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Posts tagged ‘Book’

Sorting the Farm & the Family

Do you think your current mood affects the reading of the book? I have always used books as an escape from the more mundane reality. In books, I have lost myself and let go of my angst, anger, worries etc. They are my single source of wisdom, entertainment and getaway, all rolled into one. However, I have realized that there are some extenuating circumstances that may effect the reading of the book and may impact how you interpret and like the book! To get to specifics, instead of meandering across the literature -philosophy globe, I recently re-read Stella Gibbon’s Cold Comfort Farm. It was lying around and in a idle moment I picked it up and started re-reading. I had previously read in 2013 and had not really caught what the hullabaloo was about. I was unable to catch the jokes or the parody and on finishing the book, was not particularly satisfied or even happy. However in hindsight I realize that the timing was all wrong – while books provide a wonderful break from reality, some realities are too harsh to just turn away from. I had read the book 2013, just a couple of weeks after being ignominiously dumped practically at the alter, in favor of someone else and life, especially for the last quarter of that year had become a blur, where I can hardly recollect anything, let alone make discerning judgement about books! Fast forward 3 years down the line, I am again back to being sane and rational and a good time as any to think about Cold Comfort Farm!

After the death of her parents, 19 year old Flora Poste, discovers that she is left penniless by her father and while she was very well educated in schools that lay stress on intellectual development and sports, she is not qualified for any job that could help her earn her living. She comes up with an innovative solution to resolve her dilemma; she decides to write to her relatives, asking them for a home, she could share and once she is at their home, she would organize their life in a manner best suited for them. She finally resolves on living with her relatives the Starkadders, who reside in the distant Cold Comfort Farm in Sussex. On arriving at the farm, Flora realizes that there are a host of people who need her intervention – Amos, the patriarch who is also a brim and hell fire preacher, his wife Judith, who is the actual cousin to Flora and who has a unhealthy passion for her own son Seth; Seth, who lounges about claiming to be the Don Juan of the neighborhood with a secret passion for films; Ruben, his older brother who only wants to take charge of the farm; Elfine, their sister, an intellectual and nature loving girl, in love with local squire and finally Ado Doom, the formidable aunt of Flora Poste and the ruling mad matriarch of the Starkadders, who controls the lives and finances of the entire Starkadder family and their extended farm hands. There is much to be done and Flora sets about sorting everyone’s life out with daring and imagination and in the process, discover what she really wants out of life!

What can I say about the book, except to say I was a complete nincompoop to have missed all the joy, humor and plotting of this mind-blowing work! In Flora Poste,  the author had created an extremely sensible and unapologetic heroine, a mix between Austen’s Emma and Elizabeth, with sense a great dose of sense of humor and complete irreverence to all that is considered holy and sacrosanct! Flora Poste goes about her plan with complete aplomb, without turning a hair as newer challenges are thrown over and over her projects. You have to love her for her sheer guts, if nothing else.The rest of the ensemble does justice to the book and in creating characters like Seth, Ruben and Mr. Mybug, Ms. Gibbons created a very obvious love out loud parody to all rural novels from Hardy to Lawrence. They are funny and yet very believable characters adding a layer of fun and warmth to a already wonderful plot! The plot lines around sukebinds and woodsheds is yet another witty take off on the standard rural novels! I loved that the plot was set in some future with flying cars and phones where you could see the person you were talking to and Anglo- Nicarguan wars; without stepping into the relm of science fiction, the author with these minor touches, creates an atmosphere which is a lot like what life was in 1930s and yet very different! Finally, a big hats off to Gibbon’s humor; enough cannot be said about her brilliant wit and scathing sarcasm. I loved the way she kept denouncing intelligence among women, through Flora, all the while using all kinds of literary references and common sense based actions to show the acute and scintillating brilliance of Flora and show casing the double standards that society expect from women.

I cannot rant enough about this book and I cannot even begin to compare with the heaps of praises that this book has justly received. The only thing I can say is….please go read the book if you have not done so already! And DO NOT read it during a life crisis; it is perfect as time away from minor irritants and daily nuisances!

 

Hail To The Great Women…..

