"No one ever knew who Gatsby was. Some said he had been a German spy, others that he was related to one of Europe's royal families. Nearly everyone to...more"No one ever knew who Gatsby was. Some said he had been a German spy, others that he was related to one of Europe's royal families. Nearly everyone took advantage of his fabulous hospitality. And it was fabulous. In his superb Long Island home he gave the most amazing parties, and not the least remarkable things about them was that few people could recognize their host. He seemed to be a man without a background, without history; whose eyes were always searching the glitter and razzamatazz for something... someone?
The Great Gatsby is one of the great love stories of our time. In it the author distilled the essences of glamour and illusion so powerfully that his book has haunted and tantalized generations of readers."
Can't say as I was particularly haunted or tantalized. Mostly, the characters were just so one-dimensionally obnoxious, it's hard to really care what happens to them. I guess it's sad, due to the number of wasted lives and missed opportunities in it, but it just didn't affect me that much. I read some reviews of it, and several people suggested that it's a book that is appreciated more with additional readings of it, and it is pretty short, so maybe I'll throw it back on the list and see if I like it any better next time I get to it. For the time being, though, I simply don't have that much to say about it.(less)
I didn't really get into this book. My husband loves Vonnegut, but says this, despite being probably his most famous, is not the best introduction to...moreI didn't really get into this book. My husband loves Vonnegut, but says this, despite being probably his most famous, is not the best introduction to his work. I have a few others on the list, as recommended by the hubby, so I may try this one again after I've read those.(less)
"Paulo Coelho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its simplicity and wisdom, is about an And...more"Paulo Coelho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its simplicity and wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels form his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an Alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No on knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a meditation on the treasures found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts."
Well, a contrast from the last one, for sure. I started reading this yesterday, and finished this morning. And frankly, wasn't that impressed. I'd heard absolutely nothing but glowing praise for this book, but it seems to me there's really nothing to it. Sure, there's that whole deep, meaningful moral, but it's no different than what you'd find in any Hallmark movie of the week or whatever. Kid sets out looking for treasure, and finds out that the real treasure is within. Yawn. Plenty of books tell that basic story, but usually there's at least some compelling story or characters involved. I guess a lot of people found this story and these characters compelling, but I didn't. There was practically no conflict, and the obstacles mentioned in the blurb? Pretty much non-existent. He starts his journey, and while it does get delayed for a little while, and he does have one encounter with some people who might have killed him, everything pretty much progressed smoothly. It just seems to me that for a journey that apparently took him at least a year, probably closer to two, there could have been more story to tell. Glossing over the fact that the kid spends nine months in a place and then considers going home instead of continuing on makes it not seem like a tremendous obstacle, and more of an "OK, let's just get on with it" kind of feeling. And as for the characters, they weren't so great either. Pretty one-dimensional, for the most part.
Basically, while I'm sure many many people would be outraged by this, personally, I found it excessively simplistic, and frankly, a little trite. In fact, the only thing keeping it from being the biggest waste of time book I've ever read is that it's shorter than The Celestine Prophecy.(less)
"A best seller and critical success in Latin America, Europe, and the United States, One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fal...more"A best seller and critical success in Latin America, Europe, and the United States, One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the [mythical?:] town of Macondo through the story of the Buendia family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death and the tragicomedy of man. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the Buendia family one sees all mankind, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo one sees all of Latin America.
Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility - the variety of life, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth - these, the universal themes, dominate the novel. Whether he is describing an affair of passion or the voracity of capitalism and the corruption of government, Garcia Marquez always writes with the simplicity, ease, and purity that are the mark of a master. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, alive with unforgettable men and women, and with a truth and understanding that strike the soul, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a masterpiece of the art of fiction."
