I read about 3 quarters of this book ages ago. A friend of mine borrowed it before I was done and well, it's been years, she hasn't returned it and I...moreI read about 3 quarters of this book ages ago. A friend of mine borrowed it before I was done and well, it's been years, she hasn't returned it and I guess it is officially lost. I don't feel inclined to finish it though. I hardly remember the book and although it had it's moment when it was enjoyable, it wasn't good enough for me to hunt it down again and finish that last quarter.
The TV series and the movie? MUCH MUCH BETTER. (less)
Speaking with the Angel is an anthology, edited by Nick Hornby, which contains a collection of witty, original and clever short stories, written by se...moreSpeaking with the Angel is an anthology, edited by Nick Hornby, which contains a collection of witty, original and clever short stories, written by several contemporary authors. The stories are all written in the first narrative but are all also different - here you get to read from the point of view of a prime minister, a prison cook, a teenage boy, a dog, a homophobic man and many more. Each short story captures a story on its own. Each style and register is different and suitable for its plot. There is humor in seriousness and there is bitterness in love. All in all, I was deeply impressed by how each author managed to tell all these smart stories in such an effective way. By the end of each, I felt as if I had read a whole novel instead and I enjoyed it very much.(less)
I first heard of this book through TNBBC nearly two years ago and was intrigued by the rather positive reviews...more**spoiler alert** Setting: United States
I first heard of this book through TNBBC nearly two years ago and was intrigued by the rather positive reviews it was receiving. A circus and animal-themed book just didn't seem that interesting to me. I purchased my own copy but like many of the books that I buy, it somehow end up dusting on the bookshelves instead of being read. A year later, I heard that there was a film in the making (and with Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon in the cast!) and decided that it was about time for me to pick it up and read.
I read. I gasped. I flailed. I was on the brink of tears and laughter (but mostly tears) and I was completely taken by the story. I was moved by the characters and the descriptions of the nasty conditions at the Benzini Brothers Circus and absolutely appalled at the gruesome treatment of both animals and workers. You could tell that Gruen is a very avid animal lover. One scene could reflect how sweet and innocent animals could be (I would be lying if I said that I wasn't grinning at the scene where the elephant Rosie was happily chewing food on someone's private vegetable patch or whenever the chimpanzee Bobo's needed a hug and a hand to hold) and the other scene could have you wanting to pull out a character (mostly August) from the pages and simply strangle said character for the awful and terrible animal treatment. On the other page, you would have workers who were working to their very last sweat drop until they were weak or complaining enough to be thrown of the train in the middle of the night. Not to mention, the characters! And love plot (triangle drama, oh my!)!
This book was a fantastic reading experience. I recommend it very much. I'm trying to figure out why I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 (it was a while since I read it) and I can't seem to remember but alas, do give this book a try. Especially if you like general fiction or would like to try something new and more original.
"When you are five, you know your age down to the month. Even in your twenties, you know how old you are. I'm twenty-three you say, or maybe twenty-seven. But then in your thirties, something strange starts to happen. It is a mere hiccup at first, an instant of hesitation. How old are you? Oh, I'm--you start confidently, but then you stop. You were going to say thirty-three, but you are not. You're thirty-five. And then you're bothered, because you wonder if this is the beginning of the end. It is, of course, but it's decades before you admit it."
"Age is a terrible thief. Just when your getting the hang of life, it knocks your legs out from under you and stoops your back. It makes you ache and muddies your head and silently spreads cancer throughout your spouse."
"I stroke her lightly, memorizing her body. I want her to melt into me, like butter on toast. I want to absorb her and walk around for the rest of my days with her encased in my skin. I lie motionless, savoring the feeling of her body against mine. I'm afraid to breathe in case I break the spell."
"Dear God. Not only am I unemployed and homeless, but I also have a pregnant woman, bereaved dog, elephant, and eleven horses to take care of."
