If you’re like me and don’t know anything about the Jewish people; their religion, ancestry, upbringing; this is not the novel to teach you about it. The author recollects her young childhood living on a kibbutz in Israel through her young childhood eyes, and while that is a clever way to re-tell a potentially unsettling story, it also leaves you wondering which parts are fact and which are fiction.
It’s very easy in this story for Dori to slip on the rose colored glasses of youth and paint a picture that is more rainbows than storm clouds in “The Last Rain”, proving that children are either extremely resilient, or extremely stupid. But the adult reader in me was itching to yell “CAN YOU PUT YOUR MOMMY OR DADDY ON THE PHONE PLEASE” to better understand what was really going on, which was that her kibbutz was shibbutz.
At times it was cute to live in the Jewish community with Dori and her playmates misinterpreting Hebrew phrases but take those times and times them by a hundred, and that’s how many times I was confused. I was in a constant state of wondering whether I should go find an adult or program the Kids Help Phone number into their speed dial. The 8000 footnotes didn’t help this patience-lacking reader either. Sure, they quote entire interview conversations for pages on end to illustrate a point, but I have to Google what a “kibbutz” is?! Footnote fail.
My food and drink of choice for anyone curling up in their crib with this book is a Shirley Temple and matzah balls.
Someone once chuckled while telling me they could not picture me watching a documentary. I took offense to this comment. I’ve seen Disney’s “African Cats”. I’ve seen “March of the Penguins”. Or was it “Happy Feet”? Does “Never Say Never” count? I’ve even eaten a Quarter Pounder with Cheese Meal while watching “Super Size Me”. Beat that. But it wasn’t until I started to read my first Biography novel that I might just have to swallow my pride, along with those non-decomposing frites, and agree with that hurtful joker. I’ve always been secretly fascinated by powerful women of long ago so when I saw Stacy Schiff’s “Cleopatra” on the Must Read shelf, I thought “Well who am I to disobey a Librarian.” Except that who I am is someone who does not find reading fun when every second sentence you’re flipping between the inside cover to that sand colored, hand-drawn map of countries and regions that don’t exist anymore, and the back cover genealogical chart to jog your memory of whether it was her aunt Berenice, her sister Berenice, or her daughter Berenice who killed her own husband/brother/father. Ex. Haus. Ting.
Ms. Schiff saw a need to uncover the truth about this Queen of the Nile as there’s not a lot known about her and because of this she gets a bad rep from Shakespeare and Shaw’s colorful imaginations turned historical feats of literature. This intriguing young girl managed to man handle (if you know what I’m saying) two of the most prominent and feared Romans of her day; Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. With this kind of name-dropping you would think fact would be as entertaining as fiction. Not so. Give me the Elizabeth Taylor version any day. Or a re-make with J-Lo as Cle-o. (Don’t even try to tell me you didn’t think of her when I mentioned Mark Antony.)
This blog post is short lived, not unlike my patience with this book. I don’t make a habit of not finishing books I’ve started but the fact is, at this rate, you, my faithful readers, could build a pyramid in the time it would take me to read this cover to cover (quite literally) and then write basically what I’ve said above stretched across another 2-3 paragraphs. There may have even been a map. See? Ex. Haus. Ting.
Ever read a lot of heavy books in a row and need to give your brain a break with some chick lit or teen vampire drama? Who am I kidding? I love that stuff all the time, but I just finished “Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later” and realized why it was titled “confidential”. Because a 30 year old woman should not be sharing the fact that she missed those blonde Wakefield twins and their boy troubles so much she waited on pins and needles for 3 months to get the book from the library. Goddamn those slow teenage readers. Besides the fact that I felt like I needed to hide the cover in a book jacket every time I took it out on the bus, I devoured this chick lit teenage drama like it was someone’s personal diary with a treasure map inside the cover.
However fast I read it, which is indicated by the near non-existent time lapse between blog entries, it was a train wreck. Jessica with Todd? Elizabeth having one night stands in little black dresses? I know Ms. Pascal has always stressed how identical the twins are, but mixing them up in your own novel is just embarrassing. These are your own invented children, lady. I waited 3 months (OK, actually more like 15 years) to rekindle with these long lost high school amigos only to have everything I knew and loved about them turned inside out?! How dare she. I get that she’s the author. I get that there are umpteen series featuring the same characters involved with the same people and struggling through the same scenarios and blah blah blah. I get that you want to challenge yourself as an author. But what you don’t seem to get is that picking up any Sweet Valley book should be like coming home after a long time away and being greeted with open arms by those you know and love, not like pulling up in your driveway to your mom parking her motorbike, your dad baking a pie, and your dog reading him the recipe. Confused? Yeah, I was too reading this.
Secretly, I was looking for a little comfort. I was looking to be brought back circa 1995 to see what boy Jessica was leading on now (That’s so like Jessica) or how many humanitarian awards Elizabeth had racked up (That’s our Elizabeth) but no. Just no. This was no trip down memory lane. In fact, most of the book didn’t take place on any lane in Sweet Valley, but in NYC. The best part of the book was the Epilogue where we were updated on the whereabouts and happenings of all the past Sweet Valley characters. (Lila is still on my unwritten list of baby names and I may or may not still crush on Bruce Patman) I know ten years is a long time and people can change, but Enid a gynecologist bitch, and Winston a millionaire, albeit detested, playboy? Get real. No one with those names would ever be popular enough to be hated so fiercely. Except Francine. I hate Francine for making my beloved imaginary friends grow up and face grown up real people problems. So much for taking a break with an easy read. This was hard on me.
Want another secret? I belong to a Book Club. A Secret Book Club. Cleverly titled SBC. (No, you can’t join, you need to be asked. And it involves strict pre-requisites. And an initiation process. Read: hazing. ) And this has to stay between me and you because the first rule of Secret Book Club is you don’t talk about Secret Book Club. So’s the second rule. But I think I’m pretty safe as there’s only 3 of us members and if they “survivored” me it would no longer be a club, but a date. And that’s just weird. Not to mention a waste of all those business cards we ordered. Back to my original point. I belong to a Book Club that meets once a month so once a month I will feature the Coles Notes version of our meeting. Keep it confidential.