Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Piano Teacher

I finished Janice Y. K. Lee's The Piano Teacher today and that's when it occurred to me that this book, like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, was also set during WWII.

I've always had a particular weakness for non-/fiction written by Asian authors - Chinese ones in particular because I'm curious about how the customs and beliefs I've grown up with and am used to thinking about in the Chinese language are articulated in English.

For example - the Chinese preoccupation with food.  In Chinese culture, one doesn't ask "how are you?" but "have you eaten?"  Maybe it comes from living through famines over the many centuries of Chinese civilization - the most recent one during Mao's misguided Great Leap Forward in which an estimated 30MM Chinese died.

Whenever I speak to my mother or aunts and uncles on the phone, they always ask if I've eaten yet.  Without fail.  And sometimes, I surprise myself with how Chinese I am and beat them to the punch by asking them first.  Lee references this fixation in the novel and I was mildly amused by it, despite the tragic context.

I'm a bit ambivalent about the was good but not great. And I think my next book will have to be contemporary in its setting - I need a break from the tragedies of WWII.

From the back cover:
In 1942, WIll Truesdale, an Englishman newly arrived in Hong Kong, falls passionately in love with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite.  But their affair is threatened by the invasion of the Japanese and World War II overwhelms their lives.

Ten years later, Claire Pendleton comes to Hong Kong and is hired by the wealthy Chen family as their daughter's piano teacher.  Seduced by the colony's heady social life, she soon begins an affair...only to discover that her lover is hiding a devastating past.  As the threads of this spellbinding novel intertwine, impossible choices emerge - between love and safety, courage and survival, the present, and, above all, the past.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

I want one

I love books - the look and feel and smell of them - so I'm rather a luddite when it comes to eReaders. When the Kindle was introduced I had no desire to get one but with the Kobo, I'm reconsidering. I don't think I'll ever stop buying books but this light-weight reader would be perfect for travelling. It comes pre-loaded with 100 classics and can store thousands of books. And at $149, the price is just about right.

Itchy...and random

I've been on a loose spending fast of late and am seriously itching for some retail therapy.

I've cheated by redeeming my air miles for $50 Indigo gift cards to buy these gorgeous clothbound Penguin Classics that now grace my bookcase:

Last Saturday, I went back to Anthropologie to return 3 tops I'd picked up the weekend before after my haircut and left with the pretty embellished sleeveless number below and on Sunday, before my massage, I killed time browsing around Yonge and Davisville where I found this adorable Frog Prince tealight holder:

See? Weak.

Anyway. I've been holding out on buying some new clothes after losing about 10lbs with all the training I've been doing because I've only really just started this first "burn" cycle and am fairly certain there's more weight to be lost.

I woke up this morning to sunshine and thought, maybe I'll head out to browse the shops. But now it's raining so I guess I'm safe from temptation.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Perfect day for a 10K

Every year, on the first Sunday of May, Yonge Street shuts down for a few hours so thousands of runners can participate in the Sporting Life 10K. This is my third year running it and I ran my best time: 1:03:35. My goal had been to run it in an hour which I obviously didn't manage. In hindsight, I probably could have but I was too cautious of running out of gas too soon.

Here's a view of the crowd ahead of me:

The forecast had called for thundershowers and I was all set to bail if faced with heavy downpour in the morning but luckily the rain held until I was about 5 minutes from home, and then it only rained for a short while. It was actually the perfect morning for a 10K with nary a chill in the air. My first year was brisk to say the least.

I celebrated my best time with brunch at Earth beginning with a Kir Royale.

My trainer gave me the greenlight to use this day as a cheat day to eat anything I wanted, so I had Earth's version of Steak and Eggs - soooo good! What made it even better? We sat indoors so there was no chance of a little extra seasoning from the birds above ruining my perfect dish.

And dessert! I was allowed dessert! So I had the chocolate torte. It turned out to be a little too rich, an issue that would have been resolved if dessert had arrived before my latte ran out but service was s-l-o-w.

On our way back to the car which I'd parked on Roxborough, I noticed this amusing sight:

Someone's got a cheeky sense of humour! (I quite like her stripe-y tights!)

I'd booked myself a massage uptown and had an hour to kill so browsed the shops, leaving with this adorable frog prince tea light holder:

I rounded out my Sunday with groceries from Chinatown, lunch-making for the week, a quick dinner of salad and a nice long soak in the tub.

I really missed Sundays like this...

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I stayed up last night until 1am to finish reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This, like The Lovely Bones and The Time Traveler's Wife, is another book that I wonder why, having finished it, it took me so long to discover. It was absolutely delightful.

Like Nick Bantock's Griffin and Sabine, TGL&PPPS unfolds through letters and correspondence. I pride myself in being able to pick up on hints the author drops in order to anticipate the plot but I did NOT see the ending coming, which was a very pleasant surprise.

From the back cover:

January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.
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