Monday, 7 September 2009

Gerald: A Portrait by Daphne du Maurier - Book 59, 2009

Title: Gerald: A Portrait by Daphne du Maurier
Genre: Biography
Rating: 9.5/10
Comments: Gerald: A Portrait is an amazing biography in its own right, painting a picture of a successful, celebrated and complex actor and theatre manager who rose to the top of his profession in early 20th Century UK. It is hard to believe that such an entertaining and insightful biography, written in the style of a third-person novel, could have been written in four short months after his death - let alone by a 27-year-old and let alone by his own daughter. A charming and entertaining man, Gerald was completely self-obsessed, narcissistic, childlike and in many ways a very difficult man to live with. du Maurier does not shrink from portraying the more difficult aspects of her father's character, but she does so sympathetically and also celebrates his many triumphs.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - Book 58, 2009

Title: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Genre: Literature
Rating: 9/10
Comments: When collecting the soul of a young boy who has died on a train journey en route to Munich, Death becomes fascinated by his sister Liesel, who he nicknames 'The Book Thief' because she picks up a discarded book left near his grave.  With her father already taken away for being a communist and her mother fearing the worst for herself, Liesel is sent to live with a poor, vulgar yet ultimately kind-hearted foster family in Munich.  Death traces her life in Munich, her love for her foster father, friendship with neighbour Rudy and her opportune thievery set against the deteriorating political landscape of Nazi Germany.  When her foster family hides a Jewish fist fighter in the basement, Liesel discovers the true meaning of friendship and courage.

The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier - Book 57, 2009

Title: The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier
Genre: literature/psychological study
Rating: 8.5/10
Comments: Born into theatre royalty, half-sibling Maria, Niall and Celia have had a far from conventional upbringing, travelling with their singer father and dancer mother from stage to stage around the world. The three - particularly Maria and Niall - have a deep, all consuming relationship with each other. After the death of his wife, their father becomes increasingly dependent upon and demanding of Celia, to the point where her separate identity is almost lost forever. No outsider can ever really penetrate the strange deep closeness and self-absorption of the family, leading to Maria's husband, Charles, calling them in frustration a bunch of parasites. One wet Sunday afternoon they start recalling their past, their influences and relationships that made them who they are today.

Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Paula Bernstein and Elyse Stein - Book 56,2009

Title: Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Paula Bernstein and Elyse Stein
Genre: autobiography
Rating: 8/10
Comments: In proof that truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction, Paula Bernstein and Elyse Stein both grew up knowing that they were adopted but it was only at the age of 35 they discover that they had an identical twin. They meet, get to know each other, discover many similarities - and significant differences, providing a fascinating insight into the whole issue of nature versus nurture and confronting issues of identity - given their identical initial building blocks of DNA, if they had been allocated as babies to each other's family, would Paula have become Elyse and vice versa? The pair decide to try and trace their birth mother and discover the disturbing reason as to why they were separated as babies. A fascinating real-life detective story.