Marquez begins his story with a note. In this note, he describes arriving at a convent in the process of being emptied and turned into a luxury hotel.Marquez begins his story with a note. In this note, he describes arriving at a convent in the process of being emptied and turned into a luxury hotel. Laborers unearthed "three generations of bishops and abbesses and other eminent personages" until, at last, they came to a niche of the high altar where they found the tomb of a twelve-year old girl called Sierva Maria de Todos Los Angeles. She had hair the color of copper and it flowed out of her head twenty-two metres long.
And so a story is born. Marquez imagines a life for a two hundred year old corpse. He replenishes her flesh and restores her bones and puts her through a time that can only be received with a heavy heart: Sierva Maria is born and neglected, then bitten by a dog, thought to have caught rabies, put through tumultuous medical examinations (which include drinking her own urine), then thought to be possessed, locked up in a convent presided over by a stern and irrational abbess, is then introduced to a priest, falls in love, and...well, this is the part when you read the story yourself.
Love, here, is equated to illness...demonic possession to be exact. Marquez is an author of magic realism and the lines between the realms are effectively fogged. Is Sierva Maria possessed or she not? The complexities of this question is impressively elicited in readers. Church and science are reflected in two astute and interesting characters.
But that is not truly the epitome of this story. For it is about love and the turmoil of it that surrounds these characters.
Sierva Maria is a young girl born to the Marquis. She is dismissed as a baby and left to fend for herself. It is a slave, the housekeeper of slaves, named Dominga de Adviento who takes the child into her care. Waking, sleeping and everything in between, Sierva does with the slaves; she learns their languages, their dance, their songs and traditions, rituals and beliefs. She is a feral child who slits the throats of goats and eats their organs. And it is the cruelest of actions to take her away from it all, only to be abused, misunderstood, rejected, and perceived as a demonic being. But she is a child, with an altered imagination because she was not raised with her people. She does not conform to general etiquette, she does not act, think, or speak like her color. She is different because she was orphaned by her living parents. And when one of them decides to extend his heart, it is much too late. Sierva represents the abandoned in all of us; the part left alone for so long it's forgotten to wish. She has no concept of love or truth, and when she finally does receive it, it is from a source forbidden with no future.
Perhaps, however, the storyline I found most gripping, with an almost all-consuming fear, was that of the Marquis. He grows up just as discarded as Sierva, with the exception that he had social, familial, and political obligations to fulfill. Having grown up in disappointment and inadequacy, he is turned numb by the sudden loss of his wife; numb just as he was learning to feel. He becomes a widower and this defines him for much too long of his life. He grows complacent, laxed and forgets to live. He lets life and its glory slip through his fingers without a single taste. Near the end, when he searches for his estranged second wife, if only "so they might at least each have someone to die with" -- the absolute desperation and loneliness of the image and the words and the intent and the deeply-rooted truth behind it was enough to make my heart constrict in sympathy, empathy, and panic. It made me hesitate in turning the page, made my eyes linger on the period, wanting but scared to read the coming passage. Would this bend my heart anymore than it already has? I was in a battle...afraid to consume the story that had me oppressively, yet tenderly, facing a mirror. ...more
I will make a brand new shelf for this book and shall call it slippery-as-waterweed*...do you get it? I hope you do, otherwise I just wasted a reallyI will make a brand new shelf for this book and shall call it slippery-as-waterweed*...do you get it? I hope you do, otherwise I just wasted a really good, dirty joke.
If you like adventure, history and sex, you came to the right place because Outlander by Diana Gabaldon offers each in abundance. Och, ye'll get a lot o' fun oot o' this cheeky novel. Ugh, sorry, residue from reading through the night. And I'm no sure I'm entirely meself quite yet, I feel verra dreamlike and such, I canna stop smiling and my eyes go cross like and I feel half dizzy, ye ken? Anyway, I seem to notice a stigma surrounding this book because its classified as a historical romance. Well, so what? How about we all just indulge ourselves, eh? There's a lot of sex in this book. Once Claire and Jamie come together, they do not let go. But the book is also so well written that I didn't mind that they got it on at every empty corner or room or bush or cave. Gabaldon has written very charismatic, sympathetic and likable characters.
Now if we're going to get critical, I thought the book lacked some definitive plot. I figured Claire's escape and attempt to return to (view spoiler)[Craigh na Dun, so she could return to her time (hide spoiler)] would be the main struggle throughout the novel, but it wasn't really. Then I thought it would be trying to (view spoiler)[clear Jamie's name (hide spoiler)] but no, it wasn't that either. You kind of just meet Claire, travel through time and hang around for things to happen. Another testament to the writing because that would've normally induced me to give up but alas, I enjoyed every chapter. There were also many conveniences that had me rolling my eyes, such as (view spoiler)[Jamie appearing just in the nick of time to rescue Claire from rape or burning at the stake, Claire being barren and Brother Anselm's all too generous absolution of Claire's sins, oh like you know, adultery and murder (hide spoiler)].
