A head full of ghost by Paul Tremblay

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The Barrett family is a typical middle class American family: father, mother and two daughters, 8 years old Meredith and 14 years old Marjorie. Like every other family, also the Barrett’s have some issues, the father lost his job and the major daughter shows symptoms of a mental illness, for this reason she is seeing a doctor.

The situation and the symptoms get worse, the medications seems not to have relevant effects: John Barrett, in the middle of a mystical-religious phase, is convinced that his daughter is possessed by a demon. To help her he persuade his family to being part of a television production, “Possessed”, that to be filmed needs the family to be followed by a television troupe in the house.

These things I’m telling you do not happen in the present time, but are told as a memory by Merry who, fifteen years after the events, retrace the events for Rachel, a non-fiction writer who has the job to write a book about the Barrett family.

So we have second-hand events, averaged by the passed time and by the fact that Merry was a child when she lived through them. We have the Possessed tv series analysed by a horror blogger, Karen. We have religious fanaticism (Marjorie is possessed or simply very ill?) and the cruel television reality (how much is true – and false – in the troupe shootings?).

The very good part of the novel are the first two sections of the book, where the elements are perfectly balanced, the story is fast paced and thrilling and horrific. Another good point id the fact that at the end we don’t have certain answers, but lots food for thoughts.

Reflections concerning the plot – we have so many unreliable sources that everything could be true  – and concerning the other two main themes, the religious fanaticism and television cruelty, that are catalyst of other events.

I talked about the book with other people, and it emerged that the third part is the more weak, maybe also because of the homage reference (that I did not catch immediately) to Shirley Jackson that can appear as a way to simplify the ending. I forgive the weakness of the last section because the other two-thirds are a wonderful reading experience.


A head full of ghost by Paul Tremblay ★★★★★

*I read this book in english

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[ARC] The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

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Elizabeth Wright (Lib) is a nurse trained by Florence Nightingale during the Crimean war, and now she has a particular task: she has to watch continuously, in alternation with another person, for two weeks Anna O’Donnell.

Anna is an eleven years old girl who has not eat for four months, and despite this – the story takes place in August – she seems healthy: is it a miracle or a vulgar hoax?

Lib begins her monitoring with the aim to find the trick, but soon she struggles to comprehend the habits of the little Irish town, where every gesture is imbued in religion and superstition.

Lib grows fond of Anna, and disconcerted about the behaviour of the adult people around the girl: the mother proud that the child is taken as a saint, the doctor that sees the girl as a scientific experiment, people who come to visit the girl to touch the living miracle.

Lib will find herself impeded by this suffocating atmosphere, where everybody is interested in the child but not about her health, even in case of death they will hide in their religion, interpreted in the most strict and radical way possible.

Lib is the external elements that contributes in changing the situation, she is different because of her religion, her practical approach and her desire to actually help Anna: Lib does not simply observe and report – as the other guardian, Sister Micheal, does – but act in the static context.

The author wrote also Room, that gathered conflicting opinions, and I didn’t know what to expect from The Wonder, that is interesting for the historical context, middle XIX century Ireland, some years after the Great Famine and the interreligious little town, and engaging in the last part (while the beginning is quite slow-paced).

The author chooses to tell the story from Lib’s POV, and in my opinion this works well also for the characterization (that is not objective but subjective to Lib’s opinion).

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.


* The Wonder by Emma Donoghue ★★★★☆

*I read this book in english

Downfall of the Gods by K.J. Parker

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In the Temple one can find the statue of the goddess, in order to pray and ask to be forgiven and be accorded.  Usually, at least, but if you are Lord Archias, and if you have murdered Lysippus, the musician favoured by the goddess, forgiveness will not be easy to achieve.

A God could be very angry, but rules are set also for these mythical beings, and so Artemis choses to forgive only if Archias will be able to succeed in an – impossible and forbidden – quest.

This novella is brilliant in proposing *very* human gods, the extremely whimsical Artemis, and it talks also about the human expectations from faith and religion.

