Kafka on the Shore tells the story of a fifteen year old book named Kafka who runs away from home to find his mother and sister. Although the alternatKafka on the Shore tells the story of a fifteen year old book named Kafka who runs away from home to find his mother and sister. Although the alternate chapters tell the story of Nakata; a strange old man who has the ability to talk to cats. Like many of Haruki Murakami’s books, Kafka on the Shore blends pop culture with magical realism in order to explore the psyche of the characters involved.
It is often hard to try and give an overview of a Murakami book because they tend to come out weird and I do not want to give the impression that his novels are not worth attempting. For Kafka on the Shore, the magical realism allows the reader to explore the psychological mind of fifteen year old Kafka Tamune. Not only is Kakfa a young man discovering his sexuality, Sigmund Freud would probably suggest that he also has an Oedipus complex and has developed an unhealthy obsession with his mother and sister.
According to Freud, an Oedipus complex stems from the unconscious mind and normally caused by the repression of a mother (or father) figure. Freudian psychoanalysis theory suggests that this is a key psychological experience needed for normal sexual development. However if it is unsuccessful at resolving it may lead to neurosis, paedophilia, or homosexuality. Without going into the problematic thinking of Sigmund Freud, this does make for an interesting analysis of Kafka’s journey throughout the book, especially with his interactions between Sakura and Miss Saeki.
If we continue looking at this novel through the lens of psychoanalysis theory, we might even get some interesting insights into Nakata. I always thought the loss of mental faculties was due to the psychological trauma, he experienced as a young boy. He was one of sixteen schoolchildren picking mushrooms in a field trip towards the end of World War II, when they were all rendered unconscious from a mysterious light in the sky. However it has also been suggested that maybe Kafka and Nakata are two different parts of the same person.
Every time I read a Haruki Murakami, I am reminded of his brilliance (with the exception of 1Q84), and I want to explore more of his works. I am also reminded that I need to learn a whole lot more about psychoanalytical theories, and how much it would help with books like Kafka on the Shore. For me this was a bildungsroman book about sexual development and memories. However, I found myself more interested in the chapters centred on Kafka over those about Nakata but maybe that was because I understood them a little better.
Yet again Haruki Murakami has impressed me with Kafka on the Shore and I am eager to pick up more of his books. I know magical realism can be scary for some people but I love the way Murakami uses it to explore the mind. My only real criticism of this book is that it was a little bloated and could have been trimmed down a little and still achieve the same. This might be due to an aversion to big books that I really need to overcome and not a true reflection on Murakami. I highly recommend giving this author a go if you have never tried him but Kafka on the Shore is not a good starting point; may I suggest trying Norwegian Wood first.
L’Étranger, known as The Outsider, or The Stranger by Albert Camus offers an interesting perspective of the philosophical movement; existentialism. ThL’Étranger, known as The Outsider, or The Stranger by Albert Camus offers an interesting perspective of the philosophical movement; existentialism. Though, as a stand alone novel, it was very simple and uneventful. You need to read this book for its philosophical merit or not read it at all. Previously, I wrote a post about this book and The Cure song Killing An Arab, in which I talked about how the book covered topics like; absurdism, atheism, determinism, existentialism, nihilism, and stoicism.
I thought I needed to read the book and try to understand the connections. The book does an interesting job at covering this issues without being too noticeable. Sure, if you spend your time digesting or picking apart books, you are sure to notice it, but if you are reading the book just for the story, then you may miss the complexity of the story.
It is unusual to read a book that has a complexity to it, but still tells the story too simply. It might have lost some of its density when translated from French to English. I just look for more substance in my books, so I was a little disappointed....more
In the title story “The Yellow Wallpaper” Charlotte Perkins Gilman tells the story of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. A specialist recommIn the title story “The Yellow Wallpaper” Charlotte Perkins Gilman tells the story of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. A specialist recommends that she takes rest cure; a treatment in which has her lying in bed all day and only allowed two house of intellectual activities a day. After a few months of staring at the walls, things are far from improving.
