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japaul22's attempt at 1001 books, part 2

This is a continuation of the topic japaul22's attempt at 1001 books.

1001 Books to read before you die

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1japaul22
Edited: Jan 8, 2016, 7:01am Top

Hi everyone! I've been participating in this group for a few years now and have very much enjoyed the books I've found on this list. I had read 110 books off the combined list when I started tracking my reading in 2012. At the start of this thread, in January of 2015, I've read 204 list books.

***Ultimate Goal to read 500 of the books off the combined lists by the time I'm 50 years old in 2028 (future updates to the list included). I need to read about 23 books per year to make that happen.***

***Goal: 260 books read by 2017***

***Goal: 200 books read by 2015***
COMPLETED on 11/21/2014!

***Goal for 2012 is to make it to 145 books!***
COMPLETED on 12/19/2012!


2japaul22
Edited: Mar 2, 2016, 6:38pm Top

2012 Edition, Additions to the 1001 books list: 3 books read out of 11
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, 4 stars
The History of love by Nicole Krauss, 3 stars
There but for the by Ali Smith, 2 stars
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, 3 stars

2000s: 18 books read out of 109
02 The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt, 5 stars
06 The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, 3 stars
07 Home: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson, 4 stars
14 The Reluctant Fundamentalist, 3 stars
23 Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro, 5 stars
24 Saturday by Ian McEwan, 2 stars
25 On Beauty by Zadie Smith, 3 stars
31. Small Island by Andrea Levy, 4 stars
37 Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky, 5 stars
42 Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, 4 stars
45. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon, 3 stars
50 What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt, 3 stars
61 Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, 3 stars
64 The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor, 5 stars
68 Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, 5 stars
72 Snow by Orhan Pamuk, 2 stars
74 The Corrections by Jonathon Franzen, 2 stars
85 Atonement by Ian McEwan, 4 stars
95 White Teeth by Zadie Smith, 3 stars
99 The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, 4 stars

3japaul22
Edited: Mar 12, 2016, 7:46am Top

1900s: 107 books read out of 924
134 The Hours by Michael Cunningham, 3 stars
136 The Poisonwood Bible by Kingsolver, 5 stars
138 Memoirs of a Geisha by Golden, 5 stars
146 Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon, 4 stars
160 Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, 5 stars
168 The Reader by Schlink, 5 stars
183 Felicia's Journey by William Trevor, 4 stars
184 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Bernieres, 4 stars
190 The Shipping News by Proulx, 3 stars
192 Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, 4 stars
206. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
208. the Secret History by Donna Tartt, 3 stars
214 All the Pretty Horses by McCarthy, 1 star
225 Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates, 4 stars
232 Wild Swans by Jung Chang, 5 stars (but isn't this non-fiction????)
238 Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell, 4 stars
240 American Psycho by Ellis, 2 stars
254 Possession by A. S. Byatt, 5 stars
263 Remains of the Day by Ishiguro, 3 stars
275 Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood, 4 stars
276 Foucault’s Pendulum by Eco, 4 stars
277 Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong, 4 stars
298 The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster, 4 stars
301 Beloved by Morrison, 5 stars
321 Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 4 stars
324 Oranges ARe Not the Only Fruit by Winterson, 2 stars
325 The Cider House Rules by Irving, 2 stars
334 The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood, 5 stars
347. The Lover by Marguerite Duras, 3 stars
373. The Color Purple by Alice Walker, 4 stars
375 A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro, 4 stars
400 The Name of the Rose by Eco, 5 stars
404 The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera, 2 stars
411 If on a winter's night a traveler by Calvino, 3 stars
415 The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt, 3 stars
417 The World According to Garp by Irving, 3 stars
419 The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch, 4 stars
422 The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro, 4 stars
425 The Shining by King, 4 stars
429 Song of Solomon by Morrison, 5 stars
431 Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym, 4 stars
439 Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice, 2 stars
473 Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, 2 stars
475 Sula by Toni Morrison, 4 stars
476 Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, 4 stars
477 The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty, 4 stars
480 The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, 5 stars
482 Surfacing by Margaret Atwood, 2 stars
485 Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro, 4 stars
495 The Bluest Eye by Morrison, 5 stars
497 I Know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou, 4 stars
500 Troubles by J.G. Farrell, 4 stars
514 The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles, 4 stars
541 One Hundred Years of Solitude b Garcia Marquez, 4 stars
548 Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, 3 stars
549 The Master and Margarita, 5 stars
553 In Cold Blood by Capote, 5 stars
560 Silence by Shusaku Endo, 3 stars
585 The Bell Jar by Plath, 4 stars
588 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Solzhenitsyn, 3 stars
592 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Kesey, 4 stars
605 Franny and Zooey by Salinger, 3 stars
607 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, 4 stars
620 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, 5 stars
638 Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, 4 stars
643. The bell by Iris murdoch
646 The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas, 4 stars
654 On the Road by Kerouac, 3 stars
656 Doctor Zhivago, 4 stars
663 The Roots of Heaven by Gary, 4 stars
665 The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, 5 stars
667 Lolita by Nabokov, 3 stars
673 The Quiet American by Graham Greene, 2 stars
684 Lord of the Flies by Golding, 3 stars
698 Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, 4 stars
702 Excellent Women by Barbara Pym, 5 stars
704 Invisible Man by Ellison, 4 stars
705 The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway, 2 stars
710 The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, 2 stars
714 The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger, 3 stars
731 Love in a Cold Climate by Mitford, 4 stars
735 Nineteen Eighty-Four by Orwell, 3 stars
740 Cry, the Beloved Country by Paton, 4 stars
743 Ashes and Diamonds by Andrzejewski, 4 stars
762 Brideshead Revisited by Waugh, 4 stars
766 Animal Farm by Orwell, 3 stars
768 The Pursuit of Love by Mitford, 4 stars
775 The Little Prince by Saint-Exupery, 4 stars
771 Transit by Anna Seghers, 4 stars
779 CHess Story by Stefan zweig, 4 stars
793 For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway, 1 star
802 The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck, 2 stars
810 Rebecca by Du Maurier, 4 stars
816 of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, 3 stars
817 Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, 5 stars
819 The Hobbit by Tolkien, 4 stars
829 The Thinking Reed by Rebecca West, 2 stars
830 Gone With the Wind by Mitchell, 5 stars
834 Absalom, Absalom by Faulkner, 4 stars
837 Independent People by Halldor Laxness, 5 stars
854 THank you, Jeeves by Wodehouse, 3 stars
857 Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West, 1 star
867 Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, 3 stars
872 Journey to the End of the Night by Celine, 3 stars
875 The Waves by Virginia Woolf, 5 stars
887 A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway, 3 stars
895 Harriet Hume by Rebecca West, 2 stars
896 The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner, 5 stars
900 Orlando by Virginia Woolf, 4 stars
901 Lady Chatterly's Lover by D.H. Lawrence, 3 stars
907 Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh, 4 stars
912 To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, 5 stars
919 Alberta and Jacob by Cora Sandel, 5 stars
924 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, 3 stars
928 Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, 4 stars
929 The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, 5 stars
933 The Professor's House by Willa Cather, 3 stars
935 Billy Budd, Foretopman by Melville, 1 star
939 A Passage to India, by E. M. Forster, 2 stars
945 Kristin Lavransdatter by Undset, 5 stars
946 The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield, 3 stars
961 The Age of Innocence by Wharton, 4 stars
967 The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West, 5 stars
970 Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun, 3 stars
978 The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford, 4 stars
979 THe Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf, 2 stars
980 Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham, 4 stars
992 Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, 3 stars
995 Howards End by E.M. Forster, 3 stars
1000 A Room With a View by EM Forster, 4 stars
1009 The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy, 4 stars
1013 House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, 4 stars
1025 Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, 3 stars
1027 Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann, 5 stars
1031 Sister Carrie by Dreiser, 3 stars
1026 Hound of the Baskervilles, 3 stars

