Thoughts of an Author in Training
Phenomenal book I discovered at the thrift store. It takes place in Soviet Russia during WWII which opens up a whole range of creative opportunities and ideas. Our protagonist, Leo Demidov is a member of the MGB at a time when even the truth can be wrong. Treason is only a matter of perspective and unfortunately Leo’s investigation of a child murder is something the government considers treason. The mystery antagonist turns out to be based off the Rostov Ripper, known for his conviction of 52 murders in the 40s.
I always appreciate when a fiction novel can creatively paint a story with historical facts. This book accomplishes that emotionally well. Child 44 uses the constructs of a murder mystery to develop anti-establishment ideas in order to gain truth through justice. I was held in captivity of this book for three days, I couldn’t put it down. Smith wasn’t afraid to put the reader right in the action, through brutal death, tragedy, and deception.
The character building in this book was well done. Leo and his wife Raisa have no choice but to face a brutal truth about their relationship, which I won’t give away, but I truly enjoyed how Smith handled the results very realistically. It wasn’t a magical love story ending, I don’t know if you can even classify it as a happy ending but after the shenanigans that the book goes through, it was the wow ending that I needed. The book includes and develops a multitude of characters, some that you’ll hate and some that you’ll really feel empathetic for, all in credit to the details and scenes that Smith constructs so well.
I would recommend this book to anyone who can endure empathetically with the truth of tyranny, it does get really graphic in certain points. But beyond that I would recommend it purely for its devotion to a new historical perspective on the transition of hero to so called traitor, as Leo challenges an entire nation in order to find what’s real.
WWII seems to be a theme this month as The Book Thief takes place in Germany during the early 1940s. From the title alone I was interested. The story follows a young girl named Leslie, adopted by the Hubbermans, who finds an identity in the solitude of reading books, specifically stolen books. There seems to be some justice in the ability to take something back in a time of history where some many aspects of life were uncontrollable. Taking books stood for taking something back from the Führer, a retribution for the family that was taken by war and prejudice.
I wanted so badly to love this book, because it is set up for optimal emotional attachment, but I just couldn’t. That is because of two facts, both stylistic: one, the narrator was Death himself, and two, the choppy interjection/summary every few pages were distracting. I do admire greatly the bold style moves to try something new, because there are only so many ways to recreate the same story, and Death’s perspective was a creative way to go. I just couldn’t get in to the flow of the book because the chapter titles and interjections summed up the story before it happened. You know in the first part of the book that Rudy is going to die before it happens in the last chapter. For me, that ruins part of the fun. This could be that I’m trapped in an old school style of writing, but I get frustrated when the acts to follow are summarized. I felt that the omniscient narrator took away from the emotional depth that I wanted to feel when certain scenes happened. I still got the goose bumps when reading Max’s story to Leslie and the ending, but I felt that the bold majesty of this story could have been intensified by some selective personal perspective. I wanted to dive right in and feel Leslie’s pain when everything’s taken from her at the end. Torture the protagonist, my teacher always advised, but this time I felt the torture as the reader always wanting to see a little bit more.
That being said I still couldn’t put the book down, despite the style I turned page after page, because the plot and characters were so good. Even though I was aside from the perspective, having Death as an omniscient narrator opened up a wild range of possibilities and thoughts about the bigger pictures and themes. Themes such as tyranny, identity, justice, and death the action, were all captured in a wider scope. This story was more than a recreation of the WWII genre. So beyond the narrator and style I did enjoy the book and would recommend it because it’s still a rewardingly classic story. Though I would advise making sure you have the time to read 540 pages and the patience.
I usually steer clear of sci-fi, simply because I’m drawn to the non-fiction aspects of my own writing, but I was pleasantly surprised. Ender Wiggin’s you the man! Well, boy really. But none the less, Ender was a great underdog to cheer for, especially when he’s only six years old when he begins his training in combat. Card does a good job with creating an empathetic character, a dramatic scene, and precocious details.
However, I’m still in denial that a young child accomplished everything that Ender did. Perhaps I need to suspend my disbelief but through the entirety of the book I imagined Ender to be fifteen to twenty years old. Training, fighting, saving the world business, was hard to believe had come from a child. I get that this is half of the story, using his youth to gain respect and affect the reader, but I struggled buying in to this.
I did enjoy the theme and the story though. I’m always down with a good end of the world type book. Especially the ending of this first book, I really bonded with the style Card chose, coming in with the surprise conclusion, binding small details from early in the book to complete the cycle of the story. I’m interested to see how the movie adapts from a book where the internal monologues are essential to the development of the story and characters.
I’m a sucker for David Sedaris stories. If you haven’t read any of his work, mainly his personal essays, I would highly suggest that you take that step and jump in to the mind of Sedaris. He’s brilliantly witty, mixing truth with ridiculous humor. More often than not his stories are humorous, which is something I find impossible in my own writing, and it’s a nice break from the characteristics of other authors out there. He does have an incredible talent for writing series essays as well. I don’t know what it is but his essays make me want to write every minute of my life, just to be half as good as him.
This collection of essays focuses on moderate themes of family, culture, and tradition. The essays are definitely more series in this collection. He covers very personal moments in his life discussing the moments when self identity became a barrier in his family. Sedaris has an ability to so flawlessly put his pain on paper in a way that you feel empathetic and inspired. It’s a talent to be admired. I appreciate his choice to let perfect strangers experience and learn from what he’s struggled with.
Some of my personal favorites include: “Six to Eight Black Men,” a hilarious review of a Dutch tradition around Christmas, “Us and Them,” an interesting insight of a family that doesn’t believe in television, and “The Girl Next Door,” a very interesting interaction with the troubled life of Sedaris’s young neighbor.
I of course would recommend all of these essays to people, but the beauty of a collection is that nothing is chronological so the stories can be read sporadically or all in one day.