torontoc-books and some films

Snak100 Books in 2021 Challenge!

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torontoc-books and some films

1torontoc
dec 26, 2020, 3:32 pm

I didn't make 100 books last year although some books were of the 700 plus page variety-but here is to this year!

2Eyejaybee
dec 29, 2020, 5:53 am

Welcome back. Good luck for the challenge for 2021!

3pamelad
dec 29, 2020, 5:52 pm

Happy reading in 2021. I'm planning to borrow your very good idea of cataloguing films.

4jfetting
jan 1, 2021, 2:04 pm

Happy New Year and and happy reading in 2021!

5hemlokgang
jan 2, 2021, 1:46 pm

Good health and good reads in 2021!

6swimmergirl1
jan 2, 2021, 4:08 pm

Happy reading this year!

7torontoc
jan 2, 2021, 4:22 pm

Thank you!
Happy New Year! I started off the New Year with a migraine( yuck!). Today I just finished listening to a " radio" play" from the Tarragon theatre. This theatre converted their whole season into a series of " pod casts" or adaptations of plays that had been produced at the theatre over the past 40 years. I am a subscriber and I get a link about every two or three weeks. I have two weeks to listen to each play. They have been very good!

8torontoc
Redigeret: jan 5, 2021, 11:13 pm

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen O.K., this season needed a comfort read so I went to my favourite! Also I saw the complete P&P BBC series with Colin Firth last weekend. The writing is really good with wonderful characters and a great plot. What more can I say? P&P helped me get through some of the isolation that I felt in this pandemic.

9jfetting
jan 5, 2021, 7:14 pm

>8 torontoc: P&P (both the book and the BBC series you mention) is a comfort read/watch of mine. It is also one of my ways to get myself out of a book rut. It deserves all 200-something years of popularity.

I may rewatch the series this weekend, now, actually.

10torontoc
jan 6, 2021, 3:35 pm


2. Redhead By the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler Could I be choosing Covid friendly books to read lately? I think so. This story was a pleasure to read. I liked the plot and the tone of writing but then I have always enjoyed the author's work. Micah Mortimer is someone who follows the same routine every day- he runs his own computer trouble shooting business, functions as the caretaker of a small apartment building and lives a very ordered life. He comes from a disorganized family and has not married. Into his routine world comes a young man,Brink, who claims that Micah is his father. Micah's girlfriend has a crisis and he responds badly. Out of the chaos that these changes bring, Micah learns about caring and how to change.

11torontoc
jan 8, 2021, 4:10 pm

3. To Be A Man stories by Nicole Krauss This is a wonderful collection of stories by a master writer. I have found her novels to be a little dense but worth the read. This book covers the surreal, troubled relationships and more. Each story was engrossing.

12torontoc
jan 11, 2021, 12:20 pm

4. Little Threats by Emily Schultz This murder mystery was good to read although I did think that the ending was a little weak. However it was a good read for these stressful times. A friend of teenage twins Kennedy and Carter Wynn ( Haley) is murdered and Kennedy is sent to prison for the crime. She never confessed but there was a deal worked out by her lawyers. The narrative is shared by a number of people-all who have something to hide. The begins when Kennedy is 31 and is just paroled from prison. She tries to rebuild her life but the actions of all those who were related to or knew Haley lead to the identity of the real killer and the motive.
I did like the read

13torontoc
jan 23, 2021, 4:08 pm

5. Ridgerunner by Gil AdamsonThis is last finalist for the Giller Prize that I am reading and yes, it too, could have been the winner. I had read this author's first book The Outlander when it was published and this is the sequel. This is an adventure story. Jack Boulton is a young boy who is living with a former nun, Sister Beatrice, in a small town in the Canadian west. The nun has renamed him and watches him closely. Jack's father, William Morland is an outlaw, traveling in the American and Canadian west, stealing and trying to make money for his future. Jack's mother, Mary died and the nun has been entrusted by the parents to raise the boy. Jack can't take the life that the nun has envisioned for him and escapes to the remote cabin where he had lived with his parents. The reader learns about the adventures of both William and Jack, the good friends and the treachery of Sister Beatrice. This was a really good read

14torontoc
jan 24, 2021, 6:40 pm

6. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell ( I have no idea why the book has been published in Canada as " Hamnet & Judith".) I reread this novel for my book club meeting tomorrow on Zoom. It is still memorable for the interesting characterization of Agnes or Anne- Shakespeare's wife. The writing and images are wonderful. They give the reader a sense of the pain of losing a child to the plague( so contemporary now) and the tribute that Shakespeare gave to his son.

15torontoc
jan 26, 2021, 1:55 pm

7. The Telling by E. M. BronerThere is actually a subtitle that describes what this memoir/history is about. "The story of a group of Jewish women who journey to spirituality through community and ceremony". The author relates the story of the development of a women's haggadah and the ceremonies for a new type of seder created over the years by some women. The purpose of the new rituals was to include women in as opposed to traditional practices of leaving women out. The group that Esther Broner worked with were prominent in promoting equality for women in many areas. Broner describes the various seders held between 1975 and 1992. The participants were from so many different background from very religious to "not at all". The important practices were for inclusion and community building. Some of the women involved played an important role in women's liberation-Phyllis Chesler, Letty cotton Pogrebin, Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem , and ( Canadian )Michele Landsberg. Broner's descriptions show the difficulties women faced through the last quarter of the 20th century. I remember going to women's conferences and learning about the forgotten women in Jewish history and practice. Now, with women working as Rabbis in the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements, we can sometimes forget how it all came about.

16torontoc
jan 31, 2021, 7:17 pm

8. From Memory to Transformation, Jewish Women's Voices edited by Sarah Silberstein Swartz and Margie Wolfe I guess that I was going down memory lane as I picked up this book from my shelves. I was at the conference where many of these stories, memoirs and reports in this book were presented. ( The conference was in 1996.) Things have changed since the publication of this book. There are more women Rabbis, more opportunities for women to fully take part in religious life without feeling as if they were alone, and more books written about women's experiences. These articles cover personal accounts, newly discovered Yiddish women writers, and histories of daughters of Holocaust survivors. When this book was published some of the histories had not been public knowledge. Now there are many books published on all the topics covered. A good reread.

17torontoc
feb 7, 2021, 4:22 pm


9. Execution by S. J. Parris Nothing beats a good adventure story. I have been following this series of books about Giordano Bruno. Bruno was a real person and as a excommunicated priest on the run from the Catholic Church, he really did spy for Queen Elizabeth's spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. In this novel, Bruno has returned to England from France to impersonate a Spanish priest who is bringing aid to English Catholic conspirators.The plan is to kill the Queen and put her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots on the English throne. In addition to spying on the men involved in this plot, Bruno is tasked with finding out who killed a young woman. This woman, Clara Poole, was a friend of Walsingham's daughter and a sister to one of conspirators who was working undercover. The investigation of Clara's death takes Bruno to brothels and taverns of London. More missing persons figure in the plot and more deaths and betrayals. A really good pandemic read.

18john257hopper
feb 7, 2021, 5:10 pm

#9 - I like this series too, and Execution was I thought possibly best since the first one.

19torontoc
feb 8, 2021, 10:51 pm

>18 john257hopper: I liked them all! I get so excited when a new book is published.

10. The Tailor Project How 2,500 Holocaust Survivors Found a New Life in Canada by Andrea Knight, Paula Draper, and Nicole Bryck. This book tells the story of the
" Tailor Project"-a scheme to bring Jewish survivors of the Holocaust to Canada in 1948-9. The narrative covers the reluctance of the Canadian government to bring Jews to Canada both before and after World War Two. Although official Jewish community groups lobbied the government, only a group of businessmen and union leaders who were involved in garment manufacture were able to advocate successfully for a programme to bring tailors to Canada. Only 2500 were allowed in and fifty percent were allowed to be Jewish. The book alternates between telling the story of the project and presenting the memoirs of fourteen people who were part of this programme. A good history read.

20torontoc
feb 11, 2021, 7:42 pm

11. Downfall by Robert Rotenberg. Robert Rotenberg's books feature detectives and lawyers who work in my hometown-Toronto. This book is the sixth in the series. Every time a new book comes out, I read, enjoy and wonder when the next book will be published. The stories are always interesting and I didn't figure out who was the murderer until the end of the book. This book was an enjoyable read. The author is a practicing criminal lawyer and sometimes my friends will try to think of the possible real life people disguised as characters in the novels. I enjoyed this book-it is a good pandemic read!

21torontoc
feb 14, 2021, 10:38 pm

12. Vagabond Stars : A World History of Yiddish Theatre by Nahma Sandrow Since it is the first edition, (1974) I know that a lot more has happened with Yiddish theatre since then. But the early chapters were very good. The author shows the beginnings of Yiddish theatre and the progression from spectacle to serious drama. She does concentrate on the countries where Yiddish theatre did develop. Sandrow describes the work of the first actors, directors and writers as well as the theatre companies in Eastern Europe and New York City.

