On the surface, you may think these novels have nothing in common. It is true that the first takes place about six years after the second one and is set in America, instead of France but there are some interesting similarities between the two books. I only realized them after I was part way through reading the second story. The strongest points these novels share are: people striving to understand, survive and live through a tragedy; conflicting relations with certain family members; the innocence of “young love”; an older person reflecting on the past and about to attend a reunion in honor of those who passed away during the tragic events. Even if you look at the covers—both depict a symbol of flight, where the image represented, is linked to risk and the feeling of melancholy in each tale. In the first book, Miri Ammerman is only in her mid teens when a sequence of three plane crashes affect her hometown, in Elizabeth, NJ. The accidents happen one after another, in a short span of time (within three months) and she is left to struggle and cope with the meaning of these misfortunes—and to try moving on with her life. She faces obstacles in the relationship she has with her single mom, Rusty and also experiences her first time being a girlfriend. With the second story, Isabelle Rossignol is eighteen in the midst of the Second World War. Her beloved country (France) has been taken captive by the Germans and she can find no welcome in her father’s or older sister’s arms. She helps to fight for the rights of French citizens by working under cover and endures great suffering through her successful efforts. Similar to Miri, Isabelle also experiences first love during so much heartache and danger. As you can see, the two novels are very different in terms of plot but there are a few threads that tie them together. Although they were both very appealing books to me, some readers may choose to dismiss them based on their topics (plane crashes or World War II).
This book takes place in the vividly described setting of Hong Kong. If you have never traveled there, the author does a good job making you feel as though you have visited it. In addition to the various detailed locations mentioned in and around the city, the plot pulls you in quickly. Retired expatriate journalist, Paul Leibovitz, is still grieving for his son’s passing and trying to seclude himself from the world after being divorced. When an American woman approaches him to find out what happened to her adult missing son, he is reluctant to help. As he hears more of the intriguing story (she is visiting with her husband, who owns a company in the city—which their son was a part of but who, one day, failed to meet up with her husband’s business partner), he realizes that foul play may have been a factor and fears the worst. Red flags seem to go up everywhere and the father himself acts suspicious. Leibovitz must tread lightly because his own life is threatened, as his every move is being carefully watched. He discovers that shady politics and bribery surround the city, while citizens look away for their own good. He contacts a long-time friend, who is a homicide detective and despite all odds (even from the hometown police force), the two manage to solve the case.
Hislit title read-alikes:
If you enjoyed the type of suspense found in Sendker’s book, you should like these too:
Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly
Hong Kong by Stephen Coonts
Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong
Sendker’s novel is fast-paced and shows the dirty side of money hungry companies, that will stop at nothing to obtain what they want. There is even a love interest for Leibovitz, giving him a reason to pursue the good fight. This is apparently the first story in a trilogy, where the second has yet to be translated from German and the third is currently being written.
Book vs. Movie
I feel really embarrassed to admit this, but I have never watched the animated version of the Disney’s classic. I don’t recall ever seeing it from beginning to end, or I might have been too small to remember the film in its entirety. While I’m at it, I might as well confess that I only read the actual stories by Rudyard Kipling, a few weeks ago. I had no idea that there were TWO Jungle Books. I found out that the movies were based on three stories in the first book (“Mowgli’s Brothers”, Kaa’s Hunting” and “Tiger! Tiger!”). I was interested to see the most recent version because it was a live action film that was directed by Jon Favreau—whom I admire. I thought I would give it a shot to see if it appealed to me. I really ended up liking it and have to say I was impressed. That being said, I couldn’t ignore the differences between what was on film compared to the book. First off, Mowgli’s parents do not die in the tale; Baloo and Bagheera are the ones who stand up for the child when he enters the wolf pack (therefore, Mowgli has known Baloo ever since he was little and does not meet the bear later on—like in the movie); Kaa is actually a friend of Mowgli and never is there any attempt from the snake to kill the boy; there is no King Louie and finally, the way Shere Khan meets his demise differs very much from the big screen. I would have to say that the movie used the characters but changed the plot quite a bit. Still, it was nice to see that the recent film included the recitation of the “wolf pack law”, which is in the book. I continued to read the stories from the second Jungle Book because it follows Mowgli’s adventures throughout his later years, where he goes back to the village and meets his biological mother. In the last Mowgli tale (“The Spring Running”), he decides to leave his jungle family for good. I also found out that Rudyard Kipling wrote a story in 1893 called “In the Rukh”, which describes Mowgli’s return to the world of men and where he ends up getting married. Whatever version you prefer (the written tales did seem a little darker than the movie), they are both told well and they each bring enjoyment in their own way.
