Monday, 25 November 2019

SHELF LOVE: September Book Challenge



As promised, I've read another 3 books this month from my Book Challenge. If you're interested in what I have read and my thoughts, keep on reading...


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The Storyteller's Secret - Sejal Badani, 370 pages
Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction, Cultural Fiction

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Blurb:

Nothing prepares Jaya, a New York journalist, for the heartbreak of her third miscarriage and the slow unraveling of her marriage in its wake. Desperate to assuage her deep anguish, she decides to go to India to uncover answers to her family’s past.

Intoxicated by the sights, smells, and sounds she experiences, Jaya becomes an eager student of the culture. But it is Ravi—her grandmother’s former servant and trusted confidant—who reveals the resilience, struggles, secret love, and tragic fall of Jaya’s pioneering grandmother during the British occupation. Through her courageous grandmother’s arrestingly romantic and heart-wrenching story, Jaya discovers the legacy bequeathed to her and a strength that, until now, she never knew was possible.

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This book starts off quite deep, focusing on the topic of miscarriage and loss. However, I promise it does get happier and easier to read! The real story starts at around chapter 4 where the journey to India begins.

This book provided me with a real insight into the Indian culture, with arranged marriages at the time being the norm. With Jaya’s grandmother married at the age of 15, she left her family town to join her husband and their family, with her own family living in her hometown several hours away. It also showed how the role of the woman has changed with time and culture; Jaya being a journalist in America and her grandmother’s role as the woman of the house.

I loved the switch between the present day and the past which gave the reader again an insight into how times have changed. It did touch on several of the Indian celebrations but if you’re looking for a deeper understanding of these, I wouldn’t recommend it. However, if you’re looking for an uplifting, heart warming story about a person finding themselves and learning more about their culture and family, as well as a love story, this is definitely a book for you!

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Rating: 

****


Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine - Gail Honeyman, 383 pages
Genre: Psychological Fiction, Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live.

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

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I've seen a lot of people reading this book and something always held me back from reading it (I'm not sure what) but when my Auntie mentioned she had flew through it - and rarely finds this with reading - I decided to give it a try.

Eleanor is a complex character that is suffering with her mental health, primarily post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to childhood events, but also - it appears - depression. This book is an insight into her mind and daily thoughts, providing a deeper understanding into the way that she views the world and the people she meets.

I read a review prior to this which stated that the author was mocking Eleanor - from the name she was given to the experiences within the book to her ignorance to the modern day living - encouraging the reader to laugh at Eleanor. I can see why this judgement may have been made but I must say that I disagree that this was Honeyman's intention. I didn't laugh at Eleanor, rather found her personality fascinating and her experiences endearing. I really grew to love Eleanor's quirky personality and felt empathy towards her at times when she may have been living in ignorance of current trends and so on.

One thing I really loved about this book was the relationship between Eleanor and Raymond. His unconditional, non-judgemental outlook of Eleanor was lovely and it really showed how small acts of kindness really do go a long way. The section regarding Sammy was also heartwarming.

This book was different to anything I've read but I did enjoy it, although it took me quite a while to read. I would recommend it if you're looking to read something a little different!

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Rating:

***


Cilka's Journey - Heather Morris, 448 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Blurb:

In 1942 Cilka Klein is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.

After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator by the Russians and sent to a desolate, brutal prison camp in Siberia known as Vorkuta, inside the Arctic Circle.

Innocent, imprisoned once again, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, each day a battle for survival. Cilka befriends a woman doctor, and learns to nurse the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under unimaginable conditions. And when she tends to a man called Alexandr, Cilka finds that despite everything, there is room in her heart for love.

Cilka's Journey is a powerful testament to the triumph of the human will. It will move you to tears, but it will also leave you astonished and uplifted by one woman's fierce determination to survive, against all odds.

Based on what is known of Cilka Klein's time in Auschwitz, and on the experience of women in Siberian prison camps, Cilka's Journey is the breathtaking sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz. A powerful testament to the triumph of the human will, this novel will make you weep, but it will also leave you astonished and uplifted by one woman's fierce determination to survive, against all odds.

'She was the bravest person I ever met'
Lale Sokolov, The Tattooist of Auschwitz

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I originally read The Tattooist of Auschwitz several months back and I was hooked - I read it in one sitting - so when I saw that Heather Morris had written a sequel, it was definitely a must read for me. With this book also being fiction, I was interested to see how it compared to her first novel.

I really enjoyed this book and although the topic is a difficult one, I found it quite an easy read. The book took me around 4-5 hours to read in total, over a couple of sittings. I found the main character, Cilka, very inspiring. Her courageousness and optimism, as well as her selfless nature, was so uplifting in the circumstances. Cilka was provided with many opportunities to “save” herself but instead put others before her, thinking of their needs first. This included a friend of hers being helped out of the camp with her daughter instead of Cilka.

It expressed the different characters well and showed that, even though they were put together in the same camp, there were still personality clashes and uncomfortable moments for all.

My only criticism is that the end felt very rushed. I was quite confused as it didn’t properly explain everything and although it was a happy ending, it seemed a little too good to be true.

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Rating:

***

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Thank you for reading. If you've read any of the above, what were your views?


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