Definitely there is a thing as “the right book at the right time”. This a second read for me. Alas, I didn’t write a review for it the first time arou...moreDefinitely there is a thing as “the right book at the right time”. This a second read for me. Alas, I didn’t write a review for it the first time around, although I did give it 4 stars. This time I am upgrading it to 5 stars though.
I re-read it for my bookclub, and I confess that I had not retained much of it from the first time, albeit the 4 stars it had faded out of my memory. But this time I was struck by Jane Urquhart’s poetic descriptions of landscapes and characters.
I did read some of the negative reviews in here and I cannot even say that I don’t agree with some of the objections of other readers towards this book: mainly that the characters are unbelievable. Sylvia, the main character, certainly isn’t a typical autistic individual. But I have chosen to believe in her as someone trapped in a world of feelings and longing.
Loss is the great thread unifying the characters, and Urquhart prose forces us – or forced me, as a reader – to scrutinize deep feelings about death, aging, memory loss and love.
This book hit a cord I guess, in a way that it did not on my first go around with it. Maybe I am older, maybe it was a recent death to someone close to me, maybe it is watching at a distance acquaintances struggling with the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Maybe, maybe... loss is everywhere.
I spent the afternoon reading this book when I should had been doing other things; the worst part is that I was driven to read longer and faster as th...moreI spent the afternoon reading this book when I should had been doing other things; the worst part is that I was driven to read longer and faster as the plot disintegrated. This is too bad that a book that started so promising would finish in such a flop. It feels as if the author did not know how to end it, the more she tried, the more confusing it became, until finally she got tired and gave it up.
I really wish that Shamsie had put the first three quarters of this story in a drawer for a couple of years, and revisited it when the ending finally came to her.
Still, I am giving 3 stars because the beginning was so promising, and because moments of brilliance in the writing. Also, I have a feeling it will lead to a great discussion at my next bookclub meeting. The poor ending does not take way from many of the ethical/moral/spiritual questions about wars, dislocation, immigration, nuclear weapons, etc...
I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading it, either. But it just didn’t live up to my personal expectations. (less)
I had such high hopes for this book. It reminds me of Isak Dinesen’s writing. Like her, Krudy has the power to enthral with lyrical vocabulary and ima...moreI had such high hopes for this book. It reminds me of Isak Dinesen’s writing. Like her, Krudy has the power to enthral with lyrical vocabulary and imaginary. But he did not develop a plot or characters enough to hold me there. Maybe, like Dinesen, he should had written short stories, as even as a novella it felt too long and repetitive.
The three stars are there because I am a sucker for poetic prose and rich vocabulary. (less)
We cannot rewind self-awareness! Once we have that glimpse of ourselves, deleting is not an option. But, is oblivion bliss? Are the self-ignorant happ...moreWe cannot rewind self-awareness! Once we have that glimpse of ourselves, deleting is not an option. But, is oblivion bliss? Are the self-ignorant happier?
Zweig doesn’t try to answer this question explicitly, his focus remains in the protagonist, Christine, and her late coming of age self-discovery and her sudden awareness of the limited life she leads on post WWI Austria.
What happens if after the ball, Cinderella returns to the cinders, rejected by the prince? What happens when war robs our youth, and post war society remains drowned in poverty? What happens when economic poverty translates into intellectual and emotional poverty?
What would I do if like Christine and her – justly so - disgruntled boy-friend, the prospects in front of me were so bleak? Would I contemplate suicide, like they do? Or would I contemplate robbery, as they also do? Would either ever be justifiable, though?
Corruption is a theme that consumes me. Brazil, my birth country is ripe with corruption, and it sadden and irate me in the same proportion. Most Brazilians feel justified in robbing the state, from the highest paid politician to the small clerk taking a miniscule bribe for whatever reason. But maybe my comparison is unfair. In Christine’s case it is not a matter of corruption, but of life or death – existentialism in its most radical form. I don’t know. I am unsure of the ethics of it. Unsure if I have a right to judge. Those are fictional characters, but – in a very surreal correspondence - they do mirror the life story of the author, who at the end did chose suicide.
