Published: May 1, 2018 by Little A
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
First of all, let me say thank you to the author, Cinelle Barnes, for reaching out to me and offering me a copy of this book, as well as the sweetest smelling candle to go with it! I’m so glad for all the opportunities Bookstagram has given me, and connecting with authors is one of the best!
One of my favorite quotes about literature, which I’ve mentioned here from time to time, is from Ernest Hemingway. “All good books have one things in common — they are truer than if they really happened.” As mostly a reader of fiction, I completely agree with that statement. And that might be part of the reason I am so drawn into fiction. They can be true even if they didn’t happen. I’ve always gravitated more towards fiction than nonfiction… sometimes I feel a true story can lose a little bit of that magic that a piece of fiction can bring you. But in the past year or so, I’ve read some really fantastic memoirs and I’m coming to realize that I am actually a big fan of the genre. When they’re done right, a memoir can be incredibly powerful.
Monsoon Mansion was one of those powerful reads for me. I finished it a couple weeks ago, but I’ve thought about it almost every day since finishing it. From the very beginning I was mesmerized by this story and by the world in which Barnes grew up. This book is the story of her childhood, growing up in a ten-bedroom home in the Philippines. It chronicles her life living in the mansion in its splendor, and then later in its total ruin. We follow her story as a monsoon hits and destroys so much of the work that went into their home. We follow as her father leaves and her mother’s new lover takes over. We watch as things go from difficult to unbearable, and I found myself horrified by what they had to endure, as well as amazed at their capability for pushing through such difficulties.
This book as a whole is really well done. It’s moving and descriptive and the prose is absolutely beautiful. I could picture the mansion perfectly in my mind, both in its glory days and later on when it is home to some terrible things and people. The different figures in Barnes’ childhood came to life on the page, and by the end I felt like I knew them. I was completely caught up in the story from the very beginning and I am in awe of Barnes’ resilience and ability to survive and persevere, even in what were horrible circumstances.
I also learned a lot from this book, something I’m always hoping for. I want to be taken somewhere that I’m not familiar with, and I when I’ve finished the last page I want to feel like I’m leaving with a better knowledge of that place. I definitely felt that way with Monsoon Mansion. I confess I don’t know much about what growing up in the Philippines might have been like, especially in circumstances as extreme as these, but I felt like I had a glimpse into a culture that I otherwise knew very little about.
Barnes’ writing is poetic and engaging and I was in love with this book from the beginning. If you’re a lover of memoirs (or honestly, even if you’re not) I will absolutely recommend this book to you. It is really gorgeous and is such an impressive tale of love and family and survival, and also of growing up.
If you’d like to win a copy for yourself, along with a candle handmade by the author, head over to my Instagram where you’ll find a giveaway going on from now until May 7th, 2018!