I first was assigned this book in college, but the class didn't get around to it. I hung onto it for years as the professor had told us it was amazingI first was assigned this book in college, but the class didn't get around to it. I hung onto it for years as the professor had told us it was amazing, but it eventually went away in a purge. Then three years ago, a friend at the publisher asked if I'd like to have a copy as they were doing a special 20th Anniversary Edition, and I said yes. My copy is autographed to me! And luckily I talked my book club into reading it.
While one or two members of the book club didn't love the book, they all said they thought it was worthwhile. Some people were bothered by the war and the death and violence. And while none of those are my favorite things, this is a book about the Vietnam War, and so it is inevitable.
Tim O'Brien went to Vietnam as a 22-year-old, fresh out of college, and probably one of the older boys in his company. Is this book a memoir? A novel? A short story collection? All of the above? It reads like a memoir, but he tells us some things aren't true. But they are true. But they're not true. It's more about the truth of the emotions that's so vital and telling. At the end of this book, you really feel like you understand what it was like for Tim and the other soldiers. Some died horrible deaths, some skated through physically unscathed, some were poets, some were sadists. They all carried talismans that they thought would keep them safe, would keep them connected to home, would keep them same, and even after they came home, they all carried the emotional baggage. Some coped, some did not.
His writing is beautiful. It's poetic. It's stunning. The writing is such perfection that you read through this book fluidly, smoothly, without even seeing how complex the story is. That is the sign of true brilliance. Normally a complex story is difficult to read and slow going, but this was a fast, easy read. The narration changes from third to first to second, some chapters were initially published separately as short stories, some chapter discuss the writing of those stories, some stories are in the present (1990) and one is in the far past of Tim's childhood. And yet it all holds together as a unified whole. I wasn't sure I wanted to read a book about Vietnam, and obviously it took me a really long time to get around to it, but I am so utterly glad that I did. This book is a masterpiece....more
I am very sad to say, I just didn't get this book. Everyone adores it, swear it's one of the best, most inspiring books ever written, with brilliant pI am very sad to say, I just didn't get this book. Everyone adores it, swear it's one of the best, most inspiring books ever written, with brilliant philosophical insights. Perhaps my expectations were (way, way) too high, but I found the book odd, trite, and self-important.
Yes, its philosophical message is sweet and should be attended to, but it is presented in a very heavy-handed way. One could argue that as the book is for children, the allegory needs to be more obvious, but personally I find the opposite is true. Children are pretty attuned to stories and don't need to be bludgeoned with morals. Maybe I'm too old for this book. I read it too late. If I'd read it in college it might have spoken to me more, but I'm not sure. I think I'm just too practical and too sensible. I've never been a big fan of allegories.
The pictures are cute. The prince is a unique character. The notion of living on a planet the size of a house with 3 volcanos (one of them dormant but who knows), with a flower that is the only one of its kind in the road, is sweet and fun, but unfortunately there wasn't a fun story to go along with it. I'm not sure what age kids would like this book. Maybe junior high schoolers who write poetry? It's now a classic of sorts so obviously it does speak to a lot of people, but not to me....more
I saw the movie based on this book around 10 years ago and while it’s started to get fuzzy in my mind, I have fond feelings. Also, being a single womaI saw the movie based on this book around 10 years ago and while it’s started to get fuzzy in my mind, I have fond feelings. Also, being a single woman of a certain age (shall we say, just getting to my prime?) I was already inclined to like this book. And I loved it. Yes, it is very short (which never hurts in my opinion!) but that’s because not a word is wasted, not a glance, an adjective, or a hint. Ms. Spark is a true master.
For those of you unfamiliar, Miss Brodie is a teacher at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls in Edinburgh, Scotland, and in the 1930s there is a group of girls that come through her classes that are tight-knit and particularly doted on my Miss Brodie. Though they go on to high school Miss Brodie continues to have an everpresent influence on their daily lives, with her passion for arts and culture, disdain for the pedestrian and conservative, even going so far as admiring Mussolini (mostly for the regularity and straightness of his soldiers, which were truly excellent.) We learn what happens to each of the “Brodie set” through flash-forwards as Miss Brodie tries to find out which of them has betrayed her. Finding out who (and how and why) is the heart of the story.
While this mystery might make the book sound melancholy or dark, it is in fact hilarious. I frequently laughed out loud. My favorite line was: “And above all, Miss Brodie was easily the equal of both sisters together, she was the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle and they were only the squares on the other two sides” (92). Having gone to an overachieving high school myself, and being overly educated, I strongly identified with these girls, but now I also identify with their teacher, which I know wasn’t true when I saw the movie in my 20s. I understood better now her battle with the headmistress to save her job and how political and petty those fights can become. I understood her desperation, her loneliness, her justifications for how her life has turned out. When Sandy and Jenny noticed that Miss Brodie’s stories about her deceased fiancée were changing to accommodate her current interests and beliefs, that was particularly astute and made me ponder that mental trick in my own life. How often do we mentally revise the past to make it fit the present?
