Friday, June 24, 2011

Home, Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson makes you feel like she has weighed out every single sentence for a month. She is so gracefully pointed in her prose, wasting not a word; it's always an overwhelming experience to read her! If you were to highlight a novel by her, you'd might as well spray paint the whole book.

Robinson shares a sad end to Gilead's Reverend Ames' lifelong friend, minister Robert Boughton. As two of his children return home to their ailing, widowed father, they slowly attempt discourse about family differences, grievances, and spiritual confusions. Glory's failed relationships have left her feeling diffident and lost, and Jack's alcoholism and depression have kept him at arm's length of his whole family for his entire life.

The beauty is in the kindness that the family genuinely shows to each other, and the deftness with which their relationships and encounters unfold. Glory's constancy where Jack's struggle with alcohol is concerned meant a lot to me, a child of a  recovering alcoholic. I felt like Robinson captured a lot when dealing with this: firstly, and maybe most importantly, that you can't force something on someone, you can not ask more of them than they can ask from themselves in that moment. Glory's patience helps Jack to stay and feel safe with her.

Despite so many barriers, so much time and angst, this is a novel of love and faith, a reminder that both of those qualities, and all relationships are a never ending process of work and devotion. Your home can speak of peace and hope just like a church to the religious. 

It may seem like a quick read at first, but be sure to give this novel your full attention!

Home, Marilynne Robinson
ISBN: 0374299102 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Painted Drum, Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich is such a rich, voluminously lyrical writer. I'm constantly astounded by the grace with which such powerful stories are delivered!

Mixed blood Faye Travers' own misdeed brings her to find and return a drum that tells its story past, present, and future in this beautifully wrought story. It's a beautiful story of retribution and family; the drum of the Ojibwe brings health and forgiveness to mothers and daughters wrecked by tragedy and misdeeds, as the lost children speak through the drum across generations of a reservation community.

This novel isn't just about grief and loss; it's about life and recovery. All of the women in this novel must move past their actions and circumstances: "Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could." 

The power in this novel is this message, as well as its scope through multiple generations and over life and death. I highly recommend this novel, as I have been known to recommend others of Erdrich's I have read!

The Painted Drum, Louise Erdrich
ISBN: 0060515112 

Monday, June 13, 2011

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

This was one of the most haunting books I've read all year. It's imagery is stunning. Roy weaves the history of this disjointed family after introducing readers to the tragic result of their individual actions. The structuring really pulls at your heart strings more, as the reader knows enough to react, but is drawn deeper into the chaos that Roy so cleverly and dexterously unfolds. This is precisely the sort of novel that merits the Man Booker, which it was awarded in 1997: creative in structure, lush in prose, politically aware, and globally inspired!

"Perhaps it's true that things can change in a day. That a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house---the charred clock, the singed photograph, the scorched furniture---must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for. Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstitutred. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story." 

The maddeningly frustrating political and social climate of India in the 1960s imagines a world so complex and simultaneously fragile that this family saga can blow up in an unbelievably shattering way; the children, of course, pay the price in the ultimate way and are left to become horribly wounded, faithless adults. The scope of this novel makes for an intense experience. I had to read something seriously fluffy after this!

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
ISBN: 0679457313 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Before Night Falls, Reinaldo Arenas

This was probably the most detailed account of a slow, meticulous dehumanization that I've ever read. Arenas details his youth, socio-political background, and awareness of his sexuality during the tumultuous politics of Revolutionary Cuba, and leaves no stone of his experiences unturned.

Having taken many classes for my anthropology major dealing with issues of culture/human rights, I still wasn't adequately prepared for Arenas' experience. I can't believe that someone went through all of that and kept on, had the power to lecture and write once free of Cuba. Beware, though. This book isn't for the faint of heart. It can be rude, crude, and explicit. Arenas leaves nothing to the imagination. Understand that a generation of open minded youth had so many freedoms taken away, and lashed out for a sense of joy and truth wherever they could get it.

Books like this bring to the forefront the sad state of the American educational system; as a child, most of what my generation was taught and exposed to was from the American perspective (at least until college, of course). Seeing the Communist Revolution in Cuba as Arenas tells it shows how little understood these issues really are. Countries like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Mexico have undergone such turbulent political forces in the past century, that have systematically torn to shreds every small piece of humanity people could hold onto. This memoir shows us how ill-informed we can be and reminds us why human rights world wide still have a hell of a fight ahead of them.

Before Night Falls, Reinaldo Arenas
ISBN: 1852428082 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

March, Geraldine Brooks

March is not at all a 'sequel', or 'companion' to Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. It did hold some interesting conversations of what it could have meant for a man to go off into such an idealized war with the opinions In this, the 2006 Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction, Mr. March was depicted as having held as a community-serving Christian minister (although characterizing him as being vegetarian/vegan seemed a little superfluous to me, but that's just my opinion).

I sort of enjoyed the novel. This isn't even my first experience with Geraldine Brooks... but it didn't grab me the way the Pulitzer Prize Fiction winners from 2009 to 2007 did. March struck me as an interesting story, but I couldn't help but feel that using Mr. March of Little Women, versus any other family man, was merely to heighten the reader's feelings of pain and suffering, as we who are reading this novel are assumed to have been exposed to the March girls. The idealistic picture of family life they have represented in literature, either in film or the novel makes the case for sympathy and sentimentality by itself. I was shocked by the characterization of March, and the melodrama he found himself within; but only because of my reading experiences growing up with Little Women and not due to anything skillful in Brooks' writing. He honestly struck me as sort of a complaining, and oftentimes weak narrator.

The most compelling drama in the novel was for me, that of the contraband slaves, as the socio-political status of Freedmen during the war and in the early days of Reconstruction, has always struck me so gray and hopeless. Give this novel a chance, but don't expect to be as moved by this Civil War drama as I was by say, Cold Mountain.

March, Geraldine Brooks
ISBN: 0143036661 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Animal Farm, George Orwell

Another novel that I should have been assigned in school, yet oddly enough never was; and thus I only just got to it! I was shocked by how violent of a novel it really was, and I suppose that was a silly disposition to have had due to the power inherent in political commentary. It's a dismal, graphic portrait of what a community can do to itself, even whilst working towards an "ideal society;" the question is, who's ideal will come to fruition?

