Up early

UK: 14. Ch 2 in A, ch 1 in B. *(Tr 3 in B, tr 1 in A) five times. Turn.
US: 14. Ch 2 in A, ch 1 in B. *(Dc 3 in B, dc 1 in A) five times. Turn.

And now to continue with the books I was telling you about yesterday.

9. Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

I really thought I reread this one early last year (for work, actually), but it seems I didn’t, as it’s not on the list. Unless I did so in 2007, perhaps (I got it in 2003, when it came out). Anyway, it’s not a bad thing for it to have actually been due a reread!

I’d like to think I was just someone who cared to have her own writing well-punctuated, and not one of Truss’s [apparently her preference, over “Truss'”, and it’s her name!] sticklers, who has the urge to fix public and mistakenly punctuated text, but perhaps you should ask those people who let me see their writing while it’s still being drafted… (Honestly, though, it really doesn’t bother me in what I read online from private authors.)

Not that I agree with Truss in every point she makes (I personally think there is more room for personal choice in some (very) few of the ‘rules’ she lays down than she allows, as long as the chooser is consistent within their text, and preferably their corpus) but certainly following them (and they seem well explained and laid out to me) wouldn’t leave anyone red in the face (or, more likely, with red all over their essay).

Still, as I pointed out yesterday, I reread this because it’s funny. It’s generally not nastily funny, either, with the jokes either being gentle self-ribbing towards the author herself (and often other potential “sticklers”), or at the unintended ambiguities (or downright changes of meaning) caused by the wrong punctuation. I’d say, read it for the humour, and treat any clarification in punctuation usage as a bonus!

10. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

It turns out (from looking at the author information after I read this book) that I did own and read one of Lowry’s Anastasia books as a teenager, but I hadn’t made the connection, as that was nowhere near as serious as this one (or as the other Newbery Medal winner by Lowry that I finished last night). Which isn’t to suggest that this is an unremittingly serious (or even tear-jerking) novel; this is a children’s book, told from the point of view of a child who enjoys spending time with and showing things to her friend, even while trying to save that friend from being rounded up by the Nazi soldiers who are, after three years of occupation, trying to deport Denmark’s Jewish population.

Most of all, I think this book simply reinforced my admiration for how Denmark, through the co-operation of large numbers of the population, managed to save the vast majority of their Jewish fellow citizens from the Nazi death machine.

11. The Giver by Lois Lowry

Where Number the Stars is a straight historical novel, this is a futuristic tale of a society where utopia has been achieved through complete control, and where Jonas, the protagonist, is at 12 (the age where occupations are assigned) designated to be trained as the new Receiver (to be trained by the one who must now become the eponymous Giver) of all the community’s history, memory, and real emotion. He may never speak of his training or work, and while he will ultimately have to advise the Council of Elders when they (very occasionally) encounter a new situation, without ever giving them the kind of context they just can’t handle.

While there are niggling flaws (the numbers don’t always seems to add up, for one), this is a book that is meant to be thought-provoking (even more than the other, I think), and it succeeds at that while telling a good story well. The ending is ambiguous, but apparently this is the first in a loose trilogy, so that should be at least partially cleared up in the other books.

The difficulty for me in assessing this book is in trying to work out how it would come across to someone (especially a child) who had never read Brave New World, 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale or any of the many other classic future dystopia novels. (I certainly amn’t suggesting a child should read any of these. A teenager – as I was – quite possibly, if ready for them.) Certainly I think it’d be good for a child to be able to discuss the novel after (and probably while) reading it, to work out where the ideas are leading. (Mind you, I think that’s a good general principle as regards reading nearly anything, for everyone; some books do require it more than others, however.)

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