I would include the book, The Virgin Cure, in a list of beach reads. Let’s face it, Ami McKay is a fabulous writer and she certainly does a fantastic job of consistently representing female characters and their challenges in her writing. So, why read this on the beach? This book reads seamlessly, apart from the use of margins and abrupt breaks in pages, every now and again, to insert Dr. Sadie’s notations, quotes and memories. This book didn’t challenge me and it did not cause me to connect so deeply with the protagonist, Moth, that I would cry at any point. The Virgin Cure was a good book, but not a strong book, in my opinion.
I’m not giving anything away in regards to the story. The inside book jacket did a disservice to Ami McKay when it says way too much!
So, what were the book’s endearing qualities?
There were certainly elements in the writing that kept me connected with the novel. I loved the protagonist, Moth. Her story is endearing, particularly in the opening chapters. At some point it feels like the story abandons Moth/Ava and I felt a real disconnect between the events she was living and her emotional self. The most tragic moment in the book happens with a lesser developed character, Alice, and for that moment, I took pause to feel revulsion. Would the story have been better had these circumstances happened to Moth?
The setting was certainly interesting…late 1800s in New York City. Having read so many books recently, set during World War II, this book provided a different, rich and many-layered world, describing, in depth, the scenes and life on the streets of New York. We are very familiar with the streets of east London from this same period, in many literary works, but to be transported to New York City was refreshing and well-done.
I love Ami McKay’s attention to objects and detail in her writing. For example, I was really curious about the tear catcher. Such a tiny element as this seemed to create an important thread through the handling of grief, power and relationship. McKay’s descriptions of period costumes and of the vaudevillian characters was superb.
So, what was not to like?
Doctor Sadie is telling this story and her relationships with the girls is handled, but not to the depth that I would like. I wanted to dig deeper into her character. Instead, I felt that her life was reported, not lived.
The narrative, while a very intriguing tale, does not go far enough. I was appalled, but not emotional. I didn’t feel the injustice in my bones and I think that is what is necessary for this to be a truly successful book. It feels to be spreading out onto the surface of things.
This book can be read easily in three sittings. It has very beautiful moments. I love Ami McKay’s writing. While this is a weaker novel, I am looking forward to working my way through her list.
This was another one for the throne room…this does not mean that books in the bathroom are any less interesting than ones on my bedside table or ones next to the red couch, it just means that I choose a different genre and always something a little less cerebral than my preferred reading, fiction or non-fiction.
Another second-hand-book-find, What Elephants Know ended up next to my other books about elephants. I liked that Jane Goodall wrote a quick recommendation. “You will be fascinated, angered, and charmed in turn by this beautifully written story.”
Dr. Eric Dinerstein is the Director of the Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions Program at RESOLVE and so I was very interested in the fact that he wrote a novel and I anticipated that the book would be written from a unique and knowledgeable perspective.
This was a lovely book that I’d recommend for students grade five to grade seven. It was a quick read that left me thinking about the vulnerability of our wildlife and ecosystems. The protagonist, Nandu, is a beautiful character who, through his young life, teaches about the numerous impacts made upon these, while exposing the reader to the vulnerability of humanity, as well.
I think this would be a wonderful book to read aloud to students. It is refreshing to find a book that is culturally diverse and can open eyes and hearts to a different human experience. Grade three students, in their study of India, may really benefit from this story. Nandu’s relationships with his female elephant, Devi Kali and with the plants and other animals of the Borderlands are described beautifully.
This is a two evening (10 potty visits) read for an adult. I recommend doing a quick review of the book before sharing with your students/children so that you know the sensitive topics that will come along. Give it a go.
I was down at Shelf Life books, listening to a wonderful double book launch by German Rodrigues and J. Pablo Ortiz. It was a very unique evening of spanish language literature, celebrating the launch of German Rodriguez’s The Time Between His Eyes (El tiempo entre sus ojos) and J. Pablo Ortiz’s Open Sea (De mar abierto). It was an excellent event and I was happy to reconnect with Pablo and to hang with his partner and my longtime friend, Brian. After the reading, I set about looking for the book, Birds Art Life because I had heard an interview about it and knew that it would affirm my experience of the pond, the discovery of birds and the resulting experience of art-making.
It was a bit of a search, but before I left, a copy of the book fell into my hands.
Very linear in my approach to books, I finished the McCullers title, before snapping up this beautiful object of my obsession.
I rushed through my earlier two reviews, books I’ve read in the past month, so that I could get to this recommendation, Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear. In this book, I found something kindred to everything I have become in retirement and in the past six years of loving a single ecosystem, a pond environment within the boundaries of the City of Calgary.
I kept putting the book down, and lifting off of the sofa or my bed or the bench out in the back yard, in order to pace and whoot and say, out loud, “YES!” Since reading The Diviners so many years ago, I have not had such physical reactions to what I am reading.