4japaul22
Edited: Dec 17, 2015, 8:21pm Top

1800s: 63 books read out of 187
1036 The Awakening by Chopin, 3 stars
1039 The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, 4 stars
1044 The Invisible Man by Wells, 2 stars
1046 Dracula by Bram Stoker, 4 stars
1043 Compassion by Galdos, 3 stars
1048 The Island of Dr. Moreau by Well, 4 stars
1049 The Time Machine by Wells, 3 stars
1053 The Real Charlotte by Somerville and Ross, 4 stars
1054 The Yellow Wallpaper by CHarlotte Perkins Gilman, 4 stars
1057 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 4 stars
1060 The Saga of Gosta Berling, 3 stars
1061 Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Hardy, 3 stars
1063 The Picture of Dorian Gray by Wilde, 2 stars
1079 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, 4 stars
1084 Germinal by Emile Zola, 5 stars
1085 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, 2 stars
1088 La Regenta by Leopoldo Alas, 2 stars
1092 Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, 3 stars
1096 The Portrait of a Lady by James, 4 stars
1099 The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, 3 stars
1103 Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, 5 stars
1108 Daniel Deronda by Eliot, 3 stars
1111 Far from the Madding Crowd by Hardy, 2 stars
1113 Around the World in 80 Days by Verne, 4 stars
1118 Middlemarch by Eliot, 5 stars
1122 War and Peace by Tolstoy, 4 stars
1124 Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope, 4 stars
1127 Little Women by Alcott, 4 stars
1128 The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, 4 stars
1130 The Last Chronicle of Barset by Trollope, 5 stars
1131 Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, 5 stars
1138 Les Misérables by Hugo, 3 stars
1140 Silas Marner by George Eliot, 4 stars
1141 Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, 3 stars
1146 The Mill on the Floss by Eliot, 3 stars
1147 The Woman in White by Collins, 5 stars
1148 A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, 4 stars
1152 Madame Bovary by Flaubert, 4 stars
1153 North and South by Gaskell, 3 stars
1155 Hard Times by Dickens, 3 stars
1157 Bleak House by Dickens, 4 stars
1158 Villette by Charlotte Bronte, 2 stars
1159 Cranford by Gaskell, 3 stars
1162 The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne, 4 stars
1163 Moby-Dick by Melville, 4 stars
1164 The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne, 5 stars
1165 David Copperfield by Dickens, 3 stars
1167 Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
1168 The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, 3 stars
1169 Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, 5 stars
1170 Agnes Grey by anne Bronte, 3 stars
1171 Vanity Fair by Thackery, 5 stars
1172 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, 5 stars
1173 The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, 4 stars
1178 The Purloined Letter, 3 stars
1180 The Pit and the Pendulum by Poe, 4 stars
1182 A Christmas Carol by Dickens, 5 stars
1186 The Fall of the House of Usher by Poe, 4 stars
1191 The Nose by Gogol, 3 stars
1196 The Red and the Black by Stendahl, 3 stars
1198 Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, 2 stars
1206 Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, 4 stars
1207 Northanger Abbey by Austen, 4 stars
1208 Persuasion by Austen, 5 stars
1211 Emma by Austen, 5 stars
1212 Mansfield Park by Austen, 4 stars
1213 Pride and Prejudice by Austen, 5 stars
1214 Sense and Sensibility by Austen, 5 stars