I'll be honest here: I didn't get it. I read a review that suggested it would all become clear in the last sentence, but it really didn't. I was still half confused about who did what and when, and I still didn't really get the point or whatever he was trying to make. I think perhaps I just don't much care for the style of writing, which I've encountered before - mostly in books that have been translated to English from something else, so maybe it's losing something in translation? I just find the totally serious mix of what largely seems to be the real world with totally nonsensical events just kind of... offputting.
And the way the people behave also weirds me out. They're just so... obsessive and compulsive, and it's like every single one of them has some kind of mental imbalance that causes them to behave in ways that make even less sense than "normal" people. As such, rather than finding something to relate to in all of them, as I guess some people find in cases like this, I don't relate at all to any of them. So it's just a bunch of characters doing completely inexplicable things, and I can't feel any sympathy or even much interest in them.
The fact that keeping track of everybody was next to impossible also really didn't help. Pretty much all the male characters were named some variation of the same two names, and even the women's names tended to incorporate aspects of previous women. So keeping track of what the hell was going on with whom at any given time became very difficult. This was also not helped by Garcia Marquez's apparent tendency of not writing in a strictly linear fashion. He'll talk about somebody's death, and then, without explicitly saying so, we'll be bounced back a few months, or years even, and he's back alive, and the whole thing's just confusing.
And if all that's not enough, there's also incest ranging from "I want you, but we mustn't" to a... grandmother (I think) fondling her grandson in the bathtub to a full-blown affair (although in the last case, in their defence, they didn't actually know they were related. But still. And I still can't decide if it was implied or not that one of the characters had relations with a donkey...(less)
Louisa May Alcott shares the innocence of girlhood and the warmth of sisterhood in this charming tale of four sisters. Responding to the need for a "g...moreLouisa May Alcott shares the innocence of girlhood and the warmth of sisterhood in this charming tale of four sisters. Responding to the need for a "girls' book," the little known writer was met with unexpected fame and fortune for this novel inspired by her own childhood.
In picturesque nineteenth-century New England, tomboyish Jo, beautiful Meg, fragile Beth, and romantic Amy are responsible for keeping a home while their father is off to war. At the same time, they must come to terms with their individual personalities - and make the transition from girlhood to womanhood. It can all be quite a challenge. But the March sisters, however different, are nurtured by wise and beloved Marmee and bound by their love for one another and the feminine strength they share. Readers of all ages have fallen instantly in love with Little Women. The story transcends time - making this novel endure as a classic piece of American literature that has captivated generations of readers with its charm, innocence, and wistful insights.
The first half of this book was brutal. The girls were just so intolerably wholesome that they were obnoxious caricatures of themselves, and I truly hated most of the first part. Jo was more boyish than a lot of boys, Beth was unutterably pathetic, Amy was a self-centred brat, and Meg was just... so damn wholesome. Also, practically every other chapter ended with a heart-to-heart with mommy that was reminiscent of the "what did we learn from this incident?" segments of old sitcoms. Blech.
However, as they started to grow up, and we moved into the second part of the book, they actually evolved into real characters, who resembled real people, and were thus much more entertaining and enjoyable to read about. There was still a little too much moralizing for my taste, but the parts when actual story was happening were not bad. I'm a sucker for first love in books, and would have liked to see Jo and Laurie hook up, but I guess the way it ended up instead was OK, too. Beth's death was not at all the way I expected it, but there it was. All in all, I suppose it's a book worth reading, but I don't think my life has been made vastly richer by having done so or anything, nor do I think I would have suffered anything by not reading it, but it does come up in literary references periodically, so it's good to have read it just for that. I certainly didn't fall instantly in love with it, nor do I expect that I'll ever read it again, let alone over and over, but I've rea it once.
One thing that does make me a little sad is, in reading the afterword, it seems to be implied that Alcott was not so fond of her "sensation stories," which is really too bad. I've only read the one, but it honestly is one of my favourite books ever, so it does make me sad that she may not have thought it as worthy or valuable as this, which I personally didn't much care for at all.(less)
"In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women ar...more"In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as an illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction - at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful - and completely unforgettable."
