I’ve heard so much hyperbole about this book and this author that I was expecting it to be mediocre. However, “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki MI’ve heard so much hyperbole about this book and this author that I was expecting it to be mediocre. However, “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki Murakami actually lived up to the praise that’s been heaped upon it. It absolutely falls into the category of Literature with a capital “L”.
If there isn’t a literary category called “Japanese Gothic Surrealism,” then Murakami has invented it. I think one could spend months pulling apart and analyzing this novel. It has so much symbolism and so many layers of meaning. It blurs the line between realism and surrealism. The natural world and the supernatural world overlap. Nothing is wrapped up into a tidy package and handed to the reader. It contains stories within stories within stories.
“The Wind-up Bird Chronicle” is by no means an easy book to read. Yet, it is compelling. I would put it down only to find myself compelled to pick it back up again to continue reading. I don’t recommend this novel for anyone who wants to be merely entertained by a book. This book is challenging in both style and substance. If you want a book that will give you a literary workout, this is the one to pick. ...more
I could have sworn I read this book in high school, but it seemed new to me. The writing is absolutely amazing. Even though I knew how it ended, I wasI could have sworn I read this book in high school, but it seemed new to me. The writing is absolutely amazing. Even though I knew how it ended, I was still torn to shreds when the inevitable occurred. I can see why this is a modern classic and am glad both my kids were required to read it in high school....more
If I didn't know that "Brave New World" was written in 1932, I would have thought it was written in the late Fifties or early Sixties. It was that farIf I didn't know that "Brave New World" was written in 1932, I would have thought it was written in the late Fifties or early Sixties. It was that far ahead of its time in both theme and style. It's easy to see how this book became such a highly regarded literary work. It questions everything and doesn't hand the reader the answers.
Unfortunately, I cannot give the book 5 stars. As good as it is, it has some serious flaws. There really isn't a main character. The characters that appear to be the main characters become secondary about half way through the book when a new main character shows up. There is a lengthy and somewhat contradictory philosophical expository section about 40 pages from the end that tries to explain everything but ends up being stilted and not fitting the rest of the book. One character just vanishes. Actually, all of the characters seemed more like symbols than like people.
Despite the narrative flaws, Huxley did an excellent job of creating a "Brave New World". He is descriptive enough without being too wordy. He shows the reader many aspects of the society depicted, the good and the bad. And, he doesn't tell the reader what to think.
I think anyone who has an interest in the future, in science fiction, or in politics should read "A Brave New World." I'm really not sure how I missed it in the course of my education, but I'm glad I've now made up for it....more
I give "Blindness" four stars simply for the artistry of its creation. The story itself is unbelievably depressing until the very end. But, it's so poI give "Blindness" four stars simply for the artistry of its creation. The story itself is unbelievably depressing until the very end. But, it's so poetic and dreamlike. It's rich in symbolism. I can't say that this is one of the very best books I've ever read, but it is very good....more
"The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" really gets 4-1/2 stars from me. However, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who likes a linear story, a well-de"The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" really gets 4-1/2 stars from me. However, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who likes a linear story, a well-defined plot, and easily comprehensible English. Probably the hardest thing to do when reading this book is not trying to translate all the Spanish in it. Trying to translate just slows you down and keeps you from really feeling the rhythm of the text. Fortunately, I have lived in Southern California my whole life and have studied a little Spanish. As a result, I'm always hearing bits and pieces of the language that I only half understand. To me, the melange of language that I'm exposed to regularly is music and this book captures that mix very well.
This book has a lot of big ideas, but they're kind of buried in a terrific, creative narrative. It was very well done.
I wasn't really sure what to expect from "The Thirteenth Tale". I had been drawn to it for a few months by the cover and finally purchased a copy. I pI wasn't really sure what to expect from "The Thirteenth Tale". I had been drawn to it for a few months by the cover and finally purchased a copy. I put off reading it for a while. I thought it might be good, but it also might be total crap. I was scared. Fortunately, it turned out to be very good. If I could give it 4-1/2 stars, I would.
