I liked this a lot, but I didn't LOVE it the way I loved Sea of Poppies. I don't think it's the contempt bred by familiarity, or that I'm a more disceI liked this a lot, but I didn't LOVE it the way I loved Sea of Poppies. I don't think it's the contempt bred by familiarity, or that I'm a more discerning/judgmental reader than I was when I read Sea of Poppies. More likely it's that:
- There are not really any female POV characters (in the first book there were two IIRC -- Deeti and Pauline -- but this time Pauline doesn't stay a POV character for very long at all).
- I don't know Guangzhou well at all, but I am more familiar with it and that cultural milieu than with the setting of the first book, so maybe this book feels more exoticising for that reason? Plus the setting of the first book is more Ghosh's culture and this one isn't. Like, I thought the setting was richly realised and intensively researched as usual, and there were lots of neat things, but somehow it didn't feel as real as the setting in the first book.
- Sort of doubtful about the Robin Chinnery character and POV. (Also because of a couple of hints at the beginning I thought Robin was totally gonna betray Pauline re the camellia, and then he didn't? V. confusing. Or maybe he did and you only find out in the next book!)
- I can see why Ghosh quotes great chunks from period documents (letters from the Commissioner and from Charles King, etc.) but it really felt contrived. "Now a translator will read out bits of this guy's letter!" happened like five times. I think you can probably only use that device once before it gets old. And I was disappointed by the meeting with Napoleon and Zadig Bey and Seth Bahram Modi because there's all this buildup and you think they're gonna interact in interesting ways, and it turns out to be an excuse to exposition-dump about the historical circumstances that led to the Opium War!!
In general there was just too much moralising. I mean, I totally AGREE with Ghosh and can see why he needed to make it clear that these British traders wuz bastards, but it felt like the same argument was being repeated over and over and over. Once would have been enough IMO.
- I just dunno about the patois lah.
That all said, the book's very well written and I enjoyed reading it and Ghosh in the Ibis trilogy is pretty much the writer I aspire to be. Also, lots and lots of food descriptions! <3...more
I have a lot to say about this book, unsurprisingly! But too lazy to say it all. Descriptions evocative, setting one I'd like to see more of. Maybe I'I have a lot to say about this book, unsurprisingly! But too lazy to say it all. Descriptions evocative, setting one I'd like to see more of. Maybe I'll do a DW post on the rest of it....more
Awww, I really liked this. It was a birthday gift from my best friend, who said, "It's like a collection of all the old family stories your mom and auAwww, I really liked this. It was a birthday gift from my best friend, who said, "It's like a collection of all the old family stories your mom and aunties tell you!" and she was totally right. (Though I think my family's stories are even juicier ...) Also the gorgeous full-colour photos of kebaya and various accessories were a pleasure to look at. Lee is a fairly deft, humorous writer; the dialogue rang true to life; and it was fun contrasting the vocab with my family's. (My family tends to say "tak senonoh" or "tak tintu" for her "ta seronoh", e.g.)
The difference from my family is that the families in this book tend to be more rich.
Oddly enough the book reminded me most of L. M. Montgomery -- short stories set among a very particular community at a particular point of time, mostly prosperous, full of character (and characters!), proud of its culture, old-fashioned and perhaps a little bit insular. And the stories are very, you know, slice of life, you know my friend's sister-in-law, this happened to her ... Of course the Peranakan community is very different from the Canadian Maritimes of which Montgomery wrote, but the feeling is the same. Hah, there is even the same luxuriating in beautiful things! Except Lee provides colour pictures, not just verging-on-purple descriptions of beautiful dresses.
On a shallow note, I really liked the green and pink cover.
ETA: warning for racism/colourism and ableism typical of the community and period, expressed by the characters and not outright condemned by the narrative....more
**spoiler alert** Oh god the translation why whyyyyy. Or should I say, "Wherefore???" I can't imagine why the translator/editor thought this medievalo**spoiler alert** Oh god the translation why whyyyyy. Or should I say, "Wherefore???" I can't imagine why the translator/editor thought this medievaloid "cometh back for dinner in time, hearest thou?" schtick was a good idea. If the diction is formal and archaic, which I'm sure it is, couldn't they have conveyed that in a way that didn't make everything sound absurd?