I think it's as valuable a read as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Certainly the imagery and commentary are rather simply developed, but fables don't need to be overly complex. From rebellion to the totalitarian rule of the pigs, our role as individuals functioning as part of a larger community are questioned: motives of power and greed, weaknesses like fear and inaction are all scrutinized. Orwell shines a light on a fair sample of injustices and corruption, showing not only how a mass can change with their political organization, but how the individuals can take advantage of society's trust and diligence.

Personally, I was most impressed with how Orwell showed the indoctrination of the farm animals with Squealer and Napoleon's propaganda campaigns. It reminded me of my reading experience with Son of the Revolution, where a young man comes of age alongside the increasing power of Communist China. Small deceptions and misinformation backs the animals into a corner and leaves them ripe for manipulation. The problem of misinformation remains as important a discussion today in our media-obsessed global network. There are so many other facets behind this satire that make it a staple in required reading world wide; this is just what stood out to me.

What do you think about books like this? Any recommendations or food for thought? Holla at a book worm!

Animal Farm, George Orwell
ISBN: 0451519000 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell

This is a pleasant read, of a humble town and it's gossiping, but true ladies in residence. It's a delicately written, economic collection of anecdotes. From Lady Glenmire to the tragic spinster Miss Matty, Miss Smith narrates her long running acquaintance with country life.

There's all the versatility and characters that would make a small community, with just the subtle dramas that made the day to day life of the women, all along the scale from servant class to lady spinsters. It's all bound together by their locality. Unlike Dickens, Gaskell does not segregate or polarize the ladies by class. That doesn't mean they can't gossip between themselves, though; and that element of the narrative, their gossip and conversation makes for the most telling. Not to mention the most fun! Next on my docket by this author is Wives and Daughters, so I'll be interested to see how Gaskell keeps such a brick paced after this novella.

Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell
ISBN: 0486426815 

I'll be at the beach this weekend, so there may not be a lot of posts going on... having said that, I'm excited to announce a guest post in the near future! Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Emmuska Orczy

This is a classic I was never assigned in school, and only vaguely knew about (thanks to BBC comedy Blackadder, if I'm honest). I'm so grateful to the folks at Should Have Read Classics for suggesting this for our May read!

I love campy action stories with intrigue and romance! I was attracted to this story because of it's dangerous setting, yes; who doesn't find France's Reign of Terror years interesting? I also enjoyed this story because it's a love story. Not your typical 'young girl meets dashing man' love story in the vein of Dumas, no... but husband and wife realizing how they've misjudged each other. There's something special about what happens to Percy and Marguerite's relationship as the story unfolds!

Yes, the plot is awfully predictable, but this isn't the sort of novel that should leave you feeling shocked or overworked. It's entertaining and theatrical for fun's sake! I don't know that I'll brave the other sixteen or so League of the Scarlet Pimpernel novels; maybe I'll get around to reading books like Kidnapped and Robinson Crusoe now!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


My books from the gals of the Bookswap I joined arrived! It's the first month of our swap, and I'm super excited about the three titles that came in! Thanks to Little Life of Mine for organizing this, and providing me with these three reads! Should be perfect summer reading fair!

The Finkler Question, Howard Jacobson

Holy wow I loved this book. It took me about fifty pages to utterly fall in love with Jacobson's writing, but once I was into it, I loved it. There's so much witty banter and truly deep insight into the characters; even the less frequently mentioned characters (Treslove's sons and their respective mothers; the deceased Tyler) are incredibly well developed. 

The dialogue between Libor and Treslove is brilliant, heart wrenching even. The loyal yet heated rivalry between Treslove and Finkler was a little reminiscent of the lead two in McEwan's Booker winner (I recommend that book, too). 

Jacobson's sensitivity about stereotyping, racism, and cultural identities (belonging, as well as not) reminded me of Junot Diaz. I've made a lot of comparisons to really great books/writers because Jacobson is in good company when writing about cultural identity and relationships; but Jacobson gives you a larger scale perspective with his inclusion of the greater political issues; ie, the internal arguments within Judaism regarding Israel. Not only does it stamp the novel with a timely context, but it makes the discussion so much more universal than just the neighborhood in London this novel occupies. 

Jacobson covers all sides of the conversation with the tactfulness of an anthropologist, yet keeps the novel well paced with witty dialogue and character analysis. As guffaw-worthy as some of Nick Hornby's creations, but with more of Chang Rae Lee's wisdom; this book is one of my favorite releases from last year. 

The Finkler Question, Howard Jacobson
ISBN: 1408808870 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Luna, Julie Anne Peters

My review of this book is going to make a few of my socio-political opinions way too blatant, but I'm not ashamed of those views. My enjoyment of this novel comes from my having great empathy and compassion for all of the LGBT community. It breaks my heart that anyone could feel so afraid to just be who God made them to be.

Peters' novel of a transsexual high school boy is heart wrenching; the narrative is spotted with revealing flashbacks of a childhood that should have told his loved ones so much, had they been paying attention or strong enough to see the truth. Not only is Liam/Luna's truth unimaginable to his relatively sheltered community, but he and his sister are troubled by a work obsessed, absent mother and insecure father. Luna lives completely closeted from all, except her sister, the narrator: Regan.

Regan seems like a selfless best friend to her brother; braving trips to the mall for her first public appearance as "Luna" and even side stepping parent's questions to protect Luna. Regan's confused support bridges the gap between the readers' own experiences and Liam/Luna's struggle, making this young adult novel really accessible to young readers. It's a novel fraught with lessons in tolerance, and bittersweet in it's realistic depiction of the varying reactions; anger, fear, violence, sadness, apathy.

This novel hit home to me on so many levels. I kept hoping the parents would come together for their child, transsexual or not. Luna's confiding in her father made for an unsettling scene to read. I felt so sympathetic for Regan; she's not perfect, but she's young and inexperienced, carrying a very heavy load for someone she loves so deeply.

It was an important book for me to read, and I'm so glad it found it's way to me. I will absolutely read other titles by this author, and recommend it highly!

Luna, Julie Anne Peters
ISBN: 0316011274 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chalice, Robin McKinley

McKinley's novel is slow moving and smooth, yes. It's got a lovely flow in her words. It is also uneventful and dry. It reads like an introduction to politics and intrigue for young adults, set in a fantastical land that isn't really fleshed out.

McKinley's protagonist will be presented with a suggestion or hint at what may be on the horizon, and then proceeds to spend fifteen pages speculating about ALL possible motives, reasons, and results of said issue, while NONE of this really moves the plot along or fleshes out the story! Through Mirasol's speculations though, it shows young readers how to start inferring political drama from various characters and their behaviors.

