Friday, May 27, 2011

Book Twenty-Nine - Love In The Time Of Cholera - Part One

Thus far, this book is frustrating. It’s 95% back-story and there are so many characters that I can’t keep up. I just spent 42 pages reading about someone who then exits stage left. Seriously? I’m guessing the characters are introduced and then Marquez goes back in time and we learn about what they did after we learn what became of them.

Cholera is transmitted in two ways: unhygienic conditions or contaminated shellfish (particularly raw oysters). Marquez is Columbian and the book’s setting is somewhere in the Caribbean, so it may have been the Columbian coast. I suppose we shall learn how this early character helped stop a cholera epidemic there.

Of course, a new character has just been introduced – I had to look back to see if I’d heard of him before and I had not. So I’m not sure what that’s about.

Google map

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book Twenty-Eight - I Capture The Castle - Part Two

Dodie Smith
I loved this book. It took about 60 pages to get into it and then I couldn't put it down. I love the characters! I Capture The Castle contains truth, humor, mystery and love.

I'd heard several people say Cassandra is a magnificent narrator but I didn't guess that the novel is told in first person through journal entries. Smith uses this so effectively that I didn't feel I was missing anything even though I only had one person's point of view. Cassie is one of those teenagers who was born an old soul. She has tremendous insight yet she also has the limited view inherent in being a teenager.

The book was published in 1948 and set in the English countryside. Smith's descriptions are magnificent - she seems to blend her description into the narrative so flawlessly that I felt as if I were seeing everything as Cassie did. I wanted to learn more about Smith and discovered that she wrote The Hundred And One Dalmatians! She began as a playwright. (Why is it spelled "playwright?" Shouldn't it be "playwrite?") She wrote I Capture The Castle while living in the US, which explains her cute little tangents into the cultural differences between the British and the Americans.

Cassie is quite an honest narrator. As she imagines receiving her first kiss, she fantasizes the entire scene - what he will say, what she will say, etc. And she even realizes that the reality can never match the fantasy! Of course the man never says anything as good as she imagined him saying. Even at her age she grasps the difference between fantasy and reality. Later in the book her fantasies become so strong that she feels exhausted after indulging in one. She knows she is tormenting herself but doesn't want to stop.

This is not Cassie's only flaw. She sees the duplicitous acts others commit but does not admit to her own.  Despite her insight, she definitely has a naive side - but then, she's seventeen.

The Vicar! I love him - there's one scene in which he is very Dumbledorian with Cassie - leading her gently along her own path of thought and then allowing her to work out the answer for herself. And Stephen! Oh how I love Stephen. So selfless and so devoted.

The ending was unsatisfying but real. Do we choose who we love? Cassandra would say no. But how many times does the person you fall in love with fall in live with you? When is simple companionship enough?

Oh, and calf-love instead of puppy-love? Was that the saying back then?

I was intrigued by Heloise and Abelard. I thought it was a literary reference, so I checked them out. It turns out that they are real people in the 12th century who had a doomed love. Seems to fit as Heloise is the dog and Abelard the cat.

A couple of favorite passages - 
... miserable people cannot afford to dislike each other. Cruel blows of fate call for extreme kindness in the family circle. 
A year ago I would have made a poem out of that idea. I tried to, yesterday, but it wasn't any use. Oh, I could think of lines that rhymed and scanned but that is all they were. I know now that is all my poems ever were, yet I used to feel I could leap over the moon when I had made one up. I miss that rather.  
That's a perfect metaphor for life, isn't it? We grow up and must put behind the things of youth, including some we cherish.

Mini-tangent - scanning means a poem meets the requirements for feet and syllable stresses - as in sonnets and iambic pentameter. I know what those things are but have never been terribly interested in them. I can appreciate poetry but am not much adept at the technical side (another reason Shakespeare was genius - he managed to jump through all those technical hoops and still write brilliance). I can write a fair haiku, but that's about it.

I also watched the 2003 adaptation of the novel on Netflix. I loved it, and cried at the end just like I did at the end of the book. Romola Garai plays Cassandra, and she's the one who helped me finally like Emma Woodhouse - in the 2009 adaptation of Emma. Both are from the BBC. By the way, how cool is it that Smith mentions Jane Austen?!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Book Twenty-Eight - I Capture The Castle

Oh goodness, it's probably going to take a day or two for me to capture everything I want to say about this book. I've just this moment finished it so my feelings are still quite raw - all I keep thinking is - WHY? As I reached the last few pages of the book I kept looking down at the page numbers, scared that there wasn't enough time for the book to end the way I wanted it to. In time I suppose I shall see that it ended the way it must.

I didn't take notes as I read this one; I just dog-eared pages (or should that be calf-eared?). But I'm certain I shall remember the significant points on those pages as I go back to them. Right now I need to decompress. Just one thing - Stephen is Westley the Farm Boy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Book Twenty-Seven - The Wind In The Willows

Kenneth Grahame

Cute and fun book! I loved Badger, Rat and Mole - and even Toad has his redeeming qualities, I thought. I wondered about the rat, though. He's a water rat which I don't believe I'd ever heard of until I read the Oscar Wilde short story The Devoted Friend. Apparently "water rat" is the collective name for several species of rodent. Since the story is set in England, this water rat is undoubtedly a European Water Vole --  a protected species in the UK.


Looks cute there, but in the next one he's a bit sinister, don't you think?

Maybe not.

Apparently the book has been made into a movie several times and is even a ride at Disneyland! One adaptation is titled Mr Toad's Wild Ride. Now, see, I could go off on a tangent about how movies take just one little part of a book and expand and exaggerate it to appeal to their targeted demographic, but I shan't do that. (Although if I were, I could also speak about the movie adaptation of A Town Like Alice which ignored the second half of the book.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Change In Plans

I finished my last book and kept hoping my copy of I Capture The Castle would arrive - alas, it has not. I decided to read The Wind In The Willows as it's relatively short. It was written by Kenneth Grahame in 1908 and is a children's book - that's all I know.

I love this time when I haven't read a page and am so convinced I will love the new book! I hope I do.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Taking time out to read The Forest which was written by a friend of mine! I read her first book, The Wisdom of Ambrose before it was published. I don't know that I've ever loved a bear more than Ambrose, and I'm a Winnie the Pooh fan from way back.

When I get back to the list, I believe I'll read I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith. It has been highly recommended by the Two Bibliomaniacs.