22torontoc
feb 19, 2021, 9:56 am

13. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd This novel imagines that Jesus had a wife and this is her story. It is an interesting view of a time where momentous changes were occurring. Ana is a young teenager who has learned to read and write. Her father is a very important official in the government of Herod Antipas. Her adopted brother is a zealot named Judas. Ana is determined to follow her own path even when her father arranges a marriage for her to a wealthy older man. Ana is supported by her aunt who has come from Egypt where she was part of a Jewish monastic community-the Therapeutae. There are a number of dramatic incidents that eventually lead Ana to meet and marry Jesus. The author manipulates the characters in the life of Jesus to include women into the traditional story. I found this novel to be very interesting in that real events were woven into the narrative. It is a book of historical fiction but I found the premise to be very plausible.

23torontoc
feb 22, 2021, 10:54 am

14. Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore I like to read intensive biographies every once and a while. I previous read the author's book on Stalin's later history- Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. The research into unpublished memoirs of people who knew the young Stalin provide the reader with more of an insight into the behaviour that led to later decisions that shaped the Soviet Union in the 1930's. Stalin was brought up by his mother and educated in a seminary in Georgia. The attitudes and ethics (or lack of them) in Stalin's Georgian experiences do lead to his actions later in life. The reader learns about the lawlessness of the Georgian society and the work of the secret police. The confusion and lack of leadership in Russia certainly led to the revolution. This book covers Stalins life until the revolution in October, 1917. The arrests, the exiles to Siberia, the women, and the gangster and criminal friends all contribute to the development of the future dictator, Stalin.

24torontoc
feb 24, 2021, 6:52 pm

15. Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland This is a very sad and interesting story about a family living in Atlantic City in 1934. Joseph and Esther's married daughter, Fannie is in the hospital awaiting the birth of her baby. She is on an extreme bed rest as she is in danger of miscarriage. A terrible event happens to her younger sister, Florence( happens in the very first chapter) and her family deal with keeping the news from Fannie until she delivers the baby. At the same time, Anna- a young woman from Germany is living with the famlily before she goes to college. She is worried about her parents who are unable to get a visa to leave Berlin. Each chapter is narrated by a different member of the family as well as a young man who knew Florence. The story is very touching. The author drew upon the history of her own family for the very unusual plot.

25torontoc
feb 27, 2021, 12:17 pm

16. Granta 99 What Happened Next edited by Fatema Ahmed I took this copy of Granta from my book pile.( actually a bin). I used to get excited when I picked up a copy of this publication at the bookstore. ( sigh-that would be nice to go to a book store and browse) There would always be a theme and short stories, photographic essays, excerpts from memoirs, biographies and more. This issue has a brief remembrance by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, stories by Tessa Hadley and Helon Habila as well as other authors. I enjoyed this read although I haven't picked up an issue of Granta for a while. Maybe when life gets back to a sense of normal.

26torontoc
mar 3, 2021, 1:53 pm

17. Granta 68 Love Stories edited by Ian Jack This is a great publication- full of good fiction, and memoirs. There is a story by Raymond Carver and one by W.G. Sebald. This was a very satisfying read and I wonder why the book was at the bottom of my TBR bin.

27torontoc
mar 5, 2021, 10:26 pm

18. Under Occupation by Alan Furst I always wait for the publication of the next book in this sort of series. The author writes about spies in World War Two. In every book someone passes through one cafe in Paris. I loved the earlier novels but this latest one is good but not great. Paul Ricard is a novelist in 1942 Paris. One night he is handed a drawing of a blueprint of a military weapon. The person who hands it to him is shot. Paul manages to get the drawing to the Resistance. Eventually he takes part in more espionage work. The plot is... competent but of the same calibre as the earlier novels.

I saw( on my computer) the film "Judas and the Black Messiah" - it is excellent. I saw it because I am a member of TIFF( Toronto International Film Festival).

28torontoc
mar 12, 2021, 9:54 am

19. A Woman of No Importance The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War 11 by Sonia Purnell During this pandemic I find myself more comfortable with biographies, memoirs and history books. I was fascinated by this story about Virginia Hall. She was an American woman who worked for the British SOE and then the American OSS in wartime France. Virginia was quite adept in setting up resistance groups in Lyon. However the British had her report to another (and always male) agent although she was the better organizer. Eventually she was identified to the Germans. Virginia did escape through Spain to London and eventually found her way back to France and headed up her own group. The importance of her work in setting up effective resistance was really not known publicly. This biography helps set the record straight on her heroism and key contribution to the Allied effort in France.

29torontoc
mar 14, 2021, 6:11 pm

20.Spring by Ali Smith This book covers so many different themes. The reader learns about the authors Katherine Mansfield, R. M. Rilke as well as elements of Charlie Chaplins' life and the plight of refugees interned in England. The author weaves so many different story lines together. A director mourns the loss of his friend and brilliant scriptwriter. A worker at a " UK Immigration Removal Centre" travels to Scotland on whim to find a mysterious young girl. There is talk of the power of clouds and everything does fit together in the end.This is a wonderful book.

30torontoc
mar 21, 2021, 4:48 pm

21. Corby Falls by Robert Carr. This book has so much to digest. Miles is an engineer working for a company that has contracts with various space agencies in Canada and Europe. Part of the novel focuses on the politics of working with public agencies and private companies -all jockeying for grants and the rights to construct sections of vehicles and machinery that will be part of a space programmes. Miles comes from a small town-Corby Falls and he was sure that a doctor in town has killed his first wife. But this idea is based on something he may have seen when he was twelve. Thirty-five years later when he tell friends at a dinner what he might have seen, the ramifications seem to become out of control. Miles also was a confidant of a famous Russian author who ended up in Toronto. At the same time he has to confront changes in his life as his daughter might be moving to France with his former wife. Again- the details keep on coming. I was very interested to see how everything resolved.

31torontoc
mar 30, 2021, 11:18 pm

22. Klara and The Sun by Kazuo IshiguroKlara is an AF or artificial friend who the reader meets in the store where she is for sale. Klara narrates this story so the reader sees what she observes and interprets. We follow Klara as she is bought for a young girl named Josie. The society that the author describes has some relation to our own although there seems to be some major differences. Klara has empathy for Josie and tries to help her. Klara's solutions reflect what she knows as an artificial entity.Josie is not well and Klara enlists the help of Josie's friend Rick and later Josie's father. Klara shows optimism and believes that she has helped change Josie's fate. The novel is both sad and uplifting in that the reader learns about the power of love and empathy. I really enjoyed this story.And of course, the language was very powerful.

23. Exodus 1947 The Ship that Launched a Nation by Ruth Gruber. I saw the author when she was over 90 and a guest at the Toronto International Film Festival a few years ago. Her story is quite remarkable. She described incidents in her early life in another book. This book concentrates on the story and fate of the ship Exodus. The author was a witness to the events described in this book as she travelled as a correspondent for New York newspapers in post war Europe and the Middle East. The ship was trying to enter Palestine illegally as Britain and forbidden any immigration of Holocaust survivors. The ship was stopped and eventually all the passengers were sent to Germany. Ruth Gruber took photographs, chronicled this story and reported on the conditions for her American audience. She was a remarkable woman and this story is heartbreaking. ( However all the passengers from the Exodus eventually left Germany and displaced person camps and did get to Palestine just before the state of Israel was established.)

32torontoc
Redigeret: apr 6, 2021, 11:08 pm

24. Paper Bullets Two Artists Who risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis by Jeffrey H. Jackson This history really sets corrects the record of two women who were artists in Paris and later created a resistance to the Nazis on the island of Jersey. Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe were friends and then lovers in 1920's Paris. They knew the Surrealists and created photomontages. They were known as Claude Cahun ( Lucy) and Marcel Moore( Suzanne). Claude Cahun has been credited with all the writing and art although Marcel Moore was the writer. The two women were from well off French families. During the late 1930's they both decided to leave Paris and live quietly on the island of Jersey. However with the Germans occupying Jersey, the two decided to mount their own kind of resistance. Lucy and Suzanne created fake newspapers, and posters that were directed to the German soldiers on the island. They encouraged doubt in the German army leadership. Eventually they were caught and sent to prison on Jersey. They were tried and sentenced to death. The German officers on the island were hoping for leniency as they did not want to execute two women. Both Lucy and Suzanne were released just before the end of the war. This book uses diaries and letters of the two women and clarifies the facts of their lives, and contributions to the resistance. I found it a very interesting history.

33torontoc
apr 14, 2021, 1:55 pm

25. Chihuly Garden and Glass by Dale Chihuly I decide to look through some of my art books and found this one that I don't recall looking through for a while or ever. ( I call it covid Brain lately) I have seen Dale Chihuly's work at the Victoria and Albert Museum ( oh the days when we could travel) and at an amazing show at the Royal Ontario Museum.(now closed due to Covid lockdown) The book showed examples of the wonderful and fantastic works of art in glass at a number of locations. I must remember to look at this book soon for the forms, colours and great imaginative installations.

