Posts tagged book reviews

BOOK REVIEW || Under The Udala Tree

I read this book about 11 months ago and I didn’t, couldn’t write a review or bookmark any pages. I thought since I didn’t support the message the book was advocating I didn’t even have to review it. However, it unsettles me to skip out on this one, so of the many I ignore for review, this one forges ahead.

(P.s: I finally wrote this review like 5 months ago and still didn’t publish it because I was busy)

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Ijeoma was just eleven years when the war began. The life she’d known had been one of middle class comfort as an only-child in her family, where she was fed abundantly and told it would help stimulate her brain.
Prior to the war:

“as for us, we moved about in that unhurried way of the butterflies as if the breeze was sweet, as if the sun on our skin was a caress. As if slow paces allowed for the savouring of both. This was the way thing were before the war: our lives, tamely moving forward”

The book is a coming of age story which dwells on the Biafran war, and on the war against homosexuals.

“There is no way to tell the story of what happened with Amina without first telling the story of mama’s sending me off. Likewise, there is no way to tell the story of mama sending me off without also telling of papa’s refusal to go to the bunker. Without his refusal, the sending away might never have occurred, and if the sending away had not occurred, then I might never have met Amina
If I had not met Amina, who knows, there might be no story at all to tell”

The book consists of three parts. The story goes back and forth in the first part and reveals how Ijeoma’s father refuses to run into the bunker during one of the air raids; he embraces despair about the losing war, and is bombed in his own house by the fighter planes.
The book explores grief and loss consequent to this. Mama who fails miserably in coming out of her grief sends her daughter to live with a school teacher.

It is in being sent away to live with the grammar school teacher and his wife, that Ijeoma faces the question of her sexual identity.
After being caught, Ijeoma would go through tumultuous times in her mind seeking for the truth, and for peace.
She would have compulsory lessons with mama at the kitchen table every evening, in order to cleanse her mind with the word of God.

This book tries to raise questions and doubts in a readers mind. It wants you to question the religious beliefs you may have already held. The book does this by employing a strategy of shifting grounds on morality – what exactly is an abomination? Was Adam’s meeting with Eve only symbolic of relationship between different people, thereby having no relevance to their sexes?

It brings up forbidden love, and as with love which is restricted, the author tries to win the reader’s sympathy. Its moving when the lesbians hide themselves in a bunker from a violent mob – a bunker similar, and even worse than those used during the Biafran war. Again – a literary tactic to depict a greater war being waged on homosexuals.

The book leads you to watch Ijeoma try to repent before God but being unable to, “not being heard by God”.

Ijeoma’s thoughts often center on the context of Bible passages – discrediting the inference Christians hold from those same passages.

Chinelo Okparanta deliberately explores the religious background of Nigerians by making her central characters well abreast of scriptures. There’s nothing less than twenty passages on homosexuality in this book, some analyzed in depth (though erroneously). It’s a strategy that’s supposed to take the fight out of the opponent by seizing their very war instrument.

This book goes far to come close. Here’s why: It presents gay-torching Christians (arsonists), hateful Christians who will tear off the clothes on the neck of lesbians who are found out and kill them.

It presents a frenzied mother who casts demons out of her daughter for being a lesbian. Fast forward fourteen years and a failed heterosexual marriage, it presents the same spiritual mother saying:

“God who created you, must have known what he did. Enough is enough

Overall this book works to evoke empathy especially as its written in 1st person P.O.V. It also drops proverbs like this one:

“if you set off on a witch hunt, you will find a witch. When you find her, she will be dressed like any other person. But to you, her skin will glow in stripes of white and black. You will see her broom and you will hear her witch cry and you will feel the effects of her spells on you.
No matter how unlike a witch she is, there she will be, a witch before your eyes”

An unobservant Christian will probably begin to give room to thoughts like: “But its their human right to decide their own sexuality after all, why bother them?”
The book is a patient and descriptive read for the first two parts, the rest hurries through a bit. In the Epilogue, Ndidi, Ijeoma’s lover says her prophecy concerning Nigeria being a place where love is allowed between all sexes and tribes.
This book is written as a response to the laws passed by President Jonathan in 2014 which criminalized same-sex relationship.