Anyway. Apart from the translation, this was great! I love how Yoshinaga totally fakes you out -- at one point I was like, huh, it is clever how she has constructed a matriarchal society in order to tell a shounen ai story that is all about the dudes. But I was wrong! It is not really all about the dudes! I'm curious to know how the series progresses; I thought it was going to be all about Mizuno, but it must not be, so perhaps it's gonna be episodic like Antique Bakery.
I love Yoshimune *__* And her plump friendly "yes do please underestimate me" right-hand woman. I'm definitely going to read more, though I have no idea how I'm going to deal with the dreadful English....more
I really enjoyed this! It was fun reading it as well while travelling in the States. Partway through the book I visited Washington DC's Museum of theI really enjoyed this! It was fun reading it as well while travelling in the States. Partway through the book I visited Washington DC's Museum of the American Indian, and recognised words and concepts from the book in the exhibits, so that was pleasing....more
I'd known this was racist in a vague sort of way, not remembering much about the book or movie except bosoms and swooning, buCopied over from my blog:
I'd known this was racist in a vague sort of way, not remembering much about the book or movie except bosoms and swooning, but wow, I didn't know it was that mindblowingly racist. The people who wanted to cut the n-word from Huckleberry Finn should all get together and have let's-set-Gone-With-The-Wind-on-fire parties. Man, if they applied their efforts to Gone With The Wind they could probably cut the book short by about a hundred pages.
I should say I like Scarlett as a character and found all the romance and striving bits interesting in themselves, but the book is sick through and through. It was very much worth reading. It's a bracing reminder of the wariness one should have of any nostalgia for false Arcadias.
Highlights include: - Former slaveholders reproving Scarlett for hiring leased convicts to work on her mills. When Scarlett points out they were happy to use slave labour, they respond that their slaves weren't miserable! Narrative agrees! It's like satire, but it's not meant to be! - In hunger and trepidation near the end of the war, Scarlett vows to herself that one day there'll be food on the table, her clothes will all be of silk, and black hands instead of white hands will pick the cotton on her plantation. - Scarlett's lowest point is when she collapses in a slave garden and -- urgh, this part is too gross for me to even write it out. Urgh, I feel gross just remembering the line. - Noble gentlemen whose lives have been uprooted and world turned upside down are forced in the nobility of their hearts and the staunchness of their pride to start a little club called the Ku Klux Klan. But they were forced to it! They had the best intentions! - Ludicrous scene where Yankees are shown to be super racist against the black people they purported to want to free from slavery, whereas Southerners are good because they love their slaves and treat them like children as they should be treated.
Reading this was like being transported to an alternate universe where up was down, red was green, sweet was bitter and racist shit was not racist shit but a ~beautiful ideal~. I actually started worrying towards the end that I was going to come out of the book a more racist person.
After finishing it I felt a violent urge to read nonfiction, so I'm now reading bell hooks' Where We Stand: Class Matters and the Andayas' History of Malaysia. The stuff on alluvial deposits is particularly comforting.
One star for Scarlett and for the un-put-downable quality of the writing (it's throw-at-the-wallable, but I was never bored -- just furious). I'd give an extra star for her dynamic with Melanie which I kind of love (but what does it say when Scarlett comes off as LESS racist than Melanie because she buys into the poisonous ideals of the Confederacy less?), but I gotta do something to pull down this four star average....more
It was all right, I guess. Stewart keeps on doing a thing where she suddenly has a new baby and you're like, wot? This is a different one from the babIt was all right, I guess. Stewart keeps on doing a thing where she suddenly has a new baby and you're like, wot? This is a different one from the baby mentioned three letters ago? Like Watson and his wives!
Think it'd probably be good to read for research if you were going to write in that era, from the POV of that kind of person. Racism typical of the period, though even so I was weirded out by a little contest she holds for the best chocolate-covered representation of a black person. ...
Useful info: they had phonographs at that time and in that sort of place....more
This book is hard to classify! I really liked it, and again enjoyed the springing vitality of the language that I liked in The Emperor's Babe -- it muThis book is hard to classify! I really liked it, and again enjoyed the springing vitality of the language that I liked in The Emperor's Babe -- it must come from Evaristo's being a poet. I like the way she has of being deliberately anachronistic.
