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  1. I think the birthmarks were just another way of linking the stories together. The way I interpreted it was that they showed a simple genetic link between the characters (nothing to do with Adam!). This, in itself, was not particularly relevant other than serving as a metaphor for the strength that is always present in humanity to defy odds, swim against the tide, stand up for what's right etc etc. That's my take on it, anyway. gerbrooks, I hope you enjoy it and look forward to seeing which way your opinion will go.....!
  2. Jim Crace. He is one of my favourite authors. I only discovered him a couple of years ago and not many people seem to know him. But that could be my circle....and therefore not very representative. Does he qualify as under-rated?
  3. I'm not going to make any suggestion (it seems like there are enough already!), I just wanted to say again that I think it's a GREAT idea to have genres for the Book Club! I will happily read whatever choice is voted. Although slightly scared by the maths one....but intrigued.....my son already has an understanding and appreciation of this language/world at age 11 that leaves me open-mouthed....
  4. I got more out of the second half of the book, definitely. Some of the strands started to come together a bit more and, like you BrumB, I've found the characters still with me a week later. I'm not sure I agree though that there was enough material for more than one book. I think there was a lot of space wasted on the unnecessary humour (the situations were funny enough without labouring the point) and the repetition in the first half of the book. Repetition in the sense of constantly returning to the same scene/theme/relationship when it had already been well established. But I did enjoy the subtlety of Valentina's character. Although, I have to say, I felt quite dissatisfied afterwards. I think it might be because the narrator's stance throughout was too distant, too British, if that makes sense. I didn't like the sort of wry, bemused 'aren't these foreigners funny' attitude that seemed to be lurking around the pages. It just seemed to diminish the more interesting aspects. But then on the other hand, it wasn't meant to be a pathos-filled story about hardship and suffering and heroism. It was about the grubby survival of ordinary people. I think I might have to read it again! So it will definitely stay on my bookshelf - a good sign, for me anyway.
  5. OK, fair enough! Come to think of it, maybe I have heard it pronounced 'shick' so my last comment should be scrapped.
  6. I'm not quite sure about this book. The potential is there for a very interesting and powerful story. There are various strong threads ready to be woven together (examining your own life and family relationships after the death of a parent, the desperate and brutal history of Ukraine told through the father's manuscript on tractors, the strange bureaucratic world of immigration, to name a few) but it just doesn't seem to be working. It just seems to be sinking under a burden of superficiality and forced humour. I feel like I'm being led round in circles by someone rather irritating who has no idea where they're going or why. One thing I just read is really annoying me: the father uses the word 'chic' and we are told that he pronounces it "in the French way, 'sheek' " because apparently he fancies himself as a francophone. Excuse me, but is there any other way to pronouce it? Chick? Cheek? Goodness sake. It might sound petty but I find this sort of sloppiness intensely annoying.
  7. I thought I'd continue the tradition of a 'first impressions' thread for the book group choice. I haven't started reading Tractors yet (copy just arrived yesterday) but my very first impression is what a wonderful book jacket. I know some people may find it a bit gimmicky but I just love it. It is a perfect imitation of a typical Soviet book cover, right down to the colour of the ink and the slightly squint graphic. Having spent a lot of time in Soviet Russia in the early 80's I was immediately transported back there as soon as I saw it. Off to actually read it now....
  8. That is such a nice picture! I do hope your grandson is thriving and eating lots of salami/leaves/cakes himself now? It's got me thinking aboutthe power of story-telling and it's capacity to bond people, whether oral or written, and how this basic form of communication is managing to survive in this technological age. For example, on the way to work the other day I was thinking about the sheer amount of information I am expected to digest, process, store and then interpret for another audience etc etc . The thought of reading Hungry Caterpilla to a teeny prem baby seems so much more appealing and worthwhile.
  9. I think this is a wonderful book. I included it in my top ten books (here if anyone hasn't voted yet). As an introduction to the world of books for small children you really can't get any better. Behind the sheer charm and simplicity are all the fundamental elements of 'a good book': a good plot (no, but really it is), education, humour, engagement. It engages the child both physically (the holes) and mentally and yet doesn't patronise. Genius. Awww, it's made me remember reading it to my boy when he was wee. Awash with nostalgia now.
  10. Well, I ordered my copy through this site and it wasn't much more than a paperback (about 3 pounds more). That doesn't seem like a lot to me; it's less than a bottle of wine, for example. Well, drinkable wine anyway.
  11. Excellent ideas, iggi1812 and thank you very much for all your work! I was wondering if a 'sticky' post might be useful at the top of the Book Group forum? It could contain the general principles about when and how books are chosen, that you should include spoilers when appropriate etc etc. Also it could be updated each month - sorry! 6 weeks - with Bill's link for buying the book on line. For one thing, I was thinking about when discussions start and couldn't remember if there was some rule or guideline about this. I know some people like to start talking about the book before they've finished reading and there's a thread called 'first impressions'. Has this just happened by fortunate chance or was it agreed? Sorry, I should read over previous threads, I know...which actually makes the case for a sticky - there are bound to be more people like me who can't remember/are too lazy to find out. Just a thought! thanks again
  12. Yes, that's the one. Thanks! I've thought some more about the importance of titles (as in their literary significance not their commercial purpose) and realised how sloppy I'm getting. When I was a student I'm sure I could easily have written an impassioned essay all about the significance of a book title for the work contained therein. Now I can barely remember them, let alone make the connection. Anyway, I will never again forget the title 'Signals of Distress'. That is, after all, what the book is actually about and is a nice play on the sea-faring context.
  13. Fair enough and apologies if I sounded nippy. I still don't get this. I'm not sure where the fine line is drawn between being interested/intrigued and hung up/irritatingly obsessive. But that's a general problem in my life that probably doesn't need to be shared here. I genuinely would like to understand what you mean about this whole 'and' / 'the' thing and also why the title 'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian' bothers you. Anyway, this has got me thinking about the importance of book titles in general. How important are they? I don't mean just in the commercial sense of being viewed as a selling point (almost as important as the cover design) but the literary significance. I'm terrible at remembering titles and often don't take any notice - one of my favourite novels in recent years is by Jim Crace and damn me I can't remember the title. It's something about ships..and crossing?.....anyway it's bloody great. On the other hand, it did occur to me that the title of 'The Traveller's Wife' is quite significant: it implies that this is a book about Claire (the wife) rather than Henry (the Traveller). Translated books often end up with startlingly different titles as well.
  14. I was recently given a book from a colleague for whom I have always had a lot of respect and in many ways count as a friend. She positively gushed over it, saying it was one of her favourites and how I must 'see what I think', of course, but she was sure I would love it. Yes, I hated it. I did manage to read it all but kept sighing and urging the central character to just hurry up and die and put me out of my misery*. So now I find myself looking at her in a different way. Is she person I thought she was.....? Until now I have avoided saying anything to her (we do have to work together after all). On the flip side, it is such a joy when you meet someone and find that they love some of the same books as you, isn't it? By the way, Sherman, I completely agree about The Alchemist. I don't have the excuse of it being recommended to me and am slightly embarrassed to confess that I was seduced by it's attractive warm orange cover in the airport on the way to a summer holiday. I left it half-read on the beach in Italy to be washed away by the tide, which was rather kind of me I think. *Any Human Heart by William Boyd, in case anyone's interested.
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