japaul22's attempt at 1001 books, part 3

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japaul22's attempt at 1001 books, part 3

1japaul22
Jan 12, 2019, 11:39am

Place holder for intro

2japaul22
Jan 12, 2019, 11:39am

#302 Quicksand by Nella Larsen

This was a great find from the 1001 books to read before you die list. The brief googling I did about Nella Larsen made me interested to read her work. She was an American writer in the 1920s and is considered part of the Harlem Renaissance. She was mixed race, with a black father, possibly of Caribbean descent, and a Danish immigrant mother. I had never heard of her, which I find sad.

Quicksand is largely autobiographical and explores Helga's search for identity. When the novel opens, Helga is teaching at a black college in the South. She quickly becomes disillusioned, though, and wonders what this closed community is really achieving or even trying to achieve. This disillusionment will follow Helga through all of the different communities she subsequently belongs to. She first goes back to Chicago, where she was raised, thinking she will get aid from her white Uncle who has helped her in the past. But he has a new wife who won't acknowledge Helga at all. Helga is helped by a wealthy black woman who gives her some connections in Harlem and Helga moves to New York. There she is happy at first, living among educated and creative black society, but she again becomes disillusioned, partially with their isolation from wider American culture. She travels to Denmark to live with her Aunt. There she is fully welcomed, but realizes that she is treated mainly like a novelty. At first she appreciates the freedom she has to fully participate in Danish society, unlike in America, but again she becomes disillusioned. So she returns to New York.

At the end she falls into the most common and expected trap of religion, marriage, and childbearing. A sad and disappointing ending for this bright and yearning young woman.

I found the writing beautiful and mature and the themes of race and belonging explored deeply and subtly. This was a really excellent surprise and I look forward to reading Nella Larsen's other novel, Passing.

Original publication date: 1928
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 132 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle edition, purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books group challenge

3paruline
Jan 14, 2019, 5:27pm

I also loved that one when I read it a few years ago.

4japaul22
Editado: Mar 3, 2019, 8:27pm

Pointed Roofs by Dorothy Richardson

Glutton for punishment that I am, I've decided to read Dorothy Richardson's Pilgrimage this year. This is a 13 part 2000 page semi-autobiographical novel told completely from the protagonist, Miriam's, point of view. Richardson is viewed as the first author (before Proust or Woolf) to attempt a stream of consciousness style. Her book didn't really catch as much attention as some think it should have considering the innovative style. One reason for that may have been that publishing a pro-German book in England 1915 just wasn't going to go over well.

Pointed Roofs introduces us to a young Miriam. She is seventeen and her family has fallen on hard times financially, so she decides to go to Germany as a governess to earn her keep. She ends up in a situation where she is living with a handful of other girls in a boardinghouse and she is responsible for teaching English. This mainly seems to consist of her listening to the German girls read in English and conversing with them in English. In between we hear Miriam's thoughts about living with so many women (not fun), wondering about her family back in England, cultural observations about Germany, and her lack of teaching skills.

I like Miriam. She seems to be the sort of person that is hard to get along with. She's sort of stand-offish and opinionated and not one to open up. But her voice and observations strike me as honest and authentic and I'm enjoying getting to know her.

Original publication date: 1915
Author’s nationality: English
Original language: English
Length: 185 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased Virago edition
Why I read this: 1001 books, group read

5japaul22
Fev 16, 2019, 4:34pm

#303 The Colour by Rose Tremain

A crazy work schedule is leaving me with no brains leftover to review right now. I did very much enjoy this historical fiction set during the New Zealand gold rush, late 1800s. If you like well-written historical fiction with a strong setting, good character development, and a strong female character, you'll probably like this.

Original publication date: 2003
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 352
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library book
Why I read this: 1001 books group read

6japaul22
Fev 27, 2019, 8:57pm

Backwater by Dorothy Richardson

Backwater is the second part of the 13 that make up her book, Pilgrimage. In this part, Miriam has come back to England after being a governess in a German school for young women. Now she is teaching in a school for younger girls, hired by the Misses Perne, two sisters. Miriam thinks about many topics that a teenage girl would - attraction to young men and feeling attractive to them, ideas about religion, reading novels late at night. She also finds out her mother needs surgery and their family can no longer afford the nice house they've been living in. So she needs to find a job that pays more than her current one. She resigns from her job and hopes to find a job as live-in governess to a wealthy family.

I liked this installment even more than the first. I'm getting used to Richardson's writing and finding a lot of insight and beauty in it. Looking forward to continuing on.

Original publication date: 1916
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 147 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased virago edition (not currently in print that I've found
Why I read this: 1001 books, group read

7japaul22
Mar 3, 2019, 8:27pm

Honeycomb by Dorothy Richardson
Honeycomb is the third volume in Richardson's Pilgrimage series. In this, Miriam attempts to make more money by being a governess in the wealthy home of the Corries. She is just responsible for the Corrie children and in her considerable free time, she reads, ponders life, and is introduced to the scandalous society of the Corries. She meets divorced couples and hears about Oscar Wilde and his trial for homosexuality. So her world seems both wider and smaller in this volume as she is introduced to a wider berth of society but is also confined to a country house.

I'm finding it interesting to think about her different teaching circumstances so far - in Germany as a companion to speak English with girls basically her age, in England at a boarding school with middle class girls, and now at an English estate with only one family of children. Her interactions with the outside world differs greatly in these three situations and of course the teaching itself is different as well.

In this novel, I felt like I lost Miriam's voice a little when she got so involved with thinking about the Corries and their friends. But then the last section completely turned that around. She goes home for the summer and two of her sisters marry and then she spends time at a seaside resort with her mother. In this section, Miriam's voice felt strong, authentic, and honest again to me.

I've now finished what is generally grouped as the first volume of this four volume/13 novel work. I'm very much enjoying it and I'm glad to have started this as my project for the year.

Original publication date: 1917
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 141 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books group read, year long project

8Simone2
Mar 14, 2019, 2:41pm

You’re racing through again! Great reviews. Regarding Nella Larsen, have you read Passing yet? It’s even better!

9japaul22
Mar 14, 2019, 3:34pm

>8 Simone2: No, not yet but I'd definitely like to get to it soon!

10japaul22
Abr 4, 2019, 8:27am

#304 Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata

This is a post-WWII Japanese novel, focused on a young man, Kikuji, who is in contact with two of his deceased father's former mistresses. One, Chikako, is trying to marry him to a young woman she knows, and the other, Mrs. Ota, he ends up having a sexual relationship with. When Mrs. Ota commits suicide, he becomes close to her daughter, Fumiko.

These relationships are all wrapped up in fine detail about tea ceremony and the bowls used in them. To be honest, I think it was all too foreign to me to really understand. I gathered that Kawabata was exploring the post-war cultural shift, but I didn't understand enough to know exactly what he was getting at. As always, Japanese novels seem very subtle to me - nothing is spelled out - so without the cultural knowledge that a Japanese reader would have I feel that I miss so much.

The writing is lovely and descriptions are beautiful, but I ended feeling a bit bewildered.

Original publication date: 1952
Author’s nationality: Japanese
Original language: Japanese
Length: 148 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: 1001 books

11japaul22
Abr 7, 2019, 8:06am

#305 Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Another brief novella by a Japanese author that I had on my kindle. This one is about a young woman who connects with a new family after her grandmother dies. She goes to live temporarily with a young man and his mother. She finds quickly that this beautiful mother is actually a man. This doesn't phase her, but I found it interesting that this book written in the 1980s was so accepting of this alternative life style.