Second favorite funny passage, which I am going to close with as it is also so telling about the kind of person Miss Brodie is, or thinks she is: “I am a descendant, do not forget, of Willie Brodie…. Eventually he was a wanted man for having robbed the Excise Office – not that he needed the money, he was a night burglar only for the sake of the danger in it. Of course he was arrested abroad and was brought back to the Tolbooth prison but that was mere chance. He died cheerfully on a gibbet of his own devising in seventeen-eighty-eight. However all this may be, it is the stuff I am made of, and I have brooked and shall brook no nonsense from Miss Ellen and Miss Alison Kerr.”
By the end, one girl will have had an affair with a teacher, one will have betrayed Miss Brodie, one will have died, and one will have become a nun. Meanwhile, you’re in for a very fun ride! ...more
Fun fun fun! It is best to read this book with a martini but as I have no vermouth, I drank a Tom Collins. It's funny that this book takes place in thFun fun fun! It is best to read this book with a martini but as I have no vermouth, I drank a Tom Collins. It's funny that this book takes place in the 1930s during the depression, which is also during prohibition, and yet the main characters, Nick and Nora Charles, are fabulously wealthy and drink excessively. (Its true the book was published in 1933 which is the year prohibition was lifted, but that means it was written in 1932 and the drinking during prohibition amusement was intentional.) In fact, they drink with cops several times.
Nick Charles used to be a private detective. A case he worked on several years ago has resurfaced as his client's secretary has been murdered and he has disappeared. Nick does not want to get involved, but it happens to him regardless of whether he wants it too. It doesn't hurt that Nora is intrigued by the whole thing.
I don't want to give too much away, but it's glamorous, decadent, and hilarious. It's one of those books that makes you kick yourself for not having read it sooner, when you finally get around to it. By the way, the movies are also excellent. It's been a while so I don't recall how closely they cleave to the plot and language of the novel, but the tone and characterizations were spot-on. ...more
wow, this is a dark book, but great! Labrynthine, a deep character study, with a perfect (but surprising) ending that kept me completely captivated. Iwow, this is a dark book, but great! Labrynthine, a deep character study, with a perfect (but surprising) ending that kept me completely captivated. It is an academic novel, but that should not imply it's a coming of age story or put it in a humorous category with Straight Man. It's more along the lines of The Basic Eight, or the movie Heathers. Ms. Tartt's narrator, Richard, being an outsider was a brilliant move, and while some of the characters come to life more quickly than others, they all do become fully-rounded individuals that felt like living breathing humans. Having attended a small liberal arts college like Hampdon College(although not quite that tiny, and not as "progressive"), the setting rang true. I see why people say The Secret History should be a modern classic. In the hours since I finished, I cannot stop thinking about it and keep thinking of new levels....more
Wilkie Collins was a literary genius. I was already pretty convinced of that after reading The Moonstone a few years ago, but now after reading his otWilkie Collins was a literary genius. I was already pretty convinced of that after reading The Moonstone a few years ago, but now after reading his other great novel, it's been solidified for me. In The Moonstone, he invented the mystery novel, and obviously was a great influence on Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In The Woman in White, he invents the thriller. Oh, and he pioneered the multiple-narrator style as well. (A lawyer by trade, he thought that a trial - with its multiple witnesses who each know their segment of the overall story - was the only perfect way to tell a story fully.)
The Woman in White is sometimes called a mystery, but it isn't really, any more than a John Grisham is a mystery. Yes, there is a Secret and we don't find out what it is until the end, and there is a Bad Guy (well, two really) and we also don't know how our hero will outwit them and make it so they are no longer a danger to our victim until the end, but there's no real mystery. We know who the bad guys are pretty early on, we know the secret exists early on and also who knows it. It's a story of bad things happening, racing to find out the secret, and hiding from the bad guys and their thugs. It is long, but it's also relatively fast-paced.
Each section of the book being told by a different narrator doesn't always work, but here it truly shows Collins's brilliance as you can feel the change in tone and voice within just a couple of lines. He switches from the middle-class art teacher to the fussy hypochondriac uncle to a housekeeper to the Count without losing a beat - each voice is truly the character's own, even minor and brief narrators, they are three-dimensional and make it so simple to picture the people. I also love reading older books because I don't have to worry about anachronisms such as when a character says, "Drop it!" to someone belaboring a point. If this book hadn't been published in 1860, I would never have believed that such a modern-sounding phrase wasn't an authorial error. Yet it must have been in use then and that is such a neat thing to learn.
While I didn't whip through the book, it was very easy to pick right up where I'd left off even after a couple of days. The book wasn't hard to get into or follow, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I only wish I'd read it years ago! I highly recommend it. ...more