Goodbye 2014

It’s Sunday afternoon in my little corner of the world. It is for me traditionally a moment in my week in which I am filled with an overwhelming sense of frustration to the point of tears. For it is the point at which I have to put down whatever fun things I have been playing with on the weekend and begin to get ready for the week ahead. And it always seems to coincide with a moment in which I am filled with the urge to create, and also the realization that the list of incredible things that I was going to get through this weekend are not going to happen. Now wise heads would probably indicate that I should manage my time better, something I fully recognize but as yet have not been able to implement a plan for this to occur. Perhaps 2015 shall be the year in which I figure out how to achieve this.

For the moment I just wanted to use this window into my emotional state as a jumping off point to talk about how this Sunday I am actually feeling pretty chilled even though it is actually the end of not just a weekend but also my Christmas/New Years break. And it is not because I did all the things on my list or anything like that, it’s just…. I am really not sure what it is, it just is.

Some of the reason I am chilled out might be that I have been reflecting on 2014 and what I wanted to say about it. And mostly I have come back with positive things. I did not achieve all of the things that I would have liked to and some things that started out strong, like my youtube channel and my plans for this blog, fell by the wayside throughout the year. However, when I pulled out my New Years Goals/Resolutions for 2014 and made notes on what I achieved there were a lot of green yesses, a lot of orange sort-ofs and not nearly as much red No’s as I had expected (Yes I color coded my responses – it is pretty and helpful and you should try it sometime). And when I wrote down some of the other things I achieved but hadn’t included in my list (Completing Nanowrimo, first fanfic, my accidental side trip to the UK) it made 2014 a pretty incredible year really.

The less tangible things that made 2014 a good year are that with every year I am so much more comfortable in my own skin, not to say I am always happy with every aspect, but I just like feeling at home with who I am, mistakes and all. And I like being able to step more boldly into new experiences, good and bad, because of this.

And I am so grateful for so many things in my life right now. 2014 had a few brand new experiences that can be filed under the crappy/horrid/scary/wtf pile and rather than drag me down they just gave me a new level of appreciation of how lucky I am. I am lucky for the people in my life, those who have been around forever and those who just came into my life, I am lucky for the experiences I gained (travel, culture, emotional, physical) and I am grateful to be me, right here, right now.

So thanks 2014! You were pretty awesome. And to everyone (though most of that everyone will never read this blog) who was in my 2014. Thanks!

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We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo #Diversiverse 2014

Or Brie is (very, very) late to the party yet again.

Awhile ago (read months ago) I posted that I would be participating in Diversiverse 2014 (See bottom of the post for Diversiverse details) by reading We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo.

And I did, read it that is, well before I needed to, but I failed at the last hurdle and haven’t yet written my review. And my excuse for not writing my review is the usual writing reviews make me stressed and when I get stressed I avoid and I procrastinate and then I miss deadlines. Nevertheless what follows shall be my attempt to write a coherent review and completing things, if not on time then at least completing things.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

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Blurb:

We Need New Names tells the story of Darling and her friends Stina, Chipo, Godknows, Sbho and Bastard. They all used to have proper houses, with real rooms and furniture, but now they all live in a shanty called Paradise. They spend their days stealing guavas, playing games and wondering how to get the baby out of young Chipo’s stomach. They dream of escaping to other paradises – America, Dubai, Europe. But if they do escape, will these new lands bring everything they wish for? Man Booker Prize

Review:

The blurb for this book is a little bit of a misdirect (as many blurbs are) as the story really focuses on Darling and for the second half of the novel, once Darling has moved to the US, we really only catch glimpses of her childhood friends. As I became quite attached to all of Darling’s friends I was a little sad that their stories became so fragmentary in the second half of the novel but this is more my preference for the tying up of loose ends rather than something lacking from the actual novel.

There is a distinct shift from the large character cast, and a more coherent detailed story, in the first half We Need New Names to the more fragmentary scenes and the disconnected and isolated Darling in the second half. And this shift in the narrowed narrative focus of Darling’s experience as child and then teenager is placed into a broader context of a displaced migrant experience through the secondary narrative within the novel. I found the secondary narrative frustrating and distracting in the first half of the novel when I just wanted to learn more of Darling and her friends but its occurrence in the second half of the novel helped tie together the whole novel and contribute to the feeling of disconnection and loss which the reader is left with at the end. And though overall I enjoyed the reading experience with We need new names I would not say it was a particularly happy feeling I was left with when I think of where the novel took the characters in the end.

