Book Review: Next Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Book Review: Next Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton (2017) 4 Stars ****

Modern day Cuban-American journalist and Coral Gables, Florida resident Marisol Ferrera promises her recently deceased grandmother, Elisa, that after her death Marisol will scatter her grandmother’s ashes at a place that she believes to be her grandmother’s most heart-felt location in her beloved homeland, Havana, Cuba. Marisol embarks on a journey of discovery as she uncovers secrets about her family, especially her grandmother, the history of revolution in Cuba, and the heart-breaking conditions under which the Cuban people live.

Marisol now views Cuban history through the eyes of her Cuban relatives and her handsome, educated lover who live in fear for their safety and well-being. As Batista is driven from power in the 1950s, revolutionary Fidel Castro is believed by many to be the antidote to the poisonous rule of the previous dictator. Pretending to be what he is not, Fidel Castro curries favor with segments of the Cuban population and the American government in order to attain his goal of absolute power as he quickly imposes the doctrines of communism on his hapless people, utilizing death squads, imprisonment, and torture to squash all criticism. Instead of restoring Cuba to the 1940 Constitution as originally promised, Castro imposes the Fundamental Laws.

Marisol witnesses the emotionally charged tug of war between those who stayed and those who left which continues to this day. Marisol’s heart breaks as she sees  the conditions under which her relatives are living. Poverty, near starvation, food rationing, forbidden religious observance, and inequality of currency conversions and educational opportunities plague Cuba. Marisol learns to act covertly to offer aid to her family who are not able to trust government, media, neighbors, friends and even other family members. Marisol vows to return to Cuba the following year to continue to do whatever she can to change the plight of her relatives and those who stayed.

No story set in Cuba could exist without flowery romantic language, descriptions appealing to the five senses, stirring music, a heroic love interest, false imprisonment, violent arrests, the rebuilding of family ties, and an understanding of social injustice that prevails on this island located 90 miles off Key West, Florida.

Many of the Cubans who left “the island that can break your heart” moved to Miami, Florida where most have prospered in their adopted country. As is often the case, the wealthier have the means to leave while the poorer do not.

Readers will hear the urgent request to help encourage Cuba to institute social and governmental changes so those who left may freely return to family and lives left behind, and those who stay may have an improved quality of life affording them basic dignity in their struggle for food, education, and political choices. American embargoes have only served to hurt the populace as the corrupt government officials are not negatively impacted.

After the death of Fidel Castro, his brother, Raul, took over the running of the government while continuing Fidel’s policies. Cuba needs help.

The story is poignant, but repetitious of facts, descriptions, and conversations. Marisol frequently asks herself a barrage of questions but whole paragraphs of internal musings would better be presented as statements. These techniques decrease, thankfully, in the second half of the book.

The author, Chanel Cleeton, lives in the US and has a BA in International Relations, and MS in Global Politics, and a JD from the University of South Carolina School of Law. Ms. Cleeton devotes her education and her life to improving social justice.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

Please Borrow My Books From the Public Libraries!

Great news! Printed copies of my books can now be borrowed from Queens, Nassau and Suffolk County Libraries in New York. Request an inter-library loan!

Queens Libraries—Bay Terrace, Central(Jamaica), and Whitestone 

Nassau Libraries—Manhasset, Port Washington, Syosset

Suffolk Libraries— East Hampton, Huntington

The digital copies are available in Queens Public Library and may be available in other library systems throughout the country. If your library cannot provide access to these books, please ask them to purchase in digital or paperback formats to add to their collection.

The Science Project
The Ocean’s Way
Who Do Voodoo?
The Ocean’s Way Poetry Companion
Sojourn Into The Night—A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest

Happy reading! If you do decide to borrow my books from the library, please remember to write a review on the library website.

