Zi71bFS9nQHnivtvUJquhejTHIQ The Story Factory Reading Zone

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Review: The Testament of Mary by Colman Toibin



Provocative, haunting, and indelible, Colm Tóibín’s portrait of Mary presents her as a solitary older woman still seeking to understand the events that become the narrative of the New Testament and the foundation of Christianity.

In the ancient town of Ephesus, Mary lives alone, years after her son's crucifixion. She has no interest in collaborating with the authors of the Gospel—her keepers, who provide her with food and shelter and visit her regularly. She does not agree that her son is the Son of God; nor that his death was “worth it;” nor that the “group of misfits he gathered around him, men who could not look a woman in the eye,” were holy disciples. Mary judges herself ruthlessly (she did not stay at the foot of the Cross until her son died—she fled, to save herself), and is equally harsh on her judgment of others. This woman who we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile, loving, silent, long-suffering, obedient, worshipful mother of Christ becomes, in Toibin’s searing evocation, a tragic heroine with the relentless eloquence of Electra or Medea or Antigone. This tour de force of imagination and language is a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.(less)

My review:

A very well-written and captivating book full of emotion, The Testament of Mary would do very well as an account of a grieving mother focusing on how depression can affect memory. Unfortunately for a Christian reader, such as myself, it is supposedly about the mother of Christ.

Or rather, it's about the mother of a man who claimed to be The Christ. A man who made up miracles, as if they were magic tricks. A man whose followers would do anything to fulfil prophecy.

For me this book is useful as an alternative viewpoint to challenge and help me think about my faith. If you're someone who likes this sort of challenge then go ahead and read it, but I would not advise this book for newer believers. 

Rated:4/5 stars

Monday, 3 February 2014

Music Out of the Pages: Studying music

He spent as much time as he could studying the drum records, tapping his fingers on his fur even as he was falling asleep to memorize the times and rhythms of the most complicated measures.
Dragondrums by Anne McCaffrey

What's your most extreme way of studying?

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett (a review)


To the consternation of the patrician, Lord Vetinari, a new invention has arrived in Ankh-Morpork - a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it's soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom caught the zeitgeist early and arrive armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear.

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work - as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital... but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don't always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse...

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi' t'flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he's going to stop it all going off the rails...

My review:

Perfect for adults, young adults and older children alike, Terry Pratchett's latest novel takes us into the world of the railway. Moist van Lipwig is faced with the challenge of promoting this new invention whilst simply trying to stay alive. And, is it just him, or is it somehow taking on a life of it's own?

The seasoned Discworld reader will recognise many familiar characters in this tale. But there are also some brand new ones storming their way into the story. My favourite of these is Of a The Twilight The Darkness, a goblin who has a unique outlook on dealing with humans and the world in general. 

In this book Discworld continues to embrace the rise of science, clearly not the same as magic (otherwise the wizards would be involved) but yet somehow different from that we're used to. This story seems to take a more everyday approach to this compared to earlier books where it would be quite usual for mythical creatures to replace cogs and lights. I think that this does, unfortunately, detract slightly from the mystical nature of the telling.

Whilst the writing lacks a certain quality in places at first, it soon takes off and it's easy to become enthralled in the adventures of Mr Lipwig. I think this is because I personally found his exploits much more interesting than those of Mr Simnel the engineer. One of the fantastic things about The Discworld (and particularly Mr Lipwig's life) is that you can never be sure what is going to happen next. When The Patrician threatens to dispatch a key character then it could just happen, and yet the story would still go on.

I really enjoyed experiencing the railway through Moist van Lipwig's eyes, my interested heightening as I got further and further into the story. The last third of the book was particularly exciting. Having said that, this certainly wasn't my favourite of Terry Pratchett's novels. I think Raising Cities will particularly appeal to those who are familiar with the Discworld universe, although those with an interest in both fantasy and railways may also enjoy it.


Monday, 20 January 2014

Music Out of the Pages: Mourning

He heard her moans then, rising to a keen of grief, a death song she had been too weak to sing when they had placed that girl-child in the grave.
 from A Name of Her Own by Jane Kirkpatrick

Monday, 13 January 2014

Music Out of the Pages: Bedtime Songs

"She could hear Toupin singing in French, songs that put the engages to sleep each night. She hoped they'd keep singing when they left their boats behind, sing on their horses."

from A Name of Her Own by Jane Kirkpatrick

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Review Wednesday: A Name of Her Own by Jane Kirkpatrick

Goodreads Summary:

 Based on the life of Marie Dorion, the first mother to cross the Rocky Mountains and remain in the Northwest, A Name of Her Own is the fictionalized adventure account of a real woman’s fight to settle in a new landscape, survive in a nation at war, protect her sons and raise them well and, despite an abusive, alcoholic husband, keep her marriage together.

With two rambunctious young sons to raise, Marie Dorion refuses to be left behind in St. Louis when her husband heads West with the Wilson Hunt Astoria expedition of 1811. Faced with hostile landscapes, an untried expedition leader, and her volatile husband, Marie finds that the daring act she hoped would bind her family together may in the end tear them apart.

On the journey, Marie meets up with the famous Lewis and Clark interpreter, Sacagawea. Both are Indian women married to mixed-blood men of French Canadian and Indian descent, both are pregnant, both traveled with expeditions led by white men, and both are raising sons in a white world.

Together, the women forge a friendship that will strengthen and uphold Marie long after they part, even as she faces the greatest crisis of her life, and as she fights for her family’s very survival with the courage and gritty determination that can only be fueled by a mother’s love.

My review:
  An intense historical drama telling the tale of an independently minded woman and her family.

I wasn't immediately grabbed by this book, but as each chapter unfurled I became more and more engrossed with the intensity if feelings that ran through its pages. Marie is a complex character that I'm sure all women can identify with in one way or another, and her passion really helped me to engage with the unfolding events.

I learnt a lot about C19th America from this book, particularly relating to the relationships between Native Americans and the settlers. As each character explored their ever-changing world it became more real to me, the reader.

This book wasn't an easy read, but its well worth the effort. It would particularly interest anyone who wants to know more about social history.

Action Readers Action: Find out more about the original inhabitants of your own country

 What's your favourite book of historical fiction?

Monday, 6 January 2014

Music Out of The Pages: Water songs

"Pierre could hear them coming up the river, singing their French songs. He recognised Michel Carriere's booming voice joined by that English camp boy's fiddle as he stood near the bow. The sounds aggravated his thumping head."

from A Name of Her Own by Jane Kirkpatrick

What's your favourite sea/river song?
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