Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: Women In Love - D.H. Lawrence

From Wikipedia: Women in Love, published in 1920, is a sequel to his earlier novel The Rainbow (1915), and follows the continuing loves and lives of the Brangwen sisters, Gudrun and Ursula. Gudrun Brangwen, an artist, pursues a destructive relationship with Gerald Crich, an industrialist. Lawrence contrasts this pair with the love that develops between Ursula and Rupert Birkin, an alienated intellectual who articulates many opinions associated with the author. The emotional relationships thus established are given further depth and tension by an intense psychological and physihttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifcal attraction between Gerald and Rupert. The novel ranges over the whole of British society before the time of the First World War and eventually ends high up in the snows of the Tyrolean Alps.

My Thoughts:

I can't say that I enjoyed the story of Women in Love. It strikes me as too prosaic. Nothing in the plot or in the relationships was interesting enough (to me) to warrant an entire novel on the subject.

(I'm willing to concede that I formed this opinion based on a lack of understanding because I haven't read the precursor, The Rainbow. But I'm not willing, at this point, to read that to see if it changes my opinion.)

At times the dialogue made me want to wing the book across the room. It seemed the characters spoke in soliloquies rather than to each other. They would drone on and on, frequently, using language quite unbelievable for casual discourse.

However, I did enjoy Lawrence's choice of language, mainly in his descriptive passages. He has a rare talent for choosing words which provide an underlying feel or emotion to the scene, quite capturing the mood with what's happening among the characters. My only beef is that he used these precise, emotive words over and over again in the scenes. I found myself thinking, "Enough already! I get it!" many times throughout the course of the book.

Also, according to Wikipedia: As with most of Lawrence's works, Women in Love caused controversy over its sexual subject matter. One early reviewer said of it, "I do not claim to be a literary critic, but I know dirt when I smell it, and here is dirt in heaps — festering, putrid heaps which smell to high Heaven."

By today's standards Women in Love is tame, very tame, with much of the sexual tension couched in suggestion and innuendo. And it's these precise suggestions that Lawrence's language evokes. I can understand how the review came to his opinion.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis

Book Description:  Young Fu and his mother are forced by a famine to leave their small village in the mountains to move to the big city of Chungking.  Young Fu is bound for seven years as an apprentice to the copper-smith, Tang.  Young Fu learns more from his kind master than just the skills required of a copper-smith.  From each adventure that Young Fu finds himself in, he begins to make his own opinions about the western world and life in general. Set in the 1920's, China is slowly changing as a country and Young Fu changes with it, from a boy into a man.

My Thoughts: Having lived near the Yangtze River for a few years I was intrigued by the descriptions made about the junks that traveled to and from Shanghai. What I really liked was the way that Elizabeth Foreman Lewis intertwined the old superstitions of Young Fu's mother and his newer ways of thinking. For example, she was highly fearful of foreigners, but Young Fu found them to not be scary and a few to be very helpful and caring. I enjoyed reading this story, though fictional, about this era right before China's revolution began.  Elizabeth had lived in Chungking during this time, so the descriptions of the streets and surroundings made for a fun, run down memory-lane read for me (even if it was a different era, somethings I found still the same...)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway seems like a book I should have read in one of my high school English classes. Since my teacher didn't get the memo, I read it now (some 15 years after high school). I thought I would like Mrs Dalloway since it's very stream of consciousness (no, it is stream of consciousness). And I tend to think and tell stories in the same manner. Sadly, another classic I didn't fall in love with. I did enjoy the writing. It was very beautiful but I couldn't always understand what was going on. I'm glad to have read it so I can read The Hours, also on my Fill In The Gaps list.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: A Widow for One Year - John Irving

A Widow for One Year is a story about Ruth Cole, told in three parts. For the first part of the book, she’s only four years old. In the second, she’s in her 30's, a successful writer. In the last part of the book, she is 41, widowed, and the mother of a one year old.

The story is both tragic and farcical. When it opens, her two older brothers have both perished in a car accident. (Something Ruth doesn’t have the capacity to understand, and her mother doesn’t have the capacity deal with .) Ruth’s the third child, made by parents trying to keep it together. The book opens with Ruth’s mother having sex with her 16-year-old baby sitter, Eddie, and Ruth walking in on them.

Ruth’s mother eventually leaves. (Eddie never gets over his infatuation, even though later in life he falls in love with Ruth.) Both Ruth and Eddie wait nearly 40 years for Ruth’s mother to return.

There’s a lot of drama in this book: Ruth is raped by her father’s friend, her father commits suicide over it, Ruth is widowed shortly after being married (foreshadowed by the curse of another widow) and later she witnesses the murder of a prostitute in Amsterdam.

There should have been enough “story” here to keep anyone interested, but I found the book plodding and dull. It was like the events were told so matter of factly, that they didn’t mean anything. It’s as though Irving didn’t care enough to tell it well.

It was a quick read, nonetheless, but I can’t say I enjoyed it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

So after a very long break, and an even longer amount of procrastinating, I decided to pick my next book using the scientific method of a random number generator. And the first book the computer picked was this one.

I'm enjoying it. At least I think I am. It's the most difficult book I've ever read and I'm not entirely sure why. Is it because my knowledge of India's history is negligible? Is my head just not in the right place? I haven't read any of Salman Rushdie's books until now, and I'm wondering whether I should have picked The Satanic Verses instead?

If anyone has read it I'd love to hear. I'm determined to finish it, no matter what.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


"The Reader" by Bernhard Schlink

I was hooked from the beginning of this book. I wanted to find out what happened to Michael and Hanna. Did they stay together? Or was it a doomed romance? It was a short romance for Michael. One day Hanna just disappeared. He kept thinking of her even into college. Then one day while in court as a law student he sees Hanna. She is on trial for murder during the war. But as Michael sits through the court trial he discovers something about Hanna. Should he tell the judge? He is torn by what he knows. He goes to discuss it with his father. But that doesn't help. Does he tell anyone? What happens to Hanna? You'll have to read the book to find out.

You can see my full review at Just Books.