**spoiler alert** The main theme/message was a good one and certainly true, and had a familiar feeling, as if it was a thought I'd had many times befo**spoiler alert** The main theme/message was a good one and certainly true, and had a familiar feeling, as if it was a thought I'd had many times before without acknowledging it. Through all the events that occur involving the Clearys, and the women in particular, I was wondering, where is this going? By the end there seemed to be a warning about the pain of living, as well as a lesson that one can't really avoid it, only embrace and accept it, and move on. I can agree with this viewpoint, though I disagreed with the way the characters seemed to draw out their own suffering (mostly mental)seemingly willingly. My biggest problem was the lack of self-awareness in at least one of the characters, one of my favorite quotes being "Know thyself." A touching and well-thought-out read nonetheless, though a bit long (which is understandable when moving through the lives of three subsequent generations). ...more
**spoiler alert** This is one of the most heart-wrenching stories I've read. At first the way the narrator speaks is seemingly very matter-of-fact abo**spoiler alert** This is one of the most heart-wrenching stories I've read. At first the way the narrator speaks is seemingly very matter-of-fact about what a woman's lot is in this part of China. It soon becomes clear that this is one means of coping with tragedy. There were so many sad occurrences in this book but I never wanted to stop reading. The author did a wonderful job of illustrating how parents, families and women themselves could not help loving and appreciating the "worthless branches" in their lives while struggling with the traditions of their time and country. Even a certain First Son was not protected from being viewed as useless.
One of my favorite theses (and most-lamented) is the idea that simple miscommunication is one of the greatest sources of pain for humans in any culture and in any time. The women's nu shu writing was poetic, beautiful and so nuanced even the most skilled could make a grave mistake.
Just re-read this while thinking about what to read next. I still think it's a charming book, but Cassandra's father just seems like a total jerk now.Just re-read this while thinking about what to read next. I still think it's a charming book, but Cassandra's father just seems like a total jerk now. Where does he get off throwing his daughter against and a wall and no one says anything? And basically ignoring everyone most of the time, including his melodramatic but well-meaning young wife? If this is what it takes to nurture literary genius, than genius should wither and die. Especially if he's another James Joyce type of writer. Also, not to push stereotypical gender-roles (it was harder to avoid them at this time in history), but what sort of father lets his family basically starve while he sits around all day re-reading detective novels? Most of the authors I've read about these days have had some sort of day-job to pay the bills while they work on their great ideas....more
I confess, I skipped to the end. This was after reaching the point when Ryder is completely ambivalent about h**spoiler alert** **Huge spoiler alert**
I confess, I skipped to the end. This was after reaching the point when Ryder is completely ambivalent about his own children (albeit by a woman he hardly seems to care for, but still) and it becomes clear that he's going to pursue Julia. I just couldn't bring myself to continue reading for 2 or 3 weeks. I started (and in a few cases, finished) a few other books and tried to bring my mind around to giving Ryder another try. Finally I just decided to see what happened in the last 10-20 pages or so, with the idea that if some great truth were revealed, I would backtrack and follow the progression. Ryder and Julia had an affair and both got divorces from their seemingly tepid spouses. Not much more talk about Sebastian, which did make me wonder a little. Then Julia dumped Ryder because her religion will always be between them. Thus he's left to live his life alone and join the military. Assuming Sebastian hadn't yet died of liver failure, jealous lovers or some sort of accident involving a car and his bear, perhaps Ryder should have just gone back to him and had the relationship that I thought was pretty much guaranteed when I read the first couple of chapters....more
**spoiler alert** Still haven't managed to finish this book more than a month after beginning. Perhaps unfairly, a fluffy vampire romance has turned m**spoiler alert** Still haven't managed to finish this book more than a month after beginning. Perhaps unfairly, a fluffy vampire romance has turned my head for many weeks now. I do intend to finish, though even before the dreamy vampire came around I was having difficulty staying involved. After Ash rescued Juli and married her secretly, my interest dropped off sharply for some reason. I guess the part about leaving Juli at home while Ash goes off to Afghanistan to spy seemed like the author was trying to tack on even more history from this part of the world (not that that's a bad thing; just feels like a different story). I really was engrossed in the story up until this point. Perhaps the rush from Juli's rescue and the exciting escape through the mountain pass left me in need of a resolution soon after, rather than stringing me along while Ash plays dress-up for the umpteenth time (not that I didn't appreciate his abilities earlier or anything). I will hopefully be proven wrong and have to eat every word I've typed here.
Update: 11-Nov-08 Here I am, eating my words already, and still haven't quite finished. The Battle of Fatehabad happened almost right after I started reading again, and was extremely well-written and exciting (though I don't hold with glamorizing war in general, I do enjoy reading battle scenes if they're well done). Waiting to see how the powder keg in Kabul will ignite. Less than 100 pages to go...
15-Nov-08 Finally finished it this morning. The powder keg blew sky high, indeed. A tragic but well-fought battle brought this book to its end. I couldn't help mourning just a bit for Wally, though he died perhaps as he would have wished. I suppose I wanted to see him grow old, fall in love, become a Field Marshal, but barring that, "it was a good death." Ash and Juli set out to find their peaceful kingdom, and I wouldn't have minded the author getting them there before the book ended. Lord knows they've earned a rest. Overall, a great adventure. Now that I've finished, I'm glad that it ended this way, and not with the 'boy rescues girl, marries girl, lives happily ever after' rather unrealistic way. Much more satisfying and profound, if that's the correct word. Will have to look up the history of Afghanistan at this time to help sort fact from extremely convincing fiction....more