Troubling Love. The Days of Abandonment. The Lost Daughter. Throw these titles up in the air and whichever lands on whichever book, it would fit. (NotTroubling Love. The Days of Abandonment. The Lost Daughter. Throw these titles up in the air and whichever lands on whichever book, it would fit. (Not the covers, though: each is uniquely apt.) Ferrante's first-person female narrators could almost be the same woman at different stages of life, except the three are too close in age and possess different voices. They are creative women with similar Neapolitan mothers, though with different family ties: single, childless Delia, a cartoonist whose job is barely spoken of, comes from an abusive home; writer Olga, deserted by her husband, has two young children; and here it's a slightly older Leda, a divorced English literature professor with two adult daughters.
Maybe I'm getting used to Ferrante, or more likely it's Leda's dispassionate tone, because I didn't find this one as unsettling as the previous two, though its themes (especially the one at its core) are arguably even more provocative. I admired the novel's circularity and its repetition of lost daughters, including a reference to a story called Olivia, if I'm correct in believing it's the Italian folktale that Italo Calvino collected under the title of Olive....more
I wasn't going to read this, but after reading Cecily's review, I requested it from the library and I'm glad I did. The physical book itself is an intI wasn't going to read this, but after reading Cecily's review, I requested it from the library and I'm glad I did. The physical book itself is an interesting little art object, almost awkward to read at first before I figured out what to do with the outer flaps.
It doesn't matter to me if a particular age group does or doesn't seem to be a target. In our public library this book is filed with the author's other works and that is just fine. Maybe I was a strange child (I still remember a friend in 6th grade telling me I read "weird books" after she perused my Scholastic Books order, and she wasn't being nice) but if a book like this one had come my way when I was an adolescent, I would've loved it, including the last paragraph, which with its much smaller font might easily be missed.
I also don't necessarily need a book to 'mean' something, though I think this one does. At first it might seem a cautionary tale for polite, accommodating youngsters, though later I wondered if a message might be that 'things' will happen no matter what you do or who you are -- and maybe even that the thing you were dreading was there, waiting, in your psyche because you'd spotted the clues long before you consciously realized it.
I have no plans to read Murakami's 1Q84 and I don't know if there are any parallels to Orwell's 1984 in it; but if there were, perhaps this story was one in Murakami's own psyche after living with the Orwell. At the first mention of fear of the dog, I was immediately reminded of Winston's biggest phobia and googling it I saw that was in Room 101 and here we have Room 107. Rereading Cecily's review after writing the previous sentence, I see she also mentions the room numbers, but I didn't dwell on it when I first read her review and forgot about it while reading this -- or more likely it was buried in my own psyche!...more
In the opening paragraph, Apuleius' narrator promises us in this "Milesian discourse" (a romantic adventure tale that is usually bawdy) to "string4.5
In the opening paragraph, Apuleius' narrator promises us in this "Milesian discourse" (a romantic adventure tale that is usually bawdy) to "string together ... a series of different stories and to charm your ears ... with amusing gossip", to provide us with a "Grecian tale" written in Latin. We are given all this and more with this precursor to the picaresque novel. The narrator apologizes if he should "stumble and give offence" as an "unpractised speaker of the foreign idiom of the Roman courts", but considering what follows, the confident writer is likely being disingenuous, as his sentences are flowing, which is not typical of Latin, as the translator E.J. Kenney explains in his introduction.
The narrator is being disingenuous as well in his setting this out as a mere romp. As a human, the main character Lucius indulges in acts of moral turpitude. As an ass, he is a witness to the same kind of salacious behavior -- and worse -- from others; and while he doesn't see in the moment the relationship of all this to himself, the reader will.
Not too far into the book, a detailed story of Cupid and Psyche is told, the reason for this, again, becoming obvious to the reader. The telling is gorgeous and immediately reminded me of the fairytale of Beauty and the Beast. In the same vein of there being 'nothing new under the sun', I was reminded while reading this book of a woman I recently heard lamenting of a child killing a younger child: "What is this world coming to?" I'm of the opinion that people who believe our time is worse than any other time period have not read widely enough. Here are more than enough ripped-from-the headline type of events, such as parents killing their children, to cause me to think of her.