The book actually worked better for me than I thought it would -- I wasn't sure what the point was of flipping the races, but having read it I see that there is a point and it is useful to see it the other way around. (Liked the European folk songs and practices, hah!) I wasn't sure about the transliteration of the New Ambossan dialect. I don't have any beef with dialect being written down, but I prefer for it to be done only when it is clear from that transliteration how the dialect differs from "standard" -- e.g. how is "yu" pronounced different from "you"? A shorter "u" sound, I suppose.
I also liked all the similes and so on being rooted in an African landscape, fauna, etc. I found it confusing, though, that London was in Africa but Margate was still in England. I did enjoy Londolo and its new-but-familiar names, but it still seemed funny to me, and I don't see why it shouldn't have worked for her to pick an actual city in an African country and turn that into the centre of wealth and power. At the same time, I can see why she stuck with London -- Evaristo is a writer rooted in her place if there ever was one....more
Unsurprisingly, I liked the personal analysis bits better than the records of rituals bits. The gossiping about the other court women bit was also gooUnsurprisingly, I liked the personal analysis bits better than the records of rituals bits. The gossiping about the other court women bit was also good. I did find the detailed descriptions of clothes amusing; wish they'd had pictures.
The introduction by Richard Bowring was enlightening, but parts of it grated on me, though I couldn't tell you why. And it annoyed me that it was so explicitly targeted at a Western audience. The latest reprinting was in, what, 2003? C'mon.
Interesting thing I learnt from it, though: that the women at court didn't have their own names. This differed according to rank, apparently, but some people might not have had their own personal names? We don't know for sure -- Murasaki could well have had a name that just didn't survive in written records -- but it's surprisingly hard for me to get my head around the idea of not having even a secret name to call yourself....more
Picked this up as a possible gift for a Christian friend and read it because I might as well. I found it quite interesting, though maybe being a ChrisPicked this up as a possible gift for a Christian friend and read it because I might as well. I found it quite interesting, though maybe being a Christian Westerner would have made it more surprising? Dunno. Sometimes he gets a bit repetitive about e.g. transformation of Jesus' disciples from no-good cowards into fearless leaders of the church, but he is trying to make a point after all....more
Woo, this rocks! Looking forward to the next book.
C&ping what I said about it on DW.
It's about the indentured labourers who are sent by the BritWoo, this rocks! Looking forward to the next book.
C&ping what I said about it on DW.
It's about the indentured labourers who are sent by the British from India to Mauritius. Before I read it I thought it was going to be one of those depressing epics, you know, which I do read and like but would not exactly turn to for light entertainment. But it is actually more like, hm, I do not know what to compare it to. It is an adventure story! Which isn't to say it's not depressing, because it's about what replaced slave labour when Britain abolished slavery (answer: slave labour, basically), but it's just like -- it takes this attitude where it's like, well, that's life, that's what happened, and it doesn't make out the characters to be these tragic heroes or downtrodden victims. They are just people, in more or less sucky situations.
(I guess it does kind of caricature the British as the villains, but to be honest it is not much of a caricature since, you know, they did do and say all that.)
There are several viewpoint characters and I like that they include poor people as well as the sort of rich people stories usually treat as important. And one thing I really really like about it is the language -- every single character who speaks English speaks a different type of English. The dialogue is a joy to read....more
Should I give this four stars or five stars? I didn't love it as much as I did the first book, which got five stars. But I love it much more than I loShould I give this four stars or five stars? I didn't love it as much as I did the first book, which got five stars. But I love it much more than I love many other books I have given four stars ...
These are such important books, as well as being, you know, relentlessly readable and engaging. It isn't that they're the first books ever that show this side of history. But how many books in the YA section do you see that do this? How many books about the US revolution?
