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Archive for March, 2013

GoodSoldier

This is just a short review of The Good Soldier so that I will not forget what the story was about – and what a weird story it was! I was reading another book about writers in the early 20th century when it mentioned Ford Madox Ford, and I decided to give The Good Solider (published in 1915) a quick try.  The story takes place in Germany just before the start of WWI and is narrated by John, who married Florence and discovered that she had a bad heart.  John and Florence (who are Americans) sail for Europe and end up in Germany at a type of health spa.  There they meet Leonora and Edward Ashburnham (the “Good Soldier”) and their young charge Nancy Ruff.  There is plenty of romantic intrigue mixed with the sensibilities of the early 20th century and stuffy British lords who kept private information private. 

John narrates and he says that he is trying to tell this story as if he were sitting at a fireside, trying to tell it to the reader, with memory lapses, jumping back and forth, and various points of view.  It is a bit disjointed for my taste (and when I looked it up on Wikipedia, it says he became famous for this literary technique of telling a story via flashbacks in non-chronological order!).  Even though John essentially gets duped, I found myself not liking him instead of feeling sorry for him (and I’m not sure whether or not this was the author’s intention).  The book is included in many lists of 100 Best Novels, and it is hard for me to understand why!

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MeBeforeYou

This book is amazing!! I read the entire thing over one single weekend and then when I was done reading it I was sad that I couldn’t continue reading it!  

Me Before You is the story of Louisa Clark, a girl in her mid-twenties, who still lives with her parents in a small town in England, has a boyfriend of 7 years, and works in a cafe near to the castle that is the tourist attraction for the town.  Louisa (Lou) loses her job when the cafe owner decides to go back to Australia, and ultimately (as a last resort) takes a job as a caretaker for a quadriplegic. 

This is where Will Traynor enters the picture.  Will had been – before the accident that left him without use of arms and legs – a fast-moving, handsome wealthy successful young man.  After two years in a wheelchair living in a handicap-accessible annex in his parent’s Georgian style mansion, he had become sour, moody, and depressed.  While Will already had a medical assistant working with him, his mother wanted to hire someone who would be with him during the normal hours of the day – someone with a personality that might be able to cheer him up.

The relationship between Will and Lou becomes the focus of the story, and seeing Lou turn into a more educated, imaginative and inquisitive woman is worth the read.  We also get to see Will being happy at times, with smiles and jokes and kind gestures.  Me Before You was a wonderful book – romantic, sad, happy and funny.  I highly recommend it!

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FrancesandBernard

Frances and Bernard is a cute little book entirely written by letters.  The letters are mainly between Frances, a woman writer of fiction in her late 20’s / early 30’s, and Bernard, a poet of approximately the same age.  The two met briefly at a writer’s colony in the late 1950’s and began a correspondence as she lived in Philadelphia and then NYC, and he lived in Boston.   

While the letters started out interestingly enough since they were written by two authors; at times the letters got a little drawn out, mainly because Frances and Bernard liked to talk about God and the meaning of God in their lives.  Through those letter, Frances and Bernard first developed a friendship, and then a complicated relationship.  Bernard moved to NYC and it soon became clear that he had some mental issues and ultimately had to spend some time in various mental institutions.

There were additional letters between Frances and her friend Claire, and between Bernard and his best friend Ted that added a bit of color.  There were also some additional letters between Bernard and Frances to their editor John, and sometimes between Ted and Frances.  I liked the idea of the book, and most of the time I enjoyed reading the letters.  I did find myself hoping that, as I turned the page to a new chapter, I might see some real conversation between twop people.  Even though there were plenty of conversations written down in the letters, I still felt like there was something missing.

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I’ve been excited for the book Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald to be released in late March 2013, so I decided to re-read The Great Gatsby.

TheGreatGatsby

I loved the descriptions of Gatsby and the parties that he threw at his mansion, and the various characters that made appearances throughout the book.  Obviously I loved Daisy Buchanan and the distinct manner in which she spoke and commented on certain things.  I loved the way Nick Carraway was the narrator and his even-keeled way of looking at people and events.  I had completely forgotten what was actually quite a surprise ending, so it was a good surprise for me while re-reading it.  Once again, yet another book makes me want to have lived in the 1920’s!  This book, along with The Chaperone, Rules of Civility and In Sunlight and in Shadow showcase the best parts of conversations back in those days – when people used to be witty!

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TheChaperone

The Chaperone is about Cora Carlisle, a middle-aged housewife with two grown sons who decides to act as chaperone to Louise Brooks, a young dancer from the same town of Wichita, wanting to attend dance classes in NY, but needing someone to go with her.  Louise’s own mother did not want to go with her, so Cora took the opportunity for an excuse to go to NY.   The time was 1922 and it was not proper for a young girl to go about the city on her own.

Cora had a secret reason for wanting to go to NY – as a child she was in an orphanage in NY before they put her on an orphan train headed out to the midwest.  She ultimately got adopted by an older man and his younger wife, who lived on a farm and took great care of Cora.  While Cora had fond memories of her adopted parents, she still wondered about her biological parents and decided to go to NY to try to find out something about them. 

The character Louise Brooks is modelled on the real Louise Brooks – a dancer from Wichita who became a silent film star – known for her short black hair that she wore in the ‘pageboy’ style (long straight bangs in front, angled har at about chin length), making it a famous and popular cut back in the 1930’s.  Louise was quite the character, but surprisingly – the book is primarily about Cora, and not about Louise.  It is the opposite of how I thought it would be – Cora is the main character and Louise plays a part in the book. 

I was glad that the book was about Cora because her story was an interesting one.  Not only was I entranced by her memories of the orphanage, orphan train, and her first years as an adopted child, but also by her daily life as the wife of a popular and successful attorney in Wichita.  Cora ultimately lived to be almost 100 and saw many styles and ideas (primarily about birth control and care for homeless mothers) change.  I absolutely loved The Chaperone and could not put it down!

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