I'm not going to pretend The Angry Woman Suite did not leave me feeling a little bit overwhelmed.
I dived into it, drinking in the bleakness of an uncontrollable illness, brief splashes of watercolors and jazz, World Wars and aftermaths, abuse and affection running a continuous loop through three generations of a Pennsylvania family. The themes of "resentment and freedom", "fame and intemperance" and "isolation and reparation" which defined the three narrators respectively and fit into their perspectives practically bit into my skin.
If I had to identify the central point of The Angry Woman Suite, it would be the painting by Matthew Watterson, which was originally a part of his suite of paintings titled The Angry Woman Suite depicting "distant and beautiful" Magdalene Grayson as wondrously ethereal, with the image of a river overhead and a distant boy-man figure in vicinity. The mystery of the context of this painting, Matthew's intentions towards the model and the significance of the boy-man figure was something I couldn't stop thinking about till the end. It enraptured me as much as the Mona-Lisa Smile does... and the fate of the painting left me thinking much after I was done reading the book. It has inspired me to have a chunk of my review summarised in portraits though my suite is more Microsoft-Word-inspired than a product of artistic brush strokes:
And yet, even when the pieces of the puzzle are meticulously laid out in front of you, The Angry Woman Suite manages to leave you feeling like there's still so much the characters have to tell you. Like you've perceived only one aspect of the Gestalt Vase-Face figure and perhaps there's more the narrators hadn't stumbled upon... I mean this in the best possible way. It's this precise quality, the imperviousness of many of the characters that made this a story I couldn't look away from.
Lee Fullbright's writing is definitely what made this story seamless despite the breadth of the misery, damage, history, longing, lust, apathy, "matter-of-fact" twists and downright chills the book is packed with. Even more laudable is the tightly-woven intricacy with which the conflicts of the narrators are handled; leading to a coming of age, the letting go and making peace spanning over all of the three generations! It takes an exemplary writer to be able to incorporate so much, and still leave us wanting more. I would've nearly thought it impossible before I read The Angry Woman Suite, so kudos to the writer for that!
One thing I must mention, though, is that The Angry Woman Suite is definitely not something you read when you're in the mood for something fast or flippant. It's going to demand every bit of your attention, suck you into the darkest corners of the human psyche and entrance you with its realness. It rewards the patient reader with its thoroughness and insights; with its re-readability and incredible writing... which definitely makes me want to recommend you make time for it!(less)
This should be easy, you might think. Their fates are locked the minute their eyes meet and are made to read the parts of Romeo and Juliet in English class.
I felt uneasy as I started reading Defy The Stars, the opening verses setting the tempo to a relationship that was doomed from the start. Julia, after all, is well-off while Reed is from the wrong drug-infested side of town. And we all know how Romeo and Juliet ends.
What was the point, then of falling in love with these characters?
And yet, when Julia dismissed the conception of love at first sight and Reed quietly justifies it, I realised that Defy The Stars was a modern adaptation in the truest sense. It was multi-layered and more intense than I'd ever expected it to be.
"I see what Julia's saying," he starts, "but the way Shakespeare writes... Just 'cause a feeling doesn't make sense, doesn't mean it's not right, you know?"
Julia is devoted to playing the piano. She hopes to get into a prestigious music conservatory. Reed is a stoner and branded a slacker whose life will amount to nothing.
When their paths cross... they instantaneously forget that a life when they got by without really knowing each other even existed.
Their lives are hopelessly intertwined, especially when tragedy strikes and Julia's parents and Reed's brother will not rest until they cut ties with the other.
It's devastating. It crushes them more than they ever thought it would.
This is the part when I felt swayed by the rhythm... carried away by the remorse and arousal and urgency and enamored with their story. This is the part when Defy the Stars felt more than just another Romeo and Juliet adaptation and I was swept away by the complexity of the tale and the parallels drawn from the classic.
The dirty drug world, the hauntingly beautiful piano pieces played by Julia and the intensity of Reed's gaze... their histories, their relationship outside each other and the melodies which soar and then are tainted by melancholy. Reed's guitar riffs, the hopelessness and the urgency to overcome it...
The free-verse brought each and every aspect of this book alive until I could feel myself in Julia's skin, struggling to hit the right note and make sense of her relationship with Reed. Her fingers ran across the keys, transcending technique until each note was entrenched with feeling. I felt her desperation to make their relationship work against all odds as her heart overpowered her mind.
And the ending truly blew me away... In my opinion, it couldn't have been more true to how things would've panned out for Romeo and Juliet in the current decade. It was utterly devastating yet poignant. And unlike the classic, I could come to terms with it.
Defy the Stars is an indie gem. I urge you to give it a try, especially if you're fond of modern-day adaptations. I was moved by this beautifully written tale and blown away by how well developed and multi-layered the characters were. I felt one with the pace of the story and when it ended, I couldn't stop myself from rating it on Goodreads right away; the remnants of Julia's last actions still lingering in my mind.(less)
Every once in a couple of years, I happen to read a book that leaves me filled with awe... reminding of what wo...moreOriginally posted on my blog: On books!
Every once in a couple of years, I happen to read a book that leaves me filled with awe... reminding of what words can do. Code Name Verity took my breath away with a story that broke my heart. The cover haunts me, now that I am aware of the meaning behind it. I can't forget Verity and Maddie and their friendship that was plain beautiful.
You couldn't make these people up, Elizabeth Wein says in the Author's Debriefing and I couldn't agree more. This book was filled with characters that felt so real... I could see them, hear them and feel the intensity of everything around and about them.
“It's like being in love, discovering your best friend.”
“KISS ME, HARDY! Kiss me, QUICK!”
"Verity" is a British spy. She looked at the wrong side of the road and now she's at the mercy of the Gestapo, forced to give a full written confession to avoid the worst of consequences. In her confession, Verity writes about her friendship with Maddie, a pilot and the events that led to her capture. Everything about this raw and compelling account had me glued to my e-reader; I could not take my eyes away from the screen, even when I had to muffle a chuckle or blink away tears that threatened to fall.
I do not want to say more about the plot or the characters because it might just give everything away. All I want to say is this: Code Named Verity seemed full of technicalities about flying, codes and World War II that I wasn't sure I would be able to stomach. All those details about something that was alien to me... I couldn't make head or tail of it in the beginning. But I was sucked in soon as the beauty of the relationships and sentiments it was filled with broke through the practiced confession.
I loved the way the story was narrated. Every character, including Verity's captor Hauptsturmfürer von Linden, was multi-layered and intrigued me from the beginning. There are shades of gray in each one of them, including the protagonist. I appreciated the research that was done to give us a vivid picture of the setting behind Code NameVerity. It was especially amazing how the history of the ball point pen was incorporated into the story!
Code Name Verity is definitely one of my favourites of 2012! I want to give a copy of this book to each and every person I meet and say, Read this! For this book was vivid and poignant and crushed my heart into pieces; something that hasn't happened to me in the longest time.(less)