The translator made a couple of choices that I felt were jarring, e.g., calling the local prison the Clink, though his end-notes explained his reasoning well enough. The translation is lively and his introduction is excellent, though, as a first-time reader of any work, I always save the introduction for last....more
Based on the two Ferrante novels I've read so far (the other being The Days of Abandonment), I predict the title of this one will describe my relationBased on the two Ferrante novels I've read so far (the other being The Days of Abandonment), I predict the title of this one will describe my relationship with all her works. Though I wasn't as drawn in at first by the narratorial voice here as I was with that of "Days", I ended up feeling much the same about both. They are not novels I can say I've enjoyed as they are so unsettling, but each has gotten under my skin and stayed there. Here too are abandonment issues: an anxious child unreasonably (perhaps) fearing that the better parent will leave her; the bad parent feeling abandoned by those he'd terrorized, including the anxious adult the narrator Delia has become.
An abusive, controlling husband and a obsessive lover (or is he?) are not the only ones Ferrante seems to indict. The "casual" misogyny is horrifying too: men who stare at, or even rub up against, girls and women on public transportation; men who follow teenagers on errands in their working-class neighborhoods, drawing close to the frightened girls to hiss obscenities, and laugh. Delia has heard these obscenities since she was a very young child and can no longer tolerate her local dialect, preferring to speak formal Italian instead, which in turn makes those in her hometown uncomfortable.
Though I feel anxiety doing so (I think this is what is termed an addiction), I've just requested The Lost Daughter from the library ...
I'd thought I was reading Ferrante's novels in publication order, but I discovered that this (1991) actually came before "Days" (2002).
I've noticed the same quirks in both books: instead of semi-colons, commas mostly are used to join complete thoughts; and the word "definitively" is used rather often.
Updated (Feb 11):
I'd wondered if the first 'quirk' I noted above was due to the translator's trying to get a sense of the Italian into the translation. This is from the translator herself:
'... what we would think of as a run-on. But of course Italian can do that, I mean, for one thing there are genders, so you can have an adjective not near its noun, because you know from the ending that it goes with that noun, but in English you can’t do that. Things have to be closer together or connected by clauses, like, “who is,” “that is,” “that was,” whatever. But they’re very full sentences ...'
After our first full day visiting Japan in 2011, I saw a baseball game on TV (had to be a replay because it was December): the Yakult Swallows vers3.5
After our first full day visiting Japan in 2011, I saw a baseball game on TV (had to be a replay because it was December): the Yakult Swallows versus the Hanshin Tigers. I recognized Matt Murton of the Tigers who'd briefly played for the Chicago Cubs and the name of the 40-year-old Miyamoto. Two evenings later, in Nara, we got caught up in a small parade on the main street and as it ended, a young man straddling a bicycle caught up with us to ask if we were Americans and, next, if we knew American baseball. When I asked if he knew American baseball, his response was "of course". (I soon understood his "of course" simply meant "yes".) His favorite Japanese team was the Hanshin Tigers, so I mentioned Murton, and he gave some other names of Americans playing in Japan. I mentioned Fukudome* (who was then playing for the Cubs) and he countered with Sammy Sosa! The young man walked with us to the hotel where we said good-bye, and he seemed reluctant to part.
I bring this up not only because in this book the Hanshin Tigers are the favorite team of the professor and the son of the housekeeper; but because baseball (along with mathematics) is the way the housekeeper and her son communicate with the professor. I don't speak Japanese and the young man's English was limited, yet we communicated -- and quite satisfactorily -- through the names of baseball players.
