It's a single day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, starting as she sets out in the morning to buy flowers for a party, and ending as her par...more3.5 stars
It's a single day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, starting as she sets out in the morning to buy flowers for a party, and ending as her party guests are leaving that night. The book is written in a stream of consciousness so the reader learns about the characters' feelings about the present, past, and future, moment by moment. Throughout the book, Big Ben and other London clocks sound the hours. Clarissa reads Shakespeare's words from "Cymbeline" about death in a book in a shop window early in the book, foreshadowing things to come.
The book was written after the devastation of World War I. Septimus Warren Smith, a veteran suffering from PTSD, sees hallucinations of a good friend who died in the war. One of Septimus' doctors will be attending the party later. Woolf and her husband published Freud's works, and Woolf had been treated unsuccessfully for bipolar disorder and depression. She shows that the medical and psychiatric doctors of the time were inept and unfeeling to people with mental illness.
Clarissa, a charming high society hostess, invites about twenty people to her party. We learn about her youth, her past loves, and her marriage as she shops in the morning. Was she happy in her marriage to Richard, or should she have married Peter who still loves her? We also see England's social structure through the eyes of many characters. There is a contrast between Clarissa's life, and the lives of working women.
I appreciated Woolf's writing which was often very beautiful, and her thoughts about the Great War, mental illness, and society. Her stream of consciousness writing gave impressions of past, present, and future which melded into a complete idea. I admire Woolf for trying a new style of writing, and might enjoy it in a short story of a few pages. But I found it difficult to concentrate on her stream of consciousness writing for a whole novel. There are other styles of writing that I prefer reading.(less)
"The Dinner" started with satirical social humor as two brothers and their wives dine at a posh restaurant. But the disturbing story gets psychologica...more"The Dinner" started with satirical social humor as two brothers and their wives dine at a posh restaurant. But the disturbing story gets psychologically darker and totally riveting as it moves on. What secrets is this unreliable narrator hiding? How far will the two couples go to protect their sons who are responsible for a terrible event? I couldn't put the book down!(less)
Irma Seidenman had been living under a false identity as a Polish officer's widow in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. She is recognized by a former acquaintance,...moreIrma Seidenman had been living under a false identity as a Polish officer's widow in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. She is recognized by a former acquaintance, and is arrested for being a Jew. A group of Polish people set up a plan to rescue her.
The interconnected chapters of the book are each devoted to a particular character or incident. Together, the stories give a composite picture of the people in Warsaw during World War II, and a glimpse into the future for them. The well-written book had complex characters thrust into difficult, often tragic, situations.
In many ways, Poland--situated between Germany and Russia--was also a character in this book. "Was this country merely the territory for foreign armies to march across, the land behind the front lines, the strip of ground between them?....The outpost of the free world, squeezed in between tyrannies."
The author lived through that period of history himself. He was educated in the underground university mentioned in the book. After participating in the Warsaw Uprising against the Germans in 1944, he was sent to a concentration camp. After he was released, he was very active politically in the Solidarity movement.(less)
Based on true events, Burial Rites tells the story of Agnes Magnusdottir who has been charged with a gruesome double murder in 19th Century Iceland. I...moreBased on true events, Burial Rites tells the story of Agnes Magnusdottir who has been charged with a gruesome double murder in 19th Century Iceland. It made me shiver to read the first few sentences of the book: "They said I must die. They said that I stole the breath from men, and now they must steal mine. I imagine, then, that we are all candle flames, greasy-bright, fluttering in the darkness and the howl of the wind, and in the stillness of the room I hear footsteps, awful coming footsteps, coming to blow me out and send my life up away from me in a gray wreath of smoke."
Agnes is sent to a farm of a district officer while she waits for her sentence to be carried out. The farming family is shaken at the idea of living in a house with a murderer. She is given a spiritual adviser, Toti, who wants to know her as a person. As Agnes confides in Toti and in the farmer's wife, truths are revealed about her life and the murders.
This is a beautifully written historical novel. Agnes is a deeply complex character whose life as a servant has often been directed by forces not under her control. The book also has wonderful descriptions of the stark beauty of Iceland, and the rugged individuals living there. Hannah Kent has written an impressive debut novel.(less)
Dan Brown has written a fast-paced mystery full of references to Dante's "Inferno", artistic treasures, and bits of history of several of the most bea...moreDan Brown has written a fast-paced mystery full of references to Dante's "Inferno", artistic treasures, and bits of history of several of the most beautiful cities in the world. Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon wakes up in Florence with amnesia, and soon is running from one historic site to another. He's trying to evade a spike-haired armed biker while deciphering a message left by a mad scientist. As in Brown's other novels, Langdon is accompanied by a smart beautiful woman.
Bertrand Zobrist, a biochemist and an expert in genetic manipulation, jumped to his death in the first few pages. He had been working in secret on the problem of overpopulation. What had this Transhumanist mad genius left behind to reduce population? It's a race against time for Langdon to determine what Zobrist's last messages mean.
The focus of this story is on the plot, and not on realism or deep characterization. But the book was fun and was set in some wonderful locations--where Langdon knows the location of every secret passageway. It had lots of fascinating information about Dante, Transhumanism, art, history, and genetic manipulation. Inferno is an enjoyable escapist read with an ending that was a bit unexpected.(less)