The English Patient

bca_science_english_patient

“The final curtain is closing on the Second World War, and Hana, a nurse, stays behind in an abandoned Italian villa to tend to her only remaining patient. Rescued by Bedouins from a burning plane, he is English, anonymous, damaged beyond recognition and haunted by his memories of passion and betrayal. The only clue Hana has to his past is the one thing he clung on to through the fire – a copy of The Histories by Herodotus, covered with hand-written notes describing a painful and ultimately tragic love affair.”

Michael Ondaatje is a poet and visionary. He unravels this non-chonological tale in wisps of dynamic and haunting language, draws a vivid landscape through words and delves deeply into the lives and souls of the integral characters. The English Patient is at once a tragic love story as well as an exploration of the human need for meaning and acceptance. Being Ondaatje, it also questions nationality and identity through the disparate backgrounds of the characters brought together by the villa. Beautiful, but also a slightly challenging read.

4stars

 

MA

The Blind Assassin

blind-assassin

The Blind Assassin opens with these simple, resonant words: “Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.” They are spoken by Iris, whose terse account of her sister’s death in 1945 is followed by an inquest report proclaiming the death accidental. But just as the reader expects to settle into Laura’s story, Atwood introduces a novel-within-a-novel. Entitled The Blind Assassinit is a science fiction story told by two unnamed lovers who meet in dingy backstreet rooms. When we return to Iris, it is through a 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist. Brilliantly weaving together such seemingly disparate elements, Atwood creates a world of astonishing vision and unforgettable impact.”

Margaret Atwood’s Booker Prize winner is a clever multi-layered story within a story within a story. She seamlessly slips between concurrent plot lines and devises characters that are both believable and intriguing. Against the backdrop of significant events of the 20th century in Canada, Atwood explores poignant themes of  love, duty, humility, strength, youth and maturity, family dynamics and the the nature of memory. A brilliantly woven tale of human passion, weakness and the desire to be heard.

4starsMA

The Prophet

There are few works of poetry and philosophy that match Gibran’s The Prophet. Revered as a piece of wisdom literature this book takes place in a distant, timeless place, where a mysterious prophet walks the sands. At the moment of his departure, he wishes to offer the people gifts but possesses nothing. The people gather round, each asks a question of the heart, and the man’s wisdom is his gift.

Young readers may struggle with some of the language and ideas, however, Gibran’s thoughts speak to the child in all of us.

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”

The Inheritance Cycle

 

 

This four part young adult fantasy series is fantastic reading for all ages. Join Eragon Shade Slayer  and his bonded dragon Spahira Brightscales as they journey throughout Alagaësia; an intricately built world,  populated with bold characters and filled with both classic and new school fantasy elements.

As we enter The Inheritance Cycle, Alagaësia has reached a tipping point, magic has faded into myth and dark king Galbatorix rules the land with a convincing and menacing grip. As Eragon comes of age and the darkness threatens to spread, the past must blend with the present to reveal secrets that should never have been buried by time.

 

If you are a first time fantasy reader or sceptical of the use of magic in fiction, this series avoids sinister plot lines and draws fascinating links between language and creative power.

The first book Eragon is a self contained adventure and is worth reading in isolation if you don’t feel up to reading a four part series. I dare you to stop at one!

 

Recommended for any high school reader. 4 stars

 

The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank

The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank - Anne Frank, edited by Otto Frank

Anne Frank was born on June 12, 1929 and died while imprisoned at Bergen-Belsen three months short of her sixteenth birthday. “Anne Frank and her family, fleeing the horrors of Nazi occupation, hid in the back of an Amsterdam warehouse for two years. She was thirteen when the family went into the Secret Annex, and in these pages she grows to be a young woman and wise observer of human nature. With unusual insight, she reveals the relations between eight people living under extraordinary conditions, facing hunger, the ever-present threat of discovery, and death, complete estrangement from the outside world, and above all, the boredom, the petty misunderstanding, and the frustrations of living under such unbearable strain, in such confined quarters.”

My mum bought me this book when I was about Anne’s age, fourteen or fifteen maybe. I don’t think I fully appreciated Anne’s story then, but no wonder it was been one of the most admired autobiographies of all time. Her entries are raw and detailed, giving a close and unfettered look into life as a teenage girl. “In the midst of death we are in life” and so Anne’s teenage struggles are as real and jarring as any of ours, only set against an extraordinary background. Tragic and insightful and heart-breaking and inspiring.

Recommended for any high school reader, perhaps ages 14 and up. 4 stars.

 

Life of Pi

Life of Pi - Yann Martel

“After the sinking of a cargo ship, a single solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the surface of the wild, blue Pacific. The crew of the surviving vessel consists of a hyena, an orang-utan, a zebra with a broken leg, a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger, and Pi Patel, a 16-year-old Indian boy. The stage is set for one of the most extraordinary pieces of fiction in recent years, a novel of such rare and wondrous storytelling that it may, as one character claims, make you believe in God. Can a reader reasonably ask for anything more?”

This book came at a defining point in my life. I read it as part of a Literature and Religion course as well as on recommendation. It’s timing was impeccable and it revealed a great deal to me. Some people find the first couple of chapters hard to engage with, but I would say don’t let that put you off. Once it gets going, the storytelling is vibrant and absorbing. It is like a contemporary fable that reveals ever present, but often unnoticed, universal truths about the human experience. It is poignant, spiritual and philosophical. It is a book for ‘deep’ readers, rewarding anyone who reads it in entirety. Life of Pi is a book, however, that must be read with the intention of getting something out of it, to be read for meaning and truth, that’s the best part about it.

Recommended for ages 16 and up, simple because it’s quite philosophical. 4 1/2 stars.