This book is very different from the other works of Ogawa that have been translated into English. Anyone reading this first and then the others might be in for a shock. And while I prefer her Revenge and The Diving Pool, her narratorial choice here (as usual) is intriguing. The housekeeper tells us nothing of how hard and lonely her own life must be, as if to point out how little she knows of the professor's feelings. She never questions the giving of friendship to a man who will have no memory of it eighty minutes later. The professor may live in a sort of bubble, but surely the housekeeper doesn't, though that is what she presents to us. Because of these choices, on the surface the story might seem mostly a sweet one (and it is, though it's never saccharine) but I can't help sense the sadness that lurks beneath.
* I googled Fukudome to see where he is playing now, and had to smile ... the Hanshin Tigers....more
I feel torn over this book, though thankfully not in the way the main character Olga feels torn (fragmented) during what has to be the worst day of heI feel torn over this book, though thankfully not in the way the main character Olga feels torn (fragmented) during what has to be the worst day of her life. It comes across as a day of mental illness, one that had its beginnings in previous days and will have repercussions in days to come, days in which she tamps down the feelings that arise. Yet to call it mental illness (and no one does) is probably inaccurate.
Ferrante seems to have captured any and all emotions and behaviors that might arise from such a situation. She has taken a familiar story and made it her own, one that feels real and true. At one point while reading I thought I'd be dealing with a completely unreliable narrator; but then with Olga's blunt, unflattering honesty on display, I became less sure. First-person narration should mean there will be some unreliability, though: no one can be fully objective about themselves; or fully know their own motives, despite the deepest of self-introspection, which Olga does indulge in.
So why do I feel torn? I'm not sure. I thought about it all last night and today, and still don't know. (So maybe my rating's really a 3.5.) Perhaps it's merely that Olga's story is unsettling. (I too was a single working mother with two young children.) I will read more Ferrante, just not right away as I feel the need to digest this one first.
Shortly after writing the previous sentence, I requested Troubling Love from the library. It's always exciting to find a new writer that tells an age-old story in such a new, thought-provoking way....more
Editor S. Frederick Starr has selected from Lafcadio Hearn's voluminous writings about New Orleans examples that fit into four categories: "impressionEditor S. Frederick Starr has selected from Lafcadio Hearn's voluminous writings about New Orleans examples that fit into four categories: "impressions" (Hearn was not a native New Orleanian, though he lived and worked here for ten years); "sketches"; "editorials" (Hearn wrote these for a N.O. newspaper and they proved very popular); and "field studies," selections from Hearn's longer works, La Cuisine Creole and Gombo Zhebes: Little Dictionary of Creole Proverbs, neither of which I feel inclined to read, so I was happy to have these samplings.
In his introduction Starr sets out his theory that Hearn created a vocabulary for the way New Orleanians viewed and still view themselves and their city, and that this vision of the city has been carried to 'outsiders' through art (once predominately literature, now movies) and exists to the present-day. Seeing that I was astounded while reading The New Orleans of Lafcadio Hearn: Illustrated Sketches from the Daily City Item, edited by Delia Labarre, at how much in the city has not changed from Hearn's time here (1878-1888), I was already more than inclined to agree with Starr's theory.
The book edited by Labarre (which I read before this one) seems to have been birthed from this book. In his acknowledgments Starr credits Labarre as an assistant editor (though her name is not on the cover or the title page), stating that she also identified many works previously anonymous as being Hearn's. I'm guessing there were so many illustrated sketches Starr couldn't include that Labarre decided to put together her own book. Why waste good research?
Here is some lagniappe for you, a Creole proverb:
Tou jwé sa jwé; me bwa là zòrè sa pa jwé. (Tout [façon dej jouer c'est jouer; mais enfoncer du bois dans l'oreille n'est pas jouer.) "All play is play; but poking a piece of wood into one's ear isn't play."--[Guyana.]...more
More parodying of the hard-boiled detective genre, more book "tips" (always my favorite part) and more thoughtfulness, too; chosen to be read by me atMore parodying of the hard-boiled detective genre, more book "tips" (always my favorite part) and more thoughtfulness, too; chosen to be read by me at a time similar to the below (from pp. 154-5):
The story of the book filled the car with exciting adventures of the sort that are fun to read about, so we didn't have to think about the exciting adventures of the sort that are no fun to live through.