In conclusion, for literature? it does well. For my sentiments and beliefs? I fault it every line of the way. I say it does well for literature because if it were to be another cause for which I stand, I’d have thought she made her case sufficiently well for a novel. But this – the issue of homosexuality, I do not stand for it both logically and spiritually. It is fundamentally wrong.

Books and Truth,

Debby

BOOK REVIEW– The remains of the day.

Hello-o.
I’ve had quite some people just glance through the blog and later ask me about reviews. Here is the link to all book reviews on the blog. Read and share. 💕💕
Title: The remains of the day.
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Pages: 168(e-book)
First Publisher/publication date: Faber and Faber limited London/ 1989
Blurb
In the summer of 1956, an ageing butler has embarked on a six-day motoring trip through the West Country. But his holiday is disturbed by the memories of his past service to late lord Darlington, and most of all by the painful recollections of his friendship with the housekeeper, Miss Kenton. For the first time in his life, Stevens is forced to wonder if all his actions were for the best after all. A sad and humorous love story, and a witty meditation on the democratic responsibilities of the ordinary man.
Review
Do you even know why I wanted to read this book? Kazuo Ishiguro won the 2017 Nobel prize for literature and that was the first time I was hearing of his name. He however appeared popular with other readers, I needed to get to the bottom of the matter. I developed the desire to read one of his books. And so when I got this one, you know it, it was a dream come true.
The remains of the day is a telling of a butler’s perspective. Yes, butler as in 1937, big fancy houses in England.
The main character, Stevens, is in his later years having worked all his life trying to be a great butler and learning valuable life lessons in the process.
His character flaw in spite of his many virtues is revealed in his inability to admit his feelings, even to himself.
We also given some great insight into lord Darlington’s life and the events rounding up the Second World War; And the delightful miss Kenton.
What I admire in Stevens is, he tries to adapt as the need arises along the line, in his professional tasks; just as he did on the issue of learning how to banter with his new American boss, Mr Farraday.
I suspect one reason why I favour this book is because it preaches, on a broad platform, good character. I mean can you fully be English and live in 1934, without having learnt the finesse of being a lady or a gentleman?
There’s core focus on humility. There’s also highlighting the beauty of integrity in each person’s work and how it upholds the system in the long run. I think this is a good read when you want something quite light yet not searching for something that would crack you up every five seconds.
I joyfully rate it 4 out of 5 stars.
It’s a win for this book that it hooked me and made me think I may have had a part in organizing banquets for important figures!
Excerpts

‘’ it is quite possible then, that my employer fully expects me to respond to his bantering in a like manner, and considers my failure to do so a form of negligence. This is, as I say, a matter which has given me much concern. But I must say this business of bantering is not a duty I feel I can ever discharge with enthusiasm. It is all very well, in these changing times, to adapt one’s work to take in duties not traditionally within ones realm; but bantering is of another dimension altogether. For one thing, how would one know for sure that at any given moment, a response of the bantering sort is truly what is expected? One need hardly dwell on the catastrophic possibility of uttering a bantering remark only to discover it wholly inappropriate.’’

Stevens is such a prim and proper English man that American jokes elude him inspite of his best efforts.

‘’we call this land of ours – great Britain,… just where and in what does it lie?…but if I were forced to hazard a guess, I would say that it is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart. What is pertinent is the calmness of that beauty, its sense of restraint. It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, of its own greatness and feels no need to shout it. In comparison, the sorts of sight offered in such places as Africa and America, though undoubtedly very exciting, would, I am sure, strike the objective viewer as inferior on account of their unseemly demonstrativeness’’

😀😀 hard to deal with this guy.

’The purpose: for we were, as I say, an idealistic generation for whom the question was not simply one of how well one practices one’s skills, but to what end one did so; each of us harboured the desire to make our own small contributions to the creation of a better world, and saw that as professionals, the surest means of doing so would be to serve the great gentlemen of our times in whose hands civilization had been entrusted.’’

