Monday, April 27, 2015

Book 64- A Passage to India (99th Book)

A Passage to India, by E.M. Forester is book 64 on the novel 100 list. I still marvel that I am plugging away all these years later since I have a habit of abandoning projects part way through. I did a photo a day project for half a year until I eventually abandoned it and I have given up on shows in the last season because I have moved on from them. I am hopeful that this book and blog project will continue on to the end since I am now well over half way through the list of 100 books.

I liked A Passage to India. The novel is very clearly a novel about ideas and the way that the world is. Although the novel at times seems a bit preachy about racism, religion and what makes us human, the characters are truly human so it doesn't seem forced or fake. I liked this novel and found the characters very engaging. Adela Quested is a very human character and many of the other characters Aziz, Mr. Fielding, Mrs Moore serve a purpose more than just helping the story along. The characters reactions and actions are authentic to human life and their motivations are very real.

The story follows Mrs. Moore and Adela Quested on a tour through India as they set about seeing if Adela could marry Mrs. Moore's son Ronny. Both want to see the "real India" beyond what the Anglo-Indians who live in India want to see. This desire, though genuine, is very English in nature and leads to the eventual crisis that shapes the novel.

I didn't realize something very cool about the novel while I read it, but it was pointed out to me after reading the short description of the book by Daniel S. Burt in The Novel 100. The novel is laid out in 3 sections for the seasons of India (cool, hot, wet) and the three sections also mirror the three major religions of India (Muslim, Christian and Hindu). On the surface this is a novel about the racial and religious tensions in British India (with racism being the easiest theme to pick up on), but the true theme of the novel is the divisions that divide people from having authentic relationships.

Aziz is someone who constantly strives to have authentic relationships with people and he has several throughout the book despite his comic blunder that get in the way. He meets Mrs. Moore in a Mosque and after his initial blunder they are able to communicate on a real level and move past the roles they are expected to play. He also finds a friend in Mr Fielding who is an Anglo-Indian who refuses to side with his race when a crisis arrives.

I found the crisis that happens in Marabar Hills very telling of what happens so much in our society. People side with the majority of voices and let emotion take them away. I learned about the concept of group think in my Psychology 101 class at university and it has been very real for me ever since. The theory basically states that conformity happens in a group so that any dissenting points of view are suppressed and people make decisions that they would never make if they were left to their own devices. There were two good quotes in the novel that illustrate this point of view.

"He was still after facts, though the herd had decided on emotion"

"evil was propagating in every direction, it seemed to have an existence of its own, apart from anything that was done or said by individuals."

Over all this was a good read. I would recommend it to others and I think both the message and story are worth the time and effort of others. That is something that I can't say for all the novels on the list so when I find both in one book I am quite happy.  One of the discoveries I have made during this novel challenge is that a good story has to be coupled with a good theme for me to rate a book highly. Each on their own is not enough to make a classic in my opinion. Good literature will be engaging and thought provoking.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Book 63- The Awakening (98th novel)

I am so sick of novels about affairs. It seems that the novel 100 list is absolutely chock full of them. Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, The Scarlet Letter, and The Age of Innocence are just a few. I have loved some of those novels, but I have to say that the subject matter is getting very old. Is there nothing more interesting to talk about?

The Awakening was more of a novella and the copy I had included a few other short stories. I enjoyed the setting since the stories were set in New Orleans, a place that very few of the novels on this list have been set. Absalom, Absalom was set in the South but I am no longer remembering what state.

I read this novel quite some time ago (I finished it in March), but I have, quite simply, not had the heart to do a blog about it. I can think of nothing that the book made me feel other than,  "meh." I didn't like the main character and I found her selfish and unlikeable. In my mind she had no redeeming qualities and I didn't feel like her plight was really teaching me anything.

The focus of the novel was a woman who was suddenly awakened to the fact that she could have a private identity outside of her duties as a woman and a citizen of a certain culture and place. There were a few quotes that I liked in regards to this topic but the out workings of her discovery just made me angry. While I agree that we all have a private identity beyond the roles that we take on, I don't think we should be selfish with this freedom.

"In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position to the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her."

"But I don't want anything but my own way. That is wanting a good deal of course, when you have to trample upon the lives, the hearts, the prejudices of others."

The only other thing I have to say about this novel is that it has some cool things to say about the spiritual qualities of the ocean and how it can speak to the soul. As someone who was raised on an Island and currently lives a block from the ocean I can attest to the fact that the ocean (and water in general) can have a therapeutic effect on a person.

"The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation."

"The voice of the sea speaks to the soul."

With this review done I can put this novel to rest and move full speed ahead with the April novel which is A Passage to India. Although it is April 18th I am just starting the novel now. I took on a challenge of reading Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon which is a 1000 page beast. True to Pynchon form it is a weird novel and I am having a bit of trouble plowing through it.