BOOK REVIEW: Forest Of The Pygmies – by Isabel Allende

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Title: Forest Of The Pygmies
(Eagle And Jaguar Trilogy #3)
Author: Isabel Allende
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Adventure, Children
First published:  2004
Finished reading: December 20th 2012
Pages: 296
(Originally written in Spanish: ‘El Bosque De Los Pigmeos’)

Rating 2

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I have to admit I didn’t realize Forest Of The Pygmies was a childrens book when I first started reading it, and that might have influenced my rating in a negative way. I was expecting another of her well written adult literature novels, and unfortunately I didn’t like the way Isabel Allende changed her original writing style in Forest Of The Pygmies. I also haven’t read the first two parts of the trilogy, which may or may not have worked against the story. But all in all, unfortunately I cannot describe the story in any other way than uninspiring, dull and almost boring. Allende used ‘magic realism’ to spice up the story, but it couldn’t convince me to think otherwise. I know she wrote it for children, but still… I have read way better children literature, and I was highly disappointed especially after having read other work of her in the past.

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Forest Of The Pygmies is the final adventure of Alexander Cold and Nadia Santos in the Eagle and Jaguar trilogy.  Alex and Nadia are in Kenya, Africa together with Alex’s grandmother. This time, she is writing a story for International Geographic about an elephant safari operation. Just before they go home, a Catholic missionary asks for their help in finding two fellow missionaries who have disappeared. They agree to help him, but soon find themselves lost in the swamps when their plane crashes. They discover a clan of Pygmies, and when they see they are treated unfairly, they try to set them free…

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Like I said before, I couldn’t really enjoy this novel. I normally like reading children stories; it makes me feel nostalgic. But Forest Of The Pygmies was just plain boring and cannot be compared to Allende‘s adult fiction work. If you have never read her work before, please don’t choose this one as your parameter!

BOOK REVIEW: Shake Hands With The Devil – by Romeo Dallaire

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Title: Shake Hands With The Devil
Author: Roméo Dallaire
Genre: Non Fiction, History, Memoir
First published: October 21st 2003
Finished reading: December 17th 2012
Pages: 562
(Originally written in French: ‘J’ai serre la main du diable’)

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“The global village is deteriorating at a rapid pace, and in the children of the world the result is rage. It is the rage I saw in the eyes of the teenage Interahamwe militiamen in Rwanda, it is the rage I sensed in the hearts of the children of Sierra Leone, it is the rage I felt in crowds of ordinary civilians in Rwanda, and it is the rage that resulted in September 11. Human beings who have no rights, no security, no future, no hope and no means to survive are a desperate group who will do desperate things to take what they believe they need and deserve.”

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I always like reading a non fiction story every once in a while and I’ve actually had a course involving war crimes and genocide during uni, so when I saw a copy of Shake Hands With The Devil: The Failure Of Humanity In Rwanda I was immediately intrigued. In this non fiction novel Roméo Dallaire tells his story of what happened during his time in Rwanda and how politics have influenced in the disasters that happened in 1993. It’s not that he tries to blame someone else, but he does want to show why he couldn’t do more to help the people of Rwanda after he was sent to serve as a force commander of the UN intervention. Betrayal, naïveté, racism, international politics and its consequences… Roméo Dallaire never had an easy job and his memories of his days in the African country still devastate him. It was really brave of him to write down his story and even though it took me a long time to finish this read, I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn more about his experience and deepen my knowledge about the genocide in Rwanda. It’s not an easy story to read and actually quite depressing, but if you are interested in the theme Shake Hands With The Devil does have an interesting perspective.

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The Canadian Roméo Dallaire was sent to serve as force commander of the UN intervention in Rwanda in 1993. What he thought was a simple peacekeeping mission slowly turned into a bloody nightmare… And he has his hands tied as he witnesses the slaughter of 800.000 Rwandans in 100 days. Dallaire recreates the events that lead to the genocide and explains how humanity failed to stop it despite timely warnings… The international community preferring to turn their backs on the problem rather than act accordingly. He also explains the difficulties he had to get the proper equipment sent to him and the treacherous politics around the whole affair… Not denying his own failure and weaknesses, Dallaire helps make the reader understand what happened during the mission and where it went wrong.

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Shake Hands With The Devil is a truly intriguing memoir and a heartbreaking account of the genocide in Rwanda. As the force commander of the UN intervention Roméo Dallaire experiences the horrors during 1993 first hand and by telling his story he wants to bring awareness as to how humanity essentially failed to prevent the murder of all those innocent Rwandans. It’s a dark, violent and depressive story, but also an excellent read for the right person.

BOOK REVIEW: The Help – by Kathryn Stockett

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Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary
First published: February 10th 2009
Finished reading: December 6th 2012
Pages: 451
Rating 4qqq

“All my life I’d been told what to believe about politics, coloreds, being a girl. But with Constantine’s thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe.”

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I’ve actually read this book various times already in the past, but it never tires rereading this story. The Help has an interesting setting, the Mississippi of 1962, where racial discrimination is still as normal as going to the loo in the morning. It might feel strange to think about this subject today (even though discrimation still exists!), but it is truly terrible how people of color were treated in the past. Kathryn Stockett is able to portray the difference between the rich white people and their black maids in a way that is truly fascinating, and trust me, the supposedly ‘weaker’ class comes out a lot better than those rich snobs. Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter is the perfect character to demonstrate the upcoming change in racial discrimination. She was raised by her black maid Constantine and sees her more as a mother than her biological one. When Constantine disappears, she is determined to find out what happened and get the word out how the black maids are treated in those rich homes. A very intriguing story, although the bad spelling in the parts where the maids were speaking did feel a bit like discrimination as well. Still, if you are looking for an interesting read about the theme, you will probably enjoy The Help.

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Her mother is doing all she can to find her daughter a husband, but twenty-two-years-old Skeeter has different plans for her future. She doesn’t seem to fit in with the high society of 1962 Mississippi and adores her beloved black maid Constantine that raised her, even though that is frowned upon. When Constantine disappears and her own mother doesn’t want to tell where she went, she asks for the help of other black maids to find out what happened. Furious when she discovers the truth, she decides to start a clandestine project soon afterwards where she wants to document the lives of the black maids in those rich homes. How are they treated? What do they have to do for their employers? What juicy secrets do they know about them? Still, getting the word out might put all of them at risk…

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Every time I pick up The Help I enjoy reading it. The way Skeeter and the maids defy the rules of class separation is both entertaining and interesting to read, even though I’m still not sure what to think of the bad spelling when the black maids are talking. The story itself is a mix of funny, sad, interesting and complicated moments and all in all quite a fast read. If you are looking for a racial problematics themed read, The Help is without doubt an interesting one to pick up.