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 persImagine 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'It'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. ...more
To be honest, there's nothing extraordinary about this book. The story has been done before. It's a coming-of-age story written by an angsty teenage bTo be honest, there's nothing extraordinary about this book. The story has been done before. It's a coming-of-age story written by an angsty teenage boy to a nameless "friend". Already, names like Holden Caulfield and Amory Blaine should popping into your head. Yup, it has been done before.
However, this book just felt so personal to me. Charlie was thrusted into every awkward situation that a teenager from the suburbs could possibly get into. Suddenly, my career in high school as the weird, sexed up, politically active, literature geek didn't seem so far away.
If you are, or ever have been a misunderstood teenager in suburbia, you'll find these aspects of the book oh-so-relateable:
-not really being "in" with the "in" crowd, and having to look a little bit harder to find friendship and belonging -compiling mixtapes for every.single.event. in your life. (okay, so my generation did playlists, but I find mixtapes so much cooler) -first kiss, first encounter with drugs and alcohol, first sexual experience -sticking by your gay best friend, despite the taunts and the threats -the "heavier" things like the loss of a friend, sexual assault, and unwanted pregnancy
The list goes on.
I found Charlie's naivety frustrating at times, but also really endearing. Chbosky has said that Catcher In The Rye was a big inspiration in writing this book. However, unlike Holden, Charlie actually had something to complain about. ...more
I realized how completely incomprehensive my first review was, so this is a complete rewrite.
I'm the kind of person that gets into th---EDIT---
I realized how completely incomprehensive my first review was, so this is a complete rewrite.
I'm the kind of person that gets into the "spirit" of things. So for October, I decided to read three horror stories: Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde (a classic), The Strain (a complete flop for me) and Something Wicked This Way Comes. This book wasn't easy to find. I had to scour around in at least 6 bookstores in the city to find this book. When I finally had it, tucked away in the bottom of my uber-stylish, eco-friendly canvas bag, I was ecstatic. I have read so many positive reviews about this book. It came highly recommended on dozens of horror book lists, and there was just so much hype about Bradbury's evil carnival.
I actually had a mini-ceremony for reading this book: I lit one of my candles, threw two of my favourite bath products into my bathtub and just *gasps* immersed myself (in the tub, and in the book). The book starts off strong: Bradbury writes about his two main protagonists, Jim and Will. He does a good job of contrasting the two boys, setting the sinister, eerie mood for the story, and introducing us to Mr. Dark, or the Illustrated Man. The carnival sets up its huge, welcoming tents in the the town, and the boys slowly start uncovering the evils within the carnival, but at this point, the book just starts to fizzle. The book was well-written, and there were some genuinely COOL monstrosities at this carnival, such as a carousel that can make you older and younger. However, the story just failed to engage me all the way through, and at a certain point, I just stopped caring about what happened in the book. The ending was just too reminiscent of a Care bears episode (spoiler!):
"Okay Braveheart, let's destroy No-heart's evil carnival by singing, and dancing, and sending out love vibes".
End spoiler. And this is, essentially, how the book plays out.
I really enjoyed Madame Bovary. What's interesting is that I read it with a group of other women, and we all had such different opinions about the boo
I really enjoyed Madame Bovary. What's interesting is that I read it with a group of other women, and we all had such different opinions about the book.
Madame Bovary was written by Flaubert in the mid 19th century. Flaubert was well known for being a perfectionist with his writing. Apparently, when he wrote Madame Bovary, he would always be looking for "le mot juste" or "the right word". It really does show in his writing. He uses words effectively and concisely. From a single sentence you can get the feel for the banality of peasant life. From a single line of dialogue, you can already gauge the characters in the book.
Madame Bovary, in short, is about a beautiful woman trying to escape her mundane life by indulging in materialistic things, and having adulterous affairs. It is a social commentary on the bourgeois, and a satire on romantic literature.
Emma Bovary is presented as a beautiful and intelligent woman whose mind has been corrupted by reading too many romance novels. She is characterized as someone that constantly indulges her every whim. and to absolve her sins, she turns to religion, or full out devotion to her foolish husband. She lives life expecting high society and romantic escapades, it's almost hilarious how deluded she is. And yet, I find Flaubert's commentary on indulgence and romanticism as relevant today as it was in his time. Instead of Emma's romantic literature, we have "MTV cribs", reality TV, and dozens of magazines on how to attain the perfect life, perfect car, perfect body.
Flaubert also gives us a colourful set of characters. We have Charles, the foolish husband. We also have the scheming pharmacist, Homais, and his productive, intelligent wife.
