerks or other officials, & a scant few others who were literate had enormous power, & especially the clergy because people were generally very religious. Even those who lied, stole, fornicated, & were habitually idle or drunk would take care to say their confessions & be sure to obtain the last rites from the priests when their time came. Many priests also functioned as quasi-physicians, maybe because they could read & were able to learn from earlier scientific literature (there is a mention of one priest who had read the writings of the ancient Greek physician Galen). There was also a lot of superstition based on both Christian & pagan ideas.

The story is chronological, starting before the plague reaches England but with rumors about a mysterious pestilence that has swept though vast parts of Asia, the Levant (what we call the Middle East), & Europe. With near-universal illiteracy & limited travel by ordinary folk, it was hard for them to know how much was true in the tales of people sickening & dying within 3-4 days, the plague spreading from just looking at an infected personís eyes, giant buboes that took over the body & turned it livid (hence the name ďBlack PlagueĒ), corpses heaped up in the fields, etc. The main figures are the village priest, a devoted, tireless, humble servant, his assistants, & a few village families that we know by name along with some secondary characters. Many of these people were made up for the story for reasons mentioned. There are revealing insights on the feudal way of life, how the landless were at the mercy of the upper classes, & then the ways that the plague & the loss of half the population impacted feudalism.

Iím in the middle of it, so I donít know everything that happens. But it seems that the peak of the plague in this village was for about two months, then it stopped.

I learned some new words that I had to look up in order to follow the story, including beadle, bede, villein, heriot, childwyte, "shrift, housel, & annealing," & I finally saw in print ďbrethren and sistren.Ē The author is a history professor at Cambridge, but the book was published in the U.S., uses American spelling, & doesnít read the way you might expect a British author to write. I donít know if this was a special U.S. edition, but itís easy to read & interesting.

Next, I will read a positive book, because enough of plagues & pestilences. 😷  I think next will be either a collection of stories about living with wildlife in California (When Mountain Lions Are Neighbors) or maybe a novel of the California Gold Rush that I got awhile ago but never started. 
« Last Edit: February 13, 2021, 07:13:14 pm by Curelom »


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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #77 on: September 12, 2021, 05:09:42 pm »
I'm in the middle of a book called The Unanswered Letter by Faris Cassell. It's the story of a letter that came into the hands of a journalist by happenstance. The letter was written by a Jewish couple in Vienna in 1939, to an American family who had the same last name but were strangers. The Vienna couple was pleading for sponsorship to leave Austria because the handwriting on the wall was getting clearer every day.

The American family lived in Los Angeles, & the letter remained in their home for decades. When their descendants later went to sort out their grandparents or GGPs' things, they found the letter & gave it to their doctor, who is Jewish. The doctor had lost most of his preceding generations in the Holocaust - not sure whether his patient who found the letter knew this, but with the magnitude of Hitler's atrocities, it's reasonable to think they did.

The doctor's wife is the journalist & is not Jewish, but she took a profound interest in the Vienna couple & wanted to know what became of them. Did the Americans reply or try to help them escape Hitler? What became of their children, whom they had already sent to America? Were there any other family members she could find? Why did the Vienna couple write to these particular strangers, aside from a shared (& not extremely uncommon) last name?

I'm in the middle of it, so I don't know everything she discovers. But she's described research she did, records she obtained from Austria, finding several relatives or their descendants living in the U.S. & Israel, & viewing papers, pictures, & belongings salvaged from Europe. She & her husband, & one of the couple's granddaughters who now lives in New York, are about to travel to Vienna.

The journalist learned more about the family history of these people than I'll likely ever know about my own. It's intriguing to see how she got so engaged in the story, how it brought out memories in them (& in her husband) that they had repressed for decades, & how many of the people brought together by her quest became friends with her & her husband.

The Holocaust is not a positive or uplifting subject, but some of what has come out of it is. Holocaust survivors are among the most resilient, accomplished, community-minded, generous people I know of - not surprising because this is what Jewish tradition throughout a history full of rejection & persecution has ingrained into its believers. People who survived, thrived, & lived uncommon common lives, are inspiring to all of us. I'm fascinated with this story, have shed a few tears reading it, & look forward to getting to know everyone in it better.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2021, 01:34:32 am by Curelom »
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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #78 on: September 12, 2021, 06:03:16 pm »
Curelom, thank you so much for sharing about this book. It sounds fascinating and it's one that I would never come across on my own when searching for a book to read. Now *I* want to know what came of the family in Vienna!
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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #79 on: September 13, 2021, 01:32:24 am »
Sparky, I got this at Target.

People snicker at Target, but I've stumbled on a few pretty good books there. They have a lot of fluff & junk literature, but occasionally there is a gem.
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