 


* Downfall of the Gods by K.J. Parker ★★★★☆½

*I read this book in english

[ARC] Object Lessons: Hair by Scott Lowe

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The essay series Object Lessons by Bloomsbury Academic confirms to be an interesting analysis of daily use objects (like the phone boot, the lighter or the hood), or in this case a part of the human body, the hair.

Hair had a crucial role in religious practices (Sanson and Delilah, the choice to let it grow or depilate the whole body hair), but it also characterized culture and society. It’s impossible to forget movements that cut with the past, imposing a drastic change, and the hippy long hair or the punks aggressive style.

The short essay provides a short history of human life – religion, society and culture – and the role of hair in them.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.


* Hair by Scott Lowe ★★★☆☆½

*I read this book in english

[ARC] Henni by Miss Lasko-Gross

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La storia di Henni è ambientata in un mondo fantastico popolato da uomini gatto; durante l’infanzia della ragazza il padre è stato arrestato a causa delle sue idee, Henni è cresciuta così con la madre – molto integralista dal punto di vista sociale e religioso – e con la sorella minore.

Raggiunta la maturità per Henni viene il momento di essere data in moglie a un uomo scelto tramite riti religiosi; la società infatti è molto legata a miti e imposizioni, e il potere è accentrato in mani maschili.

Scoprendo che in realtà il rito è manovrato dai sacerdoti Henni sfida le regole imposte e fugge, venendo in contatto così con civiltà differenti, ma accumunate da una rigidità dei costumi.

Henni è una graphic novel interessante che tratta il tema della crescita, della religione e delle imposizioni sociali in modo arguto. La pecca per me sta nel disegno, i personaggi sono molto simili tra loro e lo stile non mi ha fatto impazzire.

Ringrazio l’editore per avermi fornito la copia necessaria per stendere questa recensione.

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Henni’s story is set in a fantastic world where people are cat-men; during her childhood her father was arrested for his ideals, Henni then grew up with her mother – a religious and social foundamentalist – and with her smaller sister.

Once grown up Henni has to marry one of the man of the village, the husband is chosen by a religious rythe; the society Henni lives in believes in myths and religious impositions, and the power is in the hand of males and priests.

Henni discovers how the rythe is manipulated by the priests and decides to walk a forbidden path and then to run away; she then discovers other societies, different from her one but similar for impositions and rules.

Henni is an interesting graphic novel that deals about the coming of age, religion and society with a clever plot. The thing I did not like much is the drawing: the characters are quite alike and I did not particularly like the image style.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.

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Henni by Miss Lasko-Gross ★★★☆

La storia del mondo in 100 oggetti by Neil MacGregor

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Neil MacGregor, storico e direttore del British Museum, ha realizzato per la BBC 4 il programma radiofonico A history of the world in 100 objects in cui durante ogni puntata dava voce a un oggetto scelto all’interno del British Museum. Dal programma è nato il libro omonimo che riporta i 100 oggetti scelti e il commento di Neil MacGregor

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Neil MacGregor, historian and director of the British Museum, made for the BBC 4 the radio program A history of the world in 100 objects; each episode was about a single object chosen in the British Museum collection. From the radio program this book was born, each chapter describing one of the 100 object chosen and the comment by Neil MacGregor

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Blankets by Craig Thompson

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Blankets is the autobiography of the author in the form of comic where he talks about his coming of age from childhood, about his relation with his family and about his first love story.

Craig is born and grows up in a catholic family in Minnesota? and his life’s experiences happen in relation to the Church and the catholic religion, for example the summer camps.

The story is about a child that grows up in a young adult different from the others, who loves to draw and his bullied by other children better integrate in the society where they live. As teenager he meets Raina in a winter camp, and he spends with her a couple of weeks during summer.

The blankets the title refers to are the ones shared with his brother as a child (on a bed that used to become a ship where they were safe from the shark on the floor during their games) and the one made by Raina.

Overall the story is almost trivial: a boy grows up to adulthood and remembers some key events of his life, but it is to praise the author for wanting to share his life with the readers.

The parts I found most irritating are the ones about religion: I always found amazing how behaviours and teachings can be taken to the extreme on the basis of supposed directives directly (and mostly literally) from the Holy Scripture.

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* Blankets by Craig Thompson ★★★☆☆½

*I read this book in Italian