Tuesday 28 October 2014

Burgess, Anthony "A Clockwork Orange"

Burgess, Anthony "A Clockwork Orange" - 1962

My first thoughts about this book, I would have liked to read this in English. Alternatively, I would have liked to have the translation of Nadsat (the invented language the storyteller uses.) in the book rather than having to search for it online.

So, the beginning of the book was not very pleasurable at all. I found it very hard to follow Alex's thoughts. But, even when I did finally find the link online, I found it hard to follow his thoughts. This is not your usual dystopian literature where you see the world from the view of the oppressed, rather you see it from the oppressor's side, and that is not a nice view, either. Maybe it is because the protagonist is only fifteen, you don't want a teenager to have such negative thoughts, to live such a violent life. Maybe it is also because life changes even for Alex and his friends.

In any case, even though there were parts of the book I enjoyed, I don't think this is a novel I would pick up again soon.

From the back cover: "Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of a society overrun by nihilistic violence and governed by a menacing totalitarian state, 'A Clockwork Orange' includes an introduction by Blake Morrison in Penguin Modern Classics. Fifteen-year-old Alex doesn't just like ultra-violence - he also enjoys rape, drugs and Beethoven's ninth. He and his gang of droogs rampage through a dystopian future, hunting for terrible thrills. But when Alex finds himself at the mercy of the state and subject to the ministrations of Dr Brodsky, and the mind-altering treatment of the Ludovico Technique, he discovers that fun is no longer the order of the day.
The basis for Stanley Kubrick's notorious 1971 film, 'A Clockwork Orange' is both a virtuoso performance from an electrifying prose stylist and a serious exploration of the morality of free will."

Friday 24 October 2014

Austen, Jane "Emma"

Austen, Jane "Emma" - 1816
The Motherhood and Jane Austen Book Club

This was the fourth book I read with this blog and the challenge to read and discuss Jane Austen's novels with a view of the mothers in the stories.

The first three novels we discussed were "Pride & Prejudice", "Mansfield Park" and "Persuasion" which I have already reviewed earlier.

If you have not read this novel, I refer you to my more general review here because this one will contain spoilers.

I think Emma is the Jane Austen novel with the least mothers or mother figures. We have a few who take the place of mothers but the mothers themselves take a very small place in the novel. Nevertheless, there is something to be said about each one of them and how they influence the other characters.

Mothers: Mrs. Bates, Mrs. John Knightley
Mothers not present: Mrs. Woodhouse
Non-Mothers: Mrs. Weston, Mrs. Churchill

Mrs. Bates
Mrs. Bates is the mother of the very talkative Miss Bates. We don't hear much from the mother but can gather from her daughter and some other remarks what kind of destiny Mrs. Bates had. She is probably the equivalent of Mrs. Dashwood in "Sense & Sensibility" (or what Mrs. Bennett fears in "Pride & Prejudice") because she used to be rich and now is very poor. She therefore must have lost her wealth with the death of her husband whose estate and money went to a distant relative who didn't think he needed to take care of Mrs. Bates and her daughter.

She is a calm and quiet person, too old and too sick to do anything for her daughter and also has no influence on any of the other characters in the novel.

Mrs. John Knightley née Woodhouse
Emma' sister Isabella is married to Mr. John Knightley, the brother of THE Mr. Knightley. She is probably more like her father than she is like her mother, she definitely inherited his fear of catching any illness that is around. The Knightleys are a family family, very close to their children, very caring for them but that's about all we hear from them.

Mrs. Woodhouse
Mrs. Woodhouse, mother of Emma and Isabella, is Mr. Woodhouse's late wife. Her early death might have influenced his hypochondria but I am sure there were some hints of it already there before her demise.

Would Emma have been a different person had her mother been alive? Probably. Since we don't know much about her, we can only assume that she might have been a little stricter than her father who is over-afraid of losing her to anything or than her governess who seems to have been more like a friend than a parent.

Mrs. Weston née Taylor
At the beginning of the novel, Miss Taylor, Emma's governess of many years, marries Mr. Weston, a "man of means". We don't really see her working at Highbury, the Woodhouses' residence, but the families visit each other and there are several discussions with Mr. Knightley about Emma. From that we can get a good idea how she treated Emma and that her indulgences have led Emma to become a young lady who thinks the world of herself and that she knows everything. Mrs. Weston has become the surrogate mother to Emma although she was a little indulgent with her and functioned more like a friend, she loves her as much as a daughter and Emma loves Mrs. Weston as much as a mother but I don't think she did Emma a great service in raising her without any strictness at all.

