Where to begin? This is such a wonderfully written, heartbreaking book. It's hard to believe that it wasn't edited or complete in the author's mind wh...moreWhere to begin? This is such a wonderfully written, heartbreaking book. It's hard to believe that it wasn't edited or complete in the author's mind when it was written, or that it was a contemporaneous account of the terror that was World War II. The appendix, noting the author's personal history and ultimate demise at the hands of the Nazis adds to the complexity of the novel.
I loved, loved, loved this book. The narration was quick paced and never really lagged. The jumps from the older narrator to his younger self were wel...moreI loved, loved, loved this book. The narration was quick paced and never really lagged. The jumps from the older narrator to his younger self were well timed, and I liked both versions quite a bit. The book made me want to chuck it all and run away to join the circus. (less)
For those of you who do not know, AHWOSG is a first person true narrative that was nominated for a pulitzer prize two years ago. It reads like a novel...more For those of you who do not know, AHWOSG is a first person true narrative that was nominated for a pulitzer prize two years ago. It reads like a novel, and it feels like a novel, but it's mainly just a memoir.
There have been a lot of things said about the book by a lot of people. The New York Times book review raved about it, and the reviewer who wrote about it there is not known for giving raves. Some people scoffed at it, saying it was self-indulgant and too self-referrential. Others said that he was capitalizing on the misfortune of others. The book has sold phenominally well (aside from the fact that you can only get it at independent bookstores and, for some reason, Amazon). The movie rights have been sold, and I think that Nick Hornsby is writing the screenplay.
Anyhow, I was curious about it because I'd heard so much about it. I didn't know much about Eggers except that he was a writer, and that there was a lot of discussion about the book. The book starts off in the early 90s, when he's maybe 21 years old and it's the winter break in his last year of college. He's the third of four children, aged 23, 22, 21, and 7. His father died of some sort of cancer during the Thanksgiving holiday, and his mother is about to die of stomach cancer in a few days. His oldest sib, a brother, is living and working in DC, and his sister deferred law school for a year to be with his parents during the last days. So, when it comes down to making arrangements, he and his youngest brother move to Berkeley with his sister when she starts law school. Because of the stress of law school, two households are set up, and he becomes the primary parent for his brother. One of the main themes of the book is his struggle with being a parent and a brother and twentysomething goof off.
There are a lot of literary things that I could say about the work, how in some ways it reminds me of reality television (and the Real World plays a minor role in the book) and how forums like this one, where ordinarly people talk about their lives in a self-conscious, self-referential way, and hope and pray for readership. Hope and pray that our lives, and our talking about our lives is interesting enough for someone else to pick up and read and find as fascinating as we do. But for me, it's the relationship that I have personally with the experience that I think is fascinating. The first half of the book really had a particular draw for me, because he and I practically had the exact same flight path in moving to Berekeley. He started off in a sublet in the Berkeley Hills, and struggled to find a permanent home for the family. Eventually, he and his brother ended up in the flats, near Gilman Street. He talks a lot about living in Berkeley, naming specific streets, talking about the grocery stores that we shopped at, the kinds of people who live there. Also, most of the time that I lived in Berkeley, I lived with my youngest sister, and while we were much closer in age, and my responsibilities to her were not as great, I still felt the pull of being the older one, the one that had to look out to make sure she was ok, the one that people looked to when answers weren't coming from her. When I left Berkeley, the hardest part was leaving her, and I think that my relationship with her was amazingly strengthened by our time in Berkeley together. I found myself relating to the book in a fairly unique way, and I think that it probably colored the rest of the book for me.
The book itself, outside of the heartbreaking parts, is fairly difficult to pigeonhole. Like I said, it reads like a novel. It's laugh out loud funny, and at times it can be self-depreciating. I keep thinking that I'll have to read it again later on, when I am able to digest it further. The relationship that the author has with his brother is a wonderful one, and his relationships with the rest of the world are much more complex. It's hard to look in someone's life like this, to see them practically naked. To what extent he omits stuff, I do not know, but he does put very, very difficult things in there. At times when I realize that I'm reading a true to life account, I feel like I'm reading someone's private journal, that I shouldnt' have access to these thoughts. At other times, I understand that I'm taking only so much as he is willing to give, and that I have full permission to take from this. This feels much more real than watching someone's life on television for a month on a reality TV show, even though it may possibly be as artificial. There's something about the written word, and the talking to people physically on the other side of the written word that makes it easier to lay open your wounds for all the world to see. That the book is true to life makes it more interesting than a novel, even though one could change the names, and a few facts, and present the book as a novel.
It's an extraordinary book, and I enjoyed it immensely. I started it last Saturday afternoon, and fell in love instantly with the characters. I'd exp...more It's an extraordinary book, and I enjoyed it immensely. I started it last Saturday afternoon, and fell in love instantly with the characters. I'd explain the basic premise of the story to the people that I was around, and they'd periodically ask me for updates on the animals.