I should just be grateful that my own life was not wrecked by war and poverty. I should also realize that if totalitarian governments are not ruling Europe any longer, war and totalitarianism still rages in third world countries. Poverty abounds bellow the Equator. How many Christines are there in Haiti, Sudan, or Brazil?
Back to the book, it won the Pen Best Translation of the year sometime ( I am too lazy to find out when). The prose does sound effortless, and very contemporary. The end is too abrupt though, and I am struggling with the idea that it was intentional. This book was published after Zweig’s death, and I have to wonder that he would polish it more had he intended on publishing it. There is a difference in the writing, the first pages where he describes so completely and with the most literary care the post-office of the title differs too much from the point form format of the end. One could argue that it reflects his brilliance, as the vocabulary and pace of his prose seem to change with the changes on Christine. Well, maybe... but I am not convinced.
I am putting his other books published in English on books to check it out. (less)
This book was waiting for me under the Christmas tree 2 weeks ago. I didn’t know then, but it was my best gift. I love everything about it: Fermor’s s...moreThis book was waiting for me under the Christmas tree 2 weeks ago. I didn’t know then, but it was my best gift. I love everything about it: Fermor’s scholarly prose and rich vocabulary; the history lessons; the places he visited; his take on art; etc, etc...
I even love the preface he wrote – as entertaining as the book itself – and the front page on the NYRB edition, from the painting “Hunters in the Snow” by Brueghel.
But, what would not be there to love about the account of a trip thorough Europe in 1933, made by the author when he was 18 years old and decided to walk to Constantinople? That he was a premature hippie, wandering with a backpack and little money, and acquaintances in the right places (counts and scholars) only adds to it all.
A note should be made though, that this book was not written until 30 years later. So, it is the account of a youthful inquisitive mind as told by the scholarly and experienced writer Fermor became later. Also, this book only contains the first third of the journey.
But, there is a sequel, and I am heading out to buy it. (less)
As I read it I kept thinking that Mieville’s writing reminded me of some other author, and then it hit me: this is what J.K. Rowling would write if sh...moreAs I read it I kept thinking that Mieville’s writing reminded me of some other author, and then it hit me: this is what J.K. Rowling would write if she was on drugs! Seriously, they both share an amazing capability to create other realms; worlds that you start to envision and feel transported into the moment they begin telling you about it. But while Hogwarts was fantastical, New Crobuzon is psychedelic.
And, if Perdito Street was a painting, it would be The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch - although I might be giving too much credit to Mieville with this metaphor. What I mean is that I was entranced and disgusted by this book in the same proportions. There was something about it that was fun and cartoonist, but at close look revealed itself to be nauseating and soiled. In Bosh, and in J.K. Rowling, I perceived a message of some kind though. In Mielville’s writing I didn’t as much. He was just having too much fun at showing off to me, the reader, what he as the writer could make come to life.
I really, really wanted to love this book. As it is, I liked it fair enough, but it came miles from “I loved” .
Do I recommend it? Well, I don’t “not recommend it”. There are all kinds of tastes in books, he is just not mine - at this moment. (less)
**spoiler alert** I just could not get over the child abuse. It was horrible and made me cringe. I could not forgive the adults for it – the abuser or...more**spoiler alert** I just could not get over the child abuse. It was horrible and made me cringe. I could not forgive the adults for it – the abuser or the enablers. Culture differences and poor coping skills are usually the reason for child abuse, but nevertheless they are not an excuse... No poetic language or metaphysical rhetoric could make let go of the feeling that child abuse was being pardoned and justified. (less)
I feel I have not given this book the attention and merits it deserved. First, I finished reading it 2 books ago, and only now I come here to write a...moreI feel I have not given this book the attention and merits it deserved. First, I finished reading it 2 books ago, and only now I come here to write a review. Then, I read it in phases over various weeks, and it definitely deserves to be read in a shorter period of time, with more dedication than I gave it.
I just have to read it again! This time I think I will wait for a long summer weekend at the lake. I want to laugh out loud at the idiosyncrasies of Eli Sisters, the hired for assassin and narrator, who alternates from a simpleton naivety to philosophical questionings about life, death, family and loyalty.
Great, light reading (if you don’t take the atrocities committed throughout the book too close to heart). Highly recommended! (less)