The Classic Club is hosting a brilliant event through 2016 called Women’s Classic Literature Event. The idea is to read classic literature by female authors and share your thoughts! The fun part is you do not have to wait for January, for the Club decided that Christmas had come early and opened the event on October 09 2015…so super yay! It goes without saying that I will be participating, the only problem I do face as of now is what all to read…more like there is so much and I don’t want to leave out ANYTHING! Therefore in a rare moment of wisdom, I have decided to take one book at a time and I will kick of the event with North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. This book was part of my Reading England project and now it snugly fits into Women’s Classic Literature event as well. I plan to read it through November and I am super excited as I had been waiting to read this FOREVER!

Moving on, as part of the same event, the club has brought out a survey for its members to complete; this survey is naturally based around Women in Classics and I am sorely tempted to attempt it, though I am ridiculously bad at these things! I never seem to remember the pertinent things in a timely manner and later I go through these huge moments of “Oh! Damm! I should have said that!!!”  However, the survey is far too interesting to give up without any struggle and with a quaking heart, I venture forth-

The Survey

Introduce yourself. Tell us what you are most looking forward to in this event.

For those of you who already do not know, (that sounds incredibly pompous!) I am Cirtnecce – part time Project Delivery Leader, full time (constantly hoping and NOT in any order) Writer, Reader, Traveler and Foodie! To say I love reading is a ridiculous understatement – I cannot remember a time I did not read and I hope I never live to see a day when I cannot read! Books are what sustain me and what makes me!  I am really excited about this event and what I looking forward to is reading works of some lesser known female authors, especially outside of the Anglo-American belt.

 

Have you read many classics by women? Why or why not?

I have read a significant amount of Classics by women, but I know there are many more brilliant works out there which I have never tried. One of the main reasons is that many of these works are not easily accessible, especially in my part of the world. Even e-books are have limited number of such works available, making it kind of hard to diligently follow up on these readings.

 

Pick a classic female writer you can’t wait to read for the event, & list her date of birth, her place of birth, and the title of one of her most famous works.

I have been kind of scared of reading Virginia Woolf for sometime; however most of the readers that I respect assure me that I will LOVE To the Lighthouse! So here’s hoping, I get to reading atleast one work (I am guessing Lighthouse) Adeline Virginia Woolf, born 25th January 1882, at Hyde Park Kensington England

 

Think of a female character who was represented in classic literature by a male writer. Does she seem to be a whole or complete woman? Why or why not? Tell us about her. (Without spoilers, please!)

This is a toss-up between Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorn and Esther Summerson from Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I think both the characters embody the complete and true identity of woman – they display courage in the worst circumstance and they refuse to give on life and move on until they have improved not only their own lives, but lives of others, dependent on them by sheer force of will and quiet strength!

 

Favorite classic heroine? (Why? Who wrote her?)’

This has undergone so many changes over the years, so I quote directly from one of my old posts – Like many others, I began by absolutely admiring Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen…I still do; I love her pride, sense of doing the right thing, even accepting her own folly. However over the years, others have joined her company – Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte; as a teenager, when I read the book, I was not particularly impressed by the namby pamby Jane Eyre and her stiff upper lip stance. I wanted fire and courage in my heroines and Jane was a calm stream of water. But re-reading the book during an interesting phase of my life (The Willoughby phase!), I realized how much of strength it takes for an ordinary governess to stand up to a Mr Rochester – to demand to be treated as an equal and what’s more to seek respectability and honesty in a relationship, even when your heart is breaking. And finally Mrs. March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and though she may not be the primary heroine, there is a lot to look upto her – here is a gentlewoman who is no longer in the comfortable circumstances she was originally born or married to, yet she tries her best to single handedly bring up four,  albeit difficult daughters, manage a household with diminishing funds, and yet instil joy and faith among all. It requires a lot of courage, what I call quiet courage to face the world everyday alone bravely. She is first single mother of modern literature and by far the most intelligent, kind and strongest of them all.

We’d love to help clubbers find great titles by classic female authors. Can you recommend any sources for building a list? (Just skip this question if you don’t have any at this point.)

I love this list by Feminista! 100 Great 20th Century Works of Fiction by Women –http://www.thebookescape.com/Feminista.html

I also recommend this list by Buzzfeed :  http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariannarebolini/howmany-of-the-greatest-books-by-women-have-you-read#.mw2bXVXWG

Recommend three books by classic female writers to get people started in this event. (Again, skip over this if you prefer not to answer.)

