Posts Tagged ‘Books’

I hadn’t heard of David Suzuki, before I read this book which provides insights into what it means to grow up in a culture that is not the country’s mainstream.  David was born in Canada of Japanese parents who were also Canadian-born, and his internment during World War II had a lasting effect.  Having trained as a scientist he went on to host radio and television programmes dealing with the environment, more recently global warming, and works passionately to protect the planet.

He compares the short-term perspective of employees and investors with the long-term perspective of environmentalists and First Nations people.  Much of what he writes about Canada and Australia mirrors the New Zealand experience.  Early settlers often survived only because of the knowledge and generosity of the indigenous people, and the latter have had to fight to retain control over a small part of the land, which is so integral to their culture.  He points out that indigenous knowledge built up over thousands of years of careful observation, experimentation, and insight is being lost all over the planet in just a few generations and can never be recovered.

I found it interesting to read how he set up a charity and fundraised for it (pre social media), but by page 250 I was beginning to feel as though I’d read it all before in reports of Values/Green issues and protests, and I skipped the next hundred pages.  The penultimate chapter about the culture of celebrity was interesting, as were his thoughts as he grows old.  He quotes his dying father, and says he has similar sentiments:  “I will return to nature where I came from.  I’ll be part of the fish, the trees, the birds – that’s my reincarnation.  I have had a rich and full life and have no regrets.  I will live on in your memories of me and through my grandchildren.”

“We must help nature live and thrive
if life on earth is to survive.”


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How could I not love a heroine who cares about apostrophes?  This is the story of a woman who is forced by unexpected circumstances to move to a remote area of Scotland where she teaches in a small country school.  Here she becomes immersed in the lives of her pupils, but still needs to sort out her own life.  There are some delightful scenes which made me laugh.  It’s the ideal novel for a drizzly holiday weekend.  I hadn’t come across this author before, but would willingly try her other novels.

“She fled to somewhere far away
because her life had gone astray.”


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At the Book Fridge I met a man unloading cartons of books.  He was emptying a library, and had the complete works of Nevil Shute, all hard cover with a ribbon marker.  I saw a copy of “A Town Like Alice”, took that, then asked him if he had “On the Beach”, which he duly produced.

It’s a long time since I’ve been so engrossed in a book by a male author.  This may be partly due to memories of reading the book back in the 1960s.  Possibly I enjoyed his books as a teenager because he was Australian.  At that time there were few authors writing about this side of the world (I hadn’t yet learned of Jane Mander).  This week I devoured “On the Beach” within a few hours.  The story, set in 1963, deals with the aftermath of a nuclear war.  The northern hemisphere has been devastated, and radiation is inevitably creeping south.  The action, based around Melbourne, shows how different characters deal with their impending death.  Although some of the language is dated, e.g. women referred to as girls, the theme is highly topical, especially in light of recent actions by North Korea.  You know there is no chance anyone will survive, yet the tone of the book is not morbid, and the story is compelling.

There’s no publication date in this copy, which has original illustrations, but the first publication was in 1957.  As I read I had a strong memory of seeing the black and white 1959 film, especially the radio transmitter in Seattle.   This is a book which has aged well, and was a pleasure to meet again. I think I’ll find a place for it on my bookshelf rather than take it back to the fridge.  Now I’m wondering whether I could fit a nuclear holocaust into my short story exercise.

“No matter how well we’re resourced
we’d not escape a holocaust.”

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This story of a Jesuit mission to another planet has fascinating philosophical and religious discussions, and is very different from other science fiction I’ve read.  The characters are wonderfully portrayed, including the aliens, and the relationships are sympathetic and engaging.  I was totally engrossed by the story, but am not sure whether I’m yet ready for the sequel.  There was disturbing content in “The Sparrow”, but it was necessary to the story.  The book raises moral questions that are relevant to society today, and makes the reader think.  I recommend it.

“A sparrow can’t fall to the sod
Unless that’s been allowed by God.”

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Reading this book is a journey in itself.  There’s a mystery involved, but the characters and their progress have more importance than the outcome.  The story, set in winter in the backblocks of 19th century Canada, is about love and determination.  As various people traverse the desolate landscape you are drawn in by their diverse motives.  Extremely well written and hard to put down.

“Along the bleak and lonely trail
unfolds a dark enticing tale.”

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This novel was an intriguing insight into the world of dementia.  It centres around two women.  Anna has early-onset Alzheimers, and at the age of thirty-eight has gone to live in a residential care facility.  Eve’s life has been shattered, she is now a single mother and needs to take a job at the facility.  The story weaves around love and relationships, and the reader comes to care about the fates of these two women.  I did think that a few of the characters were almost too good to be true, but it’s heartening to think there might be such people in the world.  This is an easily read, enjoyable, and hopeful story.

“Love can come unexpectedly
when life has turned out dreadfully.”


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The Book Discussion Scheme is the source of books and reading notes for our book group.  The scheme (BDS) is a not-for-profit organisation that started 43 years ago under the auspices of the Canterbury Workers’ Education Association.  They provide monthly books to more than 1,200 groups throughout New Zealand, and it’s all run from their busy premises in Colombo Street.  Group members pay $60 per year, which entitles them to ten books.   Members all read the same book at the same time, then meet to discuss it, answer questions, and develop friendships.  The BDS offices have appropriate murals by Wongi Wilson at their front door.

I’m aware there are some groups where people read different books, then share their ideas, and others where everyone buys the featured book each month.  Do you belong to a book club?

“Our members all have undertook
to try to read the monthly book.”


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