Friday, June 14, 2013

Books: Swamplandia, Balzac and The Curious Incident

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

Sijie tells the story of two teenagers in China post the cultural revolution sent to the mountains of Tibet to be re-educated. The narrator, and his friend, Luo, meet the daughter of the local seamstress and befriend her. They also discover a stash of foreign novels hidden by their friend Four Eyes and their world is opened. Sijie himself was reeducated in the mountain regions in China during the same time and this novel is said to be semi-autobiographical. He is an excellent author and the story keeps the reader engaged the whole time. The stories they discover (The Count of Monte Cristo for one) expand their horizons and provide stories that keep them in the favor of the village. Their relationships with the seamstress' daughter also proves to be enlightening and traumatizing all at the same time. All in all, I liked it but didn't love it. I give the story 3.5/5 stars.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

I was absolutely sucked in by the cover and title of this book. From Amazon, "Thirteen-year-old Ava Bigtree has lived her entire life at Swamplandia!, her family’s island home and gator-wrestling theme park in the Florida Everglades." After Ava's mother gets sick, The Chief (their dad) disappears to the mainland, Kiwi, her older brother, leaves to work at a rival theme park, and her sister falls in love with a ghost. This book is a crazy story about this family's life in florida swamp, which seems so surreal to me. The life of this family is so out of reality and chaotic I really felt for little Ava. She is left to her own devices and feels responsbile for her family and her beloved Swamplandia. I didn't think I actually liked the book but the final 50 pages really sucked me in. I give it another 3.5/5 stars since it took me awhile to get in to it.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

This is written from the perspective of Christopher John Francis Boone, an autistic 15-year-old, who tries to solve the mystery of a murdered dog in his neighborhood. He loves his pet rat, Toby, math and watching nature videos and the chapters in the book are all prime numbers. Haddon does an excellent job (or it seems like he does at least) of getting into the head of an autistic teenagers, it really feels like you're reading a journal Christopher wrote. Becuase of that I felt like the story is challenging to really get into. Still, you really get the feeling of how much his Dad loves him, despite their issues, and the reasons behind his choices. Thankfully, it ends well, which is why I give it 3/5 stars.

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