34torontoc
apr 22, 2021, 12:22 pm

26. The Slaughterman's Daughter by Yaniv Iczkovits Translated by Orr Scharf I must admit that this book really annoyed me. The beginning was promising. The story takes place in the Pale of Settlement at the end of the nineteenth century. Jews are living in small towns and some are suffering from the forced enrolment of their sons in the Russian army. At the same there are many husbands deserting their wives. The story seems to focus on one such family. Mende's Speismann's husband, Zvi- Meir, left for Minsk and has not been heard from for over a year. Fannie Keismann, Mende's sister ,resolves to help by travelling to Minsk, locating Zvi and asking him to give Mende a divorce so that she can go on with her life. Fanny asks Zizek Breshov, a mysterious ferryman to help her. So the reader seems to be on a voyage or quest with Fanny and Zizek. Unfortunately, after many adventures ( Fanny has learned to slaughter from her father and uses her skills to protect herself on this trip) the story then turns to the activities of a number of men- Colonel Novaks who is pursuing Fanny and Zizek, the true story of Zizek and a number of assorted Russian army colonels. I kept wanting to hear about the adventures of the women and didn't like the 150-200 pages devoted to the histories of what were minor characters at the beginning of the novel. There you have it- a disgruntled reader!

35torontoc
apr 24, 2021, 7:53 pm

27. The Light of Days The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler's Ghettos by Judy BatalionI heard this author speak and also read some articles that she had written. This history follows a number of young women who acted as couriers for groups in Polish ghettos. The stories follow the years of the war so that the reader doesn't find out the total story of each woman until the end of the book. The main premise of this history is the importance of women who risked their lives to travel between towns delivering false papers, weapons and names of contacts. One woman assassinated German officials. Jewish women were able to pass as Polish for various reasons. Families would send their sons to Jewish schools but then send their daughters to Polish schools As a result, the young women who acted as couriers spoke a better Polish without any trace of Yiddish accents. These women were instrumental in the plans for the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and revolts in other towns. The stories show that these women were very enterprising as they avoided the Gestapo and police. A majority of these couriers were killed during the war. This book describes how Renia Kukielka passed as a Catholic, was captured, tortured in prison and was able to escape. The network of political groups, smugglers and helpers is described as well as the problems that survivors faced after the war ended. This is a really good history and serves to demonstrate that the contributions of these young women have to be acknowledged.

36torontoc
apr 27, 2021, 11:06 pm

28. Actress by Anne EnrightThis is a well written story about the narrator and her mother that is more of a character study than an action driven novel. Norah, the daughter writes about her mother's history. Katherine O'Dell is a famous Irish actress . Norah tries to unravel the mysteries of her mother's life. She also does not know who her father is. Norah describes how her mother succeeds and eventually fails at her career and life. The reader learns about Norah's life and her own problems and relationships. I really liked the writing and the descriptions of the people who changed the lives of both mother and daughter.

37torontoc
apr 28, 2021, 4:04 pm

29. The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud I really didn't like this book. I read another of Messud's books and enjoyed it about two years ago. This book was published in 2006 and has been in my book pile for a while. I guess that I didn't empathize with any of the main characters. They all seemed so shallow. They all started out with much privilege and didn't create anything meaningful in work or relationships. I did put this book down for a while. I found that the author's early style was too wordy for me- her later novel that I read was so much better in my opinion. I also think that my judgment on what is worthy has been influenced by the pandemic and what is important in life.

38torontoc
apr 29, 2021, 11:20 pm

I will be watching ( online) documentary film from the Hot Docs Film Festival this week. The first one that I saw today was "The Caviar Connection" . This French film looked at the massive corruption in Azerbajian. The subject of the film was a female journalist who was arrested and sentenced to 7 years in jail. She investigated the way the president's family made money and the role of celebrities in legitimizing the rule of some of the leaders in certain countries.

39torontoc
apr 30, 2021, 8:40 pm

I saw two films today at the Hot Docs Festival- ( on my computer)The first, "Cezanne" was paired with "Shanghai Screens"- both were underwhelming- Shanghai Screens was a short film about young painters in Shanghai who copied famous painter's work. So one artist was painting about 25 canvasses of Van Gogh sunflowers. They all painted at night and used their phones to check for the original painting's details. Cezanne was a look at tourists visiting Cezanne's studio. It was as if the film maker positioned her camera in the centre of the small room and filmed the various people who came by in one day.
The second film was the best-"Set!" was about table setting competitions and one specific one at the Orange County Fair. The film maker followed about 6 competitive people who were preparing for this event. It was a delight!

40torontoc
maj 2, 2021, 4:40 pm

I have seen three more films from the Hot Docs Festival
"Come Back Anytime" is a wonderful look at a Japanese ramen noodle place and the owner.
"The Colonel's Stray Dogs" is a son's look at his father who lived in London for forty years and was part of the opposition to Libya's Gaddafi.
"The Rossellinis" was a grandson's film on the famous Italian director's children and grandchildren.

41torontoc
maj 3, 2021, 5:31 pm

More films today
"Gallant Indies" by Philippe Beziot shows the rehearsals and performance for an opera in Paris in 2019. The opera was by Rameau ( 1735) and updated by the director to use dancers of popular contemporary styles. It was a really interesting documentary.
"Love It Was Not" is a very compelling story. A young woman who was in Auschwitz worked in the section named " Kanada" where the belongings of those killed were sorted. The Nazi in charge of this section was in love with this woman. He did save her a number of times as well as saving her sister. The story was told by interviews of the survivors who worked in Kanada and they had different opinions- about this relationship.

42torontoc
maj 3, 2021, 10:25 pm

30. The Toronto Book of Love by Adam Bunch I read the first book on Toronto history by this author (The Toronto Book of the Dead) and really liked the concept. Each chapter in this new book tells the story of love, scandal or deceit starting from the 1800's and continuing to the 21st century. There were stories about explorers, artists, politicians, and adventurers. There was a lot of scandal and heartbreak in early Toronto. I learned about the lives of people who contributed to the diverse life in the city that I live in

43torontoc
maj 6, 2021, 6:32 pm

More films-
"Behind the Headlines" -This documentary followed journalists from a German newspaper. This team has previously exposed the " Panama Papers". In this film this group looks into an incriminating video of a Austrian politician who is accepting a bribe. After the story is published the Vice-Chancellor of Austria resigns.
"Misha and the Wolves" is about a woman seems to be a holocaust survivor with an incredible story. After a lawsuit with her first publisher, her story is examined by archivists who learn the true story ( not a good one)
"Blue Box" an Israeli filmmaker looks into the life of her great grandfather who was the architect of reforestation in Israel. By reading her great grandfather's diaries , she learns about his doubts about Israeli policy. It is a very interesting story.

44torontoc
maj 8, 2021, 1:42 pm

31. The Rock From The Sky by Jon Klassen I know that this book should be considered a book for children but I don't know. I found it a little depressing although it is suitable for the pandemic. Or maybe adults should try to read something more uplifting. Two very adorable animals start a discussion about the better place to stand. ( their spot) An enormous rock descends from the sky and it could have destroyed one of the animals. ( But it doesn't.) This theme is repeated as three animals debate a choice of sitting spots. The colours are grey and we the reader are left to consider choices that we make. This is an ER book sent to me.

45torontoc
maj 9, 2021, 4:54 pm

32. William Blake His Art and Times by David Bindman This is the catalogue for the exhibition that I saw many years ago. It is part of my campaign to look at some of my art books that I may not have read through because I saw the art show described by the book. William Blake's work is really interesting. His theories may be somewhat obscure but the art work is truly visionary. This book describes his early career and later work. I enjoyed looking at the combination of print and art.

Films from the last day of the Hot Docs Festival-
"Spirit to Soar" was written by the author of a book on the deaths of seven indigenous teenagers who were in Thunder Bay ( Ontario) for high school. Tanya Talaga narrates the story of what happened after she wrote the book.
" Mary Two-Axe Earley I am Indian Again" is about the struggle of Indigenous women who had lost their rights after they married non-indigenous men. They did regain their rights after many years. Mary Two-Axe Earley was the leader who lobbied the federal government to restore rights.

46torontoc
maj 12, 2021, 10:50 am

33. The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck translated by Susan Bernofsky I had started this book over a year ago and did put it down. i guess that the subject matter didn't appeal to me at that time. However , I think that the structure and plot are very unique. There " five " books or chapters separated by " Intermezzos". Each book describes how the main female character dies- from a baby in the early 20th century Habsburg empire, to a suicide in post World War One in Vienna, to death in Soviet Russia to old age. The intermezzos describe what would happen if death did not occur and what kind of life would the main character live. This book is rich in describing the lives lived and affected by pogroms in Poland, starvation in Austria, and paranoia among communists in Soviet Russia. This is a very unusual story and well worth read the read.

47torontoc
maj 14, 2021, 8:58 pm

34. Seven by Farzana Doctor My latest Early Reviewer's book has proved to be very interesting. Sharifa is going to live in India for a year with her husband Murtuza and young daughter Zee. While her husband is teaching at university, Sharifa plans to research the life of her great-great- grandfather and this life. She is curious about the fate of his four wives and descendants. Being part of the Bohra community, Sharifa has let go of most of the rituals. Living in Mumbai gives her the opportunity to connect with her mother's many relatives. One major theme is the fight to abolish the ritual of khatna or female genital cutting that is part of the Bohra tradition. Sharifa learns how this practice influences the lives of her cousins and unlocks her own personal story.

