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Posts Tagged ‘20th century’

Gosh, where to start with this?! The Eighth Life is an epic in every sense of the word. Coming in at over 900 pages of relatively small print, I knew I was either going to lose myself in this one or find it a chore to read. And I lost myself. I loved this historical saga, which takes the reader through an obviously well researched history of Georgia and Russia in the 20th century. It includes WW1 and WW2, the Russian Revolution, Stalin’s regime, independence for Georgia, Gorbachev and so much more.

On a much more personal level however, it is a story of multi generations of one family starting at the beginning of the 20th century and ending in 2007. There are seven sections of the book, each focusing on one particular character, but all with interweaving stories. There are divisions within the family as characters disagree on politics and lives take very different paths.

There is tragedy and heartbreak, but also love and togetherness. It also serves as a love letter to Georgia. In truth, there’s too much in the book to describe in this review, but I loved it and would highly recommend it.

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The Thorn Birds has been on my tbr shelf (I laughingly refer to it as a shelf as if there aren’t that many books I have not yet read – ha!) for about six years. It’s not generally the kind of book I go in for, but I bought it for some reason – I have a feeling my aunt recommended it – and just occasionally I like to get caught up in a sweeping saga, so in search of some escapism (at the time of writing, most of the world is on lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic) I decided this might do the trick.

Pretty much all I knew about The Thorn Birds prior to reading was that there was a tv series adaptation in the 1980, starring Richard Chamberlain; I knew it was about the love between a woman and a Catholic Priest, and apparently it was extremely scandalous!! With this in mind, the book turned out to be a bit of a surprise. I was expecting a love story but this is more of a family saga, concentrating on three generations of the Cleary family. It takes place from the early to mid/late 20th century on a homestead in Australia (mainly) and at the centre of it is Father Ralph De Briccassart and his love for Meggie Cleary. It starts as a paternal type of love as Meggie is only a child when they first meet, and Ralph is a young priest, but as she grows older, their love becomes more – but Ralph’s vocation is always between them.

A lot of the book is given over to other characters – in the beginning, Meggie’s brothers and parents; and later on the net generation of the family, Justine and Dane. The hardships and realities of running a sheep station in Australia.

I did more or less enjoy the book – clearly it was well researched and it did hold my attention for the most part. However, I did not particularly warm to Meggie and I certainly didn’t like Ralph, who seemed particularly mercenary and manipulative. Nonetheless, I am glad I read it although it wouldn’t be a story I would probably want to reread at any point.

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This novel tell the story of a marriage, and simultaneously of politics in Trinidad and Tobago in the latter half of the 20th century.  The book begins in 2007, with George and Sabine Harwood, a couple who moved to Trinidad in the 1950s, for George’s work.  While he instantly loves the island, Sabine struggles with life there, and is always looking forward to when they can return to England.  However, as disenchanted as she is with Trinidad, she cannot help being fascinated by young dashing politician Eric Williams, who becomes the Prime Minister, promising great things for Trinidadians.  Sabine writes to Williams on a daily basis, although she can never bring herself to send the letters.  By turns, she is both adoring and loathing of Williams, resenting what she sees as his ineffective efforts to improve life for the citizens of the country.

After the first part of the story, the book goes back to the Harwoods’ arrival on the island, as a young and very happily married couple, and then shows how the struggles of Trinidad itself are mirrored in their personal struggles to keep their marriage alive.

I had had this book on my shelf for years, and eventually picked it up when I wasn’t sure what I fancied reading, and I thoroughly enjoyed it from the very first page.  George and – particularly – Sabine were very well drawn characters, entirely believable, but not always likeable.  However, I really liked Venus, the young woman who became maid and friend to Sabine; loyal and kind, but caught between the rich white people who she worked for, and those in Trinidad who wanted rid of them.

The book is informative about the political struggles of the country from the 1950s onwards, and demonstrates how Eric Williams started out as a new hope for its citizens, but was eventually unable to make the improvements to their lives which he promised and hoped to do.  The Trinidad riots of 1970 are shown from Sabine’s terrified point of view, and I made a point of learning more about Williams and his PNM party as a result of reading the book.

Brilliantly written, with eloquent but never flowery language, this book is compulsively readable, perfectly balancing the story of two people with the story of a country and it’s leader.

I loved The White Woman on the Green Bicycle, and would highly recommend it.

Author’s website can be found here.)

 

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