Admittedly I've come off of this big Le Guin fix as far as recent fantasy reads are concerned. I know it's not at all realistic to compare, but even for a one shot I don't quite understand why this novel was so painfully slow moving. I appreciate that the realm McKinley presents us with was not dripping in fantastical elements (because some authors over do it pretty massively), and that magic and nature were so deeply connected; it was interesting to read that the powers in this world were so important to the every day existence of the people. However, there wasn't even a hint of the spectacle in the magic that makes a fantasty novel... fantastic. This book really didn't have a wow factor for me.

Chalice, Robin McKinley
ISBN: 9780399246760

Friday, May 6, 2011

Stormy Weather, Paulette Jiles

This book is lilting yet tough; it's a modern girl's Scarlett O'Hara battling the 1930s Dust Bowl for the sake of her two sisters and widowed mother. Through bad investments, dire poverty, and loneliness, this book reminds us that bad economies and personal loss can be overcome with hard work and family togetherness.

I won't say that this is the most cleverly constructed novel; it's heartfelt and poetic at times, but the metaphors (Smoky Joe the racehorse) felt a tad weak. I don't think novels like this need to be anything more than good stories, though. The middle sibling, Jeanine, is a determined, lonely young woman trying to make best for her family. The characterizations may feel quite simple at first, but this novel develops its characters through their struggles slowly, like aging and weathering a person... through a violent storm. Yah, that might be the most cliche comment I've ever made in a review. Jiles does this well, though.

I thoroughly enjoyed that Jiles included information about the social welfare organizations that attempted to serve the farm families afflicted by drought during the Depression. I also enjoyed reading the subtle exploration of changing gender-roles during this era. The time period didn't make for a lot of comments such as "women wouldn't have been doing jobs like that;" Jeanine's farming, roofing, and race horse antics wouldn't have been questioned much amidst such sad circumstances as the Depression. Her strength rises up and rarely falters; she's an excellent heroine. A drama queen like Scarlett should take lessons!

There were a handful of chapters and segments in this novel that came from the other characters' perspectives, too. I liked that the novel was fleshed out from all the Stoddard's viewpoints, and later on even Everett's and the neighbors! You see it all coming together as a family struggle that way.

I highly recommend this novel. It's a simple, genuine story of determination and endurance; one that should probably speak to many people during our own economic hardships.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What are you reading this week?!

I may never get to post about every single book I read, namely because of time! Sometimes I read something that leaves me so affected that I can't articulate it, and others feel so simple that nothing more needs be said. I really mean to encourage followers/readers/passers by to leave me a comment about what YOU are reading today, this week, this month. Share the wealth of your recommendations! The community of readers is a lovely place, and we should always want to share our passion!

1) I'm still battling through the samplings provided by the head I was mailed... McSweeney's #36! It's not that it isn't enjoyable; I just keep getting distracted by other books. I'm still learning to have the patience for collections of short stories, so McSweeney's is a valuable teaching device!

2) Cranford; expect a Movie Monday post or something similar once I watch the BBC drama with Dame Judi Dench! Could be a while before I post that, but I'm excited as this will be my first Gaskell read.


Monday, May 2, 2011

A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan

2011's Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction caught me off guard. It's a generous sampling of names loosely affiliated within the music industry; publicists, producers, musicians, journalists, etc, all battling  themselves and the biggest goon of all, time.

Egan's novel has a genius formatting: it's versatile in it's 'short stories as a novel' of the Olive Kitteridge or The Imperfectionists variety, certainly. Throw in a magazine article and the slideshow chapter, and you have a concise example of post-modern fiction less intimidating than the likes of Danieleski and his House of Leaves.

The shaping of so many characters stories is done so artfully, that until the final segment, you still aren't positive of where it's all going. You see them interacting within the different circuits, and watch it come together, yet returning to the spot it began at... it's tricky and brilliant!

I loved that so much of the novel was about perseverance and adapting to time's changes. I won't try to articulate how special that is.

Alex imagined walking into her apartment and finding himself still there- his young self, full of schemes and high standards, with nothing decided yet. The fantasy imbued him with careening hope. He pushed the buzzer again, and as more seconds passed, Alex felt a gradual draining loss. The whole crazy pantomime collapsed and blew away.

By the end of this novel, you're amazed by what has been painted of the music industry, individuals, and the passage of time. It's deeply affecting.

A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
ISBN: 0307477479 

Friday, April 29, 2011

American Pastoral, Philip Roth

I've been told before that I needed to read Roth, and I may have never gotten around to it... if, again, it wasn't for my Pulitzer Prize endeavor. My only complaint pertains to Nathan Zuckerman as the narrator for the first (I guess) half of the book. I do however appreciate his role as a witness to the Swede's picturesque past and development of  Swede's facade.

Roth delivers a picture of America so vivid and lush; the Swede's Norman Rockwell-esque childhood in post-war New Jersey gave the reader hope for our protagonist, filled you with Zuckerman's pride in this All-American couple. The rant's of Roth and his impassioned detail for all of the Swede's and Zuckerman's remembrances made the downward spiral of the Swede's composure that much more tragic.

Spoilers beyond the break! Beware!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

Completed in 24 hours... that's a new record for me. I guess I just really wanted to experience this book for the sake of my own two dogs. I know it's just a novel, but reading a book from a dog's perspective really did mean a lot to me. Life appreciation lessons couldn't come from a more apt teacher!

I really felt emotionally connected to it from the start, and probably because of the gimmicky cute fluffy puppy. So sue me. Stein may have banked on everyone grabbing a hold of his protagonist because no non-animal lover would read this to start with, but I didn't feel that he crutched on it when formulating his story; and that's a big compliment. Gimmicks are easy; give a kid a fatal illness, or mean parents, and of course you find yourself all ready sympathizing. Enzo the dog wasn't described as a fluffy puppy; he wasn't detailed in his young puppy glory getting into typical, enduring puppy shenanigans that made you squeal. It was nonchalant, which made the story more about his watching Denny's experiences than about Enzo's "dog-ness."

Through watching the Swift family grow and slowly fall to tragedy, emotions beautiful and oftentimes heartbreaking were enhanced by the wisdom within Enzo's narrative. He's a philosopher, as I feel most dogs have the ability to be. Stein's story shows that "man's best friend," however sexist a phrase that may be, really does share sympathy, love, faith, and perseverance with their soul mate, as Enzo did with Denny.

