As summer draws to a close it is time to recap on the books read in this house over the last few months. My parents have been staying with us and my dad has spent more time reading here than he would have at home so I will start with his list. Most books were drawn from the Ottawa Library. By this point in the post he has taken over writing and I will just wait and post the finished list with his comments and reviews.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
This book was in the house when we arrived. An easy to read insight into life on the Channel Island of Guernsey during the German occupation of World War 2.
Walking on the Land Farley Mowat
I had read several Mowat books on an earlier visit to Canada and have become aware of his activism in the anti-whaling cause in the Southern Ocean as a visitor to Australia in recent years. This book recalls a story told in part in some of his earlier writings, a story which put him on a collision course with some people in high places. It is the story of some of the indigenous people of the Arctic whose life and livelihood was destroyed, in large part through the neglect and apparent “could not care” attitudes of people whose responsibility included the welfare of the indigenous people.
The story was new to me, but sadly and remarkably similar to some of the stories that I know only too well concerning the indigenous people of my own country.
The Custodian of Paradise Wayne Johnston
I had read “The Colony of Unrequited Dreams” on an earlier visit and was keen to learn more of Sheilagh Fielding’s story. Johnston is a great writer and the story engaged me until the last page. I think there is more yet to be told; perhaps there will be a third book in the trilogy when next we visit.
Baltimore’s Mansion Wayne Johnston
Newfoundland, the last province to join the Canadian Confederation. What a time it must have been. Johnston’s memoir of Newfoundland through the lives of his grandfather, father and his own give a unique insight to the place of Newfoundland in Canada, and a background to the setting of the two novels mentioned above.
Memoirs-All Rivers Run to the Sea Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel was a Romanian-Hungarian Jew who was a survivor of Auchwitz, though most of his family perished. The first chapter “Childhood” was difficult – so many people, so many relationships, it was hard to follow and I almost put it back in the library bag. The second chapter “Darkness” is his memoir of the period 19 March 1944 to 11 April 1945, from the arrival of the Germans into his town of Sighet on the day of the Jewish Feast of Purim to the liberation by American soldiers from Auchwitz just over a year later. He managed to stay with his father until a few days before the liberation when his father died.
Despite its distressing subject, I found this chapter uplifting in an unexpected way and remarkably without bitterness. Later chapters tell of his life as a writer, as a journalist and author, telling the story of the young nation state of Israel and the Zionist hope
Speaking My Mind Tony Campolo
This book is sub-titled “The Radical Prophet Tackles the Tough Issues Christians are Afraid to Face.” Campolo stands solidly in the evangelical stream but he is offering a strong critique of American Fundamentalism, whilst at the same time acknowledging that evangelical churches are no longer “the monolithic mass of social conservatives”, a phrase which may have once been true. It is an examination of the US scene and the American church, but I see much correlation with Australia Christian scene.
The Right Attitude to Rain Alexander McCall Smith
The World According to Bertie Alexander McCall Smith
I was introduced to McCall Smith during a previous visit to Ottawa. His books have now become very popular in Australia where he has also visited to introduce his characters. Bertie and his family (and all their neighbours) and Isobel Dalhousie and the dilemmas she confronts provide enjoyable relaxation amidst many of the other books.
Five Generations of the Kennedy Family (returned to the library without noting the author’s name)
I came upon this book in the biography section during the week of Ted Kennedy’s death. It is a large book of and I read with interest major sections identified from its comprehensive index. Without question, the Kennedy brothers had a profound influence on American politics and world affairs. With the death of Ted, I am wondering whether there are other family members who will follow.
Prime Ministers: Ranking Canada’s Leaders J.L. Granatstein, Norman Hillmer
As a keen student of Australian history and politics, I was interested to gain an overview of some of the major issues of Canadian politics since confederation. This small book provides a very succinct overview. Each chapter provides an essay on the leadership of the respective Prime Ministers and ranks the quality of their leadership from Great through Average to Failure. I don’t think anyone has yet written a similar ranking book of our PM’s, although there are many weightier books to read at home as, no doubt, there are here.
With two more weeks of our holiday, the list is incomplete and the reading continues, but it time to post the entry. It is a privilege to be a contributor instead of an occasional commenter.