Lately, a lot of authors have been writing books with a very old-fashioned tone and feel to them. This isn't a very effective approach for many writers. However, Diane Setterfield manages to make the old fashioned tone work quite well. It comes across as timeless rather than affected. I give her a considerable amount of credit for avoiding unnecessary exposition and for creating a tight story. I was genuinely surprised by the twist revelation near the end.
This is a terrific book if you want something riveting and intriguing that isn't fluff....more
"Bel Canto" may be one of the top ten books I've read this year. It is absolutely beautifully written and very gripping. I really felt like I was ther"Bel Canto" may be one of the top ten books I've read this year. It is absolutely beautifully written and very gripping. I really felt like I was there and that I was getting to know the characters as they got to know each other. I felt like one of them. Without giving anything away, I was totally surprised and shocked by the ending. However, in retrospect, I realized that it really couldn't have ended any other way. I recommend "Bel Canto" for everyone.
_____________________________________________________ Added August 28, 2009:
I was listening to the radio today. The local talk show hosts were interviewing a man who deprograms cult members. (This was in regards to the Jaycee Dugard case.) He was talking a bit about the Stockholm Syndrome. It suddenly struck me that Ann Patchett managed something quite extraordinary with this book. She made the reader experience the Stockhold Syndrome. We go right along with the hostages in identifying with the terrorists that are holding them hostage. How very sneaky of her....more
I just want you to know that I think you are a wonderful writer. I remember picking up a copy of The Bluest Eye back in 1990 becauseDear Ms. Morrison:
I just want you to know that I think you are a wonderful writer. I remember picking up a copy of The Bluest Eye back in 1990 because I was taking a stupid college course and we were required to read a book by a female author written after WWII. I chose your book because it was really short and I didn't want to put a lot of time into that assignment. I remember crying while reading it and wanting to take that little girl out of her miserable life and make her feel better about herself. When my son was a baby, I read Beloved and was equally horrified and sympathetic to Sethe's predicament. I loved the depth of emotion that book brought out in me. Later, I read Jazz and was so impressed by the way the language echoed the theme. The rhythm of your words was so, well, jazzy.
I really, really wanted to give A Mercy more than three stars. I wanted to be blown away. I was looking forward to really feeling something, even if it didn't feel good. Unfortunately, the only things I felt were confusion and disappointment. It took me half of each chapter to figure out which character the chapter was about and what time frame the chapter was set in. It felt flat and pointless. I never got to really know any of the characters. Honestly, 167 pages is not enough to cover the number of characters and ideas this story is trying to convey. It's more like a draft than a finished novel. It's an epic story that's been condensed and abridged. I wanted to know more about these characters and the 17th century American colonies in which they lived. I liked that nobody was either a hero or a villain, but human. I just would have liked to know these humans better.
Frankly, the reason I do give your book as many as three stars is that the prose is absolutely beautiful, as usual for you. The imagery and the rhythm is both poetic and musical. I just wish there had been more of it.
Forget your theology books and forget your "Christian Fiction". If you really want to get inside the head of someone with a deep, abiding faith in GodForget your theology books and forget your "Christian Fiction". If you really want to get inside the head of someone with a deep, abiding faith in God, you must read "Gilead". Through the story of Rev. John Ames, Marilynne Robinson eloquently expresses so many of the ideas I have had about Christianity and state some difficult theological concepts in easy to understand words. And, she does it without ever getting cheesy or preachy. Reading this book is like floating in a pool on a warm summer day. It's dreamy and it's beautiful. It's sad, but not depressing. It's about life and death and everything in between. It captures a bit of history and mid-century Middle American attitude expertly. I truly love this book. There a couple of people I want to pass my copy on to, but I'm afraid I'll never see it again. I think this is one of the rare books I will be reading again and again....more
Sometimes, verbs can be so inadequate. I really can't say that I "liked" The Violent Bear It Away A Novel by Flannery O'Connor. On the other hand, I cSometimes, verbs can be so inadequate. I really can't say that I "liked" The Violent Bear It Away A Novel by Flannery O'Connor. On the other hand, I can't say I "didn't like" it either. Maybe what I can say is that this book "moved" me, but in a negative way. Maybe the verb I want is "disturbed". Now, I do like reading books that make me feel something strongly, even if if that feeling is negative. This definite falls into that category.
