#TuesdayBookBlog ‘The Dutch House’ by Ann Patchett @ParnassusBooks1 #BookReview #Audiobook by @TomHanks

The Dutch House: A Novel by [Patchett, Ann]

I am ashamed to say that this is the first novel I’ve read by Anne Patchett, and I’m so glad I read it. I was so impressed that I read her most famous novel Commonwealth, straight after, and I enjoyed it even more, but more about that another week.

The Dutch House (from the blurb).

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. The story is told by Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakeable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

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Ann Patchett

ANN PATCHETT is the author of seven novels and has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including England’s Orange Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the American Bookseller’s Association’s Most Engaging Author Award, and the Women’s National Book Association’s Award. Her books have been both New York Times Notable Books and New York Times bestsellers. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages.

In November, 2011, she opened Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, with her business partner Karen Hayes.  She has since become a spokesperson for independent booksellers, championing books and bookstores. In 2012 she was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

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My Review

The Dutch House is such an emotional novel that I had to wipe away some tears as I listened to the last lines.

It’s hard to describe the beauty of the story and the smoothness of the prose, in a novel where nothing exceptional happens and yet so many extraordinary things take place over three generations.

Danny, the narrator, is an honest and endearing character. We first meet him as a child trying to understand the world and the contradictory adults in his family. As he grows up, he becomes a generous and reliable narrator who tells every character’s story with insight and empathy.

Danny chronicles a tragedy about dysfunctional families, including deficient parenting and the destructive power of jealousy leading to cruelty bordering on abuse, and yet it’s also an uplifting tale of love, forgiveness, and goodness.

Nothing is repaired, because the past can’t be changed, and yet everything works out, because life’s like that; it’s a cycle, so, in a way, we are always going back and revisiting the past, occasionally, as in this case, with some improvement.

A warning, the beginning is slow, but it’s well worth persevering, and if you can, listen to Tom Hanks magnificent reading. Unforgettable.

A must read for anyone who enjoys family sagas set in 20th century USA, and for those who believe in the healing power of forgiveness.

*****

More reviews by Luccia here!

#TuesdayBookBlog ‘My Life as a Rat’ by @JoyceCarolOates #BookReview

My Life as a Rat: A Novel by [Oates, Joyce Carol]

I’m a bit behind with my reviews. I’ll be catching up gradually. Today, I’m starting with the last book I’ve read, which is My Life as a Rat by Joyce Carol Oates.

I am ashamed to admit that although I have read some of her poems and posted about one of them here, I had never read any novels by this author. Then a few weeks ago, I read an interview with the author about her new novel, in the Guardian, and my interest was peaked, but when I read the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, I was almost put off. I say almost, because I’m an avid reader, reviewer and writer, and I know how subjective most reviews are.

Some of the negative terms which appeared were, too long, repetitive, slow, disappointed, disorganised, violence, abuse, disturbing. That made me realise it would not be an easy book to read, but I decided I was up for the challenge.

I started reading the book on my Scribd subscription last Friday, and I couldn’t stop until I finished it on Sunday night. It’s hard to introduce other readers to such a brilliant book in a few hundred words, but I’m going to do my best.

Joyce Carol Oates

My Life as a Rat is a heart-rending novel which deals with topics such as, abuse, domestic violence, ignorance, racism and gender inequality.

It presents these topics honestly and brutally, so much so that some people may feel uncomfortable, or even disgusted. Well this isn’t a light romance, this is a raw and harrowing view of a segment of the population. Extrapolating Violet’s town, family and life to every woman in the world would be absurd, even though Violet is not the only girl who has lived or lives so close to so many ignorant and/or evil people.

In spite of everything Violet experiences, I find the novel hopeful because the reader is led to believe there is an implicit answer to the senseless violence, lack of love, gender inequality, racism and ignorance, and that’s Violet’s attitude to adversity: learn the lesson, get up and move on! That is to say she persevers, she tries to do the right thing, she actively searches for a better education, she wishes to accept her responsibility in events, forgive herself and others and repair whatever she can, and especially, she never loses the ability to keep reaching for her dreams.

Violet is a wonderful character who never gives up, she’s bigger than the events she overcomes, because she’s able to move on, keep loving and forgiving, and I think she stands a good chance of finding happiness, perhaps, one day…

A must read for anyone who wants to understand what’s wrong with our society and how we can find ways to heal and be reconciled.

*****

Celebrating A Year of Compassion #1000Speak

I took part in the first link up of #1000Speak on February 20th 2015. The intention for that day was to get a thousand bloggers together and spread compassion around the world.

The idea evolved, and there have been monthly prompts on compassion on the 20th of every month for a whole year, and today is the anniversary of the first link-up.

In today’s celebration of compassion, our prompt is to talk about how the year has been for us as a result of taking part!

compassion-1-year

I haven’t taken part regularly. I’ve written six posts over the past year which you can check out here on Compassion in Jane Eyre and Victorian England, on Forgiveness, Anti-bullying, and Nature and Nurture. I’ve also popped in to visit other bloggers posting on the subject, and I’ve retweeted on Twitter and Facebook. I do feel a tiny part of the movement, although I haven’t been consistent enough in my posting or interaction to feel strongly part of a group. I’ll try to take part more often this year 🙂

It has made me aware of how we can discuss compassion from different viewpoints and encourage people to write about, read about, think about and discuss compassion.

