Archive for the ‘imagination’ Tag

When imagination becomes real   Leave a comment

In a small, post-war French village, two young teenage girls, Agnes and Fabienne, are the main characters in Yiyun Li’s The Book of Goose. Yes, it’s a strange title, more unusual than the story itself.

As an adult married woman living in the U.S., Agnes learns of Fabienne’s death whom she hasn’t seen in more than 10 years and reflects on their friendship.

Out of boredom, the girls played games relying on Fabienne’s imagination and rules. The two were opposites in personalities, with Agnes always willing to follow her friend’s directives.

Fabienne devises a plan for the two to write a book; she dictates and Agnes, who has better penmanship, puts it down on paper. They enlist the help of the old widowed postmaster, who ultimately fine tunes the book before contacting a publisher in Paris.

Thus the game takes on a new dimension with unsophisticated Agnes recognized as a child prodigy. This farm girl is scrutinized and celebrated as she goes beyond Paris eventually to a finishing school in England, unhappily leaving her friend behind.

Although Fabienne often called her friend an idiot or imbecile, Agnes is more than she appears. Agnes could have other friends, but chooses Fabienne. They fill an unspoken need in each other.

The novel’s essence is grounded in the meaning of friendship with an underlying thread of deceit, loss and discovery. The adult characters are one-dimensional in sharp contrast to the multilayered portrayal of the young girls.

As for the title, Agnes has geese.

The Book of Goose

Four Bookmarks

Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2022

348 pages


A Holy Matrimony   Leave a comment

Sue Monk Kidd’s The Book of Longings is the kind of creative and well-researched novel that’s hard to put down. The premise is based on the idea of what if Jesus had married?

It’s addressed with the fictional portrayal of the life of Ana, Jesus’s wife.  As the daughter in a wealthy family in Galilee, Ana is expected to bide her time until she is suitably married. However, this is not what she sees as her life’s objective. Instead, she surreptitiously studies and writes about women whose lives are ignored or silenced. This is her personal rebellion in a patriarchal society.

Ana first briefly meets Jesus in a Galilean markets. She’s drawn to him but can’t explain why.  Through some not-so-chance subsequent meetings, they become further acquainted.

The author draws from the Bible and fills in the blanks with Ana’s life, from her near-arranged marriage with a much older man, to her ultimate union with Jesus, and later her escape from Galilee to Alexandria with her intrepid aunt.

Interestingly, Jesus is a minor character, as are his mother and his brothers. The focus is on Ana. Once married, although she has Jesus’s support and appreciation of her talents as a writer, she is too busy on the family compound near Nazareth to pursue such aspirations.

Tension builds as Ana and Jesus independently evade authorities for different transgressions. Jesus’s fate is known, Ana’s isn’t. However, her intelligence, passion and understanding of Jesus’s purpose, in Kidd’s hands, make her the ideal partner.

The Book of Longings

Four Bookmarks

Viking, 2020

418 pages



What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund is a series of visual sound-bites and the result is a lack of substance.

Granted, Mendelsund is a book cover designer and art director; it makes sense he’s interested in the visual aspects. My initial impression was the author would focus on what the imagination conjures as we read. This is not the case; Mendelsund argues authors do not give readers enough information to complete pictures in our minds.

Through a series of references to Moby Dick, Anna Karenina and To the Lighthouse, along with a few other titles, Mendelsund maintains it’s impossible to see characters the same way the writer does. The content is comprised of numerous graphics and limited text. This includes one word on a page, single sentences, a hodgepodge of visual images, brief paragraphs, pages with terms crossed out and an assortment of illustrations, both familiar and not.

The fact that everything, from the cover to the illustrations is in black and white further emphasizes the author’s premise: readers do not get to know a novel’s characters in a true and intimate way. Frankly, I don’t buy it.

Reading is personal even if a book has universal appeal. Granted, my image of Ishmael  may be different from someone else’s, but is that a bad thing? When I see a movie based on a book I am almost always disappointed. Why? Partly because the characters in the film are not the way I saw them on the page.

What We See When We Read

Two-and-a-half Bookmarks

Vintage Books, 2014

419 pages

Never Too Old to Play   Leave a comment

I ‘m somewhat uncomfortable admitting that for all the years LEGO were scattered throughout my house, I used the plural and lower case (Legos) to identify the multi-colored blocks. Thankfully, Jonathan Bender has set me straight in his comprehensive book LEGO: A Love Story.
None of my sons live at home, but their LEGO are safely stored in multiple readily-accessible bins. I still have an MOC (My Own Creation, not from instructions) made by one of my sons as a gift on my dresser. Recently, my husband and I’ve been told it’s not Christmas without LEGO to build. I share this because LEGO have long been a part of my family. And we are not alone. According to Bender, in 2010, when his book was published, there were 62 LEGO bricks for every man, woman and child in the world.

Bender recalls his childhood fascination with the Danish-made pieces and his personal transformation to an AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO). He explains that LEGO developers acknowledge the Dark Ages, when kids quit playing with the bricks. However, Bender’s focus is on AFOLs and their worldwide presence. He travels to LEGO conventions, he visits LEGOLAND, the LEGO factory in Denmark, and interviews an assortment of LEGO designers, builders and collectors. Who knew of the various LEGO-related web sites, nor the impressive number of LEGO User Groups (LUGs – acronyms are big in this world).


Bender nimbly details the evolution of his passion for LEGO while also revealing a personal side-story about creating family.

LEGO: A Love Story
Four Bookmarks
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010
270 pages, including notes

Imagination Meets Memory   Leave a comment

Ocean End of Lane

Part Harry Potter, part Alice’s Adventures  in Wonderland, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman compels the reader’s imagination to relinquish, among other things, fear of the unknown. It’s worth the little effort needed to suspend belief, but Gaiman makes it very easy through his sensitive story telling that mixes memories, nightmares, and hope into one gripping tale.

The story begins as the narrator returns to his hometown for a funeral. He recalls how 40+ years earlier as a shy, reclusive seven-year-old he is befriended by Lettie Hempstock, who lives with her mother and grandmother. The boy has no friends, but Lettie, who is four years his senior, draws him out of himself. It’s Lettie who believes the pond on her family farm is an ocean.

At the same time, a nanny, Ursula Monkton, arrives in the boy’s home. It will come as no surprise that Ursula isn’t what she appears to be. In fact, she appears as many things. Lettie becomes a protector who in the process of caring for her young charge takes on numerous risks – dangers the young boy would never face on his own, but who willingly approaches them with Lettie.

Gaiman blends magic, mystery and the passage of time into a single cauldron where dreams, recollections and reality are hard to distinguish. The now-grown man finds himself at the Hempstock farm with whom he initially believes is Lettie’s mother since it’s unlikely, in his mind, that Grannie Hempstock is still alive. Yet.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Four Bookmarks
William Morrow, 2013
181 pages