my tragic right hip

Busting out bad joints all over the place

March 21st, 2010

#15 – The Wig My Father Wore

I had wanted to finish either The Wig My Father Wore or The Third Policeman by St. Patrick’s Day as my monthly “themed” reading. Oddly, both books are truly absurd, which is why I only finished one of them. I’m not sure if absurdist fiction is necessarily for me — in a way, I don’t like to be confused or feel like a story is convoluted just for the sake of making a point. Sure, I read Beckett in university and enjoyed it at the time but these days I just don’t have the concentration it requires to read something that deems the absurd a necessary plot point. Hence my abandonment of The Third Policeman.

And while Anne Enright’s The Wig My Father Wore dips its toes into the same kind of storytelling, there’s at least somewhat of a plot to keep you motivated. Grace, the novel’s protagonist, opens her door one evening after work (she’s a producer for a Dating Game-style show in Ireland) to discover an angel on her stoop. Stephen lives with her for a time. They have cryptic conversations and an even stranger love affair all the while he’s changing her body — literally.

There are parts to Enright’s writing that are almost unbearably beautiful. Grace finds herself in a difficult time in her life — her job’s in peril and her father’s dying — and it seems the angel has come along at just the right time. He helps her to come to terms with her life, but he also comes with a bit of havoc (imagine your body disappearing before your eyes, imagine!), and as Grace looks back at her childhood, at her father’s strange, inappropriate wig, the story makes sense.

But often, aspects of this book just don’t come together in the same way, and its far too convoluted for my tastes. Imagine a chicklit scenario (young woman trying to find herself working for a dating television show), with a bit of Legion (except he’s not a wicked angel, but someone in between trying to earn his wings), and BBC Drama (the dying father) thrown in — the book simply doesn’t make sense.

It’s a shame because I adored, adored The Gathering. I felt like all of Enright’s formidable talents, her sharp perception, her angst with family life, was put to good use. In The Wig My Father Wore any good will I had about the former book is lost the moment I reread sections where Stephen the angel attempts to become a contestant on her dating game show. I mean, really? That said, I marked more than one passage as I was reading, especially the more domestic sections with her mother.

But in this one sentence, squeezed my heart as well: “I woke up grateful and sick with grief, as if I could not carry my heart anymore; it had burst and spread, like an old yolk.”

Keep those sentences and toss back the rest.

WHAT’S UPCOMING: Still going to trudge to the end of The Third Policeman, if only because it’s on the 1001 Books list and I hate not finishing books. There’s always something good in them, even if it’s just one sentence that sticks with me. Then I’m going to read for work, and maybe finish the third Stieg Larsson galley that a friend sent over. It’s awesome. I think the charges he’s anti-feminist are bollocks, BTW.

Whew, that’s enough rambling for today.

READING CHALLENGES: Enright’s Irish, so that’s one for Around the World in 52 Books.

February 17th, 2010

#11 – The Girl Who Played With Fire

So, being in the book business and all means that sometimes it’s a good idea to read something everyone else reads. That can be an incredibly painful experience (see: Twilight and The Da Vinci Code), but sometimes the masses, they surprise you. Sometimes, the masses just get it right (see: The Book of Negroes) — which is exactly the case with The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stiegg Larsson.

I could not put this book down, I kid you not. It’s a traditional “good whack on the head” Swedish mystery starring a politically charged magazine editor, Mikael Blomkvist, a brilliant but psychologically damaged computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander, and the cops — each racing to solve the same case. The murders in question, a couple, one a journalist and the other a PhD student, and a lawyer, happened relatively at the same time and all evidence points to Salander, wait, let me rephrase, all circumstantial evidence points to her, which is the point that Blomkvist and Lisbeth race towards, proving her innocence. Of course, they come up against many obstacles along the way, and it all makes for very good reading.

Larsson’s internationally bestselling books have surrounded me while on the subway. And I resisted. I tried as hard as I could to ignore all the good things people were saying. All the recommendations, and it’s not as if this review is free of criticism. There are elements to Larsson’s writing that betray his journalistic roots — he uses way, way too much extraneous detail and often digresses to make points, get out a history or fill in details that are simply unnecessary. I think, had he written the whole 10 books as he planned before his untimely death, a lot of this would have cleared itself up. You learn from doing — novels don’t need to be 500 pages long unless they’re Russian, right?