I do have to say that I'm very, very glad that I have read short stories by Flannery O'Connor and that I was aware that she was a devout Catholic born and raised in the Bible Belt. If I hadn't known that she was Christian, I probably would have thought that this was an anti-Christian novel. The characters of the old man and the boy were so negative and so hateful, it would really seem that the message is that Christianity is about hate. It's quite clear that these two character's just don't understand what Christianity is about. The most telling statement is when the great-uncle says, "Who will be left when the Lord's mercy strikes?" Since when does mercy strike? Is mercy about violence? Interestingly enough, even though the old man talks about baptism, the resurrection of believers, and the cross; he never mentions Jesus Christ.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have the boy's uncle, the old man's nephew. He was kidnapped and baptized by the old man when he was a young boy and spent his teen and adult years rejecting everything the old man preached. He's not just an atheist, he's an anti-theist who sees it as his job to save his nephew from the old man's corruption. At first, we hope that he will provide the boy with a chance at being normal, but he is just as full of hatred as the old man and the boy. He has been corrupted by the old man's preaching of vengeance as much by rejecting it as the boy has been by accepting it.
Ultimately, this is a book about hate and misunderstanding faith. The meaning is clear in a scene fairly early in the book where the boy sneaks into a Gospel meeting and the uncle follows him and watches through the window. The little girl missionary who preaches is the only person in the book who gets Christianity right. She says:
"If you don't know what love is you won't know Jesus when He comes. You won't be ready. I want to tell you people the story of the world, how it never known when love come, so when love comes again, you'll be ready."
The fact that the atheist uncle and the prophesying boy have the same reaction to the girl's message says everything about how filled with hate they are and how alike they are despite their opposing beliefs. Even more telling is how the uncle reacts when he holds his young, mentally challenged son later in the story:
Without warning his hated love gripped him and held him in a vise. He should have known better than to let the child onto his lap.
The Violent Bear It Away A Novel is unrelenting in its negativity. The dysfunctional hatred these men share has horrific consequences. There is no redemption for any of them because they cannot and/or will not love. I was left very sad an depressed by this novel, but it did make me think. I feel richer for that....more
When I was in college, I used to love wandering the campus bookstore. Occasionally, I would pick up some oddball small-press release (usually poetry)When I was in college, I used to love wandering the campus bookstore. Occasionally, I would pick up some oddball small-press release (usually poetry) by an author I never heard of. These books were invariably weird and wouldn't be anything that you'd ever find on the shelves of Borders or B&N. I never really quite figured out if they were self-consciously stylistic or truly avant garde. Either way, I felt smugly intellectual for reading them.
"The Lexical Funk" reminded me of my college days. It's an artsy sort of a book that is both self-consciously stylistic and avant garde. It made me feel like I was sitting in a coffee house listening to some guy dressed in black (with a turtleneck and beret). I felt like I should be snapping my fingers at the end of each segment. "The Lexical Funk" is cool in a beatnik sort of way. The stories are not big on setting or character development, yet they are intriguing. Some of the interludes were a bit annoying and others were like prose poems. What really comes across is the author's love of language. The words just roll across the brain like a shiatsu massager.
A few of the stories really stood out to me:
"Those Who Imitate" is about an android who is trying to be like humans. He's in for a bit of a surprise.
"Angela Killed Herself" is about a young man pondering the suicide of a friend.
"Rich Jacobs Searches for the Meaning of Life" is about a man who talks to produce.
