Tuesday, November 28, 2017

PEARLS ON A BRANCH by Najla Jraissatiy Khoury

Publishing date March 6, 2018
Literary Fiction
Middle East


A collection of 30 traditional Syrian and Lebanese folktales infused with new life by Lebanese women, collected by Najla Khoury.

While civil war raged in Lebanon, Najla Khoury traveled with a theater troupe, putting on shows in marginal areas where electricity was a luxury, in air raid shelters, Palestinian refugee camps, and isolated villages. Their plays were largely based on oral tales, and she combed the country in search of stories. Many years later, she chose one hundred stories from among the most popular and published them in Arabic in 2014, exactly as she received them, from the mouths of the storytellers who told them as they had heard them when they were children from their parents and grandparents. Out of the hundred stories published in Arabic, Inea Bushnaq and Najla Khoury chose thirty for this book.

"After twenty years the final curtain was lowered on Sanduk el Fergeh. The pursuit of stories, however, continued for memory and for pleasure. These are stories that belong to the human heritage. They are expressions of a distinctive cultural milieu. The notions of good and evil, for example, are not as categorical in them as in Western folktales. Fairies and witches have no equivalent in Arabic; instead there are magicians, male and female, good and bad. An old woman or an ancient man often are ogres, addressed as "Uncle Ogre" or "Mother Ogre." A hero can tame them through his courtesy and deeds.

These stories have an identity all their own. I had no right to keep them hidden in my drawers; I felt it a duty to share them. I hope that they will give the reader as much pleasure as I had listening to them."

Monday, November 27, 2017

THE BEAUTIES by Anton Chekov

Pushkin Press
Publishing date  February 20, 2018


Without doubt one of the greatest observers of human nature in all its messy complexity, Chekhov's short stories are exquisite masterpieces in miniature. His work ranged from the light-hearted comic tales of his early years to some of the most achingly profound stories ever composed, and this variety of tone and temper is collected in this essential new collection. 

Chekhov wrote stories throughout his writing career, and this selection has been chosen from amongst his life's work, including many of his greatest works, alongside unfamiliar discoveries, all newly translated. From the masterpiece of minimalism 'The Beauties', to the beloved classic 'The Lady with the Little Dog', and from 'Rothschild's Fiddle' to bitterly funny 'A Living Chronicle', the stories collected here are the essential collection of Chekhov's greatest tales.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

IN THE MIDST OF WINTER by Isabel Allende


Atria Books
General Fiction Adult
Publishing date October 31


In the Midst of Winter begins with a minor traffic accident—which becomes the catalyst for an unexpected and moving love story between two people who thought they were deep into the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmaster—a 60-year-old human rights scholar—hits the car of Evelyn Ortega—a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala—in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What at first seems just a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz—a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile—for her advice. These three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story that moves from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil, sparking the beginning of a long overdue love story between Richard and Lucia.

My view

What attracted me to this novel.

Isabel Allende is one of my favorite authors. I would never hesitate buying her new novels, which I have done over many years. Her novels brim with historical facts, and wonderful characters.

In the midst of winter we find again a blend of history within a story which Isabel Allende creates so well.
Richard rents a basement apartment to Lucia, both are professors at a nearby university in New York, both have reached the age of sixty, which I found refreshing. 

Enter a third protagonist, Evelyn with troubles a plenty.
The story moves from this point forward, perhaps on the slow side. I found to many references to the wars, gangs, general troubles taking place in Guatemala and Chile.
Having loved many novels by Isabel Allende___ her great talent to entertain the reader, in my opinion, did not happen___ with In the midst of winter. The reading was slow going, which is not to say someone else might not enjoy this novel.

If you enjoy a romance novel by any means, I recommend this read. 

I am awaiting Isabel Allende's next novel, hoping to find what I so like about her novels

Thank you NetGalley and Atria for this arc