While this is a collection of short stories, I am focusing on the title story simple because it gives you a sense of what to expect when reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman. “The Yellow Wallpaper” explores the decline of the protagonist’s health, both physically and mentally. Written in a series of diary entries, the story not only looks at depression but, on a deeper level, gender roles. The doctor and her husband are portrayed as repressors; while their intentions are to help her heal they never take into account her own opinion.
This in turn critiques that position of the woman, especially when it comes to the institution of marriage. Gilman looks at marriage as a hierarchy; the male is actively working and knows what is best for the house, while the wife is put in charge of the domestic jobs (cooking, cleaning and so on). The wife becomes a second class citizen; a servant only there to serve her husband. When the protagonist of “The Yellow Wallpaper” gets sick she is demoted further and her role becomes similar to a petulant child.
While I have focused on the story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, these similar themes are found throughout this collection. What I found so satisfying is the way Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses irony to express her opinions. The use of both verbal and dramatic irony is found in all her stories but I enjoyed the sarcasm the most. There is a lot of symbolism and motifs within the stories well worth exploring that really empathises her point.
I loved this collection of short stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, there are so many interesting topics worth exploring and I used “The Yellow Wallpaper” to emphases and provide a glimpse into what you can expect. I am determined to read a whole lot more of Gilman’s works, I fell in love with her writing style and got so much pleasure out of reading these stories. The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories is a collection of stories well worth picking up and adding to your personal library.
The world of short stories has had a rocky history, but every now and then there are authors that make you excited about a collection of stories againThe world of short stories has had a rocky history, but every now and then there are authors that make you excited about a collection of stories again. When I think about great short story collections, I think Raymond Carver with his book What We Talk About When We Talk about Love, George Sanders (especially his recent collection Tenth of December) and now Molly Antopol with her debut collection The UnAmericans. Even I have to admit that I have often struggled with short stories but then something like The UnAmericans comes along and I feel ready to take on more collections.
Molly Antopol is a lecturer at Stanford University where she teaches as part of their writing program. In 2013, she was one of the recipients of the “5 Under 35″ award from the National Book Foundation, which highlights five young writers to watch and she has been someone well worth watching. Her debut, The UnAmericans was nominated for countless awards including the National Jewish Book Award and the National Book Award. Though her collection of short stories did not take home any major awards, this is the start of a very promising career for Molly Antopol and is someone I plan to follow closely.
The UnAmericans is a collection full of stories about families, heritage, identity and all the things that define us as humans. With a strong focus on immigration this book is a post 9/11 exploration into America. Exploring the lives of all those people that might have felt excluded as American due to difference in heritage, skin colour, religion, and political or moral beliefs. While it does not typically focus on America or events post 9/11, it is the kind of story that could have only been told after a tragedy like that day.
Each character is richly developed, coming from places like Kiev, Prague, Tel Avid and Soviet Moscow, the stories all explore the same similar themes but in away that never feels repetitive or preachy. Antopol appears to be interested in exploring peoples differences and similarities and trying to get the message across that we are all the same. All the different places these people live in and they all want the very same things, love and acceptance. While their heritage often plays a big part in their identity it doesn’t make them UnAmerican; we are all humans.
I was extremely impressed and it made me want to read more short stories; if Molly Antopol can give so much depth into her characters as she did in The UnAmericans then it makes me excited for the rest of the genre. I did go on to read another collection of short stories right after this one, this time it was by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I hate to say it; The UnAmericans was great but then going on to read The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories, changed everything yet again.
Journalist, Raoul Duke heads to Las Vegas with his attorney Dr Gonzo in order to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race. After experimenting with some recJournalist, Raoul Duke heads to Las Vegas with his attorney Dr Gonzo in order to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race. After experimenting with some recreational drugs, LSD, ether, cocaine, cannabis and alcohol, their assignment was quickly abandoned. What follows is a series of hallucinogenic trips that end in disaster from trashed hotel rooms, car wrecks and much more. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream is a roman à clef, with autobiographical elements in which Hunter S. Thompson writes a retrospective of the 1960s countercultural movement.
