Archive for May, 2009

Marina Lewycka: Strawberry Fields

Posted by nybookworm on May 28, 2009

9780143113553Strawberry Fields is the second novel for Lewycka, whose very successful debut novel, A Short History of Ukranian Tractors was nominated for a Booker Prize and generated a lot of favorable buzz when it was first published.  So naturally when I arrived at the house we rented for Memorial Day weekend and found Strawberry Fields, I knew I would have to make it my mission to read it over the long weekend.  Despite serious competition for my attention, including several beer pong games, 9 mile hikes and barbeques, I was able to finish Strawberry Fields and can actually remember enough of it to write this review.  I liked this book- it has the charming immigrant who speaks imperfect English meets the West angle which if done well can be hilarious.  As an added bonus, there is a message there, though, not subtle,about the downside of globalization.  The main characters are migrant workers who come to the UK to pick strawberries from various former Eastern-block countries and end up travelling through the UK through a series of Chaucerian adventures that all go to demonstrate how much it sucks to be part of the shadow economy of a westernized democracy.   I liked this a lot- I don’t think it was too preachy or depressing but it certainly got the message across.

Amazon link here: http://www.amazon.com/Strawberry-Fields-Novel-Marina-Lewycka/dp/1594201374#


Posted in Contemporary Fiction, Funny | Leave a Comment »

Giulia Melucci: I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti

Posted by nybookworm on May 17, 2009

I_Loved_I_Lost_I_Made_SpaghettiI wanted to like this book and its author, Giulia Melucci, because she was self aware enough to write this book and to honestly reflect on her failed relationships but I had a hard time.  This book is Melucci’s story of her adult dating life from approximately aged 22 to 40 with recipes she cooked during relationships and at transformational moments sprinkled throughout.  Truthfully, the recipes (almost all of which looked so good I stopped dog earring pages because I realized I was marking every page) were the best part of this book.  It was difficult to read through Melucci’s failed lover affairs precisely because she is self-aware enough to chronicle all of her doubts and hesitations, almost all of which surfaced almost immediately into relationships, some of which she ended up carrying on for years.  She is someone who clearly wants love and a family but who gets in her own way so much through the choices she makes and the way she approaches dating that it is hearbreaking and because she knows precisely what she’s doing, it is difficult reading.  But since this book probably has more recipes that I’d love to make than most of my cookbooks, I recommend it and think it is actually worth owning.

Link to the book here: http://www.amazon.com/I-Loved-Lost-Made-Spaghetti/dp/0446534420

Posted in Beach Reading, Biography/Autobiography, Chefs/Food, Nonfiction | Leave a Comment »

Gail Tsukiyama: The Street of a Thousand Blossoms

Posted by nybookworm on May 11, 2009

fuji-japan-cherry-blossoms-and-mountGail Tsukiyama is actually a fairly prolific author, whose  novels frequently involve Japanese characters and focus on Japanese culture and traditions.  This was my first exposure to her work and I was not disappointed.  In Street of A Thousand Blossoms Tsukiyama explores two ancient Japanese traditions, sumo wrestling and mask making.  The novel spans twenty odd years and takes place before, during and after World War II with two orphaned brothers who are being raised by their grandparents,  Hiroshi and Kenji, as the main characters.   At its heart, this novel is about Hiroshi and Kenji but woven throughout stories of their everyday lives are details of Japanese history, food, sport and culture that enrich the novel without rendering it dry and making it appear self-indulgent on the part of Tsukiyama.   If you are already a connoisseur of Japanese culture, I think you will still appreciate Tsukiyama’s  excellent prose and attention to detail.  I enjoyed this book and it has opened up a whole world of Tsukiyama’s work for me, which I expect to be exploring in the future.

The Amazon link here: http://www.amazon.com/Street-Thousand-Blossoms-Gail-Tsukiyama/dp/0312274823

PS: I believe it is actually cherry blossom season right now, at least in some parts of the world, making this one of those rare timely posts.

Posted in Contemporary Fiction | Leave a Comment »

Kiran Desai: The Inheritance of Loss

Posted by nybookworm on May 5, 2009

the-inheritance-of-lossThe Inheritance of Loss took Desai 7 years to write and it is obvious that she thought through every word used.  Desai’s imagery of Kalimpong, an Indian town in the Himalayas and its inhabitants is at times so vivid as to evoke a physical reaction.  She describes the poverty and dilapidated grandeur of both her characters and their surroundings with the ease and imagery of Rushdie or Naipaul and was similarly rewarded with the Man Booker Prize for this novel in 2006.   At its heart, The Inheritance of Loss is the story of post-colonial India and its lingering confusion over its relationship with its British colonizers and their symbols of western culture (think Marks & Spencer, tea, jam, the queen, mutton, mint jelly, etc.)  The main characters Sai, the judge and the cook live in a run down estate at the base of the Himalayas and, at the judge’s insistence, attempt to carve out a “civilized” life for themselves amid the poverty and desperation of the region.  Juxtaposed with their story is that of Biju, the cook’s son who is struggling to survive in the illegal immigrant shadow economy in New York.  This book took me a little while to read because nothing much happens in it but I enjoyed reading it slowly and savoring Desai’s descriptions which unwind slowly to present a larger mosaic of lives and places that are bound together by poverty and colonialism, even as they struggle to escape. 

Amazon link here: http://www.amazon.com/Inheritance-Loss-Novel-Booker-Prize/dp/0871139294

Posted in Contemporary Fiction | 1 Comment »