Thanks,

Elaine

Please let me know how you do. I’d love to hear from you author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Frantumaglia-A Writer’s Journey by Elena Ferrante

Book Review: Frantumaglia-A Writer’s Journey by Elena Ferrante (2016) 4 Stars ****

Italian writer, Elena Ferrante, is recognized as one of the greatest novelists of all time. The word “frantumaglia” (frohn-too-mah-lee-uh) was coined by the author’s mother. ” Frantumaglia: A heterogeneous mass of material that’s hard to define. You know how when you have in your head a few notes of a tune but you don’t know what it is, and if you hum it, it ends up becoming a different song from the one that’s nagging at you? Or when you remember a street corner but you can’t remember where it is? To give a label to those fragments I use a word that my mother used: frantumaglia. Bits and pieces whose origin is difficult to pinpoint, and which make a noise in your head, sometimes causing discomfort.”

Frantumaglia gives us insight into Elena Ferrante and all her books through email interviews. She does not do speeches or book talks, accept rewards, speak on the telephone or show her likeness on a photograph, sketch or a painting. I will focus on the author’s responses and not the questions of the myriad interviewers.

Ms. Ferrante believes good writing stands by itself and has no need of an author’s presence. She also states that it is the media who demand the author, but the readers are happy with just the books.

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym for an author who wishes to remain out of the public eye. As a matter of fact, writing is not her full-time job. She writes these wonderful books in her spare time—when she’s not at her day job. She will not say what that day job is, other than to mention it allows her the freedom to write. Is she even really a woman? No one knows. She insists her writing is not anonymous. Her books have an author named Elena Ferrante.”

Frantumaglia is divided into three parts:
Papers 1991-2003
Tesserae 2003-2007
Letters 2011-2016

Ms. Ferrante is the author of The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, The Lost Daughter, and The Neapolitan Quartet or The Neapolitan Novels as it is known in the United States. This quartet is comprised of My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of The Lost Child. These books are dealt with in different sections of Frantumaglia where interview questions and author responses are organized sequentially to correspond with publishing dates.

Favorite women authors? Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Elsa Morante, Clarice Lispector, and Alice Munro.

Character ideas? Echoes of many people.

Concern as an author? Ms. Ferrante discusses the difference between verisimilitude (the extent to which a literary text is believable and imitates life) and authenticity (writing in the original, natural language of the author) and how verisimilitude can make things more difficult for authentic women writers. When asked for the names of male writers who write about women: “You ask me about male writers who describe women with authenticity. I don’t know whom to point you to. There are some who do it with verisimilitude, which is very different, however, from authenticity. So  different that when verisimilitude is well orchestrated it risks asserting itself to the point of making the truth of female writing inauthentic. And that is bad. And it’s the reason that the pure and simple genuineness of women’s writing is always inadequate; that I, a woman, write is not sufficient; my writing has to have adequate literary power.”

Why only 4 stars? Many of the questions and responses are the same or have great overlap. I grew impatient as I seemed to read the same thing over and over. A few of the interviewers asked probing questions which led to an engaging experience. Most  could not get past the author’s lack of media presence. What’s the point of arguing this issue? It is what it is. Conduct your interview on a high level and garner praise, or get stuck on an immovable issue and stagnate. Your choice.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

 

Book Review: The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

Book Review: The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante (2015) 5 Stars *****(Book 4 of The Neapolitan Novels)

An excellent source book for women’s studies and sociological patterns.

Intelligent. Insightful. Thought Provoking.
Elena Ferrante will be remembered as one of the greatest novelists of all time.

Lenu, our narrator, and her closest friend, Lila, are in their forties through sixties in this book. Their relationship still has its ups and down: interdependence/ abandonment, admiration/resentment, tenderness/anger, understanding/frustration. Lenu reinvents herself as a speaker realizing, “I had a natural ability to transform small private events into public reflection” as she becomes more and more honest and open about her herself and family and friends. Lila keeps her successes hidden from Lenu, leaving Lenu to discover Lila’s accomplishments almost by accident and as incidental comments from mutual friends.

Lenu and Lila continue separately to assert their independence from traditional domestic life, leaving human debris in their wake: hurt, accusations, insults, guilt, broken familial relationships, neglect. ‘Round and around and around they go as people from the past keep popping up, causing them to reflect on the effect of their neighborhood upbringing on their fabric as a person. Lenu tells us we never can truly shed who and where we come from. Our childhood shapes us for a lifetime and we either become trapped by it, or struggle to leave it behind.