I appreciated what this novel said about grief and healing, too. I don't really know how to formulate my feelings about that aspect presently. Perhaps it's too soon since my own personal tragedy. When our family dog passed, a friend gave me a poem that says that our pets don't really leave us. They wait for us on a rainbow where all the animals can be happy and celebrate their joys while awaiting their humans to join them, as companions into Heaven. I love the thought that maybe you can be with your loved ones again (I'm trying to keep my personal spirituality to a minimum  dear readers, just bear with me here). I suppose reading this helped remind me that I pray to see my loved ones again, at peace and happy.

This is a book full of heart and passion for living, through the puddles and storms that dampen. You may cry. I nearly did. I stopped on a number of occasions that night, put the book down, and hugged my dogs. I highly recommend it to the animal lovers; someone who enjoyed The Alchemist, or even The Time Traveler's Wife.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt

This book didn't really impress me as a travelogue or true crime. In fact, the pairing of the two felt forced. Amidst trying to incorporate so many different facets of the town, Berendt seeks to show so many varying characters, that sometimes they come across as a bit unreal.

The portrait of Savannah as an eccentric, unmodernized time capsule of Southern heritage is very accurate; I read this book during the whirlwind of family drama and preparations for a weekend in... Savannah, GA. I'm that person. 

"The book," as locals now refer to this piece of non fiction, attempts to focus on the trial surrounding Williams' shooting of his employee/lover, and does air on the side of journalistic prose when detailing the court case and investigations. The asides about other Savannah folk never seem to fit well with the drama surrounding the shootings; a voodoo priestess and a poison-toting insect expert? It's almost too random to be real. I love that Berendt wanted to show the glory of so many people that feel like they could only come out of Savannah, but the problem was it didn't come together for me.

I loved the scene at Williams' Christmas party after the shooting, when all of the rich white people are gossiping and ruminating on what they think happened and why; that's the South I know. Voodoo and mass murder by poison though? Not so much. Sometimes whimsy can lead you astray or off track, and it definitely kept this book feeling a little too choppy, and less like a realized whole.

As for our trip to Savannah... it was amazing! Having some of the history and geography of the area detailed truly enhanced the experience! We roamed the Riverwalk, took a carriage tour with horses named Murphy and Guinness (Irish-haven that Savannah is) through Historic Downtown, creeped around Bonaventure Cemetary, and relaxed at Wormsloe State Historic Site, Saturday alone! Sunday had us cruising up the Island Expressway to the picturesque Tybee Island and Lighthouse! I'd love to go back, but I won't be reading anything else by Berendt any time soon!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pulitzer Winners Announced, 2011

The excitement of the month for literature fiends is that the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced this afternoon! Book lover, news enthusiast, or photographer make sure you take a look at winners! You can bet you know what novel I'll be reading this week!

Movie Monday#3: The Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper

This is another book that I am astounded I haven't previously thought to read. Cooper's action-adventure is narrated in uber-romantic 18th century style; I was only a few chapters into it when it dawned on me that it's Ann Radcliffe for men.

The environment of frontier America is described tenderly with patience: Cooper's homage for the wasted landscape that can never be returned. Indeed, it's more of a tribute to the American landscape and geography than it ever could dream to hold up as that of Native American heritage; talk about ouch. Cooper was writing as Andrew Jackson was victimizing thousands with his Trail of Tears. Anthropological objectivity isn't exactly part of the agenda here. Nor is it in most action-adventure novels from this era. Despite it's overly dramatic, (often times insulting) picture of Native culture though, it is entertaining and full on in its romantic sensibilities. Again, Radcliffe for men.

The only thing it may have going for it in the vein of historical accuracy is the play of English vs French and the manipulating of all the varying tribes amongst the two; it makes for some really confusing alliances.

Cooper also isn't lacking in suspense! The action keeps the pace flying, but never lets go of the gentlemanly dialogue amongst our band of heroes! It's exactly the sort of entertaining classic I love to read; while lacking in the humor department, I comfortably compare my enjoyment of this novel to that of The Three Musketeers!

The film, on the other hand, didn't leave me as excited as it left my father... I loved the cinematography. Of course. The beautiful vistas featured are landmarks of my own neighborhood! The acting was great; Daniel Day Lewis never ceases to amaze me, he's one of my all time favorite actors. I just felt the changes to the plot weren't necessary. I appreciated what sacrifices Cooper's characters made in the book (no spoiler, phew), but Michael Mann (director) puts a much larger emphasis on the romance. I won't reveal more, for I'd like you to read the book, watch the movie, and let me know what you think!

The Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper
ISBN: 0553210548

Monday, April 11, 2011

On Beauty, Zadie Smith

This novel did for culture and race what I felt The Line of Beauty by Hollinghurst did for class and socio-economic status. Smith's sophomore novel is pure genius, and this novel is incredibly loaded with issues and questions. The prose is so pointed and loaded with intent; all descriptive details shape the irony and emotive force behind her elegantly crafted family, the Belseys.

Such a portrait of a multiracial family could not have been created at any other time in our social history, and Smith captures it beautifully. The nuances of each family member feel so perfectly concocted; each individual comes with their own different baggage. Mother, father, and three children all have varying perspectives on race and social identity. The family of five feels at war with their seeming opposites, the Kipps, only to realize that both families are internalizing similar uncertainties and problems.

Alongside the ongoing racial dialogue exists the mesmerizing family drama. Certainly the existential crisis suffered by Howard (father) spurns most of the issues, but the entire cast's constant bickering about white vs. black, rich vs. poor, liberal vs. conservative forces each character to grab hold of what they covet most and attempt to establish an individual identity untouched by the dynamic issues that have made them all so troubled. They all get taken out of their elements and forced to reexamine, and by the end of the novel you feel that perhaps this family can find some strength and integrity.

Again, this novel is loaded with intellectual dialogue and major social issues; it's ironic and sarcastic about so many notions and stereotypes. The beauty for me was in the honesty. All the characters had their flaws, but in the Belseys at least you could empathize. The argument between Kiki and Howard in the middle of the novel broke my heart, it was so realistic. I had to put my book down and look at my husband; I could see so much of our own lovers' quarrels in that dialogue, just enhanced by Howard's horrible betrayal. It was painfully realistic and simultaneously, brilliantly analysed. Then again, so was the entire novel. A must read.

