**spoiler alert** In the middle of the first story - when she revealed that the crime the husband was guilty of, was the murder of his children - I wa...more**spoiler alert** In the middle of the first story - when she revealed that the crime the husband was guilty of, was the murder of his children - I was caught, transfixed by Munro's gift. (less)
E.M. Forster's sense of flow is spectacular; it always manages to sweep under you and carry you along, rushing past the climax to reach the breathless...moreE.M. Forster's sense of flow is spectacular; it always manages to sweep under you and carry you along, rushing past the climax to reach the breathless end. I made the mistake of trying to stop in order to go to bed at 3, but for an hour I laid, sleepless, haunted by the vision of a silent, crying baby.
The last book of his I loved -- A room with a view -- also involved the English in Italy, and Forster's Italy is charming, mysterious, foreign, seductive. (less)
I see it as a night scene by El Greco: a hundred houses, at once conventional and grotesque, crouching under a sullen, overhanging sky and a lustreless moon. In the foreground four solemn men in dress suits are walking along the sidewalk with a stretcher on which lies a drunken woman in a white evening dress. Her hand, which dangles over the side, sparkles cold with jewels. Gravely the men turn in at a house -- the wrong house. But no one knows the woman's name, and no one cares.
Re-read it after 7 or 8 years, and since I completely do not remember anything from the first read, this was like a new read for me. There was such a flow to the prose, such mood, such lushness -- the twenties in New York have always held such an allure in the way it has been described: the glamour and splendour of it all, and underneath, the vacuousness. The Age of Innocence and The Custom of the Country both twirl around in that sort of an atmosphere as well, and are both books I enjoyed immensely.
The book sped towards its conclusion, and what a breathtaking tie-up it was -- this is the kind of book which will leave you with that feeling at the end of a rapid walk past a travelator, the feeling that your body hasn't quite caught up with the rest of you yet.
"I mean: how shall I explain? I - it's always so. Each time you happen to me all over again."
"Well, the woman you'd have chucked everything for, only you didn't," continued his surprising son.
"I didn't," echoed Archer with a kind of solemnity.
"No: you date, you see, dear old boy. But mother said--"
"Yes: the day before she died. It was when she sent for me alone-- you remember? She said she knew we were safe with you, and always would be, because once, when she asked you to, you'd given up the thing you most wanted."
Really, you should read this. I wasn't prepared for this book, and got blown away by its sheer force. It feels, for some reason, like it could be the alternate story of A room with a view - if Lucy bowed her head to social convention and went ahead with marrying Cecil. I guess it reminds me of A room with a view because of how Wharton makes a few concrete descriptions mean so much, and I love how she makes every tiny social expectation so clear to us modern readers, as well as how she depicts the change of times so well.
To my own personal takeaway: I've had one of those lingering reflections in my head recently, relating to how life can simply go by, if we sit by and let it happen to us. We're still young, we tell ourselves we can still wait, but I fear we'll keep telling ourselves that until one day when we can't afford to do that anymore - when we're tired of wanting, of the heart's fluctuations and life's tossing and turning - and we settle for status quo. When all we can do is sit on a lawn chair on the balcony and piece a few resigned words masking as contentment about birds flying around, flowers blooming, cooking for the family and such like. That's what Wharton's book fleshes out perfectly for me; it's what I feel Linda Gregg's poetry is like, and I just want to fight this, rage against the universe, never be an adult bogged down by all the practical inane details of life and everyone else's expectations. I just want to be IDEALISTIC and CHILDISH
but at the same time I recognise that it gets harder and harder to do so as I grow older. And that makes me sad.(less)
Oh, my, god. What have I just read! This book is ASTOUNDING.
Think classic Shaw combined with the cheekiness-- and sympathy-- of Austen. This book is...moreOh, my, god. What have I just read! This book is ASTOUNDING.
Think classic Shaw combined with the cheekiness-- and sympathy-- of Austen. This book is perfect. I have no idea why there are only sixteen reviews of this book, because it is just. so. GOOD.
There are so many things right with it: caricatures, but tinged with understanding; A WHOLE LOT OF WIT; absurd ideals undaunted, but not disregarding, realism; and so much more that if I could choose to be a book-- or choose to be represented by a book-- this would be it.
Maybe I'll come back to write something more coherent when I'm not hyperventilating over how good this book is. (less)
I'm not sure why it feels right to give this five stars, but it does. It is a pretty typical story-- like the reviewers who have already given their t...moreI'm not sure why it feels right to give this five stars, but it does. It is a pretty typical story-- like the reviewers who have already given their two cents, it is very Austen-- I saw Wickham in Morris, an ambivalent Mrs Bennet in Mrs Penniman, a less funny Mr Bennet in Dr Sloper. Catherine, though, isn't made to fill anyone's huge shoes in Austen's novels. At first plain, boring, utterly and even cruelly simple, Henry James has nevertheless managed the genius of making such a character three-dimensional, to be sympathised with. I will be the first to admit I did not like her at all at the start, and I am still not sure that I do, but at the very least my heart goes out to her, and she displays a strength that merits my sympathy. (less)
I properly finished this book today, going through a huge part of more than half the book at one go, and it was an intensive experience - I kept teari...moreI properly finished this book today, going through a huge part of more than half the book at one go, and it was an intensive experience - I kept tearing up; the poems were so heartfelt, so necessary. And it stood out to me, how arbitrary life is, and utterly powerless - that all we can ever do is get through it, dealing with things as they come along, losing and recovering sensation over and over again. The cyclic nature of this is sometimes so overwhelming that you want to call life out on its lie, accuse it of being meaningless despite its many glorious moments, but what would then be the point of that? Life still goes on. It always does, despite yourself. I guess that's what's both tragic and joyous about it at the same time. (less)
This book harks back to the Victorian style I dearly love, shakes it up with magic and delightful satire and completes the set with an Epic Quest comb...moreThis book harks back to the Victorian style I dearly love, shakes it up with magic and delightful satire and completes the set with an Epic Quest combining about everything great and wonderful in this world. Clarke does characters beautifully - her caricatures do not fall into the trap of flatness, but instead meld effortlessly into the intricate depth she develops for each of them. The story is engrossing beyond a doubt, magic becomes realistically entwined within the English setting, additional side-stories litter the book providing many happy distractions, and seriously if you ever want to provide a book as an example of "creating another world" this book answers all your needs. (less)