By page 35, I was in loved with this book. By page 110, I didn’t want to put it down. By 174, I knew it would be one of the best books I’ve ever read....moreBy page 35, I was in loved with this book. By page 110, I didn’t want to put it down. By 174, I knew it would be one of the best books I’ve ever read. By the last page, I knew that was all true.
I was extremely apprehensive about reading this because I got a third of the way through Everything is Illuminated before deciding I couldn’t deal with it. This book made up for that a googolplex times.
It was everything about the book: the inclusion of pictures and graphics, the multiple perspectives, the language, the descriptions of New York, the way everything Foer writes is beautiful… but most of all, I loved Oskar Schell, the 9-year-old protagonist. He is smart beyond his years, very emotional, improper social skills, a huge heart, eccentric—I could go on and on. I wish I knew Oskar. I’d give him a hug.
I don’t know what more I can say. I never wanted it to end, but I couldn’t not read it when I knew there was still more to read.
It’s official. Reading this novel has determined that Ms. Lahiri is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read both of her short story compilations (Interp...moreIt’s official. Reading this novel has determined that Ms. Lahiri is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read both of her short story compilations (Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth) and was wondering how her writing would translate into something full length, and wow.
The story spans almost fifty years, two generations, three countries, and numerous cities. It is the story of Gogol, born to immigrants from India, who struggles to accept the traditional ways of his parents while trying to fit in as an American. It is the story of his name, as the title suggests, a story of identity and defining oneself.
The story begins with his mother and father, Ashima and Ashoke, migrating to America and settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the 1960s. It follows them through their difficulties adapting to a place that is not their own and entirely unfamiliar. They soon have a son, who is named Gogol after Ashoke’s favorite author, a name meant to be temporary until a name chosen by his grandmother in India arrives by letter. A letter which is forever lost. Thus begins Gogol’s turmoil—he hates going to school where he is the boy in the class whose name can never be pronounced by a substitute, who wishes he could have an American name like his classmates, or at least a proper Indian name with an American nickname.
The story continues to follow Gogol, but still weaves in the lives Ashima, Ashoke and his sister Sonia, along with the others Gogol meets along his journey. What draws me into Lahiri’s writing the most is the realness, the vivid details, the characters that, days later, still feel like someone you have met before and talked at length with. She creates scenes, settings, houses, restaurants, commenting on the details that we would notice as well as the details that are minute, but not superfluous. She can simultaneously create a storyline in Calcutta and one in the suburbs of Boston, one in Paris and New York City, collisions of American and Bengali, old and contemporary, seamlessly woven. And she makes it look easy.
Gogol is a character that I will never forget. He is endearingly flawed, confused. He is torn the way so many of us are, between what we grew up with and what we see in the world, not wanting to break ties with our roots but knowing that we must to adapt. I feel like I know him, and now that I’ve finished the novel, I still imagine he is walking the streets of New York, where I will one day walk pass him and wave hello.(less)
This is the second book I’ve read by Hosseini (the other being The Kite Runner, his only other novel), and it is the second time that I haven’t wanted...moreThis is the second book I’ve read by Hosseini (the other being The Kite Runner, his only other novel), and it is the second time that I haven’t wanted to stop reading. It’s one of those books that, while out last night at a bar, I found my mind wandering to when I could get back the story. It grabbed me like that. The story is the tale of two Afghani women whose paths eventually cross and come together. The structure of the book was intriguing—split into 4 parts, the first telling the story of Mariam, the second telling the story of Laila, the third telling both of their stories in alternating chapters (all in third person omniscient), and the fourth telling both of their tales. I found this set-up to be extremely effective in understanding and developing a deep relationship with both of these leading women.
Something that is seemingly the constant in Hosseini’s writing is his interweaving of a fictional narrative with the history, triumphs, and turmoil of modern day Afghanistan. It is a history lesson as would be seen through the eyes of those living it, and not an impartial textbook. This book spanned over 40 years of the tumultuous and ever-changing history of Afghanistan, and particularly Kabul—from the time of feuding warlords to the Taliban occupation. I am ashamed to admit (and this book only increasing brought to fruition) how little I know about the history of the country that America has been occupying and freeing and bombing for the last 9 years.