But I like the characters so much, Salander’s damaged but brilliant, which is always a good combination in a mystery novel. Blomkvist’s principled and determined, and he reminds me of Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander, a character I enjoy so very much because he’s simply who he is, if that makes any sense. He’s just well written, and that’s the way I feel about Blomkvist too. Also, there are twists I didn’t expect, and that does not happen often. On the whole, it’s no wonder that so many other crime novelists are feeling a bit of a pinch — the entire world seems to be reading these books, and I don’t blame them.

Oh, and I’m pretty excited that I can use this as perhaps the one and only Around the World in 52 Books entry for 2010, as Larsson’s Swedish and that totally counts. So much for not having reading challenges this year.

WHAT’S NEXT: I’m going to finish Invisible Man for Black History Month, try to squeeze in a little Zora Neale Hurston, although I’m not sure what to read of hers since I’ve already read There Eyes Were Watching God and my experience of that book (when I read it) was so perfect that I don’t want to ruin it with a reread.

December 9th, 2009

#67 – Little Black Book of Stories

Have you ever noticed I generally start all of my reviews with some long, rambling introduction? Today will be no different.

I’m reading about 4 different books right now (What Should I Do With My Life, The Law of Dreams, Slowing Down to the Speed of Life; can you sense a theme there?), including the only one I’ve finished so far, A.S. Byatt’s engaging short story collection, Little Black Book of Stories. Monday was spent in transit (doctor’s app’t, to and fro from work), which ensured I had a few spare moments to read (and by spare I mean an entire hour in the middle of the day waiting for the damn doctor).

We were at a birthday party this summer when the sister of a friend of mine was telling me the book that she had most enjoyed reading so far in 2009 was A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book. As I don’t have a copy that book in my possession, when I found this book just sitting on my shelf, I thought, “yes, that’s it for this week.” Because if you can’t have THE book why not at least try A book by one of the year’s most celebrated writers?

Comprised of five lengthy short stories, Byatt’s expansive imagination coupled with her never-ending quest to aptly describe human saddness (or longing, that might even be a better word), the book reminded me a little of Too Much Happiness. Every single character in the stories has been marred emotionally by their lives — happiness isn’t expected and nor is it gained. Life is rough, untidy, difficult and downright miserable in places. But because Byatt’s an exceptional writer, the undercurrents running through each story, the little bits of lives that exude joy, are there as well. She also has some lovely fantastical elements in each — the stories themselves tend a little toward fairy tales for adults.

My favourite of the five would have to be “Body Art”: an aging doctor released from an unhappy marriage but not his religious convictions finds himself entangled with a young (apparently almost-homeless) artist charged with “brightening” up the ward. Universal questions like how and why is art important to a life are, of course, raised, but the unlikely relationship between the two resonates even more. The central tale, “A Stone Woman,” has lovely fantastic elements, and “The Pink Ribbon” too — even if that story is achingly sad (it too reminded me of Munro, specifically, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”).

On the whole, this collection was far more satisfying to read than Nocturnes. Because, holy cow, what a snoozer of a book that was.

READING CHALLENGES: Cleaning Out My Closet — a book from the dark corners of my bookshelf, for once. And because this book just feels so British (along with A.S. Byatt being born in England), I’m tagging it for Around the World in 52 Books too. My only reading challenge for next year? To keep up with all of my other reading challenges. Or maybe even finish one or two.

November 20th, 2009

#63 – Nocturnes

Even before finishing the first story in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall, I had a sinking feeling that I shouldn’t have started another book of short stories so soon after finishing Too Much Happiness. Overall, Nocturnes reads and feels like a bridge — not a structure that connects two pieces of land, but that instrumental section in a song that marks a transition. The entire book feels like something Ishiguro has written in between major works. I missed the exacting, perfectly balanced narrative from Never Let Me Go, and had a hard time believing the characters in many of these stories. In places, the dialogue seemed forced, pitched in because it needed to be there and not because organic and/or interesting things were happening within the scene. And two of the middle stories were so, I don’t know, cliched and almost forced, that I almost didn’t finish the book. The last story, as I detail below, was a saving grace.