Well I am sure most of us have read all of these three authors, but I still believe these writers are a good place to start –

  • Jane Austen
  • Charlotte Bronte
  • Willa Cather

Will you be joining us for this event immediately, or will you wait until the New Year starts?

I think I have already answered this question right at the start of this blog…I cannot wait till January and I plunge right in with Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South

Do you plan to read as inspiration pulls, or will you make out a preset list?

I love lists, and usually try and stick to it, but then something catches my eye and the list goes awry, so this one time, I am not doing any lists. I will completely go with inspirations and whatever catches my fancy at that moment in time!

 

Are you pulling to any particular genres? (Letters, journals, biographies, short stories, novels, poems, essays, etc?)

In no order of significance, this is what I will most likely end up reading vis-à-vis genre – novels. Essays, short stories and poems; but then I may surprise myself and read a series of journals, but as of now the above looks like a plan!

 

Are you pulling to a particular era or location in literature by women?

Even without trying, I know I will gravitate between the years of 1800-1945, however I would try and spread my readings out, but knowing my previous tendencies, I am not sure this is one commitment I will be able to hold on to.

 

Do you hope to host an event or readalong for the group? No worries if you don’t have details. We’re just curious!

I have not planned any as of now!

 

Is there an author or title you’d love to read with a group or a buddy for this event? Sharing may inspire someone to offer.

I think considering my apprehensions about Woolf, I would love to join a reading group or get a buddy to encourage me to start and then finish To the Lighthouse!

 

Share a quote you love by a classic female author — even if you haven’t read the book yet.

There are so many, but I decided to go with one of the more understated ones – this was one of the earliest hurrays celebrating the independence of woman, liberating her from the traditional requirements of husband, home and hearth for occupation; and naturally, it was written by the inimitable Jane Austen in Emma – “If I know myself, Harriet, mine is an active, busy mind, with a great many independent resources; and I do not perceive why I should be more in want of employment at forty or fifty than one-and-twenty. Woman’s usual occupations of eye and hand and mind will be as open to me then as they are now; or with no important variation. If I draw less, I shall read more; if I give up music, I shall take to carpet-work. And as for objects of interest, objects for the affections, which is in truth the great point of inferiority, the want of which is really the great evil to be avoided in not marrying, I shall be very well off, with all the children of a sister I love so much, to care about. There will be enough of them, in all probability, to supply every sort of sensation that declining life can need. There will be enough for every hope and every fear

Finally, ask the question you wish this survey had asked, & then answer it.

No…I think the survey is quite complete! 

On Becoming a Brook…

I know I have taken another one of my hiatus from blogosphere, but that can be completely attributed to my illness which kind of took a turn for worse this one month and threw all my grand plans and projects in a tail spin.  It was hardly a pleasant time and I am glad some part of it is over. And therefore I am back and ready with my endless prattle and updates and all the unbound enthusiasm of embracing everything that I can fathom!

I could do a book review of the several that I read over the last month, but since this is kind of like my welcome back blog, I thought I will keep it light and frothy and kind of give you a breezy update on all the “exciting” things that have happened in my life!

I naturally read a lot during these weeks – some of the books on top of my head which I read through were Paris by Edward Rutherford, Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCright, Miss Majoribanks by Margaret Oliphant, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, Perfume y Patrick Suskind, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, a travelogue called Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller by Raza Rumi and finally two on history – The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman and the iconic Band of Brother by Stephen Ambrose. I have also been reading some poetry and have discovered anew love for Emily Dickinson (whom I always loved) but also a respect and deep enjoyment for Tennyson. Maybe because he is optimistic and forward and his descriptions are so idyllic, whatever from not liking Tennyson to devouring Tennyson has been needless to say a very pleasant journey. Regarding the books, naturally you will be subjected to the reviews in the upcoming weeks!

Speaking of Band of Brothers, I finally watched the series during my illness – one of those days when I was too weak to even read and yes, I know it’s more than 10 years old and where was I burying my head and all that. My only apology is that it was first aired when I began college and being new in dorm, I did not want force my audienceship on all. Anyway the only thing that I was trying to say is I loved the series; the fact that it was a historical piece naturally helped; but I think one of the main reasons why I so loved it was the authenticity and the lack of one man ship – since the series was based on a company of soldiers and not a piece of fiction, there was no one hero, but rather a company of heroes. And yes, I read the book first and saw the series later!

