18 March 2015

no frigate like a book #6

Today, two for the grown-ups and two for the babies.

Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

I was actually angry when this book ended, because I wanted it to continue forever. I initially borrowed it from the library but proceeded to purchase my own copy, which-- in these days of responsibility and reduced pocket change-- is an honor reserved for the books I truly love.

It follows a widowed doctor, his sprightly daughter, and the colorful inhabitants of their tiny village through World War II, specifically through the Italian occupation of the Greek island of Cephallonia. The chapters are narrated from a variety of perspectives within the story, so that you get a well-rounded view of what happens.

Bernieres is a marvelous writer, I think, and this book seems to have everything: romance and history, heroism and tragedy, humor and philosophy. I laughed out loud quite often, and mused on serious themes just as often.

Can it be a tad raunchy? Yes. Did that diminish my enjoyment? Alas, not in the least. I grow lenient in my old age.
"I am sorry, Koritsimou," he confided to the corpse, "if we had not been here, you would have lived." He was exhausted, long past the point of fear, and his weariness had made him philosophical. Little girls as innocent and sweet as this had died for nothing in Malta, in London, in Hamburg, in Warsaw. But they were statistical little girls, children he had never seen himself. He thought of Lemoni, and then of Pelagia.
The unspeakable enormity of this war suddenly broke his heart, so that he gasped and fought for breath, and at the identical moment he also knew with absolute certainty that nothing was more necessary than to win it.
One Light Still Shines by Marie Monville

This is a memoir written by the wife of Charlie Roberts, who in 2006 took eight Amish girls hostage in their own schoolhouse, then shot them and committed suicide. (This happened just twenty minutes from my parents' home, in the tiny town where my current midwife practice is located.)

I was away at college when the schoolhouse shooting occurred, so it didn't have as much an impact on me as it might have. The story affected me much more this time around, as I read about it through Marie's eyes and sympathized with her shock, betrayal, and spiritual turmoil. She relates how God sustained her and her children in the immediate aftermath, protected her from bitterness, and demonstrated His love to the world through the responses of the Amish community. It's quite a remarkable story of redemption.

I've read more than my usual share of nonfiction in the past couple months, largely due to my book club. This was January's pick. I don't think I would have chosen this on my own, as it looked too much like "inspirational material" for my tastes. However, I enjoyed it (if enjoyment is at all appropriate for such a topic) and was deeply impressed by Monville's clear and sincere faith. The writing can be a bit repetitive and sappy, I'd say, but a good read overall.

I Love My Daddy and I Love My Mommy by Laurel Porter-Gaylord and Ashley Wolff

I've mentioned the mommy version before on the blog . . . we got the daddy one soon afterwards. I love this pair of sweet board books. They both have beautiful illustrations, right up animal-crazy Ellie's alley. They express a child's affection for his parents with perfect simplicity.

I also take a wicked delight in the non-politically correct portrayals of each parent. ("I love my daddy because he watches over me at night. I love my mommy because she feeds me when I'm hungry.") I even found a review that praises them for originality and realism, but concludes that "Unfortunately, the tendency here to emphasize Mommy as caretaker and Daddy as protector may reinforce sex-role stereotypes." Well, boo hoo.

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