I don't like the characters. (This was going to be a list, but then I realized that this is the only reason I...more**spoiler alert** I don't like this book.
I don't like the characters. (This was going to be a list, but then I realized that this is the only reason I have.)
Florentino Ariza is a baby. Seriously, his mom gives him whatever he wants, and she tries to make everything all right for him, and he is very, very ... if he lived today, he would be one of those emo kids with the dyed black hair and the eye liner and the journals full of bad poetry (he does write bad poetry, in the book), all "Nobody gets me," and just a grating, time-sucking, high maintenance type. He rationalizes his behavior in whatever way he can, so he never feels that he is doing anything wrong.
I grew impatient with him fairly quickly; I wanted to wring him by his neck and yell, "GET OVER IT!!!" I have no tolerance for that kind of behavior. Sometime during the Seduction of the 600, it says that Florentino Ariza thought that when a woman said no, she really meant something else (that's a paraphrase). This is another thing I have no tolerance for. So, when he persisted in his attentions to Fermina Daza, even after she'd made her own feelings quite clear (TWICE), and she came around to his way of thinking, it justified his behavior. I don't think he should be rewarded for that. I think he should be kicked to the curb.
Fermina Daza was almost likable; I was almost there with her, but then I realized that there wasn't anything really likable about her. She was efficient and organized, she was well-behaved, and she was boring. Why did men love her? What did she have to offer? I DON'T KNOW.
I did like Juvenal Urbino. Of course he dies in the first chapter.
It seemed to me that the book dragged on FOREVER; I kept looking ahead to the end of a chapter and sighing, "Forty-two more pages." (The chapters are long.) Even though two weeks doesn't seem like a long time, it's a long time for ME to be reading a book, particularly one that isn't a thousand pages long and written in Elizabethan English.
I didn't think this was any kind of love story. Like Wuthering Heights, it's more a love-gone-wrong story, or an obsession story; none of the characters really displayed any of the traits that I would associate with love, one which--the chief one, I would say--is selflessness. None of them were willing to put anyone else above themselves, and maybe that's why I didn't particularly care for them, or for this book.
I bought this book after having seen the movie and, as is so often the case, the book is much, much better than the film. While I enjoyed the movie ve...moreI bought this book after having seen the movie and, as is so often the case, the book is much, much better than the film. While I enjoyed the movie very much, I loved this book and flew through it.
Miss Pettigrew has been repressed and oppressed and one day, after meeting Delysia LaFosse, throws her convictions to the wind and decides to enjoy herself. She has the best time of her life, makes tons of new friends, becomes a sort of "fixer" for Delysia and her degenerate crowd, earns the admiration of a host of young people, and possibly finds a little romance of her own ... all in the course of 24 hours.
The subject matter seems a tiny bit racy, particularly when one takes into account that this was written by a woman in the early 20th century, when the Hays Code would have had us believe that nobody drank alcohol, had sex, or said dirty words, when men were valiant and heroic, and women were faithful and timid and believed they were "the weaker sex." That's all shot to hell here, and rightly so.
I love books about heroines who decide to just go for it, to toss away inhibitions and societal restrictions, who learn that the rules they've followed for years are arbitrary and often misogynistic, and who "find themselves" when they'd thought their lives were over.
This is a short, charming read, and I smiled the entire time I was reading it.(less)
This is a thinking book. Initially my first reaction, upon completing the book, was this: "What a bunch of assholes."
After further reflection, I stand...moreThis is a thinking book. Initially my first reaction, upon completing the book, was this: "What a bunch of assholes."
After further reflection, I stand by that statement, but I can see how each of the characters was flawed, and how the individual failings of each character were exacerbated by relationships with the others'.
For me, most of the book seemed to be an attack on Catholicism, which caused so many rifts in the Flyte family. Throughout, both Sebastian and Julia struggle so much against their faith, but then turn to it in times of crisis--even make sacrifices for it when required to do so.
I've read that this is Waugh's ode to Catholicism, but it's not a great one, if it is. The main message seems to be something like, "Run as much as you want, you can't get away from me!" Me meaning Catholicism. I'm pretty sure that's not the way to get people to convert or to ... revert (?).
Each of the main characters, at one time or another, seem to have disconnected, from life, from family, even from themselves. It's hard to believe they have any emotional depth at all; they've suppressed any humanity they may have had. There could be any number of reasons for this: deterioration of the class system, family ruptures, loss of faith, inability to face reality, resistance to maturity. I'm not saying they're good reasons, or justifiable reasons; in fact, most of them are things that everyone experiences, but we all seem to get through it.