I will end here and I will confess – I was kind of worried that after not writing for more than a month, I will struggle to put words on paper; but I have made a profound discovery, that if you really like doing something, you will thrive, no matter how and no matter where. And while, practice does improve the form and the application, the original self-sustaining love of what one does, will carry one through, through ages!

On that very happy note, I will leave you with a poem by (Yup! You guessed it) Lord Tennyson – I especially found these lines very close to my heart (I have highlighted them in bold) and thought was apt for the occasion – I will chatter and survive!

THE BROOK – By: Alfred Tennyson

I come from haunts of coot and hern,

I make a sudden sally,

And sparkle out among the fern,

To bicker down a valley.

By thirty hills I hurry down,

Or slip between the ridges,

By twenty thorps, a little town,

And half a hundred bridges.

Till last by Philip’s farm I flow

To join the brimming river,

For men may come and men may go,

But I go on forever.

I chatter over stony ways,

In little sharps and trebles,

I bubble into eddying bays,

I babble on the pebbles.

With many a curve my banks I fret

by many a field and fallow,

And many a fairy foreland set

With willow-weed and mallow.

I chatter, chatter, as I flow

To join the brimming river,

For men may comeand men may go,

But I go on forever.

I wind about, and in and out,

with here a blossom sailing,

And here and there a lusty trout,

And here and there a grayling,

And here and there a foamy flake

Upon me, as I travel

With many a silver water-break

Above the golden gravel,

And draw them all along, and flow

To join the brimming river,

For men may come and men may go,

But I go on forever.

I steal by lawns and grassy plots,

I slide by hazel covers;

I move the sweet forget-me-nots

That grow for happy lovers.

I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,

Among my skimming swallows;

I make the netted sunbeam dance

Against my sandy shallows.

I murmur under moon and stars

In brambly wildernesses;

I linger by my shingly bars;

I loiter round my cresses;

And out again I curve and flow

To join the brimming river,

For men may come and men may go,

But I go on forever.

Random Notes on Illness, Books and Love…

I have been so ill…for the last two weeks I have been confined to my bed with multiple disorders including a low blood cell count that has led to such weakness that standing on one’s own two feet for more than a minute is risky (On account my loosing balance and falling) I have not been this ill, ever in my adult life – never been this sick to be unable to stand, write or even read. Anything remotely difficult or challenging makes my head ache and eyes water…I mean Shakespearean Sonnets are not even difficult but there, cannot read it!

It is times like this one really misses one’s true blessings – never a very active child (I mean physically! I hated sports, though I was always active enough to run around the house doing all I want!)I was never weak and this past two weeks I am all namby pamby . Make me lift the serving spoon and my arms ache. Make me walk from my bedroom to the drawing-room and my head spins! I hate not having control over my body which in turn impacts how much I have control over my mind and me losing control over my mind – a very very bad thing! But now as I write this post, I miss the strength and the stamina to go on and on. In a brief spell of time, I seem to have become this wishy-washy person who is no longer in charge of her life and this makes feel worse because I never really appreciate good health and stamina as something that makes life better! Now of course, I know better and once I get back to my old self I am going to make sure I never go back down this road again!

What have I been doing these last two weeks – no prizes for guessing: reading? I read Conn Igulden’s War of Roses, I read Arnold Bennett’s The Grand Babylon Hotel,  I read Claire Benson’s Murder at Sissingham Hall, I re-read all the Harry Potters (Trust me there is no better antidote to bad humor or ill health) as well as all the feel good classics – Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Jane Eyre and Little Women. I also started on New Grub Street by George Gissing and am loving it. Somebody should do a study in sick room and reading patters – me thinks it will show a lot about the psychology of the person and may even give correct prognosis about by when the sick person will be healed (I know the last part is a very 19th century, but one never knows! These days I am trying to live with a mind over matter principle, because I would otherwise be unable to get through simple tasks of the day like taking a bath!)