I'd recommend this to everyone.Very well-written and fast paced...more
I really do owe my friend Zach an apology. He texted me after watching the BBC's most recent adaptation of Emma: "If you like Emma, then you should tI really do owe my friend Zach an apology. He texted me after watching the BBC's most recent adaptation of Emma: "If you like Emma, then you should try Vanity Fair." I kind of shrugged my shoulders and sent him an okay. My mind drifts back to the copy of the The Tin Drum which sits dog-eared, collecting dust, and yet-to-be finished on my shelf. His recommendations are usually a hit or miss, but being the bibliophile that I am, I had to go out and buy a copy.
So here's where the apology comes in because it took me three frickin' years to finally open this book. And he was right. In many ways, Vanity Fair is like Emma. Except that Vanity Fair is the bigger, badder version of Emma. Vanity Fair is Emma on steroids. It's the Madonna that Lady Gaga aspires to be. Whereas Jane Austen's satire of Regency England is evoked through demure dialogue and subtle quips, Thackeray shatters the 4th wall and goes on long, meandering, often rambling tangents about the follies of mankind. At times, he condemns his characters, and at times he sympathizes with them. He even has the gall to attack his audience-- how dare we, as readers, pass judgement on the characters in Vanity Fair when we ourselves are just as shallow, and self-serving? Although Thackeray's depiction of humankind is bleak and cynical, the tone of his narrative remains humourous and light-hearted.
Both books are either loved or hated because of their strong, domineering, female protagonists. Emma--beautiful, intelligent, and fabulously rich, passes her ennui by meddling in other people's lives. However, had she been born poor, and was armed with nothing but her beauty and her wit, I believe she would've turned out like the badass that is Becky Sharp.
We're introduced to Becky as she exits her boarding school with her classmate and frenemy, Amelia Sedley. Becky is determined to carve a niche for herself in society, while Amelia eagerly awaits to start a domesticated life with her fiance, George Osborne. Osborne's best friend is William Dobbin-- who is easily the most heroic, and sympathetic character in Vanity Fair, but spends most of the novel pining away over Amelia. Throw Becky's exploits, and Amelia's love triangle against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, and voila we're in Vanity Fair.
Being a twenty-something year-old woman with somewhat feminist sentiments,and oodles of platonic love for my gender, I couldn't resist Becky Sharp. What I love most about her character is that she had the makings to become a tragic heroine,(and trust me, I've had it up to my tits with tragic heroines) but instead of succumbing to suicide by arsenic, or train track jumping, she grabs the proverbial bull by the horns and makes the life that she wants. I may not necessarily agree with her actions--she flirts with men to advance her husband, she becomes an alleged adulteress, she's accused of murder, and she is a downright shitty mom-- but in those days especially, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. Perhaps if Tess of the d'Urbervilles was blessed with brains instead of stupid virtue, she would have met a happier end. Although Becky is perceived as an amoral bitch, she does redeem herself in the end. She's the only character in the book who can recognize the honour and integrity of the worthy Dobbin and *spoiler alert* finally unites him with Amelia.
Although I've focused my review on Thackeray's narrative and Becky, there is so much to enjoy about this book. The novel is populated with memorable characters, and Thackeray's vivid descriptions of of Waterloo would satisfy any history buff. Yes, there are inconsistencies with the who's, what's and when's (this was initially a serial after all), and yes, Thackeray goes on tangents and rambles on, but if you can make it past that, I promise you a worthwhile read. ...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 d 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.
I hate reviewing Timothy Findley books. The reason is, I'm always at a loss for words because of how emotionally straining it is to read one of his noI hate reviewing Timothy Findley books. The reason is, I'm always at a loss for words because of how emotionally straining it is to read one of his novels. I hate rereading my review of "Not Wanted on the Voyage" because I realize that my words don't do justice to his books, (and most of my review was a rant about Margaret Atwood.)
Let's not get off track. I'll try to express my feelings about this book as coherently as I can. I'm on such an emotional high from finishing the book, that I feel like I'm writing an e-mail after a glass of Chardonnay. Drunk-mailing they say.
"The Wars" takes place during the First World War. It follows the military career of a sensitive young Canadian soldier, Robert Ross. Robert Ross is thrown into the front lines, where he witnesses the atrocities of trench warfare.
I know, I know. You're probably thinking that you've seen this all before, just another piece of antiwar literature. But it's much more. Findley really takes it up to the next level; He portrays the hell that is war without making it seem over-the-top, or comical.The story is told through the perspectives of a historian, and a handful of people that knew Ross. The story can often seem fragmented because it often switches from a first, second, and third person point of view, but because each perspective has such a distinct voice, it completely works.