Adding to the fun for me is that the "story" related in the car by the 13-year-old Snicket is a childhood favorite....more
Well, then and there I decided I needed to read it. The letter holds many, many quotable lines (and, sadly, relevance for today) but instead of taking those lines out of context, I recommend that you read them in context: it's not long: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/arti... ....more
This is my sixth volume of Munro stories and she has yet to disappoint me. Her stories are as dense and deep as the best of novels. In Dear L4.5 stars
This is my sixth volume of Munro stories and she has yet to disappoint me. Her stories are as dense and deep as the best of novels. In Dear Life it was the themes I fell for; here, though the characters and plots are very strong, it's the sense of place. Munro found her "own little postage stamp of native soil" (thank you, Mr. Faulkner) in Carstairs, Ontario, though not all the stories are restricted to that one place.
I was left breathless by the first story, "Carried Away", (probably my favorite) and devastated by the final one, "Vandals", which could've turned maudlin but most definitely did not. In between, we are treated (and I do mean treated) to the stories of six more women: many left motherless at a young age; some ahead of their time; and most of their place in that time. The one story I was disconcerted by ("The Jack Randa Hotel") felt out of place to me, but I now realize that was probably intentional, as Gail is an outsider by deed and by nature. Ms. Munro, you are a genius.
I was excited when I first heard about this book and I'm very excited that it lived up to my expectations. Arranged chronologically, starting with a pI was excited when I first heard about this book and I'm very excited that it lived up to my expectations. Arranged chronologically, starting with a play by an author born ca. 1734 (Paul Louis Le Blanc de Villeneufve) and ending with a short story by one born in 1952 (Fatima Shaik), it is a history of New Orleans through literature: complete selections of plays, poetry, essays, short stories and even a novella.
In her wonderful introduction, editor Nancy Dixon points out that an important theme in that first writer's work, a drama called "The Festival of the Young Corn", is also found in the one-act play "Ritual Murder" by Tom Dent, a writer born in 1932. I also found themes in the short story "Bastien: A X-mas in the Great Salt Marshes of Louisiana" by the postbellum writer Sallie Rhett Roman that are similar to those in Richard Ford's short story "Calling".
One of the purposes of this volume is to serve as a textbook at one of the local colleges, but I read it straight through -- only skipping a handful of selections I'd read elsewhere -- and it's a revelation. Not only did it provide me with works by authors I'd not heard of before or hadn't read yet, it's also a physical resource for hard-to-find works such as Lafcadio Hearn's Chita: A Memory of Last Island or even impossible-to-find works, such as Lyle Saxon's short story "The Centaur Plays Croquet".
And though, thankfully, this volume is not focused at all on New Orleanian cliches, I found it appropriate that I finished it on Mardi Gras, i.e. today. Happy Mardi Gras, indeed....more
This is a quick-reading collection of interrelated stories that are deeply affecting despite their superficial simplicity. The themes of loneliness anThis is a quick-reading collection of interrelated stories that are deeply affecting despite their superficial simplicity. The themes of loneliness and the lack of true friendship on a kibbutz, where everyone is supposedly friends, and of individuality versus the collective become more complex and thought-provoking as one reads on.
The stories of certain characters, such as the five-year-old boy who is bullied mercilessly in the children's house, become almost poetic in parts, but only rarely. The prose is not ornate at all and my only issue with it is that a few stories, especially those in the beginning, hold a bit too much repetition for such spareness.
But neither the plots nor the characters, though they are rendered with much empathy, are what is front and center: instead, it is the mood Oz evokes of a time and place, of a community that could be confining in its idealism and, especially to the younger generation, must have felt at many times like prison.
