Dear John

09/11/2011 at 2:01 AM (Books, Movies, Romance, Romance, War) (, , , )

Dear John Book Cover

We meet John who enlisted in the Army because he rebelled at school and then dropped out due to conflicts with his gentle and unassuming father who was unable to converse about anything except his one passion: coin collecting. He drifts on with life until he meets and falls in love with Savannah at the beach one day. Their initial spark for each other quickly blooms into love. Savannah, a special education student, alerts John up to the possibility his father may have a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome which enables him to mend bridges with his Dad (who in my opinion is the true hero of this book). But the time John has with Savannah is short lived as he is in the military and has to finish his tour of duty. This book by Nicholas Sparks points out how the lives of soldiers are so different from those of civilians and how difficult it is for love to progress normally in those circumstances.

They exchange letters that speak from the heart during his service and the time for John to reunite with his girl draws closer. They have one brief meeting before he goes on leave again but he feels the nature of their relationship has changed and then Savannah confesses she had a difficult time of it after his departure. But then tragedy strikes in the form of September 11. He feels compelled to re-enlist to display his patriotism but this time he receives a blow to the heart from the girl of his dreams – she has fallen in love with someone else during their long separation. The letter he receives makes him reel with shock and realises the life he had planned has changed course because even if Savannah has moved on, he’s still in love with her. After he returns home, he decides to visit her after making some inquiries and realises that he made a mistake when it turns out her husband is an old friend and a patient in the local hospital. Although he is permitted to have a future with her from her ill husband (which I thought was patronising even if he was sick), John decides to show his love in a more courageous manner by sacrificing it.

This is why this book often gets described as a tearjerker. I did cry once when I was reading but John and Savannah felt pretty secondary to me. Their love story was bittersweet and if I’m to be honest, I thought Savannah exhibited a lot of selfishness. So I find it a waste that John is left to pine over the girl who betrayed him after spending the money obtained by selling his father’s amassed coins on her future instead of looking after his own. I think that was not the author’s intention but that’s my interpretation. The scene during which I cried was that of John’s father’s funeral because so few people knew his true worth.

Note I know there is a film on it but I have not seen it so you have to rely on the following links for thoughts on that:

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Fishing For Stars

06/19/2011 at 10:54 AM (Australian Literature, Books, Culture, Educational, Inspired, Politics, Romance, War) (, , , , , )

It actually has been a long while since I’ve read a Bryce Courtenay because work and volunteering has kept me on my toes. But on a recent jaunt to the library, I found a sequel to The Persimmon Tree. It’s called Fishing for Stars.

So shipping magnate Nick Duncan finds his life revolving around two women: Anna Til, the exotic but damaged Eurasian obsessed with profit and Marg Hamilton, ex-Navy wife and fanatical protector of nature’s treasures. These characteristics give the two women who are loath to let Nick Duncan belong solely to the other have two vindictive names to call each other: Princess Plunder and Green Bitch. The settings are interesting as it involves the Yakuza in Japan, the military environment of Indonesia, the Pacific Islands and parts of Australia. But this is a story narrated by flashback.

Penguin Fishing for Stars Book Cover

Nick is grieving after losing Anna to breast cancer and is suffering from bad dreams harking back to WWII. Marg decides this is possibly the onset of PTSD and finds him an appropriate specialist. On the advice of his psychologist, Nick decides to put his story on paper; the tale of how he has lived since being a war hero. He writes about the lifelong contest of the two women and how he tried to keep each to their separate worlds until he was forced to take action.

The struggle to save Lake Pedder annoyed me with the weight given to all the politics involved but nevertheless the information was so educational that it was easy to forgive this aspect. The take on Anna Til being a BDSM dominatrix with vaginismus who had a smack habit she couldn’t kick but was cool as a cucumber in making multi-million dollar business deals was a bit much. The habit did not really count as a flaw if it didn’t impact on her ability to be a rational and calculating negotiator. Marg was described in a better and believable way but I think this book focused more on what she did than her as a character.