That Charles Ryder maintained contact with the Flytes is to his credit; I would have ignored them altogether after having been thrown out of their house. I wonder, though, if his interest came out of genuine affection or out of pity for them. Ultimately, he was just the little boy plugging the dike with his thumb; they were too intent on orchestrating their own destruction to let Charles help them.
Thanks to K.K. for helping me out with Catholicism questions.
This is the first book that I've just tipped over in love with in a long time.
Having seen the movie Howard's End, and knowing that E.M. Forster wrote...moreThis is the first book that I've just tipped over in love with in a long time.
Having seen the movie Howard's End, and knowing that E.M. Forster wrote in the late 19th/early 20th century, and having watched that episode of The Office where the Finer Things Club discussed this book, I fully expected it to be a dull, dry slog.
But it was not. It was a pleasure.
Lucy Honeychurch learns that the rules of society can--and sometimes should--be broken. She learns that she doesn't have to love a man just because everybody else tells her he's right for her. And she finally follows her own instincts to find happiness.
Some of the best parts:
Upon hearing Lucy playing the piano ("...she loved to play on the side of Victory," Forster writes, though "she struck no more right notes than was suitable for one of her age and situation," the vicar Mr. Beebe says,"If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting--both for us and for her."
While on vacation in Italy, Lucy and her annoying older cousin/chaperone Charlotte are staying at this place that caters to British tourists. There, they meet the old Mr. Emerson and his son George, who are sort of lower class, or at least other people think they are, when really Mr. Emerson just says what he thinks, which is never appreciated. Several in the group take a road trip out to a famous landscape, and Lucy finds herself alone. She goes looking for the vicar when she falls into a little violet-covered terrace:
"George had turned at the sound of her arrival. For a moment he contemplated her, as one who had fallen out of heaven. He saw radiant joy in her face, he saw the flowers beat against her dress in blue waves. The bushes above them closed. He stepped quickly forward and kissed her."
After this, Charlotte quickly whisks Lucy off to Rome, where she meets Cecil Vyse, who is one of those people who thinks he knows everything and, on top of that, thinks he is very funny. He is not.
Lucy returns home and Cecil follows her and asks her to marry him (for the third time) and she says yes. She's happy for a while, until George and his dad move into town. That leads to this:
"She led the way up to the garden, Cecil following her, George last. She thought a disaster was averted. But when they entered the shrubbery it came. ...Cecil must go back for [a book:]; and George, who loved passionately, must blunder against her in the narrow path. "No--" she gasped, and, for the second time, was kissed by him.
This next is my favorite part, when George is trying to convince Lucy that Cecil is wrong for her, that Cecil just wants someone to talk the ears off of, with all his stupid "witticisms" and holding forth on various profound subjects that he doesn't know anything about. But Lucy is tired of being talked at, and tells George that he is doing exactly the same thing.
And he says, "This desire to govern a woman--it lies very deep, and men and women must fight it together ... But I do love you--surely in a better way than he does." He thought. "Yes--really in a better way. I want you to have your own thoughts even when I hold you in my arms."
Gah! That is a good line there, a surefire way to talk a woman into anything. But Lucy holds fast--I don't know how she does it--and George goes away.
What follows next is probably the most gracious broken engagement ever recorded, which may be the redemption of Cecil Vyse (who turns out to be sort of interesting, when he's not a giant prat). And then a happy ending that may have been brought about by the person you'd least expect it from.
Obviously, what I've written here is just the surface of the story. There's tons of deeper analytical stuff about the role of women in society, class divisions, Fate vs. God, the probably gay vicar, and how Italy makes everything better.
But you can ignore all that, if you want, and stay in the shallow end of the pool with me ... and my new boyfriend George Emerson.
**spoiler alert** While I did enjoy this book, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with the characters. I know it's because I'm reading wi...more**spoiler alert** While I did enjoy this book, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with the characters. I know it's because I'm reading with 21st century eyes, but I find it hard to believe that a self-assured, intelligent woman like Margaret would stay with an old-fashioned, unfeeling jackass like Henry.
In fact, Henry himself may be the most frustrating character in the book. He's lucky, so so lucky throughout the book, because he always has someone to take care of him, to compliment (and complement) him, to cover his messes and to soothe his ego. First it's his wife Ruth, then it's Margaret. He never has to take responsibility for anything, and he rarely--if ever--notices anything that he just doesn't want to deal with.
I DON'T KNOW WHY MARGARET PUTS UP WITH HIM.
