Monday, May 7, 2007

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

By the early l940s, when Ukrainian-born Irène Némirovsky began working on what would become Suite Française she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz: a month later she was dead at the age of thirty-nine. Two years earlier, living in a small village in central France—where she, her husband, and their two small daughters had fled in a vain attempt to elude the Nazis—she’d begun her novel, a luminous portrayal of a human drama in which she herself would become a victim. When she was arrested, she had completed two parts of the epic, the handwritten manuscripts of which were hidden in a suitcase that her daughters would take with them into hiding and eventually into freedom. Sixty-four years later, at long last, we can read Némirovsky’s literary masterpiece.

If the story within this book is even half as compelling as the story surrounding the book, we are in for a truly amazing experience.

For a sneak peek at what the book club descussion may look like, take a look at the New York Times Book Review for Suite Francaise -

Any early readers out there care to comment?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

In THREE CUPS OF TEA: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time, Greg Mortenson, and acclaimed journalist David Oliver Relin, recount the unlikely journey that led Mortenson from a failed attempt to climb Pakistan’s K2, the world’s second highest mountain, to successfully building schools in some of the most remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. By replacing guns with pencils, rhetoric with reading, Mortenson combines his unique background with his intimate knowledge of the third-world to fight terrorism with books, not bombs, and successfully bring education and hope to remote villages in central Asia. THREE CUPS OF TEA is at once an unforgettable adventure and the inspiring true story of how one man really is changing the world—one school at a time.

I'm still working my way through this book in preparation for our group discussion on Thursday. Thus far it has proven to be a miraculous and inspiring tale of an individual's singular desire to make a difference.

The characters and dynamics are colorfully rendered and descriptions of the settings are dramatic. Stylistically, co-author David Oliver Relin's journalistic experience flavors the book, and at times it can read like an extended article in your Sunday paper (albeit a truly compelling article).

Overall, the message and actions of Greg and his compatriots speak volumes. We can only hope that they can continue to inspire people to continue to make a difference in this often neglected part of the world.

Greg Mortenson with Khanday community school students, Hushe Valley, Karakoram mountains, Pakistan December 2006. Image courtesy Greg Mortenson, Central Asia Institute.