Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Two short reviews

Life outside the blogisphere has got me running around a bit at the moment. And the thing that's suffered is my online life - e.mail and reading my favourite blogs and updating my own. I'm behind and it's frustrating as it's very important to me but, hopefully, it's just a temporary thing and life will soon be back to normal. I'm really not a person who wants to be on the go all the time!

Anyway, needs must so I'll talk about the two books I've just finished briefly. The first is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.



I could just say, 'If you only ever read one book about Africa, read this one' and leave it at that. But I won't. *g* It took me three to four weeks to read this book. Not the book's fault, mine, for being so busy. I'd have preferred to read it a bit quicker than that but in fact it's a story to be savoured and maybe it's a good thing I took so long to read it. The story is about the Price family. Father, mother and four daughters. The father, Nathan, is an evangelical, southern Baptist, who takes his family off to The Belgian Congo on a religious mission. It's 1959 - close to the time of the country's independence from Belgium. The narrative is told from the pov of the mother and the four girls in turn, never the father. It's a tale of family relationships, ignorance, tragedy and, most of all, 'Africa'. It's also a tale of the effect *our* interference has had on African countries, specifically The Congo, and by that I mean European countries and the USA. If only half of what's implied here is true, our governments should be ashamed. A brilliant, brilliant book, and one that's certain to make it into my best book list at the end of the year.



Trollope the Traveller, edited by Graham Handley, has been my bedtime read for the last three or four weeks. Put simply, it includes selections of his travel writings from 1859 to the late 1870s and includes The USA and Canada, The West Indies, Australia and New Zealand and South Africa. This is not a politically correct book. He expresses opinions which, to our 21st. century sensibilities, might be a bit questionable. That didn't bother me, I'm always able to look at this kind of writing in the context of when it was written. It's also no bad thing to see how far we've come I think. Other than that the writings are sheer joy. Trollope writes with humour and honesty, not just about the big things - political situations and so on - but about the little things as well. In fact I think I found the small things more interesting - how he was put up in the Transvaal by some Boers who were kindness itself, but he couldn't sleep in the bed because it was so filthy; his little nit-picky Post Office observations that were serious to him but so funny to the reader. Fascinating stuff and I'm looking forward to starting The Warden now that I know a bit about the man himself.

17 comments:

DesLily said...

since you like stories of Africa have you ever read or seen the movie "Cry The Beloved Country"? The movie stars James Earl Jones and Richard Harris. It's about a black man who kills a white man and the trial that ensues, back in the 1940s when they would even allow black and whites in the same room as the trial without a wall between them. Also about what it does to both the families. (excellent movie)

Tara said...

The Poisonwood Bible is such a good book! I've read it twice; the second time to discuss it at bookclub. It definitely wasn't what I was expecting, but in the best way.

BooksPlease said...

I just love The Poisonwood Bible, a fantastic book. I must read the Trollope now.

Petunia said...

I have heard so many good things about The Poisonwood Bible but I never have the time to read it. Hopefully sometime this year.

Cath said...

Hi Pat. Funnily enough I have Cry the Beloved Country on my tbr mountain. And the front cover shows James Earl Jones and Richard Harris. I'll try to read that this year.

I think I will have to read The Poisonwood Bible again, Tara. There's so much in it to think about that I'm sure I must have missed things.

Booksplease, have you reviewed the book? I would love to read it if you have. I wish I had more time to say more about it but things are hectic at the moment. Do you have a copy of the Trollope?

Petunia, The Poisonwood Bible is well worth finding the time to read. It's very thought provoking and also very moving. Really it's just an incredible piece of work.

DesLily said...

how cool that you have the book!...
I loved the movie! There's one scene with James Earl Jones (who i love!) that made me cry so hard I had to watch the movie about 4 times to hear what he said in that part! lol every time it would get there I'd cry again!! sheesh, I'm a wimp! lol

Kay said...

THE POISONWOOD BIBLE is one of those books that I've meant to read for years but have not. Maybe this year.

Cath said...

Pat, after I've read the book I'll probably get the dvd of the movie. I love both those actors and I'm sure it must be a good film.

Kay, I didn't know much about The Poisonwood Bible until I saw it in a couple of people's 'best books for 2007' lists. I happened to see it in the library just after and am really glad I decided to pick it up. It's one of those books you keep thinking about for days after you've finished it.

monix said...

I love Trollope, so will definitely put this book about his travels on my wish list, Cath.

'The Poisonwood Bible' sounds really interesting too and not at all what I imagined from the title. My husband grew up in what was colonial Southern Rhodesia, he had a wonderful childhood there and his father did a great deal of good in helping to eradicate smallpox. However, just before he died (many years after returning to England), father-in-law said: 'we got it all wrong in Africa, you know.' As you say in your post, we have to judge what people said and did within the context of their time but a great deal of unwitting harm was done in the days of Empire.

Cath said...

Monix, it's funny you should say that about Africa and your father-in-law. At the end of the Trollope book he says what a good job had been done in Southern Africa, that The Empire hadn't mucked it up as in Australia and New Zealand with the Maoris and the Aborgines. And I thought... 'pity you weren't able to read The Poisonwood Bible'. This book has changed me. I was a bit on the fence about empire but I can see now the immense amount of damage all the colonial countries did, everywhere they went. *Do* read this if you possibly can. It's not a rampagingly anti-colonial book, it just points out gently the terrible mistakes that were made in all innocence or because we were well intentioned and didn't know any better.

Rob Hopcott said...

It's the little details that make the story so real, isn't it?

And it is so easy to forget that people of yesteryear breathed, had doubts, loved their animals and enjoyed travel, just as we do.

Excellent reviews.

Cath said...

Thanks, Rob. Yes, it can be surprising when you find people from another century have just the same worries and concerns that we have now. In one bit Trollope was saying that he thought our monarchy was in no way threatened and that it would still be around in centuries to come. How right he was... but wrong about other things, none of which I can remember now of course!

I see you have some fascinating blogs! I peered quickly at a photo one and was delighted to see pics of Porlock. We moved here five years ago from Minehead where we were for 8 years, so it was really nice to see those. I shall investigate your other blogs a bit later, it all looks very interesting. Folk groups around the SW pubs? My nephew plays in a folk group that does the Somerset pubs, I'm wondering if you know him - Bill Owsley. I forget what the the group is called, unfortunately, but they're based around the Blackdowns.

Rob Hopcott said...

What a coincidence, I've lived in Minehead for over ten years.

I'm afraid I haven't come across your nephew. I tend to go across Exmoor rather than travel up towards Taunton or Bridgwater both of which roads, by now, I've just driven far too many times.

I'll certainly be back to read your reviews some more.

Bye for now

Rob

Nan - said...

Both books sound fantastic, though I lean more toward the T. I do love to read books on traveling from the past.

Cath said...

Hi Nan. I don't know what it is about travel books from the past but I prefer them too. Something to do with it not being so easy for them I suppose. I like reading about the difficulties and conditions.

BookGal said...

I'm so glad you liked The Poisonwood Bible. It was my favorite read last year with a bullet. I recommend it to everyone.

Cath said...

Bookgal: I so agree with you about The Poisonwood Bible. It overwhelmed me with its brilliance and I'm awed that an author can turn out work like that. I have a book of her short stories to read, from the library. It'll be interesting to see how they compare.