The only upside of this illness is again to make me aware how blessed I am. As you can figure out, I am pretty ill and incapable of simple acts like cooking cleaning etc. My parents are very old and 2500km away from where I stay so dragging them so far is out of question. My sister is in teacher’s conference and out of the country….so who is taking care of me at home (I refuse to be admitted at the hospital; I am sure I will become more sick!!!) My flatmate/my best friend/my mentor all rolled into one. Very rarely does one come across in life a friend who puts his or her life on hold for your sake – well I am truly blessed to have her. She has taken care of my meals, ensures I eat the right stuff at the right time, cooking, cleaning and managing my ill humors when they raise their head! She has been an angle though she hates the comparison and would rather be called a mysterious la elegante damsel. Well damsel or not she was my knight in shining armour and I am so blessed to have her in my life. The doctor said that my body was reacting to some unpleaseant shock which may have happened months ago but to which I did not react properly then and its coming out now. I can think of what happened and now that I think back, I did bounce on my feet very early, perhaps a bit too early! However if betrayal and dishonesty were the root of my illness, surely the love and care of my flatmate, my friends and all my well-wishers (and trust me I have many for I was besieged during this illness with cards, flowers, calls and a genuine wish on everybody’s part to actually help me!!) should serve as the protective shield against any such damage.  May be it’s my illness that’s making me maudlin or too much of Dumbldore’s advice (When you read 7 Harry Potters in two days, Dumbledore is as real as it gets! Besides wisdom is wherever you want to see it) but love does make a person a whole lot better!!!

P.S. I will for sure go back to review of all the books I have read from next week – big time catch up needs to be done!!

A Stormy Night Adventure!

It was late in the day and I had not yet decided the book I was going to read for The Classic Club Readathon 2014. I had specifically declined all social engagement and had cooked enough food to last the entire weekend on Friday, so I could devote January 4th for the Readathon. I had piled up enough coffee/tea/wine and nuts to see me through the day and I was all set – except for the book. I just could not decide on what book to read! I wavered between re-reading Daphne Du Maurer‘s “Rebecca” which I had not re-read in a long time. I also mulled over reading Charles Dickens’s “A Tale of Two Cities” and Wilkie Collin’s “The Moonstone” or I could try something new like Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” or Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Other Side of Paradise”. While I wavered and thought and re-read the synopsis of all the books and discarded one in favor of the other, only to return to the original again, Fate or God or could be both, I think disgusted with my indecision, decided to take matter in their own hand and raged such a storm that all wires went down and the valley where I stay was plunged in darkness. Inquires reveled that we would be stuck in this powerless/internet less world for next couple of hours to come! Oh! Joy!

Considering the situations, Du Maurer, Chopin and Fitzgerald were out as they were all in my Kindle and the battery was low and would not last me through the night. I could go for Dicken’s  but the print was too small for reading in candle light and I have enough Myopia to last me a lifetime without tempting it more. So it was Wilkie Collin’s “The Moonstone”. As I hovered at my bookshelf to draw out the Volume in a la Lady with a Lamp style, I noticed a slim volume, right next to “The Moonstone”. I drew it out and realized it was H. Rider Haggard’s “King Solmon’s Mines”. Now shocking as this may sound, I had not read this book. I had read “She” by Ridder Haggard and I had read “The Lost World” by Author Conan Doyle, and Joseph Conrad’s “The Heart of Darkness” but I somehow had missed reading the very first of the lost settlement writing. The original Africa adventure tale! So without further debate, I settled down to read this much neglected and overlooked book, discarding all the original thought through options! Ah! Such is life – man proposes and God/Fate disposes!

Anyway, enough philosophy, here goes the tale of reading the tale –

Allan Quatermain, a nearing 60 Elephant hunter is the narrator of the tale and he describes of an adventure that began about 18 months ago when aboard a ship that was sailing to Durban, he met Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good. They are in a quest to find Sir Curtis’s brother, who was last seen by Allan Quatermain couple of months ago, heading for the mysterious mountains across the desert in search of the fabled Solmon’s diamond mine. It was said that no man survived the journey and no one returned alive from the mountain. Sir Curtis and Captain Good solicit Allan Quatermain’s expertise in the journey; along the way a Zulu named Umbopa who though acts as a servant and general man Friday joins their journey. It is clear that Umbopa has some mysterious questof his own that he seeks to fulfill through this journey.  Travelling through the desert and after various adventures and desperate condition, they reach the Kukanaland; through some glib talking and the magic of modern science including the set of false teeth and use of a gun, the three white men convince the Kukanaland people of being godly creatures from “the stars”. Kukuanaland though extremely organized and well maintained is ruled by the cruel King Twala with the help of the witch Gogool. Twala gained the throne after murdering his brother and running out his brother’s widow and young son out of Kukuanaland into desert where they both are presumed death. After many blood shedding ceremonies which were apparently in honor of the “white men from the stars”, Umbopa reveals his identity and order is restored in Kukuanaland by killing of Tawala. The original three then continue their quest for the mines and the consequences there off forms the climax of the story.

