Sunday, February 2, 2020

Gold fever

At the beginning of January, as for last 3 years, we visited Ballarat for an annual music festival - Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields - LOOK

We had few very busy days there and returned home convinced, that music is much more valuable than gold. Still, when the musical emotions mellowed, we felt some longing for Ballarat and its gold plated climate.
This time we decided to have some exciting company - our 4 grandchildren.

Few days accommodation for 6 people. Not so simple.
Luckily our son did some preliminary search aon Airbnb and here we were, in a backyard of a seasoned gold digger...

Then we looked the other way... no, it was a backyard of enchanted house.

Each fireplace guarded by mice

Old record player and a selections of proper music: Beatles, Elvis and Co.

Amby testing phone, Felix setting an old clock.

Girls testing their bed

Below - bedroom for boys.

Bedroom for grandparents

Boxes of fancy dresses

Strategically placed carafes with port, sherry...

But next day the magic was put to the background, time for GOLD.

We were not discouraged by a poor weather and a muddy road

Actually mud and muddy waters were our element. This and other parts of our story are here:

Still Gracie managed to colour a candle...

... and Matilda to get arrested.

Luckily smaller kids were taken in custody by responsible people.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Cilka's Journey

Cilka's Journey (The Tattooist of Auschwitz, #2)Cilka's Journey by Heather Morris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This review refers only to Cilka's Journey. I reviewed Tattooist of Auschwitz separately.
I found 2 aspects of this book.
One, how much fiction it is?
It is known that the Tattooist of Auschwitz raised same issues. Auschwitz Museum commented: "...resulted in creating a distorted version of Auschwitz. This is dangerous and disrespectful to history...". Source: LINK .
It looks, that the case of Cilka's Journey is even more controversial. A stepson of Cilka called the book "lurid and tittillating" LINK.
Reading the Acknowledgments section did not diminish my doubts. Most of thanks is directed to the personnel of the publishing company, few acknowledgments refer to general sources of information about Soviet gulags, even less to survivors or people who met Cilka.
Second aspect: how good is the story?
Initial chapters do not make it clear on what basis Soviet authorities sentenced Cilka to 15 years in gulag. There is a mention, that they screened each Auschwitz survivor ( 6,000 of them?).
In Vorkuta gulag Cilka is being blackmailed to do some favors to her inmates, otherwise some dark facts from her past in Auschwitz will be revealed.
At some stage, the story gets the balance, it turns to relation of numerous cases when Cilka made big sacrifices to help people around her. An obvious conclusion is, that she does it to erase her guilt.
On one hand I was quite touched by this part of the book. On the other, I got a feeling, that the author is just inventing a long sequence of events to demonstrate how noble and honest Cilka was. In my opinion it would have been better if she followed the advice of Cilka's stepson and admitted the the book is 99% fiction.

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Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Shepherd's Hut

The Shepherd's HutThe Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Started this book with very positive attitude.
Beginning was OK, very convincing language and internal dialogue of a young boy (Jaxie) without any education, family ties or social skills. And so I progressed some 50 pages when a question came: is there any story?
So far there was none.
I accepted it and continued, concentrating on author's skill in a very credible presenting the way of reasoning of the main character. Characteristic features were: absolute ego-centrism, lots of self-pity, considering murder as the best solution in all doubtful situations.
And avoiding any facts.
Then another character arrives. First reaction, obvious - kill. Somehow it is avoided, but temptation returns at any suspicion of unloyalty.
The other character brings additional theme - sins of Catholic Church. (view spoiler)
Then, out of sudden, there is some action. Unexpected finding. (view spoiler)
Finally, what a relief, happy end - 3 people killed and the main character, free of any fears, speeds towards happy life forever.
While reading I did not feel any connection to this book, still, after completion, a strong distaste remained.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Prawiek i inne czasy