Sometimes, stories about music and the people who play and/or create it, never capture the true essence of the experience. You always feel as though it’s not real — the bands are made up, the musicians are made up, even when the author uses actual music to ground the story in some form of reality. In a sense, a lot of these stories read like those “ripped from the headlines” episodes of Law and Order where they take a real scene, Puff Daddy and J-Lo involved in a shoot out at a club, use no-name actors and tack on a murder to take the whole drama up a notch. Overall, this collection felt a bit like that, not utterly authentic, and I was disappointed because I firmly believe Ishiguro to be one of the world’s best living writers.

The first story, “Crooner,” follows a young guitar player who has emigrated from an Eastern block country to Italy where he’s making a living. He meets a very famous singer, a kind of “great one” who came up in the days when crooning lead to fortunes being made in Vegas at a time when the original Ocean’s Eleven was released into theatres. The aging crooner hires the young guitarist to accompany him as he serenades his wife. The performance, for many reasons is bittersweet, but the contract between the young and the old, their very different lives, what the crooner meant to the young man (who grew up with his mother listening to all of his albums), is poignant. Things are never as they seem, lives are never what they appear, and music doesn’t always have the meaning it suggests.

The other three, and especially “Come Rain or Come Shine,” are somewhat forgettable. There’s a ridiculous element to that particular story (“Come Rain or Come Shine”) that I didn’t find believable, and despite liking the main character, a fellow who teaches English in Spain (who’s kind of trapped in this transitory life), not a single secondary moved beyond a level of caricature. The tenuous connection to music wasn’t enough to keep me interested in the mess the this fellow finds himself in as he visits two, married, university friends. Yet, even when I don’t find the situation or the characters particularly engaging, I can still respect Ishiguro’s talent — a bad Ishiguro story is still better than most. There just didn’t seem to be enough emotional consequence in any of the stories to keep me interested throughout the read.

The other story worth mentioning, the very last piece in the book, “Cellists,” that was, by far, my favourite of the five. A young cellist starting me make his way in the world finds himself a teacher in an American tourist. They develop a deep and lasting teacher/student relationship over the course of a summer. She’s running away from a relationship she can’t quite decide if she wants to be in or not, and he’s trying desperately to live up to both his talent and his potential. They each take something different from one another: she believes she’s a genius, like him, and he believes his work is getting better simply through the power of her words, her explanations of what’s wrong with his playing.

The narrator of this story, a bandmate and friend of the cellist, tells the story with a detached sense of wonder, in a way — he sees the cellist years later, better dressed, nicely groomed, and is reminded of the strange summer they spent together. The last paragraph of the story might just be the best of the entire book — it’s pitch perfect in its assessment of both what happened to the cellist and how potential, or any kind of gift really, can easily slip away. It was utterly, heartbreakingly, authentic.

READING CHALLENGES: Ishiguro was born in Japan (even though he’s lived in the UK since he was 5 or something), so I’m counting it as Around the World in 52 Books, which might just bring me to, oh, five books read for that challenge this year. Pathetic!

May 14th, 2009

#31 – Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

When I first started to work at Random House, I spent a lot of time getting to know the lists. It’s not something that happens organically until you’ve worked at a publishing house for a while, and so I spent a lot of time combing through blogs getting to know the books. One of the first authors that I discovered was Alexander McCall Smith, and I started to read the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, quite simply because Sarah W had said so many nice things about the series that my curiosity was piqued. But the books are so short and easy to read, which meant that I devoured about six of them before feeling like I’d eaten too much candy: a little upset in the stomach but still somewhat high on the sugar.

Then, the TV show came along and I was worried, at first, that they wouldn’t be able to capture the spirit and essence of the books. They did. Completely. Which meant that this weekend as the show came to a close, I was left without my weekly dose of Mma Romotswe. Well, that just won’t do, so I picked up McCall Smith’s latest book, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built. And it’s just as sweet as the six or so other books I’ve read. The central mystery revolves around Mma Ramotswe discovering the reasons why a local football (read: soccer) club keeps losing matches, fixing up Mma Makutst’s love life (oh Phuti!), and figuring out what strange noises the little white van is making and why. The themes that are present in each of the other novels are present: a strong moral sense, defining people by how they are treated and treat one another instead of their social and/or monetary status, simple solutions to complex problems. What’s also present is Mma Ramotswe’s particular talent of coming to conclusions that are both full of common sense and sassy smartness that you wish you had a No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency to figure out your life.