As I’ve missed some of the prompts las year, today I’d like to write about a beautiful prompt I missed in October, on LOVE.

Schoolchildren embracing happy. Multi cultural racial classroom.

Schoolchildren embracing happy. Multi cultural racial classroom.

I was always told at school that two wrongs don’t make a right, and that, as Martin Luther King said, hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. I didn’t fully understand what it meant at the time. I think my Catholic upbringing might have confused me somewhat, with the ‘turn the other cheek’ philosophy, and I’m now sure that this is not the correct approach.

Turning the other cheek is a passive act, although it detracts some of the power from the aggressors, it does nothing to show them that their behaviour is unacceptable, because there is another better way to solve our problems.

If someone is being unjust or cruel, as in bullying or abuse, I am now convinced we should react actively, albeit peacefully, by telling the person we do not agree with their actions, or by showing them another way to approach the situation, and if all else fails, by making sure help is provided for those who need it.

In Martin Luther King’s case, peaceful protests, made it clear that segregation was wrong, and that it would no longer be tolerated. Turning the other cheek would have been the equivalent of accepting injustice submissively.

As a teacher, I have taken part in mediation programmes which enable students to express how they feel and negotiate peaceful ways to solve their problems. When mediation doesn’t work, and the aggressor refuses to reconsider and repair the situation, there are school rules and disciplinary measures which are enforced. I would not expect, or even allow, any child to turn the other cheek.

Similarly, when a colleague, is behaving unreasonably (and this happened recently), I suggest other ways to solve the conflict or approach the problem, which involve, listening, discussing, and negotiating solutions, which will improve the situation for all parties. What I’m not prepared to do is to ignore the situation.

We each have our own limited sphere of influence in the world, where we interact socially and professionally, and in mine, I’m not prepared to turn the other cheek, or allow anyone to turn the other cheek, because I believe #1000Speak is about speaking up because we believe in promoting compassion actively, and that means making sure compassion is discussed, and peaceful alternatives are put forward actively to make the world a better place for everyone.

be-the-change-you-wish-to-see-in-the-world-organization-quote

If you’d like to join in or take part, follow this link.

#1000Speak #Forgiveness

This post was written as part of #1000Speak for Compassion. Speaking for GOOD on the 20th of every month. The topic to reflect upon this month is Forgiveness.

forgivness-feels-good

Forgiving and Asking for Forgiveness

All of us who have thought about forgiveness, read about it, and talked about it, know that we forgive others, not because they ask for it, or even deserve it, but because we deserve to free ourselves from the burden of hate and resentment. When we stop hating someone, they no longer have the power to hurt us.

  quote-we-must-develop-and-maintain-the-capacity-to-forgive-he-who-is-devoid-of-the-power-to-forgive-is-martin-luther-king-jr-102540

‘Learn the lesson and move on’. You can’t go back. You can’t change what happened, but you can forgive and move on. Notice I didn’t say forget, because if you forget you don’t learn from the experience. Although I’ve noticed that once I forgive, I tend to forget, or at least not think about what happened.

Forgive

The two most important things I’ve learnt and have made me a happier person are 1) Forgiveness and 2) Don’t sweat the small stuff.

That doesn’t mean I ignore the small stuff, it means I sort it out immediately, if I can, so it doesn’t get out of proportion. If it really doesn’t matter, I ignore it. Most of the time, if you address ‘small’ issues at once, life gets simpler. In fact, most big issues were once smaller. Don’t ket them grow!

Small stuff
Asking for Forgiveness

I’d like to combine ‘asking for Forgiveness’ and ‘Sweating the Small Stuff’, because I’d like to talk about ‘the small stuff’, the little things we do that we need to apologise for, and how to actually make sure the apology is accepted, so the event is in fact forgotten, or at least doesn’t cause us undue aggravation.

I learnt about this method in a self help book (I can’t remember which one), but it’s very useful for those little things that happen, and often cause friction between friends, colleagues, family, etc.

This is about how to say you’re sorry and ask for forgiveness for those ‘minor’ but annoying things we all do occasionally.

Three magical words: Reason, Regret, and Repair.

You need to give a reason for your improper/inconvenient action, you need to say you’re sorry, and you need to offer to make it up to the person in some way. It’s the best way to get your apology accepted.

For example, if you’ve arrived late to work, or for lunch with a friend.

Reason: I overslept / missed the bus
Regret: I’m sorry I arrived late / made you wait
Repair: Can I work overtime tomorrow to make up for it? / Buy you lunch?

The excuse would look something like this:

‘I missed the bus, and the next one took ages, I’m so sorry I made you wait. How can I make it up to you? What about I get you coffee and dessert…’

As a teacher, I always tell my students to use the same strategy. Tell the teacher your excuse, apologise, offer/ask for/negotiate a compromise.

‘I’m sorry I didn’t hand in my homework. I’ve been feeling run down / upset / unmotivated lately / had to help my mother look after my grandmother who is unwell. Could I hand in my essay next week?

If it happens with your partner.

‘I’m under a lot of pressure at work, I’m sorry if I snapped at you, It won’t happen again. Let me cook dinner for you, today.’

It’s actually harder to do than it seems. If we’re honest with ourselves, it makes us think about our reasons, and that’s not always easy. We have to apologise, and we have to offer a compromise.

It isn’t enough to just apologise, you have to make the person offended understand your reasons, and feel that you’re prepared to make an effort to change or compensate in some way, and that’s a lot!

It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try!