5japaul22
Edited: Feb 16, 2016, 4:26pm Top

1700s: 7 books read out of 47
1227 The Mysteries of Udolpho by Radcliffe, 1 star (could not complete this book but read several hundred pages trying so I'm going to count it!)
1235 Cecilia by Fanny Burney, 3 stars
1237 Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Laclos, 4 stars
1239 Evelina by Fanny Burney, 4 stars
1245 The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith, 2 stars
1246 The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, 2 stars
1250 Candide by Voltaire, 3 stars
1251 The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox, 3 stars
1264 Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, 3 stars

pre-1700: 1 book read out of 27
1274 Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, 5 stars

6japaul22
Edited: Jan 29, 2015, 12:26pm Top

Easily available 1001 books

On the Shelf:

On the kindle:

Audiobooks at the library:
The Adventures of Augie March
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
The Art of Fielding
An Artist of the Floating World
The Big Sleep
The Black Dahlia
The Body Artist
The Book of Daniel
Brave New World
the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
The Call of the Wild
City of God
Day of the Triffids
The English Patient
Ethan Frome
Farewell My Lovely
Fear of Flying
Flaubert's Parrot
Freedom
The Gathering
The Girls of Slender Means
The Glass Bead Game
The Glimpses of the Moon
The Golden Notebook
Gulliver's Travels
A Handful of Dust
The Heart of the Matter
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Howard's End
Hunger
I know Why the caged bird sings
The Inheritance of Loss
Journey to teh Center of the Earth
The Jungle
Kafka on the Shore
Keep the Aspidistra Flying
Kidnapped
Kim
Last of the Mohicans
The Leopard
Life of Pi
Lord Jim
Main Street
The Maltese Falcon
The Master
Memento Mori
Miss Lonelyhearts
A Modest Proposal
The Namesake
The Optimists Daughter
A Pale View of Hills
The Postman Always Rings Twice
The Power and the Glory
Robinson Crusoe
The Savage Detectives
The Sea
Siddhartha
Slaughterhouse Five
Sons and Lovers
Steppenwolf*
Stranger in a Strange Land
Summer
The Third Man
The Thirty Nine steps
Treasure Island
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Uncle Tom's Cabin
The Violent Bear it Away
A Visit from the Goon Squad
Walden
What Maisie Knew
Women in Love

Kindle books at the library:
Absolom, Absolom
All Quiet on the WEstern Front
The Art of Fielding
The Black Dahlia
Brave New World
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Cannery Row
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
The Dispossessed
Half of a Yellow Sun
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
I know why the caged bird sings
Jazz
Last of the mohicans
Life of Pi
The Long Goodbye
The Maltese Falcon
Midnight's Children
The Namesake
Of Mice and Men
Out of Africa
Pale View of Hills
Pippi Longstocking
The Plague
Possessing the Secret of Joy
The Sea, the Sea
Slaughterhouse Five

7japaul22
Edited: Jan 26, 2015, 9:33pm Top

Wow, my library has A LOT of audiobooks off of this list. I've only searched about a fifth of the books I've marked TBR in my spreadsheet and I've found a lot. I can't imagine that they all work in audiobook format (The Golden Notebook in audio??) but it's nice to know they are there!

8japaul22
Feb 7, 2015, 1:08pm Top

#205 The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
audiobook read by David Case, 5h32m

I knew I had read this before, but for some reason I didn't cross it off my "1001 books to read before you die" list, so I decided to do a refresher by listening to an audiobook. It was fun. I remembered the outcome pretty quickly into the story, but it was still enjoyable. Sherlock Holmes stories/novels are never my favorite mysteries because they always seem to be a little more convoluted and far-fetched than I'd like them to be.

3 stars

9japaul22
Feb 20, 2015, 2:15pm Top

#206 Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
audiobook read by Alfred Molina, 7h8m

Over the last few days while I was sick, I listened to Treasure Island. Since I fell asleep several times listening to it, I had to look up some of the details. :-) This was fun, though, and I didn't realize that so many common cultural references to pirates are really from this book. I'll remember this to recommend to my sons when they are a little older.

I also really liked the audio version.