If I have one (slight) criticism, it’s that all of the books are essentially the same: local mystery, personal problem (either Mmas) that needs sorting, and larger life lesson. Yet, this is the very sameness I craved this week while feeling terribly unwell. Familiar characters, familiar situations. The experience of reading these books is akin to watching every episode of ER or Law & Order. And I know a lot of the repitition is for the people picking up the series halfway through…so really, it’s not a true critique of the novels themselves.

The book was delightful, I mean, of course it was — it was just what I needed this week and my only complaint was that I read it too fast. Yesterday as I was waiting for the very late TTC, I finished this book, read the P.S. section of Bonjour Tristesse, and bemoaned the fact that all of my electronic reading gadgets had run out of juice. There’s nothing worse than being a reader caught with no words to feast her eyes upon.

READING CHALLENGES: AMS was born in Zimbabwe. And he’s actually the first African novelist I’ve read in ages for my Around the World in 52 Books challenge.

NOT WORTHY OF A FULL POST NOTE: I also read #32 this week — Pillow Talk by UK chicklit author Freya North. The story was sweet, and I’m not going to lie, there were places where I actually teared up, even if I did get a little embarrassed by a couple throbbing members along the way.

WHAT’S UP NEXT: Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge.

#30 – Bonjour Tristesse

Francoise Sagan published Bonjour Tristesse when she was just eighteen years old. Precocious, intelligent and hideously spoiled, the novel’s heroine, Cecile, leaves Paris to spend the summer on the coast of the Mediterranean with her father and his mistress, Elsa. As Cecile describes, “The first few days were dazzling.” Romance floats by on a boat carrying a young man named Cyril, and the two begin a love affair. Her days are carefree until her father, a bit of a playboy who has never settled down, invites a friend, Anne, to come and stay with them as well. 

Anne and Elsa are as different as two women can be, and what starts off innocently soon morphs into a love triangle that Cecile manipulates from her position as daughter, lover and friend. Spoiled and used to getting her own way, Cecile isn’t happy with a very specific turn of events so she does everything within her adolescent power to impose her will upon the adults. Her childish actions have very grown up consequences, and not a single person on that dazzling vacation walks away unscathed. 

The novel is short, succinct, and the narrative style reminded me a little of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Cecile’s own short fallings are endearing, and the entire book makes you long for those days when you were foolish enough to act upon your feelings every single moment of every single day. The P.S. section in my copy contained an interview with the author as well as a truly captivating essay about driving — just perfect for the start of summer when all I can think about is taking a road trip and spending hours in the car just driving, not really caring if I get anywhere in particular. 

READING CHALLENGES: Sagan was born in France, so that takes care of that country for Around the World in 52 Books. Reading her novel made me long for Paris, because it was just about a year ago that I was there with Sam. Also, Bonjour Tristesse is on the 1001 Books list, so that’s two challenges with one short page count (130!).

#29 – Brooklyn

Weeks have passed since I finished reading Colm Toibin’s ridiculously fabulous new novel, Brooklyn. When the book arrived in the mail, I let it sit on my desk for a couple of days because I knew it was one of those books that once I started reading, I wouldn’t be able to put it down. Both of Toibin’s previous books were equally excellent but Brooklyn is hands down my favourite. In fact, I’m going to say that it’s probably the best book I’ve read so far this year. 

Eilis has spent her entire life in the village of Enniscorthy where she spends her days taking bookkeeping classes and her nights being ignored by local boys at local dances. She lives in the shadow of her successful, poised, well-dressed older sister Rose, who has built an existence for herself in the small town with a good job and a passion for golf. When a priest from Brooklyn comes to visit and offers Eilis the chance at a new life — a job, a place to stay, a world away from Enniscorthy — and she takes it. After all, both of her brothers have left to make their fortunes in England, and Rose does nothing but encourage her to take the chance. 