Examples are given throughout the book of times she has to stifle her own thoughts in favor of his, or to temper her actions so as not to upset him. But it constitutes a change in her previous behavior, when she had been independent and had spoken up for herself and had let everyone know what she was thinking.
Would love really cause someone to muzzle herself? Margaret admits that she does not love Henry when he proposes, but assumes she will grow to love him. But as she cares for him more and more, she loses herself more and more. That's not a fair trade-off.
The book deals with the changing times of the early 20th century by showing both extremes: Henry, or more likely, his son, who have a snobbish attitude toward the rising middle classes; and Helen, who is almost a communist in her attempt to raise everyone from poverty by insisting that all of society take notice and responsibility.
Margaret is the middle ground here, as well. She's idealistic, yes, but she's also practical. She wants to help people, but she concentrates on specific cases; personally helping a few makes more sense to her than making speeches that help no one.
The ending seems a bit contrived, and the denouement very rushed. It seems like Forster just wanted to get rid of some unlikeable characters quickly.
It was good, but not as good as A Room with a View.
I made notes as I read this. That is a totally nerdy thing to do ... whatever, I own it.
(All page numbers are from the BN Classics edition.)
pg. 87 - "...they avoided the personal note in life. All Wilcoxes did. It did not seem to them of supreme importance. Or it may be as Helen supposed: they realized its importance, but were afraid of it."
Ruth Wilcox (mother) has just died, but her children cannot bring themselves to talk of it--not because of their grief, but because they don't know how to talk to each other.
Their memories of their mother are tied to things or other people; she has no unattached legacy, they did not really know her as a person (or even, really, as a mother; she existed to fulfull their needs, but not to talk to, or play with, or enjoy).
pg. 88 - "She wanted not to vex people." --This is Ruth's legacy, to be as unobtrusive as possible, in both life and in death. It's amazing how, after her death, her entire family almost seems to forget her, and it's only an outsider--Margaret--who remembers who clearly.
pgs 118-119 - When arguing with friends about how to distribute a millionaire's legacy, Margaret says it's more important to give money than to give things, and to let the receiver decided how to spend the money.
"The imagination out to play upon money and realize it vividly, for it's the--the second most important thing in the world."
Again, Margaret shows how people--love--are more important than money; though she does not insult the listeners by insisting that money is of low importance.
" ... independent thoughts are in nine cases out of the ten the result of independent means."
It IS easier to be idealistic, to strive for independence if your income relies on no one. I follow rules I may not agree with, teach by methods I do not like, fall in place with beliefs that are not my own, but I have to do that in order to survive financially. Yes, I COULD just tell everybody to go to hell, but only if I had masses of money in the bank and if my security were guaranteed.
pg 121 - "I believe we shall come to care about people less and less, Helen. The more people one knows, the easier it becomes to replace them."
The more relationships one has, the shallower they tend to be. They don't last long and are, as Margaret says, easily replaced.
pg 175 - "[Henry:] simply did not notice things."
Time and again this is illustrated throughout the book. Henry certainly has the ability to focus on things that are important to HIM; his peripheral vision is very limited, almost nonexistent. He does not care about anything that is not directly related to him. For a middle-aged/old man, this is very immature behavior. His self-centered outlook prevents him from forming lasting relationships, or from sustaining the ones he has. It seems to affect his memory as well; as soon as something passes out of his life, whether it's a house or a wife, he has moved on. It's hard to imagine that a person like that has any tender feeling; how can he? I don't think the love he has for Margaret is genuine. I think she makes his life easier, and his gratitude for her refusal to hold him accountable--for anything!--is particularly handy for him.
Helen is the same way. Maybe this is why Margaret can put up with Henry, because she's taken care of Helen her whole life.
pg 297 - "[Leonard:] did not supposed that confession would bring him happiness. It was rather that he yearned to get clear of the tangle."
Isn't that how it is with confessions? We do it to make ourselves feel better, not because we really want to make things right. Leonard feels that pushing the burden off onto someone else will lessen his accountability; the burden still exists, but someone else will have to carry it while he leaves it behind. Selfish.
pg 313 - "He has worked hard all his life, and noticed nothing. Those are the people who collapse when they do notice a thing."
Finally, finally Henry wakes up and realizes that he is a giant boob, that his son is an asshole, that Margaret is the best thing that's ever happened to him. And he's so lucky that Margaret stays with him, and is even HAPPY with him, and happy to take care of him. He would be lost on his own, completely lost.(less)
Aside from a few differences--living in the 1950s, being British, not being a teacher, being actively involved in church--Mildred Lathbury could easil...moreAside from a few differences--living in the 1950s, being British, not being a teacher, being actively involved in church--Mildred Lathbury could easily be me. She's in her early 30s, she's unmarried, people keep telling her about their problems and expecting her to fix them, men think she's in love with them just because she's single, and she prefers living by herself because someone else would just mess everything up.