48torontoc
maj 22, 2021, 2:35 pm

35. The Bookseller of Florence The Story of the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance by Ross King I do like Ross King's take on the history of painters and art. His latest book is about the history of manuscript discovery, scribes, the use of parchment, and the development of the printing press. The history is about a key bookseller in Florence- Vespasiano da Bisticci. However, there is more about the collectors of ancient authors translated from the Greek into Latin and the rivalries between popes and rulers in Italy. It was interesting to me that editions printed on the newly discovered press were not considered as important as the books written and illustrated by hand. As well, one key press in Florence-the Ripoli Press run by a Fra Domenico used nuns as type setters. There is information on the use and making of new colours ( ultramarine is one) and more on the deadly conspiracies among noble families. ( Medici versus Pazzi was a key event) I really enjoyed this detailed history.

49torontoc
maj 25, 2021, 4:27 pm

36. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan I thought that this was a very good book, but why was I reading it during the pandemic? There are a number of narrators-each tells the story from a different point of view and it is all grim. Laura has married Henry but didn't expect him to abruptly move her and their two young daughters from Memphis to a small farm with a very primitive house in rural Mississippi.Nor did she expect Henry's father-a very cruel and vicious man- to come live with them. As well , Henry's brother, Jamie comes to live on the farm and he is fighting the demons he has because of his airforce experience from World War Two. The reader hears from the Black family who work on the farm and especially the son Ronsel also returning from serving in the army. Terrible things happen because of bigotry. Issues do get resolved and there is a sort of vengence. I am glad that I read it but it could have waited until after lockdown was ended where I live.

50torontoc
maj 28, 2021, 9:21 pm

37. The Chiffon Trenches by Andre Leon Talley. I am interested in how the pandemic has changed my opinions about certain books. This memoir by a notable fashion magazine editor describes Talley's jobs in fashion at Interview, Woman's Wear Daily,and Vogue Magazine. He knew all the most famous editors and designers in New York and Paris. There are many stories about the very rich and famous. Talley was the favourite of Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld. He knew about discrimination but also benefited from the perks that came with his role at Vogue and his friendship with various fashion icons. The descriptions of gifts, free couture clothes, luxurious hotel vacations and elaborate flowers contrast with the abrupt dismissal that many editors seemed to suffer as a matter of routine. Talley describes all the clothes that he and his friends wore. And I thought about this luxury as I sit reading in my many years old blue jeans that have become my uniform during the past year and a half. Is fashion still important? I don't know but the description of voluptuous flowers and time spent on fittings for balls and couture fashion shows seems irrelevant to me this year. Still, I am glad that I read this book.

51torontoc
jun 4, 2021, 7:56 am

38. Pluto Living Welcome to The Plutoverse Hmm . This is a self published little book by the author( owner of this youtube celebrity dog, NJ Wight) and although I did enter it- the touchstones are not working! At the beginning of the pandemic, nature photographer NJ Wight decided to make a youtube video starring her elderly miniature schnauzer, Pluto. The messages were funny and somehow made isolation more bearable. The messages were positive, humorous, and funny. Pluto has quite a following now with a website and now this little book is filled with good advice for pandemic living, and fun photos. Highly recommended for positive thinking about the situation that we are all in now!

52torontoc
jun 16, 2021, 8:33 pm

39. Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art by Mary Gabriel I so enjoyed this book. It is a long one -over 700 pages and I did spend over two weeks reading it exclusively. The author took on a tremendous task- she told the stories of the five women painters who were making history in their development of post war modern abstract art. Gabriel also detailed the histories of the major painters, art critics and art galleries. There was a lot of information about the lives of the women and the challenges that they faced when married to other artists as well as gaining recognition for their own work. The book is also a history of the cultural development of ideas in the 1950's. I would highly recommend this book. Some of the women artists were not credited with the advances that they made in painting until much later when historians acknowledged their important work.

53torontoc
jun 18, 2021, 2:08 pm

40. The Windsor Knot by SJ BennettThis is a very nice summer read- a mystery starring Queen Elizabeth as a solver of crime. She is helped by her new assistant private secretary, Rozie Oshodi. After a night of entertainment at Windsor Castle, a young Russian pianist is found dead in a guest room of the castle. The Queen sends Rozie to look at some of the details of the situation as well as questioning several of the other guests. The murder is solved along with two other ones that relate to the first crime. The Queen sees the mystery of the murder as a big puzzle that she solves but gives others credit for cracking the case.

54torontoc
jun 19, 2021, 2:07 pm

41. Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand. O.K. this is really a beach read. My book club put it on their schedule for July. I was in a book store ( for the first time in many, many months) and decided to buy it and read early along with some other books from my wish list. It is a fast read and there are two sequels!. The story is that Irene is living in Iowa. Her husband Russ travels for his work. Her two grown sons live in Texas and Colorado. Irene receives a phone call telling her that Russ was in a helicopter that crashed in the Virgin Islands and is dead. Traveling to St. John, Irene and her sons learn that Russ owned a 15 million dollar villa and had a mistress and daughter. The book really doesn't go any further except for introducing a number of characters who will be part of the next two novels. An interesting afternoon read that is not my usual fare.

55torontoc
jun 30, 2021, 12:33 pm

42. A Russian Sister by Caroline AddersonThis is really a beautifully written book. The author has written a story about a very famous Russian author( Antosha), who is modelled after Anton Chekhov and his relationship with his sister, Masha. Masha narrates the story about her very complicated relationship with her brother and his friends. Masha introduces her friend Lika to Antosha and suffers when her friend is badly treated. Masha herself rejects many proposals of marriage and wonders what she offers to the success of her brother.
Antosha is not very good to his sister or for that matter to his friends as their personalities find their way into his stories. And all his friends and relatives, including Masha, seem to be models for the characters in his great play The Seagull. I really enjoyed the recreation of the family life of an important Russian author with the betrayals and problems that occur when Masha sacrifices her life for the success of her brother.

56torontoc
jun 30, 2021, 8:55 pm

43. What Happens in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand I am hooked for now on this trilogy of books. This is number two in the series. The books are definitely beach reads. Now what is a beach read. My definition is a book that one reads while sitting on a comfy sofa or nice outdoor chair with an ice tea or white wine cooler or something. The plot that was set up in book number one was intriguing, However , the author is taking too much time to let the reader know what happens. In fact the three books could have been combined into one -without all the details of sub plots and characters. So... I am on to the last book and hope to find out what happened to the husband who died in the helicopter crash with his girl friend.

57torontoc
jul 1, 2021, 9:25 pm

44. Troubles in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand O.K. I had to finish the series to find out what really happened. What I found really irritating was the addition of new characters along with too many details about their lives. I wanted the basic plot/mystery solved. So every time the plot took a very long detour into the lives of characters that muddied up the initial story line , I wanted to scream. Well not really- I shouldn't invest too much time in what I saw as the problems with the plot and just move on to another book. The author tidied up all the loose ends-everyone was happy in the end.

58torontoc
jul 4, 2021, 4:05 pm

45. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen I think that readers should make a list of pandemic friendly books and authors. At the top of my list would be Jane Austen. I had seen the film and a series based on this book but had never read it until this week. I really enjoyed the story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood and their suitors. The characters and matchmaking schemes were very interesting. The style of writing and the recreation of the 1800's English society appealed to me. The comedy of manners and correct behaviour of the English society middle class revealed the world of the early nineteenth century.

59torontoc
jul 8, 2021, 11:20 am

46. Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali This is a group of linked short stories that feature the inhabitants of a small Portuguese village, Mamarrosa. There are stories of both young and old, and expatriates and tourists from England. The stories are very sympathetic to the problems of the troubled visitors and the local villagers who are faced with modernization and also issues involving adherence to tradition.I like this author's writing style and have one more of her books on my TBR pile.

60torontoc
jul 14, 2021, 4:59 pm

47. Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted: The Ballad of Motl the Cowboy by
Gary Barwin Gary Barwin is a poet and his prose in this novel is an important reason why I liked this story. I usually am conflicted about " new" fiction using the Holocaust as subject matter. This story has elements of surrealism and bizarre plot developments. Yet Barwin's work still has humour in spite of the horrible real events that he uses in the novel. Motl is a dreamer living with his mother in wartime Lithuania. His passion is for stories of cowboys. Sometimes his life seems to merge with his cowboy fantasies. At the same time as Motl and his mother leave his small town ahead of the Nazis , the reader learns about the atrocities committed by sympathetic Lithuanians and Nazi soldiers. Relatives and friends are lost to concentration camps and killing in the forests. Motl gains some friends who seem to have more sense than he does. He is rescued by the circus and Canadian indigenous people.( I know -so impossible) Motl and a fellow traveller, Esther, do end up in Canada but life is not rosy. Loss and the inability to live in the world after the war impact the lives of those that Motl loves. This is a very interesting novel.

