Monday, 29 November 2010

The End of the Affair

I'm not sure that this was the best book to read after Cold Mountain, but that's what I did. This book was less depressing, though I must say that I rather suspected the ending. I was wrong about the path that lead to the end, however. I was not expecting a sudden pact with a god that one didn't truly believe in. I was not expecting the truth of just why Sarah wasn't doing what she was supposed to be doing. I thought she had cancer or something and was seeing some kind of kooky healer. The religious undertones to the book completely surprised me.

I have to say that I was very pleased to be wrong about the journey to get to the end. It's not often that this kind of story can surprise you, though that might have been less true when it was written.

Now, what I really want to know is whether or not this book should be considered a classic. Read it and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Cold Mountain

This is a very sad book. Set during the American civil war, Cold Mountain follows the story of Inman, a Confederate deserter trying to get home, and Ada, a woman with no idea how to survive on her farm.

I personally found the sections about Inman to be on the less interesting side. It does get a bit more interesting once he starts running into the Home Guard, who are on the lookout for deserters. I suspect that says more about me than about Frazier's skill as an author. I much preferred the chapters that dealt with Ada's struggles, particularly after the introduction of Ruby. I adore the character of Ruby. I can relate most easily to the abstract academic life of Ada. Ruby, on the other hand, is earthy, superstitious and entirely focused on survival. The contrast between the two of them is fantastic.

Personally, I could have done without the semi-happy ending of the epilogue. I think ending with Inman dying in Ada's arms would have been perfectly appropriate, if rather depressing.

Cranford

This is possibly the most boring book I've ever read. It is completely plotless. It's essentially about a town in which the majority of the residents are older women. There is one marriage and far more deaths.

I cannot understand how the BBC has made three adaptations of this. Who on earth would want to watch something where nothing really happens? How did this book attain the status of a classic? It's less interesting than the Vicar of Wakefield and that's saying something.

If you've read this book and enjoyed it enough to want to read it again or see an adaptation of it, please let me know why.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Battle of the Villa Fiorita

I was not terribly impressed with this book. It was enjoyable in a way, but I think the fact that I only managed to finish it because it was all I had to do on a plane is not exactly complimentary. I think, though, that it's supposed to be rather removed from reality.

This is a story of two children who travel to Italy, where their mother is living with her lover. Their intention is to stop the divorce and have her return home. They do succeed, though by the end of the novel one can only wonder whether or not that's a good thing. I think this is an interesting commentary on the reality of life versus the fantasy. Fanny and her lover are enjoying an idyllic honeymoon (for want of a better word) waiting for the divorce to go through so that they can marry. And then Fanny's two younger children arrive, determined to convince her that she's making a mistake. The actions of the children, Caddie in particular, are the centrepoint of the novel.

Though the children do eventually succeed in breaking the relationship between the two adults I think that says more about their relationship than the children. Their relationship is not able to survive the reality of children. Children, moreover, that are wilful, angry and hurt. Rob's complete inability to understand that Fanny is both woman and mother and that he will not always be the most important thing in her universe is what finally breaks their relationship. I think, however, that the true success in this book is when Caddie realises that no matter what happens she will still be herself. In that moment she has truly grown up, despite only being about eleven. The knowledge that she can only depend on herself for her happiness and the completeness of her life makes her more mature at the end of the book than any other character, particularly the adults.