Friday, April 3, 2009

LIS 722: Week 12

Week 12: War/Survival/Adventure

Books: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff; Maus I: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman & Barefoot Gen: Volume I by Keiji Nakazawa

Well, these books were certainly not the kind of books that I really ever want to read, as the dystopian/survival subgenre isn't one of my favorites. That said...

How I Live Now was set in modern times (Daisy has a cell phone), but felt more like it could have been during World War II. Daisy is an American girl who goes to spend the summer with her British cousins, on their rural farm. While she's there, war breaks out, and life is not good. Although the war doesn't immediately affect life in the country, it does soon enough. Immediately prior to the start of fighting, Daisy's Aunt has left for Oslo (never to return), leaving Daisy and her 4 cousins basically to fend for themselves. This is a story about their survival, even after they've been split up, and the relationships between them all.

There were so many plot threads running through this book, at times it was confusing, and almost overkill. Daisy's relationship with her cousin, Edmund-yes, I get that it was smacking of taboo, but my reaction ended up being, "And so what?" What offended me more was the lack of quotation marks for the conversations, go figure. There was also the violence and fighting (I get it already...war=not good), but for crying out loud, there was a WAR going on, and like it or not, violence and mean things happen. Then there was the handy 'rescue' at the end, when Daisy answers the ringing phone, and it's her father. Um, the infrastructure has been decimated throughout the region, and I'm supposed to buy a phone randomly ringing? Well, it is fiction, I suppose, so carry on. I realize that I'm glossing over quite a bit with this particular book, and yes, I'm OK with that.

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale is a graphic novel that tells about one man's story of the Jewish people and what happened during World War II. Although I was prepared to not like it, I did (for the most part). The different layers of the story are what makes this book interesting for me, such as trying to figure out the different animals used to symbolize the different nationalities and the way the book's perspective kept shifting between the son interviewing his father and the father's re-telling of the story.

The first book can stand on its own, but I would have liked to see how the second half clarified the first half (which is why I bought the all-in-one version for my library). As a history major (undergrad), I really appreciate the difference between "just" a story/event that happened and has been reduced to words on a page and a story/event told by an eyewitness/participant. Mere facts do not always reveal the entire story; Maus I: A Survivor's Tale at least puts a face on some of the people who lost everything just because of their faith.

As for Barefoot Gen: Volume I, I never did find a copy before class. But from what I gathered, it recounts the story of a boy who was living in Hiroshima when the American troops dropped an Atomic Bomb on the city. There are other volumes to the story as well. Here's a link to the Wikipedia article: Barefoot Gen.

All in all, not a really uplifting selection of books this week. There are others that would work well for these topics that I would've liked to have read instead, such as The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau and Peak by Roland Smith.

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