Monday, April 30, 2012
52 books in 52 weeks: April
The Bang Bang Club - Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva
The Princess Bride - William Goldman
Passion - Janette Winterson
My Life in France - Julia Child
I wrote last month about my struggle with The Bang Bang Club - a auto/biography of four photojournalists working in South Africa at the end of the apartheid era. After letting it sit for a couple of weeks I finally returned and finished it. It is a difficult book to read. Stylistically it's well written, but the subject matter is bleak. It is a story of a country that is pulled in so many directions by the factions and ideologies and alliances and bloodlines that twist in on each other. And it is a story that confronts head-on the notion of what an individual can do to make a difference. There are no simple answers or neat happy endings. This is a book I would highly recommend though, if for no other reason than to gain an insight into the people behind the images that we see in our news media. It is easy to forget that while a story may only pass touch our lives for a few minutes, the journalists and photographers who seek them out will carry the memories with them for a lifetime.
A world away from the The Bang Bang Club is The Princess Bride. I have to confess that I only discovered recently that The Princess Bride was originally a book. The movie is one of my all time favourites - I love the story, the tongue in cheek style, the characters, the one liners - so when the opportunity arose to use the book in homeschool English, I jumped at the chance. I'm really glad I read the book, but not for the reasons I expected. For anyone who is interested in screenplays and/or screenplay adaptations of novels, this is a must read. It is fascinating to see the transition from book to movie - to see what was left out and what was kept in. William Goldman wrote both the book and the screenplay and personally I think the movie leaves the book for dead. I think he's taken a good book and created a brilliant movie. While on one hand the book is a frustrating read if you liked the movie, oddly enough I think the book is a must read for lovers of the movie as it gives you the backstory and small details that explain elements of the movie. How did Inigo end up in the smugglers' village? Why did the six fingered man kill Inigo's father? Why does Fezzik have a holocaust cloak? And what is the significance of the four white horses? Just don't read the book if you like Buttercup...
I am a long time admirer of Janette Winterson so was really pleased when I found this book in a collection a friend was giving away. I've been trying to come up with a good way to describe what it is like about her and the best I can think of is that she's a "wordsmith". She plays around with words and styles. You get the sense that she is not writing to conform to a genre or commercial structure. Her purpose is to tease out the beauty of the language. Passion, one of her earliest novels, is set in the time of Napoleon. It tells two parallel and then intertwining tales - one of Napoleon's cook and one of a young woman who is the daughter of a Venetian gondolier. It explores the different notions of passion - for a lover, for an ideology, for a cause or for a leader. It is a tale well told.
The final book for the month is also a tale of passion. Julia Child's, My Life in France, was recommended to me my a good friend (and passionate chef). I eventually found it at the Ghana Book Trust and have loved it as much as my friend thought I would. While the tales of cooking and of Paris are wonderful, what I love most is Julia Child's love of life. She has the most incredible sense of joy and an urge to experience the world. This is a book to make you look at the world with fresh eyes.
photo credit: graur razvan ionut