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Algeria > Discussions on The Last Life should thread here

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message 1: by Laureen (new)

Laureen (goodreadscomliterateworld) | 82 comments Mod
Discussion on The Last Life should thread here


message 2: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 179 comments Mod
Slowly making my way through the first section. Although the first part takes place in Algeria it has the feel of an American novel set in a resort village in the United States.


message 3: by Chris (new)

Chris Fletcher | 124 comments Mod
Book arrived in the post today, so shall begin reading it shortly. As I will most probably have to order each book from the internet, is there any chance we could hold the poll for next month's book slightly earlier? Thanks, Chris


message 4: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 179 comments Mod
Hmmm. My comment. Well, you'll find out.Slowly making my way through it. Becomes more complex and intriguing.Enjoy!

Elizabeth


message 5: by Laureen (new)

Laureen (goodreadscomliterateworld) | 82 comments Mod
I will post the next country in general. I apologize for being so late in February - I was traveling for work and lost track of time. Let's try to vote on the next month's book around the 15th of the previous month. How does that sound? I am just starting the Last Life this weekend too! Elizabeth's last comment really makes hope I find time to start tonight!


message 6: by Laureen (new)

Laureen (goodreadscomliterateworld) | 82 comments Mod
I am much farther behind so don't feel bad! I haven't made it past page 10 yet!!!! I hope to make some serious progress this weekend. Work has been hectic and I have not done any international travel - nothing like a 9 hour plane trip to get cought up on your reading :) Unfortunately, for my reading no trips planned for 2 weeks.


message 7: by Chris (last edited Feb 20, 2011 04:14AM) (new)

Chris Fletcher | 124 comments Mod
Like Elizabeth, I'm also about three quarters of the way through. I'm similarly struggling with the book, but in a way I've not experienced before.

When I am reading I literally cannot put the book down, but once I've stopped reading I struggle for enthusiasm to start again. I think that her writing captivates me but perhaps the actual story doesn't compel me to drop whatever I'm doing to go and read another chapter.

Still, an enjoyable book so far!


message 8: by Chris (new)

Chris Fletcher | 124 comments Mod
Laureen wrote: "Let's try to vote on the next month's book around the 15th of the previous month. How does that sound?"

Thank you for doing this, Laureen, much appreciated!


message 9: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 179 comments Mod
I've finished the book but will wait to comment until others have finished.

Also, if anyone is looking for a diversion away from the world of books try a DVD called The Story of India, with host Michael Woods, a PBS production. Very well done history of important periods in India's history.


message 10: by Chris (new)

Chris Fletcher | 124 comments Mod
Although I did enjoy the book, I didn't get a real sense of place. Like Elizabeth said earlier, this could have been set in an American resort. Even the forays into each family member's lives in Algeria didn't particularly give me an impression of the 'Pied Noir' culture.

For a book which largely dealt with the shock of transplanting a whole family from one distinct culture to another, I was suprised and a little disappointed that (aside from a rare snippet) I learnt little about Algeria or France aside from the political angst.

I feel that the author really does excel in creating believable, troubled, human characters and convincing relationships. I guess it was never her intention to write a travel guide! Does anybody know if she wrote this book with anybody in mind - i.e. French/Algerians?


message 11: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 179 comments Mod
I have to say I agree with Chris. You don't get a real strong sense of place in this book, as the author is focussed on character development. The character development, unfortunately, could take place amongst any middle class family on many different continents, not that the middle class is terribly uninteresting, its just that this family is rather ordinary despite the diffficulties they face. There is an interesting exploration of mental illness (the father) which you don't get in many works of fiction and disabilities through the character of Etienne, the disabled brother whose emotional life can only be speculated upon because of his inability to verbally communicate with others. I also enjoyed the portrayal of the teenage angst and the difficulties women face trapped in extended families. I don't agree however with the statement on my bookcover "to open this novel is to sink into a Mediterranean world so urge and engrossing that one regrets arriving at the last page." This book, in my opinion, is more about character than culture.


message 12: by Chris (new)

Chris Fletcher | 124 comments Mod
Great point, Mar - as good as the author was at creating characters, Sagesse herself is entirely forgettable. I didn't realise until you mentioned it.

It makes me think about the point you raised earlier about the gender of the narrator. I'm a 22 year old male and I'm supposed to be inside the mind of a 14(?) year old female; was her personality/gender left intentionally amorphous so that people could associate better with the novel?

Regarding the voice of the narrator, I thought that the clarity/eloquence of the narrator perfectly complemented Sagesse's actual speech. I thought it was a great way of showing that complicated ideas and emotions are rarely vocally expressed, or poorly expressed, especially for quiet people (like me!).

I have to say I partially disagree with Elizabeth about Messud's exploration of mental illness. I really enjoyed and respected how she dealt with her father's troubles, but what she wrote about Etienne simply annoyed me. Although her writing is fine, I found her philosophising tedious as it lacked real punch and even her prose lapsed into purple patches - especially when theorising about Etienne. For example, when Sagesse masturbated her own brother. Uncomfortable to read as it was, I think it added to Sagesse's character. In fact, I thought that it was almost touching (no pun intended) that she would do that for him. But the drivel that followed:

'alone in his paradise, or in his hell, but not knowing it to be either—and now, with this sigh, with this relief, his body had communicated desire and been heard, and however my brother registered knowledge, he must know that it had, and, most terribly, would know when it remained, henceforth, unattended. Having been, beneath his sheet, unalone for even a moment, he would know forever more what it meant to be alone…. The wrong I had done, I realized, was to make my brother aware of his prison'

really irritated me!


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