Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Back Reviews Reel: December 2015

My blogging year 2015 closed with reviews of four rather un-Christmassy books. In the classical spy novel The Angry Hills by Leon Uris set in World War II, a writer from San Francisco gets stuck in Greece with a sealed envelope to take to London, but German GESTAPO is after its contents. The theme of the contemporary novel Lake of Heaven by Ishimure Michiko are the long-term environmental and social effects of a hydroelectric power plant that relocated an entire Japanese village. Questions and material about a forgotten acquaintance force the writer protagonist of the contemporary novel So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick Modiano, winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature, to face long-repressed memories of his childhood in France of the early 1950s. And the classic The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand centres on an American architect whose work is too innovative for his time.

- - - - - protagonist of The Angry Hills by Leon Uris is a bread-and-butter novelist from San Francisco who is in Greece to settle money matters before German troops invade the country. When his Greek attorney hands him a sealed envelope to take to London on his way back to the USA, he has no idea that this makes him a spy against his will. Soon he is on the run cross-country with German spies chasing after him. A professional agent of the British Secret Service trying to help is killed, but a courageous Greek man saves him and takes him to his village in the North. There he meets a beautiful woman working for Greek Resistance. Alas, she is a double agent because the head of German Intelligence in Greece holds her little children hostage…
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- - - - - Lake of Heaven by Ishimure Michiko came into being when the houses, sacred places and graveyard of an old village in the mountains of Kyūshū were was flooded for the sake of a hydroelectric power plant. Some villagers moved into modern houses offered them, while others used the relocation money to start a new life elsewhere. Masahiko’s grandfather settled down in Tōkyō, but when he dies in a nursing home thirty years later he asks Masahiko to scatter his ashes in the village of his youth over the graves of his ancestors. Wishing to fulfil his beloved grandfather’s last wish, Masahiko travels to the old village for the traditional O-bon ceremony in September and it turns out to be a spiritual experience that reunites him with his roots and with nature.
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- - - - - the novella So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick Modiano, whom the Swedish Academy awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2014, a somewhat successful writer in his 70s finds himself unexpectedly confronted with painful childhood experiences. A young man, who pretends to have found his address book and to wish to return it to him, evokes long-repressed memories in him when he asks him questions about a man whom he must have known as a child in the 1950s. However much he racks his brains, h can’t remember him although he named a character in his very first novel after him, but before long bits and pieces of the truth begin to emerge from the depths of his conscience, just enough to awake his own curiosity and to urge him to dig deeper…
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- - - - - published in 1943, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand portrays an architectural genius who already in his early twenties sets out to overthrow established standards. Instead of giving up his dream after his teachers at a renowned architectural school in Boston threw him out, he works for architects in New York, until he can start his own business. Alas, lacking customers he soon finds himself compelled to labour in a granite quarry for a living. He falls in love with a wealthy columnist residing in the area and she with him, but she hates the mere idea of belonging to him and begins a veritable crusade against his designs and modern architecture in general. However, he continues his career because he just wants to build no matter if people like his work or not...
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