Wow, this book was dark. I've seen the movies and from those conjured up a story that had this dreamy quality of submerged attraction and envy--decoraWow, this book was dark. I've seen the movies and from those conjured up a story that had this dreamy quality of submerged attraction and envy--decorated with elegant old houses. But Brideshead Revisited the novel took me to a very dark and disturbing place. To me, the pieces that shone were the broken fragments of relationships: Charles and his horrible father, and the oppressive mother and Sebastian. Waugh deftly shows these strange, decaying bonds in a way that sticks with you, haunts you. I've always appreciated him as a writer; his dialogue is so facile it seems contemporary, his descriptions surprising, his characters unique and layered.
The fall into adultery while aboard transcontinental ship in the midst of a storm was masterful piece of writing. The protagonist's emotional descent became heightened with almost a physical sensation of disorientation. I felt literally sea sick afterwards.
I'm not really sure how to sum up what to share about this book. I'm not sure I liked it in the sense that it made me happy after I read it. But I did appreciate that it pulled me in and took me to another place.
A twisting yarn of a book that struck me as something written fresh on the heels of 9-11. There were certain elements of the plot that I thought wereA twisting yarn of a book that struck me as something written fresh on the heels of 9-11. There were certain elements of the plot that I thought were probably even more impactful for readers who read this book a few years after that horrific event.
Beginning in Nagasaki, Japan, just before the second nuclear bomb drops, the story ventures to India, Turkey, Pakistan, and New York as it follows two families, one of German-English and another Japanese-Pakistani extraction. Lives mirror and intersect, and Shamsie makes some important observations about class and racial tension.
Because this book was recommended to me for my fondness for The Far Pavilions, I expected a grand, sweeping love story. No luck. The romance motif in this book is nothing like Ashok's fairy-tales. Instead the relationships are broken down jalopies, bravely forging ahead on unstable ground. On that negative note, one could also easily compare this novel to The Kite Runner for it's ties to the conflict in Afghanistan. For me, the Kite Runner is more straight-forwardly depressing. This book is much more thoughtful and introspective.
Ultimately, what was most interesting to me was the cultural soup of Japanese, German, British, Indian, Pakistani, and Americans that flavored the novel. My general takeaway was that the author wanted to show what happens when people choose to be nice to "the other", but still not treat them as equals--those actions have far-reaching, inhumane, humiliating consequences. I also thought that it was interesting to note that author dismisses the idea of using the personal element of a tragedy as the centerpiece of a larger tragedy...
Food for thought (Regarding Nagasaki):
"You lived it," Kim said. "our father died in it. Your fiance died in it. There's no shame in putting all the weight in the world on that." It was the wrong answer. Hiroko turned to her, face bright with anger. "Is that why? That's why Nagasaki was such a monstrous crime? Because it happened to me?" She pulled the gloves off and threw them at Kim. "I don't want your hot chocolate," she said and stalked away.
This book brings up a lot of sediment to sift through. It wasn't always pleasant to read, but it was educational. ...more
Really fun. I've read a biography about the Mitford sisters that I highly recommend so this was a nice complement to that book. Much of the novel is sReally fun. I've read a biography about the Mitford sisters that I highly recommend so this was a nice complement to that book. Much of the novel is supposed to be a slightly fictionalized account of her relations. ...more
This book was insane, but also one of the most enlightening books I've read in a long time. It was embarrassing to realize how little I know (or rememThis book was insane, but also one of the most enlightening books I've read in a long time. It was embarrassing to realize how little I know (or remember) about the years that led up to WWII (I'm going to blame it on a science-focused preliminary education), and the motif that really impressed me was the massive, terrible, tidal wave of momentum that led up to the second "great" war.
The Sisters makes you think a lot about human nature and how ethics begin with the smallest actions. I once interviewed the dean of religious life at Stanford and he told me that the hardest ethical decisions are the little ones. "Everyone knows that killing is wrong, but those little decisions you make when no one is looking--those are the real tests."
There was an abundance of willful ignorance and laziness in Europe at that time. It's scary. I hope those mistakes are never repeated.
I'm not quite sure why a book about six sisters who had a penchant for dictators, communist activists and titled people made me think about this so much, but I think it was a fresh way way for me to learn about the war through the eyes of women who were sitting in on influential dinners, tea parties, the season, etc. Sometimes you learn more about the heart of a situation through the circumstantial. ...more
Wow. this guy really nailed it. This book reminded me of someone paring a fish with the ease of a surgeon. Fellows examines social protocol in a certaWow. this guy really nailed it. This book reminded me of someone paring a fish with the ease of a surgeon. Fellows examines social protocol in a certain circle by flaking it from the chaos of conversation, holding it up to the light, and explaining exactly why everything about it is preposterous.
Ever wonder why some people call each other Sausage or Toffee? Turn to page 44. Want to know Fellow's theory about the patented British "stiff upper lip"? Try page 35. Or find out who fits this brilliant character description: "He talked of himself and his triumphs in that relaxed unselfconscious way that only the deeply egocentric can manage" (Hint, Page 107.)
Fellow's writing is beautiful and complicated. He's a mannered writer in the old-fashioned style of Warton and James, and his story is filled with expert plot twists. I was completely enthralled. ...more
I whipped through this book in a few hours. It's cute, witty, with a great sort of a sardonic temper that I enjoy riding along with. It kind of remindI whipped through this book in a few hours. It's cute, witty, with a great sort of a sardonic temper that I enjoy riding along with. It kind of reminded me of Bridget Jones, only a married 1930s version with two kids and a laconic husband, which actually kind of fits Mr. Darcy's profile. I love reading the author's inner monologue: a series of notes about what she chose "not" to say during Lady B's provocations. It was also delightful to see her break down and go shopping whenever a situation got a little stressful.
A nice light read after to much non-fiction. ...more
I gave up all TV except for movies this past months and it has definitely influenced my reading habits. This book I've been absorbing in fits and starI gave up all TV except for movies this past months and it has definitely influenced my reading habits. This book I've been absorbing in fits and starts for the past two years. Finished! Tada! It reads a little bit like a grocery list, but it is very thorough and good at filling in some historical gaps. I've always been very interested in ballet from the turn of the 20th Century until the 50s or so, so this is yet one more character to add to that story.
Kschessinska would be much more fun novelized. The vixen who had a torrid affair with the Czar of Russia? Or the innocent who everyone assumed the worst of? Both of those stories would have been fun to read. Either way, the book is so balanced that I found myself really wishing that it took more of a stand one way or the other. But I imagine that the writer was going for a balanced approach. ...more