November 7th, 2013


Book 43: The Blackwater Lightship

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 43: The Blackwater Lightship
43: THE BLACKWATER LIGHTSHIP Colm Tóibín (Ireland, 1999)

Upon learning that her brother Declan is dying of AIDS, Helen must come back to the family home to face some of the relatives she had tried to get out of her life.

The Blackwater Lightship , my first Tóibín, is above all a very subtle book, so it is better not to expect a number of shocking family secrets to be revealed by the end of it. But because the emotions described are never overly dramatic, they ring particularly true to anyone familiar with family tensions that have been repressed over the years.
The center of Tóibín's book is Declan's physical suffering and the quiet fear of a wasted life it awakens among his relatives. The author masterfully uses his claustrophobic setting, as well as the theme of light and shadow introduced by the very title, to create a haunting atmosphere. There's not much to say about this novel, beyond the fact that it is very well written and touching, and a non-preachy warning against the unspoken resentments that eat away so many of us.
I'm looking forward to reading another of the author's books.



#66 Linda Lafferty: The Bloodletter's Daughter (A Novel of Old Bohemia)

I started out really liking this book. There was the crazy bastard son of Rudolf ii, and a bathmaiden (an interesting profession) interested in medical science, who seemed to have attracted a young handsome doctor from Prague. It was well written and rather interestingly set up. And then... Another person would probably do well enough suspending disbelief, but I am too logical and the logic in this book simply disappeared at some point. Why would a doctor, who was basically being upstaged and blackmailed by a girl, suddenly feel it his duty to save her life? Why would the villagers ostracize her mother for wanting to sell her daughter to the highest bidder, when this is apparently what the bathmaidens are for? And those same villagers go to the bathes and enjoy their favours. How come the man who was last seen with a sword stuck in his back is unexplainedly alive and happy?

So... I don't know... It feels like the author ran out of patience or ideas halfway. I would probably still recommend it. There is potential there.

#67 Joshua Foer: Moonwalking with Einstein. The art and science of remembering everything
This is not a self-help book on improving your memory. Rather, it is a story of a journalist who got interested in memory improvement techniques and in 6 month trained himself to become the US Master in memorizing. In the book, he discusses techniques he came across and their history, describes the people with amazing memories he meets on the way, but also ponders whether the art of memory is relevant any more and in what form precisely is it relevant. I found this book very interesting and thought-provoking. I don't think I want to remember reams of random numbers, but getting better at learning languages, for example, would be a boon.