Original Publication Date: 1883
Author’s nationality: Scottish
Original language: English
Length: 7h8m
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library audiobook
Why I read this: available at library and on the 1001 books list

10ursula
Feb 20, 2015, 2:31pm Top

I read Treasure Island a few years ago, having somehow missed it entirely when I was younger. I was also surprised how much of accepted pirate lore comes from this book! I thought it was great fun, too.

11paruline
Feb 21, 2015, 8:32am Top

>9 japaul22: in the mean time, Disney made quite a good adaptation with Treasure Planet. My kids enjoy it.

12japaul22
Mar 7, 2015, 6:41am Top

#207 The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas

I'm having a hard time putting my finger on just why I loved this novel so much, but it really worked for me. Vesaas is Norwegian, and I'm finding that I really enjoy the straightforward, spare, and unsentimental story telling that I generally find when reading these Scandinavian novels. They are emotional, but not sentimental and I like that.

This is the story of Hege and Mattis, adult siblings who have lived together since their parents died when they were young. Mattis has a learning disability. He is functional, but often confused, seeing meaning in things like the flights of birds and misreading the words and actions of other people. He isn't capable of sustaining work, so Hege supports them by knitting sweaters. Hege is patient with Mattis and seems to take the time to understand his mind, but she is obviously unhappy and lonely. In the third part of the book, Mattis ferries a man, Jorgen, across the lake in his leaky boat. The man is a lumberjack looking for work who ends up living with Hege and Mattis, throwing their simple, lonely life into upheaval for Mattis and happiness for Hege.

This book was written in 1957, and I found Mattis's voice (the story is told from his point of view) to be remarkably believable and written with great insight and sympathy. Mattis's disability makes his words sometimes insightful, sometimes funny, and sometimes highly annoying. Vesaas accomplishes this with straightforward, simple language that is terse but somehow still highly descriptive.

I have another of Vesaas's books on my shelf, The Ice Palace, and I'm looking forward to it.

Original Publication Date: 1957
Author’s nationality: Norwegian
Original language: Norwegian
Length: 224 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback/gift
Why I read this: received it as a gift recently and on the 1001 books list

13japaul22
Mar 11, 2015, 8:04pm Top

#208 Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Well, it took me 3 months, but I finally committed to finishing this book. I had a rough start with it, partially because I started it right during the craziness of the December holiday season, but also because this book is kind of hard. At least it was for me. In the end, though, I was captivated by the sweeping story of Russia and the relationship of Yuri and Lara. This review will be more of a review of my reading experience than of the actual book. I'm not sure I would ever feel qualified to actually review a book of this magnitude.

Most people probably think first of the movie from the 1960s. I think having seen that gave me unrealistic expectations when starting this book. The movie I remember being largely an ill-fated love story and I thought that story would be front and center in the book and give me a thread to hold onto through what I suspected would be a confusing backdrop of the politics in Russia after WWI. Really, though, the book is much more about Russia itself and the political upheaval that happened during and after WWI between the White and Red Armies. Yuri Zhivago, a doctor who really desires to be a peaceful poet, is caught up in all of the turmoil as everyone in Russia is. He is married to Tonya, but ends up falling in love with Lara, who is also married to Antipov/Strelnikov. Explaining all of the vast array of characters and their many interactions would take pages and pages. The first half of the book is really very confusing as you meet all of these characters (who of course have about 6 Russian names each). It is also confusing because many of them have huge shifts in personality, at least on the outside, as the book progresses. This seems to have been a necessity to attempt to survive the political upheaval of the time, but it sure confuses the story.

Another thing that made this book difficult for me was the dialogue. It seemed to be in two types. Either the conversation was completely non-sensical, in that each character seemed to be having a separate conversation and never really answering the other; or the conversation was really a long speech on politics or philosophy. In the case of the first, I came to realize that this was probably intentional, to reflect the inanity of the time. And the second type of dialogue is what led me to figure out the first, so I guess it was necessary!

When I got to the second half of the book, something clicked and I began to "get it". The characters started to make sense; the main characters came more clearly into focus and the dozens of side characters sort of disappear. Yuri and Lara become more central and that also helped ground the book for me.

In the end, I'm really glad I read this. It was challenging, but satisfying that I do think I figured out most of what was going on. I learned a lot more about Russia, which I'm pretty fascinated with. It occurred to me as I was reading this how crazy it is that it seems the two World Wars, even with all the death and trauma that Russia experienced, seem to take a back seat to the internal strife, death, cruelty, and trauma that Russia inflicted on its own people through all of the chaos that ensued following each World War.

I've read quite a bit of Russian fiction now and I feel that each book helps put in a small piece of the puzzle.

I read the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. The Vintage International edition had excellent notes as well.

Original Publication Date: 1957 in Italy
Author’s nationality: Russian
Original language: Russian
Length: 674 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback/purchased
Why I read this: been on my shelf a long time

14arukiyomi
Mar 13, 2015, 2:32am Top

that's a very good review of a difficult book... well done for completing both!

15japaul22
Mar 15, 2015, 8:36pm Top

#209 A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
audio book read by Roe Kendall, 5h59m

A Pale View of Hills is Ishiguro's first novel and already you can see the subtle, enigmatic writer that always surprises.

***spoiler alert*** I really can't review this novel without giving away elements that some would consider spoilers. Just skip this review if that bothers you! I'll have a section at the end with some true spoilers about the ending that I hide.

