Archive for : March, 2015

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Under the Volcano by Malcolm H. Lowry – A Review

If you can handle an intense novel, Under the Volcano is one to grab. The book brings forth a brilliant portrayal of a man who struggles each day against powerful forces that threaten to take his life as he knows it away. The book was written by Malcolm H. Lowry and published in 1947.

The story follows British consul Geoffrey Firmin as he travels to Mexico. He likes to drink, perhaps far more than he should, and now that is a habit that has taken over his life. It was in 1938 on the Day of the Dead that Geoffrey’s wife, Yvonne, finds him in a Mexican town, determined that she can rekindle their relationship. She is determined that she will save the couple’s marriage, and Geoffrey, from the destructive life that he has built for himself. Only, things aren’t always as we want them, and there are a number of complications and problems that stand in her way. One of those is the half brother of Geoffrey, a man by the name of Hugh.  He has concerns of his brother’s drinking and what he is doing to his health. He vows to help and moves into the Consul’s home.

How would you feel to know that Yvonne had an affair with Hugh in the past? She also had an affair with a man by the name of Jacques Laruelle. It is only coincidence that Jacques meets Geoffrey. Geoffrey loves Yvonne deeply; he is pained by her infidelity, the divorce, and is even more puzzled by her finding him in Mexico. He is also upset that she doesn’t understand the reasoning behind his disease with alcohol.

Many events unfold but you’re keen to keep up with the story. The book is written in a way that leaves you wanting more, as you step into the life of the characters and feel what they are going through at that specific time.

The characters in this book are easy to relate to, and as you read the book you can certainly place yourself in their shoes and fill your heart with empathy and sympathy. Readers can identify to the characters, as some of the scenes are so realistic. The book is well-written and an entertaining read from cover to end. It has been twice made into a film, once in 1984 and again in 1998. If you watch only the film you will miss out on so much that the book has to offer.

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All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews – A Review

The problem of depression is more than just that of a personal feeling. In All My Puny Sorrows, Miriam Toews brings us on a journey through the power of depression. Elfrieda, or Elf, is a loved woman. She is loved by her sister, her husband and is widely loved by the fans of her piano music. It is her sister Yolandi, or Yoli, who has the suffering life. Yoli has been divorced two times and is raising two children all on her own.

But Elf struggles with depression. Not the kind of depression that makes a person sad for moments then they go on with their life. Elf, struggles with debilitating depression, the kind that has led her to try to end her life on more than one occasion. The love of her sister Yoli is desperately needed as Elf flows into adulthood and continues to struggle with her depression.

The book is a beautiful tale of love and perseverance. Yoli works desperately to keep her sister from killing herself while also keeping her own life together. As Elf gets treatment for her depression we are inspired by her healing and her ultimate passion for life. Toews is able to expertly bring us through this emotional struggle without leaving us behind in the sorrow. With each page we are able to feel the strength of Elf building until we see the passionate love in Elf again.

The passion is short lived as we see depression take a hold of Elf again and all she wants to do is die. Yoli cannot stand this and wants her sister back, wants the woman that she has grown up with and loved for all of her life. Desperate to make Elf understand the love Yoli feels and her husband feels for her, Yoli wants to convince Elf to live. Unfortunately all Elf wants is to end her own suffering.

Toews has a strong ability to build characters and make the reader feel like they know and understand each character deeply. It is with ease that we are moved by the level of depression and struggle that the characters are going through. We are inspired to help, to try and force Elf to feel better because we know how desperately Yoli wants it to happen. It is the writing on these characters that truly makes us feel like we are part of this story.

This is not a story only about depression and suicide. This is a story that is meant to inspire and give strength to the reader. It is a moving and caring story about how the totality of depression can take its toll on all those around someone who is suffering. Depression is emotional and this book is equally emotional, but it will leave the reader inspired to live life to the fullest extent it is possible. The writing is poetic and the characters well developed, Toews does an excellent job of building the story and bringing the reader along for this emotional journey.