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A Pale View of Hills (Vintage International)
A Pale View of Hills (Vintage International)
von Kazuo Ishiguro
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 13,55

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4.0 von 5 Sternen ÄSKS MORE QUESTIONS THAN IT ANSWERS, 22. Mai 2000
A Pale View of Hills is a haunting and lyrical book that ends up asking more questions than it answers. And Kazuo Ishiguro is such a masterful storyteller that we can't help but wonder if this is not exactly as it should be. The story opens in modern day London, where Etsuko, a Japanese born women of middle-age is attempting to come to terms with the suicide of her elder daughter, Keiko. In doing so, she finds herself drawn to the past and a particular summer in Nagasaki when she embarked on a strange friendship with an enigmatic woman named Sachiko and Sachiko's young daughter, Mariko. Ishiguro's movements backwards and forwards in time are often abrupt and the reader can sometimes find himself slightly disoriented, but this still does not detract from the quiet beauty and lyricism of his prose. For Ishiguro is a master of lyrical prose, writing passages of unequalled beauty that authors like Anne Rice can only dream of. This is a most delicate novel, encompassing many themes, and one that ultimately becomes macabre--it may take more than one reading to absorb its full impact. It is definitely a small masterpiece, and the only reason I gave it four stars instead of five is because I believe Ishiguro should have revealed the truth of this extraordinary tale piece by piece, layer by layer, like peeling away the skin of an onion. As it is, the truth hits us in the face like a snowball out of nowhere and many readers may miss it entirely. A pity, for this is a work of extraodinary genius and beauty; one of the most moving books I have read in many years and one whose emotional impact will haunt me for many years to come. And I would not have expected less from a writer as talented as Kazuo Ishiguro.


The Master and Margarita
The Master and Margarita
von Mikhail Bulgakov
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 14,43

5.0 von 5 Sternen ABSOLUTELY ONE OF A KIND, 22. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Master and Margarita (Taschenbuch)
This extraordinary and unique book opens in 1930s Moscow during the darkest period of Stalin's repressive reign. Near Patriarch Ponds, two writers sit on a bench engaged in a discussion regarding the nature of Jesus. True to their times, both writers devoutly discount his existence. As their discourse continues, they are joined by a third man, a well-dressed stranger who claims not only to believe in the existence of the historical Jesus, but to have actually been present at Jesus's trial and crucifixion. Unbeknownst to the two writers, this stranger is none other than Satan, himself, who is now calling himself Woland. The next chapter takes us to Yershalaim (Jerusalem) and Pontius Pilate's interrogation of Yeshua Ha-Nozri (Jesus). Much to Pilate's dismay, Yeshua freely admits to all of the charges brought against him. Pilate, although finding himself captivated by Yeshua and desiring to free him, has no choice but to order his execution instead. Yeshua is sentenced to death and crucified and Pilate grows more and more disturbed. Back in Moscow, things have taken a bizarre turn. When Woland's prediction of the death of the writer Berlioz turns out to be true, another writer, Ivan the Homeless is unceremoniously carted off to an asylum and the esteemed Dr. Stravinsky. As heads roll and people are driven mad, Ivan meets his neighbor in the asylum, one known only as The Master. The Master, also a writer, has been working on a novel centering on Pontius Pilate and the story, not coincidentally, is more than similar to Woland's eyewitness version. Ivan also learns of The Master's love for the beautiful Margarita with whom he shared both an apartment and an affair until the rejection of his novel drove him insane. Margarita, meanwhile, is living in a loveless marriage and spends her days pining away for her lost Master, knowing nothing of his whereabouts. The story then moves back to Yershalaim and Pilate's struggle to come to terms with the death of Yeshua. He is visited by Matthew Levi and subsequently orders the death of Judas of Kiriath (Judas Iscariot) for his betryal of Yeshua. Moving back to Moscow again, we learn the reason for Woland's visit. He wants to give a Grand Ball and is in search of a hostess--a hostess named Margarita. Margarita instantly agrees and the Grand Ball proceeds, apparently lasting for hours and hours with the guests having been chosen from among the most sinful and corrupt of all the deceased. With the dawning of the new day, Woland, who is pleased with Margarita's performance, tells her he will grant her her fondest wish. Of course, that wish is to be reunited with The Master. How this request is accomplished is one of the most extremely inventive passages in all of literature and involves not only Woland, but his wily accomplices (Azazello and Behemoth), Matthew Levi and Pilate, himself. Suffice it to say, all turns out well for all intended and The Master and Margarita eventually come to reside together for all time. In The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov has created, not only a technical masterpiece of flawless writing, but also one of immense creativity, making use of innuendo, iconography, metaphor and satire. This is a multi-layed book, encompassing many themes, drawn with a painstaking commitment to detail. Although, at first glance, the two concurrently running stories seem to bear no relation to each other, a closer examination shows us just how creative Bulgalov was and how great was his genius. As the story of Yeshua and The Master are occurring nearly two thousand years apart, it would seem, on the surface, impossible to link them. Bulgakov, however, forgets this span of years and tells the story by the day and the hour instead. As the Easter weekend unfolds, so do his stories, just as though they were occurring each at the same time but in different locations. Bulgakov did not intend for the story of Yeshua to be of historical significance. Instead, it is used as a device to further the satire of Stalinist Russia. For it is within the social and political issues of Stalinist Russia that the true basis of this work is grounded. Banned until the 1960s (and then embraced) the story of The Master is a veiled belief of Bulgakov's in the importance of his own work. However, one does not need a knowledge of Russia or Russian politics to enjoy this extraordinary book. It is an entertaining read in its own right. If one understands the subtext, it is all the more enjoyable. The Master and Margarita represents one of the greatest literary works of the twentieth century and one that has certainly never been equalled. Anyone who is serious about literature absolutely cannot afford to pass this up.


