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Posts tagged ‘Great Gatsby’

And the list keeps growing……

romance 2I know I have not written in a while and I have a perfect excuse for that! I was too busy reading – gosh! I have been reading and reading and reading and I know you are thinking what the hell is new about that, but it’s just that I have never tried reading 7 books in one go and some of the plot lines are now overlapping each other and sometimes need revisiting! Remember I have a full-time job in a financial institution where they thrive by drinking my blood (and some more poor souls like me) with a straw and a pink cocktail umbrella (No! I do not exaggerate! Try working in a hardcore financial corporate sector with a double personality of a writer inside you!) On top of that there has been some severe personal crisis, including several verbose conversations with Mr Soulmate that left us both of ranting mad at each other! (Don’t hold your breath…we are at peace now! At least I think I am at peace can’t say about him. I have discovered we hold very different ideas of what constitute war or peace and what should or should not be a matter of war or peace!)

 
After all the moaning about my misfortunes, let me get down to the part I can be really effusive about – what all books am I reading?
1. Great Expectation by Charles Dickens. This is part of The Classic Club May Spin series. In fact I just finished reading about it today and was in too minds about whether to write about the books or generally continue with my random nonsense! As you can see, random nonsense won! However my next blog will be completely dedicated to discussing this work, so come armed!
2. Game of Throne  by George R.R. Martin – Sigh! I know! I know! HBO premiered the series 2 years back and I must have lived in dark ages; but really I seem to catch up on fads very late. I got hooked on to Harry Porter nearly 4 years after the first book was published. There is something that recoils in me from reading up anything that is cried up by a large section of the population. However I did develop an obsession for Harry Porter and now seem to be well on my way on developing similar craziness for Game of Throne
3. Citadel by Kate Mosse – I picked it up on a whim. I really liked her Labyrinth; it was fresh and original and I loved the Cather history to which I was introduced to! I hated her Sepulcher; I never understood what it stood for and what it tried to say and was quite sick of Leonie. So the third book seemed to be a decider and I decided that though Citadel is definitely better than Sepulcher, it is fails in comparison to Labyrinth. I picked it up because it was about women and World War II and France…looks like a great ingredients for a great book! But it was not a complete read – I did not warm to Sandrine Vidal and I did not and could not feel the chemistry between her and Raul and then there is all this running around for the Codex and Ghosts and what not and all of it quite unnecessary. It could have been a simple and brilliant tale of women in the French Résistance but instead it became a muddle of Ancient Rome, Ghosts and stereotypical Nazis!
4. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – I love Elizabeth Gaskell and think of her as one the most gifted authors of Victorian era.  I have just reached the part where Margaret and her family are moving to Darkshire leaving behind their beloved Helstone. The book has immense promise and I hope to finish it before soon. Hopefully, I will be able to dedicate another exclusive blog to Ms. Gaskell
5. The Other Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Ever since revisiting The Great Gatsby, I have developed a I won’t say a passion, but a certain soft corner for Fitzgerald. This was his first novel and as I wade through it, I discover the sparks of satire and prose that would mark his later works. I would do a separate review of this as well!
6. The Crisis in European Minds by Paul Hazard – I was introduced to this by Stephanie and will again be in her debt for making me read something marvelously original, intuitive and brilliant! If you have taste for history/sociology, then this book is an absolute must!
7. The Seven Wonders by Steven Saylor – This is an easy read picked primarily for light reading before I crash. It’s set in 92 B.C.  and Gordianus has turned 18 and is undertaking an educational journey to the seven wonders of the ancient world and is accompanied by his tutor who is none other than Antipater of Sidon. As student and teacher travel across the ancient world, there is a murder, some witches and a lot of sleuthing. Told you, it’s light reading

That’s my reading list for the week! I must admit the books staved off some of the more frustrating moments at work and held me back when I was an inch away from throwing the fattest volume at Mr Soulmate – after all I had yet to read it and did not want to damage the volume. And yes! It’s a joke and no, neither of us indulges in violence; unless you call God of War (Yes! The bloody game that he is so bloody fond off! )  violence, which I do, but then that’s another story!

