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Peppermill
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Registered: ‎04-04-2007
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Re: Last Chapters, Entire Novel -- Some overall musings


Peppermill wrote:
And of a bleak book on death and grieving written by a British scholar about the difficulties of attaining closure in parts of Russia after ethnic and political purges that I read during a period when I was wrestling with grieving.
The book I refer to is Night of Stone by Catherine Merridale. It's heavy going, but informative.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Rachel-K
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Re: Last Chapters, Entire Novel -- Some overall musings

Wow, Peppermill,
 
A heady choice! I'd love to hear to say a little more about what you thought of that book, because it sounds relevant to some question I haven't fully articulated for myself about People of the Book. I feel I never quite understood something about the novel's portrayal of the history of the Jews--and we get a pretty grim perspective here. I'm  interested in the way the history we dip into the novel is the history of violent movements against the Jews, but that the work of the book, and the characters of it, are a collage of faiths/traditions. It is also so deeply in contrast to Hannah's own story, which is greatly about her her work, and a life that is dramatic, but certainly not beset by any major political upheaval or violence. It is frightening for her to get off the airplane in a city that is still in the aftermath of violence.
 
Hannah discovers a Jewish identity of her own. I wonder if anyone has any ideas about the significance of this, because I certainly felt the "message" of the book leans heavily on the collective aspect of survival, shared learning, shared cultures, shared cares and concerns. How does this narrative, this novel, relate to Judaism and its history? Is it a coming-to-terms with how awful history is?
 
 
 
 
Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
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Re: Last Chapters, Entire Novel -- Some overall musings


rkubie wrote:....Hannah discovers a Jewish identity of her own. I wonder if anyone has any ideas about the significance of this, because I certainly felt the "message" of the book leans heavily on the collective aspect of survival, shared learning, shared cultures, shared cares and concerns. How does this narrative, this novel, relate to Judaism and its history? Is it a coming-to-terms with how awful history is?
Rachael -- good questions. Frankly, I didn't stop to think how discovering her own Jewish identity related to the overall story -- and still haven't. (I am probably reading too many things simultaneously right now.)

I think Brooks message is one of the importance of diversity. She refers to the blending (her description of a colleague when she arrives at Harvard -- reminds one of a Life magazine article a number of years ago), the interactions (multifarious examples throughout -- of the saving of people as well as the book), the movements between (as the wealthy woman in Venice or probably the priest himself), the preservation of indigenous cultures (as she was doing with Aborigine art in Australia). I don't know that Brooks pushes the subject far enough that I would refer to it as "a coming-to-terms" writing; I see it more as a cautionary tale or a hesitant, but perhaps urgent, plea for a Utopian hope of living together in something approaching peace. (Catherine Merridale's Night of Stone I would call a coming-to-terms tale.)
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
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Re: Last Chapters, Entire Novel -- Some overall musings


rkubie wrote {ed.}: ...A heady choice! I'd love to hear {you} say a little more about what you thought of that book, because it sounds relevant to some question I haven't fully articulated for myself about People of the Book. I feel I never quite understood something about the novel's portrayal of the history of the Jews--and we get a pretty grim perspective here. I'm interested in the way the history we dip into the novel is the history of violent movements against the Jews, but that the work of the book, and the characters of it, are a collage of faiths/traditions. It is also so deeply in contrast to Hannah's own story, which is greatly about her her work, and a life that is dramatic, but certainly not beset by any major political upheaval or violence. It is frightening for her to get off the airplane in a city that is still in the aftermath of violence.
Rachel -- somewhat ironically, I did not read Night of Stone (Catherine Merridale) for its content, but rather as part of the process of coming to terms with my own grieving -- personal loss that occurred very close to 9/11 and somehow got entangled in the grieving that surrounded or at least touched so many of us at that time. It was also a time of considerable exploration of interfaith issues, and I had the privilege of participating in a well constructed series on multiple faiths about that same time.

For me, personally, at the time, the title sort of said it all. But the book became one that helped me place my personal tale in a much, much larger context -- not that such necessarily eased the pain. Over time, Merridale's writing has become one of the puzzle pieces for increased historic understanding-- and I mention others, such as The Last Jew and The Coffee Trader, obviously considerably lighter weight pieces of work, but still with haunting, dramatic stories to tell.

Incidentally, while the subject is bleak (Russians seeking and coming to closure over family losses that occurred during political purges), I did find Merridale's writing reasonably accessible for this type of subject treated in a scholarly manner. The scholar created a distance that made the material bearable; the humanist saved it from being an academic treatise.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Peppermill
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Re: Last Chapters, Entire Novel

If anyone is still around, who did you find to be especially memorable characters in PotB? Why? Are there others that just disappeared quickly from memory?

I think Hanna's teacher is one who will be memorable for me -- that he could care enough about a book to accomplish its entire reproduction and forgery. I wonder who are the real life versions of him and figure I may stumble across a name one day. I also wonder if Geraldine Brooks knows any "real" stories from her journalistic travels and writings.

The members of the rebel gang and their comings and goings are among the characters that left little trace for me, although I had a sense that I may have missed allusions to recent happenings.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
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Re: Last Chapters, Entire Novel

Here is a link to the NYT Review of PotP:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/20/books/review/Fugard-t.html

The link suggests it appeared January 20, 2008. Lisa Fugard is the writer.

"In the intimate first-person narration of the captive artist who creates the book’s original illuminations, a longing for freedom — a theme echoed throughout the Haggadah’s account of the liberation of the Jews — is eloquently evoked. Imagining a walk to the coast, holding an enchanted staff, the artist believes that 'the great sea would part, and I would cross it, and make my way, in slow stages, down all the dusty roads that lead toward home.'"

"...While peering through a microscope at a rime of salt crystals on the manuscript of the Haggadah, Hanna reflects that 'the gold beaters, the stone grinders, the scribes, the binders' are 'the people I feel most comfortable with. Sometimes in the quiet these people speak to me.' Though the reader’s sense of Hanna’s relationship with the Haggadah rarely deepens to such a level, Geraldine Brooks’s certainly has."
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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