Sunday, September 29, 2013

Book 45 - Beloved (76th Book)

 Beloved by Toni Morrison was not at all what I expected it to be. I thought it was a book about the African American experience, which it is but I had no idea it we also a ghost story. I had heard about it from other people but I really didn't know a thing about it other than that people generally liked it. I'm not going to lie, I didn't love it. It was interesting to a point and it definitely captured my attention but it won't jump to the top of my list anytime soon.

Whenever I start a book about the African American experience in slavery and beyond I always expect that I will have no way to relate, but I have been wrong every time. I love that the authors I have read have used their novels to deal with broad themes that are applicable to everyone. I still am horrified by the images of slavery and struggle but I love that the novelists also talk about the idea of freedom, family, individuality, love and what will break the human spirit.

I am not sure what I think of Sethe as a character but I am a big fan of Denver and Paul D. I am always interested in the fact that really traumatized stories of slavery and other forms of human torture always leave characters looking to the past. in the books I have read, and in my own life au have found that alone leave you in a state that will stagnant you and twist you in ways that are not good. That definitely happened for Sethe with her responses towards white people and her clinging on to Beloved. I k ow it happened for me when I defined my existence by what I didn't have instead of looking to better myself. I think that a line that Baby Sugs said really points towards that idea that if you can't imagine something for yourself  it won't happen. "she told them that the only grace they could have was the grace they could imagine. If they could not see it, they would not have it."

I  also liked the poetry aspect of the novel. There are parts of it that are just scattered fragments of imagery and emotion. Those pieces have the feeling of poetry and help convey the mood of the novel even though it isn't always clear what they are referring to.

One other final quote I liked was this: " Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming yourself was another."

I am always fascinated by this element of the African American experience ( and other minority groups) they more often then not define themselves by collective experience instead of by individual things. I think a blend of both is good but the collective experience is certainly something that is lost on most caucasian Canadians/American. At least in my experience we are often lacking a sense of history and the importance of shared experience.  This book feels similar to invisible man in that it details the struggle of a person to claim their personal identity in addition to their culture. You can see that Denver makes a solid start towards this an it offers hope that maybe Sethe begins to as well.

Rebecca (75th Book)

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is a book I picked up because I had it in a vintage mystery compilation. I am getting married on two weeks and have a book themed wedding but wanted to be able to use the vintage book as table decor. It had two books from the 1001 list, this book and The Big Sleep. I managed to finish both while moving, wedding planning and wrapping up work.

I really enjoyed this book because it is narrated from the point of view of the nameless second wife. You are aware at the start of the book that something is horribly wrong and the suspense just builds and builds. The nameless narrator moves into Manderly, a beautiful mansion by the sea she has idolized since she was a child. She quickly finds out it isn't the beauty that the visiting tourists believe it to be. She is constantly plagued by servants that don't respect her and try to undermine her and there are rooms she is not allowed to go in because they were her new husband's first wife's.

I was fascinated the entire time I read this novel and I read it fairly quickly for the time I was at in my life.   It will always remind me of waiting for my fiancĂ© to come with a cargo van to move all my stuff to Vancouver. I was trying to be patient but wasn't being very successful.

I would recommend this book to anyone particularly fans of suspense and older mystery novels. Try just have something going for them that modern mysteries can't seem to capture.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Book - Nostromo (74th Book)

Meh- That is my sentiment about Nostromo by Joseph Conrad. I really don't care about this book at all. I  wasn't very engaged in the story, and I don't have much to say about it in terms of a blog. It is interesting to note however that being only 30+ days away from my wedding and huge move hasn't slowed me down one bit. I finished this book last month on time and I am half way through this month's book Beloved. I even managed to finish off two half finished books from the list of 1001 and start another.

Nostromo is set in a South American town constantly overthrown by revolution. Every single one of the characters is flawed in some way and their dreams and ambitions end up their down fall. Nostromo is a man who is in love with his reputation. He is adored by the people because he always seems to save the day. He is sent on a mission to save the silver by a man named Decoud who has spoken negatively about the revolutionaries and is now fleeing for his life and trying to redeem himself in the eyes of his beloved by bringing in reinforcements.  Their boat filled with silver crashes into the revolutionary troops but avoids detection. Decoud stays on the island refuge while Nostromo returns to the mainland in search of help. Decoud goes crazy in the short time it takes waiting for Nostromo to return, and Nostromo is unable to report the crime because of four pieces of missing silver which Decoud uses to sink himself. His reputation is so important to him that he can not reveal what really happened the night that he tried to save the silver. I was reminded of the tell tale heart during the time when Nostromo is overcoming with his love for the silver. It slowly drives him crazy and ends up being his downfall.

I am most saddened by Charles Gould the owner of the mine who throws away everything in order to make the mine successful. He loves his wife for her brilliant mind and shared vision, but she is slowly lost to him in his obsession for the silver. Emilia Gould his wife might be the one truly good character who tried to help everyone and remains devoted to her husband despite the fact that he doesn't see her.

It is the silver that hangs over the entire town of Sulaco eventually polluting almost everyone and everything in its path. I really liked a passage uttered by Decoud, I believe, about value in objects, "things seem to be worth nothing by what they are in themselves. I being to believe that the only solid thing about them is the spiritual value which everyone discovers in his own form of activity". EAch person in the novel is on a quest of sorts. They are consumed by the quest while the silver it self holds different meanings for all of them.

The only thing I like about this story is that it shows that all of us are both good and bad. There are no truly evil characters in this story and each person has shades of both evil and good in them. The story it self was as slog for me and I found it difficult to care about any of the people or what they were doing. The last half of the story was an easier read, but it still wasn't enough to redeem the rest of the tale for me.