There are a lot of historical facts about Scottish life, too. For example, I am now very well acquainted with a Highlander's getup - I can safely identify what a dirk and a sporran is, which is basically a knife and a really cute, Highland version of a fanny-pack. I learned a few Gaelic words which I will refrain from typing because most likely they are pronounced nothing like how they're spelled, so really maybe I didn't learn anything at all. Also, I learned they had traveling policemen called the Watch, though every time they were mentioned I had to resist the urge to scream "Back to the Wall!", get it or is this another wasted reference? But the history here is rather a domestic exploration than a vast political study of Europe; though the novel occurs on the brink of the Jacobite Rising, which I'm expecting will alter the rest of the series. I hope, anyway. I really want a war...
...which I think Gabaldon can pull off. This book does not shy away from the more barbaric cultural modes of the Scotland Highlands in the 18th century. There is open rape, murder, kidnap on horseback, torture, flogging, public executions, amputation of body parts for theft, burning of women accused of witchcraft, arrests without warrants (that one makes me particularly mad), domestic/sexual abuse, primeval medical treatments alongside your customary sword fighting, etc. And the characters are not without their flaws. There are corrupt abuses of power in the name of patriotism, extreme violence in the name of self-preservation. The ones that looked good turned out bad, the ones that seemed the least inviting turned out to be your friend.
So, Outlander. Really good, entertaining book. Its a nicely intimate, subtle epic. Much of the story revolves around the deeply delicious and amusing relationship between Claire and Jamie, who by the way is a darling. So there, I loved it. It consumed me for most of a week. And I bite my thumb at anyone who looks down on this book. It was fun and you know what else, I hope there's just as much sex in the rest of them SAY WHAT!!!
I have never come across an author whose work I swore by. I've read many great pieces of literature but they stand alone, they are individual. A writeI have never come across an author whose work I swore by. I've read many great pieces of literature but they stand alone, they are individual. A writer's first novel might leave me uninspired but his second novel might break my heart. Its like music, not every song by a musician is going to be a hit. Until Melina Marchetta. I wasn't even worried when I picked up Looking for Alibrandi because I knew it would be good. And it was. I feel like all of her books are on par with each other, except for On The Jellicoe Road which is just too exceptional to be regarded as anything less than an award-winning novel. I had a hard time deciding where Alibrandi fell on my "Marchetta Scale." Above Saving Francesca? Below The Piper's Son? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. And so I decided it shall be thus:
1) On The Jellicoe Road 2.5) Looking for Alibrandi 2) The Piper's Son 3.5) Saving Francesca 3) The as of yet unread but soon will be Finnikin of the Rock & any other book that shall in the future be published under her name. 4) The rest of YA literature
I don't think I'm even exaggerating.
Her characters and their emotions and situations are so real. No, scratch that. They are so complete in thought and in words that you can't help but be pulled in. I'm gushing and making little sense. This review will not be insightful nor helpful nor original but here I go...
Marchetta can be accused of being somewhat formulaic. Its always a young adult facing an identity crisis. Its always about family and belonging, whether its within society or a smaller community. Joesphine Alibrandi doesn't know who she is or how to even classify herself. Is she Italian or Australian? Both? And if so, how? I adored Marchetta's deconstruction of immigration and culture shock, integration and resistance. How do you reconcile the customs you were born into and the ones you have to grow up with? How do you live with such a distinction between the life you have inside the walls of your home and the great big world you walk out into?
Josie is seventeen and she's selfish, impulsive, obnoxious and passionate. This story is how she finally figures out that the only person whose opinion should truly ever matter is our own. We label ourselves, no one else. I moved to Canada when I was seven. I've been here longer than I haven't. The culture I brought with me is still a very big part of my life. It always will be. I grew up like Josie. I was amongst my peers during the day. I went to school with them, I played with them, I had sleepovers with them but I was different. Their homes, when I visited, were different. Its like living in two worlds. Outside I was Canadian, inside I was someone else. Fortunately, unlike Josie, I had never experienced racism or any form of prejudice and discrimination. When I was young, kids talked of course but never anything that has left scarring, emotional or otherwise.
I did struggle however because any feeling of inferiority I had was put upon by my own self. I made myself feel and think I was less because I wasn't like my Canadian schoolmates. They had it easier, I thought, less complicated. They had the same rules coming in and out of their homes. But I played by different standards. My friends saw me one way and my family another. And that gets hard...to have to fill different roles between friends and family. Its the transitioning that made it frustrating. I felt for Josie because I had gone through it myself. I've had people argue that its easier on children when moving into a foreign country. Why, exactly? Because kids don't understand? Because kids just play and have no time to think? Because nothing we do is of any real urgency so it has less weight? As an adult you have full comprehension of the situation. As a child, you have no idea what the fuck is going on. Why your lunch is suddenly weird and smelly compared to your friend's sandwich. Why you're not allowed to stay out after school. Why your parents have to have their address, phone number and speak to their mom or dad just for one night's sleepover. Why you didn't spend as much money on their birthday gift as the others.
