Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Reading Challenge Week 23 - A Book by someone from Another Country

Ah, other countries. There are quite a lot of them. At last count, there were an in-determinant number of countries (a few haven't been officially recognised) over the 190 mark. That's at least 190 options for finding an author who isn't from here. Wherever "here" is.

A good reading challenge will give you the option to broaden your horizons, so whether you chose a writer from far away or right next door, we hope this challenge gave you a chance to explore something new.

Scott Dale read The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro.

English readers of this book who don’t know Ishiguro might assume they are reading something translated from Japanese but that is not the case. Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Japan but moved to England with his family at an early age. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017 with the Academy acknowledging that Ishiguro, “in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”.

That sounds very deep, so it is fitting that the first time we meet our characters in The Buried Giant (820J ISH 1C BUR), they are living underground. The story takes place in ancient England, not long after the time of King Arthur and the battles between Saxons and Britons. Yes, this is a fantasy novel complete with ogres, dragons and knights but Ishiguro does not rehash Tolkien or go after the action (and gore) of Game of Thrones.

The story follows an old couple who decide to travel between villages to visit their son who they don’t seem to be able to remember very well. The couple are not alone in having difficulty remembering things – all of the people in this world seem to have trouble with their memory. We do learn the cause of this forgetfulness but I won’t spoil that for you now. I will say that there is adventure (ogres and dragons and sword fights) and there is heartbreak. 

I really enjoyed reading this book. Ishiguro writes very simply while looking very directly at big subjects. There are often things in the past that we’d rather not remember but should we willingly forget them? And what happens when communities and counties make that choice? 

Brenda Carter read Anne of Green Gables by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery.

In anearlier post, I confessed to watching film or television adaptations as a way of easing myself into reading very long novels. Although Anne of Green Gables by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery isn’t very long, the 1985 TV miniseries spawned a generation of new ‘Anne with an E’ readers, and the series remains among the highest-rated programs of any genre ever to air on a Canadian television network.

But enough of the miniseries. Since its publication, Anne of Green Gables has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into at least 36 languages. The novel recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan girl who is mistakenly sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister, who had intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island

Despite enduring abuse and hardship in her early life, Anne makes an impression on everyone she meets with her optimism, imagination, energy and honesty. Montgomery’s memorable cast of characters portray aspects of 19th century school, family and social life with warmth and humour.  Anne of Green Gables is considered one of Canada’s best exports. You can find it in the Curriculum collection at 820.71 MON.

Sharon Bryan read Wake up Bear by Linley Dodd.

Here's a fun way to while away an afternoon after a stressful exam: head over to the Curriculum Collection (where all the best books are), and take a look at 820.93 - that's where we keep the New Zealand children's literature.

I went to this section with the intention of reviewing Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy, but when I saw Wake up Bear on the shelf next to it, I thought I'd read something new, rather than revisiting an old friend. Hairy Maclary is one of the most beloved children's books in the Antipodes, and is one of those books that can, quite naturally, be described as an "absolute gem", an "instant classic" and a "must read". Wake up Bear is, well, not quite in the same league.

Okay, let's be honest, it's kind of boring and nonsensical (and not in a good way). There's this bear, you see, and it's sleeping in. All of the other animals in the wood/forest/jungle/farm think that hibernation time is over, and Bear should wake up. They try to wake Bear up but, in spite of their best efforts, Bear doesn't wake up. And that's the story. Bear actually does wake up at the end of the book, just in case you were worried this book had a dark twist. The actual twist is not so dark. Or twisty.

The weird thing about this book is that Bear really does appear to be sleeping in the middle of a wood/forest/jungle/farm. Lions, monkeys, squirrels and goats all try to wake up the slumbering ursine, to no avail. Any kid old enough to know that hippopotami and bears don't live in the same areas will be asking "what is a hippopotamus doing there?" and they will get NO answer. There's no reasoning given for the weird mish-mash of animals, and it makes me uncomfortable. 

Where is this story taking place? One of those weird private zoos where they have animals from all over the place in alarmingly close proximity? Is it all a dream in Bear's head? And why does Bear appear to be hibernating in a hollow in a river bead? The book says it's a "cave under the Bulbul tree", but there's no such thing as a Bulbul tree (bulbuls are a type of bird), and the made up tree along with the incongruous animals make this book unsettling. This book raises more questions than it answers.

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