Chocolat
Chocolat
von Joanne Harris
  Taschenbuch

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1.0 von 5 Sternen IT'S A SHAME, 12. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Chocolat (Taschenbuch)
It's a shame when a bad book like this earns undeserved praise and attention and other, better-written books are virtually ignored. The basic idea of Chocolat (good versus evil) is always interesting, even if a bit overdone, but Harris's execution of that idea leaves more than a little to be desired. Vianne Rocher, a mysterious new arrival in the small southwestern French village of Lansquenet, is far to vague to be "good," and Father Reynaud, the village priest, and the author's representation of evil, is really only a tormented soul, one to pity rather than hate. The battle between Vianne and Reynaud is completely lacking in tension and momentum and the story soon becomes nothing more than an extensive exercise in extreme boredom. The other characters are just as poorly developed and actually come off as cliches. Armande, who could have been delightful, under the guidance of a more talented author, was reduced by Harris to a caricature of an elderly, stubborn, persnickety old woman, used to getting her own way. While she could have been lovable, had she said, "Whee," one more time, even I would have felt like punching her in the face, eighty-one years old notwithstanding. The character of Josephine was so overly-melodramatic she was nothing more than silly and earned my contempt rather than my pity. Much of the book is vague. The author seems to delight in being coy with us and coyness in the service of plot or characterization is never good. Another thing that I found jarring was the fact that Harris constantly switched from present to past tense with no rhyme or reason. Other, better and more experienced writers, make a choice, so should Harris. It could only serve to improve her prose and she does need to improve it. Harris leads us on a merry goose chase, making us believe there will be a huge, climactic showdown between the Church, as personified by Reynaud, and a pagan Festival of Chocolate, as personified by Vianne. However, all this buildup only leads to one huge letdown, as Reynaud simply caves in and the chocolate festival is barely mentioned. Finally, as a 100% Frenchwoman, myself, with a home in a small French village, I found the scenes of French village life to be 95% inaccurate. I got absolutely no sense of "Frenchness" from this book at all and found it totally lacking in atmosphere. It is a shame this book made it past an editor, much less to publication. Chocolat will leave a bitter taste in my mouth for the short time I care to remember it.