Although this is a book about war, and there are definitely some BADASS moments in this book, (the baddest moment involves peeing into handkerchiefs, yes you read that right) what really stands out for me is the depth of Ross's character. Here is a young man, just freshly emerged from boyhood. He wants to escape life with a dysfunctional family, so he enlists for war. The little tidbits about the Ross family in Canada had me very close to tears. Robert Ross was characterized as the type of man to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, and in the end, this is what brings him to his breaking point.
Not to say that this book was perfect. I felt at times that the war was just a backdrop to Findley's other themes: dysfunctional families, sexuality, man's relationship with nature, love, mental illness. Regardless, these are themes that he does well.
5 stars. A must read. For everybody, really. ...more
Guillermo Del Toro is such an artistic genius. Pan's Labrynth captured my imagination. The Orphanage broke my heart. The Devil's Backbone had me on thGuillermo Del Toro is such an artistic genius. Pan's Labrynth captured my imagination. The Orphanage broke my heart. The Devil's Backbone had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish...and so on, and so forth.
So maybe my expectations for this book were set unrealistically high. I was expecting something genuinely creepy with the touch of the poetic. I was expecting vivid, lush, imagery to echo the stunning visuals in Del Toro's films. What I got instead was a dragged-on, uninspired vampire novel. I felt cheated.
The book read like a B-grade vampire film. The action scenes were so over-drawn, the characters so painfully cliche. Amidst all the blood-sucking and the vampire slaying, I was never scared. I just wanted the book to be over. ...more
I just finished this book tonight. I have closed it, put it on my shelf, and most likely, it will be one of the books that I never pick up again. So iI just finished this book tonight. I have closed it, put it on my shelf, and most likely, it will be one of the books that I never pick up again. So it goes.
I didn't hate the book. Hate's a powerful word. In fact, I can even understand why some people loved this book. Vonnegut has a light humourous take on a very powerful subject. He often contrasts the heaviness of the events in this book (the bombing of Dresden, a death of a spouse, to give a few examples) to his mediocre, cowardly, nonchalant protagonist, Billy Pilgrim. I didn't even hate the gimmicky prose, even though it irked most readers off. So it goes...
But I can't help feeling that there could have been more to this book than what Vonnegut had given us. The narrator tells the reader straight off the bat what happens in the book. There aren't really any surprises--except that we learn that Billy Pilgrim is not only a veteran, but also a time traveler, so we read the book in little snippets of several different time lines. And although these snippets added to the humour in the book, I felt that it hindered the plot and character development. There was a mention about Billy's mom, an his brief encounter with the narrator of the book--but it left me wanting more.
I also thought that the plot with the alien abduction was a little overdone and boring. Okay, great job Vonnegut. You're making us question reality. Did Billy Pilgrim actually travel through time? or was this a hallucination caused by a combination of a tragic accident and his love for science fiction? Maybe it's because I don't read enough science fiction to appreciate Tralfamadore.
Having said all of that, this won't be the last Vonnegut book I'll ever read, but it just wasn't as poignant as it had been hyped up to be. ...more
I had really mixed feelings for this book. There were moments that made my heart beat in delight, and there were moments that had me depressed that II had really mixed feelings for this book. There were moments that made my heart beat in delight, and there were moments that had me depressed that I was still reading it.
What I loved about the book was how Anne Rice tackled the vampire myth. There aren't any sparkling vampires picking up teenage girls here, only predatory creatures that sleep by day and kill by night. She really does break boundaries in the Vampire novel sub-genre by featuring vampires as protagonists instead of just villains in the night.
Interview With The Vampire takes us through a journey that spans over two hundred years through the eyes of Louis. Although Louis is given the dark gift of immortality, his human soul remains in tact. The humanity left in Louis conflicts with his violent, predatory nature. He becomes plagued with self loathing and self doubt. The entirety of the novel focuses on Louis's quest to find knowledge about himself and his kind. It was really interesting to read about the world as it aged, through the eyes of an unaging, immortal being. Louis constantly talks about appreciating art and beauty. I find myself very sympathetic to a vampire that can put away his fangs, and stare at a Monet or a Gauguin for two seconds.
One of the downfalls for me was the narration style. Even though we are reading the story from Louis' perspective, there are times when he just seems so cold and detached from his tale, that it makes the narrative drag on. There were parts where I actually had to stop reading the book for a day or two just to get over the boredom I felt. There were also moments when Louis becomes so overcome with self pity that I just wanted to tell him to STFU and get over himself. The Holden Caulfield of the vampire world. But then again, who am I to judge? After all, I have no idea what it's like to be a century-old self-loathing vampire.
I would recommend this to people that love a good vampire novel.Other than that, this book can definitley be pushed back on your tbr lists. ...more