Monday, 22 June 2009

27. Martin Meredith - The State of Africa

I’m feeling very proud of myself for having read this book. As one reviewer said:

“The State of Africa is a heavy book, but it is light reading because it is so unfashionably straightforward.” Wall Street Journal

To be honest, I’m not even very sure why this book is in my library or why it survived the cull. I’ve nearly given it away unread on several occasions. I felt intimidated by its size and unsure of my ability to understand the content – or even be particularly interested in it. I like history but not modern, international history. I’ve studied politics and didn’t enjoy it. And I tried economics in my first year of University and changed courses after the first tutorial.

Mr Meredith chronicles the past 50 years (1955 – 2005) of African political and economic history in a manner which I found captivating. It’s not that I enjoyed reading about famine and genocide – I didn’t and remain haunted by some passages – but his approach in following the ‘Big Men’ who shaped modern Africa (for better or for worse) and the quality of his writing have created a page-turner that also serves to educate. It is to be hoped that the book reaches a wide audience who, perhaps, like me start reading without really knowing why.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

26. Andrea Busfield - Born Under a Million Shadows

The cover of this book reminds me strongly of The Kite Runner but the story it tells is different. Ms Busfield’s is a grittier Afghanistan, seen through the eyes of Fawad – an 11 year old boy whose family is scarred forever by the Taliban. Fortune smiles on Fawad and his mother, however, when she finds work as a housekeeper for an Englishwoman named Georgie and with whom Fawad promptly falls in love.

This is much more than a romance novel, however. Ms Busfield’s characters often adopt the tone of lecturers as Fawad and the reader learn more about Afghanistan. At first, I found this rather irritating – if I’d wanted to read non-fiction I would have done so – but I was soon so immersed in the lives presented to me that the pages turned easily and I’m sorry now to have finished and to be leaving them behind. Ms Busfield has tied up all the loose ends very neatly and without, I think, leaving herself space for a sequel but I do hope this is not the first and the last book we shall see from her.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

25. Micca Campbell - An Untroubled Heart

I really chose this book because I loved the cover – the content was incidental. It is an exhortation to Christian women to live free from anxiety and fear and, as I have mental health problems and live with anxiety, I thought I would find it very relevant. It’s a shame I didn’t but I don’t blame Mrs Campbell in the least.

In this book, she presents the promises of God and suggests that the reader stand on those promises using faith to battle fear. I read the promises and wished I believed them. At this moment, however, I don’t. And my anxiety is too amorphous to be answered with a Bible verse, however well-chosen. So, this wasn’t really the right book for me and, to be perfectly fair, I doubt that I am quite the target audience.

Mrs Campbell’s writing is bright and clear, warm and friendly. She also speaks with great authority having gone through her trials and found her God. I think this would be a great book for any Christian woman who needs encouragement to step forth fearlessly in her day-to-day life.

Monday, 8 June 2009

24. Kathleen Y'Barbo - Golden Twilight

I found myself reluctant to read this book when it found its way to the head of Mt ToBeRead. I’m really not in the mood for Christian fiction or romance books and this promised (and delivered) both.

The first part of the novel is a bit disjointed – Where did Fiona get her medical skills? How’s she paying for college? These questions are never really answered. Of course, it doesn’t really matter but I’m someone who likes the facts to be accounted for. It’s only a short book and the writing style was pleasant so I decided to continue.

I’m glad I did. The second half of the book is much improved and, as Ms Y’Barbo wove her web of romantic mystery, I found myself well and truly sucked in. Yes, there are gaps in the narrative. No, there’s no good description of people or places. But, ‘What happens next?’ was constantly on my mind as the pages turned.

I may not seek out more from this author but I do owe her the debt of a pleasant afternoon.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

23. Anne Graham - Womanhood Revisited

When I saw this book in the shop I mistakenly thought it was written by Billy Graham’s wife. It’s not – Anne Graham is a Pastor’s wife, certainly, but she’s a British lady. I’ve since remembered that Billy Graham’s wife’s name is Ruth. But I digress.

Mrs Graham writes well and, although I didn’t agree with all her sentiments, I enjoyed reading her, carefully researched, book.

She opens by giving biographical accounts of the women in her family and then looks at the way religion and philosophy have changed over the years. She then moves on to women in the Bible before looking at the lives of women today – as they are and as she thinks they should be.

This is an anti-feminist book and I found some of Mrs Graham’s claims about feminism alarming. I struggle too with her picture of what a woman’s life ‘should’ be like when I compare myself to her ideal. Having just finished the book, I’m left with a feeling of unease and a lot of ideas to think through. I have a feeling that this was Mrs Graham’s intention and, therefore, the book has done its work.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

22. Roger Lea MacBride - Little House on Rocky Ridge

I was excited to read this next instalment of the Ingalls-Wilder family’s story, if a little apprehensive – how could Mr MacBride possibly do justice to such well-loved characters?

The first half of this book was a rather disappointing re-telling of the journey from South Dakota to Missouri which Laura covered in On the Way Home. I wonder whether it was really necessary for Mr MacBride to make such a thorough work of this when we already have Laura’s own account? Beside this, the MacBride version lacks sparkle and immediacy.

Once the Wilders are at their new home, however, my enjoyment grew as I read and I’m now looking forward to reading the rest of the series. My criticism is that Mr MacBride focuses strongly on events rather than characters. In fairness, it’s possible that Laura does also but, as the reader is already engaged by her own character as shown by the events she relates, one does not notice. I will be interested to see if the characters are developed further as the series progresses. I very much hope that they are.