The crux of the story is really whether or not the two young people will fall in love. The "kitchen" of the title references the narrator's obsession with kitchens and cooking.

I liked this quirky and cute novel.

Original publication date: 1983
Author’s nationality: Japanese
Original language: Japanese
Length: 152 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: 1001 books

12japaul22
Abr 13, 2019, 7:19am

The Tunnel by Dorothy Richardson

I feel like Richardson has really hit her stride in this 4th installment of Pilgrimage. Miriam's mother has died and she has struck out on her own, away from the traditional governess scene. Instead, Miriam gets a "room of her own" (yes she uses this term a decade before Woolf) in London and works as a secretary for a dental office. The descriptions of her office work are amusing as she tries to keep on top of everything. But, the real interest here is Miriam discovering London, going to concerts, and reading avidly. She wanders and bikes!! around London, meeting new people and observing the city. In her musings a streak of feminism is becoming more and more prevalent. She notices the limiting expectations on women and the differences between the sexes.

I was so struck in this novel that Virginia Woolf must have been influenced by this work. Miriam being out in London reminded me of Clarissa Dalloway and the importance of Miriam's own space both within her flat and in claiming London is also a prevalent them in Woolf's later work.

Richardson has come up with a unique style. It is all Miriam's point of view and to keep that narrow focus characters flit in and out, sometimes without much explanation of who they are. I think this was Richardson's way of keeping Miriam the focus, but it does make for challenging reading.

I'm really impressed with this work and so glad to be reading it.

Original publication date: 1919
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: American
Length: 287 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased used virago edition
Why I read this: 1001 books, group read

13japaul22
Abr 15, 2019, 6:12pm

Interim by Dorothy Richardson

In the 5th novel of Richardson's Pilgrimage, Miriam mainly observes others. Particularly noticeable was her rendering of different accents and pronunciations of the people she meets. This was spot on and amusing. There are new boarders in the house with her that provide a lot of this observation.

Also, her sister leaves her governess job with the Greens for a job in the city and her own apartment, presumably following in Miriam's footsteps. This doesn't work out for her, though, and she's back to governess-ing by the end of the novel. I'm sure this gives Miriam some personal satisfaction, that she can survive in London on her own despite it not being easy.

Miriam also gets her own bike - exciting! - and even more freedom.

Original publication date: 1919
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: American
Length: 163 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased used virago edition
Why I read this: 1001 books, group read

14japaul22
Abr 23, 2019, 1:33pm

#306 The Bunner Sisters by Edith Wharton

Having just finished a book set in Newport, RI, where one of the plot lines takes place during the Gilded Age, I was led to read a book by Wharton. The Bunner Sisters is the last entry of hers that I've not read from the 1001 books to read before you die list.

The Bunner Sisters is a brief novella that I felt packed quite a punch. Wharton strays from the world of the wealthy elite and instead explores the lives of two sisters living one small step away from poverty. They have a small shop in NYC and make just enough to get by and set a little aside. They are happy, but then meet Mr. Ramy and both sisters see a chance at marrying him and having a different life. Let's just say the novel doesn't end happily.

Towards the end of the book, this passage really summed up the moral of this novella. This is the thought of the older sister, who sets aside her desires to allow her younger sister a chance for a happy life.

Hitherto she had never thought of questioning the inherited principles which had guided her life. Self-effacement for the good of others had always seemed to her both natural and necessary; but then she had taken it for granted that it implied the securing of that good. Now she perceived that to refuse the gifts of life does not ensure their transmission to those for whom they have been surrendered; and her familiar heaven was unpeopled.

As always, I love Edith Wharton's writing.

Original publication date: 1916 (but written in 1890)
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 59 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: 1001 books

15japaul22
Maio 1, 2019, 8:43pm

#307 Fools of Fortune by William Trevor

I really like Trevor's writing. The style is simple and straightforward, but the plot and characters are always deeply drawn. This novel begins during the Irish war for independence in the early 1900s and introduces a family whose house is burnt down, killing several family members, by the Black and Tans. The aftermath of this for the remaining family members is the subject of the book.

Though I really liked this, it wasn't my favorite book by William Trevor, which remains The Story of Lucy Gault.

Original publication date: 1983
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 207 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books

16japaul22
Maio 10, 2019, 8:02am

#308 A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

A disjointed, forgettable novel about a young woman's first year at college. I wasn't sure what the point was or what the focus was supposed to be.

Too busy to post more!

17japaul22
Jun 8, 2019, 8:21am

#309 Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

Bonjour Tristesse was written by 18 year old Françoise Sagan in the 1950s. It centers around a 17 year old girl, Cécile, who lives with her bachelor father. They are vacationing in the Mediterranean and he arrives there with one young mistress and ends the vacation planning to marry a different woman. Cécile is not happy about this marriage idea and crafts a plan to break them up. She also experiences love herself for the first time with a local boy named Cyril.

As with most books written about a teenager, by a teenager, there is definitely a self-centeredness to the main character. I liked this brief book, though, finding it a pretty realistic depiction of a girl growing up in this situation. There are several lines that really sum up the feeling of being a teenage girl very well and I can see why this book was a success. It probably is better read when you are a teenager yourself, but I missed the boat on that!

Original publication date: 1955
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 137 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books group read

18japaul22
Jun 16, 2019, 8:57am

#310 Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

I'm going to admit that I got nothing out of this book. You are immediately thrown into the life of Stephen Dedalus and I really didn't care a bit. It's short, which is a blessing, but is full of long tirades/philosophical discussions of family, country, sex and attraction, and the church. There are moments of pretty writing, but I wasn't at all invested in the character before it was all too dramatic.

I've read other books in this vein that I love - like Proust and Woolf and the part of Dorothy Richardson that I've read so far - but this I just couldn't connect with. Does not make me look forward to Ulysses, which I've always meant to read some day.

Original publication date: 1916
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 250 pages
Rating: 1.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books group read

19arukiyomi
Jun 18, 2019, 12:22pm

hmmm... Ulysses is a stunner of a novel. Right up there with the world's best. I thought Portrait was an extremely important book for Joyce. A bit like Voyage Out was for Woolf... got her noticed and set her up for ideas she would take much, much further later.

Overall, I thought Portrait was excellent. Have a read of my review and see what you think

http://arukiyomi.com/?p=6836

20japaul22
Jul 8, 2019, 3:28pm

#311 The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

I've been meaning to read this for a while, and with the recent fire at Notre Dame, I decided to pick it up. I'm glad I did, especially because the descriptions of Notre Dame and the city of Paris in the 14th century were vivid and interesting. When Hugo wrote this book, he wrote it as historical fiction. I think it's easy to lose that now, since his present is so distant to a modern reader, but I also think it's an important part of the book.

Beyond the descriptions of the city and architecture, the plot and characters were actually a little weak for me. There are so many diversions and stops and starts with the storylines, that it was hard for me to get into. Hugo does tie it all together in the end, very dramatically, but it took a long time to get there.

I suppose most people are familiar with the basic story of Quasimodo and Esmerelda, but it's darker and more complex than I expected it to be. I think this book is worth reading once, but it won't be a favorite for me.

