Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Nevermore: John Rabe, Night Ocean, Long Black Veil, Sugar, Glass Castle

 Reported by Ambrea

This week, Nevermore shared a The Good Man of Nanking:  The Diaries of John Rabe.  John Rabe was a native German, a supporter of the Nazi party, and an unexpected hero in China.  In November 1937, prior to the alliance of Germany and Japan in 1940, Japanese troops overran Nanking and began one of the cruelest campaigns of genocide imaginable.  Japanese soldiers slaughtered Chinese citizens, slowly eating away at the country and acquiring vast swathes of territory for their native country.  John Rabe, who became known as the Oskar Schindler of China, put himself at great personal risk to save the lives of more than 200,000 Chinese men, women, and children.  Our reader said John Rabe’s diary was intense and incredibly heart-wrenching; however, she highly recommended it to her fellow Nevermore members, calling it a very interesting and engaging book that offers insight into the complex political and social landscape of China prior to World War II.

Next, Nevermore checked out The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge, an unusual piece of fiction that tells the strange intertwining stories of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Barlow, William S. Burroughs, L.C. Spinks—and Charlie and Marina Willett.  Marina has a big problem:  Her husband, Charlie, has become obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and the relationship he cultivated with Robert Barlow, a young gay fan, in 1934.  When a new scandal strikes Charlie, he suddenly disappears—and Marina is left holding the pieces, trying to find out what happened and why.  Our reader said it seemed to focus on “crazy and quasi-crazy people,” which made it difficult to read.  She admitted she couldn’t finish it.  The story didn’t hold her interest and it didn’t spark a connection.  She managed to make it to page 44.

Nevermore also returned to a current favorite:  Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan.  In her latest novel, Boylan introduces a story of suspense, betrayal, and survival.  It’s 1980, a year full of promise and hope, until six college students sneak into the dilapidated ruins of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary—and someone doesn’t make it out alive.  Fast forward to the future, Judith Carrigan has made a career and built a family for herself.  When her friend, Jon Casey, is arrested for murder, Judith must decide if she’s willing to risk the life she’s created and unleash the secrets of the past.  Our reader said he found Boylan’s book “very interesting.”  Filled with intricate characters and deadly secrets, Long Black Veil handles sensitive subjects very well and creates an enjoyable, atmospheric story.

Nevermore picked up The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes, a sweeping book about the health risks and dangers of sugar.  According to the cover, “diabetes is more prevalent today than ever; obesity is at epidemic proportions; nearly ten percent of children are thought to have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.  And sugar is at the root of these…”  Our reader said she started reading Taubes book, but she eventually decided she’d had enough and she gave up.  She said she “left greasy streaks on [her Kindle] screen,” because reading about sugar had made her ravenously hungry.

Last, Nevermore looked at Jeannette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle.  In her memoir, Jeannette tells of her and her siblings’ remarkable story of survival and resilience in a family that was unique but terrifyingly dysfunctional.  Jeannette’s father was an intelligent, charismatic man with a drinking problem; her mother was an artist and a “free spirit” who chafed at the idea of taking responsibility for a family.  Jeannette and her siblings learned to take care of themselves, even during the most trying—most terrifying—of their lives.  Our reader complemented The Glass Castle for its incredible writing, calling it a joy to read.  “Not joyful,” she noted, “but [incredibly] well written.”  It details the struggles and desperate times the children faced; however, it does so with care and thoughtfulness, highlighting the bonds Jeanette forged with her brother and sisters.

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