Review of ‘Beatrice and Virgil’

Title: Beatrice and Virgil

Author: Yann Martel

The writer Henry goes overseas. He has failed to convince his publisher why he wrote a fictional book on Holocaust. So he goes to a big city – ‘Perhaps it is New York. Perhaps it is Paris. Perhaps it is Berlin’.

 

Henry gives up his writing career,  works at a local chocolateria and acts in an amateur theatre. His wife Sarah is pregnant and Henry is expecting his first child. Life goes on. However Henry’s curiosity is raised after receiving a parcel from an unknown writer. A short Flaubert story and an unfinished play ‘Beatrice and Virgil’, is waiting for his help, this parcel leads him to the sender, a taxidermist, Henry.  

In a shop full of dead animal bodies, the stinking taxidermist is emotionless and rude. However, his manner does not deter the author Henry to find the story behind the play. It turns out Beatrice is a dead donkey and Virgil is a dead monkey in reality. But why they appear in this play? The book unfolds its story gradually while the play moves from one scene to another with the help of the author Henry. The conversations between Beatrice and Virgil are philosophical and fable, but often fragmented. While the author Henry is inspired by the play that he has been helping with, he does not realise his life is at the stake. 

Martel’s previous novel, Life of Pi, was widely appraised. After waiting for years for a new book, Beatrice and Virgil presents a great knowledge of animals, extraordinary plots and eccentric characters. One fines similarities to ‘Life of Pi’. However, pages and pages of long descriptions on strange animals are overwritten.   

It’s a book for reflecting and thinking, especially if you like Life of Pi.  

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Review of ‘After the fall’

Title: After the Fall

Author: Kylie Ladd

Sarah’s pick

 This Australian novel is told from the viewpoints of 2 couples who are friends- Luke and Cressida; and Cary and Kate.  Luke and Kate kiss then later have an affair. 

The book opens with each character telling us of the affair. It then goes back to show how each couple met and how the two couples became friends. There is a buildup to the affair (”the fall”) but once it has happened and is discovered the lives of all of the characters is changed. 

 Kylie Ladd also works as a psychologist and has used her experience in this field to show us alternative views of the same story. Cary isn’t interested in knowing the details –“What’s there to think about? It happened, it’s over, I’ll survive” while Cressida wants to know why the affair happened and insists on counselling – ‘I’d arrived at the first session wanting to get straight into it, hungry for details, the whole sordid picture”. It was interesting to hear Luke’s justification for loving both Cressida and Kate- “Parents claim they love all their children equally, and no one doubts this. Why can’t it be the same for adults?”

 The story moves swiftly with the narrator changing every couple of pages. This also makes it a little hard to follow at first. There is a happy ending for Cressida, the paediatric oncologist, who has moved on from Luke and found a much more suitable partner. For Kate we are left feeling uncertain about her decisions and a little pity for her husband Cary. 

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Review ‘The death of Sigmund Freud’

Title:     The death of Sigmund Freud: the legacy of his last days

Author: Mark Edmundson

 Freud and Hitler were in the same place in their life on at least two occasions. While Freud was already a well established psychoanalyst Hitler was lonely and homeless, in 1909 Vienna. But in time Hitler emerged as a triumphal Nazi leader while the world renowned scientist was facing danger as a Jew after events at Anschluss unfolded.

 The author revisits Freud’s major psychoanalytic works. In 1938, Freud is 82, fragile, and suffers from a cancer in its advanced stage.  Hitler forced annexation of Austria and took it under Nazi Germany’s national flag. Facing violence on the street as well as looting in his own home by local Nazis, Freud never stopped working. For him it was not a surprise to see the rise of fascism because he sets fascism into psychoanalytic frame work. In his theory,  he argues that infantile human mind, that we carry with us all our lives, in particular we yearns for authority figures, which fertilises the ground for tyrannical governments and authoritarians. It also gives rise to religious fundamentalism. So much so, for Freud, the rise and popularity of Hitler in 1938 Vienna was not unpredictable.

 To protect his family, Freud fled from Austria to England where he had to deal with a cancer that had eaten him away physically, but his commitment to his final work ‘Moses and monotheism’ was as strong as ever. Freud firmly believe in atheism ground and held no bias towards any religions, including Judaism. Freud was fully award that ‘Moses and monotheism’ would be regarded as controversial by most Jews as he sought to rewrite some religious stories.  But he was not deterred. He was a courageous man living in a period of peril.

  It’s not an easy reading but worth the effort.

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Discussion Paper from the 1st Wed Reading Group

      

The 1st Wednesday Reading Group has discussed ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy, which is also a book made into the film.