Original publication date: 1831
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 541 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books

21ELiz_M
Editado: Jul 13, 2019, 5:42pm

On another thread, you mentioned loving nyrb editions and interest in The Expendable Man. You *buy it now! NYRB is having a 20th Anniversary Classics sale and every classics title is on sale. I think it ends today:

https://www.nyrb.com/collections/nyrb-classics-20th-anniversary-sale

ETA: Oops in my excitement, I accidentally became over-demanding. *should

22japaul22
Jul 13, 2019, 10:10am

Ooh, thank you!!

23japaul22
Jul 15, 2019, 8:01pm

#312 Perfume: the Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind

I loved this inventive thriller set in 18th century France. Grenouille is an orphan born in Paris. When he is just a baby, his first nurse notices that he has no scent. She is repulsed and afraid of him and refuses to nurse him. As he grows, Grenouille realizes that he has an unusual sense of smell. He can smell everything down to the smallest scent and separate out the individual smells that comprise others. In fact, he can only relate to the world through scent. He becomes apprenticed to a parfumier in order to learn how to distill and capture scents. But he is not interested in the normal scents that a parfumier is interested in - instead he is interested in the scents that other humans can barely smell or notice, particularly their own human scents. Later in the book, Grenouille leaves Paris and finally discovers that he himself smells like nothing. His quest to create a scent for himself leads him to the ability to manipulate others through scent.

This is an extremely clever premise is carried out really well. I loved the creativity of the book and was so interested to find out how it would end. Highly recommended.

Original publication date: 1985
Author’s nationality: German
Original language: German
Length: 255 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books

24japaul22
Jul 26, 2019, 1:19pm

#313 Living by Henry Green

I almost put this book down after the first 10 pages because it was not grabbing me. It seemed like too many characters, the dialect was tough to decipher, and the author uses very few articles (like a, the, etc.). The lack of articles made me read the book in a sort of monotone voice in my head that was robotic and boring. But, I persevered. And I ended up really liking it.

The novel takes place in 1920s England in a factory town. It centers on the workers and their relationship with the owner and his son who is starting to take over the business. It also focuses on one household with an older man, Mr. Craigan, who has boarders, Mr. Gates, his daughter Lucy, and Mr. Dale. Mr. Craigan acts as a father/grandfather to Lucy and controls her behavior and also tries to set her up with Mr. Dale. Lucy has her own ideas, though, and takes up with another factory man. Lucy tries to escape her life and her inability to do so is a major theme of the book. There is also much social commentary on working conditions and the treatment of aging employees.

Though I'm not sure I really understood the point of the writing style in this book, I ended up appreciating it and I'm sure it will make the book more memorable to me. I'm curious to try more of Green's writing.

Original publication date: 1929
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 213 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library nyrb edition
Why I read this: 1001 books

25ELiz_M
Jul 26, 2019, 3:41pm

>24 japaul22: :) your review is similar to mine

26japaul22
Jul 26, 2019, 4:06pm

>25 ELiz_M: yes, you put that well! It wasn't quite experimental enough to have me willing to read in a different way. And the story was actually quite traditional, the kind of thing I've read before. I will definitely try Loving at some point since I own it as well.

27japaul22
Editado: Ago 4, 2019, 9:15pm

Deadlock by Dorothy Richardson

I've started VMC's third volume of Dorothy Richardson's Pilgrimage. It begins with the 6th novel, Deadlock. This novel centers on Miriam's budding relationship with a Russian man, Mr. Shatov. They have long philosophical discussions, introduce each other to great writers in their respective languages, and explore London together. The romance is slow to develop and then suddenly they are in crisis. As I've come to expect with Richardson's writing, the actual crisis is barely described - it seems these moments are too intense for her to write about with any amount of detail. But from subsequent discussions, I believe the conflict was him asking her to marry him and revealing that he's Jewish and them not being able to see a way forward with their relationship with their different religion and culture. But I think there could have been something else as well that he revealed to her that she never reveals to the reader, at least that I could find.

In addition to this relationship, there are a few episodes with former characters. Some of the other boarders are revisited. Miriam is also fired from her dentist office secretary position after speaking her mind too heatedly. This happens about half way through the book and honestly, I was wondering if she was even still working there because her work life isn't touched on at all. And then suddenly she's fired! It seemed that she might have been rehired, but then the topic is dropped so I wasn't completely sure. She also goes to visit her sisters - I really enjoyed this scene. Eve has escaped her governess position and opened a shop. Harriet is married to Gerald and they are unhappy but staying together for their kids.

Importantly in this volume, Miriam begins to write and finds she's good at it. Her first foray is in translating a French work. This success gives her a lot of confidence. This development of a real talent I assume will continue in subsequent volumes.

What stuck out to me in this book is that Miriam has become more vocal. In previous novels she is opinionated but the "discussions" mainly occur through her interior monologue. In this book she states her opinion, often to Mr. Shatov, but also at work, which gets her in trouble, and to her family. I liked seeing this change in Miriam. She's growing up, exploring how to vocalize her opinions, and using others reactions to frame her own beliefs and grow. Her opinions on feminism, particularly, are maturing and she's able to voice some of her feelings about life as an English woman.

Original publication date: 1921
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 229 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased virago used edition
Why I read this: 1001 books, year long group read

28japaul22
Ago 19, 2019, 5:15pm

Revolving Lights by Dorothy Richardson
The 7th novel in Richardson's Pilgrimage left me a little cold. I feel like I really should have started a character list at the beginning of reading this book. There were several characters who return after absences and I had a hard time putting them in context.

The main action is this book is a vacation to visit Miriam's boarding school friend, Alma. There she meets a man named Hypo and slowly grows closer to him. There are some great moments, including the group deciding to sleep under the stars, and some philosophical discussions, often about the differing roles of men and women. Miriam also continues with her writing, branching out from translating. And the ending was intriguing - a note from Hypo asking "when can I see you? Just to talk."

After writing this, I visited my trusted (only) source I've found for any sort of commentary on Pilgrimage and I found that Hypo is actually married to Alma and is H.G. Wells. So now I know!

Original publication date: 1923
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 163 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: ebay VMC
Why I read this: year long project

29japaul22
Ago 24, 2019, 2:00pm

The Trap by Dorothy Richardson
This is one of the shortest installments in Richardson's Pilgrimage. Not much happens and I'm finally getting a bit bored. Definitely hoping that the final volumes get back to what I loved about the first 6.

In The Trap, Miriam moves out of her single room in a boardinghouse into a shared flat with Miss Holland. At first they get along well and Miriam seems to enjoy her new living situation, but in the end she misses her solitude. There is also a New Years Eve party where she interacts with people her own age, including some young men. (I think Hypo was there, this time referred to as Wells)

I don't need something to "happen" since that isn't what this book is about, but I feel like I need a stronger episode where Miriam grows in some way. I haven't felt that much in The Trap or the previous volume, Revolving Lights. I'll take a break for a month or so and then return for the final volume which contains the final 5 volumes. I can do it! Right . . . ???

Original publication date: 1925
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 109 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback virago
Why I read this: 1001 books, year long read

30japaul22
Set 22, 2019, 8:12pm

#314 Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

I read this for the group challenge in September. The challenge was to read a book from the list that someone else hated. This was on my shelf and so I decided to give it a try. As such, I went into it with low expectations, but actually I quite liked it. It made me laugh many times.