World War II, Victorian Art…some highs and some lows

Recently I read two back to back works of historical fiction set during World War II. The period of 1900 1950 has always fascinated me and any work set in that era, predisposes me to like the book, even before I read it. It’s a kind of a blind spot with me. Therefore with some pleasant anticipation I set out to read –

Let me first tackle The Shell Seekers. Most of the circumstances were in favor and had me predisposed to really like this book – it seemed like one of those epic family saga, with a story interwoven between present and the World War II era, with a lot of emphasis on paintings and the Bohemian era of British artistry. Besides, it was in my Lecito List and is part of BBC Top 100- The Big Read, along with such noteworthy works like The Great Gatsby and Catch 22 etc. How could I not possibly like the book??

Well there is an old adage – never judge a book by its cover! I have invented a new one – never judge a book by reading its inlay cover: it’s completely misleading.

The Shell SeekersDon’t get me wrong, the book was all that the inlay cover claimed – it traces the life and times of the Keeling family as they plan to make their way in the world by selling the last remaining works of their grandfather – Lawerence Stern, a great Victorian artist, whose popularity was getting revived again. However standing between their grand ambitions and the works is their mother – Penelope Keeling, the only daughter of Lawerence Stern and the primary protagonist of the book. The book evolves through her memories, each chapter focusing on an important figure in her life, sweeping between past and present. The past takes the reader back to the bohemian childhood of hers and then through the war time romance and brings the reader back to present where she develops a strong bond with two young strangers over her avaricious children.  The book ends with Penelope’s death and the disclosure of her will which leaves her inheritors astounded.

The book has some absolutely marvelous description of Cornwall and like many before makes the reader go and settle there for good and never come back.  There are some very fine details of costumes and food of the bygone era. It’s an easy read and will not stress the reader out too much.

But that’s where all the good stuff of the book ends!

This book is singularly one of the most disappointing reads of my life. I started it off with such expectation, but it was a letdown. I am not sure how this book came to be termed as one of the big reads of all times!!

The novel had so much potential, simply because of the historical backdrop and the subject of Victorian paintings, but it all seemed wasted.  To begin with, the book had such a superficial narrative of World War II: the heroine joins the war effort because she is moved by the story of some Jewish refugees from Germany. But she promptly then meets a man, gets pregnant and marries him, only to discover, Alleluia, the marriage is a disaster! Her parents are supposed to be completely free-spirited and are ready to accept her and her unborn child, but she still goes ahead and marries this man, for no clear reason. Then of course, during the course of the war she has a clichéd love affair with the perfect man – a man who understands art and reads poetry and can play with her daughter and is a paragon of virtue! (Do such men really exist? Also would it not be boring to be constantly with a man who is so PERFECT!!!! Besides shouldn’t opposites attract?) Not only she has an affair, but the town seems to bless it and by then 18th page of this chapter, you know this affair is doomed and when you reach the end of the chapter – surprise surprise – it’s doomed!! She is supposed to be this strong independent character, but until she becomes an old woman, I do not see any independence in her – she is constantly dependent on her parents and friends! Then come her children who all are supposed to be greedy and materialistic, except one Olivia and she also does not seem completely human and is constantly reminding herself to be human! I mean Duh! The day I have to remind myself to be humane and kind, well then there is something wrong with mankind. Even the references to the Victorian arts are artificial and inconsequential – with such prodigious material available on the paintings of that time, a little more depth would have helped the book.

In the end, I do not think it’s a work to be handed down to posterity nor should it stand with the likes of The Lord of the Rings and War and Peace. It’s one of those novels that you read on a flight and leave it on the plane!

