- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (1 July 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 184354749X
- ISBN-13: 978-1843547495
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,294,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Ladies' Lending Library Paperback – 1 Jul 2009
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"* 'The Ladies' Lending Library satisfies in the way the best sort of summer reading does - like wild strawberries, or blueberries gathered in the sun, or cold spring water gulped on a hot day.' Quill & Quire * 'Kulyk Keefer's narrative has historical and generational sweep... A masterful rendering of a group of women in crisis.' National Post (Canada)"
It was the last summer of innocence - the summer when everything changed...
In the tradition of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Steel Magnolias, The Ladies Lending Library is a bittersweet tale of mothers, daughters, friends and lovers across the long, languorous summer of 1963: a summer of innocence and discovery, understanding and belonging.See all Product description
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1960s Canada and the multitude of characters didn't come alive for me. The title is a bit misleading as this isn't a genteel read about ladies swapping books and discussing them, it's more the passing of racy reads in brown paper bags. Although the synopsis sounds promising I didn't find the subject matter at all interesting. The book blurb says in the style of 'Steel Magnolias' which I also think is misleading as that again was a genteel and entertaining story. This isn't. Perhaps those with a connection with the early 1960s, Ukranian housewives or Canada might find it an interesting book or those who remember the 'Cleopatra' era of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor which was no doubt scandalous at the time. For me though the writer doesn't pique enough interest to make the book compelling and I found it a real struggle to get through (and it's taken me almost 10 months). I do enjoy books which document mother, daughter relationships and the cultural and identity issues between generations that occur when immigrants settle in a new country such as Amy Tan's wonderful books like the 'Joy Luck Club' but this story fell flat for me.
I can't recommend it at all and it completely wasn't my cup of tea. I just didn't find the subject matter enjoyable or entertaining and found the overly stylised sentence constructions annoying. Sorry.
Sonia Martyn and her family take up the most pages. A beautiful ex-model with 4 young daughters, Sonia hasn't the ability to stand up to anyone; even her young daughters who trash a beautiful dress she intended to wear at the end of season party. Locked in her grief over her mother's death and constantly aware her life would have turned out differently if she hadn't married Max, this character is difficult to understand, sympathise with, or empathise with as she agonises over her inability to express her feelings to her husband or children.
Sonia and the women she surrounds herself with have left the Ukraine in order to provide a better life for their children; yet they seem unable to accept and at times appear almost envious of the freedom their Canadian children have been raised in. Instead of embracing a new way of life, these forty something women seem unwilling to relinquish the hardships they endured during their own childhoods and as a result misunderstand or plain cannot understand their own children (excluding the free spirited and founder of their club Sasha).
Other characters include the wealthy Jack and his icy wife Nadia, Sonia's brother Jack and his wife Zirka plus their two sons, Max's awful sister Marta and the precocious Darka, the 16 daughter of a friend brought along to Kalyna beach to not only help with Sonia's daughters, but also to be "kept out of trouble"; although some wives are unhappy to have such a well endowed young woman flaunt herself in front of their husbands.
I was tempted to award this book only two stars; however there are several reasons why I felt this may be too harsh. Yes I failed to find any real pleasure in reading "The Ladies' Lending Library"; however there are some beautiful analogies and descriptive passages, although they unfortunately came few and far between in a 350 page novel. I can also add that the character building is very well done, as by the end of this book I positively loathed some of them; particularly the abusive Nettie Vesiuk and Laura and Katia (Sonia's eldest two daughters). These children, aided and abetted by their friends are incredibly vicious and malicious in both their intended schemes and accidental mishaps whilst their mothers obliviously swill down gin as they extensively discuss whether Elizabeth Taylor is a good actress or not.
The story is about a group of ex-pat Ukrainians in Canada just after the Cuban missile crisis. It mainly concerns the women and children who stay in their lakeside holiday cottages during the summer whilst their husbands work in the city during the week and visit at weekends. The book covers what happens to them all during one summer and how the past is never truly the past.
As the names are Ukranian I found them difficult at first to remember. It took me a while to get the characters sorted out in my head as well. Sonia, Sasha, Laura, Katia, Tania etc. Very little actually happens until towards the end of the book. The tensions which arise between the adults and the children are well described. The style is quirky with an unusual use of words and similes and the book was worth reading for the language alone.
Whilst I did enjoy it, I'm not sure I would want to read it again. I found it a little slow to get going and I had the feeling it was building up the readers' expectations which were then not fulfilled. I did fell disappointed when I'd finished as though the book had not delivered what it seemed to promise initially.
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