"The second girl had climbed out with the first but then proceeded to perform an elaborate goodbye dance with every member of her family.
When the two gi...more"The second girl had climbed out with the first but then proceeded to perform an elaborate goodbye dance with every member of her family.
When the two girls stood together, they really did look like something from a movie. The second girl looked like the goofy sidekick, short and a little plump, more colorful and less dignified than her friend. She was wearing a hat that looked like a daisy, yellow on top with a plastic white-petaled brim, and a yellow skirt covered in daisies."
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....moreMarquez 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. (less)
There are books, however short or long, that take forever to get through; books that make you twist and dig and plunder for meaning behind painfully s...moreThere are books, however short or long, that take forever to get through; books that make you twist and dig and plunder for meaning behind painfully skillful, cruelly dense language. Gaetan Soucy's The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches is that.
This isn't a bizarre story, its just bizarrely written. And bizarre is good. Its about two siblings, ages estimated around late teens, who one morning discover their father dead by hanging. One of them decides to venture out to town to purchase a coffin into which they will bury their father in a ditch they will later dig in an as of yet undetermined spot in their vast estate. Except neither sibling has ever been to town, or spoken to "neighbors", or even set foot outside of their grounds. They've lived their whole lives under the suffocating tutelage of their father, their only source of knowledge on life, death, religion, this earth. They speak a language they've adopted from their "dictionaries" of medieval fairy tales and philosophy. Their perspective of the world is primitive and skewed. They are feral and selectively informed.
Some books allow the reader to become part of the story but Soucy makes you flit between spectator and puzzle solver. The protagonist's view of the world is so minimal and so shifted, that it makes it impossible to be one with the character. You can't participate because you're still figuring out what's being said. The word-plays are endless. Its like looking through a foggy window, through which a shadowy outline is barely visible and each re-read of a phrase is the wipe of a hand on the misty glass, each an attempt to make out the image. And then you do and oh, my.
The protagonist is so unaware that I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry. And that sentiment lasts throughout the entire novel. The language that delivers the story is dense but the voice is...light? Airy? The voice lacks understanding, you see, understanding of what's happening, of the gravity of the situation (because I'm sure you've since figured out that there's some dark, disturbing secret that lies deep within the ambiguity of this book). Soucy, unbeknownst to us, is relating a very serious story about child abuse, extreme (and perhaps, distorted) religious devotion, guilt, gender and human nature/human psyche in its untamed and rawest form (and trust me when I say et cetera) but conceals it behind a humorous and naive voice. He unveils a somber truth in one paragraph, then subverts the weight of this revelation with such unacquainted admissions from the protagonist that you're continually caught between gasps of shock and bursts of laughter. Only until the end, when all is revealed and that foggy glass is at last clear, that we see the picture for what it is and its powerful enough to waken those sleeping eyes and raise the hair on your neck.
This is a great book. It takes time getting used to but in due time you'll be flowing right along the rhythm that is all too distinct and rewarding. I wouldn't say its refreshing because I save those for books that are actually refreshing. This little novel is macabre and unnerving. If this review seems useless, its because saying any more would be doing the work for you...and what would be the fun in that?
Also, this must have been a bitch to translate. (less)
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 li...moreMaria 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.
A girl in my satire class, for which I read this, actually thought this shit was real, yo! Anyway, she was only mildly offended that Swift suggested s...moreA girl in my satire class, for which I read this, actually thought this shit was real, yo! Anyway, she was only mildly offended that Swift suggested selling and eating babies to solve poverty. Jaw drop.
I cannot tell you how many times I've had to read this in life. Much to my dismay, it has grown on me. We are like old frenemies. One more read and I...moreI cannot tell you how many times I've had to read this in life. Much to my dismay, it has grown on me. We are like old frenemies. One more read and I might even give him a four.(less)