Mrs. Churchill
Mr. Weston, who marries Miss Taylor, Emma's governess, has a son. When his wife died, Frank was still very little and so his wife's childless brother and his wife raised him. Mrs. Churchill seems to be a very demanding mother, she relies on Frank a lot and won't let him go to visit his father, even for his wedding.
Is she a good mother? Well, she took in her husband's nephew but that was something that a lot of people did at the time, even one of Jane Austen's own brothers grew up in another family. She surely comes around as being very selfish because Frank has to hide his love to Jane Fairfax and can only marry her after Mrs. Churchill dies. Since we never really get to meet her in person, only hear her talked about by those people who would like to see Frank more often, we can only judge her by the negative vibes we get from her acquaintances.

All in all, not many mothers in this novel but still some that have a huge influence on the story.

From the back cover:

"'I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like,' Jane Austen wrote, but young Emma Woodhouse, in spite of her weaknesses, has charmed generations of readers. Bossy, a little spoilt, and too eager to control other's lives for what she believes is their own good, she creates misunderstandings with every tactic she employs. But when her attempts to match-make go awry, she learns a hard lesson about life, love, and growing up. The world's greatest works of literature are now available in beautiful keepsake volumes. Bound in real cloth, and featuring gilt edges and ribbon markers, these beautifully produced books are a wonderful way to build a handsome library of classic literature. These are the essential novels that belong in every home. They'll transport readers to imaginary worlds and provide excitement, entertainment, and enlightenment for years to come. All of these novels feature attractive illustrations and have an unequalled period feel that will grace the library, the bedside table or bureau."

This was the fourth book I read with this blog and the challenge to read and discuss Jane Austen's novels with a view of the mothers in the stories.

Other Jane Austen novels I have read with regard to Motherhood:
"Emma" - 1816
"Mansfield Park" - 1814
"Northanger Abbey" - 1818
"Persuasion" - 1817
"Pride & Prejudice" - 1813
"Sense & Sensibility" - 1811

Find a link to all my Jane Austen reviews here.

See more comments on my ThrowbackThursday post in 2022.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Book Quotes of the Week

"Life without books is like an unsharpened pencil... it has no point." Belcastro

"The book to read is not the one that thinks for you, but the one which makes you think." Harper Lee

"1. Write 50 words. That’s a paragraph. 2. Write 400 words. That’s a page. 3. Write 300 pages. That’s a manuscript. 4. Write everyday. That’s a habit. 5. Edit and Rewrite. That’s how you get better. 6. Spread your writing for people to comment. That’s called feedback. 7. Don't worry about rejection or publication. That’s a writer. When not writing, read. Read from writers better than you. Read and Perceive." Ajay Obri

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." Pablo Picasso ... The same applies to books.

"Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better." Sidney Sheldon

"It wasn’t until I started reading and found books they wouldn’t let us read in school that I discovered you could be insane and happy and have a good life without being like everybody else." John Waters

Find more book quotes here.

Monday 13 October 2014

See, Lisa "Peony in Love"

See, Lisa "Peony in Love" - 2007 

This is a magical story about a young girl called Peony who lives in the seventeenth century. I have read many books about China, historical and contemporary, fiction and non-fiction, but this has taken me to a place I have never been before. This novel not only explains old Chinese stories and theatre, their whole art even but also their other traditions, like how marriages were arranged and most of all how Chinese see their life after death. Extraordinary.

Through Peony, we learn a great deal about the opera "The Peony Pavilion" written by Tang Xianzu who set the story in the Song dynasty (906 to 1127) even though he wrote about the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), a trick still used in literature today when writing during a difficult time of a country. The second big art project depicted in the novel is "Wu Wushan's Three Wives' Collaborative Commentary of The Peony Pavilion" which takes a big part in the book but does exist in real life. It makes the book even more interesting.

The author does not only describe the life of Peony but also that of any other woman she comes in touch with or is related to, grandmother, mother, aunts, cousins, concubines ... and how they interact. We learn about the Cataclysm, the Manchu overthrow of the Ming regime and the beginning of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), eras I could never really keep apart but I think with the help of this novel, I am going to manage. She also informs us about feet binding, arranged marriages, weddings, death ceremonies, the status of Chinese women at the time,

Another great read about a country with a big history and probably an even greater future.

