martes, 29 de octubre de 2013

The Garlic Ballads (Review)

The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan
Reviewed by Alex Canton-Dutari
I loved this book. Mo Yan describes the worst of all the worst daily living circumstances that I have ever known about in the relationship between people and government. His metaphors are poignant and very special. He admits being influenced by García-Márquez -- a character in one of Gabo's books has a pigtail; six toes on each foot in The Garlic Ballads -- though his political criticism is much more severe. 
I have the impression that the e-book has some editing deficiencies.

In the Land of the Long White Cloud (Review)

The Land of the White Cloud by Sarah Lark
Reviewed by Alex Canton-Dutari
I read this book in Kindle's version in Spanish, but I think it merits a review in English as well.
I read the book because of my interest in the colonization of New Zealand, and it did give me an overall view of the difference from the colonization of Australia -- delinquents vs. adventurers. The dispute about land rights between Maories and mainly British was an interesting issue, as both were colonialists -- Hawaiki and UK. Much time was allotted to various love stories between unlikely characters and disastrous endings -- strong spirited women and almost stereotyped misogynist men with dubious sexual orientation.
Ms Lark writes originally in German. The Spanish translation was not the best. I hope the English version came out better.
Nevertheless, this long novel -- a saga as it has a sequel -- is interesting if you have the time and flexible frame of mind.

The Song of the Maori (Review)

The Song of the Maori by Sarah Lark
Reviewed by Alex Canton-Dutari
This is the sequel that ends the story of the colonization of New Zealand. It started with In The Land of the Long White Cloud.
It was very difficult to follow the relationship between the characters of the first book and their descendants in this book.
As in the first book, the female characters continue to be strong, while the men are psychologically weak -- mysoginists, alcoholics and very weak gay characters.
I must admit that I appreciated the history lesson, but the plot was not attractive.

A House for Mr. Biswas (Review)

A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul
Reviewed by Alex Canton-Dutari
I always try to spot a special detail by Nobel Prize Winners -- in this case Trinidad and Tobago's Nobel Prize Literature Winner.
The Prologue prepares the reader for learning about the life of Mr Mohum Biswas. Right from the beginning the author refers to Mohun as Mr Biswas beginning when he was a baby and on to the end.
This novel exposes the reader to life in the Caribbean islands-country during the early days of World War II. Most of the characters were people from India who had decided to migrate to Trinidad and Tobago as a means to escape the Indian caste system.
I was taken in by the description of the living conditions of this particular group and its interactions as extended families with members trying to maintain their traditions while adjusting to conditions in the West -- in this case the Caribbean.
The reader is given the opportunity to have a taste of the former UK colony and its most important immigrant minority. The variations of the English language are wonderful.
A bit of warning: Women, especially, and children included, are not treated well by modern standards.

Wheezer and the Shy Coyote (Review)

Wheezer and the Shy Coyote by Kitty Sutton
Reviewed by Alex Canton-Dutari
I used to think that I was a sensitive person that could control his outpour of emotions easily. This book proved me wrong, especially after having read the previous book by Kitty Sutton -- Wheezer and the Painted Frog.
The plight of the American Indian during their forced move to their government sponsored ghetto - concentration camp -- no other way to call it -- was very well conveyed. The use of alcohol to subdue this entire nation is well explained in the story, so much that it surpassed the love story involved.
A few words of interest: It is mentioned that a main character questioned the lack of tolerance of alcoholic beverages on the Indians. All Mongolic races have the same characteristic. The Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, just to name a few groups, have the same genetic disposition. We should remember that all Indians from the whole American Continent migrated from Mongolia to America through the Bering Straights. The Panamanian Indians cannot drink alcohol without becoming immediately depressed and suicidal in many cases.
The book is well-documented and written in a way that kept me wanting to read non-stop.

Anna Märklin's Family Chronicles (Review)

Annna Märklin’s Family Chronicles by Dorte Hummelshoj Jacobsen
Review by Alex Canton-Dutari
I found that I enjoyed the descriptions that the author used in this interesting story. The use of words that had several meanings was amusing. For example, drawers also meant ladies underpants . I also liked the word burgled rather than burglarized Cowberry jam is cranberry jam. On another note, going back and forth in time was well handled and did not disrupt the flow of the story. And on the socio-psychological scope, Ms Jacobsen points out that most transvestites –cross-dressers in this case—are mostly heterosexual, a fact most people are not aware of.
This is a book I enjoyed very much.