61torontoc
jul 16, 2021, 4:51 pm

48. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Many years ago I attended a conference/ institute on gifted education in Connecticut. I took a four day seminar on the arts led by a wonderful teacher. He recommended that teachers read this book- he thought that it contained some good teaching on education. Well, I never got around to doing that. I read other inspirational books for young people- I liked the work of Shaun Tan, Neil Gaiman and the new illustrations of old stories published by Kids Can Press. I decided that at some point I should read this book and so I did. At first, I thought- it is very old fashioned and dated. Young boys have nannies and get scarlet fever. A fairy appears and helps the velveteen rabbit. I thought about what is important in this book. My list included- the power of love and the belief in good things happening to deserving beings. I think that the teacher who suggested this thought of those things.

62torontoc
jul 17, 2021, 7:36 pm

49. The President's Daughter by James Patterson and Bill Clinton I must have read most of this novel in one day. It is a well written thriller and adventure story. The former president, Matt Keating's daughter, Melanie, is kidnapped by a terrorist who wants revenge. Keating has to contend with the president who doesn't like him. She does sabotage the efforts to rescue Matt's daughter. Keating decides to take matters into his own hands as he uses his contacts to locate and rescue Melanie. Melanie herself is no pushover as she also plots to escape. A good summer read!

63torontoc
jul 18, 2021, 1:47 pm

50. Becoming Duchess Goldblatt by Anonymous I reread this book and ..it belongs on my list of books to read during a pandemic. Along with Pride and Prejudice it is in the top two. ( I haven't made up the whole list yet.) The author takes the reader from the lowest point in her life to her new reality. The story is one of hope and humour as well as a primer on how to remake one's life in the face of adversity.

64torontoc
jul 27, 2021, 11:00 am

51. In the Kitchen by Monica Ali. I just rediscovered this author from my TBR pile/tower. I did like the first part of this novel. Gabriel Lightfoot is an executive chef in a big London hotel. He came from a northern mill town and has ambitions to open his own restaurant with two partners. The reader sees Gabriel deal with a death in the cellar of the hotel which leads him to helping a young woman who may have been trafficked by some of the hotel staff. Unfortunately the plot takes Gabriel to a breakdown as he discovers some of the plots of the suspicious head waiter, sous chefs and his own partners to be. I did like the beginning but was not happy with the ending. Maybe it is just the pandemic which guides my book choices lately.

65torontoc
jul 30, 2021, 9:00 pm

52. The Cellist by Daniel SilvaThis spy thriller is the latest in the series featuring Gabriel Allon. The author reintroduces characters from his earlier books. The story is about the assassination of a wealthy exiled Russian in London. The repercussions involve the taking down of European banks that launder Russian money and a conspiracy that links a soon to be past president of the United States and the leader of Russia. I must admit that the story did speed up at the end but I really liked the earlier books better. This is one of the better summer reads.

66torontoc
aug 3, 2021, 8:23 am

53.A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes The author writes about the Trojan War from the point of view of the women-both the mortals and the goddesses.Each chapter focuses on one woman with the exception of the chapters on captured Trojan women waiting to hear about their fate. I was entranced by the writing and the intensity of the emotions described by each of the women. This is a book that held my interest more than the majority of books that I have read this year. ( except for Jenny Erpenbeck) I highly recommend this novel to those readers who have read Madeline Miller, Annabel Lyon and Pat Barker on the same subject.

67torontoc
aug 8, 2021, 5:15 pm

54. Trickster Drift by Eden Robinson. This is the second book in the series that tells the story of Jared Martin. He travels from Kitimat to Vancouver for school. Jared desperately wants to be normal. He enrols in school, goes the AA meetings and lives with his aunt Mave. Unfortunately his mother is a witch and his father a trickster. Mave seems to be unaware of the ghosts living in her apartment. Jared befriends one of them and in exchange for viewing the science fiction channel on TV, Arthur Dent ( as Jared has named him) tutors Jared in science. The rest of his extended family also seem to have various powers. Jared has been stalked by one of his mother's ex boyfriends. Turning for help turns out to be a very big mistake. I found Jared to be a very endearing character and will read the third in this series soon.

68torontoc
aug 11, 2021, 8:23 am

55. Letters to Camondo by Edmund De Waal De Waal is a noted ceramic artist. He writes about the family and house in Paris of Count Moise Camondo- also a relative. The house becomes a gift to the French people after Moise dies in 1936. It is a museum named after Moise's son - Nissim Camondo who was killed serving in the first World War.The descriptions and photographs of the Belle Epoque mansion accompany the history of the family and their contributions to French life. As Jews who moved from Constantinople, The Camondo family embrace France and French culture. They are patrons of the arts. De Waal writes each chapter as a series of very personal letters to Moise Camondo. They are quite touching to read. The last chapters are jarring as De Waal recounts what happened to the Camondo family during World War Two. They were all rounded up, deported and sent to their deaths at Auschwitz. De Waal has made the point about how much families like the Camondos, Reinachs, and Ephrussi's contributed to the life of French literature and art. However this did not help them during the German occupation of their adapted countries. This is a very thought provoking book.

69torontoc
aug 13, 2021, 10:05 pm

56. Granta 72 Overreachers edited by Ian Jack. I was looking through one of my TBR bins and came across this issue of Granta. I haven't followed Granta for a while. The bookstore where I picked it up closed. This issue had short stories and memoirs by a number of authors whose works I have read- Olga Tokarczuk, Richard Ford and A.L. Kennedy This issue reminded me why I eagerly looked for every new issue. Now that I can go into bookstores I might look up the latest issue.

70torontoc
aug 15, 2021, 7:53 pm

57. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver Two narratives are the key elements in this novel. In the present of 2015-16, Willa Knox is confronted with failure on many levels. She is a writer who has to become a freelancer with the demise of the magazine that employed her. Willa's husband, Iano, has to move to a new job after the college that he worked for folded. They find themselves living in an inherited house in New Jersey that is falling apart. They are taking care of Iano's dying father and their daughter, Tig has moved in after living in Cuba for a number of years. A further tragedy results in their son Zeke leaving his newborn baby in their care. In the second narrative in the time of post civil war teacher Thatcher Greenwood is trying to introduce true science to his pupils. His wife and mother-in-law complain about the state of their finances and the problems with their house- the same one that Willa and family will live in many decades later. Thatcher is forbidden to teach about the work of Charles Darwin. He only finds a kindred spirit when he meets his neighbour, Mary Treat( a real biologist whose work should be better known according to the author.) The dialogue between Willa and Tig, and Willa and her husband Iano are so finely described that the reader gets a true sense of the relationships and dilemmas faced by the characters. What does one do in the face of adversity and seeming bad luck? How do we carry on? The book has so much wisdom, in my opinion, about life in our changing world. It is also very timely in looking at the challenges of climate change and diminishing power of achieving economic success.

71torontoc
aug 20, 2021, 10:02 pm

58. Whale Music by Paul Quarrington The late Paul Quarrington was a writer and musician. This novel is funny and satyric as the narrator- Des Howell- tells the story of his life as a rock and roll musician. Des and his late brother Danny were the guiding forces in the Howl Brothers band. Des is now a recluse , living in a very big mansion and seeing no one. He is obsessed with writing his magnum opus called Whale Music. A young woman drops into his life and various people from his past try to talk with Des. He was taken advantage of by his parents, various managers and record company executives. Meanwhile Des is hallucinating sometimes and dreaming about his past and his relationship with Danny. The feel of the mad musician is very real as Quarrington describes the creation of music in the electronic age.

72torontoc
aug 23, 2021, 7:34 am

59. I am Not Starfire by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Yoshi Yoshitani I am reading a few graphic novels and books for teenagers this week. I was supposed to give a workshop for teachers next week. However many teachers are taking a break and not answering their work emails. So I really don't know whether this workshop will run. But the books are fun. Mandy is the rebellious daughter of the superhero Starfire. Mandy feels that she is anything but a superhero with none of her mother's powers. She is always angry. Mandy doesn't want to go to college and sabotages her chances by walking out of her SAT test. She has one friend, Lincoln and she feels that other students are just trying to meet her mother and her superhero colleagues. Forced to collaborate on a school project with popular student , Claire, gives Mandy a change to learn about friendship. There is a supernatural element at the end of the story. I think that the story and illustrations reflect on some of the feelings and conflicts teenagers have as they learn how negotiate through difficult times.

73torontoc
aug 24, 2021, 9:14 pm

60. Lumberjanes Beware The Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson and illustrated byBrooklyn Allen This is the first in the series of graphic novels about a group of girls who are Lumberjanes. They go to a camp and are supposed to learn all sorts of survival techniques-almost like scouts. This group of rowdy and mischievous girls encounter mad wolves, Yetis, talking statues and more. These girls are bold and never back down. I think that the images of strong girls is very good for young impressionable readers. The tone is very upbeat and a good anecdote to today's reality.

