Another hearty thank you to the Booker committee from me. This book had everything--fascinating characters, a complex puzzle of a plot, a creative strAnother hearty thank you to the Booker committee from me. This book had everything--fascinating characters, a complex puzzle of a plot, a creative structure, marvelous evocative language, a gold rush, astrology, a seance, possible murder, possible fraud, shipwrecks, opium dens, a mix of races and social classes. It is an intimidatingly large tome, and it takes awhile to get going, but once it does, you won't want it to end (at least I sure didn't)....more
Felicia is a young, pregnant Irishwoman just arrived in England to locate the father of her child. Her family back at home, proud of their history inFelicia is a young, pregnant Irishwoman just arrived in England to locate the father of her child. Her family back at home, proud of their history in the Irish battles for independence, are enraged about her condition and suspicious that her boyfriend is in the British Army. Her boyfriend's mother hates her and refuses to give his address in England. She has only the information he told her when they were together, that he sells lawnmowers at a factory that produces them, and the name of an English town to go on in finding him.
As her story unfolds, she is befriended by an older man who works as a catering director at a local company. Gradually we learn that he is not being honest with her, and we also hear his internal recollections of other "girlfriends" which take on an ominous tone. The novel is deliciously unsettling as we watch the unnerving cat-and-mouse game unfold. Think Hitchcock at his best and most subtle and you will have the feel that this book generates....more
When Tusker Smalley died of a massive coronary at approximately 9.30 a.m. on the last Monday in April, 1972, his wife Lucy was out, having her white hWhen Tusker Smalley died of a massive coronary at approximately 9.30 a.m. on the last Monday in April, 1972, his wife Lucy was out, having her white hair blue-rinsed and set in the Seraglio Room on the ground floor of Pankot's new five storey glass and concrete hotel, The Shiraz.
These are the opening lines of Paul Scott's sequel to The Raj Quartet, which, having just so enjoyed reading about the end of Tusker and Lucy's life together, I will have to read to learn about their earlier days. Staying On is the tale of two things: Lucy and Tusker's complex marriage in their aging years and life in the independent state of India for the few British who chose to "stay on" in the small towns where they had been stationed prior to independence. It is a study of culture and class, and of love and disappointment, seen variously through the eyes of Lucy and Tusker Smalley, their servant Ibrahim, and Mr. Bhoolabhoy, the manager of the hotel from whom the Smalley's rent The Lodge, a cottage annex.
Scott captures the complexities of his characters, both their internal struggles and their attempts to negotiate their relationships with partners, friends, and associates, with both compassion and humor. These are characters you can easily love in all their frailties, with some delicious exceptions, such as Mrs. Bhoolabhoy, whom you can easily delight in hating. Scott effectively plays with the timeline, starting at the end, then jumping back to the events leading up to Tusker's death, then finally returning to this scene and the time which followed. I took a certain pleasure in the process of feeling the second approach to this scene, to living through it a second time, now with a greater sense of its context, and then following the tale to its conclusion. This novel was a pleasure, yet another case in which the Booker Prize has helped me find a wonderful novel.
"If you intend to kill me in public, and mount a show, be quick. Or I may die of grief alone in this room." He shakes his head. "You'll live." He once"If you intend to kill me in public, and mount a show, be quick. Or I may die of grief alone in this room." He shakes his head. "You'll live." He once thought it himself, that he might die of grief. For his wife, his daughters, his sisters, his father and master the cardinal. But the pulse, obdurate, keeps its rhythm. You think you cannot keep breathing, but your ribcage has other ideas, rising and falling, emitting sighs. You must thrive in spite of yourself. And so that you may do it, God takes out your heart of flesh and gives you a heart of stone.
This sums up the change in Thomas Cromwell from Wolf Hall into this novel. He is a colder, more calculating man, tasting vengeance against those who had humiliated and caused the death of his mentor Cardinal Wolsey. He also doesn't have the same opportunities to exercise his gentler side. His family is essentially gone: wife and daughters dead, son, nephew, and ward all grown and living outside his house. His life is really all business now. There are other changes too. He is rethinking the nature of his relationship with his late father, which is fascinating to watch. And we begin to see the politics of the court shift, and while on the surface, his career is still on the rise, we begin to see cracks through which he will eventually fall.