The Last Jew (Review)

El Último Judío (The Last Jew) by Noah Gordon
Reviewed by Alex Canton-Dutari
This interesting novel transports the reader to the age of Isabel and Fernando, Queen and King of Spain. The Spanish Inquisition, with its fierce persecution of Jews, is a constant in the story.
Though the author warns us that this is a work mainly of fiction his style of writing and the passion with which he describes the personal plights of the Jewish Spaniards to either fee or convert turns the story into an almost non-fictional historical novel.
I read the Spanish translation, which was very good, even trying to keep some of the language patterns of the XIII century.
This is a novel that transcends languages, and anyone interested in transcultural studies.

The Bodega (Review)

The Bodega (La Bodega) by Noah Gordon
Reviewed by Alex Canton-Dutari
When I chose to read this book I thought that Mr. Gordon was writing about the life of a Jewish person perhaps during the Spanish Inquisition. Was I in for a surprise as it turned out to be about people from Catalunya – northern Spain – perhaps during the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War.
If you are interesting in the history of vinegar and wine making in a small scale, this is a perfect source of heartbreaking information.
Though I read the book in Spanish, I am sure that the original English version must be perfect.

The Jerusalem Diamond (Review)

The Jerusalem Diamond (ElDiamante de Jerusalén) by Noah Gordon
Reviewed by Alex Canton-Dutari
Noah Gordon is an expert at describing Jewish life, be it during the times of the Crusades and at present.
In this novel, which almost reads like a detective story with frequent turns back to the AD era, the mysteries of diamond cutting, selling and its relation to Jewish craft artists and merchants is brought into the open. Throw in a bit of archaeology in Israel and you encounter an interesting story. Though this is not the best of his books -- my humble opinion.
Historical fiction is the author’s stronghold.

According to Luke (Review)

According to Luke by Rosanne Dingli
Reviewed by Alex Canton-Dutari
The main ingredient of this novel is its upper class writing, which turned into music to my sight and... yes... ears. 
The historical consequences of the plot, if true, could be a blow to formal religion. 
BTW, the book is an eye-opener in the field of art restoration.

When the Cherry Blossoms Fall (Review)

When The Cherry Blossoms Fall by Kim Hotzon
Review by Alex Canton-Dutari
The foreword caught my attention so much that I decided that this was a story I had to read. I found that the author had really written more of a travel log, including photos. The English used – Canadian version – was very easy to read, no pretences of high literary levels, but with such good editing that it was almost faultless. The descriptions of life in Osaka – the main post—during 1989-1990 was so well done that I could envision everything in my mind. Though I have circled the globe I never went to Japan¸ I was convinced that it was extremely expensive. I wish this story would have been available to me some decades ago.
It is difficult to write about a country not our own without making comparative value judgments. Ms. Hotzon makes them in a very tactful manner. 
I think that this is not the type of book that will have a literary appeal, but after reading it I wish I could go to Japan – I’ve been in Narita Airport several times. Too bad I’m too old to travel long distances at present. I love travel stories, especially when well written.

This Can't Be Normal by Diana Estill (Review)

This Can’t Be Normal by Diana Estill
Reviewed by Alex Canton-Dutari
I believe there is hardly a better way of paying homage to important members of a family than writing about them. After all, the written word is said to remain forever.
Ms Estill takes the reader through portions of her life and interactions with her mother, though other members of her family are included. She does it in a very informal but respectful manner. Her command of no-nonsense English made the reading experience enjoyable and many of her stories his several chords in my mind.

Granddad in the Back (Review)

Granddad in the Back : A Guide to Adventurous Senior Living 
Reviewed by Alex Canton-Dutari 
I live in Panama myself and I hoped to read more about the author's life here. I was disappointed that the book consisted of quotes to a large extent (none new to me), and I didn't see much about "A Guide to Adventurous Senior Living." But to be fair, maybe my own life has been (and is) so filled with "adventurous living" that I didn't find anything new in this book. I would have liked the book to include anecdotes about his life in Panama.

Photo: Granddad in the Back : A Guide to Adventurous Senior Living 
Reviewed by Alex Canton-Dutari 
I live in Panama myself and I hoped to read more about the author's life here. I was disappointed that the book consisted of quotes to a large extent (none new to me), and I didn't see much about "A Guide to Adventurous Senior Living." But to be fair, maybe my own life has been (and is) so filled with "adventurous living" that I didn't find anything new in this book. I would have liked the book to include anecdotes about his life in Panama.