The Stone Raft (Harvest Book)
The Stone Raft (Harvest Book)
von José Saramago
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 13,49

5.0 von 5 Sternen ENCHANTED, ENCHANTING PROSE, 8. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Stone Raft (Harvest Book) (Taschenbuch)
Joana Carda scratches the earth of Cerbère with an elm branch, separating her life into "then" and "now," and all the mute dogs of the village begin to howl; Joaquim Sassa, on a beach in Portugal, picks up a stone, almost as heavy as he is, and hurls it impossibly far into the Atlantic; Pedro Orce, in Andalucia, feels the ground begin to tremble; José Anaico leaves the school where he teaches and hundreds of starlings begin to follow him; and in rainy Galicia, Maria Guavaira begins to unravel a sock of blue wool only to find there's no end to the thread. Simultaneously, a crack begins to open in the Pyrenees, one that widens until "rivers are turned into waterfalls and tides advance inland." Eventually, Spain and Portugal (Iberia) separate from Europe and begin to drift westward in the Atlantic, a great stone raft. (Only Gibraltar is left behind.) As the threat of collision with the Azores looms, a mass exodus from the coastal cities of Lisbon, Oporto and Coimbra occurs. In the meantime, Joaquim Sassa finds José Anaico and together they travel from Portugal to Andalucia to find Pedro Orce. In Lisbon, they encounter Joana Carda, who is determined to show them the line in the ground she drew with the elm branch, a line that will not disappear. Before they leave, they encounter a mysterious dog, a dog with a blue thread hanging from its mouth, who silently convinces them to follow him to the Galician doorstep of Maria Guavaira. The relationships among the five characters, who bond and begin to live the life of nomads, is as fascinating and complex as the story itself. The younger people even (or inevitably) pair off into couples, but even old Pedro Orce, the odd-man-out, will have have his moments, to be sure. All of Saramago's novels are, at their heart, fables, and The Stone Raft is no exception. A political allegory of uprootedness and displacement, the one constant in this book is that everything in on the move. As the characters travel eastward, to what's left of the Pyrenees, Iberia continues its westward journey through the Atlantic. Continental Europe seems secretly pleased to be rid of its southernmost neighbors, while the United States and Canada abhor the thought of a new neighbor coming to rest in territorial waters. The Stone Raft is filled with surprising twists and turns, puzzles and mysteries, especially as the story draws to a close. All of the women on the island suddenly find themselves pregnant. The reader is left to wonder just what this mass birth signifies. And who fathered these "children of desperation?" The answer is not as clear as it would seem. Most mysterious of all, perhaps, is the vague character of Roque Lozano. Although he makes only a cameo appearance in the novel, Lozano assumes mythical, almost Christlike proportions. Saramago is definitely a worldclass writer, a Nobel Prize winner whose prose is a cross between Thomas Bernhard and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is a cascade of literary rhythm, a continuous flow of timbre and resonance. Far from being perversely eccentric, Saramago is fresh and innovative, orchestrating prose that is meant to be heard, and proving, once again, that magic realism doesn't begin and end with One Hundred Years of Solitude. And, as always, Saramago's irony and wit go a long way toward mitigating the book's inherent sense of tragedy and hopelessness. Although The Stone Raft isn't Saramago's best (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, Blindness and The Gospel According to Jesus Christ are all, in my opinion, better), it is an enchanting book, full of wonderful moments and wonderful lines not to be found anywhere else and surely not to be missed by lovers of great literature everywhere.


Faust the Theologian
Faust the Theologian
von Jaroslav Jan Pelikan
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 21,25

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5.0 von 5 Sternen FASCINATING AND ORIGINAL, 5. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Faust the Theologian (Taschenbuch)
This book is a beautifully written masterpiece, detailing the theological implications of Goethe's Faust. The book offers reflections on Goethe's statement that he was a pantheist when it came to science, a polytheist in art and a monotheist in ethics. For the first time, the author uses this statement in the analysis of Faust's development as a theologian, showing this masterpiece in a surprising and totally original way. The analysis begins with a discussion on Faust's role as a natural scientist or pantheist. Faust's mistrust of traditional knowledge is examined and his interests in geology, oceanography and optics are considered. The analysis also includes his perception of nature as a realm inspirited throughout by a single, unifying Power. After the analysis in concluded, the author follows Faust on his journeys to the two Walpurgis Nights. It is here that Faust delights in the polytheistic extravaganzas of Germanic and most especially Greek mythology. In conclusion, the author describes the operatic finale of the book, when Faust's spirit in drawn upward to salvation by the Eternal Feminine. This event marks Faust's evolution into moral philosopher and monotheist. This analysis reveals thematic unities and a dialectical development of Faust's characters that has gone unnoticed until now.


