Ayelet Waldman: Love and Other Impossible Pursuits (2006)

I was so curious to read this. I had heard such a lot about Ayelet Waldman and most of it was fuelled by hate. I still do not understand this at all. Just because she questions motherhood? Because she admits, it is no picnic? Be it as it may, I really liked this book. It just swipes you away.

Emilia is married to the love of her life, Jack, but she is not his first wife. And there is also William, his son from his first marriage. A precocious and at times obnoxious child. Emilia cannot handle him and cannot handle her guilt either. Guilt that she was the reason Jack broke up with his wife Caroline, and guilt because she feels responsible for the death of her daughter Isabel who died on her first day home from the hospital just after she was born. This grief and her guilt overshadows everything. And the fact that her father left her mother for a young Russian prostitute.

A lot of heavy stuff but the prose is very light and funny enough this book is never depressing. I found it extremely interesting. It is also a portrait of the city of New York and a description of what it is like to be a mother in New York. Many things that probably only a New Yorker knows, like urbanbaby.com, the running moms of Central Park, A Walk to Remember. Movies and books about New York hold a special appeal for me. This one is no exception. I loved to read these insider descriptions of  walks and places that you would visit with a kid or on your own.

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits is a book that will engage you, make you think, make you wanna discuss it. It is courageous and tackles topics that are of great importance to everybody. Even to women like me who have no children.

It is really worth reading and I do also feel tempted to watch the movie.

Some questions that would be interesting to discuss:

How difficult is it to be a stepmother?

Can there ever be a conflict-free patchwork family?

How do you survive the death of your child?

Is it easier to lose a child when it is a bit older?

Is it better to share your feelings with people who have been through the same or should you see a counselor?

Would you want to replace your dead child?

Should you give him/her a name?

There are many, many more… A lot of food for thought as you can see.

Gerard Donovan: Julius Winsome (2007)

What a sad read and yet how true it felt.

If anyone has ever truly loved an animal, this book will get to him or her since the main character finds  his best friend, his dog, shot dead by some unknown person at the very beginning of this novel. Hardly ever have I been so moved by the description of someone´s mourning. But even before this tragic incident Julius Winsome has been grieving for a lot of other reasons.

He´s a loner living in a cabin deep in a forest in Maine, his only companions are the 3000 and some more books his father has left behind. They cover the cabin walls and Julius reads them one by one. He is still not over the loss of his father and is sad about having been left by the girlfriend he had for a few months who, all of a sudden, didn´t turn up any more. Apart from these two facts we hear nothing about his biography. It´s as if his memories were  solely composed of his grandfather´s stories of WWI and his father´s tales from WWII and some odd remembrances linked to his memorizing words found in Shakespeare´s plays and sonnets.

Julius has always been a defender of animals and to find his beloved dog senselessly shot dead triggers something  very dark in him.

In the chapters following the opening scenes we see him take revenge.

Gerard Donovan is also a poet so it is only natural his style should be very poetic and picturesque. You can almost hear the snow fall when it starts to cover  the dog´s grave. You can hear the gunshots from the hunters that so infuriate Julius and you feel the utter loneliness of this gentle man turning into an avenger.

Julius Winsome American edition amazon.com

Julius Winsome American edition barnes and noble

Julius Winsome (engl.) European Edition amazon.de

amazon.co. uk


Review guardian co uk