On Beauty, Zadie Smith
ISBN: 0143037749 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Martin Dressler, Steven Millhauser

Millhauser's book was an interesting read. I must admit, that I'm just generally fascinated by the amazing period of transition that was American at the end of the nineteenth century, which may explain my enthusiasm. Millhauser writes with such an eye for the details of Dressler's visions... but sadly not for his characters.

Indeed, the world of the hotels that Martin dreamed of were described to such a full extent, that the rest of New York City life felt abandoned. Martin's parents are left by the way side right off the bat, and I would have been intrigued by a father/son dynamic in this novel of achievement; so many of our other Pulitzer winners have allowed for wonderful reading experiences because of the dualities in old and new, and given that Millhauser supplies us with a business minded parent, it would have been interesting to see what Martin's father thought of The Grand Cosmo. Martin's motives are rarely examined, and aside from his determination and ambition, felt one dimensional.

Millhauser's novel was bereft of any real variety in characters. Harwinton and Arling, as well as the Vernon women don't really offer the diversity of characters that one would expect from NYC at the turn of the century; what about all the immigrants flooding the city, the business giants? I would have thought a Pulitzer winner would have had a much broader scope; Dressler isolated himself in his dream yes, but did the reader have to feel the limitations so keenly?

I'm slightly embarrassed that my problems with a novel made for the bulk of the review; I did enjoy the book, albeit not with my typical enthusiasm. I guess I wish more had been made of Martin's experience, a potential epic, and that's what frustrates me. It's a wonderful story... it just didn't have the surge of emotion to power the determination.

Martin Dressler, Steven Millhauser
ISBN: 0679781277 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Double Trouble: Nick Hornby

Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby
ISBN: 1594488878 

I read this as a pre-release from work, and knew I'd get through it in about two days (amidst all the other weekend mucking about). Hornby's books are always so amusing in their scenarios and character development, that you can't help but have a great time reading them. His prose really delivers incredible humorous characters, and this latest is no different!

Annie's fed up with her Crowe-crazed boyfriend and their fifteen year long indecision on whether the relationship is even worth the minute amount of work they put into it; Crowe is the very same musician that said boyfriend is enamored with, although he's as cowardly and spineless a man as can be (don't get me wrong, I liked him... he reminds me of all of those friends you have, that are so talented and smart yet never seem to do anything). In all of the hectic events circling both of these characters, they manage to meet, make things worse, and force a little bit of growing-up upon each other in true absurd Hornby style!

How to be Good, Nick Hornby
ISBN: 1573221937

I suppose I read this hoping it would be a funny look at marriages, the good guy/bad guy dynamics in relationships, and fidelity; but it was a three hundred page analysis of a woman's good deeds versus her bad deeds, and the excuses she makes that Hornby assumes we will all relate to.

Usually Hornby describes a likable if not muddled character who finds himself muddling up the lives of those he/she cares about, whilst trying to figure themselves out and growing in some way as a person after some giggle inducing madcap adventure; Katie was not likable, and the scenarios Hornby tries to make funny come off a bit depressing.

Hornby's typical rants of internal analysis aren't usually the bulk of the book, which makes for more amusing dialogue than we have here, as well as more chaotic WTF moments (that make the reader laugh, and the protagonist rethink their perspective); not here, however. David's sudden personality switch would have been more amusing if he had slipped periodically throughout, rather than in the last chapter suddenly admitting he wanted to get shot of GoodNews. I guess I just didn't find the characters' reactions that believable. It felt very forced by the end.

Points for demonstrating that smug righteousness is incredibly annoying, though! Thank God the son had some balls, too.

PS: Why am I more articulate when I find issues?!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman

Admittedly, I bought into all the praise this book was getting by picking up this book: on the Indie Top 10 List for weeks, New York Times Notable Books of 2010, blah blah. I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Maybe not the emotional powerhouse I was expecting, but Tom Rachman is certainly an author I'll read in the future.

What's special about this novel is the delicate way in which Rachman shows how this group of people struggle to balance their personal lives amidst such a demanding work environment. Within twenty pages, you can feel that tension; that you get to experience that for so many different characters within such a slim novel is amazing. Rachman's very sharp with how he presents people. Each character's baggage unfolds quickly, and without prejudice. The array of people covered in the varying vignettes covers all manner of adult emotional sin: loneliness, ambition, selfishness, etc.

I felt like one of the common threads throughout the different chapters was that everyone seemed to be watching the world go by from that office room, and their lives right along with it. Each character suffers from a disconnect with one or more of his/her loved ones. It's heartbreaking, but beautifully crafted.

Again, Rachman doesn't sweep you with some enormous tragic circumstances, but rather shows the tragedy from one person to the next, until an interesting sampling of relationships and emotions has been evoked. It's quite lovely, and dare I say I'm content that this has been lauded as it is!

The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman
ISBN: 0385343671 

PS: When searching "The Imperfectionists" on Google Images for a suitably sized image of the cover, this is how I was rewarded: I am baffled that this could be considered imperfect! 

Friday, April 1, 2011

"One more bookcase, and we'll have to sleep on top of them..."

There's a secret issue which many readers suffer from without necessarily having to address it at book club meetings, the library, or purchasing your long awaited favorite author's latest at your local bookstore... buying too many books too fast.

I went three months without purchasing a single book once. I was trying to be economic for the sake of our  upcoming wedding. This is a long time ago, as I've been married nearly a year now... since then, I'm sure I have tripled my book ownership. Out of that immense stack of books, I can say I have read maybe a third of them. That's right. I foolishly own probably three hundred books I  haven't even read yet. Insanity.

OK, so I work at a used book store. It's the best place on earth for someone like me, but the worst place on Earth for my wallet. I'm limiting myself recently to one purchase a paycheck, and it had better be either classic literature, a Man Booker winner, or a Pulitzer winner. Hey, at least it sort of follows my agenda!

So, where the heck do I put all these books? Well, I'll tell you. I have four bookcases. On the bookcase my father built me when I was in college, I have all books pertaining to mythology, history, and science. I have a fiction bookcase that I recently purchased at Target ::sigh:: I love that bookcase! I have a two shelf bookcase in my bedroom for my Man Booker winners and photo albums (because I scrapbook like I read, and it's quite honestly equally out of hand), and a fun four shelf Soho bookcase from World Market for my darling Pulitzers... phew!

I still have a stack of graphic novels and biographies that are homeless. My husband gives me a look periodically that says "you can't have my closet where my comics live." Fair enough! At least he has his own collection!

