Friday, March 21, 2008

The Twelve Little Cakes

Recommendation: Yes, I would recommend this book. I think the stories are lovely and I like the way the author writes. I enjoyed reading them all, and I think you will too!

Overview: Dominika Dery is my age (according to the story, she was born 10 days after me), and was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia when it was under control of the Soviet Union. She lived with her parents and older sister in the township of Cernosice. This is a memoir written in 12 chapters, stories really.

Know that this doesn't cover her entire life, just the first few years. BUT, I read that she is working on 12 more stories that will cover a few more years of her life.

What I liked: First off, Dominika Dery has a positive outlook on her life as a child. Similiar to The Glass Castle, she is growing up in difficult circumstances, but she is happy. Her stories have sadness in them, but they aren't miserable. She writes these from her perspective as a small child, with all the wonder and optimism she had then.

I like the way she focuses on a few specific incidents, but expands them enough to give us a clear picture of what was going on. Also they segue well together, so it doesn't feel choppy. I like the way she refers back to things. For example, she explains about the little shops selling sausages and little cakes, then refers back to that a couple of times later.
I love the cute little cakes with meaningful titles for each chapter.

I always love a story with magic or religion or spirituality especially when it is natural and not over dramatic. So I loved her reference to her "little god." I loved that her mom dreamed of her before she was born.

Also what sets this apart from The Glass Castle is that Dominika has great parents! Her parents are described and developed well. And they are good moral people. I do think she becomes a little disenchanted with her father as she gets older. (I'm thinking like when he built the laboratory in their garage.) It will be interesting to see in her next collection if her opinion changes.

Communism as it was in Czechoslavakia in the 70's and 80's is talked about a lot in this book. It helps you get a feel for how her life was affected by it, but doesn't overwhelm you with a history lesson. Dery provides information in a way that is not overwhelming. It was interesting and sad to see the effects of a Communist elite, black listing and failed revolutions. I don't think I could pass any test on communism, but I do understand it a little bit better.

There were so many moments in this story when I thought thing were going to turn horrible, but they didn't. Which isn't to say her life was always happy, but I think Dominika chose to focus on happy and meaningful moment for her story.

I LOVED the little old ladies that were her friends. I loved the ballet dancer's response to her, and the way the other teachers were charmed by her. I loved that the priest was so nice to her.

What I didn't Like: Well, I don't have much. I will say that the story where she is in an isolation ward of a hospital was a very sad. I admit I had to kind of skim it because it was so sad. But that's just because I don't like sad stories, it was written well, and probably left out the worst parts!

Cool Quotes:
"By the mid-eighties, communism was like an old dragon that would occasionally crawl out from its cave and eat someone for dinner. As long as it wasn't you the dragon was eating, you could live with the sound of screams in the distance."
"This power was like fire. It was a good servant but a bad master."


Julie E. said...

I love learning about books that I've never heard of before! I'll definitely put this on my "read someday" list : ).

Kammy said...

This is a great one! I enjoyed learning about a culture I know nothing about along with the good stories.

Julie E. said... what else have you been reading??? I keep checking : ).

Emmie-Lew said...

How did I miss this post? Hummmm. . . I'm excited to add this to my "To Read" list, too. Thanks, Kammy!

Amy said...

I just finished this book yesterday and I loved it! When you said it was a little like "The Glass Castle" I worried that it would be another child against the parents book. I was glad to see that the sadness in the author's life was society inflicted, not parents inflicted. This was a magical book!