“Our Lady of the Nile” by Scholastique Mukasonga

Our Lady of the Nile(Author: Scholastique Mukasonga) + (Year: 2012) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Rwanda)


Review:

*** 3.5 stars ***

This book is just what I needed to remind me why I decided to follow the reading around the world challenge. It’s such a good profile of the situation in Rwanda for the time period and even much after (as the book is set before the 1994 Tutsi genocide), that I couldn’t help but feel carried away into the world of the book.

Our Lady of the Nile delves deeply into the psychology of the regular Rwandans, depicting their beliefs, the struggles in society, the aftermath of the Belgian colonial era, the political issues and their effect on the “small” people.

I really enjoyed the simplicity of the narrative, the rather uneducated girls who still believe in witch doctors, or so-called poisoners, and who are trying to keep their own culture, all the while feeling like they need to also be different, more white, more Belgian. The book shows the discrepancy between the “own” and the “other”, between what people want and what they think they should want.

Ever since seeing Hotel Rwanda, I have been having a hard time coping with the senseless violence and this conflict between Hutu and Tutsi, which was completely fabricated and artificial, and was created by the Belgians in order to divide and conquer. I have a really hard time grasping the idea that people would be as easily manipulated as to actually believe in this “racial” separation and even shed blood over it. And yet, they obviously are. So I keep reading information about it, trying to make myself understand. While Our Lady of the Nile didn’t solve it for me, it definitely showed a different side of the problem, as lived in a school for girls.

I really enjoyed the setting of the book, the intricate descriptions of the Rwandan society, their beliefs, the feelings of the young girls, even the taste of the Rwandan food. It was a breath of air from far, far away.

What I didn’t like as much was the actual method of narration that the author used. Rather than the reader being a participant in the events, they were just stories that someone tells. This made the book a bit repetitive, because it just followed the flow of: This is (name), she meets (name), and she starts telling her a story. It could work in a different type of a book, but in this case, it just seemed very distracting, because it took away from the flow of the book.

Even despite that, I think Our Lady of the Nile was a pretty nice book.

“Saga, Vol. 6” by Brian K. Vaughan

Saga, Vol. 6(Author: Brian K. Vaughan) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I spent a really long time waiting for this. I started reading the issues from the volume months ago, but only ever read all of it just now, and something was missing from the experience.

Whether it was the long period of waiting, or the quality of the volume itself, I wasn’t as satisfied as I usually am when I am reading Saga.

The stories have started feeling somewhat flimsier and less corporeal. The characters don’t seem to evolve much, and despite the big time jumps, nothing much is actually happening. For example, what I noticed in this volume is that when the story kind of froze for Hazel, everyone else also didn’t manage to do anything much. By the story “freezing” what I mean is that they had a rather uneventful period of time, or say, a period which was not necessarily important to the main plot. So as Hazel’s story didn’t evolve into any plot-changing events, neither did anyone else’s. It seems like they were all just waiting for the volume to pick up so that they can continue living. It’s something that happens in all series, of course, but for all intents and purposes, it somehow affected Saga badly for me.

I have one more volume to catch up with, so I hope things will balance themselves once again.

“Geekerella” by Ashley Poston

Geekerella(Author: Ashley Poston) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Geekerella is a pretty cute retelling of the classical fairytale. I was immediately drawn to it because I’m a sucker for this type of books. I can say that although I have enjoyed similar novels more, I still liked Geekerella.

Since we are all familiar with Cinderella, I will not get into the story behind Geekerella, except that it’s obviously a modern-day version of the story, pumpkin truck and all.

I couldn’t help but draw a parallel between this and A Cinderella Story, one of my favourite movies during my pre- and early teens. Both movies approach the story in a modern way, but they don’t have much more than that in common. So in this sense, Geekerella succeeded in adding originality to the famous narrative.

I also liked the way the author built the main characters. They were well-written and thought-through. My favourite character, however, was one that might have gone under the radar. The dog. He was amazing. No… he was… a good boy!

tumblr_n4tl1ozebu1qhv4h7o1_400

The characters that I didn’t like were also the ones that were not very well written, in all honesty. Like Elle’s mother or Darien’s father. They were pretty important to the plot. Just as Chloe was. And yet, all “bad” people in the book seemed a bit shallow and there were no real reasons for their actions. This was probably the main drawback in Geekerella. Once the story was adapted to modern days, it needed a valid reason to be the way it is. In the fairtytale, a character like the evil step-mother makes sense, but that’s not exactly so if the setting is contemporary. It needs a lot more explaining in order to seem as plausible as the feelings of Elle which were the result of her step-mom’s actions.

As for the fandom story. Well… I do believe in the power of the fandom, and I have been and still am in some fandoms myself. Yet, it seems a bit hard for me to actually imagine passion as strong as Elle and Darien’s. To know everything about a show in such extent, as well as to be completely submerged in the world of the fandom, seems a bit excessive and while I’m not judging or mocking anyone, I do admit that I simply have a hard time understanding it.