This book ranks up with Perfume in terms of the sheer beauty of the writing. The way the story is told is absolutely captivating, so you get sucked in and just breeze through it. Which is almost unfortunate, because some of it seems like it should maybe be savoured a bit more than that. That said, I've never really been the sort who particularly enjoys savouring books - I'd rather just devour them and take it all in as it flies by. But for those who are into savouring, I'd highly recommend this one.
One thing I found interesting is how a few of the endorsements in the book compare it to Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone, as far as Arthur Golden's ability to capture the female voice. I find this interesting, because I didn't find that Wally Lamb did that all that well, for all the praise he's received. With this one, it was easy to forget it was written by a man. With She's Come Undone, I just never really got into the character as much. Is it because Wally Lamb didn't get inside the female head well enough for me, or was it simply that the character he created wasn't one I could relate to or sympathize with? I don't know, but as far as my comparison between the two goes, Memoirs blows She's Come Undone way out of the water.
Which is kind of odd, almost, because I certainly can't identify with Sayuri so much, since nothing in my existence can even compare to hers, but she nevertheless seemed very real and plausible to me, and the invitation into her world that this book represents was fascinating. As a modern Westerner, much of what goes on in the world of geisha is incredibly foreign and incomprehensible. But it really is a special world, ad it's both good and bad that it's all but disappeared.
On one hand, there's something very appealing about people who exist almost entirely for beauty and pleasure's sake. Women who dedicate their lives to looking attractive, dancing, singing, playing instruments, and being engaging conversationalists. That's kind of neat. But on the other hand, there's the under side of it, where young girls are sold essentially as slaves to be raised in this world, and where, as the blurb says, their virginity is literally auctioned off.
Which brings me to my next point, which is that the Japanese - particularly the men - are a little weird, and frankly, more than a little creepy. On the weird side, well, let's not forget that these are the people who brought us Pokemon, and if you get a chance, check out the series of photo books called Strange Fruit. Then there's the creepy side. And note that I'm quite sure that there many lovely, not at all creepy Japanese men out there. However. Japan is the pace where women are almost guaranteed to be molested to one degree or another pretty much any time they go on a crowded train. Japan is the place where there's a market for schoolgirls to sell their panties. The ones they've just been wearing. And it's the place where this practice of selling off relatively young geishas' virginity continued at least well into the last century. I don't know if it still goes on, but the 30s weren't that long ago. And while the following incident is fictional, the author did chat extensively with an actual geisha, and whether or not this was lifted directly out of her life, it's probably happened to more than one apprentice geisha: A powerful man demands that she strip so he can jerk off to her naked self. Which is way more ew when you consider that this girl is about 13, and she's crying due to terror about what's going to happen here. She knows her continued virginity - and the appearance thereof - is of vital importance to her entire future, but she's also not in a position to say no to anything, so she's just praying nothing happens to jeopardize that. I just can't wrap my head around how such an image could possibly be sexy enough to jerk off to. I realize that not all Japanese men have an unholy fascination for young virginal girls, and not all men who have unholy fascinations with young virginal girls are Japanese, but I just feel that the Japanese culture strays ever so slightly too close to acceptance of this sort of fascination, and it creeps me out.
And now that I've thoroughly offended the entire Japanese nation, back to the book. I'm not sure what else to say about it, except that it's a whole different world than the one I've lived in, and that Arthur Golden, as far as I can tell, did a phenomenal job of capturing it and presenting it to us. But maybe I'll add one of the actual memoirs of geisha that I know exist to the list, so I can compare what they say with what Arthur Golden has told.(less)
I didn;t despise this book when I read it. It was entertaining and unremarkable. Then it became this ridiculous phenomenon, and I began to hate it, an...moreI didn;t despise this book when I read it. It was entertaining and unremarkable. Then it became this ridiculous phenomenon, and I began to hate it, and everything else the man writes. I work in a bookstore, which just exacerbated this hatred, particularly when you recommend something worth reading to someone, but they leave with one these tucked under their arm anyway. Maddening.