A Five Star Pick
I have wanted to talk about Cooper’s book for a long time. I loved it so much that I bought it as a gift for a friend. I wanted to share my affection for this book with a fellow cat lover. It isn’t about the classic story by Homer, but the brave little fur baby that stars in this pet memoir takes after the famous adventurer in spirit. The author relates how she adopted a blind black kitten into her home that already had two adult cats. If she had not saved him, he would have been put down. It quickly becomes clear how he leaves a paw print on the author’s heart but he also shows how capable he is of surviving and testing the limits with his disability. In fact, after reading the memoir, you wouldn’t believe he was blind—that’s how courageous and comfortable he was with his situation. As he never had sight before, he didn’t know what he was missing and his other senses naturally heightened to help him cope. He pushed boundaries without knowing the dangers and always came out stronger in the end. His personality is to be admired and makes one think of the limitless possibilities one can have when faced with a physical challenge. My favorite part is when Homer has the guts to scare off an intruder who threatens Cooper’s well-being. Without seeing, he had become a giant, nonetheless. This book is a testament to beating the odds and giving inspiration to those who may feel less than whole. It made the author see life in a different light. Also, it is a no-brainer for feline fans. After reading Cooper’s book, you’ll respect cats even more.
The only real similarity between these two novels is that they both take place in the midst of great world wars in history and that the protagonists in each book is a female, who defies societal norms while discovering her true aspirations. In the first story, Maddie, her husband and a mutual male friend get caught up in traveling to Scotland from America, during the most risky time of World War II, to seek out the famous Loch Ness monster. Her husband and their friend are not able to serve in the army for medical reasons and so, they take it upon themselves to do their part by proving that the sea creature actually exists. Maddie witnesses horrors on the trip to Scotland and once there, must experience the reality of the war, with bomb raids continuously threatening their well-being. It is when she tries to help her husband uncover the beast, that she is ultimately told to stay out of the adventure. She becomes stranded at the inn they are residing at, where she is left to observe and befriend the others around her. It is here that she also realizes who she is meant to be. In the second novel, Beatrice (a wannabe spinster) has just been hired as the first female Latin teacher in the quaint little English town of Rye. Much tension is in the air when she arrives because there is talk of a World War brewing (World War I). She is welcomed as a friend by a local family and soon she must worry about her own efforts to support the inevitable war. Beatrice challenges the village with her convictions when she reveals her desire to be a writer and especially, when she goes against the majority’s decision to take care of a young and pregnant Belgium refugee. Beatrice grows stronger with each new controversy she encounters and she also begins to believe that marriage may be a possibility for her, after all. Both books have great writing and dialogue that keep you interested. Each one has characters that you will not soon forget and of course, you learn more about what people went through during both wars. Clever plots and enjoyable reading.
After being selected as the winner for Canada Reads 2016, I need to stress that this novel is not only for men. In fact, the book was defended by none other than Clara Hughes, a female Canadian athlete and Olympic champion. I was surprised that the novel made it all the way to the top because it is a political thriller, after all. There is no denying that Hughes made great cases for her arguments and I do like Lawrence Hill (I met him when our library invited him as a guest speaker right after he won his first Canada Reads, with The Book of Negroes). He is such a nice and down-to-earth person. Even after the debates this time around, he surprised the audience by showing up and congratulating Hughes, staying humble the whole time. I think the reason his book rose to the top, however, was because of the topic which is at the forefront of Canadian people’s minds and quite relevant right now: refugees. It certainly made me realize how it would be like to live in fear as a refugee and also observe how judgmental others can be (with no sympathy, whatsoever). Political thrillers are usually fast paced and not very literary, which is why men like to read them. This story has enough action and bad-ass moments that will pull the reader in and make them follow it as if they were watching a movie. Maybe having it win the Canada Reads title this year will encourage the male population to read more 🙂
HisLit title read-alikes:
If you enjoyed Hill’s winning thriller, here are others that you would perhaps be interested in:
Harare North by Brian Chikwava
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
Asylum City by Liad Shoham
Throughout The Illegal‘s pages you will meet political figures corrupting the government for their own personal gains, you will follow their gun-toting thugs and discover the ugly truth of injustice to innocent people. You will also enjoy the determination and courage of a refugee, who is willing to go to extreme lengths for his sister’s sake.
Book vs. Movie
It took me a long time to finally see the movie after reading the book but it was even longer to finish the trilogy. I have heard many negative comments about the film: how bad it was and the poor ratings it received. Some people even said that the acting was terrible. I honestly watched it just because I suffered through the novels and needed to see what would be included or left out in the DVD. If we are discussing how well of a rendition the screen version was compared to the book—I am surprised to say that it was pretty spot on to the original story. Was it pathetic? Of course! But if you had actually read the novel, it was just as corny. Before I saw the movie, I thought the actors portraying Ana and Christian were the wrong choices. As soon as I watched it, though, Dakota Johnson was actually the perfect Ana. Funny enough, I still didn’t approve of Jamie Dornan. Yah, he is cute but I wouldn’t call him hot. Actually, maybe it was how he was groomed for the film that didn’t appeal to me. I went to his profile on IMDB and found he was much cuter with a different hairstyle and a little more scruff. My opinion on the acting, however, I couldn’t complain. I mean, this is how the characters ARE in the book! I would rather submit (no pun intended) to two hours of crappy story-line in front of a TV than put myself through the horrible writing and read the thoughts of Ana’s “inner goddess”! Thank God I didn’t have to listen to her immature thoughts going on in her head … All I can say is that if you did not read the novel your view of the screen version will be skewed. I rarely talk about things that I don’t like but this story was such a huge phenomenon, I had to see why. I still don’t get it nor agree with it. Let’s just say control freaks are not my thing—no matter how cute he is. What did you think?