This novel is narrated by Etsuko, a Japanese woman who is living alone in Britain. Her younger daughter, Niki, comes to visit her and this seems to spur all sorts of memories for her. Through these memories, portions of Etsuko's life are slowly and incompletely revealed. We learn that Etsuko lived in Japan during WWII and obviously experienced a lot of trauma, though there are no details revealed. She was married to a man name Jiro and had his child, Keiko, while she was in Japan. At some point she left him to move to Britain with a man, taking Keiko with her and later having Niki with the British man. We also learn that Keiko committed suicide. Etsuko's British husband has died and we never find out what happened to Jiro. All of these details are revealed subtlety and out of order, so it takes a while to piece together the story. It is all interspersed with Etsuko's memories of her interactions with a woman named Sachiko and her daughter Mariko. Etsuko at that point was married to Jiro and pregnant. She is judgmental of Sachiko's parenting and her decision to leave Japan to go to America with Frank, a man who does not seem very dependable.

There is definitely an "unreliable narrator" element to this book. Etsuko is damaged, not only from the war, but also by her daughter's suicide and probably her marriages as well. It is hard to tell how much truth we can take from her memories. And then there is a twist at the end (no surprise there to readers of Ishiguro's other novels) that makes the reader wonder how much of Sachiko's actions were really Sachiko's and how many of those actions were really Etsuko's actions projected on to Sachiko. It's all rather mysterious and haunting

What I found interesting about this book is that as I was going along reading/listening I kind of kept wondering "where in the world is this going"? It is such a simple story and doesn't really seem to have a point - just the memories of an older woman that don't really tie together. But then in the last few minutes of the book, Ishiguro throws in the idea that the memories of Sachiko and Mariko might actually be of Etsuko herself and her daughter Keiko and all of a sudden I want to read the book again with my eye on it differently.

I'd love to hear some opinions on what we were meant to come away believing from anyone who has read this. I listened to it as an audiobook which is still a pretty new format for me and I'm wondering if I missed something that I would have found if I'd read it.

Original Publication Date: 1982
Author’s nationality: British/Japanese
Original language: English
Length: 5h59m
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: audiobook from the library
Why I read this: available at the library and on the 1001 books list

16japaul22
Apr 15, 2015, 11:21am Top

#210 The Saga of Gosta Berling by Selma Lagerlof

The Saga of Gosta Berling is a novel by Swedish author and Nobel prize winner, Selma Lagerlof. Combining two of my current obsessions, Scandinavian literature and women authors, I've been really looking forward to this one. This ended up not being an easy read for me, though I ended up finding it rewarding.

Gosta Berling starts out his adult life as a minister, but is quickly run out of town and defrocked for his excessive drinking and bad behavior. He falls in with a misfit group of cavaliers in the town of Ekeby. The rest of the book chronicles his various love affairs (which always end badly for the woman) and tell the stories of his fellow cavaliers. There is a strong element of folklore/mysticism running through the book and the stories are told in an episodic fashion. The episodic nature of the book kept me at arm's length, as I was never sure whether this was a character I would continue to run in to, or one I'd get to know for a few pages and never see again. It also made it a bit hard for me to get in to the flow of the book.

There is a lot of death in this book and a lot of infatuation (I can't call it love). What saved the book for me was that in the end there were a lot of loose ends tied up that I'd despaired of ever revisiting. Also, several of the women sort of come in to their own instead of killing themselves over Gosta Berling. Though I found the characterizations a bit weak or at least different than I'm used to, I will say that the writing is beautiful and I think the translation by Paul Norlen must be very good.

All in all, I'm glad I read this and I suspect it is a book that will improve for me as I think about it more and more.

Original Publication Date: 1891
Author’s nationality: Swedish
Original language: Swedish
Length: 399 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback/purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books list random pick

17japaul22
Edited: Apr 22, 2015, 1:15pm Top

#211 The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
5h15m read by Alex Jennings

This just wasn't really my genre. Science fiction about humankind being blinded and harassed by giant plants called triffids and the aftermath of trying to recreate society - not really my thing. There was also a definite 50s vibe (probably cause it was written in the 50s!) in the romantic relationship that annoyed my modern day sensibilities. I've seen a lot of positive reviews for this book on LT, so if you like the genre you may enjoy this more than I did.

Original Publication Date: 1951
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 5h15m
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library audiobook
Why I read this: 1001 books list and available at the library

18japaul22
Apr 22, 2015, 1:15pm Top

#212 Orlando by Virginia Woolf
This book was so much fun. The whole time I was reading it, I felt like I could picture Virginia Woolf with an amused smile on her face, half making fun of herself and half making fun of her wider circle of friends.

Orlando is the biography of Orlando who starts out as a young man living in the Elizabethan era of the 1500s and ends the book as a 36 year old woman in 1928. Along the way he/she has many life experiences, travels, and forays into writing. It's hard to say what this book is actually "about", but it's fun to read, amusing, and clever in the best senses of all of those words. Woolf makes no apologies or explanations for Orlando's sex change or longevity. I was expecting all of this to be confusing and shrouded in mystery, but Woolf just clearly lays out the events and expects the reader to go along. I loved it.