The story is about a boy named Pi Patel, whose family owns a zoo in India in the 1970s. Pi knows a lot about keeping animals, but he's also very curious about different religions and simultaneously practices Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, much to the chagrin of the local clerics. In 1977 when Pi is 16, his father, frustrated with politics in India, decides to move the family to Canada. Four days out of Manila, or "midway to Midway" the boat that his family is on sinks, and Pi, a 450 pound Bengal tiger, an orangutun, a zebra with a broken leg, and a hyena make it to a 26 foot life boat. The rest of the story is about Pi's 227 days as a castaway, and his relationship with Richard Parker, the tiger.
I fell in love with Pi, and I wanted the book to go on and on and on. The story was captivating and beautifully written, and as improbable as the situation is, Martel made the story quite believable. I highly recommend it.(less)
**spoiler alert** The spoilery stuff This seemed like a much quicker read than some of the other books. I promised myself a candy break at the 200 page...more**spoiler alert** The spoilery stuff This seemed like a much quicker read than some of the other books. I promised myself a candy break at the 200 page mark, and that was around 9:00.** I think that part of it is that nothing really happens in the beginning of the book. It takes nearly 100 pages to get to Hogwarts, but nothing really seems new this year. There's a lot of worry, a lot of rehashing over what happened in The Order of the Phoenix, but nothing in those first hundred or so pages that's vitally important except for Snape's Unbreakable Vow.
The memories were good. I liked going back and looking at Voldermort's beginnings. Filled some gaps. The relationship issues were funny to some extent, though I felt like I was watching the end of Spiderman on Harry and Ginny towards the end.
This book is less of a stand-alone book than the rest. The year at Hogwarts doesn't end, and a LOT of the previous books are referenced. Makes it a little more difficult to read if the last time you read The Order of the Phoenix was when it first came out two years ago. And of course, the ending leaves you desperately wanting to finish the story.
I'm still digesting. I guess I'm in shock over Dumbledore's death. For a good twenty pages I thought that he and Snape were faking the death scene and Dumbledore would explain everything later. I probably was in as much shock as the characters in the book were over Dumbledore's death. I should have seen it coming, what with Obi-Wan and Gandalf and Merlin and all other white-bearded mentor types in these sort of epic stories.
It's a testament to Rowling's ability to create a character that I still have faith in Snape, as much as I hate him. Dumbledore had to have set him up, and I'm wondering if he took that potion in order to give Snape a cleaner shot, so his natural defenses weren't as strong. (less)
**spoiler alert** Some thoughts, not all thoughts, on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
I guess the place to begin was the beginning. I know a lot...more**spoiler alert** Some thoughts, not all thoughts, on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
I guess the place to begin was the beginning. I know a lot of people were pretty much shaken by Hedwig's death, and so was I, but I was on edge before even that. It troubled me greatly, in the first few pages, that Harry was leaving behind his books and robes and Quiddich materials and anything having really to do with Hogwarts. I understood why he was making that decision, but it still bothered me a lot. Those things were important tot him. He wasn't leaving them idly at 4 Privet Lane, but it meant that this book was really going to be different than the rest. I realized that Harry had said that he wasn't going to go back to Hogwarts for his final year in the previous book, but I wasn't sure if he was going to be allowed to follow through with that promise. Someone, I could see, would argue that he'd be safer at Hogwarts than any other place. When that turned out not to be the case, I almost wished that Harry and Hermione and Ron would go back to get his stuff and put it in her nifty little beaded bag. Just because.
From that point on, this was a pretty action packed book, and even during periods of rest, where several weeks were covered in a short paragraph or two, my heart was racing and something was happening. Getting Harry out, staying at Grimmold Lane, getting into the Ministry, touring the countryside, getting caught, staying at Shell Cottage, breaking into Gringotts, on the run again, back into Hogwarts, the final battle. There seemed to be no rest, no stopping. I would have been sorely tempted, had I been Harry, to stick around the Kings Cross, just to get some shut eye. I was actually sort of glad for the break to go to the dog show, because it was somewhat exhausting as a reader to absorb all that activity in one sitting.
I'm not even sure how to put my thoughts into order after this. I suppose in some ways that the overarching theme of this whole thing was Love beats Death, but I thought that the more interesting aspects of it were manifested not in the Snape/Lily thing, which I thought was pretty damned touching though not unexpected. I think that the Malfoys' love for one another really kept this story moving. Draco wouldn't have gotten Snape into the mess had it not been for the threat over his parents. Dumbledore would have eventually died, of course, but maybe with a little more protection over Harry for a little bit longer. I think that the Malfoys' resentment of Voldemort in the way he made them each hostage over the others destroyed their loyalty to him. Draco knew very well that it was Hermione and Ron and very likely Harry, but he also knew that their continued survival was the most likely thing that would slow Voldemort's ascension. Narcissa wasn't interested in anything but her son, and her love for Draco saved Harry almost in the same way that Harry's mother's love saved him 16 years previously. Her sister, on the other hand, abdicated all love for all human beings, aside for maybe Voldemort.