This was sadly a disappointment :( I just didn't find it entertaining or enjoyable enough. Although I am aware that all the chit-chat is very much E.M...moreThis was sadly a disappointment :( I just didn't find it entertaining or enjoyable enough. Although I am aware that all the chit-chat is very much E.M Forster's style, and I love his novel Maurice and would still very much like to read more of his work, it didn't feel like it did well in this. The only character that I found likeable was in fact George. The middle section was enjoyable and I especially enjoyed the moments between Lucy and George or the scene with Cecil, George and Lucy as well as that water-bath scene but overall, it wasn't enough. I thought that I might give this a three star in the end but I wasn't too impressed by the ending. (less)
The "letter exchange" form isn't really a style that I am fond of but this was an excellent read. You could tell that a lot of letters were missing bu...moreThe "letter exchange" form isn't really a style that I am fond of but this was an excellent read. You could tell that a lot of letters were missing but it still managed to convey the great story about the friendship that Helene Hanff developed with Frank Doel and the rest of the team at Marks & Co. I didn't recognize many of the works that they mentioned but it made me curious and I also loved how enthusiastic Hanff was about the books.
I'm unsure whether I should read the continuing sequel The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street which is the story of when Hanff finally goes to visit literature England. Skimming through it, I can see that there is a lot of descriptions about her travels and surroundings but at the same time, the format (mixture of diary/journal and novel) isn't very appealing so I still haven't decided. (less)
"Love does not traffic in a marketplace, nor use a huckster's scales. Its joy, like the joy of the intellect, is to feel itself alive. The aim of Love is to love: no more, and no less. You were my enemy: such an enemy as no man ever had. I had given you all my life, and to gratify the lowest and most contemptible of all human passions, hatred and vanity and greed, you had thrown it away. In less than three years you had entirely ruined me in every point of view. For my own sake there was nothing for me to do but to love you."
This is another book that I wish I could have given 3½ star to because I'm not sure whether to give it a 3 or a 4.
De Profundis is the 50 000-word letter (yes, imagine writing that by hand with ink.) that Oscar Wilde wrote to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, whilst in prison. Some say it is a love letter, other says it is not. It's not the relationship between them that makes the "love letter or not" debatable - because there is no denying that Wilde loved Douglas - it's the fact that most of the time, Wilde portrays Douglas as a - how should I put this - douchebag.
The letter begins with a very detailed account of how Wilde was put into prison in the first place. He describes detailed and with his own words the moments between him and Douglas and everything that lead to to the trial. I thought this part was the most interesting. I'm not that fond of autobiographies and memoirs but I've always been interested in Oscar Wilde (or anything else LGTB-related for that matter) and hearing Wilde put everything into his own words and describing, to Douglas, how he was to blame for the misery and downfall of Wilde, and still loving the man, was very fascinating. Like always, his language is beautiful and there are lots of wit and aphorism. He writes about how much he loved Douglas and the things he had done for him yet at the same time, condemns him for behaving so selfish and rude.
What makes me hesitate about giving it a four star instead of a three is the middle part of the letter when Wilde all of the sudden goes into deep contemplation and comparison between religion, Christ and artists. I find religion interesting too but those pages were simply put, boring. The third half of the book becomes better however when he goes back to talk about Douglas actions and the philosophy of life. It's filled with emotions and you can tell that there is a lot of misery, sorrow and grief. One of my favourite passages that describe the sorrow very well and at the same time shows the beauty is this:
"Of course to one so modern as I am, `Enfant de mon siècle,’ merely to look at the world will be always lovely. I tremble with pleasure when I think that on the very day of my leaving prison both the laburnum and the lilac will be blooming in the gardens, and that I shall see the wind stir into restless beauty the swaying gold of the one, and make the other toss the pale purple of its plumes, so that all the air shall be Arabia for me. Linnaeus fell on his knees and wept for joy when he saw for the first time the long heath of some English upland made yellow with the tawny aromatic brooms of the common furze; and I know that for me, to whom flowers are part of desire, there are tears waiting in the petals of some rose. It has always been so with me from my boyhood. There is not a single colour hidden away in the chalice of a flower, or the curve of a shell, to which, by some subtle sympathy with the very soul of things, my nature does not answer. Like Gautier, I have always been one of those ‘pour qui le monde visible existe.’"