Working in a bookstore has its advantages, though. We return books to the publisher regularly, but, if you don't know, mass market paperbacks usually just have the covers sent to the publishers, while the rest of the book is simply discarded. I take great pleasure in ripping off the covers of some books, and this was soooooo one of them. I got to do it just this weekend, and it kind of made my day.
In which Harry discovers he's a wizard, and has his first year at Hogwarts. You all know the story. And now, since I finally read it, so do I!
Like mos...moreIn which Harry discovers he's a wizard, and has his first year at Hogwarts. You all know the story. And now, since I finally read it, so do I!
Like most books (and movies, and shows, etc.) that are surrounded by ridiculous amounts of hype, it didn't really live up to the hype. Frankly, anyone who says it's the greatest thing they've ever read needs to read more books. That said, for what it was, it was quite good. Bearing in mind that it was written for 9-year-olds, I'd say it does a great job of doing what a book for 9-year-olds should. It's entertaining, there's nothing too complicated, and nothing so dreadfully stressful or suspenseful that a kid couldn't handle it. And although it looks tiny, it actually is more than 200 pages long. For some kids (and some adults) that's a lot, but it goes by very quickly. I read it in a few hours, and I think even your average kid would probably chew through it in not too much more than a week. Which is good. Just long enough to get a good story arc going and resolved, and just short enough to hold a 9-year-old's attention.(less)
"Lyra Belacqua is content to run wild among the scholars of Jordan College with her daemon familiar, Pantalaimon, always by her side. When her uncle,...more"Lyra Belacqua is content to run wild among the scholars of Jordan College with her daemon familiar, Pantalaimon, always by her side. When her uncle, Lord Asriel, returns from the North with tales of mystery and danger, it seems to have little to do with her - even the rumor of the severed child. But his visit sets off a chain of events that draws Lyra into the heart of a terrible struggle - a struggle that involves scientists performing hideous experiments on children, alliances with gyptians and witch clans, battles with trained mercenaries, and armored bears. And through it all, there dawns in Lyra a sense that her success or failure may mean even *more* than life or death."
Another one that got bumped up due to the upcoming movie. Which I'm now really looking forward to, because the book was really good, and it looks like it's going to be, if nothing else, a really pretty movie. The book's settings just seem perfect for the big screen. And the story is complex enough to be engrossing, but simple enough, I think, to make a good movie. So yeah. Really looking forward to that.
As for the book itself, I definitely enjoyed it. In the beginning, you could really tell that it was a children's book, just because of the style of storytelling, but that eased up a bit so it wasn't so noticeable after a little while. Either that or I just got used to it. In any case, the characters are well-drawn, and Pullman does a really good job of pacing the stories, so the mysteries are unraveled at just the right pace to keep the book moving along really well.
The other thing that really impressed me was what he came up with for the "hideous experiments on children." I was wondering what that would turn out to be, because of course, it's a kids' book, so you can't do anything *too* hideous, but it also needed to be something that would be shocking and appalling enough to make an impact and not be all anti-climactic when it's revealed. Separating kids from their daemons was perfect. It's not so horrifying that it would traumatize younger kids, especially if they're young enough that they don't really understand the depth of the mental connection. For them, it would be like being separated from their favourite pet: upsetting, for sure, so they'd understand that it was really bad, but it's not something truly horrifying to a small child, like disembowelment or death or something like that. Then as you get older, and are able to grasp more intangible concepts, like the mental connection, you can also start to appreciate even more how awful it is for these kids. I just thought it was a brilliant balance between something that kids can cope with, but older readers can really be appalled by.
Definitely looking forward to the other 2 books in the trilogy.(less)
Second, there was a part of him - and I didn't know how dominant that part mi...moreAbout three things I was absolutely positive.