Hunter S. Thompson was a journalist, but he was best known for his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. While working in Journalism he coined the term Gonzo journalism which is a writing style he adopted for his first person narratives. The style is a combination of fact and fiction that allows Thompson a more personal approach to his articles. Combining elements of sarcasm, humour, exaggeration and profanity it allowed a first person look into social criticism. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was a result of Gonzo journalism and was originally published as a two part series in Rolling Stone magazine in 1971.
When thinking about the life of Hunter S. Thompson, I find it hard to imagine him as someone who critiques the 1960s counterculture. I think of him saying things like “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” Thompson has often stated that this novel was an exploration into the death of the American Dream but his views on counterculture are so fascinating. Drawing inspiration from his two favourite novels The Great Gatsby and On The Road, Thompson combines ideas of travelogue and the American Dream and goes on to show the reason why drug use was not the answer to social problems.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a pretty confronting novel; the descriptions of drug-induced hazes and lurid hallucinogenic trips are very vivid and confronting. I am pretty sure I have read this book in the past but I had not marked it as read on Goodreads, LibraryThing or even the spreadsheet I keep. However going into the novel everything felt so familiar and I cannot tell if it was due to the movie adaptation or if I have actually read the book before.
The experience of reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is enhanced by the illustrations done by Ralph Steadman. My edition of the book stated in the introduction that Hunter S. Thompson requested the art to be done by Steadman because he believed this illustrator really understood the concept of Gonzo journalism. The novel is an interesting book and well worth exploring, and I was interested to see the satirical side and surprised at the way Thompson criticised his own lifestyle in this autobiographical novel.
Detective Inspector James Quill is a member of the Shadow Police, a squad dedicated to solving supernatural crimes. When an invisible murderer kills aDetective Inspector James Quill is a member of the Shadow Police, a squad dedicated to solving supernatural crimes. When an invisible murderer kills a high profile cabinet minister in an unusual way, the Shadow Police are called to solve it. Things take a turn when the lead detective from the squad goes missing. Things start to fall apart; can Quill solve this mystery and bring the team back together?
I was really enjoying the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch lately and I thought I would look for more urban fantasy novels that centred around a detective, when I remembered London Falling. I loved this book which was the first in the Shadow Police series; it was dark gritty and blended police procedural with urban fantasy really well. I read it a while ago and thought it was time to try book two, The Severed Streets. Unfortunately this book did not hold up and suffered the same fate as Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams (book two in the Bobby Dollar series).
While London Falling went for a dark and gritty, noir feel to it, The Severed Streets seemed to go in a different direction. It felt too gimmicky and I felt like Paul Cornell was offered a book deal based on this series but had already run out of ideas. First of all, the book is set in London, so it obviously had to reference the 1800s Whitechapel murders. Jack the Ripper has been done to death, especially in urban fantasy; I was immediately reminded of The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. Also this book has Neil Gaiman as a character and I never enjoy it when they use living people as characters. It is a little hit and miss when a book includes a famous person who is deceased but when it comes to living people, it is normally always a miss.
I feel so angry about this book but mainly because I went in thinking it would be like London Falling. I would have been better off not reading this book and just letting the first novel remain a standalone. Take out Jack the Ripper and Neil Gaiman or replace these characters, and it might have been a decent book. However, for me, it was just a gimmick that did not work. I will not be continuing with the Shadow Police and I have to start my search for a new dark, gritty urban fantasy series to enjoy.
