By Cheryl Strayed
This is the true recollection of Cheryl Strayed, who walked 1100 miles along the Pacific Coast Trail (California to Oregon). I enjoyed reading it because I really enjoy these sorts of survival stories. I enjoy the scenery, even though there are no photographs.
Strayed was, as she said herself, physically lost. This very long walk helped to ground her. Interwoven with Strayed’s mammoth walk is, are excerpts of her life.
I knew nothing about this book, and didn’t even know there was a movie recently starring Reese Witherspoon! I picked it up at an airport book shop on the way to Brisvegas, and read it while there. The writing is good, which is always a bonus!
By Elizabeth Knox
Well. Wrap your eyeballs around this novel. I finished reading Wake last night and it was a really unpredictable read. The novel centres around the 13 survivors (plus a mysterious 14th) of a strange madness/sickness that struck the small coastal settlement of Kahukura near Nelson. At first I thought it was really disjointed, that I didn’t know what was going on as it jumped from character to character, just like the characters in the novel … then had the well, duh moment! The reader doesn’t know what’s going on because the characters don’t know what’s going on.
It’s about death, it’s about survival, about how people cope or don’t cope in horrific situations. A word to the squeamish, it can be a bit grizzly in parts. So it’s like Elizabeth Knox’s novels in that it is set in ordinary, everyday settings where major other worldly things happen.
Would I recommend it. Absolutely. It was a quick read for me, and would have been quicker if I hadn’t been reading two books. I like to read a book on the train and something funny or “non-stressful” before bed … although I have been reading Terry Pratchett at night and he can be funny but deep. I belted through Wake as I have belted through all of Elizabeth Knox’s novels, except Black Oxen. I was at a Book Council event where Elizabeth Knox said that she was most (and I am paraphrasing here) proud of was Black Oxen. Didn’t really grab me … the different parts felt too different. Mind you, I haven’t finished it, and I was reading it when I was a very new mother during those early morning feeds, so I really should finish it before I pass too hard a judgement.
Elizabeth Knox talks about Wake in her blog.
The cover art actually depicts scenes from the novel, and was illustrated by Dylan Horrocks, the creator of Hicksville.
Cover art for WakeCover of Wake by Elizabeth Knox
By Yann Martel
The Life of Pi is a fantastic story that I some how missed out on when it was first published. It is the remarkable survival story of 16 year old Pi Patel. It is a cleverly constructed novel, with stories within stories.
Pi is on his way to Canada with his family by ship. Somehow the boat sinks, and Pi finds himself alone in a life boat with a zebra, a hyena, an orang-utan, and a Bengal tiger called Richard Parker.
So. Stories within stories. Mostly this novel is told Pi’s voice, but there are other voices. One voice is a writer who is interviewing the adult Pi about his epic survival in order to write a book about this. The writer brings us glimpses of present day Pi. There is also the story of Pi before the boat, and his interesting take on religion.
It’s fascinating, fabulous, harrowing, and often hilarious. And now they are making a movie out of it. Do try to read the book first. It is beautiful.
Here is the official film trailer.
By Herman Melville
Life is too short to read Moby Dick. It started so well, “Call me Ishmael”, and was intriguing, and seemed to be well written and easy to read. I wondered why Melville hadn’t been popular in his day, and thought perhaps he was just ahead of his time. And then he digressed. A lot. The narrative wanders off to explain things to the reader that really don’t need to be explained. Groan. It was my train read, and I was finding it a total chore so I set it free for a while.
In the words of the publishers of my Wordsworth edition:
This book is written in an extraordinary variety of styles, from sailors’ slang to biblical prophesy and Shakespearian rant (back cover).
Just a rant full stop. It is a pity, because it has those elements that I love: 19th century sailing books, the sea, and survival.
So, the plot so far. Ishmael, the narrator, goes to sea on a Nantucket whaler. The Captain, Ahab, is obsessed with finding the white whale, Moby Dick.
I will finish it. Someday. I haven’t come across a book in a while that I found such a chore. Here the Wikipedia entry – I know, I should have looked further afield, but this is a pretty full entry, and you can follow the links and read more.
Feel free to disagree.
By Suzanne Collins
How great is this YA series! I saw the add for the movie, and mentioned how cool it looked and my colleague told me it was a series of YA novels. Of course, that may be why the movie look so cool. I have only read the first in the series so far The Hunger Games , but have the second book, Catching Fire ready and waiting.
Set in the future, what was the USA is controlled by one city, Capitol City. It is a world of extreme haves and have nots. Capitol City has all the wealth and all the power, while the 12 Districts live in poverty and work slavishly. Capitol City’s control became even more extreme after they crushed a the districts rebellion 74 years earlier. As punishment, a boy and a girl from each region compete in a live televised to-the-death “game”. Contestants are chosen by way of ballot, called the reaping.
This year Katniss Everdeen’s little sister, Prim, is selected … and Katniss volunteers to take her place.
It is well written and pay, and I am looking forward to reading the next book.
By Patrick O’Brian
Going along with my love of sailing adventures (of a historical nature).
Another Captain Jack Aubrey novel, with side kick Dr Maturin. This is the 10th Aubrey-Maturin adventure. Apparently, the Master and Commander film was based on the first, second and 10th novels.
This time, Captain Aubrey must take his ship into the Pacific Ocean, and apprehend an American warship that has been taking British whaling ships.
It went along swimmingly for about 2/3 of the book … enough to keep me entertained, then it had a little diversion. That diversion being the appearance of cannibalistic dusky maidens. Possibly interesting, but I am not surinteresting necessary. I suppose nothing much had been happening, and the author felt it needed a bit of a lift.
And perhaps it was because I had a rotten tummy bug, so felt a bit out of it, but I just didn’t get the ending.
Still worth reading if you like that sort of thing (like I do). I’ll be borrowing the next one though, not buying it – mostly so I can find out what happened at the end of the 10th! Easyread too. Good for chilling out.
By Joan Druett
Well written and thoroughly fascinating true story of the survival of the five men aboard the schooner Grafton. I did really like this book. I like historical accounts of sailing and ships, and this was well written and researched. This book was a loaner from a friend – which to me is really like a gift, because you get to read a book that somebody has loved.
The schooner the Grafton was wrecked at the Auckland Islands in 1864. All five men aboard the Grafton survived. This book follows their incredible survival story in extreme conditions. Druett contrasts the leadership and approach of the Grafton survivors to those of the Invercauld, wrecked on the Auckland Islands at the same time. 19 men survived the ship wreck, but only three men were eventually rescued from the Invercauld.
I read this book really quickly about a month ago … sorry, I have been really slow at getting my reviews up. I may not have a another for a wee while because I am reading Bleakhouse (and loving it) and it is very long. I may have to do my two-at-time thing again!
My goodness! I have just thought that this would be a great gift for my Dad. I am sure he enjoyed Bligh, which I also loved. There is something about 19th century survival stories – well, the well written accounts of 19th century survival stories. If you like historical books about sailing and ships etc, I would definitely recommend Bligh. If you like survival stories I would definitely recommend Island of the Lost.
Feel free to disagree!