"...a journey through life's mysteries great and small, and about how on earth a boy with a telescope, four compasses and a theodolite should set about solving them."
"The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet" by Reif Larsen is one of the most wonderful, endearing and fascinating books I've ever read. When I took a copy to start writing a review, I couldn't help it, I was immediately drawn into it and had to read it again. Because this boy, T.S., is a very special boy in a very special story.
When the twelve-year-old ingenious map-drawer with the complicated family background is invited to come to the Smithsonian Institution to receive an award for his scientific work, nobody in Washington seems to have a clue that he is a child. Without telling his family, T.S. leaves home for a fantastic trip from Montana to Washington. Unbelievable and amazing things happen on his way and make the book "unputdownable" until you've reached the final page. As the story unfolds, questions emerge like "Who is who?", "Who knows what?", "What's real?", "What's important?" We adopt the world-view of T.S. and are absorbed by his way of experiencing new and strange worlds around him.
All this time the reader has to choose between the text and the incredibly good and precise drawings, maps, tables... that illustrate every double page. They are more an intensifier than a distraction, though, and they help to make this an unforgettable reading experience.
Having said all that, the "Back-to-my-home-and-family-where-I-belong-ending" of the book seemed a bit of a flaw to me. Maybe it couldn't have been avoided; I don't know for sure. Maybe it's a consolation for some, that behind all the misery, the mystery, the adventure and the abyss of not-knowing-what-to -think-about-it there is an background of basic needs which is finally fulfilled. For me it's a consolation that behind our basic needs, fulfilled or not, there is all that misery, mystery and adventure, the insecurity which at the same time opens billions of possibilities and prevents banality. No matter which way you put - in every life there's more to it than meets the eye, and this book makes you detect it - visually, emotionally and by telling one of the most amazing stories you'll ever come across in a book.
I've finally found the time to read and review a book that really deserves the
attention it got from the start.
"A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" -
Frankly, the title didn't sound very promising to me, rather pretentious, like
"isn't this wonderfully absurd?"
Well, it it. It's absurd, but not for the sake of absurdity and not even for the
sake of a cool story. Marina Lewycka wrote an absurd book because it couldn't
have been otherwise. And there's also much more to this book.
It's a story about Ukrainian immigrants in England, parents and two now adult
daughters, the younger one born in England. Since their mother's funeral the
two women haven't talked much, some quarreling about the inheritance having
been added to their increasing differences in lifestyle and personal viewpoints.
It is only when their father marries a much younger Ukrainian woman - out of
sexual attraction and maybe simply loneliness - that the sisters have to talk
again because they consider the woman to be a threat to their father's health,
modest wealth, and sanity.
Countless weird things will happen while the daughters are trying to solve "the
problem". The Ukrainian woman Valentina and her strange entourage will put
everyone's lives upside down and this provides a captivating, often hilarious
series of events for a gripping story. At the same time those events function as
background for the younger daughter's authentic and interesting reflections on
what's happening, fascinating glimpses of the dramatic former life the parents
and her sister led before and during their immigration, and portrayals of
sisterly conflicts and a stubborn and charming old father. The latter is writing a
"Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" - a story that, like his life, moves on no
matter what, and will be completed in a satisfying way in the end.
This book is fun and easy to read, arouses curiosity and at the same time
provides deep political, historical, and social insights. It's because of all that
you've read then, that you will strongly feel it on the last pages:
The reality of absurdity and vice versa, the power of love, the hope in every life
and the overwhelming happiness that can come from it.
You can get or order this book in every bookshop or find a used copy at "Sweet Things and Stories".
"The Fault in our Stars" by John Green is a spectacularly well-written novel for teenagers and adults alike.
It is about the life of a sixteen-year-old girl suffering from cancer. Her thoughts and feelings, her friendships and relationship with her parents as well as an unforgettable lovestory and the special role of a book are portrayed in a convincing and truly gripping way.
Just read it and find that the tragedy told in this book is nothing more and nothing less than the background for an unbeatable "Yes" towards life, love and laughing.