Associate District Prosecutor Felix Chacaltana Saldivar does everything by-the-book, he is organised and knowledgeable on the laws of the land but thiAssociate District Prosecutor Felix Chacaltana Saldivar does everything by-the-book, he is organised and knowledgeable on the laws of the land but this tends to rub people the wrong way. When a body is found burnt beyond recognition, Chacaltana’s life is never going to be the same. The investigation into this unique murder leads the associate District Prosecutor to question the choices the government are making. Set during Holy Week in Peru, Red April is a chilling political thriller that explores a twisted murder and a morally bankrupt government.
Red April takes place during Lent 2000, mainly in the Peruvian city of Ayacucho and follows a methodical prosecutor as he investigates a bizarre crime. These were the final days of Alberto Fujimori who vacated the presidency and fled the country in November 2000 due to a major corruption scandal and allegations of human rights violations. When Fujimori came to power in 1990, Peru was dominated by two terrorist organisations, the Maoist group Sendero Luminoso and the Marxist-Leninist organisations known as Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). It was not until about 1997 when most of this internal conflict resolved, but this was achieved by the Grupo Colina, which was a death squad made up of members of the Peruvian Armed Forces.
Set in the early 2000s, this novel explores that period of time where people loved Alberto Fujimori for making them feel safe but corruption is becoming a big problem. Even the main protagonist struggled with the idea of not supporting the president. Saying something like “the terrorist killed my mother, brother and sister but since the president took office, no one else from my family has been killed. Why would I vote for somebody else?” This hold on the past is something that runs strong throughout the novel, particularly with Associate District Prosecutor Felix Chacaltana Saldivar who holds on to the memory of his mother. The book is set during Lent and then Holy Week which is a time of reflection and to remember the past, when Christ died for the sins of the world.
Peru is a very religious country, in the 2007 census only 2.9% identified as non-religious, with 81.3% claiming to be Roman Catholic. The Catholic Church is a very important part of the country, even Article 50 of its constitution states that “[the Church is] an important element in the historical, cultural, and moral development of the nation.” The city of Ayacucho, in which the majority of this novel is set. lays claim to 33 Catholic Churches (one for every year of Jesus’ life) and hosts a large religious celebration during Holy Week every year. When reading Red April you quickly learn just how important religion is to the Peruvian people and the plot of the novel.
One of the things that fascinated me about Red April is the culture depicted within the book. Santiago Roncagliolo did not shy away from depicting the dark themes or the problematic political situation that Peru faces. He questions the counter-terrorism strategies of the Fujimori government but also depicts the overall sense of relief that the people had when terrorist organisations were dealt with. The corrupt government and the bureaucratic nightmare that Felix lived through all gave a sense of the political landscape. The Associate District Prosecutor did everything to the letter of the law, including sending rapists to prison; however this made him an outcast, even the rape victims got angry that they were unable to marry their attackers and get their reputation intact.
One reason I read a lot of translated fiction is because I find it interesting to explore different cultures and worlds. The Peru depicted in Red April is so foreign to me that I could not help but be spellbound by the cultural differences. Red April was the 2011 winner of the International Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP), a literary award I have started to follow closely now that I read more books in translation. The novel was translated into English by Edith Grossman and is a book that I picked up in order to read more books from South America. I am very glad to have read Red April, not only is it an excellent mystery/thriller but as you can see it was an interesting insight into Peru.
This is the story of T.S. Garp, named after his biological father Technical Sergeant Garp. His mother, Jenny Fields was a determined nurse who wantedThis is the story of T.S. Garp, named after his biological father Technical Sergeant Garp. His mother, Jenny Fields was a determined nurse who wanted a child but not a husband. She eventually becomes a feminist icon before being killed by a crazed man for what she said in her autobiography A Sexual Suspect. Garp went on to become a writer as well and The World According to Garp tells the story of his life.
