No, no. By no means do I worship the devil-- I don't sacrifice chickens on my spare time, nor do I run ar...moreI've always had a fascination with the Devil.
No, no. By no means do I worship the devil-- I don't sacrifice chickens on my spare time, nor do I run around naked in pastures to howl at the moonlight. However, I was raised with a strict Catholic upbringing by a very superstitious Grandmother. So at a young age, I had a very black and white concept of good vs evil, and heaven and hell. Movies like The Omen (Gregory Peck version, if you please), and The Exorcist use to scare the living daylights out of me.
As I grew up, my Grandmother's version of the Devil started to melt away, and I developed a fond appreciation for different interpretations of "Lucifer", "Satan", "Beelzebub", whatever you'd like to call him. I've come across some interesting portrayals of the Devil, but Bulgakov really takes the cake.
In "The Master and Margarita", the black magician Woland is Satan incarnate. He comes to pay a vist in Stalanist Moscow with a very intriguing posse which includes a talking, gun-slinging, vodka-loving cat, Bohemoth. If there ever was the perfect time and place for Satan to vist the world, it would be Stalanist Moscow; citizens are petrified of the Police, the art world is censored and controlled by the government, and, as portrayed in the novel, people are willing to oust each other to the police if it meant some sort of personal gain. The Devil uses this to his advantage and wreaks havoc in Moscow by exposing the follies of mankind.Yet, I can't really see the Devil as "the bad guy" in this book. He's merely just doing his job-- punishing the wicked, and rewarding the good.
"The Good" in this book are of course the title characters-- The Master (a nameless writer in an asylum, whose book about Pontious Pilate is interwoven with the plot) and Margarita, his beautiful, devoted lover. Over the course of the book, I've really come to love both of these characters. Bulgakov is great at manipulating feelings. Even though there aren't any erotic scenes in the book, you feel the sexual passion between the couple. You feel the despair they when they're separated from each other. You feel pathos for the Master when he suffers a mental breakdown, and you squeal in delight as Margarita races naked through the sky. I couldn't help but feel a sense of elation when the two are rewarded in the end.
The Master and Margarita is one of the most profound, and entertaining books I have ever read. It celebrates sensuality, yet it's critical against instant gratification. It deals with good vs. evil, and the gray area in between. there's so much allusion to so many great works of art, that I can only look forward to rereading this book only after I can fully understand all of these allusions. And in the midst of this depth, Bulgakov still manages to throw in the most imaginative twists to his story: Satan's ball for sinners, a talking cat, a flying pig, and naked women flying through the air.
It's a lengthy, but quick read, and I recommend it to everybody!(less)
Imagine living in a hierarchal society. Now imagine that in this society, you are completely immobile; no matter what you do, no matter what your pers...moreImagine living in a hierarchal society. Now imagine that in this society, you are completely immobile; no matter what you do, no matter what your personal or profession merits are, you are stuck in your place. In this society, the top dogs, the head honchos are free to do whatever the hell they want, while the little guys on the bottom have to sweep away their own footsteps so as not to pollute the presence of the higher-ups. This is the caste-based society that Rohinton Mistry so successfully portrays in "A Fine Balance".
Mistry brings us into the lives of four dazzling characters. There's Dina Dalal who struggles to make ends meet. Renting a room in her flat is the young, sheltered, Manek Kohla who is forced out into the city by his parents. Lastly, there are the two tragic tailors; Ishvar, and his nephew Omprakash. Although each character comes from a different walk of life, their paths unexpectedly intwertwine. Mistry writes about the sense of friendship and family that they find in each other.
If the words "friendship" and "family" have induced some kind of gag reflex in you, I assure you this is not one of those books. A Fine Balance may very well be one of the most depressing books you'll ever read in your life. Mistry writes about disturbing themes like caste violence, political corruption, and death. If there's ever a time you feel down because something going on in your life, read a little bit about Om and Ishvar. I promise you, your life in comparison will seem like an episode of Carebears, or Strawberry Shortcake.
However, with all the tragedy and sadness that occurs throughout this novel, there is always a little glimmer of hope. Each character shows resilience in the face of adversity. Although Mistry gives us a bleak portrayal of the human condition, I can't help but feel awe towards the strength of his characters.