If you're into artsy books, "The Lexical Funk" is for you....more
Do publisher promote books for the Pulitzer Prize? When I received the advance review copy, that's the first thought I had. It didn't have the final cDo publisher promote books for the Pulitzer Prize? When I received the advance review copy, that's the first thought I had. It didn't have the final cover art on it, just a plain cover with a bunch of glowing, hyperbolic review excerpts. It's obviously being promoted as a masterpiece. I generally avoid books that receive a lot of hyperbole. Usually, it's just BS. However, "Let the Great World Spin" truly deserves the accolades and I really believe it deserves the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2010.
It's kind of difficult to describe this book. According to the blurb, it's about the guy who walked between the Twin Towers on a high wire back in the Seventies and how that walk connected people from different walks of life. It's not about that. Yes, the man on the wire is part of the story, but his walk isn't really a catalyst for anything. Instead, this book is about people and how they come together across lines that otherwise divide them. It's a microcosm of New York City in the Seventies. It's a series of short stories told from different viewpoints that are all interconnected the way people are interconnected.
Probably the most amazing thing about "Let the Great World Spin" is how real the characters are. In each section, a different character tells his or her story and each one sounds completely unique and authentic. Whether whether the narrator is an Irish immigrant, a coked-up artist, or an aging whore, you truly believe each one is real.
This is an incredibly fascinating book and one that any literature fan should read....more
So Brave, Young and Handsome: A Novel is a very interesting read. It's got so many layers and nuances. Set in 1912,the narrator is a Minnesota postalSo Brave, Young and Handsome: A Novel is a very interesting read. It's got so many layers and nuances. Set in 1912,the narrator is a Minnesota postal worker who wrote a fabulously successful novel, quit his day job, and hasn't been able to write anything since. He befriends with an old guy who builds boats, and leaves his wife and son to spend six weeks helping his new friend find his long-lost love. It quickly becomes apparent that Monte is either a very poor judge of character or that he is the most unreliable of narrators.
Monte's adventure traveling in the West show us an early 20th century that is changing rapidly. His buddy, Glendon turns out to have been part of Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall Gang. He's being pursued by a former Pinkerton detective, Charlie Siringo. Both men are clearly from a bygone era. Horses have pretty much been replaced by cars. Wild West extravaganzas are dying out. Even small Western towns are much more civilized than the Old West frontier outposts.
Reading this book was a pleasure. It was so vivid and poignant. However, it had a lot of complexity that would make it a good subject for serious literary analysis. I highly recommend it....more
I was all ready to give March by Geraldine Brooks three stars until I got to this passage:
"I am not alone in this. I only let him do to me what men ha
I was all ready to give March by Geraldine Brooks three stars until I got to this passage:
"I am not alone in this. I only let him do to me what men have ever done to women: march off to empty glory and hollow acclaim and leave us behind to pick up the pieces. The broken cities, the burned barns, the innocent injured beasts, the ruined bodies of the boys we bore and the men we lay with.
The waste of it. I sit here, and I look at him, and it is as if a hundred women sit beside me: the revolutionary farm wife, the English peasant woman, the Spartan mother-'Come back with your shield or on it,' she cried, because that was what she was expected to cry. And then she leaned across the broken body of her son and the words turned to dust in her throat."
If you were ever a little girl in America, chances are you have read Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. You probably grew up with Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. You experienced their life living with their mother while their father was off serving the Union Army in the Civil War. You felt their excitement whenever Marmee would read them a letter from him. You know how Marmee was called away to help her beloved husband recover from some unnamed illness in an army hospital. What you never got was a real glimpse of the adult lives that circled around the March girls. In fact, you never even learn their parents' first names.