Both women need love but often feel trapped by its obligations. Lenu demonstrates her strength as she continuously sets goals and works step by step to achieve them, still enjoying positive relationships with all those from her past. Lila, on the other hand, suffers from emotional and mental problems as she goes through life full of anger and thoughts of revenge, as she vacillates from being a tower of strength and kindness to becoming unglued, neglectful, and distracted. Negativity is her constant companion. Not only does it follow her, but she creates it and magnifies it.

I do not want to spoil the story by telling you specifically about the lost child. This terrible event remains a mystery. Blame and culpability cannot be assigned. Maybe an innocent photograph led to what happened, maybe not. Interactions by Lenu and Lila conspired to create the outcome—ironic shades of childhood—collateral damage? if you will. Still heartbreaking no matter how you slice it.

I love this series and did not want it to end.

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym for an author who wishes to remain invisible. As a matter of fact, writing is not her full-time job. She writes these wonderful books in her spare time—when she’s not at her day job. Is she even really a woman? No one knows. In any event, her Neapolitan Novels series contains four books: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child.  My Brilliant Friend has already aired on HBO. Although I do not know the time frame, books two and three are scheduled to be made into mini-series to give us closure on Lenu and Lila’s story. Hopefully, the fourth book will be added to this HBO series.

The review for Frantumaglia-A Writer’s Journey, also by Elena Ferrante, will be published on January 19, 2019.

Ciao bella!

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

 

Book Review: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

Book Review: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (2013) 5 Stars ***** (Book 3 of The Neapolitan Novels) 

An excellent source book for women’s studies and sociological patterns.

Intelligent. Insightful. Thought Provoking.
Elena Ferrante will be remembered as one of the greatest novelists of all time.

Lenu, the narrator, and her closest friend, Lila, are now in their twenties and thirties. Their relationship is still characterized by push and pull—to all appearances polar opposites who really are not so different after all. Both are strong, determined, ambitious, sexual in different ways, feminists, victims of unwanted sexual advances, social activists, politically aware, searching risk takers, reluctant mothers who act independently with decisions that further their personal goals at the expense of family obligations. They both upset the peace as they turn their backs on traditional expectations and seek out situations to place themselves at the top of their games. Which one do you think is more generous to family and friends with time and money? You might be surprised, but then again, maybe not!

This book and the whole series are set against the backdrop of the eternal political battles in Italy among Christian Democrats, Socialists, and Communists. Political views interfere with relationships. When violence erupts, it is their family, friends, and neighbors who are at the center. Mistrust abounds but the characters do their best to pretend they don’t see or don’t suspect, not wanting to believe the worst or contribute to information leading to capture by the police.

Lenu now lives in Florence with her good, but boring and aloof husband and two daughters, at first enjoying fame from her critically acclaimed book and public lectures on feminism and the plight of women. Lenu then hits a low point in her creativity as her popularity declines and she temporarily devotes herself to household responsibilities. Needing a catalyst to jump-start her life, Lenu rekindles a relationship with an old flame which destroys the tranquility of her family life.

Lila has remained in Naples now working at the sausage factory, and having left her husband, is living in near poverty with her son and an old friend, Enzo, who accepts the lack of reciprocal love and happily offers a modicum of financial support and protection. Lila becomes an advocate for the workers at the sausage factory and her outspoken, demanding ways result in a restructuring of her place of employment. The relationship with Enzo gradually grows as they study together to learn new skills to improve their plight. While Enzo initially is thought to be the superior one, Lila quickly overtakes him as new opportunities and demand for her services pull Lila out of her financial slump.

While people admire the accomplishments of those who succeed, there is always the feeling of abandonment. Sure, you’re rich and famous but you turn your back on the rest of us who need you in our lives. What would happen if we all walk away? We helped raise you up, and where are you now?

 

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym for an author who wishes to remain invisible. As a matter of fact, writing is not her full-time job. She writes these wonderful books in her spare time—when she’s not at her day job. Is she even really a woman? No one knows. In any event, her Neapolitan Novels series contains four books: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child.  My Brilliant Friend has already aired on HBO. Although I do not know the time frame, books two and three are scheduled to be made into mini-series to give us closure on Lenu and Lila’s story. Hopefully, the fourth book will be added to this HBO series. I look forward to reading and reviewing the last book in the series.