It's one of my greatest frustrations that Canadian Literature has become almost synonymous with the name "Margaret Atwood." Every reading list that I'...moreIt's one of my greatest frustrations that Canadian Literature has become almost synonymous with the name "Margaret Atwood." Every reading list that I've ever seen about Canadian Lit has been dominated by Atwood: "The Handmaid's Tale", "Alias Grace", "Oryx and Crake", etc. It's not that there's anything wrong with enjoying Atwood, (although I can't name many people that do), it's just that her work offers a very limited scope on what Canadian literature is all about.
What about Aboriginal authors like Thomas King? Or Mordecai Richler, who writes about growing up Jewish in Montreal? We have best-selling authors like Michael Ondaatje, and then there's my all-time favourite, where-have-you-been-all-my-life Timothy Findley. (End Margaret Atwood rant).
Not Wanted on the Voyage is a retelling of Noah's Ark. Except calling it a retelling wouldn't be fair to the author. Findley takes the story about Noah's Ark that was spoon-fed to us when we were kids and he completely reinvents it.
In the beginning, we are introduced to Yaweh (a.k.a. God). However, in Findley's version, he isn't the almighty powerful God portrayed in the Bible. Instead, he is tired, lonely, and depressed about his relationship with mankind. So he asks his devoted follower, Noah Noyes, to build an ark. At the heart of the novel, we have our two protagonists: kind-hearted, compassionate, Mrs. Noah Noyes, and Mottyl, her blind cat. The name of the book refers to Mottyl, who becomes a stowaway on the ship. Most of the story is told through her perspective. The ark is boarded by Noah and his family, and the animals enter the ark in pairs. From here, the shit show begins.
There's something very bizarre and beautiful about this book, even by Findley's standards. Findley takes the biblical world of Noah and mixes it in with fantasy. In this world, animals can talk, and unicorns are no bigger than dogs. In this world, a man's skin is marinated until it turns blue, and Lucifer is a cross-dressing angel. Aside from the whimsical aspects of this book, there's also a really dark, sombre side.
Noah is depicted as a sadistic, power-hungry man. He is unwavering in his faith in Yaweh, but obsessed with his quest for knowledge. Usually, religion and science are pitted against each other. In this case, Noah commits atrocities in because of them. Findley writes about men's destructive tendencies in pursuit of religion, power, science, etc. Noah dehumanizes his shipmates, and you can see how later on in the novel, some of the humans digress into animalistic habits. There is also an environmentalist message that highlights men’s relationship with animals, and how humans are always exploiting their resources.
Not Wanted on the Voyage is not for the faint of heart. There are several scenes in the novel that are really disturbing. But, if you want a good thought- provoking novel, or even just a good adventure, this book makes a very good, very hard-to-put-down kind of read. (less)
Okay, so I've read about a billion other reviews about Jane Eyre. I think of these billion, about half of them turn into comparive essays about Charlo...moreOkay, so I've read about a billion other reviews about Jane Eyre. I think of these billion, about half of them turn into comparive essays about Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen: who the better author is,what type of tea they drink, and why Lizzie Bennet can totally kick Jane Eyre's ass (or vise versa). Why can't Team Austen and Team Bronte get along? In my mind, both of these ladies are great authors. Both of them write great characters, great plots, and really mean social commentaries. Of course, both of them offer something a little different. Reading Jane Austen is like sipping a fruity martini cocktail--sweet, refreshing, and no matter how bitter things get, you always hit a nice juicy cherry at the bottom. Bronte, on the contrary, takes a darker, heavier approach-- like a shot of espresso on a rainy day. I also have to add that Mr. Rochester and Mr. Darcy are literary hunks. I'd let the two of them tag-team me any day. Jus' sayin.
For the people who haven't read Jane Eyre, without giving away too much of the plot, here is the low down. The heroine is Jane, a woman who survives a very rough childhood. She spent her childhood living with her miserable Aunt Reed and three very spoiled cousins. She is eventually sent away to boarding school where she is forced to overcome more obstacles. She eventually accepts a post as governess and captures the heart of Mr. Rochester-- an eccentric rich guy with a dark secret locked up in his attic.
