Posts Tagged With: religion

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Housseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Housseini

Bloomsbury 2007

Synopisis (taken from back of book):  “A Thousand Splendid Suns is an unforgettable portrait of a wounded country and a deeply moving story of family friendship. It is a beautiful, heart wrenching story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely bond and an indestructable love.”

Review: This is a fantastic, heartbreaking, moving and informative story of life in Afghanistan from the mid 1900s up to the present and includes the effects of the Taliban rule, epsecially on the streets of Kabul.

I fear my review will not do this book the justice it deserves. The story centres on a young girl called Mariam who starts life in rural Afghanistan living with her mother, who was one of her father’s ‘accidental conquests’ and consequently rejected from his family. As a teenager, Mariam’s desire to get to know her father triggers tragedy and before she knows it she is being sent to the city of Kabul and forced into an arranged marriage with a man thirty years her senior. She is young, naive and vulnerable and we learn about the strict regimes of the Islamic religion along with the build up to the Taliban rule.

Two decades later Mariam and her husband take in fifteen year old Laila, no stranger to tragedy herself, homeless, orphaned and heartbroken. Laila and Mariam have a shaky start to thier relationship but over time become as close as mother and daughter. They are living through wartime in Kabul, in a tiny poky house as wives of an old man they both grow to despise for differing reasons. “Life is a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear,” but thier strength of bond enables them to triumph over this. It does however involve sacrifices and danger.

This book taught me a lot about ‘the other side’ of the war in Afghanistan, how it is for the residents of Kabul. I also learned about the Islamic religion and thier beliefs and realised just how naive I myself am about other cultures. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a complicated read – being eight months pregnant and with a toddler I am am hardly fit for heavy going reads at the moment (!). Housseini writes clearly enough to make his work not complicated.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is hard to put down and not easily forgotten. I cannot emphasise enough how well written it is and how much I would recommend it.

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The Power of Simple Prayer by Joyce Meyer


Product Description from Amazon:

‘If someone asked me, “Joyce, if you could make only one comment about prayer, what would it be?” I would have to respond by talking about its simplicity. It is so much easier than we think.’
Somehow we have convinced ourselves that prayer is dry and difficult; we have invented religious ‘systems’ for prayer that place it out of reach for many of us. But THE POWER OF SIMPLE PRAYER shows us that God desires our prayer lives to be enjoyable and as natural as breathing.
Joyce Meyer’s life-transforming new book:
· Answers the most basic questions we are sometimes afraid to ask: what is prayer and how do we do it?
· Offers you the key to a more powerful, effective prayer life
· Helps you decide when it is and when it is not right to pray
· Identifies ‘Thirteen Hindrances to Answered Prayer’.

I really enjoy Joyce Meyer books and find her a wonderful author. She is truly blessed with Godliness, wisdom and the ability to write well and in a manner that is easy to understand. This book is all about prayer. She teaches about how to pray – from the freedom of it to the power of it; the benefits of prayer for ourselves and others; how to pray with people; the different types of prayer – such as in faith with someone, or intercessory prayer; and also challenges we will face in prayer.

I learnt a lot from this book and will definitely be re-reading to help myself grow and learn in this area. For people for are Christians, for people who are interested in God, and for everyone who has ever sent up a prayer, this is a worthwhile read.


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The Darker Side – Cody McFadyen

Amazon Synopsis
When FBI Agent Smoky Barrett and her team of investigators are called in by the Director himself to handle a case of murder committed on a flight from Texas to Virginia, the case begins with a shock, and the twists keep coming. It soon becomes apparent that Smoky is dealing with a serial killer who appears to have committed a truly horrific number of murders already, someone who can find people with secrets not just the secrets we all admit to ourselves, but the deepest, innermost secrets of all and is using them to target and destroy his victims. The case is on the edge of going public, and when that happens, with all the accelerated power of the Internet behind it, public hysteria is not far behind. Just at the time when she is working so hard to bring up her adopted daughter Bonnie, Smoky is now under the most intense pressure of her career to get results. Yet the team has never been faced with such an apparently insoluble problem. Who will the next victim be? Everyone in the world has secrets. Even Smoky.


My Thoughts

This is the first book by McFadyen for me and I was gripped from the very beginning. I loved the characters that he has created and felt I got to know them and understood what was going on in their heads. Smoky, the main character has a traumatic background with some harrowing history but is dealing with her demons the best she can. Murders are being committed in their hundreds and the only link is that all the victims had a dark secret that they had shared with someone. How the killer accesses this information is a mystery that Smoky needs to unravel. Yet she has a secret that she’s never told to anyone before, will this hinder or aid her search for the murderer? When the killer’s methods are described it makes for cringing reading. I felt the pain and fear of the victims, and their sense of helplessness. There is also a strong religious theme running through this storyline that is sure to spark many discussions. This is a tale of love, loss, pain and grief, with a strong sense of endurance and hope. 

