Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ending February With A Fascinating Book

Since I’ve been reviewing books on Amazon, I very often read other’s reviews. Today I took a look at some of what Amazon calls its Top Reviewers. I can’t believe the number of books and other items they are able to review in one year. Particularly, since they are not being paid to do this. It is a labour of love—but not an easy one—and I am in awe of them.

I feel I’m an avid reader but certainly not a speedy one. My husband can devour a book in one day and he can read two or three to my one. But I know that he sometimes skims. Usually, unless it’s a real page turner and I stay up half the night, it takes me about three days to read a book. I like to savour the descriptions and sometimes read over the dialogue two or three times. And when I read something that's been foreshadowed, I go back and try and find it. I think that’s because I’m trying to become a writer and reading another author's work is one of the best ways to learn the craft.

The book I’ve read for today’s review is called “In a Far Country”. It’s about India so it’s one that took me a few days to read. I love books on India. In the ‘40s, when I was a little girl, my uncle was a missionary in India. One of the very first illustrated books I ever received was from him, about a little brown boy who became a Christian. I can’t remember his name but I’ve been an India affection ado ever since. Of course, I saw the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” and am delighted it has won so many Oscars at the Academy Awards. Two of my all-time favourites are M.M. Kaye’s “The Far Pavilions” and “In the Shadow of the Moon.” Now I’ve discovered this Canadian writer, Linda Holeman and I’ll be looking for more of her work.

Here is my review of “In a Far Country” by Linda Holeman:

As the daughter of poor medical missionaries in India, Pri Fincastle’s life was far from glamorous or easy. There was much to do and she spent her time tending the gardens, learning the languages of the area and helping her parents look after the needs of the villagers who come to the mission for medical relief. There is little occasion for fun or frivolity in her austere upbringing.

As well, the atmosphere at the mission is not a happy one and there is much about her family’s strange situation she can’t understand. While she recognises her mother’s slow descent into madness, it is not until the tragic death of both her parents that she learns a part of the dark secret that the mission station holds. That knowledge leads her into even more distressing circumstances and towards the compelling and gripping conclusion.

I can’t say this is always an enjoyable read—it is often disheartening and depressing—and yet it held me spellbound. Ms. Holeman is an extremely competent writer whose wonderful descriptions bring the hot and sundrenched countryside of India to life. Nevertheless she often has a tendency to be far too wordy. A good edit could do wonders for the story as, sometimes in a particularly exciting moment, you just wish she would get to the point. And I’m not crazy about the title. It seems rather insipid for such a powerful story.

February has seemed like a long month since I’ve had a cold for most of it. I’m glad it’s coming to and end.

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