I'd recommend reading some of Woolf's other works first or you might not get the lighter, more playful tone that she uses in this novel.

Original Publication Date: 1928
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 219 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: folio society edition, birthday gift
Why I read this: group read in the category challenge, and I've been reading all her books

19japaul22
Apr 29, 2015, 3:27pm Top

#213 Chess Story by Stefan Zweig
This is a short novella about two chess masters who meet on a boat and play each other. One is the world champion of chess and has come from an obscure upbringing. It was discovered in his teenage years that though he had seemingly no other talents or intellectual capacity, he was a master at chess. The other player learned chess in a cell where he was being held and interrogated by the Nazis. He is unknown to the chess world.

The comparison between these two men and their road to chess is interesting and thoughtfully written. I read this book in an hour and want to read more. There were many layers to the story and writing that keep it very interesting and make you keep pondering the story after finishing. I'm intrigued by Stefan Zweig.

Original Publication Date: 1941
Author’s nationality: Austrian
Original language: German
Length: 84 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books list and off the shelf

20japaul22
May 12, 2015, 12:45pm Top

#214 Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope

This is the second book in Trollope's Palliser series and it follow Phineas Finn's entrance into adulthood and simultaneously into politics. There is quite a bit of 1860s British politics, but though I was afraid that would become a bit of a slog, it was all fairly clearly explained and added to the story.

I really loved the character of Phineas Finn. Generally, I think that Trollope writes female characters best, but with Phineas we get an overall good person who has some character flaws, but is genuine and grows throughout the novel. He is lucky and things generally work out for the best for him, but his luck seems to stem from people liking him and being willing to help which makes me not begrudge this lucky streak.

The novel also explores the plight of women in the upper classes, with their lack of power and control over their lives. There are four women to contrast here: Lady Laura, who chooses a rich but boring and controlling husband; Violet Effingham, who knows who she loves but holds out on marrying him because she doesn't trust him and is worried about losing her independence; Madame Goesler, a wealthy single woman who is slightly mysterious and seems to have found that her power lies in remaining single; and sweet Mary, Phineas's childhood sweetheart from Ireland. All of these women are either in love with Phineas or he is in love with them at some point in the novel.

Overall, this was another excellent novel as I've come to expect from Trollope. Though I loved Phineas, this won't be my favorite Trollope novel, though. It didn't have as many asides from Trollope and I missed those. My star rating will rate this novel in comparison to the other Trollope novels I've read and would be higher if I was comparing it to all the books I read.

Original Publication Date: 1868
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 640 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: oxford world classics set, ebay
Why I read this: palliser series is a project for this year

21japaul22
May 23, 2015, 1:08pm Top

#215 The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

The Sea, The Sea is a first person narrative in a sort of diary/autobiography form written by Charles Arrowby, a retired theater actor and director. Charles leaves London to move to a seaside town in a decrepit old house. There he meets his long lost high school sweetheart who he seems to have idolized all his life but lost touch with when she ran away from the prospect of marrying him in their teenage years. Now he happens upon her, probably 40 plus years later, also retired to this seaside town but with her husband.

Charles quickly becomes obsessed with the idea of rescuing Mary, who he insists on calling by her childhood nickname of Hartley (her surname) even though she obviously has never gone by it as an adult, from her abusive husband. Well, abusive from Charles's reading of the situation. It ends up highly questionable who is the more abusive to Mary between Charles and her husband, Ben.

Added in to this volatile situation are a string of house guests who descend upon Charles. There are several of his former lovers, a few theater friends, his cousin James, and Mary's adopted son, Titus, who Charles tries to get close to probably as a way to get closer to Mary.

This was one of those book where I really detested the first person narrator. Charles is a pretty despicable person and treats Mary and his friends abominably. However, Murdoch's writing really saves the book because as much as I disliked Charles I still was pretty fascinated by what he was doing and how he was reacting. I could see through his explanations of his behavior and his pseudo-psychology about his own actions, and I think this was intended by Murdoch. Also, her descriptions of the sea and the other characters through Charles's voice were examples of some truly beautiful writing.

Overall, I come away from this with a similar feeling to reading The Bell, the only other book by Murdoch I've read. I'm intrigued by her writing, but felt that both books had some flaws. Her writing is so surprising, though, and different than what I expect as I'm reading along that I still want to read more of her work. There is something about her books that I really like despite being annoyed at points by both books.

Original Publication Date: 1978
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 528 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle book
Why I read this: on the 1001 books list and an author I've meant to get back to

22japaul22
Jun 4, 2015, 9:03am Top

#216 Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West
I really hated this book. I listened to about half of the very short audiobook and couldn't take it anymore so I looked up a synopsis on line. It convinced me that I did not need to listen to the end to get the gist of this book.

This novel is dark and supposed to be darkly humorous, but I was really offended by the black humor. The part where the male journalists were sitting around the bar explicitly talking about how all ambitious women writers need to be raped pretty much pushed me over the edge.

I get that this was expressive of the darkness of Depression era America and has larger themes and all of that, but I couldn't get on board.