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Betjeman, by A.N.Wilson

Betjemin by A.N.Wilson.

John Betjeman was by far the most popular poet of the 20th century. His collected poems sold over two million copies. Television audiences loved his quirky evocations of landscape and architecture. As Poet Laureate, he became a national icon, but behind the public man were doubts and demons. The poet led a tempestuous emotional life. For much of his 50-year marriage to Penelope Chetwode, the daughter of a field marshal, Betjeman had a relationship with Elizabeth Cavendish, the daughter of the Duke of Devonshire and lady in waiting to Princess Margaret. This book was written using the vast archive of personal material relating to Betjeman’s private life.


John Betjeman, poet, champion of architectual conservation and deeply religious man was born in 1906, the only child of a cabinet maker in Highgate, London. This biography by his friend, A.N.Wilson traces the origins of these passions and tries to define the man who, though loved by all who knew him, was hindered throughout his life by self doubt and guilt and a love affair with love.
Like most others of my generation, I was familiar with Betjeman’s deceptively simple verse that seemed somehow to speak of everyday things with candid honesty and unabashed emotion. I also knew that Betjemin was interested in architecture, beacause of his numerous television appearances and programmes, but I hadn’t realised the scope of this passion, nor the importance for him of the prevservation of buildings and the old England he loved so much. His life seemed to be a quest for the way things were…his poetry reflected this, and everyone is familiar with poems such as ‘Slough’ wherein JB bemoans the state of the New Town and prays for ‘friendly bombs’ to demolish it as it is no longer fit for humans! I knew this was an important part of his life, but I had not grasped just how much he cherished the buildings of bygone ages. It is difficult to tell which was more important to JB himself – this desire to preserve and conserve, or his poetry. The two things seem to be intrinsically intertwined.
A third theme throughout his life was his religion, again intrinsic in his writing. He was a devout Anglican and one of the most torturous periods of his life was when his wife, Penelope converted to Catholicism, not least because they had spent much time and energy together working on behalf of the Anglican church. His religious fervour is marked throughout his writing, and is also concentrated around his delight in Churches. From his youth, he travelled the length and breadth of Britain, visiting and admiring churches. It was an interest which never left him until he was confined to a wheelchair and mobility and travelling became more difficult.
A.N.Wilson clearly holds his friend in great esteem and with much affection, but he does not flinch from illustrating JB’s flaws, one of which was women. There seemed to be some controversy as to whehther JB was bisexual. I have to admit to believing he was homosexual before I read the book, and was shocked to find out that he was married for 50 years, until his death, infact, and also had a long time mistress, his live-in partner,  Elizabeth Cavendish, Lady in waiting to princess Margaret. Perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking this, given that his biographer explains that the contraversy over his sexual orientation did not disappear with time, even though there was little to support it. On the contrary, it appears that JB could not leave women alone, and although most of his ‘affairs’ were not consummated, he lived for the thrill of falling in love and admiring a beautiful female. It seems he always had to be in love. As soon as one adoration finished, another started. This flaw, a lack of commitment to his wife, albeit it only physically, as he loved her until he died, can perhaps be traced back to his childhood and the closeness with his mother. Or perhaps it is some desire to gain love from a maternal figure…but his passion for women never ceased, although it bought much pain to the two women who loved him most.
As a result of some of this information, I found my previous perception of Betjeman was somewhat inaccurate, and whilst I had much admired the man who wrote and perfomed Metroland for a television programme, and wrote of his love for Miss Joan Hunter Dunn (A Subaltern’s Love Song), I began to feel as the biography progressed that I didn’t like BJ much at all. Admire, yes, and still enjoy his work, and join in his aspirations to preserve the old, but like…probably not. He came across as weak and selfish. Although A.N.Wilson explains that he was wracked with guilt about the way he treated his wife, over the course of many years, it didn;t stop him repeating the same mistakes over and over and causing much pain to other people. Nor did her learn from his experiences as a child and make good his relationship with his son, Paul, who was treated very shabbily and uncaringly it seems, by both parents. Relationships, especially with family and loved ones are important and should be cherished, and so regretfully JB went down in my estimation. It will not stop me admiring the work of the former poet Laureate but I have to admit that this book changed my feelings about Betjeman in a way I had not expected.
The biography is well written and interesting, although a little repetitive in places. As I listened to the audio version, I cannot quote and illustrate as I would like, but suffice to say that it was a book which shook all my perceptions of this man, and which I enjoyed a great deal. I will read Betjeman’s work from a slightly different perspective from now on.

Susie / Kimmikat

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