Many of you know that I set myself a modest reading goal of 24 books this year. Though I like to read, I also like time for other things, including simply "vegging out" so I don't usually read more than one or two books a month.
Sometimes I get into a phase where I crave reading. If I happen to be reading a good book, it spurs me on to read even more. This week was such a time. I had the delightful experience of reading a book called The Obamas by Jodi Kantor. The book gives good insight into what drives the Obama's forward in their mission in political life. It also provides a look into the transition the Obamas made from life in Chicago to the White House in Washington, DC. It also gives some good insight into the workings of Washington and the White House itself. I found it quite interesting overall.
After enjoying The Obamas, I finished reading two other books that I had only partially read and set aside. I was also able to read one of the many books in my stash.
The first book, It's Easier to Reach Heaven than the End of the Street is written by doctor Emma Williams. She and her family moved to Jerusalem in 2000 for a several year stint as her husband works for the United Nations. A month after Dr. Williams arrived in Jerusalem, the second Palestinian Intifada erupted. While living and working in Jerusalem, Ms. Williams met and mingled with both Israelis and Palestinians on a regular basis. Her book gives us a balanced view of the situation in Israel before her husband, and thus the entire family, was transferred to Senegal, West Africa.
I started this book in late
May or early June 2012 but only read it a few pages at a time. It is
densely packed with information and human tragedy. I
couldn't read more than a few pages at a time and read about half of the book in this manner.
Then I decided I might get more out of the book if I
read it quickly. The second half was read over a day long period. It is a deceptively small book
but is just over 400 pages long with small print and tons of footnotes and explanations. If you have time,and are so inclined, you can do a lot more research into many different aspects of the life and history of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian relations, by following up on the footnotes.
The book is hard to read because one is confronted with the reality
of what is really going on in Israel. There are hardships on both sides,
but most people will only tell you about the hardships on one side or
the other, and it is difficult to get a balanced view through the media. I
think Ms. Williams has done us all a service by writing this book and she has written it in a fair and balanced way. Please read it if you can and try to keep an
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulk, is a book of love and war spanning three generations. It starts off with a young Englishman, Steve Wraysford, who has an illicit love affair with Isabelle Azaire in France. Unbeknownst to him, Isabelle gives birth to his child, Francoise, and ends up returning to her husband. The story then moves us through Steve's service in World War 1 and his eventual meeting and marriage to Isabelle's sister, Jeanne. Through the rest of the story we find out that Jeanne and Steve end up caring for his young daughter when Isabelle dies an early death.
I found the first part of the book rather tedious. Oddly enough, it started getting interesting half way through when reading the realistic and horrific descriptions of life for the soldiers in the trenches. The descriptions of life on the front lines transports you to the front lines and you can feel the discomfort the soldiers must have felt. Overall this book was a satisfactory read but it did not meet my high expectations given the critical acclaim it has received.
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent, was good enough that I picked it up and finished it rather quickly (over a 24 hour period). The first part of the book did not flow very well and the story seemed to take awhile to get going. Once I got half way through the book and the main story was really underway, I could not put the book down.
The book isn't light reading in terms of it's subject matter. It concerns a fictional account of the Salem witch trials and the horror of what happened during those times. The author is a descendant of Martha Carrier, one of the women arrested and hanged in 1692 on suspicion of witchcraft. Martha had refused to confess to being a witch and went to her death rather than confess to something she never did, and thereby save herself. The story is told through the eyes of Martha's young daughter, Sarah.
Overall, I found it quite heart wrenching and it drives home the point that truth often comes with a high price. Moreover there are good people in the world who are willing to stand for truth despite the cost.
Though this work is a fictional account of the trials, it is a good education for someone like me who never knew anything about the Salem witch trials and was only vaguely aware of them. The author provides a brief history of the Salem witch trials at the end of the book and a set of discussions questions for book club members.
Perhaps one of these books will be added to your reading list this year. If you do read any of these books, I'd love to hear what you think of them. After a week of heavy reading, I think my next book will be something a little lighter in tone. I will see what I can find in my book stash.