This is a comedic telling of the life of a first-year college professor. Jim Dixon is trying to navigate school politics, get along with his boring and eccentric colleagues, cover up the fact that he knows little about his professed field of expertise - Medieval Studies, and avoid the girl he doesn't want a relationship with while trying to build a relationship with a different girl.

I found Dixon real and annoying and funny and ultimately rooted for him. I'm glad I read this and might even read some more Kingsley Amis books.

Also, I thought this was a brilliant description of waking up with a hangover:

The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he'd somehow been on a cross-county run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.

Original publication date: 1953
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 265 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased NYRB edition
Why I read this: 1001 books group challenge, off the shelf

31japaul22
Set 24, 2019, 2:27pm

#315 So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ

And next I read a short book that I expected to really like. It's written by a Senegalese woman, reflecting on her life as a woman in Africa married to a man who takes a second wife after they've been married for thirty years. When he dies suddenly, she writes "so long a letter" to her dear friend, Aissatou, reflecting on their marriages, lives as Muslim women, and the role of women in their society.

I'm not sure why, but I couldn't connect to this. The letter format didn't work for me; it seemed like an unlikely way to actually speak to a friend. And maybe it was too short with too little development for me to get into it? I'm not sure. I would expect many people love this and it's very short, so no reason not to give it a try. It just wasn't the right book for me at the moment.

Original publication date: 1980
Author’s nationality: Senegalese
Original language: French
Length: 81 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale purchase
Why I read this: 1001 books

32japaul22
Out 15, 2019, 1:49pm

Oberland by Dorothy Richardson

This installment of the Pilgrimage series is basically a travelogue. Miriam goes to Oberland, Switzerland for a vacation. She stays in a boarding house and interacts with the guests. She toboggans. She ice skates. She watches people ski jump. There was one brief reference to Hypo (the married man based on H.G. Wells who propositioned her).

It was fine, but not special.

I feel like I'm beginning to see the issue with this book and why it was hard to publish and didn't gain much traction, even in literary circles. In my opinion, it really should have been published all at once. The 13 parts don't stand well on their own, even though they were written years apart. I'm going to try to continue on, reading as though the rest is one book instead of 4.

Original publication date: 1927
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 127 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased virago
Why I read this: year long project, 1001 books

33japaul22
Out 19, 2019, 7:28pm

#316 I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti

This is an Italian bestseller about a little boy who stumbles upon a boy being held captive. He becomes friendly with him but the situation turns dangerous when he discovers who kidnapped this boy.

The story is simple, short, and tense but the point of view makes it more special than it would otherwise be. The voice of the young boy is very well done. The world is confined to what he can see and understand of the situation. For that reason, I understand why this novel is well-regarded, but otherwise I found it fairly forgettable.

Original publication date: 2000
Author’s nationality: Italian
Original language: Italian
Length: 200 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: 1001 books, group challenge

34japaul22
Nov 9, 2019, 2:21pm

Dawn's Left Hand by Dorothy Richardson

After being pretty bored with the last few installments of Richardson's Pilgrimage, I thought this volume was more interesting again. Miriam is back from her trip to Oberland and London both benefits and suffers from the comparison to her trip. All the references to her experiences in Oberland made that volume a little more relevant than I initially thought when I read it.

The other major event in this volume is Miriam's consummation of her relationship with Hypo. To me it seemed like though she's not really in love with Hypo, she really wanted to experience sex and chose to have the experience with him. There are, of course, the awkward moments with Alma (Hypo's wife and Miriam's friend), as well. Set up against her relationship with Hypo is one with a new character, Amabel. Amabel is a beautiful young woman in love with Miriam. She tries hard to get Miriam to love her back and Miriam seems intrigued. I'm curious to see if this relationship goes anywhere in later volumes.

Original publication date: 1931
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 136 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased virago
Why I read this: year long project, 1001 books

35japaul22
Nov 20, 2019, 3:18pm

Clear Horizon by Dorothy Richardson
Volume 11 of 13

This volume feels like a summing up, in a way. Miriam is caring for her sister, Sara, and gets medical advice to leave London and relax in the country. Before that happens she closes many of her relationships. She puts an end to any idea of a relationship with Amabel, even introducing her to Michael Shatov. She also emotionally ends things with Hypo.

I was sad to see her say goodbye to her dental office job. Really, her experience there has been some of my favorite parts of the book.

Clear Horizon was the last of the 13 parts to be published on its own. Apparently it was barely noticed when it was published. The last two volumes were added to full volume editions.

On I go . . .

Dimple Hill by Dorothy Richardson
Now Miriam is in the countryside, living a boarding house with Quakers, the Roscorlas. She visits some old friends and tries to regain her health (I think?). It feels like a move to combat depression. She greatly admires the way the Roscorlas live and she is enamored with the countryside.

We also see that her introduction of Amabel and Michael Shatov in Clear Horizon has led to their marriage. At the end of the book she gets an invitation back to Switzerland and decides to go.

I'm wishing the book had ended with Clear Horizon, it seemed a more natural closing. But on I go to the final installment. I expect to finish today or tomorrow!

36japaul22
Nov 21, 2019, 10:10am

March Moonlight by Dorothy Richardson

I've done it. I've finished Pilgrimage. Overall thoughts to come later.

March Moonlight is the last installment of Richardson's 13 novel Pilgrimage. In it, there's more movement for Miriam. She begins at the Quaker Roscorla household. She is writing again, with intent. The she moves on to a convent for a change of scenery and she meets a man there who she considers marrying. Hypo gives his troubling easy consent. The book ends with her contemplating Amabel and motherhood. It's really no ending at all as Richardson didn't view it as the end of the book.

I'll have lots to say about this work as a whole later, but for now I'm reveling in actually finishing all 2110 pages.

37japaul22
Nov 21, 2019, 12:37pm

#317 (surely this should count for more than one!) Pilgrimage by Dorothy Richardson

Pilgrimage is a 13 volume, 2110 page novel published between 1915 and 1967. From what I’ve found it is currently out of print, but fairly easy to access through used copies of Virago Modern Classics which published the work in 4 volumes. Originally, each volume was published individually until Dimple Hill, the 12th volume. It and the final installment, March Moonlight, were only published in full volume sets.

Pilgrimage is highly autobiographical. It follows the interior thoughts and experiences of Miriam Henderson, a young woman starting out in the world. I believe it covers her life from about age 17-30. Miriam leaves her home when her family falls on hard times financially to become a teacher in Germany. She teaches in different locations for the first few novels and then becomes a secretary at a dental office in London. While in London, she truly finds her confidence in being an independent and single woman. She explores the city and finds a deep connection to the city itself. As the book progresses, she develops her skill as a writer, begins and ends relationships with several men, and travels, gaining a wide array of experience.

The plot in the novel is buried deep within Miriam’s experience. Her reactions and thoughts are always primary, sometimes (often) to the point that the plot is undiscernible. This can be frustrating. Characters come and go sometimes without introduction and even large life events aren’t spelled out. Both her mother’s death and her first sexual experience I had to go back pages later and say, wait - what???

As such, this is not an easy reading experience. The book meanders and definitely loses its way, especially, I felt, later in the work. I think that by about half way through these novels, Richardson knew NO ONE was reading anymore and was truly writing for herself. I wonder if anyone was editing at all. Also, the book is unfinished which feels frustrating at the end of 2000 pages. I’m not sure Richardson ever intended to stop writing Miriam’s life experience.