In Brooklyn, Eilis finds herself, she works hard as a shop girl during the day, and continues to learn bookkeeping at night. Simple goals, but all within reach. And her life truly opens up when she meets Tony. Her homesickness has passed, and despite the moral strictness of 1950s America (not to mention Ireland), Eilis actually feels happy until tragedy brings her home. Everything is different now. Eilis is different, changed, more confident, schooled, and experienced, which leads her to a crossroads. Does she stay in Enniscorthy or does she return to Brooklyn, to Tony?

The story reads overtly simplistic when you think about it — a coming of age tale, an immigrant’s experience — but Toibin’s skill at telling it remains unwavering throughout. His language, his ability to cast the characters, to explore their emotional situation without ever having them openly express an emotion stunned me. What more can you ask of a book than it be a well told story with well developed characters who make a choice that ultimately defines their life in the end? How many young girls emigrated, found themselves away from home, unhappy, and then surprisingly ensconced in a new life that widens their world? 

Eilis doesn’t always make the right decisions. Her human flaws are always apparent. Yet, her story has you engaged from the very moment the novel opens with the simple action of her watching Rose come home from work. If anyone out there has read and hasn’t fallen completely in love with this novel as I have, I will swear right now that we can never be friends. 

READING CHALLENGES: I’m counting Toibin as my Irish entry for Around the World in 52 Books. It’s also #1 so far in terms of the 30-odd books I’ve read so far this year…

May 8th, 2009

#28 – Under the Skin

The closest book I can compare Michel Faber’s truly creepy, utterly addictive novel Under the Skin to would be Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. I’ve been classifying it as speculative fiction, a book that takes place in a world that looks very much like our own, but slowly reveals itself to be very, very different. Isserley spends her days hunched behind the wheel of a slowly-breaking down vehicle trolling for hitchhikers along the A9 highway in Scotland. Her world is skewed, not only from the giant glasses she wears, but also because of her strange occupation. Little spears in the seat of the car sedate the hitchers once she’s determined whether or not they’ll be missed, and their bodies transported back to a farm where others of her race wait to process the “vodsels.”

Slowly over the course of the narrative you learn that Isserley, although she refers to herself as a human being, is quite different from the rest of us who define ourselves by that term. Her body mutilated so she can appear as close to normal in the “vodsel” world atop the earth, she’s in constant pain and her job takes its toll. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because Faber’s ability to unwind the story over the course of the novel remains its strength. The further along you get, the further you realize how troubled Isserley is — both physically and psychologically.

The only other book by Faber that I’ve read is The Crimson Petal and the White, which, to this day, remains one of the most frustrating reads I’ve ever suffered through. The book sprawled all over the place, tumbled along for almost 1,000 pages (or at least it felt that way), and never came to a satisfying conclusion. The exact opposite is true of Under the Skin. The narrative is crisp and almost cinematic, you feel your own legs cramp as Isserley spends yet another day behind the wheel trolling for her victims. You shake your head as they get in the car. You feel even worse after the book finally reveals exactly what happens to them once they decend into the depths of the world underneath the farm.

To say this book wasn’t what I was expecting would be an understatement. And it’s it just wonderful when that happens?

READING CHALLENGES: Under the Skin is on the 1001 Books list, so it’ll count towards that challenge, and Michel Faber was born in The Hague, The Netherlands, so that’s one for Around the World in 52 Books too.

February 20th, 2009

#15 – The House of Spirits

Having never read any Isabel Allende before, and knowing how beloved (and lovable the author is; she came into the office about a year ago and wowed everyone) her novels are worldwide, I had earmarked The House of Spirits as a book I assumed I would devour. Yet, I found my attention drifting almost from the beginning and had to work really hard to finish all 433 pages of the book. The epic story of a South American family (Chilean, I’m assuming) who cope with decades of excess followed by the political turmoil that threatens to completely destroy them, it’s no wonder the novel is included in the 1001 Books list. It absolutely deserves to be, it’s a book full of the wonder and magic that often accompanies Latin-American fiction (dare I say magic realism, dare I? I know, it’s painful to do so, I do hate those generic descriptions) and chock full of the kind of strong, independent female characters that are ever-so lacking in the list as a whole.

