Our book club is gearing up for reading Planet Narnia together, and in preparation we're versing ourselves in the series, some of us for the first timOur book club is gearing up for reading Planet Narnia together, and in preparation we're versing ourselves in the series, some of us for the first time. This was not my first reading, but since I've been trying to read aloud to my family (and our opportunities have been sporadic) my attention was not as honed in as it could have been. That said, this second of the Pevensies' adventures in Narnia helped to solidify a few things in my mind about this world. In no particular order, here they are:
Nature is fundamental and valuable. Remembering ancient things is imperative. Girls and boys are both powerful, but in different ways. Though the wicked may cover up the truth for a time, it will win out in the end. Valor, compassion, humility, and loyalty are traits to cultivate, but, in a pinch, plain submission will do.
I hope to focus better as we move forward. There's something very precious about realizing the depth of something as an adult, which one only half perceived as a child.
This was a fun, non-demanding read that, while engaging and artful in some ways, left me cold in others. Admittedly, after being introduced to the AntThis was a fun, non-demanding read that, while engaging and artful in some ways, left me cold in others. Admittedly, after being introduced to the Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, Ian McKellan film in a high school world history class, I immediately became a devotee of the screen version, which is based on two of Orczy's books (with many changes).
To the baroness's credit, her word choices are evocative. When Chauvelin whispers menacingly into the exhausted and defeated Marguerite's face, you can feel the intimacy and revulsion of the moment. Likewise, as the book comes to its climax you can sense her obsessive need to reach her husband. This skill in engaging readers helps to balance the extreme repetitiveness of the last third of the book, with the result that I was less impatient for it to be over than I could have been.
Where the book is high on adventure and romance, it is low on substance. While I felt I understood Chauvelin and Marguerite a bit, these characters were still not particularly developed, or rather they were developed in a way that seemed artificial. Percy's character was just completely off, and, given the state of the marriage at the start of the book, some clue as to Percy's and Marguerite's beginnings together would have been nice. The depiction of the French Revolution and its ideals was decidedly simplistic, even amusingly so.
That said, you can't fault the baroness for writing books for diversion. I just value the movie more, as it is at the same time adventurous, historically revealing, relationally insightful, romantic, funny, and just so well done. It's not often that movies can blow books out of the water, but I feel this is one of those times.
I was encouraged to hear from my mom, who gave me this book as a birthday gift, that Sweetness was Alan Bradley’s first novel, published when he was 7I was encouraged to hear from my mom, who gave me this book as a birthday gift, that Sweetness was Alan Bradley’s first novel, published when he was 70 years old. Good fiction writing is so much more difficult than it seems like it would be, and so pouring a lifetime of experiences into a project like this makes a lot of sense. For those who don’t know the premise of this award-winning novel, it’s a mystery set in Britain in the 1950s, with 11-year-old chemistry fanatic, Flavia de Luce, as its protagonist. (A young girl in an English village may, presumably, snoop around without drawing attention to herself, much like Miss Marple.) Funnily enough, Bradley is neither a girl nor British, but manages to pull off the combination with a lot of charm. The mystery revolves around philately, or stamp collecting, and highlights not only the history of Britain, but Flavia’s chemical genius and her dysfunctional relationship with her father and two sisters in the absence of her mother, a mysterious figure. Flavia is endearing in large part because she lacks a mother, someone to teach her how to relate intimately. Her father is emotionally distant, although there are hints of better things between father and daughter in books to come. The ways Flavia and her two sisters torture one another is funny and shocking. In her endearing lack of social graces, her sharp wit, and predilection for sleuthing, she reminded me a lot of Amelia Peabody, my favorite mystery-solving heroine. While this book is extremely well-written and engaging, I feel it suffered a bit for lack of a sidekick. Flavia needs a Hastings, a Watson, a Scooby Doo, an Emerson—someone with whom she can dialogue and against whom she may be sharpened as she interacts with the mystery. Perhaps Bradley does this in future books—I hope so. This heroine does have promise, as does her creator! My hat is off to Bradley as a researcher. I may not ever understand much about chemistry (before glory, at least!), but reading this book has put so much of it before me that I think I learned a thing or two, and perhaps saw a bit more of its appeal. A final note about the name of the book, taken from this poem: Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie, who cares for all the crinkling of the pie? There are several references to pie in the book—one pie is a mode of transportation for contraband and another is a way of skimming from an employer. Pies, supposed to be such a treat, are never all they’re cracked up to be in Flavia’s world. But, then again, the girl herself, with her rough edges and her appearance of misanthropy, proves capable of great acts of love and self-sacrifice. One might even call this sweetness. Never judge a pie by its crinkle. ...more