Needless to say this is one thrilling adventure tale, more so when read through a stormy dark night, especially when cut of s from modern civilized amenity like electricity and internet. However, taking away the ‘atmospheric’ element of the story, there is no getting away from the fact that this is wonderful yarn. I am not generally in favor of hunting Treasure Islandy tales, but this book is so much more than that. To say the King Solmon’s Mines is an adventure tale, is over simplification of the worst kind.

Though written in simple direct everyday language (it is the everyday language of 1880s), the tale grips the reader by the collar and does not let go, with its turbulent highs and lows. There is enough humor to break the tension and it is woven through the tale in such finesse that its breaks the tension just when the reader is about to bite off his fingers (by now you have chewed through your nails!) with some laugh out loud moments. It also raises some very interesting questions that have more than a shade of political and social commentary in it. For instances, right at the beginning Allan Quatermain describing himself, asks “What is a gentleman?” and then debates through this question in some way or form through the tale. Then when talking about African, he writes the word “nigger” and then scratches it out saying that he will never use such a term to describe African race. There is also the question of equality when Allan Quatermain upbraids Umbopa for use of imprudent speech when talking to Sir Curtis and Umbopa replies that how does Allan Quatermain know that Umbopa is not of equal rank as Sir Curtis in his own land and may be enen a superior? Though there is stereotypical barbarism of the Africa in the blood rites and cruelty displayed by Tawala and Googol, it far limited and written from the 19th century perspective hardly any commentary is passed on the superiority of the Europeans over Africans. In fact, there is much to admire that comes through Ridder’s description of the level of organization of Kukanaland Army or the noble conduct of many of its inhabitants. He even includes an inter-racial romance between Foulata a girl from Kukuanaland and Captain Good; but is candid enough to question how it will survive in a conservative 19th century England society, though he is full of admiration for Foulata. There is enough questions raised on the relationship between Europeans and Africans at economic, political and social levels and goes beyond the pale of the standard cliche of superior white race showing civilization to backward communities.

As a predecessor to many such tales and adventure stories, I cannot help but say, it rightly stands out the original masterpiece. I am just very sorry to have read this so late in my life!

The Mystery of Life and All Those Big Questions…

Confession time and don’t raise your eyebrows – I am not about to disclose that I am giving up life to lead an ascetic life on the Himalayas nor am I going to give up my job to spend the remaining life as a poster painter of the streets of Paris. I have nothing against the ascetic living individuals or poster painters, especially the latter since it does kind of have a 1920s glamour associated with it, but I can’t imagine myself as creature deprived of home delivery, cab service and Kindle!

Anyway, as usual I digress; where was I? Oh! Yes! Confession time – I am a crier! As in a bawler! As in I cry over books and movies. I bawl and drown the world in my river of tears. For someone who takes life stoically and bounces through heartbreaks through cherry optimism which even I find nauseating in myself at times can spend hours crying when Elsa is left to fend for herself in the Jungle- yes Born Free! I cried buckets when Boo rescued Jem Finch and takes him home – yes To Kill a Mockingbird! I cried when Maria left without meeting the children – yes Sound of Music. Let’s not even get into the hours of uninterrupted tears shed on reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. My new year’s eve 2013 was ushered with me shedding buckets of tears for while reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I even cried when I understood how poor Snape repented through his life in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (I mean who cries while reading a Harry Potter? I do! I cried for one whole day when Sirius dies!) I am sure I forgetting a million others, but the point I am trying to drive home is that I CRY!!!!

One of my all-time favorites reads, which inevitably leads to a lot of crying, thereby increasing sales of Kleenex and I am so surprised I have never written about this book is called “Welcome to The Great Mysterious” by Lorna Landvik. I had never read Ms. Landvik before I picked up this book and I have never read anything since. But, boy! Am I glad that my flatmate picked up this book one summer afternoon three years ago when our community library was selling of some of its older collections due to space constrains.