I realize how obnoxious this habit of mine has made me. I also see that I sound like a pretentious tart with too much disposable income. I love to read. As a kid, we moved all the time (military brat). International moves were the worst because of the weight limits put on our container for a family of four's furniture and possessions. I had to give a lot of my books to local charities for the sake of staying within limits. Don't get me wrong, I'm a serious advocate for cleaning out and being less materialistic. I just don't know if I'll be able to find another $3 copy of a Man Booker winner! MUST BUY!

I hope to be able to share a love of literature and learning with my children, should God grace me enough with the gift of motherhood. I'll be able to hold their hands and walk them over to the complete Chabon or Woolf, however their personal tastes take them. That's my excuse!

Reader Response Time:
What makes for a purchase-worthy book? If you have a ton, where do you keep them? Do you have a local used bookstore you trade at? You tell me!! 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Vernon God Little, D.B.C. Pierre

Vernon is the "skate-goat" for sixteen deaths during a school shooting his buddy committed before he then kills himself in this offbeat Man Booker winner. Vernon's small Texas town goes wild with opportunistic media and outrageous locals that make for an oftentimes maddening cast of characters. I can't say that I loved the prose of this novel, but I certainly agree that it offers some conversation. It'd be a fun book club read if your group doesn't mind some heavy discussion.

Pierre pretty quickly throws certain aspects of Western middle class culture under the bus with his witty attacks, making for the bulk of the novel; the media's role in painting Vernon's guilt is the most obvious. Opportunism in the face of tragedy rears it's ugly head as everyone fights for shreds of gossip, or even the newest piece of damning evidence that'll fire the young man off to death row. Most of the adults in the novel are motivated by entirely selfish reasons, as is young Vernon in his quest to escape to Mexico at all costs with the coed he's been lusting over.

The novel obsesses about consumerism; from over eating, sexual deviancy, or spending into bankruptcy. Most of Vernon's hometown is plagued with these sorts of consumptive fixations, thus their selfishness and inability to protect Vernon from an unfair verdict or himself. Poor hopeless foreign born attorney Abdini is the only hero at the end, even after having been abandoned for a more showy, glamorous attorney when the hailstorm of the media frenzy is unleashed. Any one else want to jump to conclusions about why Pierre does this?

The atmosphere of this book is pretty entertaining given the tragedy that sets events to unfolding. Vernon's madcap exploits do have a sort of Huck Finn youthfulness to them; it's just distorted and ugly once it filters through the brand-obsessed, foul mouthed vernacular of adolescent boys. There isn't that innocence in growing up, and Pierre pretty deftly handles such a heavy task of rendering the oftentimes disturbing culture that permeates our media and every day lives.

I know the diction was meant to be coarse, but it did affect my enjoyment of this novel. That sort of thing matters a lot to me. Some of the characterizations were wonderfully subtle in their depictions, others were not so efficiently rendered and went a bit overboard. I felt like Ella and Lally didn't need to be quite so bizarre! I like it when an author can show some economy. At the end of the day, this novel is brimming with discussions for book clubs, but wasn't the dense masterwork I would have expected from a Man Booker award.

The fun part is that I found whilst browsing that the novel has been adapted for theater, and here is the oh-so appropriate design for the show! If you find yourself in London, maybe look into it!

Vernon God Little, D.B.C. Pierre
ISBN: 0156029987

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Series #1: Rabbit novels, John Updike

Disclaimer: I'm attempting to read every novel that's ever won the Pulitzer Prize. I know. Absurd.

The Rabbit novels capture something special for a reader; a literary journey of four novels that make up the span of a man's adulthood: forty years. Updike's four novels each capture a new decade in the life of Harry Angstrom, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the final two [Rabbit is Rich(1982) and Rabbit at Rest(1991)]. I stubbornly read the entire series over a two year period, and am quite proud of that for a simple reason: while I can appreciate this sampling of Updike, I loathed the protagonist. 

My hatred is stronger for the earliest, and was slowly chiseled into a patient appreciation. Having said that though, I will never reread these novels. I know Justin Bieber, I should never say never (even if Fievel sang it first). 

On that note, what better way to start my blog's exposure to my Pulitzer novel insanity than with a post about all four books! The fun part of this post is that I'm not editing my blurbs to account for the fact that I've completed this project; you're seeing my response to each novel as I progress through the series! I wouldn't expect a high volume of "Series" posts, though... four novels that make me want to throw the books across the room got exhausting.

Rabbit, Run
I'm about 1/3 of the way through the list of Pulitzer novels (better to go slow than rush this), and I couldn't have timed the Rabbit novels better. They're pretty heavy, for my tastes. The style of Updike's writing is amazing to behold; but God, I hate these characters. I don't suppose many people like the weak Janice, and certainly not misogynist Rabbit. The problem of this novel is I can't make any excuses for this jerk who possesses the longest list of flaws I think I've encountered (but would be happy to wait for someone to prover me wrong, perhaps I have previously been this frustrated with a fictional character). I enjoy a novel if I can find someone to relate to. I think Eccles' confusion is the yin to Rabbit's yang, and I enjoy that particular relationship. Otherwise? Oi. Perhaps Rabbit shapes up with age, and let's hope so, for the sake of my Pulitzer list... because there's three more to go.

Rabbit Redux
I finished Rabbit Redux and feel soooo much more excited about Updike. I must admit to having felt a nice chunk of shame at feeling so grumpy towards Rabbit Run... but the plot of Redux was so much more full of politics, compassion, and rebellion! Every character bared something brand new, and that for me made Redux so much more enjoyable than Run! I'm pretty sure things will only get better as I read Rabbit Is Rich and Rabbit at Rest!

Rabbit is Rich
Harry Angstrom is still a git. He needs a swift punch to the gut... although it probably wouldn't change much. Three books with Updike's selfish, cowardly protagonist amounts to three decades Rabbit-time, and the only thing that's getting me through this series of novels is the writing. The third installment of the Rabbit novels very much merits the Pulitzer because of the amazing fullness of the relationships developed between Rabbit and his immediate family, as well as the more enhanced sense of timing that sets such a specific era around the plot.

I think on first read you can be struck by how much of a horrid person Harry Angstrom is; but as he gets a tad less ego-centric in his old age, the scope of the novel expands, becoming a frighteningly realistic portrait of American politics and white suburbia at the end of the 1970s. I think that sense of timing has improved this particular novel of the series; the period and it's politics seems a more integral part of what is happening to the Angstroms.