1 star

23japaul22
Jun 11, 2015, 8:02pm Top

#217 Independent People by Halldor Laxness
This is another extremely satisfying novel that I read because of my interest in Scandinavian literature. Laxness is an Icelandic Nobel Laureate and this book is a new favorite of mine that I will definitely be rereading.

Independent People is the story of Bjartur, an Icelandic man who has just earned his way to independence and purchased a small plot of land that is believed by the people of the region to be cursed. Bjartur, much to the horror of his new young wife, refuses to follow the local custom of throwing a rock into the grave of the spirit woman who rules the area to appease her. This seems to set off a lifetime chain of disasters for Bjartur, though overall the disasters could easily be a result of the harsh climate and way of life in rural Iceland. There is a believable thread of supernatural through the book though, that becomes part of the background of the story. Bjartur must contend against not only the harsh living conditions in Iceland and his extreme poverty, but also the evil spirits that conspire against him.

Independence seems to be an Icelandic value, but Bjartur takes it to an extreme. It’s hard to tell whether to admire Bjartur’s independent spirit or loathe him for it. Bjartur values his independence far above the living conditions of his growing family, that is basically starving for most of the book. He seems to love his sheep more than his wife or children; there is a long time in the novel when the sheep certainly are more visible than the children, but as the children grow, they become more central to the novel. There is Asta, the daughter of Bjartur by his first wife, whose father/daughter relationship with Bjartur becomes the central relationship of the novel. There is also Nonni, the sweet creative boy who ends up emigrating to America. And Gvendur, Bjartur’s youngest son, stays in Iceland presumably to continue in Bjartur’s legacy though he seems to lose his way at the end. I also loved the Grandmother, who had a special relationship with Nonni and seems to live forever as everyone begins to die around her.

Throughout the novel there is a tension between the supernatural and Christianity. This made the novel have a very old world feel to me, even back to when Christianity was making its first appearances and mixing with the long held beliefs about multiple gods, folklore, and the sagas. But then suddenly the novel is grounded in to the 20th century with the advent of WWI and the need for Icelandic sheep and wool in Europe. All of a sudden even the smallest sheep farmers are flush with cash. Even Bjartur builds a real house, though prices crash before he completes it. There is a shift in politics also from capitalism, which is seen to hold the small farmer down and benefit only the already rich, to a cooperative society. I was interested to see if Bjartur could get on board with the idea of cooperatives since his whole life had been a quest for independence. He resists for a while, but nominally gets on board with the idea when he sees some of the benefits. He never seems to fully commit, though, which I think fit his personality.

This book just oozes with the Icelandic setting. I feel that I know Iceland after reading this (probably a dangerous feeling since its really the only Icelandic book I’ve read). Bjartur is a great main character; he is not likable and at first seems simple, but his personality gains in complexity as the novel progresses and I have to think I will feel differently about him each time I read this novel. For a while the characters are overshadowed by the setting and history of the book, but in the end they become equal with and completely entwined with the setting in an amazing way. I found this book had great adventure, interesting characters, an informative historical setting, and amazing depiction of the Icelandic setting and way of life. What’s not to love?

As a side note, I’ve read Growth of the Soil and The Saga of Gosta Berling recently, both of which have a lot in common with this book in terms of tone at least, and I found Independent People to be the best of the bunch. It sacrifices none of the complexity but gains in readability and cohesion. I loved it.

Original Publication Date: 1934
Author’s nationality: Icelandic
Original language: Icelandic
Length: 482 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books group read and interest in Scandinavian literature

24arukiyomi
Jun 12, 2015, 12:11pm Top

great review! I myself thought that Growth of the Soil was better because it was laced with symbolism and I love novels like that, but I can easily see why this won you over.

BTW, "daughter of Bjartur by his first wife?" Not in the edition I read!

25japaul22
Jun 12, 2015, 12:14pm Top

>24 arukiyomi: Well, I didn't want to give away any spoilers and he treated her that way for a good portion of the novel. I couldn't think of a way to write that that didn't get in to more plot than I wanted. I loved that Bjartur's only loving relationship ended up being with this girl who wasn't even actually his daughter and who was the daughter of a wife he didn't care for and a man he hated.

I'm very interested in rereading both Growth of the Soil and Independent People at some point down the road. Growth of the Soil is one of those books that grew on me as I pondered it, though I didn't have the most engaged reading experience while I was actually reading it.

26arukiyomi
Jun 13, 2015, 1:01pm Top

I've just done my rating for Independent and it came out dead equal with Growth at 90%. Looking back at Kristen, I've realised I only gave that 81%!

Yeah, hard to discuss Sola without giving away stuff!

27japaul22
Jun 16, 2015, 2:18pm Top

#218 The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty
The Optimist's Daughter is told from the point of view of Laurel, a 40 something year old woman working in Chicago who grew up in the small town of Mount Salus, Mississippi. She has returned to the South to be there for her father, who is having eye surgery. He ends up dying and the book becomes not only about his death, but also the death of Laurel's mother about ten years prior, and Laurel's husband who died in the war. There is conflict between Laurel and Fay, her father's new wife, but there is also support from the family friends from Mount Salus where Laurel goes for her father's funeral.

I found a lot to think about and a lot to enjoy in this slim novel by Eudora Welty. I'd never read anything by Welty before, and I loved the way she writes and the language and cadence she uses. This was a book that I slowed down for and read aloud in my head instead of speeding along.