I remember taking women's studies classes in college. When we did the unit on feminist writing, I remember reading that Jane Eyre was one of the earliest examples of a feminist hero (Lizzie Bennet was also one of them by the way.) When I had taken this course, I had memorized Pride and Prejudice front to cover, but I had never read Jane Eyre. I completely know what the buzz is all about.
Jane Eyre is plain. She is poor. But she is also intelligent. She has a strong sense of self. People that have criticized Jane's character have called her a "doormat" or a "prude". I don't think she's a doormat at all. I think that she is so tied down by her sense of duty as teacher, and then later as a governess, that she restrains a lot of what she has to say. And yet, since the book is written through her perspective, we know how intricate and deep Jane's thoughts are. There's always an inward battle between what she wants, and what she has to do. This plays such a significant role later on in the novel when she has to choose between the man she loves and her own personal convictions. If sticking to her guns is what defines Jane as a prude, then I applaud her for being one.
Mr. Rochester is also very plain. He's even been described as ugly. Bronte does such a great job with establishing Mr. Rochester's character-- through his speech, through his little mannerisms-- that soon after he's introduced, there's already a sense of intimacy with his character. If passionate declarations of love and wild kisses are your thing, then Mr. Rochester is the bachelor for you. There are several parts in the book that just gave me chills because of the chemistry between Edward Rochester and Jane. The intense passion between Edward and Jane puts shame to any of our modern romance novels-- and not a corset was ripped, or a skirt hem raised.
5 stars. This is one I wil reread over and over again. Just like Pride and Prejudice.
I was actually pretty skeptical going into this book. I've heard so many people compare this to Jane Eyreand I didn't believe that anyone could ever d...more I was actually pretty skeptical going into this book. I've heard so many people compare this to Jane Eyreand I didn't believe that anyone could ever do justice to it.I read past the famous opening line:
Last Night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
I was hooked.
I admire du Maurier. She had the balls to take elements from such an iconic piece of literature--gothic mansion, young bride, Byronic hero,-- and she makes it her own. Let's start with our unnamed narrator, the second Mrs.Max de Winter; not unlike my beloved Jane, Mrs. de Winter is young and poor. She marries an older, wealthier man. That's where the similarity stops. Where as Jane's intelligence and vivacity is constrained by her sense of duty, Mrs. de Winter is naive and insecure. She takes on the role as the Mistress of Manderley, and becomes dependent on others because of her insecurities. And yet, du Maurier is such a great writer that we start to care about this meek character. Not only that, but we start to understand her fears.
Du Maurier is also the master at setting the tone of the novel.Every little detail in the book, from the placement of the furniture in Manderley, to the namelessness of our main heroine, contribute to the mood of the novel. Although the novel takes place after Rebecca's death, and there aren't any ghosts (in the Charles Dickens sense, at least), Rebecca's presence is the strongest in the book.
There's an ongoing battle between Jane Austen fans about which novel is her greatest work. While my heart will always belong to Mr. Darcy and Liza Ben...moreThere's an ongoing battle between Jane Austen fans about which novel is her greatest work. While my heart will always belong to Mr. Darcy and Liza Bennet, and Pride and Prejudice will always be my favourite book, I think that Persuasion is Jane Austen at her best. The book encompasses everything we love about Austen: witty dialogue, breath-taking romance, and a satiric glimpse of Georgian society. However, this novel has more depth and maturity than any of Austen's previous work.
At the centre of the story is the beautiful romance between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. Although eight years earlier they were passionately in love, Anne rejects Wentworth because she is persuaded by a close friend that she could make a better match. She never does. At the ripe age of 27, nearing the age of spinsterhood, Captain Wentworth re-enters her life. Even though Wntworth is courting another woman, Anne hopes that their love might be rekindled.
Persuasion, perhaps more than Austen's other novels, is bubbling to the brim with social commentary. Anne's family is shallow and materialistic. I remember laughing out loud at one point when her father complains about how many unattractive women there are in his neighborhood.
Anne is what every young woman should aspire to be: she's kind-hearted, strong, intelligent, and fair. It's very easy to sympathize and fall in love with this character as she reflects upon and learns from her mistakes. She is often overlooked by her own ridiculous family because she doesn't share their values of wealth and beauty, and she has come to accept the limitations of being an unwed woman. Her romance with Wentworth was the summer of her life, and this decline, this sense of longing and regret, is her autumn.