Geraldine Brooks must have had the same fascination with Little Women that so many of us former little girls did. She takes that fascination and fleshes out the story of Mr. and Mrs. March. The story opens with March (never a first name) writing a letter home to Marmee. (We find that Marmee is was everyone called her, not just the girls.) As he finishes his writing, the story takes us to the uncensored version of his past and what is happening to him at the moment. It's not all as he portrays in his letters. He's kind of interesting at first, but he gets kind of dull pretty quickly. The guy is just too emotional and flowery. What is interesting is his recollections of Marmee. She is by far a much more interesting character and the story definitely takes off once she takes over the narration in the second part of the book, when she comes to the hospital to nurse her husband back to health. Up until that point, I was thinking that this book was definitely a 3. I was kind of wondering what the competition was for the Pulitzer that year. I do have to give Brooks credit for trying to add a new, adult dimension to a nationally loved work of children's literature. I think she did a good job of creating something fresh while honoring the classic....more
Since joining GoodReads, my reading has become much more prolific and eclectic. Thanks to the reviews of the members here, I have been much more succeSince joining GoodReads, my reading has become much more prolific and eclectic. Thanks to the reviews of the members here, I have been much more successful at finding books that appeal to me and are worth my time. One of the books that I read this year as a result of GoodReads reviews was “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson. “Gilead” was one of the most profoundly moving books I have ever read. It touched my heart in a way that few books ever do. It spoke of faith and forgiveness in such a reverent manner. I may have to review my top-10 list and find a way to make room for “Gilead” on it.
The thing about “Gilead” is that it was a stand-alone novel. It had an ending that was natural and made sense. It left no room for a sequel. Robinson’s latest novel set in the Iowa town of Gilead, “Home”, is not a sequel. Instead, it is a parallel novel. It takes place in the same time period as “Gilead”, but is told from the point of view of the youngest Boughton child, Glory. Glory is a 38-year-old spinster who comes home to take care of her aging father. Some time after she arrives, her wayward brother, Jack, comes home after a twenty-year absence. “Home” examines the relationship that develops between Jack and Glory as they get to know each other and take care of their now-fragile father. Through Glory’s loving and accepting eyes, we get to see a side of Jack that is quite different from the person John Ames sees in “Gilead”.
I had a few problems with “Home”. Most importantly, Robinson chose to use an third person narrator for this story instead of letting Glory tell it in first person as John Ames did in “Gilead”. While the point of view is mostly Glory’s, Robinson lets herself comment on other character’s thoughts and feelings. It seems sloppy, especially when it happens mid-paragraph. It was also strange reading about Jack when I already knew a lot of his story from “Gilead”. I knew who Della was and why he hadn’t brought her with him. Knowing what I knew, it made his reactions to certain news stories make sense. However, he never once comes out and tells Glory the information he told John Ames in “Gilead” about Della. Glory doesn’t find out until the very end though a very implausible circumstance. It was very, very odd already knowing the story of Jack as “Home” is unfolding. That said, I really don’t think “Home” stands on its own the way “Gilead” did. I think if the reader hasn’t read the first novel, there is no way he or she is going to understand what is going on in this one. On the other hand, “Gilead” totally spoils “Home”. The whole thing is given away before the reader even picks it up. I also felt that I wanted to know more about Glory and the period between childhood and her return home. We get a bit of her story, but I would have liked it to have been more substantial.
I am giving “Home” three stars because it is beautifully written. The imagery is subtle but amazingly well done. I could see the Boughton house, garden and barn so clearly in my mind. The setting really came to life and almost became a character of its own. I liked that we got to see a bit of Lila Ames as a real person instead of an idealized wife and mother.
I’m going to end this review with a question that kept coming to my mind. Why did the Boughtons choose Glory as the name for their youngest daughter? The other girls were named Faith, Hope and Grace. In my mind, I kept thinking that the fourth girl should be named Charity, not Glory. I thought Glory was an unusual choice. ...more
A couple of weeks ago, my 11th grade niece called to ask which book she should read off her recommended reading list for AP English. When she got to TA couple of weeks ago, my 11th grade niece called to ask which book she should read off her recommended reading list for AP English. When she got to The Color Purple, I commented that I had never read it and I wasn't sure why. Honestly, I do like Alice Walker. Possessing the Secret of Joy has stuck with me for years and there was a short story we read in one of my college lit classes that I loved. Heck, The Color Purple was even turned into an Oscar-winning movie that I never saw. On my next trip to the library, I made sure I brought this "highly acclaimed" novel home.
