Hi Everyone! Sorry I have been away so long. It is a medical issue. I am trying to get back to the blog but it has been difficult.
Author Michelle Granas has written a guest post for us. Michelle is author of one of the most amazing books I have read. It is a bit long but it moves along. I found myself engrossed and time flying by. When I received the book, in all honesty, I was a bit daunted by the size. I thought for sure it was going to take weeks. Instead I found it only taking a few days. I would recommend making time for this book. Once you start it you will be lost in Poland. Not the Poland you so often see written of - WWII; but the Poland of today. Time will fly by and you will come back to earth a bit disoriented hours after you start reading. The book is a love story and a bit political. It is not politics that will bore you or that you cannot relate to and it is not overwhelming. This is not a political thriller. Matter of fact, with recent events I found the parts with the CIA to be quite interesting and where I once would have thought it fantasy, I now find it believable.
This is the author's first novel. The book does not contain graphic sex and violence. It can be read by any person without the worry of offending. I do think it will appeal to readers who love the more classic type of novel; where character development and location are a huge portion of the writing. Though this is a modern novel it reminded me of the feeling I had reading Jane Eyre and Emma. I highly recommend this book.
As of the date of this post the kindle edition is 99 cents. That is an amazing price for a book of this quality.
*I received a copy of this book from the author. Thoughts and feelings about the book are my honest impressions. No compensation was requested or given.*
Cristina has asked me if moving to Poland, where I now reside, involved a big adjustment, as I was born and raised in Alaska. The answer is yes and no. I left Alaska when I was a teenager and lived in many other places, including Cairo and Montreal, before landing in Warsaw, so it wasn't exactly a matter of going from one environment to the other. Nevertheless, I was still an Alaskan at heart perhaps, and there were many aspects of my new life that required an effort to accept. The Alaska of my childhood was filled with educated, independent-minded, friendly people. The society was egalitarian; I didn't understand the idea of social classes until years after leaving. There were also wide open spaces and trails through the forests where one could roam for hours without meeting a soul.
Poland has its forests too, and in the winter they are blanketed with snow in a very Alaskan way. But it is equally a country of quiet farmland and of vibrant cities crammed with theatres, writers, and philosophers. Above all, it is a European country, full of wariness and hierarchies and formal behaviors - the hand kiss, the slight bow, the 'sir' or 'madam' that won't be dropped from speech even when two antagonists are hurling insults at each other.
It is also a country that, having freed itself from Communist rule, has enjoyed dynamic economic growth and the rapid construction of democratic institutions. Being an Alaskan, the idea of freedom is close to my heart. But democracy is so easily undermined. It was the growing threat, some six years ago, to the gains Poland had made, that form the background for my novel Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law. I wanted to show how a country where the authorities are inclined to assume arbitrary powers could be encouraged further in that direction, most regrettably, by the Western countries they look to for guidance, and what consequences that could have for ordinary people.
And after years of living in Poland, the ordinary people have won my sympathy; it's a romantic place, where the men are gallant and the women competent but very feminine. It seemed like a good setting for a love story. But love stories are universal.
The behavior of dogs is universal too, although the typical Alaskan dog is a tough, athletic husky and the typical Polish dog is a wispy mongrel, often of peculiar ancestry. In the excerpt from my novel below, the handicapped heroine tries to rescue one such animal.
Excerpt from Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law
And then she had taken the bus and perhaps, if it hadn’t been for the dog, everything would have gone normally or, well, differently anyway.
He was there when she got off her last bus. She saw him as soon as she stepped down, a little more slowly than the crowd of quickly dispersing fellow passengers, onto the sidewalk along a busy four-lane highway. The passengers walked along a corridor of sound barriers to staircases and tunnels and the city spreading itself on either side.
The puppy’s chances were not great; were, in fact, nil. He was lost, a very little and ratty-looking mongrel, not very steady on his legs yet, wandering from side to side of the road, the wind from the stream of cars buffeting him as they whizzed past, the wheels of the delivery vans way above his head as they bowled down on him as he made a try to cross the street, then flattened to his stomach again, tail clapped down, eyes frightened, as each one passed. It’s a terrible thing to see a life crushed out, smashed beneath the wheels of a vehicle, an insensate machine of metal, rubber and destruction – one moment of inattention, of panic, a wrong move: the approach, the split second of disbelief, and then…Cordelia imagined it all in a split second too.
He couldn’t get off the street; he was caught there between the barriers. Beyond there were parking lots, modern office buildings, warehouses, the inhospitable environs of the Warsaw periphery. There was no place for him to go or to have come from; he must have been dumped, thought Cordelia in distress as she stood on the sidewalk uncertainly, watching him. Some dreadful person must have just opened a car door and dropped him out to meet his death.
She glanced at her watch again. She had fifteen minutes until her appointment. She hesitated, closed her eyes and cringed as the puppy started again across the street as another truck came thundering along. The puppy began to run. No, no, no, she wanted to scream at him. Too late. He darted across the road, and she shut her eyes again, waiting for the slight impact of small body and wheel. But when she opened them again the puppy was on the other side of the road, the truck was retreating into the distance. But now the puppy, thoroughly disoriented and distraught, was preparing to cross again.
Oh why hadn’t she taken the other bus, the one that would have let her off on the other side of the building, where she would never have known of this poor little dog’s fate, but could have gone calmly – well, as calmly as possible – to her job interview. And now, what was she going to do? If she caught the puppy, she would have to take him with her. A fine impression that would make, but really, she couldn’t leave him here.
She made up her mind, and began to hurry clumsily down the sidewalk towards the creature, lurching, her bad leg swinging out awkwardly. Really, he was very ugly: a thin blackish puppy with frightened eyes glinting under a mat of wild hair. He was cowering beside the curb.
Stay there, she told him in her mind. I’m coming. I just can’t move very fast, you see. I can’t really run. But I’ll be there in a minute. She was almost level with him; if only there would be a break in the traffic, she would rush over and catch him. Why did people have to drive so fast? Just stay there, puppy.
But he wasn’t staying. He was going to run towards her, between that car and another truck coming from the opposite direction. No! She shouted at him, and stepped out into the street, holding up her hand to the approaching car. There was a screech of tires. She was no judge of distance...
I left Alaska when I was 17 and lived in many other places - including Cairo and Montreal - before landing in Warsaw, so it wasn't exactly a matter of going from one environment to the other. I had lived in large cities, and in large cities undergoing political turmoil. Nevertheless, there were many adjustments to be made in living in a different country… a country that was leaving its communist past behind and shifting from being a Russian satellite to being an enthusiastic member of the European Union. Alaska is different than anywhere else I've lived in