First, Edward was a vampire.
Second, there was a part of him - and I didn't know how dominant that part might be - that thirsted for my blood.
And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.
Hoo boy. OK, so this book. Yeah. Hard to know where to start, somehow. OK, well, this book and its three sequels have gotten a lot of attention over the last year or so, hailed by some as the new Harry Potter. Teenaged girls read it and become rabid fans, and even sane, reasonable people have been reading it and apparently enjoying it enough to subsequently devour the sequels as well. So I thought perhaps it was time to read it for myself and see what all the fuss is about.
Having now read it, I'm still really not sure. When I first started it, I could see why people kept reading; it was very soap opera-esque. Generally dreadful writing, with overwrought dialogue and excessively flowery descriptive language, and logic and situations that were at times a little ridiculous. And yet still compelling.
Then I kept reading and... nothing changed. Seriously, the first 400 pages in this book were devoted pretty much exclusively to nothing but this love story, without even any real obstacles to surmount in order to live happily ever after. Even the vampire thing was really barely a blip. But here's the thing. Your average romance novel, which basically tells a love story and little else, is generally not more than 300 pages. At most. And that includes whatever sub-plots make that particular romance the story that it is. And the sub-plots are what make the things readable at all. Without them, you just have a pair of whiny, self-absorbed people, who can't get their heads out of their asses long enough to realize that they're meant to be together. Or, even worse, do realize it, and spend 400 pages talking about it. This thing moved so unbelievably slowly that I honestly don't even know how any publisher managed to read far enough to get interested enough to actually publish this thing. About halfway through, I revised my description of what this book was like. It was not like a soap opera. It was like a Jane Austen novel, if Jane Austen were a complete and utter hack. Because, while I personally may not much care for the books Jane Austen writes, I truly can appreciate her craft, and as I discussed in regards to Persuasion, her ability to weave this subtle dance for the main players to do that actually does hold your interest and makes you care. Poor Jane Austen is probably rolling over in her grave at being compared to Stephenie Meyer, and I'm truly sorry about that, Ms. Austen, but you really are coming out way ahead in this comparison, so I hope that helps.
Anyway, so the first 400 pages were, frankly, painful. The final hundred were actually not bad. Why? Because something actually happens. We've finally moved past the introductory stage, where we're meeting the characters and finding out about all the wacky features vampires have, and something is happening! I know, I was shocked, too. There was still too much dialogue for suspense writing, but it moved well, and was, yeah, actually not half bad. And suddenly I understood why people might actually feel compelled to read the next book in the series. The way this ends, it does feel like things should be ready to start happening for real now, so the following books should theoretically be a little less... painfully slow. Of course, I've heard that that's not entirely the case, but I can see how you would think that it might be, and want to keep reading. And I think I will too, although not just yet. There's only so much teen melodrama I can take in one dose.(less)
Frankly, I don't especially enjoy reading Austen, but this one is so classic, and so frequently alluded to, and I read it long enough ago that I don't...moreFrankly, I don't especially enjoy reading Austen, but this one is so classic, and so frequently alluded to, and I read it long enough ago that I don't really remember it, so I feel I should read it again sometime.(less)
When Henry meets Clare, he is twenty-eight and she is twenty. Henry has never met Clare before; Clare has known Henry since she was six. Impossible bu...moreWhen Henry meets Clare, he is twenty-eight and she is twenty. Henry has never met Clare before; Clare has known Henry since she was six. Impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. Henry and Clare's attempts to live normal lives are threatened by a force they can neither prevent nor control, making their passionate love story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable. The Time Traveler's Wife is a story of fate, hope and belief, and more than that, it's about the power of love to endure beyond the bounds of time.
