Sunday, 28 October 2012

forty-nine.

the Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (1906-1921)
(the Man of Property, Indian Summer of a Forsyte, In Chancery, Awakening, To Let)

"The Forsytes were resentful of something, not individually, but as a family; this resentment expressed itself in an added perfection of raiment, an exuberance of family cordiality, an exaggeration of family importance, and - the sniff."

The Forsyte Saga spans from 1886 to 1920 and deals with the ups and downs of many of the family members. But mainly Soames. Soames is a man of property and he isn't happy when he discovers that his wife, Irene, is in love with an other man. And the other man is even engaged to another Forsyte! 

I remember reading the first chapter and not understanding much, too many names and details and I worried that the rest of the book would be the same. Fortunately it isn't, and the chance of scandals really increased my interest. And also that there is a lot of comedy hidden within, like the names of all the companies.

Soames is my least favourite character and I grinned every time he didn't get things his way. He did one good thing towards the end, but it doesn't make up for the horrible things he did. I had a couple of potential favourite characters but they all ended up dead and the all the female characters ended up being dull after their moments of rebellion. The last book, To Let, was disappointing. It didn't have the same intensity as the others and I might be biased on the fact that I had hopes for Fleur and Jon.

What I really liked about this saga were the historical aspects and the focus on change. The old Forsytes never got used to the idea of cars and loathed the modern youths. Soames invested in arts and the fact that he didn't like his Gauguin picture, made me even dislike him more. 


All in all, it's entertaining and a brilliant picture of upper class life in London around the end of the Victorian era. I promise you won't be disappointed if you like family sagas and enjoy scandals.

John Galsworthy also wrote more books about the Forsytes, and they are collected in the works named A Modern Comedy and End of the Chapter, which means that the whole Forsyte story is about 3000 pages long. I doubt I will read the rest as I have far too many other books to read, but who knows, maybe some time in the distant future.

This was October's read in Line's 1001 challenge.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

forty-eight.

the Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (1984)

  “Chance and chance alone has a message for us. Everything that occurs out of necessity, everything expected, repeated day in and day out, is mute. Only chance can speak to us.”

Tomas met Tereza by chance and they quickly moved in together. But despite his love for Tereza he continues being a womaniser. When the Soviet Union invades in 1968, they move to Switzerland, but his mistress, Sabina, is there too. Tereza knows about Tomas' infidelities, but she is too much in love to leave and instead has horrible nightmares about competing with his mistresses.

I have had this book for years, but have ignored it for so long because I thought it would be too philosophical and difficult. The beginning, with all the Nietzsche and philosophy stuff, was indeed hard to grasp, but then it improved. Kundera has this great witty style of writing which is really enjoyable. With the Soviet invasion as the background, it has an important historical aspect as well and I don't think I have ever got such a clear picture of communism from any other sources.

Karenin, the bitch which Tomas got Tereza so she wouldn't be so lonely, is named after Anna Karenina's husband, and I really liked the references to that book and especially because I have finally read it. Karenin is an important character and her death (after a long life) was perhaps the saddest part.

“She loved to walk down the street with a book under her arm. It differentiated her from the others.” 

 

Friday, 5 October 2012

forty-seven.

the Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (1987)

"and it's a story that might bore you but you don't have to listen, she told me, because she always knew it was going to be like that, and it was, she thinks, her first year, or, actually weekend, really a Friday, in September, at Camden, and this was three or four years ago, and she got so drunk that she ended up in bed, lost her virginity (late, she was eighteen) in Lorna Slavin's room, because she was a Freshman and had a roommate and Lorna was, she remembers, a Senior or a Junior and usually sometimes at her boyfriend's place off-campus, to who she thought was a Sophomore Ceramics major but was actually either some guy from N.Y.U, a film student, and up in New Hampshire just for The Dressed To Get Screwed party, or a townie."

Camden, New Hampshire, 1985. Simple version: Paul likes Sean, Sean likes Lauren and Lauren likes Victor. They are all seniors, but haven't quite figured out their majors yet. But there are always parties to go to, drugs to be taken and people to fuck.
How do you write about your favourite book, a book that you have read so many times that you can quote it? It's been three years since the last time I read it and yet I know most of it by heart. I'll admit it is also because the film version is the film I have watched the most. This time around it took about 5 hours to get through the 330 pages.

The film came out in 2002, starred Ian Somerhalder, James van der Beek and Shannyn Sossamon. What I really love about it, is that it differs quite a bit from the book in some parts and then quotes it perfectly in other. I saw the film many times before I realised that it was a book. I'm not sure why I love the film and book so much, nothing much happens except a whole lot of partying. I love the way it's narrated by many people, but mainly Sean, Lauren and Paul. And the simple fact that the name comes first makes it a whole lot easier to follow than many other books. Some of the chapters are the same scene (or party) seen from various angles and they all reveal something new.  And most of the people in it are mentioned more than once. I love how I connect more dots every time I read it.

I need to see the film again. Now. And read American Psycho so I can get to know Sean's big brother, Patrick.

forty-six.

the Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermoût (1958)

Felicia returns to the spice garden in the Moluccas where she spent her childhood together with her infant son. Her grandmother is as strange as she was when Felicia was young. She refused to call her Felicia because she disliked that her parents had given her a happy name when they didn't know if she was happy, and therefore called her just granddaughter.  She has a curiosity cabinet full of strange things which she collects for Felicia's son. And then there are the three little dead girls who play in the sand.

From there the story moves on to other people on the island, both native and visitors. It is a strange tale, dealing with indigenous beliefs and superstitions meeting the European traditions. But it turned out to be another  beautifully written book which left no significant impression on me. I can't quite put the finger on why or how, but I had a hard time concentrating on the 208 pages. I guess I just get lost in the prose.

I became curious about this book after reading about it in Wild by Cheryl Strayed; it was one of the books she read on the Pacific Crest Trail. 


I have another similar book, the Tea Lords by Hella S. Haasse, and I'm hoping that one will be better, because it's interesting to read literature from the former Dutch colonists.

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