But as I’m coming to find in my old age, I like cynical, swift prose. Maybe cynical is the wrong word, maybe detached would be better. Regardless, I can see the irony in my even writing this because (as the fellows in my writer’s group can attest) I write long, complex and fruity sentences. The longer the better. Annywaaay, Allende’s talent for creating gorgeous and alive worlds, from weaving political and social messages into her prose, and for writing love in ways that rival García Márquez cement her place as one of the greats working today. A story of three generations, the novel begins simply, with the arrival of a very special pet (a dog) under very special circumstances. “Barrabás came to us by sea,” writes Clara, the spiritual child who eventually marries and whose children end up leading incredible lives.

The story spreads out then as complex as the family tree that serves as its roots. But Clara remains its heart, even as she ceases to grace the pages in her human state. And just as every heart needs a body, the big house in the city that she called home centres the novel in a particular place (that’s not to say that a good part of the action doesn’t happen in the Trueba’s country home; it does). Clara’s husband, the formidable and furious Esteban, balances out his wife’s more esoteric characteristics and together they live a long (and for the most part happy in a way) life raising their children, and then their grandchild, Alba.

Time winds its way through the pages at first on the edges as the way of life for the family changes little until the country forces change upon them. Communism rises and then falls. Then a dictatorship comes along and destroys what good might be left (as the narrative makes clear), forcing people to flee and the old ways to be lost forever. Through it all, through the rise and the fall of the Truebas, Allende’s passionate writing never feels forced, but to me, I wonder if it’s all necessary. All of those words, those many, many words. However, I’m going to temper my writing about the book by the fact that my head is foggy, my concentration bogged down by medication and a distinct lack of focus. None of this remains the book’s fault. And not once would my sluggish reaction to the book convince me not to pick up another of Allende’s novels.

READING CHALLENGES: Two birds with one stone time: The House of Spirits is on the 1001 Books list and its author Chilean, so I’ll count it towards Around the World in 52 Books too.

January 31st, 2009

#12 – Ignorance

The last Milan Kundera book that I read was The Unbearable Lightness of Being. At the time I was living in Banff, Alberta with about six other women in a townhouse that had no furniture barring a really old, uncomfortable couch. We all slept on the floor in sleeping bags, worked awful jobs, drank too much and climbed many mountains (literally). I loved that book. But more I loved the experience of reading that book in that particular time and that particular place. In a way, it’s like Melanie pointed out in the comments here a few weeks ago, sometimes the books just choose us.

Kundera’s Ignorance takes these themes, or maybe ideas would be a better word, of time and place and how experience is tied explicitly to both, and explores them through two characters returning to their homeland after an extended absence. Irena and Josef run into one another in an airport, both having emigrated from their homeland (Prague) years ago, by chance. They make plans to have lunch the next day to catch up. For both, the return home is bittersweet, political regimes have changed, they’ve both moved on with their lives, had families, spouses, entire existences outside of the people they’ve left behind.

Is this right, if I say, “to coin a phrase”? — “You can never go home again.” The saying feels true for so many reasons. The time and the place will never be just the same again, it’ll always be tempered by our particular experiences, and the philosophical implications of such, and that’s what happens to both Irena and Josef. They feel the need to explain themselves: why they left, why it took them so long to come home, and what their lives turned out to be in their adopted countries. It can’t be an easy thing, coming home after years away when everything is different, older, changed, and you somewhat expect it to be the same. Not because of a conscious realization that change didn’t or couldn’t happen while they were away but more so because it’s impossible to imagine how much could be different.

Lives move so slowly in a way. Age catches up with people. Time turns hair gray and adds infinite bits and pieces to memories. But if you go ten, twenty years without seeing a member of your family or your friends, the awkwardness of the reunion will always remind you of how ignorant you are of the day-to-day occurences in their lives. There’s no judgment in Kundera’s novel about the impact of change for these two characters, in a sense, the narrator’s merely observing the moments where they realize the implication of their emigration. For a girl who’s always thinking of what it might be like to live somewhere different, it was an interesting book to read, a little bittersweet, and more than a little sad, but wholly fascinating.

READING CHALLENGES: One of the books from the 1001 Books list so I’ll cross it off from there. Kundera was born in Brno, Czechslovakia, which is now the Czech Republic, so I’ll add him to the Around the World in 52 Books challenge too. It’s interesting, to read a book that’s about returning to a place that has utterly changed since the collapse of communism. The book honestly made me want to go to Prague and isn’t that just the point of my armchair travelling reading?

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Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

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