Thursday, December 09, 2010

Blogosphere November Book | Reading Round Up

Hmmm.. November was a sparse month for reading.

The redbreast / Jo Nesbo ; translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.
In 1944, Daniel, a soldier legendary among the Norwegians fighting the advance of Bolshevism on the Russian front, is killed. Two years later, a wounded soldier wakes in a Vienna hospital. He becomes involved with a young nurse, the consequences of which will ripple forward to the end of the century.1999: Harry Hole, working alone having caused an embarrassment in the line of duty, has been promoted to inspector and is lumbered with surveillance duties. He is assigned the task of monitoring neo-Nazi activities; fairly mundane until a report of a rare and unusual gun being fired sparks his interest. Ellen Gjelten, his partner, from his police officer days makes a startling discovery. Then a former soldier is found with his throat cut. In a quest which takes him to South Africa and Vienna, Harry finds himself perpetually one step behind the killer. ~from the blurb
This was a well executed thriller/crime novel.  I enjoyed it.

The optimists / Andrew Miller.
His optimism about life shattered after a visit to an African massacre site, London photojournalist Clem Glass falls into a deep depression and withdraws from everyone except his mentally troubled sister, whom he nurses back to health, until an opportunity arises to confront his own demons.~ from the blurb
It was ok. It felt a little slow to get started.

The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks / Rebecca Skloot.
"Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer, yet her cells--taken without her knowledge--became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer and viruses; helped lead to in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks is buried in an unmarked grave. Her family did not learn of her "immortality" until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. The story of the Lacks family is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of."--Publisher's description.
I found this book fascinating on a number of levels.  Firstly from the viewpoint of scientific development, secondly, the ethics and the development of the idea of informed consent and thirdly, the human side of the story - namely Henrietta and her family.  Parts of the story are very sad but the ending is ultimately uplifting. I would recommend it.

November Blogosphere Book Circle Book

The road / Cormac McCarthy.
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. ISBN: 9780307476319

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. They sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.~ from the blurb

I have to admit I'm not a fan of apocalypse-style fiction.  I remember having to read Z for Zachariah for school and struggling with it.  This book was no exception and I have to say I skimmed most of the last part to get to the end quicker.  It wasn't as though the writing was bad or anything, but the subject was so depressing.  Being a disgustingly optimistic person I prefer to think that in such an apocalyptic event there would be people who would allow some inherent goodness to come forward rather allow the amoral, animalistic side of human nature to control.  I guess it is a naive viewpoint.

So yeah - it wasn't my cup of tea at all. I hear they are going to/have made a movie of the book but I don't want to imagine how even more depressing a visual depiction of the book would be. Ugh.

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