Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reviews: The Red Tent (Diamant) and Artist of the Floating World (Ishiguro)

I confess...I'm not feeling creative enough for a more interesting post title.

I must be nearing my tenth go through this book but I've never actually written a real review.  I have, however, marked it with five stars in more than one locale.  Diamant's main character is Dinah and is based on a briefly mentioned Biblical figure who is the only daughter among Jacob's numerous children.  Dinah grows up with four "mothers", one her biological mother and the other three are aunts (all are half-sisters and all married to Jacob).  The titular red tent is where the women retreat during their periods.  Dinah does eventually leave her mothers but she remains very tied to womanhood and she becomes a very skilled midwife.  The story follows her from childhood to old age and imagines a side of history that is largely unwritten because most written accounts are from the male world.

I am enchanted by this book every time.  The women are all very different and each has her own strengths and foibles.  Dinah revels in a lot about womahood but she also is limited at times by the roles it brings.  The book shows relationships with amazing depth including those with a parent, the relationship among siblings (including sisters sharing a spouse and with Dinah and her brothers, esp Joseph), female friendships, mentorships, and romantic love.  There is so much detail and richness.  The book shows women celebrating womanhood and enjoying the secrets of their world, a place that men seem to fear. 

Five stars, no questions.  Definitely oriented to women and I truly don't know how it might feel to someone who is very religious given the Biblical ties.  For me, I feel like I've visited a friend every time I read this book.
This is the second of the two Ishiguro books I recently purchased after revisiting Remains of the Day.  As with the other, this is a fairly short book.  Set in Japan, it is narrated by an aging artist who is reflecting on his potential involvement in the movements that led Japan to WWII.  He revisits a good deal of his life, spurred by the marriage negotiations (the book's is still more a deal between families than a love-based concept) for his younger daughter and concern about how his past might reflect in the current light.

I enjoyed the book.  Ishiguro really likes to see how individual people are impacted by national upheaval and how they come to terms, especially when they are on the "wrong side" of history.  I didn't really love it, but I looked forward to the book at night and was compelled to keep reading.   As with many of my preferred books, there are no perfect characters here and the narrator does contemplate his own flaws (though I think he misses a big one...but that's fine since I think the author helps u see it, partly through comments from his daughters). 

I'd give it 3.5 stars and would round up to make the "full star only" rating site folks happy.

P.S.  Won a second Goodreads drawing!!  And three Harper books en route!
P.P.S.  I am exhausted after so many health challenges but seem to be avoiding any new ones (knock on cyberspace).  I am taking it easy this week, letting myself rest in bed extra and cutting down the cardio.  I need some self-TLC. 

1 comment:

Lee said...

I just read Poser which is a memoir but a fun, easy read. I liked it. Just if you want a different kind of book next.