"In a novel set in an indefinite, futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, a father and his young son make their way through the ruins of a devastated American landscape, struggling to survive and preserve the last remnants of their own humanity." (From NoveList Plus – a library database)

For the story/plot, some members described it personal, mythical and apocalyptic, a symbol of lack of trust. It was also a sense of everything having been abandoned, yet so many were on the road. The mother’s suicide and father’s death didn’t impair the boy’s searching for good people and a sense of love, hope and idealism. Reference to the trout in the streams in the mountains - perhaps this was seen as the future; a regeneration of the earth. There was no names for the characters; a device to suggest the starkness of the situation

There are two main characters, a father and a boy.  The relationship sometimes could be seen as brutal, especially as the father is not trusting and shows a lack of compassion.

As for the language, some members thought that it was well written but the story line seemed too “fairytale” like and the use of language suggested it was in America. Some thought it was beautifully written, but others mentioned it was in archaic construction and some sentences were not even grammatical, but did flow and were evocative. Different views on this book made a the discussion more interesting.

For the setting, some thought that the starkness was enhanced by use of no names with grim and brutal survival aspects. However references suggested that they were travelling south, to a warmer climate – to a coast, perhaps because sea water would regenerate them? Was it a symbol of life starting in sea?

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New Easy Books for Juniors

Parramatta City Library has updated some "New Easy Junior (EJ)  First Reading by Myself Books". These books have a Smiley Face on them. Here is the list of titles for the different levels.

Storylands -  Circus Bizurcus 
 
Emergent Levels 1-5
Come and see the Circus
Max ManyhandsRollup!
Roll up!
Tricky Hoops
Bendy BettyVinny Varmoose
The AcrobatsOur Show
The Amazing Anton
Ringmaster Rounds
Early Levels 6-10
Lost Shoes
New Acts Wanted
I Could Do That!
Where is Vinny?Animal Act
Circus Holiday
Anton’s Show Stopper
The Show Must Go On
Runaway Circus
Circus Town
Early – Fluent Level 11 – 20
The Tangled Circus
What a View!
The Switch Trick
The Best Seats
The Not So Empty Tent
The World’s Smallest Circus
The Great Balancing Act
The Great Show Starter
A Surprise Performance
Zac’s Spotty Act

Storylands – Fantastic Forest 

Emergent Level 1-5

Our Forest

Go Dash!

What is Nuggle Making?

What is Hector Hiding?

A Spot for Everything

The Grumpy Troll

My big Eyes

A Very Fine Creature

The Colours of the Forest

Noises in the NightEarly

Level 6-10

Gog’s Dinner

Secret Sounds

The Thunderbolt

Gog’s Wish

Hector’s Password

The Very Fast Race

Tuffy’s Tumble

Forest Tricks

The Spooky Tree

Gog’s Game

Early-Fluent Level 11-20

One of Us Has to Go

The Gwibber

Do Not Wake the Dragon

Gog the Great

The Sleepover

What a Rock!

Spare Eyes

Swap Day

Gog’s Surprise

Blinks Leaves a List 

Storylands – Lost Island

Emergent Level 1-5

The dinosaur Egg

Luna Likes Purple

Friends

Ellie’s Big Swim

Lucky Dinosaurs

Time to Fly

Little Lost Dinosaur

Wild Child

Our Island

The Big RoarEarly Level

Something Special

Who Wants to Play?

Dinosaur Surprise

What Trio Built

Around the Island

Tickles’ New Nest

What a Ride

What’s Wrong with Rex?

Noisy Jungle

Where Are the Dinosaurs?

Early-Fluent Level

Trio Gets Stuck

The Big Kidnap

Ellie’s Greatest Find

The Scariest Thing

Dinosaur Wings

Pixie Pop

The Island Jewel

The Silly Saurus

Dino Dinner

The Biggest Smallest Dinosaur  

Storylands – Pirate Cove

Emergent Level

Sailor’s Surprise

Pirate Treasure

Follow the Sun

The Mermaid

The Treasure Map

Loading the Ship

Where is the Treasure?

Treasure Chest

The Secret Hiding Spot

What the Captain Saw

Early Level

Look Out

All Hands on Deck

What Filled the Spot?