This is my first attempt into the writing of John Irving’s writing and I was impressed with what I read. Many people recommend starting with some of his other books (A Prayer for Owen Meaning or The Cider House Rules) but I think I made the right choice with The World According to Garp. What stood out to me within the book was the constant struggle that T.S. Garp experienced his entire life. Even his decision to become a writer was made in the effort to get a girl. This was a struggle with lust and the way it took over his whole life. It was like he had no control over his own sexual desire but then again he never really tried. Lust took over everything within Garp’s life but other characters also struggled as well. I really enjoyed the way that Irving explores the beauty and destructiveness of sex and desire.
This is not just a novel the focuses on lust, this is also a book that explores life and death. It is fair to say that T.S. Garp had a fascination with death, especially when his book The Pension Grillparzer saw seven of the nine main characters die. Even his third novel The World According to Bensenhaver featured many death scenes. There are so many more scenes about death, you can look at the death of Garp and his mother and see the similarities and symbolism.
There were moments where I was worried that this book would turn transphobic but the way John Irving treated the character Roberta was done really well. Gender roles play a big part in this book, starting from Garp’s mother rejecting a man and deciding to raise her child alone. The novel also explores feminism, the women’s rights movement and misogyny. What I loved about this book is that there are so many issues tacked within the pages, when I thought I understood the major theme it offers something different.
I like how The World According to Garp explored the whole life of Garp from birth to death. Written like Garp was telling the story, it still covers parts of his life that he could not possibly know, including his birth and his death. I was really impressed with John Irving’s style of writing that I plan to read so many more of his books. I hear A Prayer for Owen Meaning is the next book I should tackle but I would love other suggestions too.
Go Tell It on the Mountain is the first major release by James Baldwin and is a semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in Harlem. James BaldwinGo Tell It on the Mountain is the first major release by James Baldwin and is a semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in Harlem. James Baldwin never knew his biological father and his stepfather was a strict Baptist minister. Go Tell It on the Mountain mainly follows the character John Grimes (who is the autobiographical character in the novel) but really shifts focus to other characters, to allow the exploration of John’s immediate family.
It took James Baldwin ten years to write Go Tell It on the Mountain and he has often stated that it was not a book he wanted to write but a book he felt he had to get out of his system before he would write anything else. This is a semi-autobiographical novel that focuses mainly of the hypocrisy within the community. James Baldwin’s stepfather was a minister and the way he acted in church was vastly different than when he was at home. He was a strict and abusive parent and this hypocrisy was evident within this novel.
However, there is so much more to this novel than just exploring how different people act when at church. Baldwin has a lot to say about the community and, while racism plays a big part within this debut novel, it was some of the other themes that interested me the most. The struggle between life and faith is a topic that I am fascinated in and while it is not the same as found in the memoir The Dark Path, this is explored in an interesting way within this novel. John Grimes had a spiritual awakening as a teenager and went onto become a preacher, however the hypocrisy he found within the church disheartened him and eventually he walked away from that life.
Yet Go Tell It on the Mountain goes a little deeper in exploring the hypocrisy of the church with subtle references to Baldwin’s sexuality. This is not explored in great detail within this book but it is a major theme in Giovanni’s Room. The way this novel explores the church life is fascinating and he shows great care for his characters; take for example John’s stepfather Gabriel, he may be hypocrite but he still requires some sympathy. He married John’s mother and raised him even if their union would be considered controversial within the church. I love how this novel plays with the religion and the way people differ between their church and home life.
This was my first James Baldwin novel but I have had the opportunity to read some of his short stories in the past. On the surface Go Tell It on the Mountain does sound like it is just focused on the hypocrisy of the church but I love the depth James Baldwin put into this book. The characters are so well crafted that even if you want to hate them you still feel a little compassion towards them. I cannot put my finger on James Baldwin’s writing style; at times it reminds me of dirty realism but all I know is that it makes me want to read more of his novels.
Sean Phillips lives an isolated life since a disfiguring injury that happened when he was seventeen. To past the time in his Southern Californian aparSean Phillips lives an isolated life since a disfiguring injury that happened when he was seventeen. To past the time in his Southern Californian apartment he has created an interactive survival strategy game called Trace Italian, which can be played via mail. Two high school students, Lance and Carrie from Florida, start exploring the world of Trace but manage to take their role playing into the real world. Disaster strikes and Sean is called on to account for his actions and figure out how this could happen.