And here's another thing that I noticed: her friends and neighbors would often ask her to do things in a tone that suggested, "Oh, well, since you're single, YOU DON'T HAVE ANYTHING BETTER TO DO, so could you please _______ for me?" That is annoying, and very accurate.
I am going to start referring to myself as an Excellent Woman. I'm going to put it on my cards.
I thought this was supposed to be the best ghost story ever. I've had this book for two years but I've been too scared to read it, based on it reputat...moreI thought this was supposed to be the best ghost story ever. I've had this book for two years but I've been too scared to read it, based on it reputation alone. In fact, while reading it, I would not pick it up after dark, on account of I thought it might give me nightmares or something.
But it's totally not scary at all. Maybe it's because I psyched myself out, expecting something that was really grandiose in its fright potential. Or, at the opposite extreme, maybe I just don't have the kind of imagination suited to this type of story.
Probably this is one of those books that is more about psychological fear, and I'm just not that deep.
The words got in the way for me, and perhaps since I spent so much time deciphering sentences, I couldn't focus on the scary stuff.
At any rate, I'm calling this one a disappointment.(less)
Michael Chabon has written--beautifully--a celebration of the golden era of the classic comic book hero.
I'm not a comic book/graphic novel reader, and...moreMichael Chabon has written--beautifully--a celebration of the golden era of the classic comic book hero.
I'm not a comic book/graphic novel reader, and I don't really watch superhero movies, but I enjoyed this book, primarily because Chabon spent a lot of time crafting the origin stories not only of the main characters, but of the superheroes they, in turn, create.
I love the psychology behind what makes someone into who he is?
There's a lot of historically-based action here. The evolution of the comic book, the German occupation of Poland, vaudevillian magic, America's reluctant entrance into WWII ... all of those--and their aftermaths--are present and industriously detailed. Time and again, I found myself at Wikipedia (I know) looking for further information.
I would often reread a line or paragraph and marvel at its craftsmanship. The writing is so clear and definitive that I had no problem imagining the scenes in my head. It's like Chabon wrote a graphic novel, except I supply the artwork. Amazing.
*I took off one star because there were a couple of descriptions I could have done without. They were gross.
**spoiler alert** The narrator, Henry, is a retired bank manager, and he realizes how boring his life's been when he meets his 80-something Aunt Augus...more**spoiler alert** The narrator, Henry, is a retired bank manager, and he realizes how boring his life's been when he meets his 80-something Aunt Augusta. She tells him about all her adventures and her lovers and, as the title suggests, they do some traveling together.
Most of the time I thought Aunt Augusta was lying, or at least fudging some. Also (and I don't know if this was intended) I sort of got the impression that she'd been a whore. Like, an actual prostitute. All her lovers--at least the ones she told Henry about--were kind of shady. And come to think of it, most of Aunt Augusta's stories were about the illegal/immoral things she'd done.
So ... is it better to live an exciting life on the wrong side of the law, or a quiet, law-abiding life? Well, Henry goes for the first, when he moves to Paraguay to live with Aunt Augusta and the love of her life, who, it turns out, is a war criminal. They're going to make their money by smuggling, and they throw a big old party to pay off the police and other officials.
And Henry's going to marry the police chief's daughter. Oh, but he's going to wait until she's 16. What a guy.
This book leaves me unsatisfied. I don't know why.
edit: but I will try to think myself through it.
I've never read true crime. I KNOW. When I think abo...moreThis book leaves me unsatisfied. I don't know why.
edit: but I will try to think myself through it.
I've never read true crime. I KNOW. When I think about the number of books I've read, this seems impossible.
Maybe part of my disconnect stems from my reading of fictional mysteries, where the amateur detective discovers who the murderer is, there's a concise--almost precious--motive for the killing, and the detective and the chief of police fall in love.
This, though ... I don't know. Of course, knowing that the events of In Cold Blood are part of history adds a grisly element to the reading, and then the murderers themselves are so complex, and then it seems like the resolution is sort of anticlimactic.
But how can that be, when Capote was just reporting the facts?
It certainly didn't help that I couldn't keep the murderers straight. On one page I'd think, "Oh, THAT'S the worst one," and then on the next page, I'd be like, "... wait, what?" Of course, they were both awful, and their ruthlessness manifested itself differently, only their characteristics seemed interchangeable and I couldn't remember who was who.