Prawiek i inne czasyPrawiek i inne czasy by Olga Tokarczuk
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tytuł książki jest dwuznaczny.
Z jednej strony oznacza - prawiek - czasy prehistoryczne. W tym kontekście możemy się spodziewać jakiejś historycznej powieści z początkiem w bardzo dawnych czasach.
W rzeczywistości Prawiek to nazwa wioski. Wiosce poświęcony jest pierwszy rozdział - Czas Prawieku. Następnie są inne czasy - każdy rozdział, a jest ich blisko 70, to jest czyjś czas.
Po przeczytaniu kilku rozdziałów/czasów czułem się zaczarowany, musiałem zrobić przerwę. Gdy powróciłem do książki nie czułem potrzeby kontynuacji, zmiany czasów, byłem całkiem usatysfacjonowany ponowną lekturą tych przeczytanych poprzednio. Dlatego czytanie zajęło mi tak długo.
Wyznam się, że w miarę czytania początkowy czar wyparowywał.
"Bóg chciał być doskonały i zatrzymał się. To, co się nie porusza, stoi w miejscu. To, co stoi w miejscu, rozpada się."
W moim przypadku było odwrotnie - w momencie gdy narzuciłem sobie dyscyplinę czytania, nie wracałem do przeczytanych czasów, zauroczenie książką zaczęło się rozpadać.
Według mnie to samo stało się z bohaterami książki. Oni ruszają się i w tym ruchu rozpadają się.
Zastanawiło mnie, że jedyna rodzina, która nie rozpada się, przeciwnie - jest pozytywna, idzie do przodu, to rodzina feudalnego dziedzica.
Czyżby autorka miała jakieś klasowe preferencje?

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Saturday, October 26, 2019


KrólKról by Szczepan Twardoch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Brutalna i okrutna strona przedwojennej Warszawy.
Obogi Żydowski chłopak wrzucony w wir gangsterskiego świata.
W tle dramatyczne konflikty społeczne, antysemityzm, działalność gansterska, budzące się ruchy faszystowskie, walka polityczna na naiwyższych szczeblach.
Zaskoczyło mnie w jak wielkim stopniu książka opowiada autentyczne wydarzenia opisane w książce J. Rawicza "Doktor Łokietek i Tata Tasiemka, dzieje gangu" (rok 1968) - patrz tutaj:
Wydaje m się, że stopień podobieństwa jest tak wielki, że nie zaszkodziłoby podać książkę J. Rawicza w liście źródeł.
Jeśli chodzi o niekwestionowany wkład autora to jest nim niewątpliwie niezwykle intensywna narracja a prócz tego pewna przesada w opisie brutalnych scen, wulgarnym języku, stopniu motoryzacji.
Jednak mój główny zarzut w stosunku do autora to ostateczne całkowite zagubienie narratora opowieści. Po prostu, nie wiadomo czy on istniał.

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of AuschwitzThe Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Very colourful story of life of a Slovakian Jew, Lale Sokolov, imprisoned in German concentration camp in Auschwitz and given duty of tattooing serial numbers on prisoners' forearms.
In an afterword, the author mentions importance put by the story teller to the credibility of his story.
He might have justified concerns that his story might look too good to be true.
Just few points: since being nominated a tattooist he got allocated a separate room, moves freely about the camp, his SS guard treats him as a mentor, he is allowed for privacy with his beloved girlfriend, got access to substantial amount of jewelry, which in turn enables him trade in food and other essentials.
On one hand I see it as a story of great human character, strength and enduring love. On the other hand as I had a chance to meet few Auschwitz survivors and read a number of Auschwitz-centred stories I somehow instinctively reject any optimism growing in this place.

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Sunday, August 4, 2019

Life before Man

Life Before ManLife Before Man by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Three very different people in a toxic relationship.
I liked very much authors approach, presenting to the reader a starting point for decisions made by the main characters.
But then what?
From the beginning I was not interested in the outcome expecting, that it will only make things worse.
I feel really sorry for them, but I do not find a place for myself in this book.
So I left it somewhere in the middle

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