Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Nevermore: Johnny Got His Gun, Hope Never Dies, Like Family, Music of Silence, A House for Mr. Biswas

Reported by Ambrea

This week, Nevermore started their meeting with a look at Dalton Trumbo’s novel Johnny Got His Gun.  Set during the horrors of World War I, Johnny Got His Gun tells the story of Joe Bonham, a young American soldier who one day awakens in the infirmary to find that he has lost his arms, legs, and most of his face, becoming a prisoner in his own body.  As he struggles to communicate with the outside world, his mind drifts between reality and fantasy as he remembers his old life and struggles with the reality of his new condition.  Johnny Got His Gun was a revisit for our Nevermore reader, who called Trumpo’s novel “frightening [but] so, so important.”  She noted this novel has gone out of print, been banned and challenged, but she said it’s a story that needs saying—it’s a novel that has impact and deserves to be read.  She highly recommended it as one of the most jarring—and best—books she’s read.

On a lighter note, Nevermore took up Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer.  In this humorous novel—the first ever published work of Obama/Biden fiction—Shaffer brings back former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama as unexpectedly successful detectives.  Our reader picked up Hope Never Dies, because she found the cover amusing, but she quickly discovered it was actually a very good, very funny novel.  She found the mystery suitably intriguing and the humor spot on; she said it was a quick, easy (and hilarious) read that served as a great high note amidst some more depressing fare.

Next, Nevermore shared Like Family:  Growing Up in Other People’s Houses by Paula McLain.  Paula and her two sisters were abandoned by their parents and became wards of the State very early in their lives, spending the next 14 years in foster homes across California.  Her memoir accurately captures the upheaval and loneliness and distress a life in foster homes can cause, as well as the daily struggles of trying to hold their remaining “family” together.  Our reader said Like Family was a very readable, very well-written memoir that paints a raw, honest picture of the foster care system.  She found McLain’s story to be heartbreaking, but fascinating and, ultimately, uplifting.  She highly recommended it, especially to fans of The Liar’s Club and The Glass Castle.

Sticking to the vein of memoirs, Nevermore picked up Andrea Bocelli’s The Music of Silence.  Bocelli is a world-famous tenor, a classical singer who made his name in opera; however, Bocelli’s path to stardom was far from easy.  Although he lost his eyesight by the age of twelve to glaucoma, he invested himself into his music and, by 1992, he finally reached international acclaim.  Our reader said The Music of Silence was an interesting book.  While it is labeled as a memoir, Bocelli often speaks in the third person, which she found a bit jarring.  Regardless, our reader enjoyed Bocelli’s memoir and rated it very highly as one of the better books she’s read on famous musical personalities.

Last, Nevermore explored A House for Mr. Biswas by Nobel Prize-winner V.S. Naipaul.  Mohun Biswas has spent his life trying to find autonomy, struggle to gain independence from one domineering group or another; however, rather than finding his own personal peace, he faces a lifetime of trials that ultimately shape him.  Our reader fell in love with Naipaul’s novel.  “[I] love the expression of language…[and I] really like the hero,” she told Nevermore.  She raved that Naipaul’s writing was wonderful; in fact, she considers him to be “one of the best writers I’ve ever read.”  Although A House for Mr. Biswas flirts with tragedy, she said it was a very good novel with humor and heart and beauty—and she highly recommended it to her fellow readers.

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