The World Was Silent When We Died

A lot of my books this month were again marvellous stories well written. However, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ stood out by a mile. The title of this blog is a line from the book, which deals with the war between Nigeria and Biafra. I’m not a fan of war-stories, but this one is just so beautifully told that it hurts. Interesting and convincing characters, coherent plot development plus subtle language made it an absolute joy to read.

Before I say a bit about the other books, here’s the list of countries I covered in February:

  1. Australia: Christos Tsiolkas – The Slap
  2. Czech Republic: Alois Jirásek – Chodische Freiheitskämpfer
  3. Ireland: James Joyce – Ulysses
  4. Nigeria: Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie – Half of a Yellow Sun
  5. Norway: Gunnar Staalesen – We Shall Inherit the Wind: Varg Veum
  6. Peru: Mario Vargas Llosa – Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter
  7. Spain: Carlos Ruis Zafon – Marina
  8. Turkey: Ayşe Kulin – Der letzte Zug nach Istanbul

The book I liked least this month was my choice for Turkey. The plot – Turkish Jews in France need to be saved from the Nazis, based on a true story – had so much potential. I found it, however, pretentious, melodramatic, full of noncredible & wooden characters and implausible actions. It was a drag.

Ulysses – no need to say much. This was the fifth time I read or listened to it, and I shall reread it again.

Varg Veum was more than the typical Scandinavian detective story. I loved the way Staalesen brought the landscape to life. Also the different views on wind power combined with business and religion added excitement to the book. Ideal for long winter evenings.

The Peruvian book was really weird. Until about a third into it, I was gripped by the different story lines which make up the whole. Then, however, the radio soap operas started to get silly. The development around Julia, the student and the scriptwriter was to some extent funny, but partly also a bit tedious. I had expected some big denouement and was really disappointed about what I thought was an anti-climax at the end.

Marina, a gothic novel, left me somewhat undecided. On the whole, I think I really liked it. Listening to the complete audiobook of more than seven hours in just over 24 hours is proof of that. Having said that, the main character, Oscar, acted – at least for my taste – way too maturely and also too detached  in dealing with all the death and destruction around him. The descriptions of Barcelona were intriguing, though, and for some reason, I enjoyed the way the awful weather was brought close to the reader. Probably, because it was similar outside my window.

One of my students had recommended the Czech author, Jirásek, and the Chodische Freiheitskämpfer (Chodové freedom fighters) was available for free, so I went for it. It proved a good choice, by and large. The only thing I didn’t appreciate was how stereotypical the characters were: the fantastic hero, the good but weak friend, the crying wife … you get the picture. However, I learned something about a bit of Central European history which I had never heard about, and found a new destination to visit in the future.

And finally, the title ‘Marmite Book of the Month’ goes to The Slap. I welcomed its honesty, and it gave me a very good idea of what life in Melbourne is like, at least among the community of Greek immigrants. That I despised pretty much all the characters – because of their racism, lies, hypocrisy and emotional blackmailing among other things –  is not the fault of the book. What I didn’t enjoy languagewise was the repetitive use of limited swearing vocabulary. What’s more, each chapter tells part of the story through a different character, but there’s no character-typical way of expressing those particular views. On the whole, the book made me think, and I was glad I completed the book but also that I could stop reading it.

February brings my list of countries covered to 16. That leaves about 230 to go, because I’ve decided to include also dependencies and non-UN countries.



The End is Nigh

The end of winter, that is. Best proof are the black headed gulls, which are already slowly putting on their summer plumage.

black headed gulls on driftwoodThe cormorants are doing the same.

cormorantIn our neighbourhood, we have a pair of kestrels which will hopefully breed. Assorted ducks and swans can be found in this part of the world all year round. The cygnets are still with their parents.

pochard and mallard tufted duck swansThis slightly overexposed hooded crow was patiently sitting on a tree near the riverbank.

hooded crowAnd at home, Floh has been exploring the (dry) bathtub. Floh the cat