The Great Mysterious” is not a mystery/thriller – in fact it is one of the best happy books that I have read – true there are some heartbreaking moments, especially around chapter 10 and 11 (My Kleenex quotient jumps from 3 to the whole box Now!) but in the end when you close the book, you will have a smile on your face.  The book is about dive Geneva Jordan, a broadway star who is in between projects and nursing a broken heart and menopause. It is at this serene moment of her life that her twin sister Ann, arm twists her into babysitting Ann’s 13 year old son Rich, while she and her professor husband take a much needed work/vacation for a month in Italy. Geneva Jordan is not particularly happy at the thought  of spending time in the back woods away from the glamour and comfort of New York where  she had decided on spending this time indulging herself and taking a much needed vacation while coming to terms with the crucial changes in her life. The other worry she had was that Rich suffers from Down Syndrome and she is not quite confident as to how she would manage such a child. After much pleading and emotional turmoil, she agrees to take on her nephews care and moves into her sister’s house for a month. It is there that her transformation begins – how she begins a warm relationship with its natural ups and downs with  her nephew Rich, new enriching friendships with Barb, who is mother to Rich’s best friend Conrad and James the mail man and the discovery of small joys that are far more beautiful than the most expensive indulgences. Intertwined with this journey of self-discovery via a memory book that a 13 year old Geneva and Ann created seeking to find answers to the big questions in life called “The Great Mysterious” and the understanding that all relationships have several layers and a person may not be the way they seem and that the past gives strength for living for the future, when you know how to look!

It is not, and I repeat NOT a pedantic book.  Written in an engaging first party narrative from the point of view of a very warm but very human Geneva Jordan, the book does not aim to be a high brow literature. Instead it tells you an unstoppable story which makes you turn page after page until you reach the end. It’s a funny book – there are many ha ha moments and critics can say that it’s a very linear story and far too simplistic etc. but the book is what it’s meant to be – an entertainer! There is nothing holier than thou or oh! look at the bright side of things and Down Syndrome is god’s gift etc etc. Instead it’s a joy ride of a book – where you laugh, scream and the cry your way through. It’s like talking to a great companion and realizing at the end of 2 hours, that the companion is actually a great friend to whom you can go back whenever you are happy or sad or just need company time after time!

And one more spin….

So the Classic Club has initiated another Classic Spin. The rules of course never change; same ol, same ol!
• Pick 20 Classics of your choice
• On Monday, i.e. Aug 19th, the Club will pick a number
• You read the book that you have marked against the number through August and September

Now the big question, will I do it again? I know the last time I was absolutely bowled over by Charles Dickens’s Great Expectation and was extremely grateful that the Spin had forced me to re-visit a book I was determined not to like since my first initiation with it at school. I loved the book as an adult and as everybody who visits the blog is aware, made me brave enough to venture forth to Bleak House. While all this is good, let’s not forget the lessons of the past and I had quite detested reading through Madam Bovary, my Classic Club Spin book for April and it reinforced all my first dislike for the book. The success rate is of course 50% and this one chance can heavily tilt the balance in favor of my future participation or non-participation in this activity!

Yes! I know! The nail baiting moment! The single instant in time on which the very direction of one’s life and destiny is to be decided!!! (Yes! I am aware that I am high on drama quotient!)

And the answer is – YES!!! (Yeah! I know! Big Surprise? What can we expect from an inveterate nerd???)
Let’s face it, the nerd bookish me loves books and a chance to offer a classic is like double chocolate icing on an ice cream cake! So how in the blazes could I let another such chance go? Besides, there is no denying that I am reading and redefining my opinions on books that I would not have otherwise touched!

This time I have decided to be a little more bold and adventurous and set forth in the brave new world! What that means in simple English is that this time to be free of all prejudices, I am listing books that I have never read and though I might have read other works of the author, the book listed below in themselves are complete uncharted waters!

So to the sound of rolling drums – here goes the Spin list
1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (I know I had listed this one as to read in July, but I never got around to it!)
3. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
4. Middlemarch by George Eliot
5. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
6. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí¬a Márquez
7. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
8. Wives and Daughter by Elizabeth Gaskell
9. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
10. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
11. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
12. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
13. King Solomon’s Mines by Henry Rider Haggard
14. My Antonia by Willa Cather
15. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
16. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
17. The Wings of Dove by Henry James
18. The Name of a Rose by Umberto Eco
19. A Room with a View by E.M Forster
20. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Let’s wait now for what faith decides on August 19th!

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