The last line of the last story is perfect and is partly why I rounded up my original thought of 3.5 stars to 4....more
My first experience with Proust's sentences reminded me of my earlier experiences of Henry James'. Not only are their sentences lengthy with multipleMy first experience with Proust's sentences reminded me of my earlier experiences of Henry James'. Not only are their sentences lengthy with multiple clauses and asides, upon first jumping into them, I sometimes immediately reread them in order to return to their headwaters. And that second reading is always seamless. Unlike in James though, where the psychological insights may seem contrary, even hard to grasp, Proust's arrive with a nod of the head. Like a sculptor is said to bring forth what is already there in his block of unformed marble, Proust has put into words what the sympathetic reader already feels and knows, yet he's rendered it all in fresh, vivid imagery.
Yes, there were a few times I was wearied by the repetitiveness of Swann's obsessiveness; same with a couple of short passages in the narrator's bookends, though each time my weariness was brief and I was soon back in the flowing current. The closing section brought the novel together into one beautiful cohesive whole.
My own aside: I googled every work of art mentioned and I know I will never look at a Botticelli female again without seeing her through Proust's eyes.
Between 1940 and 1946 the trained artist Walter Inglis Anderson, self-released from a mental hospital, living with his wife and children at his fatherBetween 1940 and 1946 the trained artist Walter Inglis Anderson, self-released from a mental hospital, living with his wife and children at his father-in-law's home, would stay up into the small hours simultaneously reading classic works and "realizing" (Anderson's word) them onto typing paper with the ink of his pen. In the morning his wife would gather the scattered illustrations (this is the least of what she had to bear), which eventually amounted to about 9500. The editor has chosen 120 of the 9500 for this volume, adding underneath each its related passage, many of which Anderson incorporated into the drawings themselves. What are essentially unfinished doodles are fascinating to the Anderson-obsessive, i.e., me.
In his fine introduction Redding S. Sugg Jr. explains why he has not included sketches from works such as Alice in Wonderland and points out the difference of the illustrations of The Poems Of Ossian (only a handful of the existing 850 are used) from the others. He also puts these years of Anderson's life into context, and posits that Anderson chose these works to read and render at a time when he needed to voyage "out of the self and into the inscapes of other minds;" in 1947 he would turn his attention almost exclusively to the flora, fauna and landscape of the Mississippi coast.
My favorite drawings are those from Pope's The Iliad -- the sharp nose on Cupid is especially amusing -- and Milton's Paradise Lost, the latter reminiscent of William Blake's soft renderings of Dante's The Divine Comedy, though many of Anderson's are more detailed and with a finer line than Blake's are. Anderson also "realized" The Divine Comedy, but none of those realizations are included here....more
After a recent aborted attempt of an adult version of the same tale (The True Story of Hansel and Gretel), reading this cleansed my palate. This telliAfter a recent aborted attempt of an adult version of the same tale (The True Story of Hansel and Gretel), reading this cleansed my palate. This telling by Neil Gaiman breaks no new ground, but his prose is a delight to read.
A great bonus is the publisher's note at the back: an interesting history of the tale going back to 1806 and ending in 2007 to explain the origin of these illustrations. The note also cleared up the mystery of the puzzling penultimate illustration which had no correlation to Gaiman's text (a pet peeve of mine).
Mattotti's illustrations, cross-hatched to the extreme, are too dark (in look, not in theme) for my tastes, though I liked searching for the white areas within the overwhelming black....more
Last month, on a one-night visit to Natchez, Mississippi, after checking in to the B&B, we walked Main Street on our way to the Under-the-Hill areLast month, on a one-night visit to Natchez, Mississippi, after checking in to the B&B, we walked Main Street on our way to the Under-the-Hill area for a beer and then dinner. After crossing over to State Street, we passed the William Johnson House. I was drawn to its look, like a Philadelphia row house, and snapped a photo, not stopping to see if the House was still open for the day. (I was hungry.) The next morning while getting ready to leave the B&B, I found this book on the parlor coffee-table and it clinched the visit I thought I wouldn't take: we were going to the House before we left town. I had it in my head to buy William Johnson's Natchez: The Ante-Bellum Diary of a Free Negro at the gift shop; but the polite, friendly young man working there changed my mind after recommending this over the other: he said the diary was repetitive and this book held the 'highlights'.