This book made me realize that I was mistaken about some of the things I said about Twilight. Specifically, I said that you can't get a good book out of a love story in which very little drama or conflict occurs. Certainly not a 500-page book, anyway. It's not true. This book was more than 500 pages long, featured a love story and not that much else, and there wasn't really any specific conflict. Yes, there are bits and pieces of both Clare's and Henry's lives that don't involve each other, and yes, there's the obstacle of involuntary time travel, but, like in Twilight, that obstacle is mostly just kind of accepted, and not that big a deal of it is made most of the time. There's no major trouble between Henry and Clare because of it, no struggle between breaking it off to live a normal life with someone else or living a messed up life with Henry; it just is. And yet this book, unlike Twilight, was truly compelling all the way through. So I was wrong. Twilight didn't suck just because not enough happened. It sucked because Stephenie Meyer can't fucking write.
Anyway, now that I'm done lowering this book just by comparing it to such tripe, let's talk about it on its own merits. It was an interesting one to read, in part because while I was reading it, much of the time, I thought it was just OK. But I found myself thinking about it a lot, and when I finished, I realized that it really had worked its way into my head the way only a really good book does. It was a little confusing in the beginning, with all the bouncing around between times, and trying to remember what's happened for whom at any given time, but once you get into the groove a little, it becomes much clearer and easier to follow. Although I still had flip to the beginnings of sections occasionally to check the date and respective ages of Henry and Clare. Generally, though, you really do get sucked in.
I thought she did a very good job of dealing with the time jumping, and keeping it so that it made sense. The rules she established to avoid time paradoxes (although I think there's always a certain amount of time paradox any time you bring in time travel - but usually it's best not to think about it too much.) worked fairly well, in that what happened happened, and Henry couldn't really change anything. So it's not like there was the possibility of going to the same time repeatedly and making things different every time. Whatever had happened according to his "resting" timeline, if you will, is what happened in whatever timeline he traveled to. Which I think also helped keep things from getting too confusing.
Especially when you start to get repeats. There were a few significant events that we saw first from the perspective of the time he traveled to (usually from Clare's POV) and then from the perspective of the time he was traveling from (usually from Henry's POV, later in the book and in his "resting" timeline). That was especially well-done, I thought, in the case of his death. We saw it from Clare's end quite near the beginning of the book, but we didn't know what it was at the time. Later, Henry travels back to that time and also witnesses it, and you start to figure out that that's what happened there. And then right at the end, he goes to that time for the last time, and you know how it's going to end. As do both Henry and Clare at this point, and it's heartbreaking. It really is.
And while we're on that subject, allow me to say that I hate it when husbands die young in books. Mainly because it makes me consider the possibility of losing my husband at 43, and being widowed at 34, and that's simply not acceptable, and it makes me sad. That said, a book like this, without a real central, specific conflict to resolve can sometimes suffer, less from the lack of conflict as from the lack of good place to end the book. That's how you end up with books that don't really feel like they end; they just stop. The death of a major character does provide that endpoint. He dies, there's a little bit of aftermath and denouement, and then it ends, and you feel satisfied, like you got a real ending. So it's good for that.
In any case, great book. It'll be interesting to see what they do with the movie, but in any case, it's another one to add to the list of books I feel perfectly confident recommending to people.(less)
OK, I have lots to say about this book. It's been very interesting.
From our present-day perspective, when we look back at the American Civil War, I th...moreOK, I have lots to say about this book. It's been very interesting.
From our present-day perspective, when we look back at the American Civil War, I think we pretty much all feel that the Yankees, the North, were the ones in the right. They wanted to free the slaves and all that, and we all find that very admirable, and kind of think of the Confederates as a bunch of horrible and cruel slave-drivers. Literally. Reading this book, and getting the war more from their perspective has been very interesting.
Bear in mind, here, that I am absolutely not condoning the Southern cause or attitudes. I think the concept of owning another human being is unconscionable. I don't care how well you treat your slaves; it's not right. And the insistence that the black people are all stupid, when the reality is that they simply never had the opportunity for any kind of education, academic or practical, for anything other than their specific job, is also quite offensive. Nor was the prejudice confined to the black population. White people who for whatever reason didn't own many (or any) slaves, and had to - horror of horrors! - work their own land were treated with even more contempt than the slaves. Even by other slaves. So really, the southern attitudes? Not cool.
