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?
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.