Rabbit is thoughtless in his discriminating, snobby tendencies, and leaves no question of society unmolested by his bitter, grumpy thoughts. That's the thing with Updike; he covers pretty much every little thing that a guy could think of in this novel, giving unparalleled insight and really crafting an incredibly whole family, however dysfunctional: drugs, swinging, mid-life crisis, parental resentment, etc. Updike isn't shy about fleshing out Rabbit's deepest thoughts, and while you may hate the guy, I can't help but step back from this novel and be floored by how it all makes for such an intense portrait of an American family. I'm glad Updike kept the whole family so involved in this installment. Nelson is such a mirror to how Harry was in the first, offering brilliant perspective. All said and done, this feels worthy of the Pulitzer, as opposed to the previous two testosterone-propelled adventures. 

Rabbit at Rest
I will never say that I enjoyed this series of novels, but the final installment in Rabbit's life made the series very rewarding. Updike's an amazing writer. He captures so many social dynamics; Mt. Judge and Brewer are true American towns, successfully fleshed out with real people. The first two novels were so focused on Rabbit Angstrom specifically that I felt his selfishness and ego were overdone; but through the eyes of his family and friends, so much more an active component of his life, the portrait of the man becomes a richer experience, full of the dynamics and complications that all relationships entail. Yes, Rabbit is probably the meanest, jerkiest dude in literature. Updike continues to let you into his protagonist's psyche without flinching away from any thought, fantasy, or misdeed. That's what makes these novels a rewarding experience; four decades of a guy's life, of American history. 

Rabbit Novels Vol. 1
ISBN: 9780345464569
Rabbit Novels Vol. 2
ISBN: 9780345464576

Monday, March 21, 2011

Movie Monday #2: The Reader, Bernard Schlink

Schlink presents a wonderful analogy to the German World War II experience via a young man's coming to terms with who and what his first love is, as a lover, and as a woman on trial for having been a member of a Nazi guard. The emotionlessness of Berg when he is confronted with the woman whom he was involved in, parallels the stoic narrative of the Third Reich as it was told in the decades directly following the war. Indeed, until recently history there has only been a rather delicate acknowledgment of the extent of misdeeds during this era.
Berg's polarities in loving Hanna, and guilt in loving a woman responsible for so many deaths, mirrors the struggle between German patriotism and an equally powerful national guilt. An interesting read, and a refreshing analysis of the post-war interpretation of war crimes. I've always been fascinated in how societies discuss their involvement or reactions to atrocities; there's a lot of interesting discussion regarding Nazism vs German patriotism, akin to that of Japanese patriotism after the bombs. Hanna's shocking illiteracy evokes the claims of so many German citizens about the Holocaust: their ignorance. It's a brilliant commentary. I suggest this novel as a testament to the complexities of post-war constructions of nationalism.

The movie... phew. What a great drama! I thought I was biased because of my unwavering love of Kate Winslet!

Some scenes were added, yes. It made it more of a growing up story this way. It showed the confusion and disillusionment that a German youth of the '50s and '60s were liable to have; a struggle with how to articulate and move forward from the atrocities committed. The film is less of a commentary and more of an account. The suspense is keener. To be honest, the changes they made for the movie make it stand stronger on it's own. Both mediums succeed in conveying a very powerful message.

The acting is spectacular; poor David Kross got shafted. Ralph Fiennes is only marginally a player in the film. He's a fantastic young talent. Obviously Ms. Winslet won the Oscar; she's so emotive in this role. The scenes in the court room during Hanna's testimony were incredibly well acted.

It's a great movie! I love it when a wonderful book can be turned into a movie that stands strong on it's own account.

The Reader, Bernard Schlink
ISBN: 037540826

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Thought Gang, Tibor Fischer

Fischer's sharp from the first sentence and never holds back. A self-proclaimed lay-about (who's doctorate in philosophy from Cambridge does nothing to protect him from mayhem for most of his life), Eddie Coffin begins his journey into midlife crisis with a bang: he is found by one eyed sociopath Hubert who's prosthetic leg and hand don't stop him from being seriously violent, and driven to bump off French banks for an easy Franc (published before the Euro). Sound like a Guy Ritchie film yet?

Our fat, balding middle aged man doesn't just loose his way into bank robbing like some other hapless novel's protagonist; he's the kind of guy that's been using ancient philosophy and argument as a means to all sorts of drama his whole life. The novel bounces back through Coffin's past for crazed interludes, just in case you thought that bank robbery would be the height of Coffin's illegalities. He may be a genius, but Coffin's ceaseless cynicism and lack of ambition have landed him in heaps of trouble that seem to get more unbelievable with Hubert and Coffin's amped up heists!

The situational comedy abounds. Imagine the bank robbers walk in and lecture you on philosophical theory before calmly strolling out with all the cash. Imagine a football match: cops vs crooks. If you haven't been imagining a chubby Jason Statham in the newest Guy Ritchie, it's because you haven't read this book.

Fischer's quick with his word play; every sentence is a bomb of sarcastic wit that will make you laugh. The formatting (philosophical argumentation) serves up sarcasm by the slab. It's pure entertainment. I found it to be a bit of a cold novel, though. I'm confident that my ranking of this novel has more to do with my state of mind than the novel itself. It's a fast paced read that should never have taken me a week to read.

The Thought Gang, Tibor Fischer
ISBN: 0684830795

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Movie Monday #1: Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

Welcome to the first official segment from Reading Loves! Watching movies based on books I've enjoyed is always fun for conversation, especially with my husband who doesn't read. I find myself going through the differences, what was left out, changes in mood, etc even though I'm positive he's only humoring my interests! Now, you can be subjected to it also!

Very different fromThe Remains of the Day. I also appreciate that Ishiguro didn't take the extreme,Oryx and Crake route with this plot. It did, however, feel more like a slow build up in a 'M. Night Shyamalan's The Village' kind of way... OK, so reviewing this novel without giving anything away is difficult. 

Ishiguro is still very delicate with his prose style, even if I do agree with other reviewers that it's sort of a tease to haze over the many interesting questions and issues that a concept like this stirs up. In other instances though, I've been known to appreciate it when the author leads you in a particular direction but allows the reader to make of it what they will. I guess Margaret Atwood makes me lazy. 

