Friday, October 24, 2014

The reluctant fundamentalist (DVD ) [Suneeta, Highland Park Library]

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The film The reluctant fundamentalist is an adaptation of the 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamid. That the film was directed by U.S. based Indian director Mira Nair (The namesake, Salaam Bombay), was a definite attraction and it delivered most of what I expected – a visual treat and food for thought.

There are two strands to the story in which Changez, the young, westernised, upper-class, Princeton educated Pakistani is at the centre of both. In the present we see him as a professor in his native Lahore, telling his story to an American journalist. As they sit in the tense atmosphere of a café, the journo’s task is to find out whether Changez is involved in the abduction of an American professor visiting a local university.  

Interwoven into this narrative is the story of a younger Changez, the economic analyst specialising in corporate downsizing, living the capitalist dream in New York and very much in love with an American artist. Then the Twin Towers are attacked and the subsequent cultural divide that cracks the city, changes him.  As people of his colour and background come to be mistrusted, he reconsiders his loyalties and while his brand of “fundamentalism” appears rather vague, he reassesses his life choices and goes back to Pakistan.

Though the film has received some criticism for its lack of clarity, length and somewhat loose labelling as a thriller, there is much to enjoy in the performances by Riz Ahmed and the supporting cast, in this story of race, fear and inner conflict of a man forced to choose between two worlds.

Director: Mira Nair
Producer: Lydia Dean Pilcher
Year: 2013
Distributed by: Vendetta
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

The girl who saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson [Christine, Takapuna]

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Nombeko had one of the worst possible starts in life, she was born female, black and fatherless in 1970s Soweto, however she was a natural mathematician and also adept in other subjects.  Her intelligence could not be recognised in South Africa of that time, so credit for her work was given to stupid people.

Thousands of kilometres to the north a man becomes disenchanted with the Swedish king, he seeks to brainwash his sons into acting to overthrow the monarchy.

These two threads intertwine then knit together.  The whole is highly improbable but due to the fine writing it is also totally believable.  The two central characters; well-meaning, intelligent people are constantly thwarted by morons, some of whom are their own family.  It is frustrating for them but highly entertaining for the reader.

The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden
Title : The girl who saved the King of Sweden
Author: Jonas Jonasson
ISBN 99780062329127
Published: 2014
Publisher: Fourth EstateThe girl who saved the king of Sweden
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

The impossible lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer [Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library]

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This is a time travel book but with a point of difference that is a fresh take on the idea. It is 1985 and Greta Wells' twin brother Felix dies of  AIDS. Soon after, her long-standing lover Nathan leaves her for another woman. Life is unbearable and she feels she just cannot go on. Counselling, drugs . . .  nothing works for her so her doctor tries her on a new procedure that has strange side effects.  She is catapulted into other existences, one in 1918, and the other in 1941. Here she is able to be with Felix and Nathan again, but no timeline is perfect, they all have compensations - but also losses. In addition the different periods have shaped the people she loves and herself in different ways, in one she is married with a child, in another she is falling in love with another man.

Each procedure cycles her through the three different times and in each she makes decisions that have an affect on that particular life, and as the story unwinds we realise that the alternate Gretas are also making their own decisions that will affect her life. Basically they inhabit each other bodies rather than physically jump to each time period.

Interesting was how Felix's stories provide an exploration of the limited choices available to gay people throughout history. Of course the modern Greta knows her brother is gay and encourages him to make choices which are true to himself. What was a bit weak was that the Gretas did not seem to think overly much on how their actions would impact on each other. There could also have been more details to flesh out the time periods but the overall premise of the story is satisfying, and this book will keep you reading to the end, after all you must find out which life will each Greta choose to stay in?

Author:Andrew Sean Greer
ISBN: 9780571295401
Published: 2013
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Ecco
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Monday, October 13, 2014

The Mapmaker's Daughter: a novel by Laurel Corona [Surani, Waitakere Central Library]

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Spain, 1492. That is when this exceptional piece of historical fiction starts from. Amalia Cresques, now aged 67, waits for her grandson in an empty room save for a single chair. They plan to go into exile together as the rulers of Spain have issued an order expelling all Jews who refuse to convert to Christianity. Amalia mourns the handmade atlas created by her father that she can’t take with her as she waits.

The story that follows from here is one of identity, exile, and what it means to be home. The narrative changes from the present day to memories of Amalia’s earlier life as young wife, mother, family matriarch, and converso, a Jew forced to hide her faith and live as a Christian. Amalia recounts the struggles she faced during her life and with each chapter we see history come to life in the pages.

This amazing, evocative and often heart-rending tale is another masterpiece where Laurel Corona has managed to bring to life one of the most tumultuous periods in European history. Filled with vivid description of the Iberian landscape and especially the Jewish rituals and values of the time, Corona managed to hook me into this amazing novel. I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction, but this piece stirred a long-abandoned interest and one I intend on pursuing.

Author: Laurel Corona
ISBN: 9781402286490
Published: 2014
Publisher: Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks Inc.


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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Stone Mattress. Nine Tales- Margaret Atwood [Sue W Central]

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Well hello Ms Atwood, welcome back, we have missed you so.  Its kind of intimidating writing a review of such a literary behemoth but Im going to talk about the experience of engaging with her latest work.

I like that Atwood has themed these nine interrelated tales around death. You know its going to be given extra special treatment. I think your experience of reading these stories will differ according to how familiar you are with her work. Atwood has writing has  crossed   literary genres shape shifting and evading attempts to neatly sum her up.

Maybe you are an avid follower and read each and every one of her offerings. Or maybe you pick the texts that most appeal to your reading taste. Alternatively, maybe you are an Atwood newbie and this is your first tasting. (Where on earth have you been to not have read anything of hers prior??)

Whatever your experience you will enjoy the wicked sense of humour, you will enjoy the subversive streak and her nod to previous works. There is definitely something here for everyone, especially the first timer. What joys await if this is your first taste of Atwood, to look for more and discover all the splendid choices for you to follow up.

Title: Stone Mattress. Nine Tales
Author: Margaret Atwood
isbn:9781408857168
publisher:London: Bloomsbury, 2014.
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