Floria
Floria
von Paola Capriolo
  Taschenbuch

5.0 von 5 Sternen TOSCA TRIUMPHANT, 1. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Floria (Taschenbuch)
In Floria Tosca, Paola Capriolo has captured the dark essence of Sardou's Tosca most perfectly. Told exclusively from the viewpoint of Baron Scarpia, chief of police, this extraordinarily elegant tale recounts the consequences of people who are driven to go to far: people who cross the line, step over the threshold, give way to dark passions that might be better served if held in check. Although Floria Tosca is an erotic tale of sadist and masochist, Capriolo's rendering is so perfect we cannot fail to be amazed at the balance she strikes between love and hate, abstinence and desire, pleasure and pain. Everything about this book is perfect: the characterizations, the pacing, the restrained melodrama, and most especially, Capriolo's elegantly archaic prose. She writes in such a way that we can't help but believe we are truly reading the words of Scarpia, himself, words he set down in his own hand on a mid-summer's night in 1860s Rome. The fact that Cavarodossi never appears "onstage" is a credit to Capriolo, for he is never missed. It is the erotically passionate interplay between Tosca and Scarpia that forms the real heart and soul of this story. Opera lovers can't fail to fall in love with Floria Tosca. And even those who've never seen an opera will be astonished at the eloquence of Capriolo's style. If I had to sum this book up in only one word, the only word I could choose would be, perfection.


Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts
Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts
von Martha Stewart
  Taschenbuch

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2.0 von 5 Sternen YUCK!, 30. April 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts (Taschenbuch)
Well, the illustrations in this book are beautiful and Martha's pie crust, as well as her lemon curd, are absolutely the best, but the pies and tarts in this book are simply the worst I've ever tasted! Really, I've tasted kindergarten paste that had more flavor than these recipes. As a seasoned baker, I do know how to substitute ingredients and add more spice, but why should anyone have to? And what about those who can't? After all, the book is not titled, Martha Stewart's Exotic Pies and Tarts for the Experienced Baker Only, however, it should be. What good is a book if most people really can't use it? Yes, I can make all those lovely grape clusters, leaves and tendrils that adorn Martha's Concord Grape Pie, but I think most people are really looking for something a little more basic. Okay, final analysis: if you're looking for the out-of-the-ordinary (and the tasteless) then buy this book. If you just want some great pie and tart recipes, try The Pie and Pastry Bible. You won't go wrong there.


Ocean Sea
Ocean Sea
von Alessandro Baricco
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 20,20

5.0 von 5 Sternen SAVAGE BEAUTY, 29. April 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Ocean Sea (Gebundene Ausgabe)
Alessandro Baricco's Ocean Sea is a lyrically beautiful, but cruel, allegory of the secret hopes, dreams, fears, quests and horrors that drive us all and often, against our wishes, consume our lives. And, no matter how hard we deny it, there comes a time in every person's life when he or she must confront his deepest, darkest secrets, a time when they can no longer be suppressed. For it is only when we confront our fears and our obsessions, our hopes and our dreams, and yes, even our horrors, that they lose their power over us and we are finally restored to wholeness. Alessandro Baricco has assembled a cast of broken, disparate characters, each seeking the restorative powers of the ocean sea, that elusive place where fantasy meets reality, where love and horror become inexorably woven into the fabric of life. Baricco's prose is certainly not the flowery, overwrought "purple prose" of Anne Rice or Michael Ondaatje. Instead, it evokes the lyrical skeletalness of Debussy--beautiful and difficult, yet barely there, like the edge of the sea, itself. Savigny's narrative, in Book II, is one of the finest examples of the power and beauty of language I have ever encountered. If I have any criticism of Ocean Sea, it is the fact that the ultimate fate of Professor Bartleboom did not seem in character with the savage beauty evoked in the rest of the book. I almost felt as though I had been dropped inside another story altogether. But allegory is difficult to write and even more difficult to read, and Ocean Sea is no exception. I doubt that anyone alive can absorb this exquisite book's impact in only one reading. Like Silk, another of Baricco's works, Ocean Sea is a masterpiece. A small, but flawless, gem that will astound you and haunt you, but will never, ever let you alone.


