From “The Book of Form and Emptiness” by Ruth Ozeki to “The Woman Before Wallis” by Bryn Turnbull.
This is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain. The rules are:
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This month we start with “The Book of Form and Emptiness“ by Ruth Ozeki!
This month (August 6, 2022), the chain begins with “The Book of Form and Emptiness” by Ruth Ozeki. Well… yes, I’ve read this book, and my regular readers know that this got a resounding 5/5 stars from me (I hereby reserve the right to use this book in another chain in the future). To remind you all about the story: “After the tragic death of his beloved musician father, fourteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. … Although Benny doesn’t understand what these things are saying, he can sense their emotional tone; some are pleasant, a gentle hum or coo, but others are snide, angry and full of pain. When his mother, Annabelle, develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow more clamorous. At first, Benny tries to ignore them, but soon the voices follow him outside the house, onto the street and at school, driving him at last to seek refuge in the silence of a large public library, where objects are well-behaved and know to speak in whispers. There, Benny discovers a strange new world, where “things happen.” … [There] he meets his very own Book–a talking thing–who narrates Benny’s life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.”
So, because Ozeki writes such unique stories, my initial thought was connecting to this one isn’t going to be as easy as it seems. Then I realized I’d just reviewed a novel where the main protagonist is called Annabel… which is similar (enough) to Annabelle in Ozeki’s book. I’m talking about Clothes-Pegs by Susan Scarlett. Yes, I know, I just put my review of that novel up this past Tuesday, but there’s nothing in the rules about using a very recent book for this meme, so THERE! As you’ll see from my review, this is a romance novel which was recently re-released by Dean Street Press. It is about a young woman of modest means who at only age 17, becomes a clothes model and that leads her to find a very rich, titled husband!
Finding a husband at a young age is something which is still famous in certain secluded, and religious communities, including the Orthodox Jewish circles. In the novel “The Marrying of Chani Kaufman” our protagonist is practically an old maid at the age of 19! Now, while Chani has found someone to marry, things aren’t as simple as they seem, and when human nature starts to conflict with the secluded familial nurturing that Chani has been brought up within, things start to go awry. There are many things about this novel that I liked, but I wasn’t totally sold on it. However, I’m glad that the author did such good research on London’s Ultra-Orthodox community, because it showed (although not everyone will notice this).
Another book that has to do with Jewish woman steeped in and/or trapped by tradition, whose author has the same last name as the first name of the author of the previous book, is “Henna House” by Nomi Eve. In this novel, we move from Ashkenazi Jews (meaning Jews who lived in Eastern European countries) to Mizrachi Jews (from North Africa and Arab countries), and in particular Jews from the country of Yemen. In this novel, too, there’s a need to get married, since the laws in Yemen at the time were such that the authorities could take a Jewish female from their home (to be given to a Muslim family) if her father dies before she is married. By the way, there’s another connection here to the previous book, because one of the characters in this one is called Hani – same pronunciation, different spelling!
I think I’ll continue the weddings/marriage themes here and go a touch literal with “Tatiana’s Wedding” by Cynthia A. Robinson. Interestingly enough, in this novel, our main protagonist isn’t named Tatiana – that’s the name of the grandmother in this story. In fact, our main protagonist here is a girl by the name of Delfina, who was raised by Tatiana (aka Nani) after her father murdered her mother. Pretty gruesome stuff, I know, but as Nani gets closer to her own death, the truth about Delfina’s family history begins to be revealed, along with her grandmother’s love of the man she married, Stephan – the man Delfina’s brother was named after. This is a fairly complex story, but one well worth the read.
Another marriage that was born of passion was between a Creole woman and a French military man on the rise. In fact, he had a truly glorious future ahead of him. I’m speaking of the woman who captured the heart of Napoleon Bonaparte, in the novel “Becoming Josephine” by Heather Webb. Their love for each other was not only epic, it was also tragic, since Napoleon divorced Josephine, since she was too old to give him an heir. While that sounds pretty callous, we also realize through this story that sometimes love just can’t conquer all; sometimes things like ambition, status, or the simple need to procreate in order to preserve family and legacy, end up defeating the heart.
Now, on the other hand, sometimes love does conquer all, even if marrying the woman you truly love changes your whole future. This puts me in mind of the novel “The Woman Before Wallis” by Bryn Turnbull. In this book, we learn about Thelma Morgan, the woman that had an affair with Edward, Prince of Wales before he fell for Wallis Simpson. We all know he insisted on marrying her, and thereby he ended his chances of ever remaining the King of England. I found this a fascinating read because even if the Prince hadn’t fallen for Wallis and decided to marry Thelma, he still would have had to abdicate. I guess the guy was doomed from the start (although he was a Nazi lover and supporter of Hitler, so I don’t feel sorry for him in the least)!