I can honestly say that I'm glad I read it. I was very caught up in Celie's life and I loved how she and the people around her changed through the years. Even the people who start off despicable grow and change for the better. The changes they make seem normal and natural. I know Walker has messages in this story, I'm just trying to figure out which was the most important. To me, the most overwhelming impression was that Celie and most of the people around her were living in a slavery of their own making. The men beat their women to make them mind. The women accept it. When a woman such as Shug or Sofia take another path, they are labeled as "wild" or "loose" and ostracized by their community. I don't know, maybe I have that all wrong. It just seemed to me that Celie would have been right at home on a plantation a hundred years earlier. She's just too willing to accept that the way things are is the way they are supposed to be. Of course, Walker uses other characters, like Shug and Nettie, to show us that there is another way.
I probably didn't say any of that very well. While Walker is absolutely writing about black women in the first half of the Twentieth Century, the attitudes and messages apply to all women. You don't deserve to be raped and beaten. You can make your own choices in life and blaze your own trail. You deserve to be loved and cherished. Thank goodness Celie learned these lessons. I'm glad I finally read this book.
I've seen The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society many times and never even picked it up to read the blurb. The cover looks like boring andI've seen The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society many times and never even picked it up to read the blurb. The cover looks like boring and the title is just silly-sounding. I knew that it had sold a gazillion copies, but I had no idea what it was about. When it was recommended to me by a GoodReads friend, I decided to check it out at the library.
I have to say that I'm so glad I read this book. The story is told with a series of letters between a London author, her friends and a group of people on the island of Guernsey in 1946. The book made me smile, it made me laugh, it made me cry and I often smiled and cried at the same time. The epistolary style made it a very quick read and made each of the characters seem real. I learned so much about the German occupation of England's Channel Islands and of England during and after WWII. (I didn't even know that the Germans had occupied English soil.)
I'm going to comment first on the audio production of this book. Wow. I was sucked in by Robin Miles' voice from the first sentence. She narrates everI'm going to comment first on the audio production of this book. Wow. I was sucked in by Robin Miles' voice from the first sentence. She narrates everything except the dialogue in a Caribbean accent that is absolutely hypnotic. Her voicing of the various characters' dialogue is impeccable. The book is full of extremely graphic imagery and vulgar language, but Ms. Miles makes it sound so musical. I would give the audio a five-star rating.
Now, on to the text. The Book of Night Women is absolutely brutal. It's full of graphic violence, sexuality and violent sex. I have spent the last week or so with words going through my brain that one cannot use in the real world. There was not only the oft-repeated word for a black person that was common in the 18th century, but there was constant use of the c-word and the p-word for female genitalia and the c-word for mail genitalia and the f-word for what the f-word really means. About halfway through, I got curious as to the gender of the author and looked him up. As I suspected, it was a man. I was wondering because the women in the story seemed as focused on their genitalia as men. Frankly, I just don't think about my parts that much and I don't know many women who discuss their girl bits quite that much. There was a lot of rape and torture involving female genitalia as well. Sometimes, it seemed like some sort of extreme sadistic sexual fantasy. There was a lot of torture also that wasn't sexually related, and that was brutal too.
Now, I do know that slavery was a horrible institution. In fact, my primary criticism of Alex Haley's Roots is that it made slavery seem almost nice. The Book of Night Women seems to go to the opposite extreme. I found it really hard to believe that people, both white and black, could maintain that level of sadism constantly. I also didn't find the change in Lilith's character to be very plausible. I don't think the way she ended up fit with the person she was through most of the story. It was kind of a fairy-tale transformation brought on by true love that just didn't ring true in the context of the rest of the novel.