AN Instance of the Fingerpost
AN Instance of the Fingerpost
von Iain Pears
  Taschenbuch

4.0 von 5 Sternen THE TRUTH IN PLAIN SIGHT, 11. April 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: AN Instance of the Fingerpost (Taschenbuch)
An Instance of the Fingerpost is an almost thoroughly engrossing mystery set in Restoration England and revolving around the murder of Dr. Robert Grove, fellow of the New College at Oxford. What sets this novel apart from other period portraits is Pears' use of four different, yet very convincing narratives, each designed to reveal the "truth" of the murder of Dr. Grove. The novel begins with the narrative of Marco da Cola, a gentleman scholar from Venice. While da Cola argues that he only wishes to set down a true record of the events that took place in 1663, his record actually poses more questions that it answers. It is the next three narrators who attempt to answer and refute da Cola's narrative with one of their own. As we read, we come to realize that while each of Pears' four narrators is sure that he and he alone possesses all the facts necessary to name Grove's murderer, all but one has reached his conclusions through faulty logic born of a false premise. And, while all of Pears' narrators practice many decptions, we soon realize that no deception recurs more frequently than does self-deception. It is Marco da Cola's investigation, with Dr. Lower, that ultimately results in the conviction and hanging of the serving girl, Sarah Blundy, who was recently dismissed by Grove after having been alleged to have been his mistress. At the conclusion of da Cola's tale, we feel there can be no doubt about Sarah--or her culpability. Jack Prescott, however, sees things quite differently. While he denounces Sarah as both a wench and a witch, he also denounces da Cola as an extravagant and gaudy dandy. And, although it is Prescott himself, who gives da Cola the piece of evidence that seals Sarah's fate, Prescott staunchly defends her innocence. Wallis, the third narrator sees things and people in yet another light and Anthony Wood, the last of the four narrators, who has been Sarah's secret lover, not only provides the "instance of the fingerpost," but also reveals an astonishing secret, one that will finally bring together the hidden motives of the previous narrators and make clear all the clues that have been hidden in plain sight. Pears does a marvelous job of weaving fact with fantasy and his eye for period detail never falters. And, while da Cola's narrative begins slowly, the pace does pick up somewhere around page 100. Although the book is ultimately worth the wait, no reader should have to wade throuh 100 pages of lacklustre material just to get to the "good part." Although Pears does a wonderful job of weaving the intricacies of the narrative and layering one mystery on top of another, the story as a whole lacks tension. Even though I wanted to know the "truth of the matter," I kept falling asleep while reading due to this lack of story tension. Prescott's narrative, for example, focuses more on the politics of the times than on the story of Grove's murder and the hanging of Sarah Blundy. I think comparisons of this book with Unberto Eco's The Name of the Rose are unfair. Other than the fact that both books deal with the search for ultimate truth as a theme, everything else is different, such as characterization, pacing and structure. And The Name of the Rose is much more atmospheric that is An Instance of the Fingerpost. But An Instance of the Fingerpost, while laboriously slow at times, ultimately succeeds, and the reader is left with a profound sense of both satisfaction and awe.


Antonietta
Antonietta
von John Hersey
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 18,56

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3.0 von 5 Sternen TRULY DISAPPOINTING, 5. April 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Antonietta (Taschenbuch)
John Hersey was a wonderful author and so I really expected more from Antonietta. What began as a whimsical flight into fantasy quickly goes downhill after the first section. Unfortunately, it continued its downhill slide, with each succeeding section being a little less magical than the first. Antonio Stradivari, upon seeing the woman he instantly falls in love with and must marry, begins to create a special violin in her honor. As he works, the violin becomes infused with his emotions and thereafter, its music has the power to affect all who hear it. While Stradivari's section of the book is magic, Mozart's is less so, and Berlioz's even less. By the time we finish, Antonietta has definitely taken backstage to a string of boring, insipid and lucklustre characters with the truly deplorable Spenser Ham being, by far, the worst. And other than the first section involving Stradivari, I didn't find anything sexy or romantic about this book. I fully expected to be charmed by Antonietta and was truly disappointed instead. When one considers what a tremendous novelist Hersey was, this book becomes all the more sad. If you're looking for the first-rate reading of other Hersey novels, such as A Bell For Adano, Hiroshoma, The Wall and The White Lotus, you won't find it here.


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