reviews

Review: Orhan’s Inheritance

Orhan's InheritanceOrhan’s Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Highly readable, fictionalized story of the effects of the Armenian genocide on two families during and after World War I. It starts off pretty slow, but once we flash back to the lives of the characters in WW1, things got interesting.

I don’t think the book was all that effective at explaining why any of this happened, which was a disappointment. Anytime historical detail was covered, it was in some kind of information dump in the narrative or awkward, overly-expository dialogue between characters. I did not find this book to be especially well-written. However, it did shed a bit of light on a topic that doesn’t receive much attention in popular fiction and is still considered controversial by many around the world, so I did ultimately feel it was a worthwhile read.

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Review: Cat’s Cradle

Cat's CradleCat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was one of the first books I read that I felt spoke to me so directly and profoundly. I must have been sixteen at the time. I spent years afterwards referring to this as my favorite book, and I feel like I even mentioned it in my job interview nine years ago for the company where I still work. When my book club picked this for our March discussion, I realized I’d only read it the one time and I looked forward to rereading an old favorite, while also feeling a little worried that it wouldn’t hold up.

Like many Vonnegut classics, this is a book loaded with dark satire and witty one-liners about the futility of thing like religion, government, war, and–oh yeah–life. It was only upon rereading this book at thirty-three that I realized how BLEAK it is. I had recalled sixteen-year-old me fist-pumping the air at the book’s conclusion, and rereading it now, I got nothing but hopelessness and despair. Fun exercise in realizing how much a person can change over time and how that affects the reading experience!

While I definitely don’t think I’d call this my favorite book now, I still enjoyed it a great deal and would recommend it to anyone on earth with a sense of humor about life and religion. Just know that although you’ll probably laugh throughout the story, it might leave you feeling more than a bit unsettled about humanity.

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Review: All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I avoided reading this book forever because it seemed like it would bore me (this is based on nothing but the fact that it was a rising bestseller about WWII). Then, it was suggested as a book club double feature with The Nightingale, so I picked it up. It goes without saying, this book was far better. The characters were well-drawn and complex, and the story was riveting and expertly-paced. It will break your heart more than once.

My favorite sentence in the entire book comes very near the end, when one character says of another, “It was hard for him not to do what was expected of him.” In that one small sentence, an explanation of the actions of entire countries’ actions during the war (looking at you, France) can be found.

I especially liked the ending and how the memories of that horrible time lived on in all those who survived, even if they could now eat pork seven days a week, as one character remarked, or their old houses and been razed or turned into fancy hotels. As a thirtysomething American, I can’t understand the impact of living through a war that’s waged on our soil for years, but this book made me think a lot about the long-lasting effect such a thing has on a culture and society. Recommended.

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