Sunday, 26 October 2014

Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving / The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz / The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick

The Legend Of Sleepy HollowThe Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my Favourite Five Horror Stories for Halloween 2015

I first heard a recording of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow a few years ago - 2010 according to Goodreads - and, having then recently seen the Johnny Depp film version, I was very distracted by trying to mesh the two tales. The film is very different to Washington Irving's original storyline.
Now, for Halloween 2014, Audible.co.uk offered members a new recording for free so I gave the story another chance and am glad I did. The narrator, Tom Mison, is apparently in a TV series set in Sleepy Hollow, but he also does an excellent job of the reading. I love Irving's detailed descriptions of the town and its residents, their appearances and especially their food!
I was surprised that, despite references to the headless horseman, he is quite a peripheral character making this a less spooky tale than I expected although, this time around, a satisfying one. Perhaps even more story would have been nice? I have updated my star rating from three to four!.



The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to InfinityThe Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity by Steven H. Strogatz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dave bought a couple of maths books a while ago, inspired by our going to a fascinating Simon Singh talk about the hidden maths in the Simpsons TV series. The Joy of X was the first I've tried to read.

The first few pages were fine and I could follow exactly what Strogatz was saying. However, once we got past 'fish fish fish fish fish fish', it all got a bit tougher! Strogatz does explain his topics well and in normal English rather than obscure language, even if math instead of maths does grate a bit to begin with. I enjoyed the historical explanations of each topic and the progression of chapters also helped. I think I understood most of what was written, although being able to reproduce the thoughts independently probably isn't going to happen, but a lot that lost me during Secondary School is now much clearer. Strogatz's enthusiasm really comes across throughout the text and this joy in his subject is infectious. I spotted a sine wave in the distribution of pebbles on the beach tide line this morning. Yay me!



My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm nearly at the end of this year's AudioSYNC downloads and one I saved up was this short story pairing of The Shawl and Rosa. The title story is very short yet the more powerful for this. A woman, Rosa, walks with her baby daughter and her teenage niece. We discover they are Jewish, they lived in Warsaw, and they are walking to a camp. So much of this story is unsaid that my imagination could take off to fill in the heartrending details. The horror, pain and also resignation of the people is difficult to comprehend. And, although we can anticipate much of the ending before we get there, the reality of it is still unbearably shocking.
Some thirty years later, in a much longer story, the eponymous Rosa is eking out an existence in Miami. Alone and still primarily living in her past, her single room is spartan and hardly a home. Paid for by her niece whom Rosa considers she rescued despite everything, the two women have a bizarre symbiotic relationship. Each clinging to the other over miles due to their shared history even though Stella, the niece, has endeavoured to shut those years out of her new American life. I was more intrigued by this relationship than by a potentially burgeoning romance for Rosa with an older Polish man, also from Warsaw but who left in the 1920s so 'not my Warsaw' to Rosa.
Rosa, the story, is a less harrowing listen than The Shawl but its subject of what happens afterwards, how survivors manage to exist and live after escaping horror is just as thought-provoking and not something to which I had previously given much consideration


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