Captain’s Orders

A Pirate’s Life for Me

That Pesky Parrot

Crew Stew

The Missing Mermaid

Mermaids are Moving

The Hungry Sea Monster

Early – Fluent Level

Sea-Monster Soup

Red Beard the Pirate

Bones the Sea Dog

A Hat Full of Gold

Pirate Party

Dog overboard

The Great Race

Mermaid mess

Grandma on Board

Pirate School

ABC Reading Eggs

Level 1- 7 books

Targeting Literacy
I am                
I am Sam                   
Sam can bat             
Sam can See           
Cat and rat    
Zee the Bee              
Matt the ant               
Cans
The Map                    
Dan   
Storylands – Clinker Castle

Emergent Level

What’s in the Lake?

A Royal Picnic

The Queen’s Big Quest

The Shining Knight

Royal Favourites

The Royal Message

The Naughty Prince

Shopping

The Forgetful Princess

Knight Training

Early Level

The Red Knight

The Surprise Prince

Who is in the Tower?

The Hungry Hound

Catch a Dragon

The Queen’s Mirror

The Very Best Castle

Royal Trouble

The Frog Princess

The King’s Challenge

Early- Fluent Level

Spike the Dragon

The Quenen’s New Crown

The Brave Knight

The Prince of Horrors

Perfectly Princess

The Royal Mix Up

Keys to the Castle

The Horse Prince

The Lost Prince

The Princess Wouldn’t Laugh

Go Books Green

Ben Level 1 -5

My Dad

What is Ben?

Yum! Yum!

Baby Sister

Ben’s Cat

Has Ben Got a Sore Back?

Hugs

Ouch!

Fishing

Ben and John

Rosie Rat Level 1-5     

Hop     

Fun Run     

Happy Birthday     

Lucky Pup     

Rosie Rat’s Pets     

The Sick Fish     

Rosie Rat Wins the Game     

The Back Pack     

Mick     

Red Nose

Sam and Sal Level 1-4    

Hot     

Spider     

Get down     

I Have a Pup     

Sal Fed the Hens

Sam Had a Bag

Wet

Hide-and-Seek

I am a Clown

I Can Pick Apples

Patch Level 1-4

Tails

Bad Patch!

My Best Pet

Patch Likes Me

Patch the Circus Dog

Red Things

The Postman

What a Mess

Fun with Patch

My Dog Patch

Me and My World Set Level 1-4

At the Zoo

Big

Dog

Dragons

I Can

Who is Happy?

Bubbles

Soccer

Apples and Ice Cream

What Is it?      

Go Books Gold

Betty Binnum Level 6-10     

Bush Tucker

Tracks

What Can You See?

Hiking

Where is That Frog?

Gwondo the Sea Dog

Be Careful

I’ll Tell You a Story

Danny Dolphin Level 6-10

Danny Dolphin’s Holiday

Danny Dolphin Super Surfer

The Old Ship

Danny to the Rescue

Set Free

All About Danny

Danny Dolphin’s Nose

Danny Dolphin is My Friend

FJ Holden Level 6-10

The Car Race     

The Holiday     

The Parade     

FJ’s Friends     

The Bank Robbers

FJ Saves the Day

The Storm

Doctor Ted

Mighty Meg Level 6-10

Mighty Meg

What a Picnic

A Mighty Helper

Bushfire

Out!

Mighty Meg at the Beach

Mighty Meg and the Whale

The Party

Pip, Jack and Jimmy Level 6-10

At the Park

Little Brother     

The Bush Barbecue     

The Movies     

Bike Riding     

Minding Jack     

At the Concert     

The Zoo 

National Geographic – Windows on Literacy

The Amazing silkworm

The animal hospital

Antlers

At the playground

Baking a cake

The car wash

Caves

Count the animals

Crittercam

Divers of the deep sea

A dog’s life

The Eiffel Tower

Exploring the Everglades

Families

Feeding time

Fractions everywhere

From tree to me

Fruit salad

The garage sale

Getting ready

Glass

Giraffes

The Golden Gate Bridge

I help in the garden

I help my Dad

Hot and cold

In the garden

Kitchen science

Legs

Meet Jane Goodall

My balloon ride

My bed is soft

My mum and dad take care of me

My school day

My walk

A new school

On safari

On the move

On the weekend

Our cubby

Our world is big

Patterns around the world

People live here

People live in the desert

People work at the supermarket

Plants in the park

A pride of lions                     

Rice

Round like a circle

Sound

The speedy cheetah

Stained glass

Strange plants

Superdrome

Taking care of farm animals

Tunnels

Turn on a tap

Using your five senses

Watermelons

Welcome to Japan

What can a diver see?

What can I do today?

What will happen today?

What’s my job?

Wheels

Where is it going?

Who lives at the zoo?

Who looks after me?

You can make a pom-pom

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