As a result, I couldn't really be sympathetic even to their sadness that the old ways were gone. Sure they were charming and pleasant and delightful for you, but what of the people you used in order to achieve that glorious carelessness? However, in their righteous zeal, the Yankees really destroyed a lot of people's lives. The Southern population was decimated by the war, with absolutely ridiculous numbers of the men never coming home. This left a whole lot of women and children who had never had to take care of themselves or their plantations suddenly with huge responsibilities on their shoulders. Even if their plantation somehow avoided getting burnt to the ground, and they could somehow manage to eke something out of it without either male or slave help, the Yankees came back around numerous times, wiping out any progress they had made. I'm sure they felt they were doing the right thing, and I realize that crippling the South was kind of the goal immediately after the war in order to really claim dominance, it's still pretty vicious to repeatedly destroy the lives of civilians.
And then there's all the social ramifications of freeing thousands and thousands of slaves en masse. Leaving aside the obvious economic impact on the Southern plantation owners, which we've already established that the North wouldn't really have cared about, there's the fate of the freed slaves themselves. These are people who have never had to take care of themselves when they've been sick, or gotten old, who have never had to decide for themselves how to spend their time, have never learned anything even vaguely resembling financial savvy, so they were kind of a mess. They squandered their wages and still found themselves living in poverty, and they simply didn't know how to take care of themselves. They also took their newfound freedom a bit to the head, and at times, way overstepped the bounds of decency.
Which, and here I'm extremely hesitant to say anything that could be misconstrued as support of any kind for the KKK, but if you really think about it, you can actually begin to understand how it started. I'm in no way condoning vigilante justice, or suggesting that this organization is in any way admirable, but you have to understand the situation at the time. Here's a people who are used to being treated with deference and respect by a certain group of people, and suddenly they're not only expected to treat them as equals now, but in order to reinforce that, the pendulum has swung all the way over to their side. Now it's not black men being hanged for offences against white people; it's white men being hanged for offences against black people. And the blacks people being treated extremely leniently. So when a black man, for example, rapes a man's sister, and this man knows damn well that nothing's going to be done about it, it's difficult to truly condemn his desire to get revenge. Lynching is never cool, and certainly, the murderous horde the group became, seeking out and lynching blacks for no other reason than that they were black, is unforgivable, but at the beginning, you can begin to understand, at least a little, why they felt that was their only hope of getting justice for certain things.
And then, after all that, there's the lighter, fluffier aspect of the book: the love story. Characters in romances are maddening, and if there's one thing we should all learn from romance novels, it's that there is definitely such a thing as way too much damn pride in a relationship. Seriously, it's infuriating. As one example, after Scarlett miscarries, and has a long recovery from this, she refuses to ask for Rhett, believing he doesn't want her, despite desperately wanting him; and he refuses to go to her unless she asks, despite desperately wanting to. Even silly Melanie, despite knowing (much more than they do) how much they love each other, doesn't do something useful like convey this to the two of them. And it really is downright infuriating.
And so sad when Scarlett finally, *finally* clues in to the fact that Ashley's a bit of a dolt, and that Rhett has loved her all along, and hey! she's loved him for a while too, it's too late. Finally, she's put pride aside enough to tell him, and even beg a little for him to reconsider leaving her, but he's had enough. He's put up with her madness over Ashley for long enough, and he's done waiting. The last few pages of this book really were a little heartbreaking, especially as I've kind of been there. To screw up the courage and put aside enough pride to try and win someone over who you know used to love you, only to be shot down because of your own past stupidity hurts like hell. The description of Scarlett's anguished but silent screams, and the feeling like she honestly can't breathe is painfully accurate. But I eventually moved on and am much happier than I ever would have been had things turned out differently there, so perhaps Scarlett will too. Plus, I know there's a sequel, and as Scarlett says, very few men can resist her once she decides to win them over, so maybe there's hope for her and Rhett yet. I might just have to add this sequel to my list.