The only impressive thing was not related to the book, but the author – Rosamunde Pilcher. She had written since 1950’s in various Mills & Boon Romance publications, but it was at the age of 60 that she wrote The Shell Seekers and gained worldwide fame. It’s remarkable how she shed her comfort zone at a very late age in her life and of course the risk paid off – though I still do not like the book!

No review of mine can be short and I bid adieu on this blog with a faithful promise that I will inflict my readers again with my take on The Baker’s Daughter.

Once upon a time in the Jazz Age…..

I finally finished reading The Great Gatsby and my first reaction is – why the hell did I wait so long to read this magnificent work??? Why the hell did I believe that this very stereotypical tale would be written in same trite manner set in an era and country that in itself continues to make people curious and on this lay the principal reasons for popularity of the book alone? I was so wrong!!

I think one of the main reasons which made me hesitant to pick up this book was the fact that at a very young and a very impressionable age, I had read Tender is the Night and really dislike it. Somewhere in my sub-conscience, I knew that as a connoisseur of literature, I should give this book a try and in fact had borrowed it from the library at least twice and bought a copy more than year ago…but until today, I just did not summon the courage to read it. But now that I have, I must own, I am blown away.  I am humbled and in complete awe of the immense talent of Scott Fitzgerald that he could take an oft-repeated tale and turn it into something beautiful, tragic and a cathartic experience.

the-great-gatsby-by-beckisaurusrexxI am sure almost everyone is familiar with the story of The Great Gatsby. The story is told from the point of view of Nick Carraway, an educated, wealthy and a sincere Mid-Western, and begins with his moving to East, New York to work for Bonds. He is soon re-acquaints himself with Buchanan’s, Daisy being his second cousin and Tom being his senior at college. The Buchanan’s are typical products of the Jazz Era, with loads of money and restlessness. They had travelled in Europe, lived in Chicago, before moving to New York. At the very onset of the novel, it is made clear that Tom Buchanan is a libertine and keeps a mistress, Myrtle Wilson, who is the wife of the garage owner, George Wilson, who services Tom Buchanan’s car. Nick also becomes friendly with the mysterious Jay Gatsby, his extremely wealthy neighbor, with a reputation of having killed a man and a host to lavish parties, through which he hardly appears and is rarely seen by the party attendees. Nick soon discovers a past between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan and soon this past comes to become the present of the lives of the two, with tragic results ends with Nick moving back to the West, with the conclusion that Tom, Jay, Daisy and he himself, were all at the heart westerners and that’s why none of them could get completely comfortable under the skin of East.

What makes this book wonderful is the word portrayals and characterization. For instance when Nick first describes Gatsby “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the “creative temperament”–it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.”  Through the book, while Gatsby and Daisy are the principal figures, the author also subtly delineates the character of Nick Carraway, who is presented as a contrast to all the denizens of East, with his sincerity and true sophistication that comes through.  It is Nick Carraway’s own admission that comes as a proof of his honesty of character “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life”. Fitzgerald is at his best as he masterfully creates verbal imageries and brings home to the reader the irony of the tale, with a gentle disapproval of his generation and their conduct. His description of George Wilson and Tom Buchanan making similar discoveries about their wives is presented with an illuminating insight “I realized that so far his suspicions hadn’t alighted on Tom. He had discovered that Myrtle had some sort of life apart from him in another world and the shock had made him physically sick. I stared at him and then at Tom, who had made a parallel discovery less than an hour before–and it occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well. In fact the book is filled with such piercing observation – “Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead”.

I know I have quoted practically the complete book, but the very beauty of the book lies in the words – used so subtly, yet so powerfully as to make one speechless and instead quote forth the book. In the end, all I can say is, this is a must read and I am only sorry that I made my acquaintance with this masterpiece, so many years later! The preface, (which I always read after reading the novel, since they create half-baked ideas that intrude into the tale) describes how on its first publication, the book was deemed a failure and only after it was distributed to the soldiers during World War II that it began to rise in popularity! I am once again amazed how a worthy work, gains all the value, when it is deemed completely value less.

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