When you combine those two elements—the structure and the history—the end result is a personal novel that involves you in the cultures and lives of everyday Afghani people. It’s humbling. It’s heartbreaking. It’s shocking. I ached for these women. I felt anger and pain and frustration. And all of it was told with such an ease and flow. Hosseini’s descriptions are truly poetic at times, the way I always want to describe things, but fall short when I try. Here’s an example:
“And, just five days in, Laila had learned a fundamental truth about time: Like the accordion on which Tariq’s father sometimes played old Pashto songs, time stretched and contracted depending on Tariq’s absence or presence.”
This book comes highly recommended by me. The next book I read has some big shoes to fill. Like thigh-high boots big.(less)
This was a very quick read; I actually read half the book per sitting, in two sittings.
Since reading Saturday, I’ve been a fan of McEwan’s writing. He...moreThis was a very quick read; I actually read half the book per sitting, in two sittings.
Since reading Saturday, I’ve been a fan of McEwan’s writing. He is masterful in detail and in his creation of complex characters. He writes so vividly about things that are part of our everyday lives and somehow makes them sound beautiful. He is a genius when it comes to creating intricate thoughts of his characters. They are genuine and often unhappy, which makes them human.
On Chesil Beach is the story, set in 1962, of a newlywed couple’s wedding night. There are certain unspoken expectations of that night. Edward is excitedly anticipating being intimate with his new wife for the first time, a completion of their marital vows. Florence is dreading it, full of anxiety and, actually, repulsion. She is more than scared but doesn’t want to let it on to her new husband. She loves him; she just doesn’t want to have sex—not with him, or anyone. Edward reads her body language incorrectly, thinking she is just as excited as he. She remains silent. It is a classic story of how a lack of communication can devastate a relationship.
The story is essentially that of the one night. McEwan’s story telling is what makes these few hours into a novel. He casually works in each of their family backgrounds, their childhood and adulthood, how the couple met, and their year of courting. It flows naturally, and soon you have the entire lives of two people stemming from this one night. I loved that way of weaving the story together.
It is a heartbreaking matter. I found myself empathizing with both Edward and Florence which in turn invested me in their story. This is what McEwan wants. He wants you to feel their pain and happiness, their self-pity and embarrassment, to really get in their heads. In doing so, you begin to think of Edward and Florence as real.
My only complaint with his writing is that the amazing detail can sometimes slow the plot and become tedious. If you just push through the dragging parts, it’s well worth it. I can’t wait to finally read Atonement sometime this year. I loved the movie, and I feel like I can’t not love the book.(less)
This was a quick read, though not necessarily because I was in love with it and couldn’t get enough of it.
The intrigue of the story lies in the subje...moreThis was a quick read, though not necessarily because I was in love with it and couldn’t get enough of it.
The intrigue of the story lies in the subject matter—it is the memoir of a woman who spent time in a mental hospital in the 60s, a time when psychiatry and methods of treatment were questionable to say the least. I enjoyed hearing it firsthand, although that did set me up to expect something more. I felt that the story was lacking in the ‘shock and awe’ category, which is sort of what I expect from a story set in a mental hospital. It did a good job setting the tone of McLean Hospital though, but I was just expecting more. Sure the living conditions were rough and the assessments seem barbaric in the 21st century when much more is known about the mind, but it didn’t grab me. If you set me up for a story to be told about a mental patient, I might think I’m going to get a little more craziness than I got from this book.
That being said, I think that it does do justice to describing her mental processes and her personal battles with borderline personality disorder. We do get into her head and neuroses. But as she states, she is the most normal, most sane of the bunch. I did like how we see her progress. Only, I didn’t find her that crazy to begin with. Maybe that says something about me and not the author…
It was interesting and well-composed, with the inclusion of copies of her various paperwork from the hospital scattered throughout, but it wasn’t ‘compelling’ or ‘heartbreaking’ as the cover said it would be. A good quick read but nothing revolutionary.(less)
I must admit, I was reluctant to read this book. I was not a fan of the movie. I do realize that movies rarely do their books justice, and it was with...moreI must admit, I was reluctant to read this book. I was not a fan of the movie. I do realize that movies rarely do their books justice, and it was with that notion that I embarked on this journey.