I discovered, through the book, that my ‘SPARK’ bird, was a sparrow, more precise, Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow, some eight years ago. Hardly romantic or colourful, strange that my true attraction to birds was discovered looking out from my kitchen window, across at the open vent of my neighbour’s kitchen…several nesting seasons…widowing…lost youngsters…and determination through all sorts of weather conditions. I began to watch. I took out the camera, for the first time, to take photographs of sparrows.
From that kitchen place, my exploring began at a pond environment that I call Frank’s Flats, named after a homeless man who most evenings, watched me gather up litter into a bag a day for several years. He drank six beer in the time it took me to fill a bag with plastics, straws, newspaper flyers and other human garbage. He chatted with me, thanked me and visited at the end of most evenings, as I put my collection into the bin, near his viewing spot.
I think that the first time I really noticed the birds, I was drawn to the red winged black birds because of their determined mating calls.
My experience of the pond has, since discovering birds, coyotes and little field mice, become magical. The lessons I have learned about compassion, care, art and writing, have been many and profound. I am so grateful for the number of stories and discoveries that come my way because I am always looking for the little miracles.
If you are looking for a way to deepen your experience of life and living, pick up this book. It is a treasure and my new favourite! It contains countless references to other writers, thinkers and artists…book titles…and the author’s connections with her own story. I hope that my readers will discover urban nature and hold on to the power of that experience.
The summer of 2013, I was also staying with my father. That is the summer that India swooped into my hands and I read her. Grieving for my mother, I went deep into a couple of epic narratives, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. I immersed myself, much as I am this summer, in a lot of Al Purdy poetry and George Bowering poetry, as a way of dealing with loss and feelings that not only bubbled onto the surface, but became like open boils on my heart. To go back further, to the summer of 2011, I became captivated by Belleville and picked up everything I could that was written by Gerry Boyce, local historian (who happens to now live in my father’s building), and began stalking Susanna Moodie; visiting her house on Bridge Street west, visiting her resting place, even locating original marble at Campbell’s monuments and of course, read her writing and what others wrote about her and her sister, Catherine Parr Trail. Summers with my father have proved to be interesting literary events, every time.
This summer, I brought along The Goldfinch by Donna Tarttt, a novel that every one was talking about, but one that I had not taken the time to read. In retrospect, I regret that I did not previously read The Secret History. In most reviews I find that there are comparisons being drawn between the two books and typically, The Secret History surpasses the other for its construction, originality and popularity. It’s now on my ‘to do’ list.
So…my thoughts on a book that is likened, in part, to Rowling’s Harry Potter, Dickens and Breaking Bad? I guess I can only review this one through my own eyes and that’s why literary reviews can be very interesting…they are so personal. Dr. Joan Macleod’s words come to mind. “You notice what you know.” Anything you do, see or understand is coming from a prior knowledge and experience, without any intention to do so. While I may perceive some Goodreads reviews to be desperately arrogant where this novel is concerned, I can’t fault those authors because they may have been looking for something very different where a ‘good book’ is concerned.
I have no choice but to break this one down…
First and foremost, for me, is that ‘THE GOLDFINCH’ (the 1654 painting done by Carel Pietersz. Fabritius ) was the element (yes, it became a character for me) that I would not lose sight of throughout the novel. I fell in love with the painting at the first moment that Theo saw it through his mother’s eyes. Once described by the author, I was captivated. I would be concerned from that point forward until the end, about what was to happen to the painting, but also, what the painting had to say to me, the reader.
Now, not every one would be captivated by the painting and its symbolism. I would propose that readers who have adored a piece of art in a dusty art textbook or on an art card or reproduction for years and then see it for the first time ‘in the flesh’, know what I’m talking about, here. Edgar Degas’s sculpture, The Little Dancer, is that for me. I saw the sculpture in so many forms, but until I saw it in three dimensions in the center of a room at the National Art Gallery, the first exhibit to be showcased in the new building the summer of 1988, I did not realize just how much a person can be left breathless by art.
I remembered weeping when I saw her. (but enough of that)
The point being that, while others are annoyed by the last fifteen pages of the novel, I was engrossed in them. An examination of the subject of the painting and its treatment was crucial to me. While many readers found the high keyed description annoying, excessive and boring, I lavished in it, likely because I’m that sort of writer. (this makes me laugh) To be honest, though, there were sections in Las Vegas where I tuned out…also, places where I found myself skimming. Did that happen for you?
Some critics describe the portion of the book set in Las Vegas to be the strongest portion, but this was the section I had the most difficulty with. Not to draw comparisons, but it was the drug culture and experience in Shantaram that I found the least interesting. I find that ‘druggies’ quickly become treated as stereotypical mono-faceted characters. There isn’t anything that surprises me in the writing of their habits, their related bad choices or the consequences of those. I really didn’t care ‘how many’ pills Boris or Theo were taking…or how much vodka they were drinking. So, can you tell? This section rubbed me the wrong way. (Note that I’m trying not to ruin the story for others here, by being rather vague.) I guess we needed Vegas because we needed to know Theo’s father. Boris just rubbed me the wrong way…throughout. I wasn’t all that taken by his character, the way he was written or the seamless way that he managed to undo his past mistake. Oh my! That was all too easy and a disappointment. (no spoiler alert required…see!) READ THE BOOK.