All that said, I still highly recommend reading this. I thought a lot of the writing and ideas were truly groundbreaking. I’ve never read anything quite like this, and I’ve read Proust, Woolf, Faulkner, some of Joyce so I did have plenty to compare it to as far as interior, stream of consciousness writing. At her best, Richardson writes beautifully and intelligently, with great insight into the female experience. There is a definite feminist slant to her writing. There are certain scenes (Miriam exploring London on bicycle) that I will never forget.

If I were to be honest, I think you can get an excellent feel for Richardson’s talent and importance by reading the first 4 novels in this series of 13. I recommend those without reservation. And if you are a completist like I am, then by all means, read the whole thing. But I definitely recommend trying this neglected novel. I think it deserves to be read.

38puckers
Nov 21, 2019, 12:58pm

>37 japaul22: Congratulations on finishing Pilgrimage. I agree that the best of the books were the early ones and I found the later ones harder to get in to and enjoy. I like your thought that Richardson was writing purely for herself as she progressed on the grounds that no-one could be still reading her books!

39japaul22
Nov 27, 2019, 7:06pm

#318 The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
I really enjoyed reading this book. Well, enjoyed is never quite the right word for Hardy, since his plots are always full of miscommunication, bad luck, and bad behavior, but nevertheless I always find his books compelling.

This one follows the consequences of a drunken young man, Henchard, auctioning off his wife and daughter to a stranger. Yep, really. And she goes off with a sailor. When Henchard wakes up, he vaguely recalls what he has done. When he can't find his wife and daughter, he swears off alcohol and starts life anew. About 20 years down the road, his wife and daughter show up in the town where he has risen to being the mayor. As in all Hardy books, nothing goes easily, several characters die, and it isn't exactly a happy ending (though pretty close as far as his books go!).

Hardy's novels are very plot driven, so I have a hard time writing too much about the book for fear of giving away the plot surprises. Suffice to say I recommend this among his books I've read so far.

Original publication date: 1886
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 308 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: 1001 books

40jfetting
Dez 16, 2019, 2:58pm

I would agree that the ending of The Mayor of Casterbridge is about as close as Hardy gets to a happy ending!

Pilgrimage looks like a challenge! Although now I am tempted, if I can find it...

41gypsysmom
Dez 25, 2019, 4:31pm

>39 japaul22: and >40 jfetting: I think the ending of Far from the Madding Crowd is happy which is possibly why it is my favourite Hardy novel.

42japaul22
Dez 29, 2019, 8:55pm

#319 Memento Mori by Muriel Spark

"Remember you must die" is a translation of memento mori and is the phrase that a group of elderly people is hearing from an anonymous phone caller. They respond to this is different ways, but they are all at the time of life where "remember you must die" is truly around the corner.

The characters in this book are in their 80s and 90s. As such, they've had plenty of time, decades!, to misbehave, fight, and fall in love. Muriel Spark explores their interactions with humor and realism. There is a certain amount of looking back, but they are still actively living their lives regardless of their state of health, something I appreciated.

In this book, Spark didn't surprise me quite as much as she usually does. It's a good book, but not my favorite of hers.

Original publication date: 1959
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 223 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library book
Why I read this: 1001 books

43hdcanis
Dez 30, 2019, 2:22am

I remember liking Memento Mori, but it might have also been the influence of it being second or third Spark I read, the impact would probably be less now...

44Simone2
Jan 2, 2020, 11:28pm

>37 japaul22: Catching up again. Well done on finishing the Pilgrimage and thanks for the honest review. Maybe, when I finish Proust...😀

45japaul22
Jan 7, 2020, 4:07pm

First book for 2020:

#320 Nana by Émile Zola

Wow. That was quite the way to start the year. Nana is Zola's exploration of the world of prostitution and decadence. Nana is a young girl when the book opens, making her debut in the theater. There is tons of buzz about her - everyone knows she'll be a flop in terms of acting and singing, but nevertheless she is a sensation. Why? Because she's beautiful and sensual. Men go mad for her.

Nana is the little girl that we meet in L'Assomoir, daughter to a drunken father and growing up in poverty, who ends up on the streets as a common prostitute. She is "discovered" by the upper class and ends up attracting and destroying the lives and fortunes of every wealthy man in her circle. They cannot resist her and Zola doesn't mince words describing why. He details their sex lives and her attractions and willingness with surprising candor and detail for a 19th century novel.

The writing here is fantastic. The opening party scenes are fabulous and struck me as having influenced Proust's famous drawing room scenes. And the detail about Nana and her escapades and the gruesome endings are unforgettable. I will say, though, that I didn't think this was up to the level of Germinal or L'Assomoir, the other two Zola books I've read. I think it was the topic - it just didn't have the gravitas of those other works. And I got a little tired of reading about these wealthy men who just let Nana run all over them and waste away their fortunes, health, and happiness.

I will try to get to one more Zola book this year, probably La Bête Humaine which is on the 1001 books to read before you die list.

Original publication date: 1880
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 427 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books

46japaul22
Fev 23, 2020, 7:48pm

#321 The Diviners by Margaret Laurence

The Diviners is the story of Margaret Gunn who grows up in a small town on the Canada prairie, raised by friends of her father after her parents die when she is five. The people who raise her are Christie and Prin. Christie is the town scavenger, i.e. garbage man, and is looked down upon. He is also deeply scarred from his WWI experience. Prin is eating herself into an early grave. The town in small in thinking and backwards until you get to know the characters. Morag, though, must escape and finds her way through the world as a writer. Before she leaves, she meets Jules Tonnerre, a mixed race boy, who she falls in love with. He will come and go in her life throughout the novel. Morag later has a child, Pique, and their travels and relationship form another portion of the book.

This book isn't linear. It's told through a series of brief flashbacks labeled "memorybank movies" in the text. It's an exploration of memory as well as life through Morag's experience. Somehow it all flows together perfectly, though, and you barely realize the different shifts in time - they just work. I really, really loved this book. The characters were so alive to me and I did not want the book to end. I read another of Laurence's books, The Stone Angel, recently and it was also excellent. This, though, was more complex and I felt a bit more maturely written. I highly recommend reading some Margaret Laurence.

Original publication date: 1974
Author’s nationality: Canadian
Original language: English
Length: 388 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books

47Simone2
Fev 25, 2020, 10:47pm

>46 japaul22: I went looking for this review after reading your short one on Litsy and I am really glad I did: I must get to her books soon!

48japaul22
Maio 2, 2020, 8:07am

#322 Loving by Henry Green
Loving could be a traditional English (well, Irish) countryside estate family novel. But this 1945 book by Henry Green treats the familiar story in an unfamiliar way. The servants are the focus, the book is written in almost all dialogue, and there's quite a lot of sexual tension for this type of novel.

Most of the plot involves the death of the long-time butler and the assumption of the role by Charley Raunce. He struggles to navigate this new role. WWII is going on and the family goes to England to see the son who is on a brief leave. The servants take full advantage of this departure and things get a little crazy.

The magic of this brief novel is the writing style. Because it's virtually all dialogue, there is a lot taking place behind the words that the reader needs to extrapolate. The scattered thoughts of the characters lead to verbal misunderstandings and some of the exchanges are pretty confusing. Green also doesn't use punctuation in a traditional manner. At first all of this annoyed me, but in the end I am surprised at how close I got to the characters and how memorable they are.

Though this was published in 1945, it still feels like a modern take on the Victorian novel and I recommend it.

