Rosemary is a young movie scarlet on vacation in the French Rivera, with her mother. It is there that she meets the handsome psychologist Dick Diver aRosemary is a young movie scarlet on vacation in the French Rivera, with her mother. It is there that she meets the handsome psychologist Dick Diver and falls madly in love with him. The only problem is Dick is married and his wife, Nicole, a sophisticated socialite is just as lovable. While this magnetic couple draw in admirers and bask in the social spotlight, things are not as perfect as they seem. Tender is the Night is an exploration into a degenerating marriage and the differences between what people project publicly verses what is really happening under the surface.
In 1932 Zelda Fitzgerald was hospitalised for schizophrenia, although there have been huge debates since as to whether she should have been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder (if it was classified back then) instead. While Zelda was being treated at the Phipps Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, she had a burst of creativity. Over six weeks she wrote her only novel Save Me the Waltz which was published the same year. The novel was semi-autobiographical and when F. Scott Fitzgerald read it he was furious that she shared so much of their personal life within the book. Even though Scott shares a lot of their lives in his own novels, the anger may have to do with the fact he planned to use the material for his next novel Tender is the Night. It is hard to tell how much of Scott’s novel is based on real life and how much is just written in anger towards his wife, I will have to read Save Me the Waltz to make up my own mind.
While Nicole Diver is heavily based on Zelda Fitzgerald, it is up to the reader to make up their mind about Dick and if F. Scott Fitzgerald based this character on himself. I personally think there is a lot of Scott in this character and he wants to portray himself as the handsome, intelligent husband that is devoted to his wife, looking after her through her mental illness. However this is where it gets a bit passive aggressive; Tender is the Night chronicles the downward spiral of Dick Diver’s life. As the novel progresses you begin to see just how this lifestyle and his marriage effects Dick to the point where he is nothing but a shell of his former self.
There are some interesting themes worth exploring within this novel; for me I was mostly interested in the ideas of appearance and reading about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s thoughts about being married. There is such beauty within the writing, but then there is so much sadness to be found as well. I found this to be a heart-breaking novel and the fact that this is based so much on his own marriage just makes things worse. I’m planning to read Save Me the Waltz very soon, just so I can compare the two novels.
At birth Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was tossed aside into a pile of fish guts in the slums of eighteenth-century Paris. His mother believed he would beAt birth Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was tossed aside into a pile of fish guts in the slums of eighteenth-century Paris. His mother believed he would be a still born, just like all the others and quickly got rid of him to continue working. From birth Jean-Baptiste was a little different; born without a scent but grows into a man with an absolute sense of smell. He quickly found work as a perfumer, learning the trade. He wanted to capture the scents of the world, but more importantly the one that intoxicated him; the scent of a beautiful young virgin woman.
When first published in German in 1985, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Das Parfum: Die Geschichte eines Mörders) was a literary sensation for author Patrick Süskind. Two years later it was translated into English by John E. Woods, who went on to win the PEN Translation Prize for his work with this book. The original cover (which sadly isn’t used now) was from the painting Nymphe et satyre by Antoine Watteau 1715-16, which in English translates to Nymphs and Satyr. The novel was the inspiration for Nirvana’s Scentless Apprentice, Rammstein’s Du riechst so gut, Red Head Girl by Air and so on.
The point I am trying to make is that this book was a huge success that went on to inspire many. This is actually a re-read for me and I first read this almost five years ago and found myself being completely captivated but the book. When I first reviewed the novel, I said that “I love an anti-hero and Jean-Baptiste Grenouille didn’t disappoint as the cold hearted, scent obsessed protagonist.” Which is true, but this time I wanted to look at the novel a little more in-depth.
Firstly, I found it interesting the way women where portrayed within this book. At birth and childhood, women are represented as carers but his mother, wet-nurses and the nuns all reject Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. Then when he grew into a man, the role of the woman changed from carer to the object of desire. However, for Jean-Baptiste, the idea of acceptance by a woman remained strong throughout his life, but he remained alone, which made him feel undesirable.
I had been thinking about Perfume since first reading the novel and I came to the conclusion that scent worked as a metaphor for lust in this book. A lust that Jean-Baptiste had towards young virgins; which is so typical and boring but I was interested in the way Süskind used smell to explore this idea of lust. While this still rung true for me the second time around, I also began to look at smell as a representation for class; the higher the social standing the better you smell.
Both ideas seem to come together at the end, when Jean-Baptiste releases the fragrance everyone smells the same; become equals. When it comes to theme of lust, everyone is over come with desire and the scent makes everyone attracted to each other. No one has to feel the way Jean-Baptiste felt, rejected from birth. However this scene left me curious, if everyone becomes desirable and equal; why is everyone straight in this scene. There is no mention of any same sex coupling and I felt a little perplexed by this; it is not like everyone is straight or no mention that the scent only attracts you to the opposite sex.