These are books that give me hope about the heights stories can reach....more
I really enjoyed this: liked the heroine, who was redheaded but not especially feisty, just practical and loving. I liked that she tried hard to understand her father and to get along -- she was someone who had had hard times but didn't see the point of dwelling on them, because there was living to be getting on with. The plot was pretty predictable, but done in a v. satisfactory manner. Also impressed by written dialect that sounded consistent and not-hokey, though I can't speak for its accuracy....more
Reread. Patrick O'Brian is SO GOOD, omg. The kind of book that reminds you what a rich pleasure there is in reading. Reading it is eating a gorgeous mReread. Patrick O'Brian is SO GOOD, omg. The kind of book that reminds you what a rich pleasure there is in reading. Reading it is eating a gorgeous meal when you are super hungry; there is that sort of deeply satisfying quality to it....more
Quite sort of Hollywood historical and the author has a strange addiction to ellipses in dialogue, but the thees and thous could have been much more oQuite sort of Hollywood historical and the author has a strange addiction to ellipses in dialogue, but the thees and thous could have been much more overdone and it was an entertaining read....more
Very good. I read this basically right after I finished The Yiddish Policemen's Union, so it was like -- suddenly I was learning all this stuff aboutVery good. I read this basically right after I finished The Yiddish Policemen's Union, so it was like -- suddenly I was learning all this stuff about Jewish people and culture -- that is, one of the cultures -- that I hadn't known before. Which is cool. I will probably be reading more by Chaim Potok.
Note to self: find books by/about Jewish women....more
One of the best books I've read in a long while. I can't believe people haven't been rushing around grabbing other people by their collars and shakingOne of the best books I've read in a long while. I can't believe people haven't been rushing around grabbing other people by their collars and shaking them and demanding that they read this book now now NOW. It's amazing. It works on so many levels. I just -- oh, man.
Octavian's mother reminds me strongly of Diana Villiers; she has the same pride, quick wit, grace, beauty and courage, and the same fondness of luxury, the chafing at the limitations that bound her world, the rage.
Do people really object to the detachment of Octavian's narration? Isn't that part of the point?
Mildly bemused at other reviewers who disliked the book because the things done to Octavian and his mother were so disgusting. These things happened, or at least things like it, and worse as well. Does it make things better if you choose never to think about them?...more
Good book. I think it's all the more effective because it's a take-off of a genre I'd usually plunk under "comfort reading" (see: Agatha Christie, DorGood book. I think it's all the more effective because it's a take-off of a genre I'd usually plunk under "comfort reading" (see: Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Arthur Conan Doyle etc. etc.), while being pretty much the opposite of comfort reading.
I find it interesting that Jo Walton has such a strong negative reaction to fanfiction; I've only read two of her books so far ( Tooth and Claw was the other -- also a good book), but her characters and her approach to storytelling don't, to me, seem to lend themselves much to fanfic. This is not for exactly the same reason as why I say this book is not comfort reading, but the reason is sort of in the same neighbourhood. Of course there's always somebody out there who'll want to read/write fanfic for anything, but I think a lot of the stories that attract large fanfic fandoms are just, um, different in some way. I couldn't say how. It is something to do with the type of characters you write, I think....more
This probably would have been funnier if I knew anything about British history. I think it's not the kind of book you want to read straight through, aThis probably would have been funnier if I knew anything about British history. I think it's not the kind of book you want to read straight through, anyway; it would've done fairly well as a website one could just click through when one was bored....more
Very good. Art Spiegelman appeared to me to be a very bad son -- I don't mean that in a passing judgement sort of way, because his father was obviouslVery good. Art Spiegelman appeared to me to be a very bad son -- I don't mean that in a passing judgement sort of way, because his father was obviously difficult (and so was his mother, in a different way), but I was surprised, 'cos I shouldn't have thought such behaviour was acceptable even in the West.* But judging from this book it seemed to be, unless the French mouse's disapproval and the father's neighbours' assumptions better represent the attitudes in America.
*Not that Westerners don't look after their families, but people in the West seem to think about it in a different way....more
How very womeny. Enjoyed it lots, though the sex scenes gave me the giggles. Lines like "I was a girl who was ready for a man" can only lead to pffftHHow very womeny. Enjoyed it lots, though the sex scenes gave me the giggles. Lines like "I was a girl who was ready for a man" can only lead to pffftHAHAHAHAHA....more