Original publication date: 1945
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 206 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: nyrb, off the shelf
Why I read this: on my shelf, 1001 books group challenge

49japaul22
Maio 11, 2020, 7:22pm

#323 La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas
La Reine Margot is historical fiction written by a mid-19th century French author about the 1500s French King Charles IX and the fight between Catholics and Huguenots. Charles has 2 brothers vying to be next on the throne. He marries his Catholic sister Marguerite (the Queen Margot of the title) to Henry of Navarre, the Protestant King of Navarre. Marguerite and Henry create an unlikely political partnership but both have active love-lifes on the side. Also, the family matriarch is Catherine de Medici who does a lot of political maneuvering and plotting.

I really liked this. It has the typical Dumas swashbuckling scenes, poisonings, and intrigues. It's certainly not as good as The Count of Monte Cristo, but it was good fun. I will say that I read a lot of historical fiction and it sort of bothered me that Dumas takes A LOT of license with the facts to create a better novel. The explanatory notes were detailed and pointed out all the ways Dumas changed the facts. I'm used to historical fiction that really tries to stick to good research, so this was a departure for me. But in the end I was able to let that go and enjoy the ride.

Original publication date: 1844-45, published serially
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 524 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books, group read

50japaul22
Jun 14, 2020, 2:17pm

#324 Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

Erdrich has been on my list of authors to read for some time. This, her first novel, was my also my first time reading her. She writes beautifully and I connected to her style right away. However, I wasn't a huge fan of the technique she used of linking short stories in this book. While in some ways I liked how the chapters/stories cycled through time and revealed different perspectives with each, I also thought it made it a little choppy. Being somewhere between short stories and a novel and not being able to define it for myself bothered me. I expect for some people that will be the charm of the book, but for me it was a little distracting. I suspect I'll like her novels that are in a more traditional format better.

Still, this is beautiful writing and an important look at life on an American Indian reservation in the 1940s-80s.

Original publication date: 1993
Author’s nationality: American, Native American
Original language: English
Length: 367 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale
Why I read this: 1001 books

51japaul22
Jun 17, 2020, 4:23pm

#325 The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

I absolutely loved this family drama about an Indian couple who move to Boston after their arranged marriage. They have children who grow up American and have to navigate their Indian roots but American upbringing. The immigrant experience is a part of the novel and gives it an "otherness" but it's also just a "normal" family experience with secrets, arguments, love, death, and divorce.

Lahiri's writing is just beautiful - simple and profound, not a bit of pretentiousness. I'm sad that I let this sit on my shelf for so many years. Highly recommended.

Original publication date: 2003
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 291 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased at library sale
Why I read this: litsy #bookspin, 1001 books

52japaul22
Jul 12, 2020, 7:49am

#326 Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

This book takes place in the 1930s and is an exploration of Black lives as the first generations experience "freedom" and the possibility of movement. John is a teenager trying to find his way to adulthood in New York. His family is complex and their experience forms the bulk of the novel, showing how much family life and complexities influence the path of children.

John's father Gabriel (well, stepfather) is a troubled Pentecostal minister and the book is almost overwhelmed with his ideas of sin and hell and being born again. Despite his strong views (or maybe because of!) he sins again and again with women, blaming them for his sins and leaving fatherless children along the way. John's mother, Elizabeth, had been involved with a man who ended up falsely accused of robbery and who is beaten badly by the police and commits suicide. Because John is born out of wedlock, Gabriel considers Elizabeth a fallen women and treats her as such, though he does marry her and raise John. Gabriel's sister, Florence, has also escaped the South and is living in New York. Her sad, troubling story is revealed as well.

This book was a mixed bag for me. The character's stories were powerful and real. That part of the book was very meaningful to me. And Baldwin's writing is lyrical and confident and memorable. The religious diatribes, though, really put me off. Even knowing that Baldwin himself was making commentary on the damaging nature of this sort of extreme Christianity didn't help. It was painful and annoying to read. I'm glad I persevered though, because in the end this is an important and powerful book that is sadly still relevant today. I'm looking forward to reading more of Baldwin's writing.

Original publication date: 1953
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 272 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: off the shelf, 1001 books

53japaul22
Jul 28, 2020, 2:18pm

#327 Castle Richmond by Anthony Trollope

One of Trollope's earlier novels, this one will not rank as a favorite for me. It is set in Ireland during the beginning of the potato famine. On top of that is a more typical Trollope story line which a young woman has to decide between two men whose fortunes are shifting and manage interference from her mother.

I had two issues with this book. One is that the potato famine is there, but it wasn't the focus and is sort of a side story. Though it's more prevalent than that at the same time. And Trollope's attitude to the famine was pretty confusing to me - I couldn't tell if he thought it was God's intent that all these people die, that it was God's will, or how much responsibility the wealthy had to help the situation. Whatever he meant, it wasn't good and was definitely off-putting.

And the the love triangle also, just wasn't up to Trollope's normally excellent look into the human psyche. I didn't feel like I really understood all of the motivations of the characters.

I definitely wouldn't start here if you want to read Trollope! The man was prolific - there are literally dozens of other novels by him that I enjoyed more!

Original publication date: 1860
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 532 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: group read, 1001 books

54japaul22
Ago 4, 2020, 6:48pm

#328 Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

This was a wonderful find. Dangarembga is an author on the current Booker longlist and her book, The Mournable Body caught my eye. On further research I found it's the third in a series of novels focusing on a 13 year old girl, Tambu, growing up in 1960s Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe). So I started at the beginning with Nervous Conditions.

Tambu is growing up in poverty, but in an obviously beautiful setting, loving the river by her homestead. Her father can't afford to send her to the local school (her brother gets to go instead), and she begins to realize before she's even a teenager that her life as a girl will be different than a boy's. Tambu decides to earn her own money to pay her way at school. Then her brother dies while he's away at school at a nearby mission. Tambu's educated and relatively wealthy Uncle, who is headmaster at a mission school, takes Tambu in and she gets the opportunity to go to school.

There are many themes explored in this book, but I'd say the focus is Tambu's path as a woman and her relationships with other women - her mother who is living a traditional and stifling role as an African mother, her aunt who has a Masters from her time in England but in Africa is no more than her husband's wife and caregiver, and her cousin Nyasha who was raised in England and is now deeply confused about who she is. Through these relationships we see different but similar challenges that women face in Africa, but also see that many are similar to sexism in other cultures as well.

Dangarembga's writing is excellent. The novel has an autobiographical feel and tons of detail about life in Rhodesia. There are local foods, customs, naming systems, and descriptions of the land that are not described for American readers, but you can figure out from context or a quick google search. I liked that it wasn't dumbed down or written specifically for non-African readers. It was different to reading someone like, say, Adichie (though I love her writing as well!). I saw in a bio of Dangarembga that she was the first Black woman in Zimbabwe to publish a novel in English.

I highly recommend this book. I've already bought the second book, The Book of Not, and will read This Mournable Body as well.

Original publication date: 1989
Author’s nationality: Zimbabwean
Original language: English
Length: 224 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased kindle edition
Why I read this: from the booker list, 1001 books

55gypsysmom
Ago 5, 2020, 9:16am

>54 japaul22: Thanks for this. I too took note of her book on the Booker longlist and I have downloaded the audiobook. I didn't realize that she had one on the 1001 list but it sounds like one I will have to read.