Yet, I do give this book four stars. It aroused some very strong feelings in me, albeit negative ones. I felt as if I had been tortured and beaten. James' prose is so poetic. The tempo and repetition in this novel has a kind of magic about it. It's a powerful book. I feel like I should cheer myself up with a re-read of Beloved....more
The Passage by Justin Cronin is one of those books that generated a lot of positive buzz before it was even released. It was an instant best seller whThe Passage by Justin Cronin is one of those books that generated a lot of positive buzz before it was even released. It was an instant best seller when it came out a couple of weeks ago. This is pretty unusual for a relatively unknown author. Now, I generally wait for the buzz to die down on a new release before I read it. If I see it at the library, I'll pick it up. Otherwise, I'll wait for the paperback. However, the pre-release reviews were so good and the book is post-apocalyptic fiction, so I chose it as my first book purchase on my Nook.
If I had a thinky-book shelf, The Elegance of the Hedgehog would surely land there. There's a huge dose of philosophy and analysis of the arts in it.If I had a thinky-book shelf, The Elegance of the Hedgehog would surely land there. There's a huge dose of philosophy and analysis of the arts in it. I kind of wish I were fluent in French so I could read it as it was written. There were a few places where the translator obviously got some things wrong. (At one point Paloma says that Colombe is her younger sister when it's clear that she's older.)
Not a lot happens in The Elegance of the Hedgehog, but that's okay. Not all novels need to be plot-driven. I will say that the ending shocked and saddened me. I hope that's not a spoiler.
The audio production of this book was very good. I especially loved the narrator who read Paloma's parts. She was perfect....more
Slaughterhouse-Five is one of those books I've heard described as "great" my whole life. When I heard Luke Burrage review it on his Science Fiction BoSlaughterhouse-Five is one of those books I've heard described as "great" my whole life. When I heard Luke Burrage review it on his Science Fiction Book Review podcast, I decided to download it to my Nook and finally give it a read.
I will say straight off that I didn't think it was particularly "great". However, I will concede that it has been extremely influential. The first thing that stands out to me is the non-lineal plot. Slaughterhouse-Five tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, an ordinary guy to whom extraordinary things have happened. He's been a WWII POW and survived the firebombing of Dresden. He's also been the sole survivor of an airline crash. He thinks he's been a zoo exhibit on an alien planet. You're told fairly early on that all this happens, but it unfolds in quite a surreal manner. You see, Billy Pilgrim is a time traveler. He'll be in one place/time and suddenly find he finds himself transported to another. Let's be quite clear though that Billy isn't actually time-traveling. I suspect that he's near the end of his life and re-experiencing it non-chronologically. No, I take that back. This story is being told by someone named Yon Yonson who already knows everything that's happened and just chooses to make Billy a time traveler so the story doesn't have to be chronological.
I will preface this review by saying that I am not going to worry about spoiler alerts and hiding spoilers. “Jane Eyre” is 165 years old and a part ofI will preface this review by saying that I am not going to worry about spoiler alerts and hiding spoilers. “Jane Eyre” is 165 years old and a part of our collective cultural consciousness. If you don’t know the story, you probably should go read the book instead of reading this review.
I could have sworn that I read “Jane Eyre” sometime in my teens. There are parts that I distinctly remember. However, when I read Jasper Fforde’s “The Eyre Affair”, there were plot points mentioned that I had no memory of at all. If I ever had read it, I must have read an abridged version.