For those of you that don’t know, John Darnielle is the singer-songwriter for the indie folk rock band The Mountain Goats. While the band is currently a three piece, Darnielle had been the sole member for many years. Wolf in White Van is the first novel by John Darnielle and the man knows how to write. When a musician turns to writing, I feel a little hesitant but Darnielle’s debut blew my expectations out of the water. Wolf in White Van sets itself apart from most debut novels by going for something different and more complex.
Wolf in White Van is an interesting novel to talk about because the structure of the book is told backwards. So the readers are given the beginning of the story and the climax right at the end of the novel. This structure works really well with exploring the character of Sean Phillips, and slowly it is revealed just how he ended up so isolated and lonely. This allows for the exploration of loneliness and the game Trace Italian is an interesting device that allows others, who are also lonely, to interact with Sean Phillips.
I am fascinated by this game Trace Italian. First of all, it is unique in the sense that it is a text based survival game that is played through the mail. People send their next move and based on that Sean Phillips sends them the next part of the game. The goal of the game is to make it to safety in the post-apocalyptic world; while there is a possibility of completing the game, Sean believes that no one will ever do so. There is also the events that happen with Lance and Carrie which, while not really a spoiler, I will not mention it, except to say this event explores the ideas of artist responsibility. There is constantly stories where music, movies or video games are blamed for tragic events and the way John Darnielle explores this issue is very interesting, at least from a creator’s point of view. The idea that this novel is told backwards really plays on the whole idea of playing music backwards may reveal hidden satanic messages.
Wolf in White Van is a brilliant debut, full of unexpected depth. It is a fascinating character study and there is so many interesting themes to explore within this novel. I am extremely impressed with John Darnielle and I hope there are many more novels to come from this brilliant songwriter and author. Wolf in White Van may sound like a it is heavily focused on this role playing game but really it is a character driven novel that just involves a game. Highly recommend this novel for anyone interested in the themes mentioned above.
Rose Tremain is a name I have heard so often but never had the chance to read on of her books; in fact her name is familiar but I couldn’t tell you anRose Tremain is a name I have heard so often but never had the chance to read on of her books; in fact her name is familiar but I couldn’t tell you anything about her books. She has published thirteen novels including The Road Home (which won the Orange Prize in 2008) and Music and Silence (winner of the Whitbread award in 1999). She taught creative writing at the University of East Anglia until she was appointed chancellor in 2013 and she is married to Romantic biographer Richard Holmes (not that her marriage affects her writing, just an interesting fact). She has also written five collections of short stories including her latest The American Lover.
While I sometimes struggle to read and review short story collections, I still wish to talk about them (just so I have a record). I picked up The American Lover because it mentioned a story about a famous Russian writer’s (story was inspired by Tolstoy’s life) final days living in a stationmaster’s cottage outside of Moscow. As most people know, I am a fan of Russian literature and books about Russia itself. When I looked at the author’s name, I was excited even more, it was a chance to finally dip into the writing style of Rose Tremain.
Without going into all the stories within the book, Tremain goes into some very interesting topics from transgressive love, sex, reflections of life and even a very unusual story about Daphne du Maurier. What I found in this collection is that Rose Tremain has a great ability to create characters and express emotions. There are some brilliantly dark and sometimes comical moments the she masterfully crafted into her stories. She has produced a collection centred around so many different emotions and skilfully managed to fit them into such short stories.
I really love the characters and emotions expressed in these stories and really makes me want to experience Rose Tremain’s style in long form. However I am not sure which novel to start with and would love some recommendations. The American Lover was a brilliant way to dip into Tremain’s writing and I am so glad to have finally had a chance to do so. If her writing abilities work just as well in her novels, she may have found a new fan.