The story of "the barber of Natchez", William Johnson -- ex-slave, proud free man of color, successful and respected businessman, landowner, landlord (his tenants were white men, though immigrants), chronicler in his 16-years-long personal diary of life in an antebellum Deep South city -- is absolutely fascinating and I'm surprised it isn't more well-known. The discovery of his diaries and other personal papers (all found in the family attic) were a boon to historians, even horseracing historians.
As a black man, he couldn't vote or participate in any way in the political process (which he would've enjoyed), but he was expected to contribute monetarily to certain causes and he did. When he stopped attending the theater (he didn't enjoy having to sit in the gallery with the misbehaving riffraff), he turned to reading, cementing the feeling I had that I could've been his friend; though, of course, as a white woman, I couldn't have. His owning of slaves is problematic to me, of course, yet at the account of the end of his life, I did feel as if I'd lost a friend. I felt sadness and anger, too: despite the expertise of his attorney, the existing laws (blacks not being allowed to testify against whites) could not afford his family the justice they deserved....more
From the poem A Little Ado About This And That included in this volume:
"I would like people to remember of me, how inexhaustible was her mindfulness."From the poem A Little Ado About This And That included in this volume:
"I would like people to remember of me, how inexhaustible was her mindfulness."
There is no doubt that this is how Oliver will be remembered. Her outlook in this slim, attractive book remains positive, never cloying, and is tinged with welcome humor and even sadness as she approaches death -- though as fitting with her persona, she turns that into affirmation as well.
Any previous exposure I've had to Oliver's poems has been via the internet and I've loved them all, though the first one I came across online remains my favorite of hers:
The Poet with His Face in His Hands
You want to cry aloud for your mistakes. But to tell the truth the world doesn’t need anymore of that sound.
So if you’re going to do it and can’t stop yourself, if your pretty mouth can’t hold it in, at least go by yourself across
the forty fields and the forty dark inclines of rocks and water to the place where the falls are flinging out their white sheets
like crazy, and there is a cave behind all that jubilation and water fun and you can stand there, under it, and roar all you
want and nothing will be disturbed; you can drip with despair all afternoon and still, on a green branch, its wings just lightly touched
by the passing foil of the water, the thrush, puffing out its spotted breast, will sing of the perfect, stone-hard beauty of everything.
I'm generally a sucker for fairy-tale retellings, but while the description of the setting evokes both a place out of time and a Polish village duringI'm generally a sucker for fairy-tale retellings, but while the description of the setting evokes both a place out of time and a Polish village during the Nazi occupation, the prose is too erratic. I read on after being encouraged by a sublime passage of the young girl's reaction to trauma, even continued after the prose almost immediately turned cringe-worthy for another scene. But what stopped me completely in my tracks (around page 170) was a plot contrivance that made no sense as to the character of the Oberfuhrer....more
After reading about 80 pages, I've decided to abandon this. The story and the characters are not engaging me at all, and the prose is irritatingly repAfter reading about 80 pages, I've decided to abandon this. The story and the characters are not engaging me at all, and the prose is irritatingly repetitive and for no good reason that I can see....more
While reading this, I was reminded of the title So Many Ways to Begin, though this is So Many Ways to End. Beautiful story, beautifully rendered, andWhile reading this, I was reminded of the title So Many Ways to Begin, though this is So Many Ways to End. Beautiful story, beautifully rendered, and with a perfect ending. I'd love to quote the ending, but it should be experienced in its own time and setting....more
If Coetzee's Disgrace is at least partly a meditation on the title word, this earlier novel seems to be partly a musing on the word stupefy:
If Coetzee's Disgrace is at least partly a meditation on the title word, this earlier novel seems to be partly a musing on the word stupefy:
Television ... the parade of politicians every evening ... their message stupidly unchanging ... Their feat, after years of etymological meditation on the word, to have raised stupidity to a virtue. To stupefy: to deprive of feeling; to benumb, deaden; to stun with amazement ... Stupid: dulled in the faculties, indifferent, destitute of thought or feeling. From stupere to be stunned, astounded. A gradient from stupid to stunned to astonished, to be turned to stone ... A message that turns people to stone ... Boars that devour their offspring. The Boar War.