(If you want this book, I can e-mail it to you on the condition that when you’re through, you give your thoughts on here. Ey? And don’t be scared into thinking it’s some boring English book, its not.)
I hope you’re subscribed to the blog by email. If you’re not, please do so.
💜
Yours faithfully,
Debby.

BOOK REVIEW–And the Shofar Blew

The first time I picked up this book to read, it was an e-book version. I dove into the first chapter, and when I had cause to put it down, I didn’t miss it.
When my baby sister decided to buy me a book as my birthday gift and we didn’t locate the title by Karen Kingsbury which she was determined to buy for me, we settled for this after all its a Francine Rivers’ book. I had no clue it was the same book I had started to read once.
Author: Francine Rivers
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher/publication date: Tyndale house publishers inc/ 2003
Pages: 435 pages(my paperback copy)
ISBN: 978-0-8423-6583-3

Blurb
As Paul and those around him struggle to discern what it truly means to live out their faith, they must ultimately choose between their own will and God’s plan. The story of a dynamic young preacher, committed to building his church–but at what cost?
Paul Hudson seemed like the perfect pastor to lead Centerville Christian Church and Eunice was the perfect pastor’s wife. When Paul accepted the call to pastor the struggling church, he had no idea what to expect. But it didn’t take long for Paul to turn Centerville Christian Church around. Attendance is up, way up, and everything is going so well. If only his wife could see it that way. Still, he tries not to let her quiet presence distract him. But Eunice knows that something isn’t right and it hasn’t been for a long time… Eunice closed the bedroom door quietly and knelt beside her bed. I am drowning, God. I’ve never felt so alone. Who can I turn to but you, Lord? Where else does a pastor’s wife go for help when her marriage is failing and her life is out of control? Who can I trust with my anguish, Lord? Who but you? Grasping her pillow, she pressed it tightly to her mouth so that her sobs would not be heard.
 Related: Read a review of Francine River’s Redeeming love here

Review

The title didn’t suggest much to me as I began. I was focused on getting past the start of the book which I found rather boring.
This isn’t the best book I’ve read by Francine Rivers. I appreciate this book in it’s religious capacity. I appreciate the cogent lessons it draws out for a Christian and for the church at large. But as a piece of art, it didn’t hook me much. Not even the blurb!
Paul Hudson and his wife, Eunice appear as the cutest couple around. They have a son, Tim, and together they’re on fire for God.
A call comes to pastor a once-vibrant, now dying church in California- Centerville Christian Centre.
He shakes up the church with the zeal burning in him. One old elder tells his wife at home:

He’s trying to raise the dead”
Good” she sipped her decaf laced with cream and sugar. “You’re pleased, aren’t you?
“Yep.”
“What about the others?”
“He shook ’em up”.
“We all need a little shaking up now and then

Samuel chuckled. ” I don’t think it’s going to be a matter of now and then, Abby, but a matter of from now on

With the onset of more liberty in a church of his own, Paul’s fire soon needs encampment. He disregards those who brought the call pastor to him, he gets zealous and dreams big.
His dreams are working. The church is growing.
His relationship with his wife and son grows cold.
We encounter how the life of a pastor can radically affect the life of every other person.
We’re left to juxtapose the building God wants us to do to the church (his body) with the building we do to the church ( the structure).
Related: read a review of Francine River’s Atonment child here
Some of the major characters are Paul, Eunice, Stephen, David Hudson, Lois Hudson, Abby, Samuel.
Some of the central themes include: The vast impact of fatherhood on the lives of children; The balance of family life and the ministry call; Love gone sour; Hearing the voice of God.
We have a few beautiful sentences in the book:

Why don’t you gentlemen go out on the patio and enjoy the last bit of sunsine while I clean up the kitchen? Its hot enough in here without you two adding your steam.”
Samuel chuckled. “What do you say, Stephen? You think it’ll be cooler outside?”
Abby turned at the sink. ” you can always turn on the sprinklers.”
Samuel opened the screen door, inviting their guest to follow. “Never argue with a lady, Stephen. If you win, you just end up feeling guilty”. The younger man laughed as he pushed his chair up to the kitchen table”