Ishiguro's novel doesn't even come close to scaring the reader as much as Atwood or Huxley do, because he barely scratches the surface; and it's pretty apparent by the aforementioned delicate prose that he does in fact intend this to be the case. I love how colloquial the protagonist Kathy is in her anecdotes, but she's not a very strong voice for such a heavy concept. I suppose the showcase of the novel wasn't supposed to be those ethical questions brought up by the "sci-fi" element, but more so a truly unique look at uncertainty whilst growing up.

The screenplay for the film by Alex Garland certainly seemed to angle the focus of the movie in that direction. The colors in the film were so beautifully muted, it really did have a gray, unknowable feeling. 

Kathy's final narration before the credits was quite beautiful: "I  remind myself I was lucky to have had any time with him at all. What I'm not sure about, is if our lives have been so different from the lives of the people we save. We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we've lived through, or feel we've had enough time."

Some scenes felt a little disconnected from the whole of the film. I feel like the only reason they included Kathy's tape in the movie was to explain the title; it really didn't do much for Kathy and Ruth's relationship, as the movie didn't have time to dive into it until Ruth created a love-triangle. 

Also, the book was far less explicit about what was up with Hailsham than the movie was. Miss Lucy sort of let the cat out of the bag quick in the film.

All told, I enjoyed the film; it didn't change anything substantial. It evoked just the quiet, thoughtfulness that Ishiguro's novel did.

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
ISBN: 1400078776  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Anastasia: The Lost Princess, James Blair Lovell

I've recently gotten a bit upset at myself for not having read much history or non fiction. It's a new goal to read one non fiction title a month. Seems reasonable, right? A week ago, I figured what better way to attain that goal starts on the correct footing than with one of history's mysteries... hopefully the previous sentence also maintained my History Channel cliche quota!

I realize that Lovell's research may seem irrelevant. Our more modernized, conclusive means of verifying bodily remains has proven that all the children of Czar Nicholas were killed with he and his wife, a scene rendered as quite harrowing within the early chapters of this particular book. However pointless nearly five hundred pages may seem with that in mind, the life of this woman and the struggles she faced surely makes for an interesting analysis of all of the historical research and legal proceedings that centered around Anna Anderson's lifelong journey to have herself recognized as the lost Romanov Princess, Grand Duchess Anastasia.

Lovell truly did this woman's life story justice, without ever really taking for granted that her story may not be the truth. He may seem to be taking Anderson's story as gospel, but what he's doing is merely presenting the facts as they could be interpreted. He painstakingly researches all of Anderson's correspondents, allies, contributors, and supporters.

There were decades of arguments with varying Romanov relatives and Bolshevik officials, votes of authenticity from the whole range of different European royals that could qualify for an opinion about Anastasia's fate. It's quite dry reading at times, but easy to keep up with thanks to Lovell's clear, concise prose. There's a fascinating barrage of characters, coloring the whole scope from perfectly malicious maniacs (Youssoupov, anyone) to former servants of the house of Romanov that remain loyal to Anderson their entire lives (Gleb Botkin).

The most disturbing part of this book is that so many relatives, friends, and Russian emigres did in fact believe Anderson; the whole world watched her while her case was argued over decades, and as she suffered numerous breakdowns. Onlookers were desperate to believe that the Revolution would not have so violently murdered the entire royal family, and clung to the image of this confused and lost young woman for solace in a war-torn, socially demoralized world.

Lovell died before the DNA test results came through, yet fully believed he had done the right thing in telling this woman's story. It is truly a revealing look at the process of untangling a historical mystery. Beware, though: sometimes the details of all the proceedings can seem a bit repetitive!

Anastasia: The Lost Princess
ISBN: 0312111339 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens is typically an author that requires a lot of my attention; it can be hard work. Our Mutual Friend, though, wasn't too bad. Probably not the light reading I should have gone for on that eight hour flight, but it made for an interesting look from airport security when I had to empty out my purse! I digress...

Dickens' scope in characters alone is remarkable in this novel; the middle/lower class of London and it's inhabitants make for the bulk of the story, as we watch them attempt a renegotiating of their stations, by hook or by crook. The silliest of the novels chapters was the Greco-Romanesque chorus, made up of the aristocracy, lords, etc of London life. Their shallow banter highlighted the difference in life experiences to be had based on social status; they cajoled and bantered as the more central characters to the plot struggled for life and love.

Also, Dickens tips his hat to the ever problematic racial issues of London with his character Riah; he continues to persevere in his wisdom despite being scorned by most characters for his being Jewish, and helps to rescue Lizzie Hexam from Bradley Headstone's attentions for a while. I found the saddest moment in the novel to be Riah's conversation with Miss Jenny towards the end of the novel, when he apologizes for having fooled her, but was sad that it was so easy to fool everyone that he was a cold-hearted man, simply because it was expected of Jews.

Dickens' novel is ever mysterious and full of life. While it is a good chunk to read, don't be too intimidated; it's worth the effort!

Our Mutual Friend (Oxford World Classics)
ISBN: 0199536252 

About the Author...

In recent years, I've been a dedicated Goodreads reviewer. Last week an author (whom I will not name) I greatly respect wrote something kind about my review of their book, and it inspired me to begin a book blog!

I didn't go to school for literature or English, so please bear with me. I may not have the vernacular down, but I hope to be able to lead you towards titles you'll enjoy or appreciate! My passion for reading knows no bounds!

My reading goals are quite ordinary, I think: read all novels awarded the Pulitzer and Man Booker, and during the year 2011 I hope to read at least one hundred books. So far, I've read twenty two. Here's hoping!

I suppose I should introduce myself! I read for pleasure and the broadening of my own mind; I don't read for fluff's sake very often. I like literature, both classic and modern. I enjoy the odd biography from time to time, although I admit even four years after graduating from university, I am a bit burnt out on nonfiction. I'm happily married, and an avid hiker and gardener! I read like it's my job. I set myself daily reading goals, aiming towards the annual book total. I buy books second hand and new no matter how many I all ready own that I haven't gotten to yet. I'm not an e-reader, but I'll keep my opinions on those little devices to myself; whatever keeps the masses reading is O.K. by me!

If there's a book you think I'd like, share. If you disagree, share that too! I love discussion; I've tried joining a book club previously but I wasn't overly impressed with the choice of books. Goodreads has served me well in that capacity!

I hope to post a review every Wednesday and Saturday, however long or short my blurb may be. Expect some guest posts once in a blue moon, too! Thanks for stopping by!