Friday, September 30, 2011

#42 Room by Emma Donoghue

actual review date: January 3, 2011

Jack is a normal 5 year old. If not slightly more precocious. He plays, reads books and watches TV. However, the world as he knows it is just a tiny room with a bathroom and sink. Everything is a proper noun, since that is the only one of these things that he has ever seen. Jack lives in this room because his mother had been abducted by a very bad man. He was actually born in the very same room. It is all he knows. You would think that a book narrated by a 5 year old would be unbelievably precocious or on the opposite side of the scale, too juvenile, but the author gets just the right tone for the narrator.

Jack is naive but also wise in his ways. His Ma is the only person he knows and she is a remarkable one at that. The first part of the book takes place inside Room, but the second part shifts and takes place Outside.

The book is interesting in that it shows not only what captivity might feel like but how difficult it might be to be Outside. The Mom is not the typical saintly (though she is an amazing woman) victim.

In short, yes, iut deserved all the hype. I really liked this book.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

#41 Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

This is a short and quite straightforward recounting of a climb that very nearly turned disastrous. Well, it was actually disastrous, but the author, with a little luck and a lot of determination was able to survive. It is, essentially a survival story and a story about the triumph of the human spirit.

Joe Simpson and his friend Simon Yates made an attempt to climb a previously unclimed West face of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. They were able to reach the summit and things were going relatively well until Simpson fell and broke his tibia. Yates then had to tie him to a rope and lower him down the mountain. However, Yates, unable to see far ahead, lowered Simpson into a cliff. Faced with no other choice but to cut off the rope or be carried down himself, Yates cut the rope connecting to Simpson and sent him to his presumably certain death. However, Simpson dragged and hopped his way back to their base camp, through grinding pain, fatigue, thirst and hunger. He arrived just hours before Yates, thinking that he was a goner for sure, was set to pack up their camp.

The story is fast moving, and even though you know Simpson survives (duh), very thrilling. It is excruciating to read. It feels very painful. And you are left with admiration for Simpson's will to live. And more, the experience did not stop him from climbing again.

I used to do some mountain climbing, but my country being tropical, it is all fairly chill. It is very fun and challenging and just awesome to be on top of the world. Having said that, I would never ever climb in high altitude. It just seems so dangerous and I'm not sure I've got it in me. But yeah, the book. It's good. Exciting and inspiring.

# 40 The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

During the 14th century, during the time that the Catholic church was divided about the controversy of Apostolic poverty, Franciscan friar William of Baskerville , with his an accompanying novice, Adso of Melk, travelled to a monastery in Italy, namely to attend a talk between the two sides of the controversy. However, once there, some suspicious deaths prompt the abbott to ask assistance from William, him being known to have superior intellect, in solving such murders.

The book is primarily a mystery, but is much more than that. William and Adso quite obviously reference Sherlock Holmes and Watson. William uses deductive reasoning to solve stuff. It also has extensive discussions about theology, the afore mentioned issue on Apostolic poverty, the different Catholic orders at the time, and the two popes. It paints a great picture of the Catholic Church, its policies, its politics and beliefs during the medieval period. It actually led me to want to learn more about that topic. As a mystery, it also works pretty wall. It is absorbing, puzzling and quite thrilling at times.

Overall, a great book which I loved and will probably join the prestigious ranks of one of my favourites. hah.