Sunday, November 21, 2010

Breath and Shadows

Breath and Shadows by Ella Leffland

Because it is Thanksgiving week and I am super busy and stressed cleaning and getting ready for cooking dinner for 32 people, I have decided to publish some of my old book reviews this week.  I will be revisiting some of my old favorites books still on my shelf.  These are the books I borrow out from time to time but want to keep forever.  Enjoy!

This book review is dedicated to those of you who believe in spirits, whether they are truly super-natural, exist only in our minds or are an unexplainable sound that goes bump in the night.  It is merely our own perception.

Book Review: Breath and Shadows by: Ella Leffland

    This is a historical fiction novel as well as a political and philosophical novel.  The novel’s name is taken directly from a quote by the great playwright Sophocles “Man is but breath and shadow, nothing more.”  It is a breathtaking novel about three generations of people, all related and yet knowing nothing of each other.  It takes place in three different centuries, the 1700’s, the 1800’s and the 1900’s.  The location is mainly set in Denmark.  It is written so creatively that each chapter takes place in a different time period and continues that particular compelling story every three chapters.  It is almost like you are reading three stories in one.  Eventually you come to realize that these people and their stories are all intertwined.

One of my favorite Shakespearean plays is Hamlet.  “To be or not to be, that is the question.”   One of the questions raised in this book is whether Hamlet is really mad or not?  This really makes you think about the characters in the book.  Could they be mad or is madness merely a perception?  Perceptions can be deceiving. Mental illness is a state of mind that we cannot understand.  At least I don’t understand it.  What sends people over the edge? Could happiness, if only in the mind, be misperceived as madness only because we the sane deem it so?  If someone sees what others cannot or hears the voices of angels, how can we judge that person to be insane because we do not hear it or see it?  How do we know, really know that what they are seeing and hearing is not real. 

Didn’t Jesus hear voices and see what others could not see?  Joan of Arc?  Moses?  Leonardo Da Vinci?
We are only as limited as our minds allow us to be.

Every Human being will eventually be forgotten for we are nothing more than a breath or a shadow in this world of enlightenment.  Each of us a stone on which the future generations will step upon.  At the very center of us is our heart, our core just like a stone whose center turns to dust.  “We’re like Vikings setting off in their longships across the swells of unknown Seas”. Pg. 270 Whoa, the sea is getting deep.

This book is a grand adventure into the realm of reality.  It is about family, love, social class and above all human perceptions.  The characters are rich and unforgettable.  The character known as The Counselor particularly affected me.  He is a dwarf and people perceived him to be grotesque because he is different.  It is a thought-provoking read.  I will leave you with one last quote from the book that is particularly moving.

“Die and become what you are.”  Pg. 227

Everyday I am setting my sails for sights unknown and it is you I take on my journey.

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