I recently picked this one up after hearing some discussion about this book, and being a big fan of the movie, I decided to pick it up from the librar...moreI recently picked this one up after hearing some discussion about this book, and being a big fan of the movie, I decided to pick it up from the library. The first thing that struck me was that there is little difference between the book and movie versions of this title. Being a big fan of the movie version of this book, with its sweeping vistas and excellent performances by Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, and Christopher Reeve, I was not at all disappointed with the book.
The plot is rather simple on its surface. The book is a first-person narrative of Stevens, a very English butler who is dedicated to his craft and performs his duties for Lord Darlington at Darlington Hall with aplomb. We learn at the beginning of the book that he is currently in the employ of an American, Mr. Farrady, who is an expert at bantering - perhaps the one skill that Stevens has yet to master. Stevens is on his way to visit a former co-worker, Miss Kenton, hoping that the two will be reunited, at least as employees. Throughout the trip, Stevens reflects on his commitment to his former boss, Lord Darlington, and also on his commitment to dignity and being the perfect butler.
Lurking beneath the surface is so much more in this book. The title itself notes that this is a man who is looking back, during the remains of the day, about his life and what he has made of that life. Both personally and professionally, there are elements that perhaps have left Stevens unfulfilled. Indeed, the most fascinating aspect of both the book and the movie is its setting, an England nearing the cusp of World War II. Stevens is a man who values dignity and loyalty and duty, we learn throughout the book that some of those values may have been misplaced.
I was lent this book by a coworker who is a very big fan of the graphic novel genre. I don’t like to think that I am a pretentious reader, but for wha...moreI was lent this book by a coworker who is a very big fan of the graphic novel genre. I don’t like to think that I am a pretentious reader, but for whatever reason I have never been a big fan of graphic novels or comic books. I decided to read this one though, not only for its presence of all sorts of “best of” lists, but also because I am excited about the upcoming movie.
The story concerns a group of (mostly) very human superheroes called the Crimebusters and a plot to kill some of them. One can certainly see this book as very much a precursor to the rather darker, human portrayals of superheroes that we see all over the movie theaters lately like the Dark Knight, Iron Man, etc.
I think this novel is well worth reading, but there was something about it that left me a bit unfulfilled. I think the plot left a little to be desired and the ending felt a bit rushed. The pirate story also kinda just sucked, too. On the other hand, I think the manner in which most characters (Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt is the very notable exception in my opinion) were developed was simply spectacular. The origin stories and motivation of the characters of Dr. Manhattan, the Nite Owl, Rorschach, and Silk Spectre was as finely crafted as almost any book I have ever read.
**spoiler alert** Earlier this year, I had the good fortune to read Bronte’s masterpiece, Jane Eyre, a fascinating book. One aspect of the story is th...more**spoiler alert** Earlier this year, I had the good fortune to read Bronte’s masterpiece, Jane Eyre, a fascinating book. One aspect of the story is that Rochester’s first wife, Antoinette, is kept locked in the attic. Rather curiously, no one seems to have a real big problem with that, because she is quite mad and because we want Rochester and Jane to get together. Good old Victorian literature albeit with serious Gothic undertones. As a reader of Jane Eyre, I thought that it sure would be nice to know a little bit more about this whole madwoman locked in the attic character. Jeah Rhys had this very good idea as well and thus was born the short novel “Wide Sargasso Sea.” The novel is divided into three parts, parts one and three use Antoinette as the narrator and part two makes use of the unnamed Mr. Rochester.
Antoinette was a Creole heiress living in the Caribbean who is eventually married off to Mr. Rochester. As one can imagine, she did not have a very rosy childhood with an especially difficult mother and living in post-colonial Jamaica does not make matters any easier. Antoinette is eventually married off to Rochester and you get the feeling almost from the start that these two people should not be together. The servants in the honeymoon house also cast a rather eerie pale over the events. At one point Rochester actually believes he has been poisoned and uses the occasion to sleep with the servant girl Amelie while Antoinette is in the next room and is certain to hear. Antoinette (who Rochester now calls Bertha, basically because he can) loses whatever grip on sanity she might’ve had and when she bites Rochester, drawing blood, he basically convinces himself that taking her to England and looking her in the attic is the best course of action.
Really a very interesting novel and one that I very much enjoyed. It is so short that the action moves rather quickly, but long enough to create quite the dramatic arc. Rhys writes insanity well.
One of those classics that are so much a part of the culture that it feels like you have read them, even when you have not. The story concerns a group...moreOne of those classics that are so much a part of the culture that it feels like you have read them, even when you have not. The story concerns a group of British schoolboys who find themselves stranded on a deserted island and the various trials and travails that they go through. Essential to the plot are Ralph (the stoic good guy democratic leader), Jack (the viscous totalitarian hunter) and Piggy (the logical and intelligent boy not blessed with much physical strength and ability). Things start out okay on the island, but things quickly devolve and Jack begins to assume greater power and authority. Some live and some die and there is all sorts of symbolism about the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the nature of life.
One of my favorite aspects of the book is the manner in which fear plays such an important role in the novel. Fear of strange sounds in the dark, fear of the unknown, just fear in general leads the children to stray from the path. Democracy and democratic principles are sacrificed for a leader that can quiet the noises and kill the pigs. One might see parallels in that story with the early 21st Century, especially here in my country.
Of course, to understand the book it helps to understand its author and the time period from whence it came. The book was published in Great Britain in 1954, a country still overcoming the scars both economically and physically of World War II. Further, William Golding was a World War II native who participated in World War II. The images of fire and darkness and death and fear and likely very much the same images that any one who lived through such times might imagine. (less)
Set in Civil War torn South Africa, Michael K is the story of a man, albeit a man confined to the dust heap of society, on a journey. (Think “The Road...moreSet in Civil War torn South Africa, Michael K is the story of a man, albeit a man confined to the dust heap of society, on a journey. (Think “The Road” only set in South Africa in the 1980s with a harelipped former gardener protagonist, no less noble, but one whose “mind is not quick.”) His mother is dying and wants to go to the country for her last days. She does not make it and Michael K is caught in the web of all that is going on around him. He nearly starves, he is placed in a work camp, he is confined by an army, all sorts of bad things occur. Yet, in his own unique way, Michael K also struggles to rise above it all, seeking something fuller and more ordinary.
At times I really struggled to be engaged with by this book. Such a very different book to read from my previous selection (“Confederacy of Dunces”) that I found it a bit difficult to be engaged by the larger themes. Coetzee is truly remarkable, though, he can convey as much on a page as anyone. I think some of my difficulty with this book is that I am not well versed enough to understand the larger themes of the book in relation to South Africa. Race is not mentioned in this book, something that I found frustrating. A reviewer more versed in the South Africa described here though might point to that as part of the book’s brilliance. (less)