Still, if you have read The Persimmon Tree, reading the aftermath in Fishing for Stars is not a bad experience even if the history is rehashed for the benefit of those with poor memories. You will always be sure to learn something entirely new in the case of this writer.

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The Clocks

04/06/2011 at 6:14 AM (Books, Mystery, TV, War) (, , , , , , , )

Colin Lamb, who walks around in the guise of a marine biologist, is paying a visit to Wilbraham Crescent when Miss Sheila Webb runs screaming out of a house straight into his arms. She tells him there is a corpse inside the house. When he goes in to check, her hysteric tale is confirmed. There is a dead body in the house and what is more mysterious is that four clocks in the room are frozen at 4:13 even though the actual time is 3:13.  The house turns out be the residence of an elderly blind lady, Mrs. Pebmarsh. To the astonishment and consternation of everyone involved, she states she did not call the Cavendish Secretarial Bureau to specifically inquire for the typing services of Sheila Webb.  Is Miss Webb the target of a conspiracy or is she actually hiding something?

When Colin Lamb gets Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective concocted by the queen of crime writing, involved in the case from his armchair no less, he enquires as to why Colin was found at Wilberham Crescent. Apparently he was investigating another case that pointed him towards this address.  Unfortunately here the main role doesn’t fall to the detective but when murder rate spikes higher, Poirot uses his grey cells to figure out this case doesn’t follow the one plot but two which intertwine with each other.

As the mystery unravels, you finally figure out the motive for the murder of that unidentified man, why the girl with broken high heel was prevented from giving evidence, the significance of 4:13 and who is committing treason by passing information to the enemy. This one is littered with red herrings so it is almost impossible to figure the case out by reasoning.

Below is the television adaptation based on the novel. Please note the story is mostly true to type but there are some modifications made such as the time in which it was set.

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The Five People You Meet in Heaven

02/22/2011 at 12:16 PM (Books, Educational, Fable, Inspired, Spiritual, War) (, , , , , , )

Once I accidentally happened upon Tuesdays with Morrie at my university library while searching for some course text books. So what do I do?

I promptly abandon my text hunting and sit in for a delicious tale written by Mitch Albom about his moments with the retired sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz ; it is about the lessons the author learned from the teacher who had contracted Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS). So it was with joy I revisited this author’s writing in The Five People You Meet In Heaven. Unlike my first experience, this time it was fiction inspired by Eddie Beitchman, the writer’s real life uncle, who had lived a life like that of Eddie in the book.

The Five People You Meet In Heaven Book Cover

This particular narrative starts with a death – the death of the main character, Eddie the maintenance man on Ruby Pier, on his 83rd birthday to be exact. This birthday incident is notable because you realise lots of events of significance happened on his birthdays.Small little interconnected coincidences, to which readers are clued in by the narrator, lead to an accident at the Ruby Pier amusement park that finally leads to Eddie’s death as he tries to rescue a young girl. This is why the book starts with a chapter titled ‘The End’.

We are then given some insight into his journey through heaven after his passing away.Through this trip, we are treated to glimpses of five people on whom his past had a significant impact. His first encounter is with the blue man, a former circus freak, who imagines the Ruby Pier of Eddie’s childhood as his own heaven. Eddie had been indirectly responsible for his death but he tells Eddie events are not that random and lives intersect for a reason.

The second stage of heaven brings Eddie to a scene of war torn desolation during WWII. His new mentor turns out to be his war captain with whom he fought in the Philippines, where they became prisoners of war for a brief period. Eddie uses his circus skills to escape their confinement but feels too paralysed to leave at the last moment after he helps to set the war camp on fire. The captain had promised his subordinates that he would not leave anyone behind. To fulfill this promise, he shoots Eddie in the leg to make it easier to get the evacuation underway. Initially Eddie is angry with the captain who had been waiting to ask his forgiveness but realises the man suffered a worse fate than him. He teaches Eddie about sacrifice.