What I loved…apart from the Goldfinch…the painting…the symbolism there…Welty’s love for the painting, Theo’s mother…
I relished everything and anything to do with the old house, the writing of Hobie and his life in the downstairs wood shop. Pour on the detail! Would this engage every reader? No. But, moi??? YES! Antiques, wood, bric-a-brac, trades, recuperation, recreation and the interesting characters who came and went in Hobie’s life. This was the ‘stuff’ of life and I think that Theo had stability in this setting. It was a relief whenever and however he landed there. Pippa was a beautiful maiden…a disappointment that the relationship didn’t feel resolved, but interesting none-the-less.
Andy and the Barbour family…another layer of story, a setting, somehow separate from the number of others. The Barbour family becomes a microcosm, each character struggling in a unique way. One can get wrapped up in their world, as well. Written as a separate, but somehow connected, passage to the larger narrative, the ‘endings’ for each of these characters become concerning and the reader is left asking, “How does any of this impact Theo, after all?”
My readers, here, may have already wondered about the multiple settings and the long litany of characters…well, I suppose that this is where Tartt receives most of her criticism. In the end, however, I view the book, in culmination, as a fanciful narrative about everything that is ‘us’…the traumas, the celebration, the consequences and the histories within one life.
I am staying in an apartment building that overlooks a very Victorian landscape, well manicured lawns and beautifully constructed, if not ornamental, homes. I’ve met so many individuals who live here and each one comes with their own complex story. This book is like that, oodles of tales within a single character’s life time. They enter and they depart and at the end of it, we are left with the tale of a single image, an object of affection and the fact that it was something that remained, however ephemeral.
A Goldfinch bound by a small tether…for a lifetime…to its own life.
There was such soft light flowing in the classroom, when I arrived. The students and I didn’t end up closing the blinds until the sun started pouring into the classroom, during late morning. When I arrived, I knew it was going to be a great day.
I am passionate about teaching in the role of guest teacher. I have only a short while with the children and I want to be the very best that I can be to influence empathy, peace and learning. I was excited to be working in Carli’s Grade three classroom and she’s given me permission to share this post with you, in the case that you want to extend off of any of these ideas and explore some alternatives. It’s funny that we run to Pinterest for ideas when right across the hall from us, are a whole number of masters who can mentor us and inspire us with new ‘ideas’.
To begin my morning, I read over, for myself, the posted Pedagogy for teaching. I remembered this from another visit, but wanted to remind myself.
The community group tables allow for easy access to materials and tools that might be needed. There is shared responsibility for their organization and upkeep.
Student notebooks/workbooks are stored in those little white bins on the shelves…they are stored throughout the classroom in order to avoid traffic jams. The students know where each of their items is located.
I love love love the books and really enjoyed looking at the book, Where Children Sleep by James Mollison. I need to get myself a copy of this. Instead of circulating and having the children read aloud to me during our individual reading time, I had several students come to me and read from this book as I sat in a comfy chair. It wasn’t long before one of the children came to me with a student-made book on the same topic, created last year, by the Grade twos. I think this is a beautiful idea.
Books can be a discovered throughout the classroom, linking up visions with concepts and making learning real and rooted in literacy.
Students created, in science, their own Rock Museum. They enjoy using their vocabulary.
They had done lots of research and study!
When students have a guest teacher, they get to wear the mantle of the expert and spill over with conversations about the things they have learned. Our birthday girl brought in crystals and minerals for her sharing from the comfy chair. The kids were overcome with excitement by the ‘rare’ stones.
I appreciated the student-made posters illustrating the Rights of Every Child. Those are three D models of the structure of the ear done in partner work…made out of modelling clay. The students have left rocks and minerals and have begun their study of sound, hearing and the ear. I have to say, as an adult, I had forgotten the various physiological components, but these guys could give it to me rote. I LOVE THESE MODELS!
I felt this cold coming on and felt a bit of a headache. I asked the students, if later, I could try out their Peace tent. They enthusiastically told me, YES! I have to confess, when they went out for recess, I climbed in and just chilled, exploring their posters, their sayings and their origami paper folding.
Math centers were tons of fun, with the kids, getting up and rotating through the four stations every 15 minutes. This gives the students opportunity to move and to shift focus. Awesome. I discovered that I’m not very good with Tangrams.
For those of my readers who follow me, you know that I enjoy engaging nature where and when I can…getting out daily, with my border collie, Max. Well, if you can’t get out there, then try to bring bits of it inside!
And never ever forget that you are always learning…and that it’s a treasure to others that you share what you learn. Thank you, Carli Molnar! Thank you, Grade Threes!
This IS a VERY wordy post…a huge exerpt from a beautiful publication coming out of UBC in 1981. I encourage you to read the interview from beginning-to-end, especially if you are interested in writing, reading, art, dance, theater…it all connects. Once finished, you may wish to pour over the entire pdf document. Very ‘heady’ stuff.