The almost-unnamed narrator (seeming to be a forerunner of Coetzee's later alter-ego Elizabeth Costello) rails against stupefaction and fights it from within, but realizes its inevitability as she increasingly needs more and more pills to numb the pain of her cancer.
Her inner journey is a Dantean one, though we are also taken into an actual inferno. (The relevance of young teenage boys dying at the hands of Authority was not lost on me.) She is our Virgil, but she has her own Virgil, whose appearance on the day she receives the bad news from her doctor she takes as a sign.
She is wordy. She knows her Latin and ancient Roman history; she wonders about possible anagrams of the names of battles and medications as she falls into temporary stupor:
Borodino, Diconal: I stare at the words. Are they anagrams? They look like anagrams. But for what, and in what language? ... Borodino: an anagram for Come back in some language or other. Diconal: I call.
The dialogue she reports seems unrealistic in its wordiness, but the conceit of the whole novel -- a letter to her daughter, living in North America -- covers that possible flaw. Though I haven't read all of Coetzee, I wonder if this is perhaps his most straightforward novel....more
Long before Suzuki became world-famous with Ring, he was a househusband and primary caregiver for their two daughters while his wife worked outside thLong before Suzuki became world-famous with Ring, he was a househusband and primary caregiver for their two daughters while his wife worked outside the home. That experience informs the six stories of this collection, published in Japan in 1995 but not in the U.S. until this year.
While the metaphor of a DNA double helix in one story points toward an interest further developed in his Ring trilogy, there's only a nod to the fantastical in this collection -- a possessed ICU respirator in one story and in another a family suitcase that walks away on its own -- elements that reflect the anxiety of an expectant father for his hospitalized wife and that of a widowed father of an adolescent girl. The theme of borders fits all the stories in one way or another, especially the thin boundary between violence and pacifism, and life and death.
I've heard it said that the two strongest stories of a collection should be the first and last. That's not the case here, as those two are the weakest as far as the writing goes (though some of that may be due to translation choices); but as an introduction and conclusion to the collection's overall theme, they two are the best choices. I was despairing of the superfluity in the last story until the startling, almost Flannery O'Connor-like, ending had me completely rethinking the story, thus deepening the impact of the whole collection....more
I've had it in my head to read this for a long time, as I enjoyed Frayn's Spies and the premise seemed one I'd like. I finally came across the book inI've had it in my head to read this for a long time, as I enjoyed Frayn's Spies and the premise seemed one I'd like. I finally came across the book in a dimly lit very small branch library. It was above my head and under a long blue tarp. When I got the book into better light, I found the cover intriguing as it reminded me of the 'falling man' in the painting in A Month in the Country. (Except for each novel's mysterious falling man, no other comparison exists.)
I imagine Frayn's impetus to writing this novel was his own disagreement with Bruegel scholarship and instead of letting his research go to waste, he incorporated it straight into this book. As interesting as the research is, it didn't work for me as part of a novel. The other element of the story -- a sort of bedroom farce -- just wasn't something I found funny or even appealing.
The book got me googling various paintings though, and I enjoyed that immensely....more
The set-up for the main plot is slow, at times boring and too repetitive. The action, once we get to, can also be repetitive -- I kept thinking: pleasThe set-up for the main plot is slow, at times boring and too repetitive. The action, once we get to, can also be repetitive -- I kept thinking: please give the reader some credit -- though I'm willing to speculate that perhaps some of the fault is with the translation. The bland prose doesn't fit such an emotional story and the exposition seems as if it was written for a young audience. While I understand what she was trying to get at with the ending, it seems forced and I'm not sure it makes much sense....more