Review #50

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Alexander Solzhenitsyn is one of the most remarkable books revealing what went on in the gulags of the Soviet Union, and it all happens over the course of one day. Between the inhumane conditions and the bleak atmosphere the novel promises to be a boring recount of a historical event. The story quickly follows the clever and resourceful Shukhov through his daily life and drags the reader into the horrible reality of the camp.

I read this at a time that coincided with my newfound love for history, which made the historical context much more intriguing to me. Until this year I had always hated history and said it was my least favorite subject, but through the enlightening education of my teacher this year and novels like this one I find myself hungry for more knowledge. What happened? Where? When? Why?

Reading this book made me grateful that I have clothes on my back and a real spoon to eat with, to say the least.

With Smiles,

Ivy B. Lake

Review #49

Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong is an exceptional portrayal of Vietnamese life, the beauty of memories, and the trials of balancing culture with identity.

This novel is a bildungsroman for a girl named Hang as she tells the story of her family across generations, starting 10 years before she was born. The pain and betrayal that wracked her mother and father’s lives seeps into her childhood experiences and her attitude as an adult. Family is everything in Vietnam, but it is what slowly tears Hang apart and unravels her future until she breaks free from the traditions and blazes her own path.

I love this novel not only for it’s meaningful story, but also for the insight into a culture so different from mine. The importance of food, ancestors, and body language is radically different and Huong was able to weave the threads of her own life into the plot of Hang’s to reveal what living in Vietnam was really like. It is a deeply moving story that makes you question your own values and whether family is all that matters.

With Smiles,

Ivy B. Lake