I was planning on continuing this review but now I am left speechless again and I think I will, after all, give this a four star. Here are several memorable quotes however to read and admire.
"I made art a philosophy, and philosophy an art: I altered the minds of men, and the colour of things: I awoke the imagination of my century so that it created myth and legend around me: I summed up all things in a phrase, all existence in an epigram: whatever I touched I made beautiful."
"To regret one's own experiences is to arrest one's own development. To deny one's own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one's own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul."
"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are some one else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. "
"We are the zanies of sorrow. We are clowns whose hearts are broken."
"There is no room for Love and Hate in the same soul. They cannot live together in that fair cavern house. Love is fed by imagination, by which we become wiser than we know, better than we feel, nobler than we are: by which we can see Life as a whole: by which, and by which alone, we can understand others in their real as in their ideal relations. Only what is fine, and finely conceived, can feel Love. But anything will feed Hate."
"After my terrible sentence, when the prison dress was on me, and the prison house closed, I sat amidst the ruins of my wonderful life, crushed by anguish, bewildered with terror, dazed through pain. But I would not hate you. Every day I said to myself: 'I must keep love in my heart today, else how shall I live through the day?'"
"The most terrible thing about it is not that it breaks one's heart — hearts are made to be broken — but that it turns one's heart to stone."
"Suffering is one very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons. We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return. With us time itself does not progress. It revolves. It seems to circle round one centre of pain."
"Morality did not help me. I am one of those who are made for exceptions, not for laws. But while I see that there is nothing wrong in what one does, I see that there is something wrong in what one becomes."
Memorable quotes "The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something lofty about literature. Books did not care who was r...moreMemorable quotes "The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something lofty about literature. Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included."
"Authors, she soon decided, were probably best met with in the pages of their novels, and were as much creatures of the reader's imagination as the characters in their books. Nor did they seem to think one had done them a kindness by reading their writings. Rather they had done one the kindness by writing them." (less)
While reading this, I was thinking of writing a long, detailed review about everything I loved and enjoyed and flailed over i...moreSetting: Barcelona, Spain
While reading this, I was thinking of writing a long, detailed review about everything I loved and enjoyed and flailed over in this book.
I am however left speechless and simply awed. I don't know what to say, really. I love the unique and individual characters, the compelling plot, the original story, the beautiful setting, the haunting imagery, the detailed language and everything else in between.
Definitely a book for book lovers!
I also find it very amusing but nevertheless pleasing that I received this book from a swap at a local library just a few days before the World Book Day and the start of the challenge Read The World.
"Once, in my father's bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return."
"Fools talk, cowards are silent, wise men listen."
"In my world death was like a nameless and incomprehensible hand, a door-to-door salesman who took away mothers, beggars or ninety-year-old neighbours, like a hellish lottery. But I couldn't absorb the idea that death could actually walk by my side, with a human face and a heart that was poisoned with hatred, that death could be dressed in a uniform or a raincoat, queue up at a cinema, laugh in bars, or take his children out for a walk to Ciudadela Park in the morning, and then, in the afternoon, make someone disappear in the dungeons of Montjuic Castle or in a common grave with no name or ceremony. Going over all this in my mind, it occurred to me that perhaps the papier-mache world that I accepted as real was only a stage setting. Much like the arrival of Spanish trains, in those stolen years you never knew when the end of childhood was due."
"Someone said that the moment you stop to think about whether you love someone, you’ve already stopped loving that person forever."
"I told her how, until that moment, I had not understood that this was a story about lonely people, about absence and loss, and that was why I had taken refuge in it until it became confused with my own life, like someone who has escaped into the pages of a novel because those whom he needs to love seem nothing more than ghosts inhabiting the mind of a stranger. "
"As it unfolded, the structure of the story began to remind me of one of those Russian dolls that contain innumerable diminishing replicas of themselves inside. Step by step the narrative split into a thousand stories, as if it had entered a gallery of mirrors, its identity fragmented into endless reflections. "
"I looked at the group of human remains that languished in the corner and smiled at them. It occurred to me that their very presence was testimony to the moral emptiness of the universe and the mechanical brutality with which it destroys the parts it no longer needs."