“Nailbiter, Vol. 1: There Will Be Blood” by Joshua Williamson

Nailbiter, Vol. 1: There Will Be Blood(Author: Joshua Williamson) + (Year: 2014) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I’m not giving this volume a higher rating, simply because it was a very vague beginning of the series. Other than that, the idea is a pretty original one and I am definitely interested to see what happens in the next volumes.

The story of Nailbiter takes place in a small town with a really big number of serial killers. Now that a new serial killer has appeared, the detectives both have to stop the serial killer, and figure out why there are so many of them in such a small town.

The entire volume was a very long setting for the story to come, so it was rather uneventful, considering the length. Of course, there were things happening, but it was obvious that we are seeing the creation of a larger story. I would have preferred it if more was revealed, because that would have made the first volume substantial and would have given it its own story and main event.

The main characters were not that much to my liking. None of the ones that appeared often were very charismatic or interesting, but I guess they worked out fine as a team.

The art was interesting – not spectacularly beautiful, but not ugly either. I rather liked it, so that’s a good thing.

My hopes for the next volume are that they are actually going to reveal one of the main story lines and set up a worthy villain, because it’s obvious that the serial killers are pawns in a bigger scheme.

“Dead Male Birds” by Inci Aral

Ölü Erkek Kuşlar(Author: Inci Aral) + (Year: 1996) + (Goodreads)

(Around the world: Turkey)


Review:

Turkish literature strikes again.

I’m not sure how to weigh this book’s positives and negatives.

Turkish literature and modern Balkan literature are quite unusual in comparison to American and British literature even when the same genre (i.e. adult fiction) is concerned. The Western world puts a lot more focus on the plot, the twists and the turns in the story, of trauma, especially hidden one.

However, all the modern Turkish literature I have read is entirely centered on the characters. This book is not an exception. I will write specifically about Dead Male Birds, but everything that I say can easily be applied to every other book that I have had access to, that is set in Turkey in the last 20-30 years.

Dead Male Birds is a book about a woman who is torn between two men. The narrative is non-linear and, at times, very confusing. The main character, Suna, is having a conversation with her husband Ayhan, and she is suddenly elsewhere, in a different time and place, with her lover Onur. Then jump back – Suna is having a weird dream. Jump forward – we are in a movie theater and something completely different is happening. Then we are back to Ayhan, then months forward to Onur…

The writing is not without merit. The author is well-versed into describing emotions and emotional states. What is lacking is the reasoning behind the emotions. Suna is completely undecided on what she wants from her life, and more importantly, who she wants. Time and again she pushes both men our of her life, then draws them back in. We are privy into her desperation and sadness, but we never really find out why she is doing any of this.

The entire plot doesn’t really move much, to begin with. The story is very drawn-out, unnecessary long, and often repetitive.

The characters are developed to different levels. Emotionally, Suna is a very rich character. However, Ayhan is only represented by his actions toward Suna, and nothing more. Onur, the lover, is described up to the point where his relationship with Suna starts. After that he becomes this blank person who just pushes Suna’s inner drama.

I think the reason for this is that Dead Male Birds is a rather feminist book, or an attempt at one. It deals with the woman’s role in society, how her life is planned out, how she is not much more than a piece of furniture in the house. And while this book was written 20 years ago, I don’t think that much has changed for women in Turkey. They are still first and foremost wives and mothers, and then maybe, maybe, if they fight hard for it, they might try to be something else. That, however, carries yet another stigma – the one of the women who want to step out of the regulations.

One of my favourite parts of the book is the role-reversal between Suna and Ayhan. Ayhan, a scholar who has lived abroad, grows tired of his wife’s passivity, the fact that she is not as well educated as he is and also the fact that she doesn’t have friends of her own, doesn’t have a job, doesn’t have interests. At that point, he sees that she has been indoctrinated into being this person, and he doesn’t like it. So he makes a contract according to which Suna has to start standing on her own feet, to read and learn, to find friends and a job. Once that happens, she realizes that she can be much more than his wife, while he realizes that he doesn’t really want her to be that well educated after all.

For me, this is a real issue in countries like Turkey. From firsthand experiences from friends and, mostly, acquaintances, Turkish men often mistreat their wives and girlfriends because they see them as dull and boring, and they go to look for adventures outside of home. (Once at a social gathering I heard the following: “Give me a second to tell my girlfriend that I am in bed, so that she can go to sleep.” “But you are at a party.” “She doesn’t have to know that.” “But that’s not right.” “Come on, she is so annoying, she’ll ask me who’s here and so on, and she obviously can’t come, this is not a place for her.” And later that guy found another girl to keep him entertained.) But once those same “dull and boring” girls try to liberate themselves, they become undesirable, too loose, too frivolous in the eyes of society.

The author tries to make her own comment on this fact, but then forgets to build a story around it, so the book turns into an really long narrative of the suffering of three broken, damaged and selfish people.