Whether I do or not, though, I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to, despite some occasional wordiness that did get a little tiresome at times. It'll be interesting to see just how much of the social commentary got wiped right out of the movie...(less)
"The year is 1945 and Claire Beauchamp Randall, a former British combat nurse, is on holiday in Scotland with her husband, looking forward to becoming...more"The year is 1945 and Claire Beauchamp Randall, a former British combat nurse, is on holiday in Scotland with her husband, looking forward to becoming reacquainted after the war's long separation. Like most practical women, Claire hardly expects her curiosity to get the better of her. But an ancient stone circle near her lodgings holds an eerie fascination, and when she innocently touches a corner of one of the giant boulders, she is hurtled backward in time more than two hundred years, to 1743."
The first in a series of 7 or 8; I'm not sure what she's up to so far, but anyway. I actually read the fourth book some time ago, but am now starting at the beginning. Which was quite good. It took a while to get into the story, with the intro seeming to drag on a bit, but once Claire ends up back in 1743, things pick up quite a bit. I have to admit to being a sucker for romantic stories involving big, borderline barbaric Highlanders and their feisty little women, so this book had that going for it right off the bat. And it does a good job of conveying the absolute foreign-ness of exactly the same place, two hundred years ago.
Also kind of interesting is how the subject of rape comes up in this particular book. It was, of course, a fairly common occurrence back then, but normally to women. Claire actually manages to avoid ever getting raped, although she does come close a few times. Her Scots husband, on the other hand, gets raped in a particularly sadistic sort of way toward the end. Which is just not something you normally encounter. In a way, that almost makes it harder to read about, despite having read a later book and therefore knowing that he gets through the PTSD eventually. But yeah. Good job to an author who can make you a little sickened with her descriptions of people's vicious behaviour toward each other.
Anyway, I enjoyed the book, and will be reading the rest of the series, in amongst other things.
Edit: So, I've just been reading other people's reviews, and I find it very interesting that this book has raised so much heated controversy. I guess really popular book always do, but I guess I just didn't feel that strongly about it one way or the other, so I think it's interesting that others do.
I also find it interesting how many people were apparently so horrified and appalled at the wife-beating. I don't intend to suggest that it's acceptable now, or that it was admirable in the 1700s, but the fact remains that right or wrong, it was basically normal at that time. The husband is the head of the household, and if you don't do what he says, you get punished. That was a fact of life for many hundreds of years. It still is in many places. But I also thought it was handled pretty well in this book. Jamie does it because, as I said, that's what was done, and Claire bristles pretty hard at it, because where she was from, that was not done. Eventually, when they get to know each other well enough for her to tell him where/when she really came from, and they agree that it's not acceptable. (Convenient that she found herself married to such an enlightened/eenlightenable man, but the story wouldn't really work too well otherwise. A woman from the 20th century wouldn't likely fall in love with someone who wasn't open to some of those ideals, and if she did, that might be a pretty strong argument against this book.)
As for the sex, well, some people like sex scenes, and some don't. If you're not into them, then this probably isn't a great reading choice for you. But I'm not sure it's quite fair to say that a book sucks just because people have sex in it. Even if it is fairly graphic and frequent.(less)
The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning, along with the houses in which they were hidden.
Guy Montag was a fireman whose...moreThe system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning, along with the houses in which they were hidden.
Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires. And he enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames... never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then Guy met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think. And Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do...
I kind of don't really have much to say about this book. It was pretty good, but frankly, not stellar. There have been so many books about dystopic futures, with government censorship rampant and mindless populations just doing what they're supposed to, and while this one wasn't terrible by any means, I wouldn't count it among the really great ones, either.(less)