Mantel is tremendously talented. I finished this book and yearned to be able to start the next one right away. Unfortunately, it is not due out for 2 more years. I will try to be patient, and I will have to explore some other novels by Hilary Mantel in the meantime....more
In order that I exist, two gamblers, one Obsessive, the other Compulsive, must meet. A door must open at a certain time. Opposite the door, a red plusIn order that I exist, two gamblers, one Obsessive, the other Compulsive, must meet. A door must open at a certain time. Opposite the door, a red plush settee is necessary. The Obsessive, the one with six bound volumes of eight hundred and eighty pages, ten columns per page, must sit on this red settee, the Book of Common Prayer open on his rumpled lap. The Compulsive gambler must feel herself propelled forward from the open doorway. She must travel toward the Obsessive and say an untruth (although she can have no prior knowledge of her own speech): "I am in the habit of making my confession."
This novel is the story of these two fascinating characters, a headstrong heiress ahead of her time and an odd, socially and physically awkward Anglican priest, both addicted to gambling, both ill at ease in the mid-19th century Sydney where they find themselves trying to build their lives. Peter Carey has crafted a tale of frontier society full of colorful but flawed individuals thrown together, all angling for something to fulfill their various ambitions, many ruthlessly opinionated or judgemental, aping the landed gentry of home whom they hope to be like in this new land.
Going into this book, I was not a big fan of Carey, who has won multiple prizes for his writing. I had read True History of the Kelly Gang a number of years back. Oscar and Lucinda did a better job of winning me over. While Carey is still not an author I will rave about, I will likely look forward to the next book of his I read much more for having taken a journey to Australia with this odd pair of protagonists. ...more
“We are Craiglockhart's success stories. Look at us. We don't remember, we don't feel, we don't think - at least beyond the confines of what's needed“We are Craiglockhart's success stories. Look at us. We don't remember, we don't feel, we don't think - at least beyond the confines of what's needed to do the job. By any proper civilized standard (but what does that mean now?) we are objects of horror. But our nerves are completely steady. And we are still alive.”
“Ghosts everywhere. Even the living were only ghosts in the making. You learned to ration your commitment to them. This moment in this tent already had the quality of remembered experience. Or perhaps he was simply getting old. But then, after all, in trench time he was old. A generation lasted six months, less than that on the Somme, barely twelve weeks.”
I truly loved this series. This novel is a powerful blend of letters about life at the front in France during WWI, scenes of a psychiatric and medical hospital in London where the physical and mentally wounded are being treated, and memories of Dr. William Rivers' time with a tribe of headhunters in Melanesia. It is beautiful, thought-provoking, and heart-rending. ...more
I love books that make me aware of parts of world history that I was totally unaware of, in this case the uprisings on the Indian-Nepali border in theI love books that make me aware of parts of world history that I was totally unaware of, in this case the uprisings on the Indian-Nepali border in the 80s. Beautiful sad novel, with a pinch thrown in as well of the difficulties of those coming to America with big hopes and the weight of family expectations....more
This is a beautiful novel of love and loss. The narrator, Max, has just lost his wife of many years and goes to stay in a seaside house that he visiteThis is a beautiful novel of love and loss. The narrator, Max, has just lost his wife of many years and goes to stay in a seaside house that he visited as a child. There he travels back and forth between musing about his relationship with his wife, particularly after her cancer diagnosis, and recalling the summer he spent with the family who lived in this house, a summer when he began the transition from childhood to manhood.
The language is strong and full of images. Max writes about the artist Bonnard, and midway through the book, I had to search for images of Bonnard's works online because I felt that having the images in my mind would help me imagine the world through Max's eyes more clearly. But truly Banville paints carefully with his words as he crafts this tale and even without a trip into art history, it is a very beautiful read. Banville captures images of his characters, complete with light reflecting off a sleeve, or a piece of flesh casually bared, that are very like the portraiture his character describes. The relationships in the novel are carefully observed and unflinchingly drawn. These are not sentimental memories, but complicated ones, full of desire, discovery, and disillusionment, an honest range of human experience. Max ponders his relationships not only with other people in his life, but also with his profession, with social class, and ultimately with himself. ...more