74torontoc
aug 25, 2021, 10:35 pm

61. The Book Smugglers Partisans, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish Treasures from the Nazis by David E. FishmanThis story follows the men and women who saved many of the books, documents and artifacts from Jewish institutions in Vilna before and after World War Two. One of the most important centres for Jewish learning was YIVO or Yiddish Scientific Institute. There were branches in New York, Berlin , Paris and Vilna. When the Nazis conquered Vilna , they used Jewish labour to catalogue the books and artifacts of all of Vilna's Jewish centres in order to send the most valuable to Germany. The rest were to be destroyed. Shmerke Kaczerginski, Zelig Kalmanovitch, Rachela Krinsky, Herman Kruk and Abraham Sutzkever formed a plan to smuggle some of these important works out of the processing building so that they could be hidden and hopefully found after the war.This history chronicles their work. Shmerke and Abraham eventually joined the partisans and were sent to Moscow. The rest were sent to work camps- Kruk and Kalmanovitch were murdered. After the war both Shmerke and Sutzkover were instrumental in smuggling some of these works out of Soviet Lithuania and eventually to YIVO in New York. The story of this work and the kind of artifacts that were saved make this history riveting to read.

75torontoc
aug 27, 2021, 8:59 am

62. Lumberjanes The Good Egg by Mariko Tamaki. This is the last of the novels that I am reading for my workshop. This is definitely for a good pre teen reader. Unlike the graphic novel about the adventures of the Lumberjanes, this is a book with very few illustrations. The stories are still the same- very positive and with strong young girls solving mysteries. In this story, Ripley finds a nest with very big eggs. She adapts the smallest egg and calls it Eggie. With her friends from her cabin at summer camp she quarts over the egg, rescues it when it falls from the nest and eventually saves it from a group of sinister people. In the meantime the camp is overrun with a group of interesting creatures( can't tell because that would ruin the surprise) and the rest of the campers put on a show to stall them while Ripley and friends take on the second rescue.

76torontoc
aug 31, 2021, 10:26 am

I did register for online viewing of some films in the Toronto International Film Festival-sigh- the festival is becoming more directed to rich people. I was not allowed to choose some films that I wanted to see because the festival is now not only charging more for them but sold out the packages to see those films before I was able to select my film packages.

63. The City and the City by China Mieville I reread this novel in preparation for giving an online art workshop. I still like the premise. The reader follows a detective in a ( fictional) city somewhere in the Balkans. Detective Borlu lives and works in Beszel. However, the city is linked to another city. Ul Qoma. Each city has its own language and customs. Residents of each city have to avoid the areas where the two cities link. There is an official border/entrance for those qualified to enter the opposing city. People have to " unsee" residents from the other city when they are near areas that join. There are conspiracies, murders and detectives working to unravel mysteries. I really like the imaginative writing of this author.

77torontoc
sep 6, 2021, 11:30 am

64. The Safety Net by Andrea Camilleri I am reading this book for my book club. I would classify it as a " comfort read"- not too taxing, easy to digest and..not very complicated. I hadn't read any of the series before so I am coming in later in the life and work of Inspector Montalbano. The inspector likes his food and solves two mysteries in the story. The book provided a good break for me as my internet and phone lines were down for three days.( all is well now)

78torontoc
sep 8, 2021, 6:58 pm

65. Uprooted How 3000 Years of Jewish Civilisation in the Arab World Vanished Overnight by Lyn Julius I must admit that this book is not what I thought it would be. I have heard the author talk on the history of Jews in Iraq and she is a very good speaker. I was expecting a history. This books uses the history of Jews in Arab lands ( especially Algeria, Morocco Tunisia, Iraq and a little of Iran) to prove specific points. Julius takes on the UN, Israeli politics, peace talks and a number of historians and finds them wanting. She believes that the many tens of thousands of Jews who moved very quickly to Israel in the 1950's and 60's should have been recognized as refugees. She talks about the Mizrachi ( Jews who came from Arab lands)culture and the conflicts with the predominantly Ashkenazi ( Eastern European) Israeli leaders. She also details the rich history of Jews living in Iraq and Egypt. The role of Jews in Arab lands and their subjugation as well as the terrible pogroms are used to show the conflicted feelings of the Jewish inhabitants. It is an exhausting book to read. I learned a lot. In addition to the arguments that she makes about many misconceptions when dealing with this complicated subject, the author adds the testimony and stories of many Jews who escaped from Iraq, Aden and Egypt.

79torontoc
sep 10, 2021, 4:17 pm

66. Farewell, Babylon Coming of Age In Jewish Baghdad by Naim Kattan and translated from French by Sheila Fischman. I was looking for a book that really covered the history of Jewish life in Arab lands after reading my last book. I remembered that I had this memoir in my library and had read it many years ago. The author lived in Canada and was the head of the Writing and Publications Section of the Canada council for over 25 years. His memoir is about his daily life as a teenager in Baghdad. His family did live through the Farhud or pogrom against the Jews in 1941. Naim and his friends were interested and absorbed by culture- Arabic and eventually French. They dreamed of contributing to an authentic Iraqi literature that embraced Jew and Muslim. Events and attitudes proved them wrong and Naim did leave with a scholarship to study in Paris. The memoir also recounts the way girls and women were treated and how their lives were so different from their brothers. This was a good reread.

80torontoc
Redigeret: sep 12, 2021, 6:07 pm

I am viewing films from the Toronto International Film Festival this week. I am seeing all of them on my computer. Although there are some in theatre venues, I am not ready to go into a cinema yet. And I also saw one at a drive-in! That was fun.
so
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain- I saw this film at a drive in. Louis Wain was a real person- he was a gifted illustrator who popularized cats. His illustrations were so charming and as a result, people started to adopt cats as pets. Wain was an eccentric man- he was tasked with supporting his mother and very demanding five sisters at the end of the Victorian era in England. After he married the children's governess( to the displeasure of his family), Wain had a brief period of happiness before his wife died of cancer. The two of them did adopt a cat and then Louis started his paintings of cats. Wain and one of his sisters had mental health issues. How Wain coped with the disorder of his life is depicted very imaginatively with the manipulation of film images. This is a lovely film and I must take a look at more of Louis Wain's work.

and on my computer
Scarborough- This film as adapted to the screen by the author of the book-Catherine Hernandez Scarborough is an area of Toronto that has been seen as a place of where low income families live. It has been seen as a place of poverty. Hernandez follows three families and focuses on the children who are of different racial backgrounds. We see the struggles of living with uncertain living spaces and indifferent treatment by social agencies. The children are amazing! They all meet in a space in a school that is part of a programme for families to learn about parenting. The head of this space is a very compassionate woman who helps one mother with her autistic son and encourages positive learning and play. I really liked this film.

The Grave Digger's Wife. This is a very sad film about the plight of a very poor family in Djibouti. The father is a grave digger who has very little work. His wife is very sick but the operation that will help her costs money that the family can never access. The story of how the gravedigger tries to help his wife is heartbreaking. However, the films ends with one of my pet peeves- the audience is left with a situation that is not resolved- it is as if the film makers ran out of money to continue. I have seen this before with some TIFF films and I get annoyed.
more films today.

81torontoc
sep 13, 2021, 11:34 am

Two more films on my computer from the film festival
Colin in Black and White-this is actually three episodes from a Netflix series on the life of Colin Kaepernick. He narrates the story of his early life as a teenager. The viewer sees how his parents deal with some of the issues that face Kaepernick as he confronts discrimination( but subtle discrimination) in his quest to be a great quarterback on the top teams at high school. Colin Kaepernick is adopted and his white parents sometimes don't understand what he faces. His father helps him improve his football skills by enrolling in an elite summer programme led by a top coach. The viewer sees a very wise teenager who observes the differences in treatment of white and black athletes at games, and in hotels during league tournaments.The style of the episodes is really interesting with asides from the narrator and clever drawing visuals.

Are You Lonesome Tonight
This is a Chinese film that is about gangsters and lost money. As well, there is a young man who thinks that he has killed a man by running his over with his truck. I thought from the writeup that the subject would be more about the relationship between the dead man's wife and the killer. Well, there was a lot of violence and ...it was ok.

See the Colin in Black and White series

82torontoc
sep 17, 2021, 10:26 am

More films from TIFF
Flee
This is a film in graphic novel form along with some very creative ways to show news footage. The Danish film maker interviews a man who he met at high school. As a boy, the young man fled with his family from Afghanistan to Moscow. His father was imprisoned by the Afghani government and was never heard from again. The film depicts the family attempts to be smuggled from Russia to Sweden where an older brother lived. Eventually, as the youngest, the boy is smuggled into Denmark- he is told to lie and say that his family was killed. So he did, and only was reunited with his mother and siblings a few years after his escape. The film shows thee man's present day life as well. it is interesting that the subject of the film uses a pseudonym and so do some of the actors-they are still wary of being identified.

Anatolian Leopard
This was such a sad film. From Turkey- the story follows the director of a failed zoo that is about to be turned into a theme park by a group of Saudi investors. The problem is that the zoo must relocate it's most prized animal- an Anatolian Leopard. The director's life is also quite grim as he lets staff go and we see how he sabotages his own relationships. This was too long and very depressing.

As In Heaven
Another Danish and very sad film. The story is taken from a very old book. The story shows how a young girl has to grow up in one day as her mother gives birth to her seventh child. Set on a farm some time at the turn of the 19th-20 th century, the young girl seems very immature at first. She observes the grim reality and superstition surrounding the terrible birth cries of her mother. She also sees how bad decisions impact her life and that of her family. The film was expertly photographed but I didn't need another grim story as we are still in the midst of this pandemic.

