Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Catch Up


So, Laurie Halse Anderson. An author I hadn't heard of until I began reading blogs and suddenly her name and books were popping up everywhere. I decided to check out her work and was most interested in her 2000 novel, Fever 1973, which was sitting on the shelf at the library just waiting for me. Fever 1793 is historical fiction, set during the yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia in, you guessed it, 1793. We experience the outbreak from the perspective of adolescent Matilda who helps her widowed mother run a coffee shop. By the end of the first chapter, the outbreak has already hit too close to home for this family.

From that point, things go from bad to worse. An attempt to escape from the city doesn't go as planned, and everything that could go wrong, does. Matilda shows gumption and compassion beyond her years. She is a fantastic heroine who finds strength within and despite adversity and is a great role model.

I enjoyed this book, it was fast paced, and full of twists and turns, perfect for the young adult audience this book is meant for. Did it feel like a young adult book? To me, yes. But the plot, excellent characterization and historical details made this a compelling read. I especially enjoyed the appendix at the end of the book where Anderson provides lots of fascinating historical information.

Any Laurie Halse Anderson fans out there? What is your favorite of her books?

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The Blue Notebook was a difficult but important book to read. This novel comes from an unlikely author, Dr James Levine from the Mayo Clinic. According to the publisher, Dr Levine was doing research in India when he was inspired to write this story of a child prostitute. Not only is Levine publicizing the plight of these disadvantaged children, he's also donating US proceeds from the novel to charity.

The Blue Notebook is the Story of Batuk. Sold into slavery by her father at 9 years of age, she is now living on the Common Street, a street of prostitution, in what sounds like some sort of cage where she services men. She owns a blue notebook and a small pencil with which she tells her story. Hardened yet still childlike, Batuk at age 15 tells her story, past and present. We see how these children are exploited and how it seems there is no place else for them. Which is often times sadly the case, it seems.

About midway through, the novel takes a dramatic turn and it quickly becomes apparent to Batuk that she was better off on the streets than where she has been brought. The ending is rather shocking and if anyone cares to discuss it please comment or email me. Sometimes things that may seem obvious to others need to be spelled out to me so I want to be certain I understood what happened.

I was terribly impressed by the voice Levine gave to Batuk. It felt authentic to me in terms of the age of the character, as well as her Indian origins. This is the sort of book you cannot really say you 'enjoyed' for who enjoys a story about human suffering? But at the same time, Levine is doing what he can to make others aware of this all-too-real situation and I thank him for that. Since Dr Levine is from Minnesota it is my hope that he will make an appearance nearby and perhaps I will get to hear him speak.

The Blue Notebook will be published in July by Random House. Many thanks to them for this review copy.

13 comments:

Cornflower said...

I have The Blue Notebook waiting in the pile, so I'm very interested to read your thoughts, Tara.

bermudaonion said...

I just read my first Anderson book - Speak - and I definitely want to read more. I've got Wintergirls, but definitely want to find some of her older work. I know The Blue Notebook will be difficult to read but I also know it's one of those books I have to read.

Diane said...

I liked reading the Blue Notebook; it was a painful topic though.

Staci said...

I've loved Anderson for what seems like forever. Fever if a favorite of mine. If you enjoyed that one you must read Chains!! This one is phenomenal and the sequel will be out soon for it too!! Of course, Speak is beyond brilliant!! and Wintergirls...chilling, devastating, and an absolute MUST READ!!

The Blue Notebook is on my radar screen and is a must read for me this summer..thanks for highlighting it!

Karen said...

The only Anderson book I have read is Speak - but I thought it was brilliant and will definitely be looking out for more of her work.

softdrink said...

I've only read Speak, but I've been wanting to read Chains. This one sounds good, though, too. I'm interested in reading one of her historical novels. And the cover is certainly eye-catching, no pun intended.

Vintage Reading said...

Oh that yellow eye is most unsettling! Look forward to your review.

Bree said...

I've only read Speak and thought it was marvelous. I'm going to library to pick up another of her today as a matter of fact. I'll have to try Fever or Wintergirls. The Blue Notebook has received so many favorable reviews. I cant wait to read it. By any chance are you planning on doing a giveaway???

Jenny said...

I've read several of Anderson's, and I liked Speak best so far (and didn't think it had that YA flavor that Fever 1793 definitely does.) I hear Wintergirls rivals it in power. Looking forward to it!

Iliana said...

If it wasn't for the blogosphere I probably wouldn't have had Laurie Halse Anderson's books on my radar either! I've got one of her books, Speak, waiting for me.

And, so is The Blue Notebook. I am really looking forward to it although right now I seem to be going for a bit "lighter" reads.

Tara said...

Karen, I'll be looking forward to your thoughts on The Blue Notebook.

bermudaonion, I found both of the Anderson books you mentioned at the library - now lets see if I get a chance to read them! Both look excellent.

Diane, I completely agree.

Staci, wow - high praise! I brought two more Anderson books home from the library, so hopefully I get to them before they're due.

Karen, I really need to check out Speak, it sounds extrememely powerful.

softdrink, Chains looks amazing, the description, and the book itself is gorgeous. So glad I discovered this author.

vintage reading, I think the cover is creepier in this photo than in person!

Bree, Another Anderson fan! I have just one copy of TBN and am planning on hanging on to it for the time being - sorry!

Jenny, okay, that's interesting - about the YA quality! I'm for sure going to read more of her work.

Iliana, isn't that amazing! I'm definitely doing a lot of 'mood' reading too, so I know what you mean.

Petunia said...

I read The Blue Notebook a month ago but I have yet to write the review. I went back and forth between liking it and wanting to throw up. I just don't know if I can recommend it. It was disturbing and yet it is for such a good cause and brings to light an important subject that no one in America can fathom. Hopefully I'll get my review up this week. I'm willing to discuss if you want.

Tara said...

Petunia, I totally understand you feeling that way. I am going to email you when I have more time with my question! Thanks for offering.