::sigh:: Do you ever read the blurb of a book and just get really excited because you think this book will be perfect for you; the premise is sound and the book draws itself to you? That's what happened with this book, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.
The gist is that Rose, on her 9th birthday, discovers that she can taste people's emotions when she eats food they prepare. She discovers this when her mother is testing out a recipe that Rose has requested for her birthday dinner, lemon cake with chocolate icing. And she tastes her mother's sadness and true unhappiness.
Unfortunately, the book went downhill (for me) from there... Rose has a hard time eating anything and gravitates to manufactured food, preferably foods that are prepared via machinery only...hence, no feelings from the maker. There is continued strains on Rose's relationship with her mother while her father appears to be completely disconnected from the familial web. She also has a very odd brother, whom you learn in the end is battling his own special ability.
All in all, I was kinda disappointed...I was really looking forward to this book and have actually had it on my shelf for almost a year, but I'm sad to say that I would not recommend it. That doesn't happen very often and I always feel kinda bad saying that...but, moving right along: nonfiction!
A while back I did a review for a book that outlined many of the problems that are rampant in and around North Korea today. That book was Escaping North Korea and you can view my review of it by clicking here. There were a few other books that Sophia from Burp and Slurp had recommended regarding North Korea. Next on my to-read list (from her recommendations) was this book...
Think of the absolute worst internment/concentration camp of any war EVER. Then, make the conditions 100x more horrible than what you've learned about in the past. That's what this book is about...so, be prepared if and when you decide to pick it up.
This book is the biography of Shin Dong-hyuk, who was born in Camp 14 - a slave labor camp for political prisoners in North Korea. Of all the labor camps in North Korea, this one is the absolute worst because why not torture political prisoners and their family members the most?
It's when I'm writing something like that when I realllllly wish there was a such thing as sarcasm font. In case you can't tell, in that last sentence I'm being sarcastic. Extremely.
When a person performs a crime, North Korea's regime believes that you must punish three generations of a family before you can eliminate the seed of those enemies. In addition, within the camps if a woman is caught with another prisoner (or perhaps guard) in a compromising/sexual position or becomes pregnant without being in a "marriage," she would immediately be shot (as well as the man, if he was also a prisoner).
Shin was born in Camp 14, a product of two prisoners who, because of good behavior, were allowed to a "reward" marriage. Because of Shin's circumstance upon birth (a second-generation prisoner), he never had a chance of being released from Camp 14...ever. Also, no one has ever either attempted or survived an attempt to escape Camp 14. Until Shin.
This under-nourished, bow-legged (and bow-armed), scarred, PSD-wrought, young man has seen horrors the majority of us couldn't conjure up out of our imagination. Just to give you some examples, Shin remembers (along with other starving children) food scavenging for bugs, rats and even undigested corn from cow dung. Gross, I know. He also witnessed his mother and brother's execution...there's more to that story, but you need to read the book to find out. Plus, guards were known to rape and pillage the prisoners as well as reward the snitches within the prison population...Shin, unfortunately, capitalized on this last bit.
I won't go into more details simply because I think this is a book that I everyone should read. I know that won't happen, but I believe it's similar to books like Half the Sky, Roots, Stolen Innocence, A Stolen Life, The Diary of Anne Frank, A Woman in Berlin, Lone Survivor and Reading Lolita in Tehran. Each of these books talks about something that makes you extremely uncomfortable, but that something is extremely important at the same time. You won't feel warm fuzzies when you're done with this book, but you'll be a better informed and more aware person, especially on this ever expanding world stage.
Again, I highly recommend reading this book. And finally, a classic which also happens to be non-fiction.
The Narrative of Sojourner Truth was my latest classic pick for my reading rotation. Isabella Baumfree was the given name of this abolitionist and women's rights activist. This memoir recounts many of her struggles, including her account of going to court to retrieve her son from a white man. She won, and is know for being the first African American woman to win such a case against a white man.
Honestly, this wasn't my favorite memoir, simply because the prose wasn't super easy to follow. However, I'm glad I've read this short memoir and can appreciate what she had to go through.
Now...I'm contemplating what classic I should pick next. Here are my three top contenders...I'm open to suggestions!
- Tess of the D'ubervilles
- Crime and Punishment
- A Tale of Two Cities