It is an interesting experience re-reading a book, I don’t often do it but I am starting to see the appeal. First time around, I really focused on the plot and when I picked up Perfume again all that came flooding back which allowed me to explore themes and ideas within the book. I was able to take what I thought previously and dive deeper into the novel which I found so much more rewarding. I think I have converted myself into a re-reader; I have already started reading The Master and Margarita again.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet tells the story of the Dutch East India Company’s trading post off of Nagasaki in 1977. Japan has been cut off fThe Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet tells the story of the Dutch East India Company’s trading post off of Nagasaki in 1977. Japan has been cut off from the rest of the world and the only outside influence was a small man-made island known as Dejima. Originally built by Portuguese traders, this island was walled off and used by the Dutch as a trading post from 1641 until 1853. This novel follows the story of Jacob de Zoet, a young clerk who has been sent to Dejima to uncover any evidence of corruption form the previous Chief Resident of this trading post.
My first attempt with David Mitchell was Cloud Atlas which probably was a terrible starting point; I had a lot of problems with the fragmented storyline. I know that Cloud Atlas was an experimental piece of post-modern fiction but for me it felt like a writing exercise to see what genres he was able to write in. With a little push, I was convinced to try The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which is a straight forward historical fiction novel that would allow me to discover Mitchell as a writer but try anything experimental again. I think if I read this book first, I would have gained an appreciation for this author and been more willing to see what he can do when he played around with genres.
This novel can be broken into two parts. The first half of the book establishes the world; we learn about the history of the Dutch East India Company, Japan and the island of Dejima. Mitchell spends a lot of time building characters and painting beautiful scenery. This is a nice slow-paced section that just explores the history and the culture clash between Japan and the Dutch; it also allows the reader to meet some of the characters. Then the book changes tone completely and everything becomes fast paced and thrilling which I won’t get into as this is where the bulk of the plot happens and I am not willing to give spoilers.
While this book does deal with the culture clash, it also looks at love and the human condition. Jacob de Zoet falls in love with a Japanese midwife, Orito and the plot does focuses a lot around this affection. Orito was a great heroine in this book. She pushes to learn how to be a midwife, in a time and place where the term midwife would have been unheard of. She is this strong willed and intelligent woman that just stole the show for me. I did struggle a little with Jacob de Zoet, he was this incorruptible man working on a trading post full of corruption. He just felt so good and kind, almost to the point of being fake. His prudishness and piety sometimes rubbed me the wrong way; as most people know. I do like characters that are deeply flawed so Jacob came across as too perfect. Having said that, I think this (somewhat) perfect protagonist was utilised well within the novel and helped Mitchell explore the themes around the human condition.
One thing I was curious about that I felt wasn’t explored enough was the language barrier between the Japanese and the Dutch. There was a great deal of exploration with the differences in cultures and how they clashed but when it came to language it was brushed over. There is so much there that was mentioned that I wanted more information about, for example when it came to the translators. The translators had the power to translate Japanese to Dutch and the opportunities for corruption was mentioned briefly and I would have loved to see these ideas explored more.
David Mitchell seems to have a keen interest in Japanese culture and the human condition, I felt like The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet was able to explore these topics far better than I think Cloud Atlas did. I am not trying to rip apart Cloud Atlas (I may re-read it one day), I just felt the emotions and character development were missing from that novel. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet has given me the confidence to try more books by David Mitchell and I am not sure what I will look at next but I am curious. If anyone wants to recommend me another Mitchell book, maybe something with a flawed character, please let me know.
Nina and Rose Dall have always dreamed of being rock stars. Influenced by her aunty Alannah Dall, a pop sensation in the 1980’s, Nina along with her cNina and Rose Dall have always dreamed of being rock stars. Influenced by her aunty Alannah Dall, a pop sensation in the 1980’s, Nina along with her cousin started a punk band known as The Bain-Maries until being signed and renamed The Dolls. Cherry Bomb tells the story of The Dolls rise to fame and the wild ride they faced while navigating the Australian music scene.
Cherry Bomb is told much like a memoir, where Nina Dall is recounting the career of The Dolls. This allowed Jenny Valentish the ability to write a coming of age story that mixes a “rise to fame” journey with a social commentary of the music industry. Before writing her debut novel, Valenstish worked as a music publicist and journalist with her time spent as a columnist for NME and an editor for Triple J’s magazine Jmag. This knowledge on the music industry allowed her to write a social commentary that focuses on the way woman are treated within the industry.
I picked up this book thinking it was a contemporary and fun read, which it mainly was; I was pleasantly surprised to find the social criticism. Cherry Bomb has shades of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne and High Fidelity by Nick Hornby throughout the novel but for the most part it felt fresh. I was particularly fascinated by the playlist in the back on the book and would love to see a Spotify (Jenny Valentish does have a Cherry Bomb playlist, but it is different to The Doll’s playlist in the back of the book) playlist just so I can list to all those songs.
While this might be something different from what I normally read, I do try to explore all kinds of literature so hopefully people aren’t too surprised to see me read this one. However I will mention that I picked up this novel because the blurbs for the book were all done by Australian musicians, instead of other authors and I thought that was a unique concept and made me feel that Jenny Valentish may have captured the music industry correctly. Cherry Bomb is an entertaining read full of sex, drugs and rock and roll and I look forward to reading Valentish’s next novel.