The first 50 or so pages seemed like they were perfectly adapted to the screen. Thus, I didn’t get into the book until a little bit after that. This is when I began to be truly fascinated with Thompson’s knack for fast-paced and entertaining storytelling.
“But our trip was different. It was a classic affirmation of everything right and true and decent in the national character. It was a gross physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country—but only for those with true grit. And we were chock full of that.” Thompson, known by his alias, ‘Duke’, and his attorney begin their journalism assignment with the American Dream, optimism, and hope in the front seat of the Shark, and with an array of illegal drugs and alcohol in the trunk. Together, they delve into the underbelly of Las Vegas in the early 70s—a place that I would never want to be—in a constant state of some sort of intoxication.
This makes for an interesting journey, probably the closest I’ll ever get to an acid trip. The lure of this book for me was the feeling of insanity that Thompson was feeling, with the drugs, alcohol and sleeplessness. You are declared officially insane after 72 hours without sleep. At 80 hours+ for Thompson by the end of the book, I’d say this proves true.
While it was good quick read, and I appreciated the ease that Thompson has in his writing, I didn’t love it. The same reason I enjoyed it served as the ultimate disconnect: I will never fully comprehend a life like his, even if I felt like I was part of it for 200 pages.
Thompson never did actually cover any of the stories he was sent to. This book serves as the result of his time in Las Vegas. This book is the story he ultimately covered. This is his American Dream.(less)
I saw this movie awhile ago and loved it, and since then, I’ve been wanting to read the book.
Jon Krakauer first wrote the story of Chris McCandless i...moreI saw this movie awhile ago and loved it, and since then, I’ve been wanting to read the book.
Jon Krakauer first wrote the story of Chris McCandless in mid 1992 after his body was discovered in Alaska. This story stuck with Krakauer, who then researched Chris’ life and mapped out his journey methodically, interviewing everyone he met along his cross-country roadtrip in order to piece it all together. This book serves as a great piece of journalism, though infused with Krakauer’s personal feelings toward Chris. He is very open about having his opinion threaded in his writing, but still urges the reader to make up their own mind. He offers plenty of evidence to support both views of Chris: that he was a naive, ignorant self-absorbed boy on a suicidal mission or that he was a mature young man of great self-awareness and intellect who fell into some unfortunate circumstances. While the author agrees with the latter, he offers ample instances to go against his hypothesis, which gives it a less biased feel.
The story of Chris McCandless I find intriguing. To give up money, companionship and possessions to traverse the wilderness and fully experience it is a notion that seems un-doable in the 20th century, but somehow, he did it. While I am saddened by his untimely death, I am almost left to wonder what he possibly would have thought of today’s world, almost 20 years later, the age of the internet and technology. I don’t think he’d have wanted to see this. The book is awesomely framed, with each chapter telling the story of a place that Chris had visited, fitted with quotes from various sources to begin the chapter and sort of guide us. These other people help us to get a sense of a person like Chris, someone who is so unlike most of us. Infused in his family history, a bit of our author’s background, snippets from Chris’ journal and postcards, and some history of our country. There are lots of maps, and the descriptions of the various places sort of make you feel like you are alongside Chris.
It did move a little slowly for me. Maybe that was purposeful pacing because it, too, was a long journey for Chris, who spent more than two years traveling, hitchhiking, and exploring.
I would recommend this. Some may think of his notions has foolhardy, but there are very few people out there who do something like this. He was not only a dreamer, but a doer. He committed himself to his views and stood by them until the end. For that, I very much admire Chris McCandless.(less)
It was a remarkable book. Eggers has a great voice, is honest, and has a unique style, a lot of which is sort stream of consciousness of a person who’...moreIt was a remarkable book. Eggers has a great voice, is honest, and has a unique style, a lot of which is sort stream of consciousness of a person who’s a little emotionally messed up. But still I didn’t love it. The title fits the book perfectly—the author really is that in love with himself and his writing, which I think what bothered me the most. He is very aware of his attitude and does recognize it through other characters observations of him. That didn’t make it any less tedious for me to sift through 400 pages of incredibly well-written narcissism. (less)