Tuesday, 29 March 2011


Congratulations to Shaun Tan for winning this years ALMA prize


I really must read his books, they look fantastic!

I am hoping to put together some posts on children’s books, especially Swedish ones, later this week.


Copyright ©2011 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Book Review: The Waste Land

lostgen-button-206x300The Waste Land by T.S. Elliot

Publisher: Shamrock Eden Publishing

Category: Poetry

Challenges: The Classic Circuit: The Lost Generation

My Thoughts: Quite honestly, I have no idea what was going on in this poem. I like poetry, and not just the rhyming kind.

I know from previous studies of the time period in which Elliot worked that many artists and writers were highly influenced by what they saw as a fracturing world, after all the contemporary poet Yeats coined the phrase “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”. This fractured feeling is my overwhelming feeling of this poem.

The narrative voice keeps changing as does the motives. This makes for a confusing picture of what is going on. In addition to this the poem draws metaphors and images from a wide variety of sources, both real and imaginary.

There are some often recurring images, for me the most memorable one is that of water in general and rivers in particular. Water is shown as both a life giving force but also a force that is intimately connected to the other big image, that of death.

The death motive is very understandable considering the devastation created by the First World War which had recently ended. But I think it goes a bit deeper than that. There is an image at the end of the first chapter

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

I had not thought death had undone so many.

Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,

And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

For me this passage can be seen as talking about both literal and figurative death. The line “And each man fixed his eyes before his feet” makes me think of those who refuse to see what is in front of them. To see their fellow man. Couple that with the first line: “Under the brown fog of a winter dawn” you really get a feeling of things being totally obscured.

I would love to read this with someone and have the opportunity to discuss and dissect it further. I often find that I get a better and deeper understanding of poetry in the conversation with others.

I am glad that I have read it but would want to re read it many times.



Copyright ©2011 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Book Review: A Doll’s House

A doll's houseA Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

Publisher: Haldeman-Julius Company

Category: Play

Challenges: Nordic Challenge, A Year of Feminist Classics

Synopsis: Nora and Torvald are married with children. Events connected with Torvald’s promotion at the bank causes a secret to come to light and their lives are changed forever.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book although I was confused at first. Nora and Torvalds relationship was so totally antifeminist that I couldn’t figure out if that was why this book was included in A Year of Feminist Classics or what.  And then it became clear in the last bit, where I could easily have highlighted everything Open-mouthed smile.

This play spoke to me in a way that I find interesting because Nora’s life is far removed from the life I live or can even see myself living. The infantilising of Nora by Torvald was so completely jarring for me. With the names he calls her and the fact that he does not seem to believe that she can be trusted to take care of anything on her own.

A year of feminist classics

I want to try and answer some of the questions asked over at the Year of Feminist Classics blog here.

2. Throughout most of the play, Torvald treats Nora, his wife, like an overgrown child or a care-free pet, and she does kind of act like one. But by the end we realize that Nora is not the shallow, vapid creature she appears at first to be; she has been, at least in part, consciously playing a role. Why? Has it been to her benefit or her loss?

I think many of us at one time or another play a role in our lives that might not be entirely us (I think this is especially true about teenagers who aren’t sure of who the actually are). I think that Nora plays a role because it is the role she thinks she should have. Her society in general infantilises women by not allowing them to make contracts (unless they are widowed) or really make decisions on their own. I also think that Torvald enforces this view by further infantilising her through his words and actions. I think in general it has been to her loss. She has lost a period in her life that should be a time when one grows and finds oneself and she has not had the chance to do this. Although I think she has chosen to continue the role herself I wonder how much choice she actually had. She has no evidence that Torvald wants anything other than a pretty little thing at his side. She is not financially independent and has no real chance to become so. Yes she continues her role but I think she is in effect stuck in that role.

4. Torvald tells Nora, in the end, that “I’d gladly work for you day and night, Nora–go through suffering and want, if need be–but one doesn’t sacrifice one’s honor for love’s sake.” Nora responds by saying that “Millions of women have done so.” This line gave me chills. It was this, above everything else in the play, that resonated with me and felt still too relevant today. What resonated with you?

