Browse Category: The Literate Donkey

“The House of Special Purpose” by John Boyne

John Boyne is mostly known for his book “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”. I read it and loved it, even though the ending horrified me and followed me for weeks.

With “The House of Special Purpose” John Boyne connected again a real time event with a fictional story. The book takes place during the Russian Revolution. Our main character Georgy Jachmenev works very closely for the Zar and his family and forms a close relation-ship with the youngest daughter Anastasia, while he witnesses the families downfall.

At the same time we meet Georgy Jachmenev as an 80 – year -old man, who remembers his live in revers all the way back until the day he left Russia.

The book is about restarting your life, struggling with tragedy and overcoming an haunting past. Even though this sounds like a tough read, it is the total opposite. The book is one of those nice reads that are hard to put down. I enjoyed it incredibly much.

„Us“ by David Nicholls

I read already Davis Nicholls three previous novels, and since I liked those, I also grabbed a copy of „Us“.

The „hero“ of this book is a middle-aged father Douglas, who has a troubled relationship with his son and whose wife thinks about leaving him as soon as the son goes off to college. One last summer the family wants to spend together travelling through Europe. The father tries to save his marriage by planning the best trip possible.

„Us“ is again a book by David Nicholls written from the point of view of a male character and once again he is bit of a looser. Even though Douglas is a successful biochemist, he feels like he fails with his wife and his son, because he is not, like them, an artist and a free spirit. I fail to see why that would make him a looser, but apparently worrying about his son’s education and future makes him in their eyes a small-minded person.

My main issue with the story was that I didn’t like any of the characters. No matters what Douglas does or say, his wife and son seem to think he is a bit of an idiot. They mock him and mostly they get annoyed with him. At some point I started to wonder why Douglas is fighting so hard for his family and actually wished he would just dump them and keep on travelling alone.

The travel through Europe is the part that I enjoyed and that kept me intrigued. The family stops in Paris, Amsterdam and in the end Italy and Spain. They go and see a lot of museums and there are interesting descriptions and background information of all the famous paintings. I really got into the mood to see them for myself and learn more about art.

So in conclusion, an awkward family trip, that makes you want to travel through Europe and see art, but preferably alone.

A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston is mostly known for his role of Walter White in the hit-show “Breaking Bad”. I, even though I also binge-watched through “Breaking Bad”,  remember him more for his portrayal of the lovable father Hal from “Malcolm in the Middle”. Both characters have nothing at all and then again everything to do with Bryan Cranston himself. That you will find out, if you read his very honest autobiography “A Life in Parts”.

The title is very clever chosen, because it refers to the many character parts Bryan Cranston played in different movies, TV-shows and theatre plays, but also to the fact, that he is telling about his life only in parts. The reader gets a few stories about his partly sad childhood, crazy funny tales about his adolescent and teaching life-lessons from his work as an actor.

This way of telling about his life was smart, because I never got bored and it only left me wanting to read more about Bryan Cranstons somewhat fantastic life.

How to train your dragon by Cressida Cowell

I watched the movie “How to train your dragon” back when it came out and I absolutely loved it. It was funny, witty and full of adventure.

For my birthday I got then the book series. I have to admit, I didn’t know the movie was based on books, but I was very excited to read more about Hiccup, the main character, and Toothless, his dragon. To my surprise it turned out that the movie and the books have almost nothing in common. Except for some names and the fact that the story evolves around some vikings living on an island with dragons. After having read all 12 books of the How to train your dragon-series, I have to say that, even though I still like the movie and will still watch it now and then, the books are so much better.

At the beginning I was a bit unsure, if the books wouldn’t be too childish for a 30something year old woman, but then again, I always loved and still love children books. And good children books are not just for the young, but also for the ones that stayed young at heart. And those are good children books.

Cressida Cowell created with so much love for details and imagination a magical, but also dangerous world. In the centre stands Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, a young viking boy, who is not a “normal” viking. Instead of being a rough brute, he is weak, but therefore smart and resourceful. And he can talk to dragons, which makes him very unique in his world. During the 12 books we follow him on his way to becoming a hero the hard way. In every book Hiccup is thrown unwillingly into another adventure and only with the help of his wit, his friends and his tiny dragon Toothless, he is able to find his happy end and learn a new life lesson.

As the series progresses we meet new kinds of dragons. Some are helpful and kind, some are evil and murderous. And we meet Alvin, the Treacherous, the main antagonist. The name gives it kind of away. He stands more than once in the way of Hiccup and pays his evilness with loosing several members and other body parts over the years. Those are the details, that make the books not just exciting, but at moments also insanely funny.

The first books stand kind of alone. You can read them in any order you want, although I would suggest, that you read them in the right order, because in the 9th book something changes. Suddenly you realise that every single adventure, that Hiccup goes through, has lead him on a bigger path. I don’t want to give too much away, but in the 12th and last book, a big battle will take place with Hiccup, Toothless and Alvin at the centre and the destiny of dragons and humans at stake.

In the end it turned out that the books weren’t that childish, but actually face a lot of grown-up problems. How do we stay true to ourselves in hard times? How to decide what is right and wrong, when lives are in danger? As I wrote before, it’s about becoming a hero the hard way and I enjoyed very much following Hiccup on this quest.


Black Hermione? White Hermione? Smart Hermione!

In July J.K. Rowlings highly anticipated play and sequel to her “Harry Potter” – saga “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” premiers in London and is already one of the most discussed theatre plays of all time. And why? Because Hermione Granger, so far portrayed by Emma Watson, will be portrayed this time by South African actress Noma Dunezweni.

A black Hermione? Can that be? According to J.K. Rowling it’s no problem, since Hermione is described in the book having brown eyes and bushy hair. No mentioning of white skin or black skin. However, since Emma Watson, who is fairly white, has been cast to play Hermione in the movies and J.K. Rowling, who was very involved in the casting (Harry Potter had to be British), didn’t object, one can assume that she imagined Hermione as white.

But now we have a black Hermione. Some fans are not happy with that choice and were called by J.K. Rowling racists. I am not sure, if that is fair. Maybe the same people would have been upset if a blond, blue-eyed Hermione would have been cast.

I understand that people create an imagine of a book character in their head and if a certain feature gets mentioned a lot in the book, like he had very green eyes, one can get disappointed if the real life version doesn’t look like that and maybe has brown eyes.

The characters in “Harry Potter” get described in details and the readers get a perfect idea of what they look like. I remember watching the first movie and being amazed that Snape, Dumbledore and McGonagall looked exactly how I imagined them. On the other hand Emma Watson was missing a distinctive feature of Hermione that plays an important part in the books and in her character. Her distinctive front teeth. I don’t remember anyone making a big deal out of that. Well, that was also in 2001 and before everybody had to comment everything on the Internet.

But what are the really important character traits? We all know that looks don’t define a character. At least not totally. If someone is described as sporty and has a fit body, you would take something away from that character, if you cast an overweight person.

So what defines Hermione Granger? She has bushy hair, brown eyes, distinctive front teeth, but above all she is smart. She is a bookworm. She is driven. She is a straight-A student. She is bad at Quidditch. She is a know-it-all. She is brave. She is kind. She is witty. That defines her and that is why she becomes a Gryffindor. The Sorting Hat doesn’t put people into the different houses according to their looks or skin colour. He sorts them according to their character.

So, yes, a black Hermione is not what we imagined, but I don’t care, if they cast a white, black or purple Hermione as long as she is still that intelligent, determined woman, who fights for the rights of House Elves.