French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley by Linda Kovic-Skow

French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley by Linda Kovic-SkowBlurb

In the summer of 1979, twenty-one-year-old Linda Kovic contracts to become an au pair for an aristocratic French family in the Loire Valley. To secure the position, she pretends to speak the language, fully aware her deception will be discovered once she arrives at her destination.

Based on the author’s diary, French Illusions captures Linda’s fascinating and often challenging real life story inside and outside the Chateau de Montclair. Her compelling story details her challenges and triumphs as she tries to adjust to her new life with Madame and Monsieur Dubois and their children. Join Linda on her unforgettable adventure of discovery and romance in an extraordinary part of the world.

My Perspective

This is the eighteenth book I read from my post Credit Where Credit’s Due. I read about French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley by Linda Kovic-Skow from Ionia at Readful Things Blog. You can read her thoughts on the book here.

This book is the memoir of Linda Kovic-Skow’s time as an American au pair in France.

Although i was curious to read this book, i had my hesitations on whether i would like it because of the deception that gives her the opportunity to be an au pair. I wondered how this would be received not only at the beginning but for the duration of her stay. Although i understood why she did it in the first place, i was disappointed in how she handled herself from that point onwards.

I found it really hard to like Linda. I found her to be a bit of a selfish, spoiled brat. I thought her expectations were way off and her attitude wasn’t in the right place. I couldn’t relate to her and so because of all that, i couldn’t sympathise with her situation. Obviously i felt that Madame was out of line, however so was Linda. The rest of the family and acquaintances were in their parts likeable and not.

The romantic aspects in the book had my eyes rolling in my head. I couldn’t believe that this was actually a true story. Without trying to be rude, it read like a tween’s fantasy diary.

What kept me reading then? The descriptions of the French countryside, the French food, the French architecture. Basically the French parts of the story were a wonderful read.

By the end of the book i did feel truly sorry for Linda and the way she was treated – it was completely wrong. However it didn’t reconcile her to myself.

Overall i was quite disappointed in this book and would only recommend it if you like stories along the line of a teenage summer romance with A LOT of challenges in it.

Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah

82751Blurb

A Chinese proverb says, “Falling leaves return to their roots.” In Chinese Cinderella, Adeline Yen Mah returns to her roots to paint an authentic portrait of twentieth-century China, as well as to tell the story of her painful childhood and her courage and ultimate triumph over despair.

After her mother dies giving birth to her, Adeline’s affluent, powerful family considers her bad luck . Life does not get any easier when her father remarries. She and her siblings are subjected to their stepmother’s disdain, while her half brother and half sister are thoroughly spoiled. Although Adeline wins prizes at school, they are not what she really yearns for — the love and understanding of her family.

My Perspective

As I’ve mentioned before, my younger brother (I can’t say little anymore because he’s taller than me now!) isn’t a huge reader so when he does read a book and recommends it to me – I will always take the time to read it.

For school he had to read the book, Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted daughter by Adeline Yen Mah, and after reading it, thought I might be interested in it.

The book follows the true story of Adeline Yen Mah, an unwanted daughter in China from around 1935 to around 1950. Adeline’s mother died soon after her birth and therefore she is seen as bad luck by her siblings. Her father remarries and soon forgets about her and her other siblings, his new wife taking control and relegating them all to almost servant status – Adeline being the least. All she wants is for her father to love her and be proud of her and this is her story of how she works so hard to achieve that – even if it’s only for a moment.

This book was sad. The fact that it’s true and doesn’t have a ridiculously happy ending like the story of Cinderella does, made it even sadder. Obviously there are children who have been a lot worse off in China, especially daughters, however reading someone’s memoirs of feeling so unloved as a child just breaks my heart – especially as I have a child of my own now.

Adeline was adorable and so eager to please. She worked so hard and was so strong. I really admired her resolve, especially as she was so young. It really makes a lot of the children I come across on a regular basis seem like massive spoiled brats. Her stepmother was a real piece of work and I actually can’t believe people exist like that! How can people treat other people like that? I didn’t mind her father so much, he was just weak and under his wife’s thumb. Her siblings were interesting and there was a kind of love/hate relationship with them. Aunty Baba, Yi Yi and Nai Nai were extremely likeable.

The story was well written. I also enjoyed the fact that the author added various Chinese characters to the text – it added an extra touch that gave it a greater depth.

The story was interesting and informative as well as emotionally involving you – I can see why it was chosen as a school text.

Overall I enjoyed it although it was sad and tugged a bit at my heart. I would definitely recommend it to those who like historical memoirs/autobiographies.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth GilbertBlurb

It’s 3 a.m. and Elizabeth Gilbert is sobbing on the bathroom floor. She’s in her thirties, she has a husband, a house, they’re trying for a baby – and she doesn’t want any of it. A bitter divorce and a turbulent love affair later, she emerges battered and bewildered and realises it is time to pursue her own journey in search of three things she has been missing: pleasure, devotion and balance. So she travels to Rome, where she learns Italian from handsome, brown-eyed identical twins and gains twenty-five pounds, an ashram in India, where she finds that enlightenment entails getting up in the middle of the night to scrub the temple floor, and Bali where a toothless medicine man of indeterminate age offers her a new path to peace: simply sit still and smile. And slowly happiness begins to creep up on her.