83torontoc
sep 17, 2021, 1:14 pm

67. The Last Kings of Shanghai :The Rival Jewish Dynasties that Helped Create Modern China by Jonathan Kaufman I continued to look for books on the Jewish families who lived in Baghdad and three history. This book really deals with the rise of two important merchant families who really worked in India and then China-specifically Shanghai and Hong Kong. The Sassoon family were the dominant family at the beginning. David Sassoon was smuggled out of Baghdad where he had been jailed by the ruling Turks. He went to India where he established a prominent trading enterprise. Eventually he wanted to extend his business to China and specifically Shanghai. He sent one of his sons to work in China. At first the Sassoons were in the business of trading opium from India to China. The author doesn't sugarcoat any facts about the immorality of the arrangements that the British made in order to make huge profits from the opium trade. Later the Sassoons extended their business to manufacturing and real estate. The first member of the Kadoorie family to leave Baghdad worked for the Sassoons. Later the Kadoories established their own empire based on real estate and hotels in Shanghai. However they also made significant investments in Hong Kong. In the 21 century it has been the Kadoories who have become dominant in Hong Kong. The author again does not hide the facts about the choices to make profit over looking at social justice. The book is very interesting and I did learn a lot about these two families, their contributions to saving lives of Jewish refugees in Shanghai during World War Two and their investments in two Chinese cities.

84torontoc
sep 18, 2021, 3:30 pm

More films
Julia
This is a wonderful biography of Julia Child. It is produced by CNN so I think that it will be shown soon on TV. My advice if you like cooking and biography- see it! I really enjoyed the clips of Julia Child's life and the excerpts from her cooking shows.

The Humans
This is a film adaptation of the play written by Stephen Karam He also directed a superb cast in this story of a family. They all meet at one of the daughter's new apartment and all the problems and issues come out during the course of the time that they are together. Great acting!

85torontoc
sep 18, 2021, 8:19 pm

Last film
The Survivor
This film is directed by Barry Levinson and is based on a book on the life of Harry Haft. Haft survived Auschwitz because he was forced to box for a Nazi officer. If he won, he lived. The story takes place in three time periods- during the war, ( World War Two) the 1950's when Harry was a boxer in the United States and in the early 1960's when Harry finally dealt with his nightmares and told the truth to his son. Today we would call the flashbacks that Harry had as PTSD. Harry fought Rocky Marciano in the 1950's. He eventually married and left boxing. However, he had been hoping that a wartime girlfriend had survived. The story is cleverly told as the viewer sees all the three time periods.

68. Batchelor Brothers Bed & Breakfast Pillow Book by Bill Richardson. This is one of those books that you can reread many times as it is funny with a fine sense of the absurd. It is also a reread for me as I needed some humour.( too many glum films at TIFF) Hector and Virgil are twin brothers in their fifties who own and run a bed and breakfast somewhere on an island in British Columbia. They have a parrot, Mrs. Rochester who can quote obscure passages from the bible. There are suggestions for books to read, recipes from former guests and their life stories and a mystery that is solved. Hector's girlfriend ,Altona, convinces the brothers to hire someone to help them with the chores of the B&B. So Caedmon Harkness is hired. Harkness trained as a roof thatcher and finds little employment in that field. He is also a sculptor of saints in bread dough. With the discovery of new manuscripts of the late local writer Solomon Solomon, a celebration is planned that goes terribly wrong .( Solomon's first book is entitled -Hygiene for Boys) I had a lot of chuckles as I read and I might try one of the recipes.

86torontoc
sep 25, 2021, 7:42 pm

69. Four Streets and a Square A History of Manhattan and the New York Idea by Marc Aronson This is an ER book and it will be published in November. I liked the way that the author approached the history and geography of the city from its beginnings to present day. He included detailed accounts of all the people who lived and worked in what is now Greater New York City. Aronson writes about the tensions between various groups who lived in the city. The contrast between the very rich and the working classes never changed. The histories of Black , Irish, Jewish and Italian Americans are described as well as the emerging Latin groups who come to live in the city. Aronson covers the history of gay communities from early days to the present. He looks at Feminist history with accounts of the women who made an impact in the city. The reader learns not only about the political history but also about the origins of the theatre and the kind of entertainment and culture that evolved in New York. In fact, Aronson covers the contemporary issues involving the pandemic. I enjoy reading history books and found this one really interesting and to me- educational. I learned a lot.

87torontoc
okt 10, 2021, 7:58 am

70. Granta 97 is a really good issue. The theme is "Best Young American Novelists". Although the book is a few years old, the choice of writers was excellent. I liked Karen Russell's short story about past American presidents reincarnated as horses. Dara Horn, Anthony Doer, Nicole Krauss, Olga Grushin and Rattawut Lapcharoensap contribute some of the favourite stories. The book was published in 2007 and yes, it has been in my TBR towers for too long.

88torontoc
okt 12, 2021, 8:41 am

71. Caste The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson This is a well thought out examination of the position of caste in American, Indian and Nazi German societies. Wilkerson shows the reader how caste or " rigid hierarchy of human rankings" ( to quote an important sentence from the book cover) is an integral part of life for African Americans, Dalits in India and was for Jews in Nazi Germany. The theory of caste cripples the well being and health of specific groups and Wilkerson's examples are both personal and historical. This is an excellent book that explains how caste affected the most recent elections in the US.This book is a must read.

89torontoc
okt 16, 2021, 7:23 pm

72. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead. This novel is very different from the author's previous works. The story gives the reader an entrance to the world of Harlem in the early 1960's. Ray Carney is a devoted father and successful furniture store owner. He has a side line really forced upon him by his cousin, Freddie. When Freddie brings items of unknown ownership in the form of jewellery to him, Ray will find a buyer. Freddie implicates Ray in the plan to rob the Hotel Theresa, Ray has to negotiate his way through the world of crooked policemen, gang leaders and politicians. This is done with humour in some cases.( some of the gangsters develop an appreciation for dinette sets and sofas) The descriptions of the life in Harlem and the various problems with discrimination and hierarchy of gangs who work in the area are done with honesty. I really liked this novel and appreciate the work of this author.

90torontoc
okt 23, 2021, 11:13 pm

73. Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld This is the second novel by Sittenfeld that I have read with a similar subject- the lives of the wives of two Presidents. This story is different. Sittenfeld
imagines that Hilary Rodham Clinton does not marry Bill and forges her own political career. Real and made-up are mixed in the plot of how Hilary Rodham becomes a senator and later runs for president. Her interactions with Bill Clinton trace a new fictional account of his life as well. Bill Clinton, in this story does not fare well. The novel is told from the fictional Hilary's point of view. The reader sees how women are held to a different standard as they attempt to be elected and change government laws. This is a very interesting read.

91torontoc
okt 25, 2021, 9:15 am

74. The Detroit Yiddish Theatre 1920 to 1937 by James Albert Miller I read this unusual history about Yiddish Theatre in Detroit during a very specific time period. The author was actually employed by the theatre in the 1920's. Unfortunately the structure of the book makes it interesting to scholars who would want to trace the performance of Yiddish plays. There is a brief introduction that attempts to give a history of the beginnings of Yiddish theatre. The reader learns about the cast of actors for each season and the specific plays produced. There are many lists and some biographies of the actors. The author give this own reasons for the demise of Yiddish theatre- he refers to the drop in Jewish immigrants to the US, and the choice of plays. He believes that the change from subjects about social justice and literary themes to more popular subjects is a main cause for the lack of interest. I think that Miller doesn't give enough research to the effects of the Depression and the growing use of English by the young generation of Jews in the US. ( and Canada for that matter)

92torontoc
okt 27, 2021, 7:36 am

75. Granta 83 This Overheating World edited by Ian Jack. This 2003 edition has a wide range of articles on ...climate change. And the warnings about how climate change will and has effected the way we live are not new. I must admit my favourite section was the reproduction of photos by Edward Burtynsky a Canadian photographer and film maker. He takes large scale photos of the destruction caused by people all over the world. The photos in this book document quarries and mines in North America and shipbreaking in Bangladesh. The other articles range from personal accounts of rowing to Alaska to a diary of a woman coming back to Iraq after Saddam. Although this is an older Granta issue, the concerns about the health of our world are very contemporary.

93torontoc
okt 30, 2021, 10:02 am

76. Fight Night by Miriam Toews I must admit that I wait for the latest novel to be published by Miriam Toews. She has written about very difficult topics that are related to her own background- a Mennonite upbringing and serious issues in her own family. Although this novel does not directly deal these subjects , they are always in the background of this story. The novel is narrated by Swiv, a young girl living with her pregnant actress mother and very lively grandmother. Swiv has been expelled from school so her grandmother devises assignments for Swiv. It seems that Swiv is really in charge. She makes sure that her grandmother takes her pills and tries to control the impulses of this very impetuous women -who doesn't seem to take her serious physical conditions very seriously. Swiv observes the extreme emotions of her mother and the joyous focus of her grandmother. She takes her grand mother on a trip to California to see cousins. There are many adventures and perhaps lessons learned about survival. There is humour and sadness but always love and loyalty in this family portrait.