However, as in all of Austen's novels, the good are rewarded, and the bad are (mildly) punished. Captain Wentworth writes the most romantic letter you'll ever read. I'm actually contemplating getting a line from the letter tattooed on my body:
I saw the movie adaptation of Everything Is Illuminated a few years back. I was unaware it had ever been a book. The movie was beautifully done-- clev...moreI saw the movie adaptation of Everything Is Illuminated a few years back. I was unaware it had ever been a book. The movie was beautifully done-- clever humour, endearing characters, and BEAUTIFUL cinematography. There's a particular scene that refuses to escape my mind: the characters are walking in a field covered in fully bloomed sunflowers towards an old,rundown, cottage. After I'm done gushing about the movie, you can just imagine how excited I was when I found this book listed in "1001 Books to Read Before You Die."
As enjoyable as the film was to watch, it just didn't do justice to the book. The movie focuses on one plotline, which is the Jonathan's search for Augustine, a woman who may or may not have saved his grandfather during the war.
The book is told in three parts:
1) Alex's letters to Jonathan-- this is where he talks to Alex about his life after the search, and writes about his aspirations to become a writer
2) Alex's narration-- Alex's retelling of the journey that he, Jonathan, and his Grandfather had embarked
3) Jonathan's narration-- he writes about the magical history of his ancestor's shtetl in Trachinbrod
Foer's critics have called him gimmicky and pretentious. Okay, he does use somewhat unconventional writing devices-- such as writing really long run on sentences that go on and on and on sometimes he uses charts and excerpts from books within books sometimes the book might get confusing for some readers because it is told in three different sections FOER ALSO USES ALL CAPITALS TO EXPRESS REALLY STRONG EMOTIONS-- but this isn't anything new. Anyone who's ever been exposed to modern literature has also been exposed to unique, more expirmental writing. If The language is straightforward, and easy to read. Foer does name "the hero" after himself-- but instead of presenting Jonathan as a knight in shining armour, he's this clueless, bumbling, sometimes condescending, vegetarian tourist lost in Ukraine.
My favourite character is Alex. Alex is just-- hilarious. When you get into the first half of the book, it will be hard to restrain yourself from laughing out loud. He is writing in English with a very thick accent. He tries to improve his writing by replacing every third word with the longest synonym that he can find in the thesaurus. This often leads the reader into trying to decipher what Alex is trying to say. Alex is first portrayed as a materialistic character, who longs to live the American Dream. Later on in the novel, we find out the real depth that the character has.Jonathan's narratives are also interesting to read. We learn about the magical lives led by his ancestors. The fusion of magic into everyday life makes his narrative very reminiscent to Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
I think that the book went a little down hill for me in its second half. Alex becomes more philosophical and contemplative. There is almost a complete absence of his humour,which took away some of the novel's charm. It's also interesting to see how Alex's writing skills start to surpass Jonathan's near the end of the novel.
There's very little in life that gives me more pleasure than reading Jane Austen. Emma is no exception to this rule. In this story, we're taken to the...moreThere's very little in life that gives me more pleasure than reading Jane Austen. Emma is no exception to this rule. In this story, we're taken to the quaint little countryside of Highbury where our title character resides with her father. Being well-settled in life, Emma isn't dependent on any man's fortune for her future well-being. So instead, she plays Cupid to the people around her. Her attempts at matchmaking, although well-meaning, have disastrous, but hilarious results. This spoiled, yet kind-hearted matchmaker make for one of Austen's most memorable characters.
When I talk to other people about this book, I think that the main concensus among them is, " I loved this book, but I hated Emma", or "God, I couldn't even finish this book because Emma was so annoying". Pffft. Okay, so she's a little bit spoiled, maybe she was somewhat manipulative, and okay, yeah, she did tend to think a little too highly of herself. But, to put things in perspective, Emma was quite ahead of her time. She was clever, well-educated, and completely independent of marriage. She had so many reources, but she didn't know how to employ them, and what's worse is that she lived in such a constrictive society; Her father was an invalid, bordering on senility, her best friend had just been married off, and she was constantly in the company of country bumpkins and high society snobs. Emma Woodhouse just simply worked with what she had. And, unlike another famous literary Emma, she didn't have to resort to prostitution or arsenic to escape the banalities of her life. Furthermore, I think what's most important is that the Emma that we read about at the end of the book isn't the same woman we started off with in the beginning. She comes to the realization of her flaws, and seeks out to improve herself. See, isn't that what growing up is all about?