My Perspective

Eat, Pray, Love follows Elizabeth Gilbert as she takes a year off travelling to Italy, India and Indonesia in her search for self discovery.

I didn’t realise this was actually a non fiction memoir. To be honest I thought she was a pretty lucky individual to have the means to be able to do what she did.

I mostly liked Elizabeth however I did find her also slightly annoying. I can’t put my finger on why, just that she aggravated me a bit.

The book is in three sections: Eat (Italy), Pray (India), Love (Indonesia). I enjoyed reading the first section (Eat – Italy) as it sets the story and involves lots of yummy food! I wasn’t such a fan of the second section (Pray – India) as I found that it was more like a Yoga textbook than her actual experience with Yoga. Obviously you have to have some explanation so that the reader understands however I found it was too much, which means I was a bit bored throughout that section. If I wanted to understand Yoga that much then I’d research it properly rather than reading someone’s non fiction memoir. I mostly enjoyed the third section (Love – Indonesia) however I found it went from being super spiritual to an almost teenage romance. I had a bit of a hard time reconciling the two.

Overall though it was an interesting read and certainly has the potential to make you reflect on your own life. I would probably recommend it.

How To Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

How To Be An American Housewife by Margaret DillowayBlurb

A mother-daughter story about the strong pull of tradition, and the lure and cost of breaking free of it.

When Shoko decided to marry an American GI and leave Japan, she had her parents’ blessing, her brother’s scorn, and a gift from her husband-a book on how to be a proper American housewife.

As she crossed the ocean to America, Shoko also brought with her a secret she would need to keep her entire life…

Half a century later, Shoko’s plans to finally return to Japan and reconcile with her brother are derailed by illness. In her place, she sends her grown American daughter, Sue, a divorced single mother whose own life isn’t what she hoped for. As Sue takes in Japan, with all its beauty and contradictions, she discovers another side to her mother and returns to America unexpectedly changed and irrevocably touched.

My Perspective

This is the eighth book I read from my post Credit Where Credit’s Due. I read about How To Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway from Ionia at Readful Things Blog. You can read her thoughts on the book here.

How To Be An American Housewife is the intertwined stories of Shoko and her daughter Sue. Shoko, a native Japanese, marries Charlie, a medical officer in the navy, while he is stationed in Japan. Her story is not just about her childhood but also the state in which she leaves her family in Japan and how she tries to assimilate into American culture. Sue’s story is the result of the assimilation and how it affected her growing up and throughout the rest of her life.

This book was interesting and reads like a memoir. It almost felt like a non fiction at the beginning when it was just Shoko’s story compared to the last part of the book, which felt a little bit unbelievable.

I found it hard to connect with Shoko, more so as an adult than as a child. I still liked her though. I really liked Sue.

It was interesting to read about the two different cultures and how America seemed like such a step up from Japan (when really I don’t think it is).

Interspersed throughout are snippets of guidance, which come from the manual “How To Be An American Housewife”. This confused me as it’s the same title as the book. I assumed then that the snippets were from the original book, which was an actual guide, and this was a story of a Japanese woman who actually lived it out. However at the end I read that it was fictional and the author had made it up! Although i found it confusing at the beginning, it was quite a clever way to incorporate certain cultural information and differences.

Overall it was an interesting and informative read that gave insight into the two different cultures. It was steady paced and although it wasn’t gripping, kept you curious. A nice gentle read that I would recommend to those who like memoirs or historical fiction.

Summers In Supino: Becoming Italian by Maria Coletta McLean

Summers In Supino: Becoming Italian by Maria Coletta McLeanBlurb

An Italian Canadian woman recounts her annual summer trips with her husband to her ancestral village of Supino, Italy, in this heartwarming hybrid of travel guide and memoir. Written with humor and heart, it describes her process of adjusting to life in her father’s hometown, as well as the eccentricities of its people. Supino’s colorful landscapes and citizens make for vivid stories, from pizzerias in sheep pastures and fish restaurants hidden in the woods to village-wide celebrations of figs, watermelon, azaleas, and artichokes. The book goes on to explain how with every trip, the budding Italian gains a deeper understanding of her connection to Supino and comes to more fully embrace her cultural heritage. Filled with brilliant stories about a fascinating land, this engaging narrative explores notions of identity and the restorative power of community.

My Perspective

This is the first book I read from my post Credit Where Credit’s Due. I read about Summers In Supino: Becoming Italian by Maria Coletta McLean from Ionia at Readful Things Blog. You can read her thoughts on the book here.

Summers In Supino: Becoming Italian is a true story of Maria’s memories of her summers in Supino, Italy from when she and her husband bought a house there.

The story was written in an unusual format. It was in chronological order however apart from that it kind of was just written as a continuous memory. Some parts was almost summarised and other parts were intrinsically detailed. Sometimes it flowed beautifully and other times it was jolted. The style didn’t bother me majorly however I did find that sometimes I was taken out of the story because of it.

Supino sounds like a truly fascinating place and I was actually reading this while we traveled through Italy on our European adventure. I was sad that it was not near where we were visiting because I would have liked to have visited and seen what I read about.

I loved reading about the Italian way of life. The comparisons between the Supinese culture and the North American culture were so different and it was sad to see how the North American culture started influencing the area and changing it.

I loved reading about the food too – it all sounded so delicious!

The humour was subtle and I really enjoyed it. It was also quite a sad book.

I enjoyed reading this book and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys memoirs and reading about other cultures.