56japaul22
Ago 8, 2020, 8:50am

#329 Passing by Nella Larsen

This novella was written in 1929 by Black author Nella Larsen, who was part of the Harlem Renaissance. It is a complex look at racial identity in the 1920s. The title refers to the idea of Black women "passing" in society as white women. First off, we need to realize that at this time in America, any amount of black heritage made you Black, or Negro, which was the common term at the time.

The novella focuses on two women who both could pass for white. One is Irene, who identifies as Black, is married to a Black man, and part of her Black community. She does, however, "take advantage" of her appearance sometimes. In the opening scene, she is visiting her hometown Chicago on a hot summer day. She feels faint and a taxi driver, presumably white, rescues her and takes her to a restaurant to get a glass of tea. We can also presume that she would not be allowed in this restaurant if she wasn't "passing" for white. There she meets a childhood friend, Clare, who is passing as white as well. Clare, however, has married a white man without telling him of her heritage. Clare misses her Black community though, and pushes Irene to reintroduce her to this society with disastrous consequences.

This brief novel is an interesting look at race in the 1920s. It was uncomfortable for me to read. Much has changed in the past 100 years, but obviously not enough. I've certainly never read a book that so honestly addressed this single issue. I would say that I enjoyed Larsen's Quicksand more than this, but this is an important book about race in the U.S. and I definitely recommend it.

Original publication date: 1929
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 94 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books group read

57japaul22
Ago 26, 2020, 12:00pm

#330 Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

This book is a charming (there's really no other word for it!) Cinderella-style novel about a middle-aged woman stumbling into the best day of her life. Miss Pettigrew is jobless and about to be homeless when she answers an ad for a governess at the home of Miss LaFosse. The glamorous Miss LaFosse sweeps Miss Pettigrew into her circle when Miss Pettigrew helps her rid herself of a few unwanted male admirers. Miss LaFosse transforms Miss Pettigrew from a dowdy spinster to a glamorous woman and they go out on the town.

This was a cute book, but not much more, to me. And these 1930s British books always seem to take a dig at Jewish people, don't they? "He had too much the look of a Jew . . . " and such.

I know a lot of people love this one, and it is fun, but it won't be a favorite for me.

Original publication date: 1938
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 234 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: Persephone subscription
Why I read this: 1001 books, off the shelf

58japaul22
Out 17, 2020, 3:15pm

#331 The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

This is the sort of book that needs two readings, at least, to comprehend. Hans Castorp is a young man about to start a boring family job who goes to visit his cousin who is in a tuberculosis sanatorium up in the mountains. He goes planning to stay for 3 weeks and ends up being diagnosed with TB and staying for 7 years. The closed society in the sanatorium is wonderful to read about - great characters, funny scenes, sadness, and plenty of drama. On a deeper level, I loved the musings on time that run throughout the entire book.

On yet another deeper level, I started to gather that a lot of the characters represent different countries/factions leading up to WWI. There are also quite a few long philosophical discussions that went over my head and made my eyes glaze over. The ending, when Hans Castorp finally leaves the sanatorium and descends from the mountain into WWI, was dramatic and felt like an abrupt return to reality.

I really enjoyed this. I read it slowly, and definitely lost my way a few times, but overall the characters have so much life and there are so many amusing scenes, that it did keep my interest. I'd like to reread this some day to see if I can catch a little more of the deeper levels of writing that Mann has achieved.

Original publication date: 1924
Author’s nationality: German
Original language: German (my edition translated by John E. Woods)
Length: 894 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library book
Why I read this: group read, 1001 books

59japaul22
Nov 7, 2020, 7:58am

#332 The Commandant by Jessica Anderson

I found this book on the 1001 books to read before you die list. It is Australian historical fiction that explores prison settlements in 1800s Australian. Idealistic Frances goes to a work camp to live with her sister who is married to the officer in charge of the prison, the Commandant.

The premise was really interesting, but this book just didn't work for me. The trajectory of character development wasn't even and I felt like the plot kept shifting focus. At first Frances and her struggle to understand the different political ideologies in Australia was the focus. But then it sort of shifts more to the Commandant and his job security. And then there are a few moments where it seems like it might be heading to a romance novel feel.

If this is a confused review, it's because I really lost interest and lost the train of thought in this book. Maybe I needed a better background in 1800s Australia to really get into this book.

Original publication date: 1975
Author’s nationality: Australian
Original language: English
Length: 339 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: 1001 books

60japaul22
Dez 12, 2020, 7:58am

#333 Camilla by Fanny Burney

I loved Evelina, liked Cecilia, and just couldn't connect with Camilla, the three books I've read by 18th century author, Fanny Burney. This novel centers around a young woman named Camilla who is a favorite of a rich Uncle who moves to their community. His fortune ends up shifting from Camilla to her younger sister when Eugenia contracts smallpox on the Uncle's watch. However, this uncle still wants to play matchmaker for the girls and his ward, Indiana.

In this very long novel, many dramatic scenes unfold - crossed lines of communication, debt, kidnapping, elopement, and finally marriage. It was all a little too much for me. I loved the more tightly constructed Evelina, but this was too over-dramatic for me to truly enjoy.

Original publication date: 1796
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 369 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books, liked other books by the author

61japaul22
Dez 24, 2020, 8:12am

#334 La Bête Humaine by Emile Zola
La Bête Humaine is Zola's attempt at a detective mystery. In typical Zola fashion, this book is brutal and insightful and brilliant. Zola really is a master writer. This book has memorable, complex characters and also focuses on the trains and railroads. The trains themselves are personified and become an integral part of the book.

There is still societal commentary, but this book focuses a bit more on the character and motivations of the people in the book. There is a lot of violence, I guess as always in a Zola novel. Somehow, though, the way Zola makes the violence feel true to life and integral to the point of each book, I can accept reading about the violence.

This is my second Zola book this year and every time I read one I want to read more. Luckily, he wrote a lot of novels!

Original publication date: 1890
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 372 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books

62japaul22
Editado: Mar 18, 11:35am

First list book of 2021

#335 Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I finally got around to reading Adichie's 2013 novel that explores the experiences of Nigerian-born Ifemelu and Obinze, and I'm so, so glad I did. Ifemelu and Obinze grow up comfortably upper middle class in Nigeria, but have to contend with the challenges of living in a developing country. When they are in college and the teachers continually go on strike, they begin seriously looking for ways to leave. As a female, Ifemelu is able to get a visa to America to live with her aunt fairly easily. Getting a work visa is not as easy. Obinze, as a male in the post-9/11 world, is unable to legally emigrate. He ends up briefly in London and then back in Nigeria.

Ifemelu is the focus for most of the book. She becomes successful in America writing a blog about race. She writes about how she never thought of herself as Black until she came to America - Black doesn't exist in Nigeria. She writes about the differences between Non-American Blacks and American Blacks. Her words are powerful and honest and entertaining - as a good blog should be. I was immediately struck by how her observations line up with Isabel Wilkerson's book, Caste. Though Americanah is a novel, it felt like real life observation of how the American Caste system is implemented and how it affects all of us.

Amidst these observations and experiences with race in America, the UK, and Nigeria, life happens. Ifemelu has various relationships, jobs, and family drama. Through it all, she thinks about Obinze, her first love. When she moves back to Nigeria, the question is whether she and Obinze will still love each other and whether life will allow them to be together.