This is what resonated with me as well. The fact that Nora has to subdue her own wishes and wants. She is not important in the family. Women then and now to different extents and in different ways are often forced to change themselves to fit into a certain mould and thus sacrifice their honour. I do think that to a certain extent this also applies to men both then and now. This is always what happens when we put expectations on groups of people without looking at them as individuals. 

Another aspect that resonates with me in this play is the danger with keeping secrets in relationships. These secrets can be, as in the case in this story, about money or other physical things or they can be about emotional aspects. Nora keeps the loan a secret and this leads her to have certain beliefs about Torvald and how he will react. Despite most of us knowing that these secrets are bad they continue to happen today, another aspect of the story that is timeless.

The question regarding fictionalising an individual’s life to make a larger point is one I want to take out of this review and write something bigger. It is something I’ve been thinking about off and on for a while.

Overall this was a quick read but important read. The ideas it presents are still relevant today and I highly recommend it to anyone.


Copyright ©2011 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Book Review: Room [Audiobook]

RoomRoom by Emma Donoghue

Narrated by: Michal Friedman , Ellen Archer , Suzanne Toren , Robert Petkoff

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

Category: Literary fiction

Challenges: GLBT Challenge

Synopsis: Jack lives with Ma in Room. He is five and Room is all he knows. But that is okay because he likes Room. And Ma loves him and he loves Ma. The Man is scary. And his best friend Dora, lives in Tv, which isn’t real.

My Thoughts: I started listening to this last year but then life happened. This should in no way be indicative of how good the book was because it was awesome. I thought the audio production was particularly well done.

Precocious children can be very hard to take in books, and I know some precocious children in real life, but Jack was incredibly well done. His voice is so genuine and his observations about life around him feel very astute. Jack’s world at the start of the book consists of Room where all nouns are proper, the is Bed, Rug and Table and then there is Ma. Ma, who, through a very specific schedule keeps Jack active and her somewhat sane. You see Ma and Jack cannot leave Room. They are locked in by the man who has kidnapped Ma.

I was a bit concerned not only about Jack as a narrator but also when I first heard the audio production because Jack is narrated with a child’s voice. I thought that would be really really annoying, but it isn’t, in fact I think it makes the experience even stronger. Especially in some of the more climactic scenes in the book. You really feel like you are there with Jack.

There is so much about this story and the audio production that are great that it is hard for me to review it. I simply don’t know where to start and what not to spoil.

I know everyone and their dog has already read this but if you haven’t I really really recommend you too and I recommend you even more to LISTEN to it. It was awesome!



Copyright ©2011 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Book Review: Treachery in Death

treachery in deathTreachery in Death by J.D. Robb

Publisher: Little Brown Book Group

Category: Crime fiction

Challenges: Mystery and Suspense Challenge

Synopsis: Detective Peabody accidentally overhears two dirty cops discuss the death of a weasel. Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her team have to bring justice and clean up the police.

My Thoughts: This was a solid addition to this series. It didn’t blow me away but it also didn’t bore me to death.

The book deals very well with the emotions one feels when someone or something you trust in breaks that trust. However, this is dealt with primarily through secondary characters such as Dr Mira. This makes this a little…I don’t know…thrown to the side?

I’m finding it hard to write about this instalment because it follows the pattern of all the other books in the series. A crime is committed and Eve and her team solve it. There is more to it of course but even the tension between Eve and Roark because she does something dangerous feels…done…

The one thing that is a bit different is Eve’s reaction to Bella, Mavis daughter. She isn’t quite as afraid as she normally is. But even that doesn’t seem so strange any more. Eve has grown a great deal in the series and as much as I love the characters and the world it feels like it might be time to wrap this one up. Don’t really know what else to say about the book. It has all been done. And I hate to say it.