“We all have besetting sins, Stephen. They’re the trouble that bring us to our knees and keeps us depending on the Lord for strength”

” he intended to woo her not just in the way he had in the early days of their courtship, with flowers and love letters, soft music and dimmed lights, but with the right decisions. Walking the walk, one step at a time. Keeping the faith with her, safeguarding their marriage”

She looked fragile and broken. “You know what hurts most, Euny? I can’t seem to hear the Lord’s voice anymore. It used to be so clear that it was like a trumpet call-like the shofar of ancient Israel. But I can’t hear him anymore. Not even the still, small voice. And I want that more than anything.” She took Eunice’s hand, her eyes filled with anguish. ” Don’t Let it happen to you, honey. Please don’t let it happen”.

The characters are credible and understandable although a lot of times, I was annoyed by the patience the majority of them demonstrated.
My favourite character is Lois, Eunice’s step mother. My love for her grew in bounds when she had cause to go to a pub. All her responses were lit. She appeared bold and brazen for the gospel, she’d only become subdued by the man she was married to. I was glad she heeded God’s wake up call through Eunice to see what she’d been doing all along.
I highly recommend this book to Christians especially Christian leaders in any capacity.
This is also good for anyone who wants a perspective into what it takes to build a home and a church too. Of course, if you’re a fan of Rivers, you shouldn’t miss out on it!

What are your thoughts? Have you read this book before? Are you interested? Feedback!

BOOK REVIEW–STAY WITH ME

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The major themes in this book are captured in the blurb:

“…this is a devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family,the wretchedness of grief, and the all consuming bond of motherhood”

The story opens up in 2008 and we find a seemingly lonely woman, Yejide, and she directs her thoughts to someone. We’re intruders into this baring of her soul.
It’s direct and we’re not ushered into the book carefully. We must follow on to see who she converses with, in her head.
We’re taken back to 1985 to encounter her life with her husband and how their bliss is often punctuated by the offending relatives who proffer solutions to Yejide’s “barreness“. She often stays on her knees, smiling as they speak, after which she observes the routine of offering them food; their choice often being pounded yam.
Akin, her husband, types away on his phone every time they talk  and the illiterate relatives are happy he is paying detailed attention to their words, but what he really does is write his to-do-list for the week.
This scene we’re open to is, however, different. She becomes the first wife, iyale, with hopes that the new wife, Funmi, will give birth and this will usher in the children she needs.

“Our wife, our people say that when a man has a possession and it becomes two, he does not become angry, right?” Baba Lola said.
I nodded and smiled.
Well our wife, this is your new wife. It is one child that calls another one into this world. Who knows, the king in heaven may answer your prayers because of this wife. Once she gets pregnant and has a child, we are sure you will have one too”

Yejide’s world seems to end.

“I did not feel better. I would not feel better for a very long time. already, I was coming undone, like a hastily tied scarf coming loose, on the ground before the owner is aware of it.”