Lupin was afraid of love. He looked to the downside instead of the upside in marrying Tonks, then being with Tonks, and finally having a child with Tonks. He was horrified of the physical manifestation of his love for Tonks, and I was glad to see Harry give it to him over that, having been left by his parents. One of the things that did sort of bug me about the epilogue was that Ted Lupin didn't appear to be living with the Potter clan. I thought that Harry would have taken him in soon after his parents died, to ensure that Ted's upbringing didn't mirror Harry's. I did sort of suspect that Lupin was a goner, though, when he asked Harry to stand in.
Harry, too, is afraid of love in a lot of ways. He tries so hard to pull himself apart from everyone else. When anyone suffers because of something they've done for him, I think he tries to pull away further: George's ear, Hermione and Ron's decision to leave Hogwarts with him, refusing to tell anyone what he's up to. He breaks up with Ginny, twice, because he doesn't want his love for her to hurt her. Voldemort tried to play on that, which goes hand in hand with his "hero complex", by suggesting that Harry's reluctance to face Voldemort head on results in the deaths of people Harry cares about. He gets a lot of that from Dumbledore's odd notion of love, and I think Dumbledore gets a lot of his groundings in love from his own childhood. His family's having to hide his sister got him in the habit of keeping secrets, not telling everyone what's really going on. His guilt over contributing and maybe even causing her death because he put his priorities in the wrong place put him on the path to guide people instead of leading people. I think he also was reluctant to get too close to anyone ever again after that. Over his lifetime, Dumbledore lost a lot of people, and I think he held back a lot because he knew that mortality often would triumph over everything else. His obsession over the Deathly Hallows then makes sense because they could supposedly give him a tool to take on that mortality.
I thought it was very interesting that Dubledore was not among the ghosts people that escorted Harry to his own death. I think it's because the four escorts loved Harry as much as he loved them. I don't quite think that's the same for Dumbledore.
Voldemort and Love is interesting. He doesn't feel it, but he tries to manipulate it, like he did with Xeno Lovegood and the Malfoys. In a lot of ways, he's very successful at it, but I think ultimately, his lack of understanding of it fails him.
What else…This book was also a lot about obsession. It was interesting to see the twin obsession of Voldemort and Harry over the same thing, though to different ends. It was also interesting to see Harry's realization that he had to let go of some things and concentrate on others.
I was probably unjustifiably happy that Harry got his wand fixed. I too had grown attached to it.
Neville rocked. I probably have paragraphs to write about Neville, and I think that he could have just as easily killed Voldemort once the Horcrucxes were destroyed as Harry. It probably would have pissed off a lot of people, but it probably would have overjoyed a lot too.
I hadn't worked out the Elder Wand possession issue, but I did know that Harry's death wouldn't be his death when I read the chapter on Dumbledore's last orders to Snape. His having two of the three Deathly Hallows seemed to me to be necessary to ward off the other one. It does seem, though, that Dumbledore leaves a lot to chance. I suspect that Snape knew that Harry wasn't far off when he was summoned to the Shrieking Shack. I even suspect that Snape suggested that particular hide out to Voldemort in order to more easily get Harry there. He also probably didn't allow himself to be apprehended until he was certain that Harry was headed to the shack. I also suspect that Snape had the Pensive memories ready to go weeks in advance, though a lot was cut pretty close.
Fred's death hit me hard, as did Percy's return. I imagine being trapped in the Ministry and desperately wanting to get out but not knowing how and having no one really to turn to for aide. Percy never struck me as having great personal courage, though he does have a lot of pride. He cut himself off from people who care about him. Fred's death as hard as it must have been for the rest of the family, must have been devastating for Percy, who was just making the effort to reconnect.
Dobby. I never really liked Dobby. I objected to his efforts to "save" Harry in the Chamber of Secrets, and I've held that against him since. But he totally redeemed himself as far as I was concerned here. Pretty damned awesome stuff, Dobby, and I sniffed mightily at his funeral.
The thing I was glad to see over time was Harry's ability to get past the Dumbledore fall from grace. It was ok, ultimately, for him to have failed at something, to have tragic and awful human failures. Harry kept on saying stuff about Dumbledore having been their age when he made his mistakes, but it didn't really occur to him that he may be going down the wrong path. Towards the end, though, I was glad to see Harry accept help from other people, accept that he may have been taking Dumbledore's tell no one orders too close to heart, expand the group that was allowed to participate.
The Battle of Hogwarts rocked, though I was desperately worried throughout.
Oh, god, there's so very much. And it's so very complicated, and it'll take years to digest and absorb it all. I'll have to read again and see some more comments before going on, but that's the preliminary stuff….(less)