Ivan Ilych’s life revolved around his career; as a high court judge he takes his job very seriously. However after he falls off a ladder, he soon discIvan Ilych’s life revolved around his career; as a high court judge he takes his job very seriously. However after he falls off a ladder, he soon discovers that he is going to die. The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a novella that deals with the meaning of life in the face of death. A masterpiece for Leo Tolstoy written after his religious conversion in the late 1870s.
Something that was fascinating about The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the drastic change in writing style when comparing it to Anna Karenina and War and Peace. I am not just referring to the length, but that does play a big part. I have read somewhere that Tolstoy intentionally made Anna Karenina and War and Peace so long because he wanted to replicate life and the journey the characters face. Allowing the reader to experience every decision and moral dilemma that the character is facing, exploring the growth or evolution of each and every person within the novels.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich takes a more focused approach, dealing with major questions revolving around the meaning of life, death and spirituality. Leo Tolstoy had a major conversion in the late 1870s and the questions in this novel were the questions he was asking himself. Whether or not Ivan Ilyich found the answers he was looking for is up to the reader but it is believed that Leo Tolstoy was still looking for the same answers well after finishing this novella.
There is a lot of pain and torment that appears in this book, which reflects the authors search for answers and that is what really stood out for me. Not only was I reading a spiritual/existential struggle of the protagonist but Tolstoy’s own feeling really came out within the pages. This is what makes this a masterpiece that explores the tortured artist in great detail. I don’t want to say much more, this is the type of book people have to read and make their own mind up about the themes presented, but it is worth reading.
When it comes to Christmas books, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is probably the first book that comes to mind. Published in 1843, this novellaWhen it comes to Christmas books, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is probably the first book that comes to mind. Published in 1843, this novella was an instant success and has been a beloved classic since then. I am not going to go into a plot summary because I believe most people know the story but if you don’t, go watch A Muppet’s Christmas Carol. Told in five staves (similar to stanzas or verses) this book has been adapted so many times that A Christmas Carol has just become a part of the Christmas period.
While compassion, forgiveness and getting into the Christmas spirit is the major theme of this novella, one thing that really stuck with me is Dickens’ ideas of isolation and loneliness. While it is true that Ebenezer Scrooge never indicates he is feeling alone, since the death of Jacob Marley seven years earlier there is a sense that he has falling in despair. Marley died on Christmas Eve and appeared to be Scrooge’s only companion, which leads to a disdain for the holiday period.
Charles Dickens wanted to emphasise the importance of being with friends and family, especially during Christmas. However I got the sense that he may have treated the idea of isolation poorly. Sure, Scrooge was a grumpy old man who was tight with his money but I got no real indication that he was unhappy to be alone. Scrooge could have been an introvert and enjoyed the quiet solitude; is that really such a bad thing?
Then all of a sudden Scrooge is cured from his rationality and becomes an extravert. This is a little strange, Scrooge’s emotional and psychological makeup might not be pleasant or agreeable to the popular worldview but they were his own thoughts. Scrooge was a financial supporter of The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 and didn’t want to give money to a charity that worked against his political ideology.
I am not bagging out A Christmas Carol, I do enjoy it but as I was re-reading this novella I kept wondering what this story is saying if we take out the element of Christmas. Basically this is the story of curing someone of his or her personality. I had a lot of fun looking at this book from another point of view, it just gave me a lot more to think about. A Christmas Carol is a nice quick story about the importance of being with your friends and family during this holiday period. Next year I might try Truman Capote’s collection of stories about Christmas.
Jake Whyte lives on an old farm on a small British island, tucked away from the world with her disobedient collie named Dog. However when her flock ofJake Whyte lives on an old farm on a small British island, tucked away from the world with her disobedient collie named Dog. However when her flock of sheep start dying from mysterious and horrific circumstances, Jake has to engage with the rest of the island in order to find out what is happening. All the Birds, Singing is about running and hiding from the past and dealing with isolation and loneliness.
The novel is told in alternating perspectives from the protagonist. One follows everything that happens after finding one of her sheep dead from mysterious circumstances. The other works backwards from that point and explores Jake’s past and why she is running away from it. It is a unique way to tell the story but it also serves as a metaphor for the way Jack is trying to distance herself from her past. However, while reading the novel, she also realise how much the past effects and stays with her, no matter how hard she tries to escape it.
It feels like Evie Wyld has an interest in the outsider and exploring a disconnection from a place/society. There is a struggle between Jake’s need to make a connection with her need to isolate herself from the world; this is what really captivated me about this book. Wyld was born in Australia and now lives in England and I am curious if this theme is something she has struggled with herself. I have heard her first novel After the Fire, A Still Small Voice deals with similar themes but I don’t think I will know for sure until her planned graphic memoir is released later this year.
All the Birds, Singing is a beautifully lyrical and atmospheric novel that deals with some pretty heavy themes. I put this novel off for so long, mainly because it won the Miles Franklin literary award and it was getting far too much attention. However it was picked for my book club in the middle of 2014 but because I was in America while this was happening I missed the chance to read and discuss the novel. I finally decided to pick up the book and I was blown away.