#59 ~ Gardens of Water

February 15, 2008 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, Family, LibraryThing, Religion, Sexual Identity | 9 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gardens of Water: A Novel by Alan Drew

Gardens of Water tells the story of how the lives of a working class, conservative Muslim family from outside of Istanbul were impacted by the horrible earthquake of 1999. Sinan Basioglu, a hard-working man with a club foot, tries to do his best by his family and keep close to his God. Circumstances force them to take shelter in a relief camp established by Christian Americans. This time spent at the camp is most especially confusing to İrem, Sinan and Nilüfer’s 15-year-old daughter. Living in the camp provides her with a freedom she hasn’t known since her early childhood. When she falls in love with Dylan, the teenage son of an American expatriate teacher, the entire Basioglu family is caused to question who they are and what is expected from them.

It’s interesting to me how there are times when two or three books I read in a row carry a similar thread. Gardens of Water, although it takes place in the Middle East, continued my thoughts on the plight of women in society. In The Tea Rose, Fiona struggled against the prevailing prejudice that women are not capable to and should not run businesses. The female characters in The Witch’s Trinity were accused of witchcraft when life became hard because of the Judeo-Christian prejudices against them that began with Eve’s first bite of that apple in the Garden of Eden. For a Muslim girl like İrem, a simple school girl crush could threaten to ruin her family name and negatively impact her younger brother’s future. For many women, life is not all that more safe today than it was back in the time of the witch trials.

Alan Drew’s debut novel is rich in its details about life in Turkey and about what it feels like and means to be Muslim. I found this especially true in his descriptions of the scenery. I felt like I saw Istanbul from a distance and could feel the water over my toes. The scene where Sinan was carrying televisions on his back as he tried to hustle through the streets of Instanbul was probably my favorite. Not only did I feel Sinan’s desperation, I felt his isolation as a Kurd in Turkish society. If you are interested in Kurdish culture, the family life of modern conservative Muslims, or are just looking for an involving book to read, I strongly suggest Gardens of Water.

To buy this novel, click here.

#49 ~ Love in the Time of Cholera

November 26, 2007 at 1:51 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Family, Religion | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This novel tells the story of two young lovers who, in their time and circumstance, carried out a love affair almost completely through the use of letters and telegrams – at first because Florentino Ariza was of a perceived lower class than his love Fermina Daza and then because her father forbade the coupling. As it turned out, despite the fact that she agreed to marry Florentino, Fermina was in love with the concept of their distant relationship, not with Florentino himself. She broke off their engagement and ended up marrying a wealthy, well-respected doctor, Juvenal Urbino. From that time forward, Florentino lives in wait of Doctor Urbino’s death so that his love for Fermina can finally be returned.

On the outset, it might feel right to pity Florentino. After all, the love of his life went on to have what appeared to be a happy marriage. He did not, however, remain a virgin as he pined hopelessly for Fermina. Although he could tell you the number of years, months, days, and hours since Fermina broke off their relationship, he enjoyed other women shamelessly. His woman range from virgins to lonely widows in need of a sexual release. The one woman in his life with whom he doesn’t have sex ends up his best friend – and their relationship wasn’t solely platonic because of any decision he made.

I have not read anything by Garcia Marquez until I read Love in the Time of Cholera. Without kn0wing what to expect, I was looking forward to getting started. I was not disappointed. What I enjoyed the most about it is that the time, the place, and the characters are so very different from anything I’ve read this year. This story was also told at a much different manner and pace from other books this year. It was a very interesting read.

What intrigued me most about this book was the reason why cholera was mentioned in the title. Yes, there was much illness from cholera in the book. Doctor Juvenal Urbino’s physician father in fact dies of the disease, and it is important to the last passage of the book. In the end, I found that this title, along with much of the book, provided a little too much information about people and their hygiene. It kept me grounded within the reality of the narrative.

As a side note, I mentioned in my last review that I didn’t think that it worked for the main character not to be named in The Ice Queen. By contrast, the characters in this book were almost always (I counted two exceptions – one each for Fermina and Florentino) referred to using their full names. This literary devise worked very well here as it distanced the reader from the characters with this formality much in the same way that cultural formalities kept Florentino from Fermina.

To buy this novel, click here.

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.