All the details on Diversiverse 2014 (and perhaps a bookmark to add it to your calendar for 2015 or even just your general reading goals for 2015).

“For those who have not heard about #Diversiverse before, it’s a very simple challenge.  For those of you who have participated in the past, it’s even easier this year.  The criteria are as follows:

  • Read and review one book
  • Written by a person of color
  • During the last two weeks of September (September 14th – 27th) “

Diversiverse is the brainchild of Aarti from Booklust .

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent: Buddy Read with Literary Diversions (Chapters 1- 3)

For April Lianne from Literary Diversions (http://literarydiversions.wordpress.com/) and I are Buddy Reading ‘Burial Rites’ by Hannah Kent.

Our Plan is to post our responses to the book in the form of letters on our blogs. This is the first installment focusing on Chapters 1-3.

******* Spolier Warning ********

There aren’t any particularly huge spoilers in this post but I am not trying to avoid them.

 

Dear Lianne,

Hello! I am finally getting started on these buddyread letters for Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Real life does have tendency to get in the way of lots of fun things when it puts its mind to it! And Real Life seems to be swallowing April faster than I can keep pace, and definitely faster than I can keep reading.

I am at the beginning of Chapter Four and, oh, this book is already so beautiful. It is heading into winter in my part of the world and I am at home on the farm for the Easter break, the wind is up and the sky is grey and seems to go on forever. And this endless expanse of sky is the impression of Northern Iceland 1829, the setting of Burial Rites, which I have taken away from description of place in the first few chapters. Thankfully the layers of dirt, the dung fires and the lugging of buckets of water from the mountain stream which are part of daily life at Jøn Jønsson’s family croft are not part of daily life for me. I was at a writing panel recently on research and ideas and one of the authors complained about people always painting people of the past as dirty/having questionable personal hygiene, sorry but from the early descriptions of the characters in Burial Rites I am still definitely icked out by the level of dirt, and also, just quietly, by wearing the clothes another person has died in.

For all the times I had seen Burial Rites mentioned, or glimpsed one of its pretty cover(s), in the last few months I have so far remained mostly unaware of the story line (spoiler free zone successfully maintained) so before I started all I really knew was that the book was about a woman (the last woman?) condemned to death for murder (in the past, in some part of Scandinavia (Details are not my forte)) and sent to serve out the time until her execution in a small farming community. At the beginning of Chapter Four this outer sketch is pretty much all we have found out about the story, Agnes, the condemned murderess, has been transferred from a storeroom where she has been imprisoned for several months to the croft of Jøn Jønsson. The characters of Jøn Jønsson’s family, Jøn, his wife and daughters, of Agnes, of Tóti, the priest assigned as Agnes’s confessor, are slowly being revealed to us. And through Agnes we are slowly glimpsing some of the character of her co-condemned and those murdered, and those glimpses are tantalising. Agnes’s voice is compelling and quickly drew sympathy from me, understandable her attention is drawn in to focus on herself and her fate. She is ‘determined to close (herself) to the world, to tighten (her) heart and hold on to what has not yet been stolen from (her)’(p.29) as those who have condemned her she tells us do not know her. Yes I like to sympathise with the underdog but I am also absorbed by the perspectives of Tóti and Margrét, Jøn’s wife, their individual voices are strong and give us small glimpses of the social, political and religious currents in which the story is set. I was completely creeped out by the character of Blöndal after the scene at the Croft with Jøn and Margrét’s daughters but I will try not to let that completely colour my judgement of him for the rest of the book.

The novel switches between points of view within chapters and at the beginning of each chapter there are letters relating to the events surrounding the crime and fate of Agnes and her co-condemned. It is in one of these letters that we learn that Agnes ‘..was confirmed in 1809, at which age she was written as having ‘an excellent intellect, and strong knowledge and understanding of Christianity’.’(p.33). And in another the rather nausea inducing knowledge that the ‘…broader axe from Copenhagen’ (p.85) ordered for the execution cost a significant deal more than expected. I am really hoping that this book does not break my heart by the time that excellent intellect and that broader axe meet.

Well that is all my rambling for today. How are you enjoying the novel so far? What are your early impressions of the landscape, the characters and the language? I must remember to bookmark my favourite quotes for the next letter as there were some quotes I loved in the first few chapters which I could not find again while I was writing this.

Happy Easter and Happy Reading,

Brie