“Jane Eyre” turned out to be a completely different book than I remembered. What took me by surprise was how feminist it was at certain points. As a child, Jane is surprisingly strong and independent. Throughout the book, she shows these traits. Therefore, it is really disconcerting that she falls for Edward Fairfax Rochester. There is so much that’s wrong about this relationship. He’s twice her age and keeps referring to her as a little girl. He really comes off as some sort of creepy pedophile. He’s very possessive and can’t take “no” for an answer. After it’s revealed at their almost-wedding that he’s got a crazy wife in his attic, he’s in major denial about what he’s doing. He’s planning to become a bigamist and just can’t understand why Jane wants to get away from him. He has a rationalization for everything and it’s all just all a bunch of delusional BS. I really admired Jane for being strong and getting out of that totally dysfunctional relationship. She continues to be admirably strong afterwards in her rejection of St. John Rivers’ rather insistent proposals of marriage. However, the story ends completely wrong. She goes back to Rochester and everything’s okay because his lunatic wife died in a fire that burned down Thornfield Hall. Really? Really? Did the story have to go there? Couldn’t Jane have met a nice man and settled down? Did she really have to go back to Rochester?
Charlotte Bronte does use her novel to effectively illustrate what life was like for single women and orphans in Victorian England. There really was no safety net. Jane’s parent died when she was a baby. She was fortunate enough to be taken in by her sister’s brother, but is badly treated by her aunt and cousins when he dies. She gets shipped off to a boarding school for poor girls and the conditions there are appalling. The best life these girls can hope for is to be governesses or teachers at the same type of school as the one she’s growing up in. When she leaves Thornfield Hall, there is no safety net for her. She almost starves to death in the snow before she’s taken in by the Rivers family. She only ends up with hope because of the miraculous discovery that she’s heir to a fortune left her by her father’s brother. At that point, she’s perfectly capable of taking care of herself or choosing a husband who isn’t a total freak like Rochester.
I really enjoyed the social aspects of this book. However, I really got irritated by Jane and Rochester’s discussions of their “love” for each other. As I said before, it just seemed wrong in so many ways. I can’t even imagine that there was ever a time in history when their relationship would have been considered something to strive for. If Jane had been raised by her mother and father, and have spent time in girlhood around normal men, maybe she wouldn’t have fallen for that creepy Rochester. ...more
One of the great things about having a Nook is that there are frequent sales of incredible ebooks. I've never read anything by Alice Hoffman before, bOne of the great things about having a Nook is that there are frequent sales of incredible ebooks. I've never read anything by Alice Hoffman before, but I couldn't resist the $1.99 or $2.99 that The Story Sisters cost. I had a hard time putting the book down. It's amazingly beautiful, incredibly sad and surprisingly joyous. It's about family, life, death and regrets. It's about growth and redemption. It doesn't have a plot any more than life has a plot.
Heck, there's no way I can do justice to this book. It's just very moving....more
I’ve tried to read Jane Austen several times and just couldn’t get very far in to her work. Perhaps if I had started in my pre-teen years, around theI’ve tried to read Jane Austen several times and just couldn’t get very far in to her work. Perhaps if I had started in my pre-teen years, around the time I first read Louisa May Alcott, I might have been a die-hard fan. However, my first attempt was in my twenties and I just didn’t like anything enough to make it all the way. I’ve felt quite negligent in this regard because Miss Austen is so popular now. She has many admirers and copiers. I so often hear books described as “Austenesque” but only had the vaguest sense of what that meant. Therefore, when I happened upon an audio download of Pride and Prejudice read by one of the finest female narrators with whom I am familiar, I purchased and downloaded a copy. Kate Reading’s delightful narration led me to understand the charm of Miss Austen.
While Austen did use so many of the now-familiar romance novel tropes, she did it in a way that still seems fresh despite two centuries. I found her style to be quite humorous. Upon the commencement of the story, I already knew where it was going to go. There are no such things as spoilers when it comes to a 200-year-old novel. What did surprise me was how little I knew of the story despite all I had heard. It was quite a charming romantic comedy and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. Perhaps it was meant to be read aloud.
Now that I understand Jane Austen, I will attempt at some time in the future to read another of her novels. I am so fortunate as to have several Barnes and Noble Classics’ editions on my Nook that I acquired at no cost due to a generous giveaway the had this summer past. However, it does behoove me to read some books that are more current first as I cannot write or talk like a 200-year-old woman for much longer. ...more