Next Eddie meets an elderly Ruby, a woman he has never met before. She turns out to be the namesake of the amusement park where he worked all his life. He meets her in a diner where she had worked when she was young and where she had met her husband, Emile – the creator behind Ruby Pier. She tells him the misconceptions he had entertained against his father were far from the truth despite their conflicts. She was privy to his deathbed confession because Emile was in the same room. She tells Eddie about the importance of forgiveness.

Finally Eddie comes face to face with Marguerite, the love of his life. Their marriage was happy but childless so they had put in an application for adoption. Before this can take place, Eddie is involved in betting high stakes at the track. Worried about him, she drives to meet him but meets with an accident when some drunk kids drop some whiskey bottles that land on the car. This causes unforeseen medical expenses and their application for adoption is rejected. Although the accident creates tension between them at first, they overcome this situation until tragedy strikes again taking Marguerite. He meets her in a succession of wedding parties belonging to different cultures where she teaches him their love was neither snatched too early or torn to pieces as he had thought.

His final teacher is Tala who meets a grisly fate due to his hand at war camp. This explains why he felt he could not leave but his war captain shooting him ensures his survival. Tala tells him his life as ‘Eddie Maintenance’ was an important one. His ability to keep an eye on the proper functioning of the rides meant lives were saved – both the born and unborn. Eddie is a man who feels has not achieved what he has set out to accomplish because by a set of unfortunate circumstances, he inherits a job he despises but stays because he feels obligated to continue the job his father had. Tala, who meets him near a river, teaches him the meaning and purpose of his work at the pier was to save and protect the children. Eddie’s life ends with him doing what he had done for his entire life.

Rich in symbolism, motifs and imagery of rebirth and redemption, The Five People You Meet In Heaven is a tale of inspiration about an unsung hero.

  • To watch Tuesdays with Morrie trailer, click here.
  • To watch The Five People You Meet in Heaven trailer, click here.

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The Story of Danny Dunn

11/28/2010 at 11:38 AM (Books, Inspired, War) (, , , )

The Story of Danny Dunn

This is a sad but beautiful story of determination and perseverance about the life of Danny Dunn. His dreams of becoming a pro athlete dashed after a very foolhardy and  rash decision to enlist in World War I by dropping out of university , he does his best to cultivate the sporting abilities of his twin daughters. This is no easy task because one of the twins realises her talent lies in folk music unlike the other sister who  trains to be an Olympic level swimmer in accordance to Danny’s wishes.

Unfortunately Danny’s political ambitions and support of Dawn Fraser impose upon the sporting daughter’s qualifying to compete and a last minute illness during the swimming finals leads to the blossoming of an unsavoury relationship with tragic consequences.

Ultimately Danny realises he was pursuing his own dreams through his daughters and comes to terms with his other daughter following her own.

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Suite Francaise

01/07/2010 at 11:30 AM (Adaptations, Books, Holocaust, Movies, Romance, War) (, , , , )

On one of my frequent jaunts around Borders, after looking for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close with little success, I ended up purchasing Suite Francaise.

I guess in a way it is fortunate that the author’s daughter decided it was time to read what had laid dormant for fifty years because otherwise the book I bought would probably still be unpublished.

Suite Francaise

The storyline was quite interesting at the beginning but I felt too confused and muddled by the sheer number of characters by its conclusion. It did reflect on some interesting questions regarding living in an occupied country especially about what is seen on the surface and what goes on behind closed minds. However basing a work on the Fifth Symphony by Beethoven is a huge endeavour and it was a shame the manuscript had to end so suddenly in an appendix.

To be fair, Irene Nemirovsky didn’t really have the time to refine her manuscript thanks to her Jewish ancestry and the horrors of Auschwitz while her life merits being a novel, or rather a biography, in its own right.

Update: In 2014 they have made a film based on the book.

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