"People tend to complicate their own lives, as if living weren't already complicated enough."
"Destiny is usually just around the corner. Like a thief, a hooker, or a lottery vendor: its three most common personifications. But what destiny does not do is home visits. You have to go for it."
"But in good time you'll see that sometimes what matters isn't what one gives but what one gives up."
At first, I wasn't exactly looking forward to reading this book. Sure, it sounded interesting and very intriguing. It was after all a book based on a...moreAt first, I wasn't exactly looking forward to reading this book. Sure, it sounded interesting and very intriguing. It was after all a book based on a true story, a memoir, about a young Jewish boy, growing up in a poor society that has been divided by religion and culture. It also features a forbidden love story between a Jewish girl and a Christian boy.
I get easily emotional and affected you see. And as a defence mechanism, I avoid things that would make me sad. Not the kind of sad as in I'll be crying but the kind of sad in which my heart will ache, my thoughts will race and I'll think about others around me.
The beginning of this book was not very special. It introduced the story, the family and the street. I read it slowly and slowly. It was a good story but nothing special but I continued to read and next thing I know, I am hooked. I cannot put it down for the characters have taken a toll of me and I want to know what will happen. How will this all end? I cannot see a resolution. Can they? So I read until past midnight. I read until I finished it and had that familiar feeling of ecstatic exhaustion of when you've finished a book that truly gave a good reading experience and touched you.
Some things affected me, particularly the behaviour of certain characters - they made me think of my own family and that's what I also found special. Even though the characters portrayed are from completely different worlds, setting, time and religion, I could still feel and see the similarities that still go on in this world and I could sympathize and empathize for characters. For example, the portrayal of the mother and her sad and unfortunate life made me go to my own mother and give her a hug. I don't think some characters have brought such a strong reaction from me in...well, a while.
In overall, the book brought up several big themes. It dealt with the dysfunction of a poor family in which the mother is repressed and forced to try make the best of living for her children whilst their father spend the majority of his small salary at the pub. There was the hint of that American dream, that idea of a trip to a large nation that would change their lives for good. There was war, but not from the viewpoint of a solider fighting for his life, but from the people, separated by an invisible barrier, waiting on the edge to find out the news whether their loved ones is in the grave or not. There is the girl who studies all day in order to gain admission to a school, only to have her dream shattered by her own patronizing and hard father. There is the girl who daydreams and wishes for the couture, elegant and luxury life on the other side of the town and despises anyone to interrupt her daze. There's the constant whispering and gossiping of women in a small shop. There is that young couple who believes their forbidden and dangerous union will change the world.
But the most central thing; the segregation, prejudice and division of two religion living right across each others, strengthen by differences, clashes and contentment but reduced by war, poverty and a common thing.
And above all, the narrator, a lost little growing boy who only wishes to please others and himself and who is aware of consequences but oblivious to the reasons. (less)
I had forgotten that I had read this. I must have been 12 or 13 or something then but I do remember that, being a fan of Star Wars and actually liking...moreI had forgotten that I had read this. I must have been 12 or 13 or something then but I do remember that, being a fan of Star Wars and actually liking the prequels, I had enjoyed it very much. It was very much alike the movie. I used to own it but then I gave it to one of my nephews who most likely never read it and probably lost it.(less)
Memorable Quotes "I'm a good person. In most ways. But I'm beginning to think that being a good person in most ways doesn't count for anything very muc...moreMemorable Quotes "I'm a good person. In most ways. But I'm beginning to think that being a good person in most ways doesn't count for anything very much, if you're a bad person in one way."
"It seems to me now that the plain state of being human is dramatic enough for anyone; you don't need to be a heroin addict or a performance poet to experience extremity. You just have to love someone." (less)