And then there's the tug-of-war I love my culture, I hate my culture. Josie was suffocated by of all the restrictions put upon her because some country that looks like a boot nine thousand miles away lived by the same rules. Her old-fashioned grandmother enforced on her old-fashioned principles. I remember wanting desperately for my parents to understand that "the other kids were doing it so its alright" or that "but that's not how they do it here." All I ever got was a stern tone and the shake of their heads. Josie felt like a foreigner, an alien in a country she was born in. I can't imagine if she had been like me, born in one place and having to assimilate in another. I felt like a tourist for a long time. Going to the mall and taking pictures to send to relatives back home, bringing our own snacks to the amusement park while other families ate in the restaurants. Vain, trivial things really but it meant the end of the world to me then. It took forever until I finally felt like I had the right to be here.
That is what I got most out of Marchetta's novel. Her writing is so convincing and dead on that the more I read the more memories kept creeping out to have a look. The more memories I remembered, the more I loved the book. A lesser writer wouldn't have affected me as deeply. My childhood was not as tragically conflicted as this makes it sound. Over all I'm really lucky that I live in one of the most diverse cities in the world and with that comes a tolerance that obviously isn't as routine in other places. I still judge some of the fundamentals I discover in both of my cultures but that's the point. We're not one or the other. We're a hybrid. We're a compromise and we have more freedom in choices of values and traditions because we have two to choose from.
Looking for Alibrandi is an excellent book. Be prepared to meet a loud, spirited, ever confused and ever brazen young girl. She's flawed but so is every character Marchetta introduces us to. Its the only human thing, to be imperfect. The key is how she compels us nonetheless to love and root for them. I had a harder time warming up to Josie than any character so far, only because she was such a teenager...know what I mean? Marchetta's voice is just as succulently reflective as in her other books, but you do sense her writing developing deeper and broader breadth (most apparently in Jellicoe Road). This isn't her best written book, but sometimes technicality is cancelled out by emotional ties.
There is so much more I want to talk about. But I'm sure by now I'm the only one left in the room, so having no desire to be speaking here to myself, I'll have just a few more words. Josie and her relationship with her mother and grandmother is sweet and strained. I didn't always like the way she treated them but what's growing up all about if you don't have any qualities to improve? The love story is worth fawning over. I especially love the end - you'll have to read why. And yes, yet another pathetic crush on a fictional character. Finally her relationship with her father, while not totally uncommon, is still unconventionally thought out that I at first couldn't be persuaded to buy it, until I did. I'll buy anything Marchetta sells me.
I didn't plan on this review to be so long. I figured I'd said enough on my review for Jellicoe Road but I can't seem to shut up. Marchetta demands recognition....more
Maria Chapdelaine is the story of Maria, a girl living in rural Quebec in the early days of the twentieth century, and the hardships that come with liMaria Chapdelaine is the story of Maria, a girl living in rural Quebec in the early days of the twentieth century, and the hardships that come with living at this time in this place. It addresses themes prevalent in Canadian Literature; that of climate, isolation and hard work in overcoming both. In true Canadian literary fashion, the story is harrowing but satisfying. It can be boring and tedious - though it is never through the fault of authors; it is simply the fact that those days offered little fun as people were too busy surviving harsh Canadian weather and harvesting food, what else can the authors do? But it is never void of touching moments. I remember a very lovely, innocent, romantic scene with Maria and a love interest out in the woods....
The tragedies that mark Maria's life and the important choices she's given as well as the even more crucial decision she has to make, makes her a sympathetic and wonderful character. Everything you did at the time was meant to ensure the survival of the family, of the community. And Maria's ultimate selflessness is both heartbreaking and admirable.
This was my introduction to Rushdie (read this a few years ago). I'd been meaning to read him for a very long time. Unfortunately, this was nothing liThis was my introduction to Rushdie (read this a few years ago). I'd been meaning to read him for a very long time. Unfortunately, this was nothing like I expected it to be. It was charming, lavish and I loved the mystery but it just didn't engage me enough to keep reading. It was like seeing a beautiful person, thinking how amazing they must be, and then you meet them and realize, oh, they're ordinary. A let down....more
I can say this for certain: this is the first book that has ever made me feel something deep and raw; the first to make my eyes and heart well up; theI can say this for certain: this is the first book that has ever made me feel something deep and raw; the first to make my eyes and heart well up; the first book to make me realize reading was serious. This book should be read in every elementary school....more
Eh. Read this years and years ago and I haven't felt inclined to read another Anne Rice novel. And I don't think it was the story but rather her writiEh. Read this years and years ago and I haven't felt inclined to read another Anne Rice novel. And I don't think it was the story but rather her writing, it was just so bland. No flare, no poetry, no taste. It was not at all what I expected and I fell hard with disappointment....more