Save Me the Waltz is the story of Alabama Beggs, a young Southern girl who meets and falls in love with David Knight during World War I. The two ineviSave Me the Waltz is the story of Alabama Beggs, a young Southern girl who meets and falls in love with David Knight during World War I. The two inevitably get married and David goes on to become a successful painter, before moving their family to the French Riviera. However Alabama is determined to find her own success and takes up ballet. When she lands her first solo debut in the opera Faust the cracks in their marriage become evident.
After an episode of hysteria in 1932, Zelda Fitzgerald was admitted to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for treatment. Dr Adolf Meyer, an expert on schizophrenia was her doctor and as part of her recovery routine he got her to write at least two hours a day. Save Me the Waltz was written over the course of six weeks and was the first and only novel to be published by Zelda Fitzgerald. Her husband was outraged that she took so much of their personal life and added it into this novel. Despite the fact that the majority of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels are also autobiographical and he used the same material for his novel Tender is the Night.
I wanted to read Save Me the Waltz after reading Tender is the Night to compare the similarities. The problem I soon discovered is that Save Me the Waltz has possibly been whitewashed by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Apparently he helped Zelda revise her book and the amount that has been changed is unknown because her original manuscript has been lost. However Scott went from being irate to writing to Maxwell Perkins at Scribner (their publisher) “Here is Zelda’s novel. It is a good novel now, perhaps a very good novel—I am too close to tell.” I am inclined to believe that he has made sure he comes across better than originally written but without the original that is purely speculation.
The major theme within Save Me the Waltz is around the intense desire for Alabama/Zelda to succeed for themselves. It was not enough for either person to be the wife behind a successful man, and it explores the problems faced in doing this in a male dominated society. When Alabama gets her dream job in Naples with the San Carlo Opera Ballet Company, David does not want to move. Considering that he is a painter and could really work from anywhere, it says a lot about their marriage. This does not hinder Alabama from perusing her dreams and she goes to Naples anyway, leaving her husband to look after their child alone. Now this move may make people uneasy but it really plays with the power dynamic of marriage. Zelda Fitzgerald wants to challenge the conceptions people had of the role of a wife in a marriage and ask why it was alright for a man to go away for work but not the woman.
This can be a very difficult novel to read, knowing the historical context and history behind the story. Comparing this book with Tender is the Night does not leave F. Scott Fitzgerald in pleasant light but then again his novel did not do that either. One of the most powerful lines in this novel can be found right near the end and it beautifully wraps up the whole book into a few lines. “Emptying the ashtrays was very expressive of myself. I just lump everything in a great heap which I have labelled ‘the past,’ and having thus emptied this deep reservoir that was once myself, I am ready to continue.”
While I cannot say that Save Me the Waltz is a strong novel, it was a fascinating exploration into the lives of the Fitzgeralds. I am glad to have read and compared this book to Tender is the Night but I think it has only fuelled my interest into this couple. I still need to read a biography or two on the Fitzgeralds but I am beginning to get a better idea of their lives. I think if you are going to read Tender is the Night, you need to read Save Me the Waltz so you can have perspective on the autobiographical elements; even if they were tainted by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s edits.
Meme has been enjoying the simple life in Northern News South Wales; that was until she saves the life of Hamish in a heavy summer downpour. Cut off fMeme has been enjoying the simple life in Northern News South Wales; that was until she saves the life of Hamish in a heavy summer downpour. Cut off from the rest of world Hamish discovers a world cut off from technology. During this time with this stranger in the house, Meme also learns about the world outside of her own.
Jessie Cole’s novel Deeper Waters is a coming of age story about the sexual awakening of twenty-something year old Meme. However it is also a culture clash novel between the lifestyle people in the city (Hamish) are used to and just how different the rural outback can be. Both Meme and Hamish are from the same country but their lives are very different. Growing up with technology, it is hard to see a world without it and interestingly enough Deeper Waters manages to capture this perfectly. At times you think you are reading a book set in the 1970s or early 1980s but then the mention of technology reminds you that this is a book set in current times.