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We are introduced to Akin’s view of her and we see immense love. Similar to Ifemelu and Obinze’s, if you know what I mean. We’re flattered by his love but we’re soon to find out there are things even love, can’t fix.
Life goes on, and all Funmi does, in spite of herself, is to strengthen the bond between the two. We see an example when armed robbers visit their house and leave. Upon hearing a gunshot, Akin made Yejide lie down and stayed atop her and didn’t shift till day break, not even when Funmi asked if he didn’t care about her too. When she cried, he said nothing but went out to check what had happened.
The armed robbers are ushered in, along with developments in the country. We discover the time when estates had no fences and armed robbers began to send letters of intended attacks, and how ridiculous it had appeared at the first. They followed it up with detailed letters adressed to each home; to one, on family planning; to one, of lovers etc, there is dread.
We move into that era where everyone left the radio in their homes on when they went out, to wade off robbers, giving an impression someone is at home.
We’re also nudged into the happenings in the political sector and we live through each coup d’etat that happens. We also experience the anticipation and doubt that follows the announcement of a change from military rule to democracy, the 1993 election, and the pinning after news.
Funmi, is in effect, not the end of their lives.
The book made me appreciate life some years back and the richness of culture at the time. There are a number of Yoruba proverbs and innuendos.
Yejide and Akin try to cope with the expectation of family life. We find out the impact of hate and acceptance from siblings and parents. We understand sacrifices made for family as we’re lead through yoruba folklore stories told to children.
The plot climaxes and the attrocities man is capable of, begins to get revealed, but it is cloaked with good intentions and we observe the “desperate attempts to save ourselves and the people we love from heartbreak” even when it fails.
The book is written in a 1st person POV alternatively between Yejide and Akin. I could follow the common thread of the book easily.
The style is semi-formal. The language is clear and well defined. I particularly enjoyed the way the author weaved her words.
The author, Ayobami Adebayo, has published stories in magazines and anthologies and this book has been shortlisted for bailey’s prize for women’s fiction.
The publisher is Ouida books. It’s been published in the U.k and came out in Nigeria only a week and two days ago . It has 306 pages. I bought it for 3,000 naira having ordered it through roving heights.
ISBN 978-978-959-320-0.
The main characters are Akinyele, Yejide, Yejide’s stepmothers, Dotun, Moomi, iya Bolu. The characters are credible. The characters run into a million problems. Yejide is my favourite character especially her OAU version. Her reasoning is relatable.
I like the book.
I believe everyone who is exposed to adulthood would appreciate this book. I recommend it to those who value family and I rate it 4.5/5stars.
Other excerpts:
On rejection from family:

“Two weeks later, her father died and I was shocked by how her step mothers went out of their way to ensure Yejide stood without any family member at her side. They all moved from one side of the grave to another so that Yejide and I stood alone like outcasts. When I nudged Yejide and asked that we both follow her siblings and step mothers, she smiled and told me they’d moved because of her and if we went to their side, they would simply all move again”

“We can’t keep fighting over this thing, you know. We are brothers, we are blood. A woman can divorce you, family can’t…brother mii, get this right, you can’t fight with me

On love:

“I loved Yejide from the very first moment. No doubt about that. But there are things even love can’t do. Before I got married, I believed love could do anything . I learned soon enough that it couldn’t bear the weight of our years without children. If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends,cracks, comes close to breaking and even sometimes does break. But even when it is a million pieces around your feet, that doesn’t means it’s no longer love”

It was not the outrage in Iya Martha’s scream that stopped my words. It was the tender way Akin’s thumb stroked my Palm. I looked away from his eyes”

On family:

“Every time he married a new wife, my father would tell his children that a family was about having people who would look for you if you got kidnapped. It was a bad joke and I was the only one who ever laughed . I laughed at all his jokes. I think he believed in this myth of his large harmonious family. He probably thought i would still visit my stepmothers after his death.”

“I sat by his bed looking, waiting for the faintest signs that he had decided to return to me. There was no sign. I was afraid to touch him,afraid that my touch might stress him and carry him into the unknown, away from me, forever. By the third day I was on my knees praying to him in muttered words only I could hear saanu mi, malo, omo mi, joo nitori olorun. Saanu mi. Duro timi. Have mercy on me,don’t go please. Stay with me. “
“…and your family, which for a misguided period, I thought was mine”
“I was not strong enough to love when I could loose again”

On having children:

“I never began the story with moomi’s olomo lo l’aye saying. I’d believed her once, I’d accepted it- like the tortoise and his wife- that there was no way to be in the world without offspring. And though I told Rotimi the story many times, I no longer believed that having a child was equal to owning the world”

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Debby
What do you think? Have you read this book? Are you interested? The conversation never stops. Don’t forget to share too!