The review for The Story of the Lost Child will be published on January  16, 2019.

Ciao bella!

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

Book Review: The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

Book Review: The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante 5 Stars ***** (Book 2 of The Neapolitan Novel Series)

An excellent source book for women’s studies and sociological patterns.

Intelligent. Insightful. Thought Provoking.
Elena Ferrante will be remembered as one of the greatest novelists of all time.

Reviewing a book without giving away too much is always a challenge. Set in the outskirts of Naples, Italy in the 1960s—a place beset by poverty, domestic violence, and male domination— Lenu, our narrator, and Lila, her best friend,  are now sixteen and seventeen years old. Their conflicted but dependent relationship continues—supportive/competitive, admiring/contemptuous.

The girls’ lives have taken a more divergent path. Lenu earns her college degree on a full scholarship, is greatly admired and respected, and has published her first book. She has a number of unsatisfactory but convenient relationships with men but continues to pine for Nino. Lenu is still secretive about her sexuality and still has not learned to share her true feelings. Lila is the mother of a small boy. Her marriage is in a shambles with her shrewish, destructive, self-centered, combative, blatantly sexual nature, i.e., sexual with everyone except her husband. With a ruined reputation, still, there are no shortage of men to pick up Lila’s pieces.

Lenu is once more forced to question Lila’s motives when Lila’s decisions put her at odds with Lenu’s deepest, but still carefully hidden, desires.

Some thought-provoking images:

Lina refers to her wedding ring, ” …what is this gold circle, this glittering zero I’ve stuck my finger …”

Lenu is complimented by Armando, Professor Galiani’s son and the rare center of attention when she attends a party with Lila at the professor’s  home, ” He was absolutely the first person to show me in a practical sense how comfortable it is to arrive in a strange, potentially hostile environment, and discover that you have been preceded by your reputation, that you don’t have to do anything to be accepted, that your name is known, that everyone knows about you, and it’s the others, the strangers, who must strive to win your favor and not you theirs.”

After the party, Armando shows a romantic interest in Lenu, but her confidence has eroded, “I was pleased because he obviously liked me, and I was polite, but not available. Lila’s words had indeed done damage. My clothes were wrong, my hair was wrong, my tone of voice was false, I was ignorant…”

After Lenu has broken Antonio’s heart, his sister, Ada, captures the truth as she tells Lenu, “You have no feelings, just look how you treated my brother.” I reminded her with an angry snap that it was her brother who had left me, and she replied, “Yes, anyone who believes that is lucky: there are people who leave and people who know how to be left.”

An amazing character study, we witness the push and pull of everyday life, some more obvious than others, as characters attempt to jockey into position to realize their desired end result, some successful, some always behind the eight ball. Why? Because there’s always another bigger, badder character without scruples or loyalty, who will stop at nothing to attain what they want, and to keep everyone else from getting theirs. One- upmanship always at work.

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym for an author who wishes to remain invisible. As a matter of fact, writing is not her full-time job. She writes these wonderful books in her spare time—when she’s not at her day job. Is she even really a woman? No one knows. In any event, her Neapolitan Novels series contains four books: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child.  My Brilliant Friend has already aired on HBO. Although I do not know the time frame, books two and three are scheduled to be made into mini-series to give us closure on Lenu and Lila’s story.Hopefully, the fourth book will be added to this series. I look forward to reading and reviewing the next two books.

The review for Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay  will be published on January 12, 2019.

Ciao bella!

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

Thank You Barnes & Noble, Stamford, CT For a Successful Encore Book Signing

Thanks to all who helped make my encore book signing on Jan. 6, 2019 at Barnes & Noble, Stamford, CT a success!

Encore Book Signing! Barnes & Noble, Stamford, CT Today, Jan. 6

Encore Book Signing!