This is the fifth Austen book that I've read, and out of all of them, it contains the most social commentary. When you think about the time period that Jane was writing in, you realize, "Wow, that was a really shitty time to be alive." There were wars being fought overseas, slavery, colonialization, and oodles and oodles of poverty. But you never really get a sense of that beyond the parlour doors of Pemberley or Longbourne. Now, I'm not saying that this book was a testament to the cruelty of mankind, but there is definitely more exposure to the world outside of Georgian high-society. We were given a glimpse of poverty in the form of Miss Bates and her mother. We see the disdain that the rich have for anyone of lower-class or illegitimate birth in Harriet Smith, and through Miss Fairfax, we also see Austen's take on slavery and the governess trade. Of course, some of these little tidbits are lost on Emma and Harriet's silliness, but pay attention, this book just screams SOCIAL COMMENTARY.
5 big, booming, stars.
And, on a side note, if Austen were still alive today, I would beg her to release a spin-off book bout Jane Fairfax... jus' sayin!(less)
Oh Mr. Rushdie! You have such a way with words! It's no wonder beautiful women flock to your feet!
okay Regine, let's be serious now
Haroun and the S...moreOh Mr. Rushdie! You have such a way with words! It's no wonder beautiful women flock to your feet!
okay Regine, let's be serious now
Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a book that Rushdie wrote for his estranged son after the fatwa. Rushdie gives us his own version of Wonderland, Kahani. He writes about a world where stories are made, and a boy trying to rescue his father.
Rushdie gives us a book that is imaginative, enchanting, and heartfelt. Usually when a "great author" tries to write a children's novel, they sacrifice their style, and dumb themselves down so that children can appreciate the book. Not so with Rushdie. Although his style is simplified, you still get the taste of Rushdie. The imagery is still lush, and the prose pleasantly purple.
I was so captivated by the characters, especially Rashid and Haroun. I have such a close relationship with my father. Like Haroun, many of my fondest childhood memories are of my father's stories, and his jokes. Reading this book was actually quite an emotional experience for me. I can't imagine how emotional this must have been for Rushdie, who had to write the book when he was in hiding.
If you've never read Rushdie, this would be a good introduction to his work. If you've already read him, put this on your tbr list. (less)
Shalimar the Clown has been on my shelf collecting dust. While I do admit to having quite the crush on Rushdie, I get flashbacks from the utter disap...more Shalimar the Clown has been on my shelf collecting dust. While I do admit to having quite the crush on Rushdie, I get flashbacks from the utter disappointment I felt when I read The Satanic Verses. My friend, also a Rushdie aficionado, finally convinced me to pick it up and blow the dust off the covers. My love affair with Rushdie has been rekindled.
Rushdie is at full power in Shalimar. He combines his lush prose and diverse characters with political allegory and cultural savvy. Although it's easily one of Rushdie's most comprehensive novels, it certainly isn't a light read-- he dedicates much of the novel to theorizing about different conflicts. He brings us from WWII Germany to ongoing conflicts in Kashmir and the Philippines. But don't let that scare you from reading it. At it's core, it's a beautiful story about love and vengeance.
The story is told through the eyes of four main characters; Shalimar, a tightrope walker from Kashmir; Max Ophuls; his illegitimate daughter, India; and Boonyi, the woman whose story unites them all. Even more astounding than the characters is the setting itself. Rushdie takes us to a beautiful, Macondo-esque village in rural Kashmir. The religious tolerance in this village allows for the Hindu/Muslim marriage of Shalimar and Boonyi. We read about Pachigam in all its glory, and its slow destruction into an Asian dystopia. Rushdie is all about the allegory, and once again (quite brilliantly) mirrors the destruction of Kashmir with Shalimar's own descent into violence.
Of course, Rushdie can't write a book without stirring some controversy.. Many critics have accused Rushdie of being sympathetic towards terrorists. I disagree. He merely gives us a different perspective of the world. He portrays each character with such intimate detail, but remains ambivalent throughout the book. He leaves it to us to judge each character.
5 stars. Great. Amazing. Brilliant. But it isn't for everybody. (less)