I read this Newbery-winning classic as a child multiple times. Thought I would reread it as an adult to see if it held up. Like most children’s books...moreI read this Newbery-winning classic as a child multiple times. Thought I would reread it as an adult to see if it held up. Like most children’s books I’ve been rereading it went by so fast that I didn’t have much time to really get into it. But it's still quite good. It has strong characters, exciting plots, and features an independent thinking young woman. One thing I particularly noted was unusual with the perspective I have now is how the evil land of Camazotz in AWIT resembled Stepford very much, and it predates Ira Levin’s novel by a good 10 years. I get why I liked it and why it won the Newbery award. It is a terrific, imaginative and inspiring children’s novel that hopefully will stay a classic for decades to come.
One thing I really wanted to check out upon my rereading it though, was how religious it was. At the time, any religious elements went right over my head. But as an adult I became aware of the author’s full oeuvres, which included quite a bit of religious writing. AWIT did mention God a few times more than I remembered. They are fighting Evil, and of course what fights evil but the forces of Good and Godliness. Hmm. It was a bit more overt than I remembered, although it can be fairly open as it’s a non-specific God and doesn’t ever mention Jesus. I have several Jewish friends with kids getting to be the right age for these books and I was wondering if they’d be appropriate. I think actually they would work. AWIT isn’t Christian per se. Still, I’m not very comfortable with books proselytizing to impressionable children. However, I managed to escape unharmed. (less)
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 woma...moreI 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! (less)
This book was surprisingly funny, and very well-written, but a bit odd. I did enjoy reading a book set in such a different time and place (1790s Germa...moreThis book was surprisingly funny, and very well-written, but a bit odd. I did enjoy reading a book set in such a different time and place (1790s Germany) and it completely caputed the era, both the practicalities (clothes washing once a year!) and the Romanticism. Fritz's family reminded me a bit of the family in Pride & Prejudice, in their kooky way, and the book often throughout reminded me of Candide, in its tongue-in-cheek laughing at many of the characters. But I had trouble keeping all the characters apart, particularly when it seemed as if some of them had 3 names (and I did take German once upon a time which rarely helped), and I never understood what people saw in Sophie except that she was sweet. I was never sure if Karoline was in love with Fritz, Erasmus, or neither. I was never sure if Erasmus came around and agreed with Fritz that Sophie was something special. But it was a fast read, sharp and witty, if a tad convoluted. (less)
Wow, what a wonderful book! I can't believe I waited so long to read it! In fact, I am annoyed that I did not read this years ago!
More than ten years...moreWow, what a wonderful book! I can't believe I waited so long to read it! In fact, I am annoyed that I did not read this years ago!
More than ten years ago when I first met my best friend, I remember being somewhat surprised when she told me her favorite author was Larry McMurtry and her favorite book, Lonesome Dove. I don't think I questioned her on it exactly, but I remember thinking, "Really? Isn't that a Western?" But I trusted her so I kept it in mind, but was further thrown when I discovered quite how long it is (975 pages!) Nevertheless I picked it up a few years ago at a used bookstore. And I was further surprised and intrigued to see that it won the Pulitzer Prize.
In the 1870s, Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call are former Texas Rangers who live in Lonesome Dove, Texas and run a livery stable. When Jake McCall, a former fellow ranger who is on the run after having accidentally shot and killed the mayor of Fort Smith, Arkansas, turns up in town waxing rhapsodic about Montana, Call decides they're going to start the first ranch in Montana, despite the fact that neither of them are cowboys or ranchers. Gus and Call and the rest of their crew, Deets, Pea Eye, and Newt rustle several thousand cattle from Mexico, Call hires a bunch of local hands and cowboys including Dish, the lead hand, and they set out for Montana. Jake declines to go but ends up kind of tagging along, with the town whore Lorena, until bad things happen. Meanwhile the Fort Smith sheriff is looking for him, the deputy is looking for the sheriff, the sheriff's new wife is looking for her former lover, and eventually everyone converges.
I don't want to tell any more for fear of giving away spoilers, but the book is just fantastic! It's not so much the plot - although that is wonderful with me getting quite worried about a few of them and being rather upset at a few deaths (and not at all upset about a few others.) But the way McMurtry tells the story is so masterful, so evocative, and so melodic. Normally I hate the descriptions lyrical and epic as to me they indicate a lack of plot and a love of too many words. Yet I would say both apply here in a positive way, and McMurtry obviously does have a great love of language which he uses to great effect (especially in the character of the verbose Gus.)
Other authors should not emulate him - no one else could write a nearly 1000 page epic of cowboying without it devolving into a caricature of Western novels, no one could treat Lorena and Clara (Gus's long lost true love) with such care, no one could make me care so much about a bunch of whoring, poor, uneducated cowboys traveling across the country. Some of his techniques, such as his omniscient narration from most all of the characters' point of view, switching frequently and unevenly, are handled so stunningly that after reading this novel, I think no other author should even attempt that as they will always come in a dingy second place, at best, and be proven inept at worst. I was thrilled the book was so long as I never wanted it to end. I loved spending so much time with Gus and Call and the boys.
That said, I have looked into the 3 other books in the series (Lonesome Dove was written first but chronologically is the third) and I think I'm going to pass. The above mentioned friend who recommended Dove is sure she's read them but remembers nothing. Another friend said they're okay - but next to a masterpiece, okay just doesn't cut it. And I want to remember Gus and Call and the boys as they were, with nothing to tarnish my memory. Everyone should read this book. I have no doubt why it won the Pulitzer, and it's the best book I've read in a very long time. (less)
About 15 years ago, my step-sister E, with whom I share a lot of literary likes, recommended Ender's Game to me. I bought it, but I never read it. Ove...moreAbout 15 years ago, my step-sister E, with whom I share a lot of literary likes, recommended Ender's Game to me. I bought it, but I never read it. Over the years I heard wonderful things. It was suggested for my book club 2-3 times but never picked. I wanted to read it, I knew I would probably like it, but I just couldn't ever read it on my own. Finally, we had the right mix of people at book club and it was chosen! And I did love it.
Ender is an extremely precocious 6-year-old who has been chosen to be trained to possibly be the next great military leader, hopefully on par with Alexander the Great (who was a General when he was only 16 after all.) Earth has been attacked twice by aliens they call the buggers, and while it did survive, everyone knew that our technology, weaponry, and tactics are not up to par with the buggers'. And so Ender is the solution to the tactical problem. He is taken from his family to a battle school in space, where he is an outcast, but also a brilliant tactician, rapidly coming up with new methods and skills and navigational moves. But will he survive the mental games? Will he be in time? What will the buggers bring to the table next time? Can Ender really save everyone? What will happen to him, and to us all?
This book of late has been marketed as a young adult novel, although it was originally published as an adult novel. I can see how it would be a great book for high schoolers to read and analyze. It was a terrific book discussion for our book club! The questions of morality and psychology in the book are top notch. Is it moral to basically take this child and make him into a killing machine? Even if it will save all of mankind? What about war in general? I don't want to spoil the book so I can't even discuss a lot of the issues that arise, but it has been a topic of discussion in my house for several days as well.
The book is a fast read, I zipped through it in about 5 hours. Even though the short story was written in 1977 and the novel published in 1985, it doesn't feel very dated (except for references to a Second Warsaw Pact). Normally I not only don't read science fiction, but I avoid it. Ender's Game however transcends genre. It was a terrific read that I would recommend to anyone.(less)
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 th...moreFun 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. (less)