94torontoc
okt 30, 2021, 10:57 pm

77. Victorian Color Picture Books edited by Jonathan Cott and commentary by Maurice Sendak. This book has a number of Victorian illustrators represented. I knew of Walter Crane and Kate Greenaway. The best part of the book was the interview with {Maurice Sendak. He had very strong opinions about the talent of a number of the illustrators and expressed his preferences very bluntly. I had to look again to see if I agreed with him.

95torontoc
okt 31, 2021, 5:00 pm

78. The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue Published " just in time" for the pandemic, this excellent novel is about the Spanish Flu outbreak just at the end of the First World War. Set in Dublin, the reader follows Nurse Julia Power through a few crucial days in the hospital ward for pregnant women who also have the flu. Her ward is really a very small room where she tends to the needs of just three patients. The lives of these women are varied- from middle class to the very poor. Sometimes there is a doctor available. Julia is lucky that Dr. Kathleen Lynn is one of the few doctors who is able to be called when the women give birth. Dr. Lynn was a real person who had been a member of the Sinn Fein and director of public health. The women portrayed in this story suffer through complications of birth. Some of the descriptions of treatment are very graphic. I did know about the treatment of women in Ireland ( the Magdalene Laundries) and the situation of some of the characters showed how poverty and illegitimacy determined if they survived the devastating effects of the flu. An excellent read for me.

96torontoc
nov 7, 2021, 5:12 pm

79. More Than I Love My Life by David Grossman This is a very dramatic story and it was inspired by a woman's( a friend of the author) experiences in Yugoslavia in the early 1950's. Gili is the narrator as she related the very complicated history of her mother and father and grandmother. Vera is 90 plus years old. She survived imprisonment at Goli Otok, a notorious prison set up by the government of Tito after the Second World War. Vera protected the memory of her first husband, Milosz and refused to sign a statement accusing him of being a supporter of Stalin. After 3 years in prison, Vera was able to reunite with her daughter, Nina, and they emigrated to Israel. Vera married again to Tuvia and Nina had an affair and then married Tuvia's son Rafael. After giving birth to Gili, Nina abandoned her daughter and husband and left Israel. Gili was raised by her grandmother, Vera and became a film maker. Everyone in this family was damaged by the events of Vera's life. The history of their lives is revealed as Vera , Nina, Raphael and Gili travel to Croatia to revisit the places that meant so much to Vera. The theme of betrayal is important as all members of this family had their lives influenced by Vera's actions. This is a very interesting story and revealed history that I had not known about.

97torontoc
nov 11, 2021, 7:51 pm

80. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi The author tells the story of a young girl-Gifty- who lives with her mother in a small town in Alabama. The family was originally from Ghana but Gifty's father didn't stay in the US for doing. He went back to Ghana and remarried. Nana -Gifty's brother was a star athlete who died from an overdose of heroin. Gifty was left to deal with her mother who really never got over the death of her son. Gifty was smart and eventually went to graduate school and during this novel's narrative was involved in her PHD research. A major theme in the narrative is this family's relationship with the church and belief. Gifty became very introspective and avoided friends because of her family. She mourned the loss of her brother and also worried about her mother who did drift into a form of mental illness.The pull of the church and Gifty's rejection of easy solutions to her family's situation provide the uneasy focus of this story. It is a novel that is beautifully written.

98torontoc
Redigeret: nov 19, 2021, 12:15 pm

81. Putting It Together How Stephen Sondheim and I created Sunday in The Park With George by James Lapine I love this musical. I have seen it twice- once at the Shaw Festival and once on PBS. This memoir by Jame Lapine documents the history of this work that he co-authored with Stephen Sondheim. Lapine interviewed many of the actors and the production team about the beginnings of this musical from the workshop at the Playwright"s Horizons to the Broadway run. This book really shows the process of creating from the point of view of the composer( Sondheim) and the playwright/director( Lapine). The actor's reactions to working with material that was being written as they worked was also interesting. This book is revealing and funny as well. The last part of the book has the script of the musical. A really good read for theatre buffs.

99torontoc
nov 26, 2021, 8:35 pm

I just heard that Stephen Sondheim died- his musicals were so interesting with wonderful music and lyrics.

82.Ashes Out of Hope Fiction by Soviet Jewish Writers edited by Irving Howe and Eliezer Greenberg This book has been in my TBR tower for a while. The best part is the introduction and history by the editors. The writers were all killed by Stalin at various times during the 1940's and 50's. The stories range from grim depictions of the small villages or shtetls of Eastern European Jews to the changing lives of those who lived during the new world of Soviet life.

100torontoc
nov 28, 2021, 8:40 am

83. The Break by Katherena Vermette The author is one of the many Indigenous writers who have been published in the past few years. This novel has won many awards and I think that this one is expertly written. Vermette follows the stories of women who are related to each other as they confront a terrible crime that has injured a young girl. There is only one chapter written from the point of a man-the young Metis police officer who is investigating the attack on Emily. Each chapter shows how the many women react to this event and to their lives at that moment. This is a compelling novel

101torontoc
nov 30, 2021, 5:05 pm

84. Silverview by John Le Carre This is the last book written by the master of spy stories. And this novel is superb. Little by little, the reader learns about the spying lives of Edward Avon and his wife Deborah. A new book seller, Julian Lawndsley, befriends Edward as he adjusts to the life in a small English seaside town. The reader also follows the investigation of an unknown agent by Stewart Proctor, an employee of the " Service". Soon the two stories come together. This novel is a really good read and reminds me of great a story teller Le Carre was

102Eyejaybee
dec 1, 2021, 3:59 am

>101 torontoc:. I enjoyed Silverview too. I had been a little hesitant about reading it, worried that it might have been an opportunistic/cynical attempt by the publisher to capitalise on le Carre's name, but was very pleasantly surprised. i know that the manuscript was finished by le Carre's son, who writes as Nick Harkaway, but it was put together seamlessly, and i couldn't tell which bits were by whom.

103torontoc
dec 11, 2021, 8:14 pm

85. The House of Fragile Things: Jewish Art Collectors and the Fall of France by James McAuley. This is such an interesting history. The author focuses on a few French Jewish families and their history. McAuley shows how the the families believed that they were truly French. Their collections and houses were meant to show an allegiance to French values in the 19th and early twentieth centuries. However, the French establishment of writers and critics always considered the families as " foreign" no matter what they did. The houses described by the author as part of this history were all donated to the French nation as museums-Musee Camondo and Villa Kerylos. Many members of these families were sent to Auschwitz and were murdered there. The author also talks about the role of women and how some of them rebelled against the life that they're expected to lead as part of a dynastic joining of two family fortunes. The families discussed were the Camondos, the Reinachs and the Rothschilds. I liked the approach of the author on this subject.

104torontoc
dec 18, 2021, 11:43 am

86. These Precious Days: Essays by Ann Patchett. I can't praise this book of essays enough. Each one is a intimate account about Patchett's life , her friends and family. They are deeply personal but also instructive about the author's development as a writer and her influences. I really like Patchett's novels and this series of essays gave me insight into her way of working. Read this book!

105torontoc
dec 22, 2021, 11:05 am

87. Mrs. Osmond by John Banville The author has taken up the cause of the plight of Isabel Archer, the heroine of Henry James novel The Portrait of a Lady. I didn't read that book but did see the superb film that was made with Nicole Kidman as Isabel. Banville imagines what happened to Isabel after she goes back to her terrible husband. This novel takes up Isabel's story a few years later. She had gone to England for the funeral of a dear cousin. As she makes plans to travel back to Rome, she takes a number of actions that show how she takes charge of her life in a positive way. Banville writes in the style of James. There is some retribution on the people who have ruined Isabel's life and the reader has hope for her future. This was a good read.

106torontoc
dec 25, 2021, 3:49 pm

88. Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci. The author really concentrates on his love of food. There are many recipes in the book as the reader learns about Stanley Tucci's life and his discovery of new recipes as well as those learned from his family. We really don't hear a lot about his acting career-that takes second place to food and recipes. One famous recipe was front and centre in his film "Big Night". I watched the making of " timpano" in the film and this book gives the reader the full description of how it is made. I hadn't realized that timpano is only the first course that is followed by a main course of meat. Tucci is very direct about what not to do.( never cut spaghetti-who knew?) I enjoyed the book and have to look for his earlier books.

107Eyejaybee
dec 26, 2021, 2:43 am

>107 Eyejaybee: Stanley Tucci has been reading an abridged version of this on one of the BBC radio channels here in the UK. I heard one instalment by chance and was fascinated by it. I was interested to read your review, which confirms my opinion. It is not a book that I would have considered picking up in the ordinary course of things, but I will definitely be looking out for it now.

108torontoc
dec 26, 2021, 10:01 am

>107 Eyejaybee: I love the recipe for tomato sauce-with the vat of hot water over a fire and the use of the pillow case!

109torontoc
dec 31, 2021, 5:03 pm

89. The Babylon Idol by Scott Mariani well, I finished off the year with an adventure book that has too much violence. I was given the book by the husband of a good friend of mine. So I read it. I think that I caught a couple of factual errors. It was like watching one of those bad action films that you can stumble on when using cable TV. The year ends and I have two good books half finished now.
On to a better 2022