Please join me today at B&N, Stamford, CT today, Sun., Jan. 6, 2019.
I am happy to say I sold out of two titles yesterday. Those titles still can be purchased online or ordered directly when you visit B&N.

 

Sunday, January 6, 2019
12:00pm-4:00pm

Stamford Town Center  
100 Greyrock Place
Stamford, CT
203-323-1248

 My Book Titles
The Science Project (sold out)
The Ocean’s Way (sold out)
Who Do Voodoo?
The Ocean’s Way Poetry Companion
Sojourn Into The Night—A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest

 

All Rights Reserved 2019

Kudos to Barnes & Noble Stamford For A Successful Book Signing

Thank you Barnes & Noble, Stamford, CT for a successful book signing on Jan. 5, 2019. And a very special thanks to Dan and Matt for their help in making this all possible. I sold out of two titles! I will be going back today, Sunday, Jan. 6, 12:00-4:00pm! Hope to see you there!

Book Review: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Book Review: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (2012) 5 Stars *****

An excellent source book for women’s studies and sociological patterns.

Intelligent. Insightful. Thought Provoking.
Elena Ferrante will be remembered as one of the greatest novelists of all time.

Where does one start to describe this book that pierces the heart and mind with a mixture of conflicting emotions as the reader struggles to take sides and assign culpability in this truly amazing coming of age story set in the outskirts of Naples, Italy in the 1950s and 1960s? We meet the main characters Elena (Lenu), the narrator, and her best friend Raffaella (Lila), as primary grade students with a complex relationship of perpetual duality: love/frustration,  support/disinterest, trust/suspicion, understanding/judgment, admiration/resentment, emulation/rejection, cooperation/independence. The real question: Which one is truly the brilliant friend?

The characters are complex. In their early years, although opposite in personality and family circumstances, they are on the same plane. By the time middle school comes about, Lenu is a quiet, shy, studious, secretive, passive aggressive, pleasing follower while Lila is a boisterous, confrontational, elusive, rebellious, self-taught leader. Lenu’s family allows her to complete high school while Lila’s family demands that she leave school after the elementary level to help in the family business. As youngsters, Lenu is the pretty one, while as teenagers, Lila develops into the seductress. The more demanding and manipulative she is, the more the boys adore Lila. Both girls give off conflicting messages as they engage in a rivalry to establish themselves as the superior one. Lila is the first to marry at age sixteen. Despite Lila’s apparent independent strength, she is the one who is entrapped by the norms of the society in which they live, while Lenu’s education appears to open her mind to the possibility of a different way of life. This book is an excellent source for a course on women’s studies, the plight of women, or sociology in a male dominated society.

As in any poor neighborhood where the residents are struggling for basic existence, living in close quarters, and searching for ways to make money to improve their lives and provide for their families, illegal activities and violent episodes mar the tranquility of daily life. Point, counterpoint. The residents of this embroiled village victimize each other. Who else is there in this static town where new people do not move in and residents hardly move out? Today you’re up. Tomorrow you’re down. But not for long. And so it goes.

It appears that the representation of everyday life in this part of Italy, while not flattering, is accurate. Major and minor characters are complex. They seem real. Could it be that they are truly a figment of the author’s imagination?

I happened to read this book coincidentally as the HBO mini-series of the same name aired. The series is true to the book. Many of the lines were taken straight from the book dialogue spoken in Neapolitan dialect with English subtitles. A few minor details were changed, but too few to mention. Hearing the familiar  Neapolitan dialect which I learned from exposure to my Neapolitan mother and grandmother made the series all the more enjoyable for me. All in all, a brilliantly written book has been made into an equally  brilliant mini-series. I believe we can expect a host of awards for this one.

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym for an author who wishes to remain invisible. As a matter of fact, writing is not her full time job. She writes these wonderful books in her spare time—when she’s not at her day job. Is she even really a woman? No one knows. In any event, her Neapolitan Novels series contains four books: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child.  Although I do not know the time frame for these HBO presentations, we can expect at least the next two books to be made into mini-series to give us closure on Lenu and Lila’s story. I look forward to reading and reviewing the next three books.

The review for The Story of a New Name will be published on January 9, 2019.

Ciao bella!

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

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