This was a book club pick and not something I would generally pick up on my own but it did make an interesting choice to discuss. However, I found the character development a little problematic; Meme was well developed but Hamish was very two dimensional and her best friend Anja was just a pile of clichés. The book did show a lot of promise for this emerging Australian author, her writing was solid and atmospheric but she could have developed all the other characters a whole lot more.
I really did enjoy the culture clash but after that the book did fall a little short. There was one thing that was mentioned in our book club discussion that I did not pick up on but now seems to bother me. Meme has a clubfoot (congenital talipes equinovarus) which is a birth defect that you do not really hear about these days, due to the advancement of medical treatments. However this might be a sign of the area Meme grew up in but all I can think now is that Hamish travelled back to the 1970s.
Deeper Waters is an interesting book to discuss however there are so many novels about the sexual awakening that explore this topic so much better. I am glad I read this Australian novel but I feel like Jessie Cole had the opportunity to do a lot more with the book but didn’t take it. Having said that, it is still a good read and Cole is an author worth watching. I have heard from multiple reviewers that Jessie Coles has improved greatly since her first novel, so that must mean her next book will be well worth checking out.
Having just arrived in Hamburg, Germany, 37 year old Toru Watanabe hears an orchestral cover of The Beatles’ song “Norwegian Wood” which reminds him oHaving just arrived in Hamburg, Germany, 37 year old Toru Watanabe hears an orchestral cover of The Beatles’ song “Norwegian Wood” which reminds him of his college years. In high school his best friend, Kizuki completed suicide and Watanabe moved to Tokyo for college in the hopes to escape the pain. One day he was reunited with Kizuki’s girlfriend Naoko and they sought solitude in each other’s company. However this relationship wasn’t the right solution for Naoko and she left for a secluded mountain sanatorium near Kyoto.
Norwegian Wood is often referred to as the best starting point when diving into the works of Haruki Murakami, mainly because this is one of the few books that don’t have a magical realism thread to it. This is a good place to start but what I find fascinating is the way Murakami uses magical realism to explore ideas of the mind. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and Norwegian Wood don’t have that same fantastical style but they still follow similar themes. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki looks at the psychological impacts of losing friendships, while this novel looks at ideas of memory. From what I have read so far, Murakami’s other books do similar things but the use of magical realism allows him to dive into the mind and explore it as a fantastical world.
I have heard Norwegian Wood described as a coming of age story so many times, but I find it difficult to classify this book as such; for the simple fact that Toru Watanabe is 37 years on at the start of the novel, even though the majority of the novel is set during his college years. I think this is more a reflection on life and love, a novel that explores ideas of memory and nostalgia through themes like loss, depression and sexuality. This leads me to wonder just how reliable Watanabe really is and if there is a ‘rose coloured glasses’ perception happening in the novel. However the way this novel comes together and deals with memory (especially at the end) works so well and I can understand why Norwegian Wood is a Haruki Murakami favourite for many people.
One thing that really stuck with me with Norwegian Wood is the way Murakami developed characters. I found most characters to be complex and well rounded, they all had a unique personality and it was such a joy to read something with such great character development. A favourite of mine was Midori, who reminds me a lot of my wife; a confident and sure character who is at times insecure but has a great interest in talking about sex with others. She was the highlight of the whole novel and I always looked forward to her turning up within the story.
Before I knew who Haruki Murakami was, I saw the 2010 Japanese movie adaptation and thankfully I forgot most of the story. While images and plot points did come back to me as I read the novel, I was glad I didn’t have that outside influence but now I do need to re-watch the movie. Norwegian Wood is a great starting place if you have never read Haruki Murakami before. Apparently Murakami isn’t too happy that this is the novel that people will read or recognise him by, but it really is one of his stand out books. I have so many more Murakami books to read and I am really looking forward to diving into them all.