I really loved this novel. For me, the most successful parts were the revelations about race and the immigrant experience. Also about the different lifestyles in Nigeria, America, and Great Britain. I was less interested in the romance between Ifemelu and Obinze. That took just a little bit of the glow off of this novel for me, but I still highly recommend it. I'll read anything Adichie writes. I think she's a wonderful writer.

Original publication date: 2013
Author’s nationality: Nigerian and American (dual citizenship, I believe)
Original language: English
Length: 588 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books, books about Black American experience for category challenge

63gypsysmom
Jan 25, 3:24pm

>62 japaul22:
I once took this book out of the library but didn't get around to opening it until close to the end of the 3 week lending period and then I realized I couldn't renew it so back it went to the library. I am dying to read it and your review here has lent more impetus to that.

64jfetting
Jan 28, 8:59pm

>62 japaul22: I loved Americanah! My favorite parts were the little blog posts.

65japaul22
Jan 29, 9:25am

>64 jfetting: Yes, the actual blog posts don't start until farther into the book and I was sad they weren't included. And then they were!

66japaul22
Mar 18, 11:35am

#336 Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane

Effi Briest is a German "wife committing adultery" novel. I seem to have read a lot of these - Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Constance Ring, etc. This novel has some similarities to these others, but some important differences. Effi is an extremely young wife, only 17, who is youthful, exuberant, and loves the outdoors. Her parents marry her to a 40-something year old man who is kind, but striving for career advancement and lives in a boring, isolated village. Young Effi is lonely, bored, and trapped. She tries hard to "be good" and does respect her husband. Her affair doesn't seem based on real passion (unlike some of the above mentioned books), but I thought was more done out of desperation to find something exciting in life. And also just a result of her naivety. The affair is not dwelt on - in fact it's not even spelled out - and her husband doesn't find out until years later. But of course, a woman (even an 18 year old) must be punished, and no one will be surprised at the ending.

I liked the way this book was plotted and I really loved Effi. Fontane chose the right things to leave unsaid and created interesting and complex characters. I don't think it's quite as memorable as a novel as some of the classics in this category, but I would still recommend.

Original publication date: 1895
Author’s nationality: German
Original language: German (translated by Hugh Rorrison and Helen Chambers)
Length: 217 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library book
Why I read this: 1001 books, litsy #bookspin

67arukiyomi
Mar 18, 5:43pm

Sounds like a literary version on the classic film Ryan's Daughter... which was apparently based on Madame Bovary.

68japaul22
Abr 3, 2:58pm

>67 arukiyomi: I'm not much of a movie watcher, but I did see that there are a couple films based on Effi Briest as well. It's a pretty common topic for the era!

69japaul22
Abr 3, 2:58pm

#337 The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Allende's debut novel, written almost 40 years ago now, was my first foray into Allende's works. She is a gifted storyteller, and I was immediately drawn in to the story of the Del Valle and Trueba families. This is an epic work that follows four generations of the family through the political upheaval of the South American country where it is set. I assume it is set in Chile, where the author is from, though I don't think it was ever stated.

Allende writes vivid characters, and I loved most of the book. However, it is very long and covers a lot of generations, and there were certain times I was less engaged. I also was a little confused about the way she shifts point of view, sometimes being in 3rd person and sometimes from the first person point of view of Esteban Trueba, the patriarch of the family. At the end, she clarifies this split, but it bothered me as I was reading.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it made me want to read more by Allende to see how her writing has developed over the past 40 years.

Original publication date: 1982
Author’s nationality: Chilean
Original language: Spanish
Length: 496 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books

70jfetting
Abr 6, 7:47pm

>337 I love her! All of her books are pretty epic, though.

71arukiyomi
Abr 14, 6:33am

and having read all of hers that I need to for this list, I think she's rubbish ... just goes to show...

72japaul22
Maio 29, 8:45am

#338 Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers

Reading the nonfiction book Square Haunting has led me to try a few authors that I hadn't gotten to yet. Dorothy Sayers is one of them. This book comes in the middle of her Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series. The reason I chose it is that it is on the 1001 books to read before you die list.

I enjoyed this and will say that of the Golden Age mystery writers, I think that Dorothy Sayers' writing craft stands out. But honestly, I thought the mystery was weak and I lacked connection with the setting of an advertising company. I think there was humor there that was too dated a hundred years later for me to really appreciate. I'd consider reading this whole series from the beginning for fun, but I'm not going to make it a priority.

Original publication date: 1933
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 339 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: library
Why I read this: interested in the author, 1001 books

73japaul22
Maio 29, 1:34pm

#339 Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud
I did not have high hopes because I do not like the title and my copy has a terrible movie tie-in cover with an enormous picture of Kate Winslet on the front. I also knew it was told from the point of view of a small child, which never seems to work well. To my surprise, I actually really enjoyed this.

The narrator (age 5) and her sister, Bea (age 7), are dragged along on their hippie mother's adventure from London to Marrakech. In Marrakech, they are submerged in the culture as they tag along while their mother does what she wants and explores spiritualism. They are often hungry, dressed insufficiently, their health is seriously neglected, and they are put in dangerous situations as they follow their mother's whims. But, they also experience the beauty of the country they are in, enjoy the food, and meet some kind people along the way. Seeing Morocco through a five year old's eyes was a unique perspective and very effective.

Freud does several things right in this book. One is that though she does use the perspective of a five year old, she doesn't use a child's language. She does this just right, where you aren't annoyed by having to read little kid language, but you realize that the perspective is different than it would be from an adult (or even from the slightly older, more worldly sister). This book would have been absolutely intolerable to me if it was told from the selfish mother's point of view. Experiencing through the five year old's POV, who loves her mother, wants to please her mother, and just accepts what is happening as it comes, made the plot and all the mistakes the mother makes tolerable.

This is my second book by Esther Freud and I'm impressed. I'm going to continue reading her novels.

Original publication date: 1992
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 186 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased used copy
Why I read this: 1001 books group read

74japaul22
Jun 6, 7:40pm

#340 Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
In 1933, Vera's Brittain's memoir of her life before, during, and immediately after WWI was published. The book is an incredibly moving account of what it was like to come of age during the Great War. There are three parts to the book. The first part tells about life for a young woman growing up in a Victorian household, and all of the pressures, expectations, and naivety that came along with it. It also sets the stage for Brittain's relationships with four young men, including her brother and her later fiancé, all of whom would serve in the war. In the second section, Vera enlists as a nurse. She works several places: London, Malta, and France. She shares many details of the work, the conditions, and the emotional and physical toll. This section vividly depicts what it was like to repeatedly "say goodbye" to loved ones and the stress of waiting to hear if friends and family had survived each battle. The third section is about the immediate aftermath of the war: how she deals with the losses she suffers, her views on international politics, and whether she desires to try to balance her work with marriage and children.

I really loved this book. Brittain's writing is honest and she doesn't shy away from sharing her grief or her opinions. She writes with great emotion without being overly dramatic, even in dramatic circumstances. I was sucked right in to her world. I particularly loved the first and second sections. The third lost a little momentum for me, with the views on world politics. It felt less personal. I also read in the afterward that the man she ended up marrying didn't want to be as big a part of the book as she wanted him to be. So that probably made it harder to write with the honestly and poignancy that she achieved in the first sections.

I put off reading this book for quite a few years because it is long, but I found it very readable and I'm glad I finally got to it. It's an important viewpoint of a woman who served in WWI.

Original publication date: 1933
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 661 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books