From the back cover: "Peony is the cherished only child of the first wife of a wealthy Chinese nobleman. Yet she is betrothed to a man she has never met and as her sixteenth birthday approaches, she has spoken to no man other than her father and never ventured outside the cloistered women's quarters of the Chen Family Villa. She is trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage and the romantic lyrics from the Chinese classic novel The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own. Her father engages a small theatrical troupe to perform scenes from the epic opera of The Peony Pavilion - a live spectacle that few women have ever seen - in their garden amidst the scent of ginger, green tea and jasmine. Peony's mother is against the production: Unmarried girls should not be seen in public. But Peony's father prevails. Women will watch the opera from behind a screen to hide them from view and through a crack, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave and is immediately bewitched by him. So begins Peony's journey of love, desire and sorrow as Lisa See's haunting new novel takes readers back to seventeenth-century China and into the heart and soul of an unforgettable heroine."

This is the author of "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" which seems to be a lot more popular but I would definitely recommend reading this one, as well.

Saturday 11 October 2014

Book Quotes of the Week

"Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere." Jean Rhys

"Good fiction creates its own reality." Nora Roberts

"I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book." J.K. Rowling

"The world was hers for the reading." Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
"Every time we read to a child, we're sending a 'pleasure' message to the child's brain. You could even call it a commercial, conditioning the child to associate books and print with pleasure." Jim Trelease

Find more book quotes here.

Friday 10 October 2014

Scott, Mary "Turkey at Twelve"

Scott, Mary "Turkey at Twelve" - 1968

Another enjoyable reread of Mary Scott's stories about Susan and Larry, the farmer wives from New Zealand. This is book number five from the series of eight.

This time, Susan and Larry have to worry about the same things we still worry about today, all the work a public holiday brings. How many people will feed on a turkey? How much dessert do we need? How many drinks? And where, oh where will the whole family sleep?

Not only that, they also have to listen to an unmarried relative who knows so much better how to lead a household or raise kids than our two friends. How times have not change at all. Will these kind of people ever die out? I doubt it.

Anyway, as always, this story is both funny and nice. A feel good read.

This is the ffith book in the series by Mary Scott And this is the list of all of them:
"Breakfast at Six" - 1953
"Dinner Doesn’t Matter" - 1957
"Tea and Biscuits"  - 1961
"A Change From Mutton" - 1964
"Turkey at Twelve" - 1968
"Shepherd’s Pie" - 1972
"Strangers for Tea" - 1975
"Board, but no Breakfast" - 1978

Unfortunately, they are out of print and only available second hand. I have heard in the meantime, that you can buy some of them as ebooks, i.a. "A Change from Mutton"

From the back cover: "Turkey At Twelve. The back blocks of New Zealand are once again the background for this latest novel by Mary Scott."

Friday 3 October 2014

Book Quotes of the Week

"Reading well is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you." Harold Bloom

"A good book has no ending." R.D. Cumming

"Books make great gifts because they have whole world inside of them. And it's much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!" Neil Gaiman

"Books are the ultimate dumpees: put them down and they'll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back." John Green

"Reading can be dangerous." Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday 1 October 2014

McCulloch, Colleen "The Thorn Birds"

McCulloch, Colleen "The Thorn Birds" - 1977

I read this book years ago, shortly after the mini series came out in 1983. However, I am sure that I read it in German at the time because I wasn't able to get English books that easily back then. Or at all.

I wanted to reread the novel for ages and now I finally achieved that.

I think we can easily call this book an epic saga. The story of the Cleary family over two generations coming from New Zealand to Australia in the early Twenties of the last century and also moves to London and Rome. But the main story is told in New Zealand, how a family settles in a strange country and goes through all the hardships you can imagine.

The story touches almost every topic you can imagine, well, there are over 700 pages, so there is space for a lot of drama. It is so well written. The characters come alive in a way that makes you feel you know them personally. You fear with them, you rejoice with them. You feel sorry for them when something bad happens. And there is plenty of bad stuff to happen to a family like that but there are also some quite unexpected parts, roads this story takes that you don't think it would.

I especially loved it because it shows the hardships people went through when settling in a new continent. Even though the Clearys were not the first settlers, there was still a lot to overcome, both in New Zealand as well as in Australia. Some things we should not forget nowadays where all these countries have all the modern facilities imaginable.

Anyway, if you love chunky books and would like to read about Australia, this is a wonderful book, whether you have seen the series or not. Read it. You won't regret it. Maybe it's time to get the DVD out again, as well.

From the back cover: "Treasured by readers around the world, this is the sweeping saga of three generations of the Cleary family. Stoic matriarch Fee, her devoted husband, Paddy, and their headstrong daughter, Meggie, experience joy, sadness and magnificent triumph in the cruel Australian outback. With life’s unpredictability, it is love that is their unifying thread, but it is a love shadowed by the anguish of forbidden passions. For Meggie loves Father Ralph de Bricassart, a man who wields enormous power within the Catholic church…
As powerful, moving, and unforgettable as when it originally appeared, THE THORN BIRDS remains a novel to be read…and read again."