In addition--oh, geez, how pretentious am I going to get here, criticizing this thing--I think a little editing was in order. (This may just be a personal preference.)
There were times when I felt like Capote lost the plot a little. There were definitely some tangents throughout the story that pulled focus from the main event. I guess I have this idea that true crime shouldn't try to be Great Literature, running off into metaphors and long descriptive passages.
It's possible that Truman Capote is too much in this. Like, as I was reading, I kept thinking about his involvement, and how he supposedly fell in love with one of the murderers, and whether he was trying to be sympathetic. I doubted; I didn't trust that his account was objective.
And that may have been the biggest problem of all.
Flora Poste goes to live with her weirdo relatives at Cold Comfort Farm. There's a giant flock of 'em, but only one who is reasonably sane; the rest a...moreFlora Poste goes to live with her weirdo relatives at Cold Comfort Farm. There's a giant flock of 'em, but only one who is reasonably sane; the rest are out of their minds with craziness.
Flora shakes everything up, of course, but subtly and without malice. She just wants to make the improvements that would probably have been made if not for the aforementioned craziness.
Although she is a bit of a busybody, she's not mean or gossipy. Unfortunately, she is a little bland; there's not much to her other than her gift for organizing other people's lives.
The family of Starkadders, however, is alive with resentment, lust, religious fervor, and ... well ... insanity. Those characters made me laugh over and over again.
On almost every page of this book, I ran into a sentence that I wanted to copy into a quote book. But I didn't, because it would have ended with me just copying the entire text. Gibbons' use of language is amazing and delightful.(less)
Frederic Henry, an American, joins the Italian army during WWI. He meets Catherine Barkley, a nurse, and they st...moreI appreciate Hemingway's sparse style.
Frederic Henry, an American, joins the Italian army during WWI. He meets Catherine Barkley, a nurse, and they start dating. Henry gets wounded and, while he's recovering in the hospital, his relationship with Catherine develops.
Catherine gets pregnant, Henry is sent back to to war, he's captured, he escapes, they go to Lucarno, there are some schmoopie-schmoopie chapters, BIG EVENTS, the end.
I liked these things:
1) the portrayal of soldiers, because they are not all heroes 2) the mean nurse 3) everyone in the hospital conspiring to bring Lt. Henry his alcohol 4) the priest 5) the midnight escape to Lucarno 6) the end
I don't know, precisely, why I enjoyed this book so much. I don't usually care for the dark tone of melancholia, or navel...moreBest book I've read all year.
I don't know, precisely, why I enjoyed this book so much. I don't usually care for the dark tone of melancholia, or navel-gazing, or even diaries of the woe-is-me variety. But even when Esther is at her lowest point, she wasn't unsympathetic; had she reveled in her depression, I might have rolled my eyes and tossed the book away, but she seemed genuinely confused by her condition. I found that endearing.
I suspect that Plath's writing is the main reason I liked the book. In the hands of a lesser writer, Esther would have been too annoying for words [cough, Bella Swan, cough:], but Plath is straightforward without being callous, caring without being cloying. She allowed ME to decide how to feel about Esther--about her depression, about her treatment, about her family and friends--without TELLING me how to feel about them. I appreciate it when writers assume their readers can figure things out for themselves.
Plath definitely has the gift of finding the right description. Her writing is beautiful and concise, and I had no trouble putting myself into the center of this story.
This probably means I'm crazy; fire up the shock machine.
I guess I should have been excited the way most of the other girls were, but I couldn't get myself to react. I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.
I felt sorry when I came to the last page. I wanted to crawl in between those black lines of print ...
That's one of the reasons I never wanted to get married. The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be th4e place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excited and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the coloured arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.
I felt like a hole in the ground.
The colour scheme of the whole sanatorium seemed to be based on liver.
I also had a dim idea that if I walked the streets of New York by myself all night something of the city's mystery and magnificence might rub off on to me at last.
There was a brief silence, like an indrawn breath. Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world.
Every time I tried to concentrate, my mind glided off, like a skater, into a large empty space, and pirouetted there, absently.
If I had to wait on a baby all day, I would go mad.(less)
I don't know how to review this book, other than to say this:
If you like satire, and you like British society, and you like large-cast comedies, and y...moreI don't know how to review this book, other than to say this:
If you like satire, and you like British society, and you like large-cast comedies, and you like stories about people making fools of themselves, then you'll like this book.
*** Or, if you don't want to read the book--and shame on you, then--there is an awesome television series called Jeeves and Wooster that stars Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie as the title characters.(less)