Sunday, March 8, 2009

Book review a-rama

Hello. I leave blogging for weeks at a time and then return only to give book reviews. Sorry.

Sea of Poppies, Amitav Ghosh

Holy cow this is a good book. It is set in the 1830's in India at the beginning of the Opium war that China had with Great Britain. It intermingles the stories of numerous characters (a runaway widow and her lower-caste lover; a high-caste former Rajah who is convicted of a crime and banished from India; a mulatto American who passes himself off as white after all his former shipmates die off; a french orphan and her Bengalize foster brother, and more) who are all set to board a ship called the Ibis, sailing for the Maritius Island(s) (I can't remember if it is a single island or a group; sorry.)

The story is long--over 500 pages--and very detailed. But the details are so entertaining and make the characters incredibly real. I can't imagine how much research went into writing this novel; it is impecuously written, using the dialogue and lingo of sailers from this time. When I read the original review, it talked about how there aren't many books these days that truly tell a story. This book fits the bill and more. Check it out if you really want a mouthful. (It took me almost 3 weeks to read it, and I was trying. That's saying something!)

Ah, Toni Morrison. I love her writing for so many reasons. One of my favorite college courses was a class on Morrison and Alice Walker. I've read almost all her books, and was excited to read this one. She didn't disappoint.

A Mercy is a slave-narrative, but not in the traditional way. It explores all the facets of slavery. How, in a way, we are all slaves to something or someone. The man who must cowtow to the people who give him employment. The wife who is subject to the whims and desires of a husband. The slave mother who must give away her children to keep them from harms way. The slave child, who must live a life away from her mother without knowing why. The adolescent girl who loves a man who will never love her back.

Of course the writing is poignant. Of course it makes you want to weep and nod your head and laugh all at once. It's Toni Morrison, after all. If you have enjoyed her other books, pick this one up. If you've never read one by her, pick this one up. It's less than 200 pages, and reads incredibly fast. But it strikes a chord on so many levels.

Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham

Can I be an english major and NOT know about Maugham? Apparently. Anway. I read this for my last SDBBE book, and it was fabulous. It tells the story of Kitty, who's affair with another man is discovered by her husband.

The realities of adultery are prominent in this book. That the man you cheat with will never leave his wife. That the fun and excitement wear off when you think your husband is outside the door.

I really enjoyed Kitty's story and watching her grow from a self-centered little cheat to a woman. I thought that the transformation time was a little fast, but it is fiction afterall, so I'm willing to overlook some of that. I think I'll check out a few more of Maugham's novels in the future.

Anywhere. I'm starting the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (or whatever it is called) now. Onward and forward!


Anonymous said...

Have you watched The Painted Veil movie? I think I wrote about it in the book... maybe... I don't remember. It was a little different from the book, but I kind of liked it, although I would have found it totally boring and wouldn't have understood much of it if I hadn't read the book first.

Ginger said...

I was wondering where you went.

Apryl said...

I got the movie on netflix. I agree with Britt, it's different from the book, but still good. Has more of a Hollywood ending, but you get to see Naomi Watts looking sweaty & unattractive, which is always good for the self esteem...

Thanks for the other book recommendations!