Tuesday, February 18, 2014

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

About one day in the life of the protagonist, I spent one day reading it.  I only paused to make a pot of lovely, nourishing vegetable soup (with six vegetables in it!) and a lucious fresh spinach salad (with avocado sliced on top and a home-made dressing) to go with it. I only go into detail because Ivan's soup was not so good, but at the end of his day, he was extremely happy to eat his cabbage soup with very tiny bits of old fish, a piece of mealy potato and his portion of black bread.
I was immersed in this story, drawn in like I have been with an Orwel novel, and just as fascinated with a culture I know very little about, and an era I have always struggled to understand. 
Solzhenitsyn drew from his own life experiences to write this book, and I have learnt a little about him from reading this, it is interesting how I seem to see facets in this man that I have yet to discover in Alice Munro (who still eludes my understanding).
Back to the soup and salad, I haven't enjoyed a meal more than that one in a very long time, after reading about Ivan's day feeling his hunger and his suffering from the cold, and seeing what he had to do to survive day after day.  I savoured every bite, grateful for what I have.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Clouds of Witness

The second book in Dorothy L. Sayers' series Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, it moved along at a very decent clip, was funny in parts, and re-established bonds from the previous book, as well as adding more for future stories.  I definitely prefer the cosy mystery, and with this series there is the added bonus of cultural references which, for the most part, I actually get.  I have grown fond of our leading man, and find his personality endearing.  I enjoyed this one like I did the last, and look forward to reading the next.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Madame Bovary

I am reminded of when I read Voss by Patrick White, because that was the last time that I had disliked a character so much (excluding Nabokov's Lolita because that book was abhorrent for entirely different reasons).  I won't be watching the BBC versions of this awful story.
What also caused me to recollect Voss is the writing itself, how Flaubert brought to life an entire village, little histories and side plots, and the absolute insidiousness of Madame herself.  Look up the synonyms for insidious and you will find at least twenty-six  words that describe her very well... all of them.
Naturally I cared for Monsieur Charles Bovary and was concerned for his welfare and for all those that were affected by Madame (including a daughter).  "It is the fault of fatality" which is said by Monsieur Charles at the end, I believe actually captures the essence of the story quite accurately. 
The contrast between husband and wife is remarkable, and sadly typical  (or at least I have read this theme so many times already), a selfless man married to a selfish woman, and because he is so selfless, he will always endure her selfishness.  It is fatalistic because, no matter what happens, no matter what or who Madame could have, she would inherently be unhappy, because she was severely lacking in compassion for anyone but herself.  There was only one way that this story could go.   It doesn't end well.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Castle Rackrent

I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did.  I even downloaded it at work so that I could read it on my lunch break.  I love these female authors who were brave enough to write their stories in the eighteen hundreds, and I am grateful that they did (Edgeworth is up there with the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen).  I look forward to reading some more of what this particular author wrote, and I should mention that it is a requisite to read it (in your mind of course) with an Irish accent.

Just a Touch of Whimsy

This year's reading theme is all about reading on a whim, and not to a set program of categories or amounts.  So far it has been kind of boring, not knowing what to read next, but I have been getting used to the idea, and have even begun to enjoy it.  I have not been reading as much as I have been previously, and it feels strange not to (so this month I have been focusing more on books).  Fellow members from the 2014 Reading Challenge have been very encouraging of my scheme and have also mentioned the crime fiction of Dorothy L. Sayers and her character Lord Peter Wimsey.  So, on a whim, I have decided that it might be fun to read some.
Naturally I started at the beginning with Whose Body.  I found the story to be quite shocking, actually.   Written in the twenties, it has that Wodehouse kind of flair (sans humour), being situated in London, and  this time period 1920's) has always been one of my favorites.  I liked Wimsey, and his universe.  I look forward to reading more about this character.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


I began this book with the hope that it would not be anything like the King Kong version.  I was not disappointed!  This was a very different point of view indeed!  It was a fascinating take on a pretty simple poem, which does not delve too deeply in to character development (but then, it is a poem right?).  I will leave that kind of discussion up to scholars who actually care about this (I laboured through Tolkien's lecture "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" which was, while well written, not that interesting to me). 
Grendel was unexpected.  I felt like Gardner was playing with me, poking a little bit of fun and borrowing some things from other sources... what I mean by that is that one night (when I was extremely tired, right before bed), I began reading the chapter where Grendel has this conversation with a dragon, and I could have sworn that the dragon was trying to explain to Grendel how he was able to see the future by the use of psychohistory.  Now that snapped me awake!  I would not be able to say for sure without going back and reading Prelude and or Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov to be certain, but I could have sworn that was the case...
Gory bits aside, it was a thoughtful, interesting read and the philosophies expressed by various characters was of course, quite unnatural, atypical of what we have come to expect from people of that era.  I will have to come back to this book sometime (perhaps after I have re-read Asmiov's  Foundation series...).

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

At Last!

After the cliffhanger from the last book Speaking From Among the Bones, I have been eager to find out how it would all end in this final book.  I can't really say of course how it all finished up, but I can say that it wasn't how I had hoped, but that it was a satisfying conclusion anyway.
I just love Flavia.  She is one of my most favorite characters, and I cannot help but be happy for her when things are going well, and sad when they are not.  I will speculate now about the possibility that Alan Bradley might write about her again one day.  Possibly when she has grown a bit?  Something to hope for anyway, because I would love to know what else Flavia's future has in store for her.
I know that  in my future is a Flavia de Luce marathon read, complete with custard tart, gallons of tea and whatever other book related provisions I can come up with.