Copyright ©2011 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Book Review: Rilla of Ingleside

Rilla of InglesideRilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery

Publisher: Bantam Books

Category: Classic

Synopsis: The spectre of the first world war that we saw in Rainbow Valley comes to fruition and the boys of Glen St. Mary go off to war. Left at home is young Rilla and the rest of the women. What follows is four years of joys and sorrows and growing.

My Thoughts: It is possible that this is my favourite book in the Anne series. Anne was more of a heroine for me growing up but this book really captured me in my early teens. I have no idea how many times I read it between the ages of 14-18 but to say that I read it at least twice a year is no understatement. I should add that at the same time I had a bit of a thing for war stories in general.

What I find particularly good about this book is the fact that it shows the home front during the first world war, something I have found relatively little written about. A lot of the focus is usually on the second world war. I also appreciate that the book is about Canada and not one of the usual suspects when it comes to war narratives.

This book has me in floods of tears at times and has the romantic in me going all gooey at other times. Montgomery has somehow managed to balance the lovely with the sad to a perfect mix. And I still love it as much now when I am an adult as I did as a teenager. Strangely enough I can still identify with Rilla as much now as I did then. Although I now lament the fact that we do not get as much Anne as I would have liked. It is fantastic to get a teenaged girls point of view on the events of the war that was to be the war to end all wars, but I would also have liked the views of the mother.

Like the other Anne books this book is told in an episodic fashion but because of the war there is more of cohesive theme and a feeling for time. It isn’t quite as jumpy and not all the stories are events. The narrator also switches at times. Mostly it is an omniscient narrator but occasionally it is Rilla who tells the story, primarily through her diary entries. The switching is never a problem but rather it feels very organic. 

My love for this book has put me in a bit of a predicament. The ending is somehow both satisfying and unsatisfying. I’ve always wished that there was one more book so that I could find out what happens to, primarily, Rilla. Now I’ve found out that there is another volume that at least could answer some questions. You’d think I would pounce on it. But part of me is scared that it won’t end the way I want it to. I’ve had my mouse hovering over the click to buy button several times. I’m just scared. Should I buy it? Has anyone read The Blythes Are Quoted? Will it make me happy?


Copyright ©2011 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Book Review: Rainbow Valley

Rainbow valleyRainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery

Publisher: Bantam Books

Category: Classic

Synopsis: Anne is grown up and the focus of this book is on her children and their friends. The Blythe children love playing in the little valley below Ingleside which they have named Rainbow Valley.

My Thoughts: This Anne book has never been one of  my favourites. I think part of it is that there is no central character. Sometimes this can be an advantage as it can appeal to many different readers. You can connect with the one that best´suits you. But unfortunately I think that in this case we don’t really get to know any character well enough to connect with them. It is just a little bit to fractured.

One could say that the book focuses on the Meredith children. Mr Meredith is the Presbyterian minister in Glen St Mary where Anne and her family live. Mr Meredith is a widower with four children whom he loves but as he is somewhat spacy to a certain extent neglects. However the book also features the orphan Mary Vance, Walter and Jem Blythe and on one occasion Rilla Blythe. All of these are likeable characters (although Mary Vance drives me insane) but there just isn’t enough of one of them to really drive the story.

Like Anne’s House of Dreams the story is told in somewhat of an episodic fashion. This means that you have little sense of how much time passes between different episodes and I think this in combination with the many characters adds to my confusion.

At the same time this is a sweet story about being children in a, in some respects, less complicated time. The Merediths, the Blythes and Mary Vance play in Rainbow Valley and the Methodist graveyard and other places around Glen St Mary without much interference from the adult world. The benign neglect offered by the adults lead to an imaginary world that for the most part is lovely but on occasion scary.

This is a sweet book but not an essential read in the Anne universe (although an event in this book is referenced in Rilla of Ingleside). Despite this the book has one of my favourite endings of all time. The foreshadowing of the events in Rilla of Ingleside always takes my breath away. It is foreshadowing at its best at the same time as it shows the heartache and longing of whole generations.



Copyright ©2011 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.