Me before you–BOOK REVIEW


The title of the book is “Me Before  You”  and the author is Jojo Moyes.
The publisher is the Penguin group. This is the first edition and it has 481 pages. It was published in 2012.
I didn’t ponder on what the title could suggest before reading the book. In hindsight, I believe it implies what extent you’ll go to, in putting the happiness of the person you love before your happiness.
The genre is conntemporary adult fiction.
The book is written in the first person point of view, which is okay. Towards the end of the book, we however get two other points of view for a bit.
I can logically follow the main thread of the book but maybe not emotionally.
This book stirs up mixed feelings for me. It’s disturbing, not in the way ” the girl on the train” was disturbing. It’s disturbing in an okay-easy-to-read-but-i-can’t-accept-this-worldview kind of way.
Will Traynor is disabled, not just a paraplegic but he is a quadriplegic (and the worst case, a c5/6 as we’re informed). He can’t make use of his body from his chest downwards. There is faint movement in his palm but he can’t grasp anything. So he must be fed food, he must be given a drink. He has go to toilet in a catheter attached to his wheel chair, and have it emptied by a carer. He cannot make many decisions on his own. He is liable to having his mother(or anyone which is really my point) walk out on him during a conversation, as she did when he first brought up a topic she considered an outright taboo. This same taboo founds the main conflict in the book.
He is a 35years old man and has to depend on people. This is vastly dissimilar to his old way of life which included bungee jumping, swimming with whales, climbing mountains etc. He was a physical person and that life was ripped right out of reach.
Lou, on the other hand, is content , too content with her life, and it has made her not so smart. At 26years old, she talks and reasons quite slowly. She is the sort of person who counts the footsteps between her house and the bus stop. The kind of person who works at a bakery (butter-bun: her former work place), by just strolling in to the place on the basis of a dare from her younger sister that she couldn’t get employed in a day, and asks if she could work there. She is the kind of person who works there for 6years without a formal employment and without a demand on her part for a raise. All this, not because she is disabled in any way. She is the kind of person who stays in an unstimulating relationship for 7 years with a man who loves keeping his body fit more than he loves her. She has weird fashion sense which causes everyone she meets to raise their eyebrows.
Lou has a strange family too. Strange. Especially her grandpa. Ooh and her father. And her mother. And her sister. And her nephew-Tomotomo. 😁
She gets employed as Will Traynor’s carer and inspite of the initial animosity, they ride on smoothly for close to six months.
The changes she is willing to effect in her life are still disturbing because they are as a function of her love for him not because she has seen the folly in her former decisions.
The novels begs the question, “is love sufficient?”
I do not have a favourite character in this book and I wish I could change the beginning and middle of the book to be better paced and gripping.
The style of the book is informal. The language is clear and convincing. It exposes the reader to the life of a disabled person and evokes empathy.
I don’t intend to insert spoilers so I won’t  go on.
I didn’t particularly like the ‘force’ of the book which was low. It wasn’t much of a page-turning, gripping book. It didn’t evoke a plethora of emotions from me, only one emotion. Notwithstanding, there was good humour in a number of scenes.
A novel is always beyond the story it tells, it’s the sum total of the author’s  voice, techniques etc.
I rate it a 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to anyone interested. You should actually get it.
On living with disability:

“and all I can say to you is that, I wouldn’t be in his shoes for all the money in the world”

On love and choices:

“how is it you have the right to destroy my life ” I wanted to demand of him, “and I am not allowed a say in yours?”

on the gift of quietness and bliss:

“sometimes I stood at the window and watched him, his head tilted back, just enjoying the sun on his face. When I remarked on his ability to be still and just enjoy the moment-something I never mastered- he pointed out that if you can’t move your arms and legs, you haven’t got much of a choice”

On living life:

“there is a hunger in you Clark. A fearlessness. You just buried it, like most people do”
“just live well. Just live”
“I will never ever regret the things that I’ve done because most days, all you have left are places in your memory that you can go to”
“there’s not a lot separating me from anyone you might pass in the street. You probably wouldn’t look at me twice. An ordinary girl leading an ordinary life. Actually it suited me fine”
“”you cut yourself off from all sorts of experiences because you tell yourself you are not that sort of person”. ”
” but I’m not”


I got this book as a gift from someone I do not know personally although I read her blog. It was on instagram, she put up a picture of the book and for the first time in my life I commented with “I want someone to give me this book” and she did! It landed at my doorstep in UI. This is another thank-you note. to Eclectictope.com. :)💛

Books, living and choices,
Debby