Original Publication Date: 1969
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 177 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased used hardcover
Why I read this: 1001 books list and off the shelf

28japaul22
Jun 21, 2015, 7:54pm Top

#219 Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
Well, it took until my seventh book by Atwood to finally find one I didn't like. Surfacing is the story of a young woman who goes to her father's backwoods cabin with three friends to try to find her father, who is reported missing. The interactions between the two couples and the woman's struggles to keep a grip on reality make up the bulk of the book. Actually, the best part was probably the descriptions of life out in the woods without a lot of gear.

I found that in the last third of the book, the plot moved too quickly into territory I hadn't really been prepared for and found the main character's actions a little unbelievable.

I don't think Atwood could write a bad book, but this one didn't meet the standards I have for her.

And now I've read all of Atwood's books that are on the current combined lists.

Original Publication Date: 1972
Author’s nationality: Canadian
Original language: English
Length: 199 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: used paperback
Why I read this: off the shelf, 1001 books, hadn't read at Atwood in a while

29japaul22
Jun 23, 2015, 12:41pm Top

#220 Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
This was different than I expected. Ethan Frome is a short novel, almost more of a short story in its focus on the lead up to a single disastrous event. Ethan Frome is an silent, old man with an almost failing farm and an old injury when we meet him at the beginning of the book. Then we get to hear the story leading up to his injury. You see Ethan Frome as a young man and a glimpse of what his life could have been. The whole thing is pretty depressing, especially when you are thrust back to the present day and realize what all the characters are like now.

It's all very hard to describe without giving away the plot, so I'll just say that I liked it. It's not my favorite Wharton, but it's a powerful, focused book that works really well. I found it strikingly different from her other works that I've read with its rural setting and male focus but it definitely still fits in with her other work in terms of unhappy marriage!

Original Publication Date: 1911
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 128 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle free book
Why I read this: felt like reading Wharton and 1001 books

30ELiz_M
Edited: Jun 27, 2015, 9:18am Top

>29 japaul22: What I love about Ethan Frome is that you know the story is going to end badly, but the actual ending is worse than what you expect -- to me it is more tragic that the young woman lived and the man was trapped in a house with his wife and would-be-lover and seeing what unhappy, unpleasant people they became.

31japaul22
Jun 27, 2015, 12:30pm Top

>30 ELiz_M: Agreed! the ending was very disturbing. I found Mattie's situation, especially that she lost her cheerful disposition, very sad. I actually was most disturbed that Zeena seemed to be (relatively) thriving on the situation since she had her role as caretaker back.

32japaul22
Jul 2, 2015, 9:45am Top

#221 Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
audiobook read by Stefan Rudnicki, 14h34m

Boring. I was just really, really bored. The female characters were simpering and ridiculous, the Indian characters were stereotypical, and I just never got invested. I did like the descriptions of nature, but this classic just wasn't for me.

I also am starting to suspect that classics on audio don't work very well for me. I think I might need to stick to nonfiction or faster paced fiction.

Original Publication Date: 1826
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 14h34m
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: audiobook from library
Why I read this: on the 1001 books list and available at library

33fundevogel
Jul 3, 2015, 12:30pm Top

>32 japaul22:

Well now you're primed to see Mark Twain eviscerate the man.

34japaul22
Jul 3, 2015, 9:00pm Top

>33 fundevogel: that's pretty funny! Now I don't feel bad at all for not enjoying this classic - in fact, I feel vindicated. :-)

35japaul22
Jul 13, 2015, 11:50am Top

#222 Silence by Shusaku Endo

Apostatize = to abandon one's religious faith

If you didn't know what apostatize means, you will know after reading Silence. This word, which I did not know before this book, is probably used hundreds of times. Silence explores the world of 17th century Portuguese Catholic missionaries to Japan. I know very little Japanese history and had no idea that this mission work had happened. Apparently, the Christian missionaries originally were welcomed in Japan, or at least not persecuted. They converted a decent amount of people and then the government decided that Christianity was not welcome in Japan and began to torture and kill Japanese Christians and the missionaries who served them. If a Christian apostatized by trampling on a picture of Christ thereby renouncing his/her faith, they would be spared death. The book is told through a series of letters/reports by a Portuguese priest, Rodrigues, to his home church in Portugal. The book focuses on Rodrigues's personal struggles to decide how best to obey God - by apostatizing and saving some other Christians but denying his God, or by sticking to his beliefs and dying for those beliefs along with the Japanese Christians.

The historical elements of the book were very interesting to me. I found the book fairly easy to read and the story to be gripping. What I wasn't as convinced by was the theology. Rodrigues is appalled by the silence of God in the face of the torment of His followers. To me, I kept thinking, "really, what does he expect to happen?". I found it unlikely that Rodrigues would not have been prepared to see Christian suffering with no visible help from a benevolent God. I can't imagine life in 17th century Portugal was so easy that people didn't already have questions and answers to the problem of why God doesn't intervene to save people from disease, war, famine, etc. The element of silence from God is central to the book and it was unfortunately the weakest part for me.

One thing that did work, though, was the exploration of how Japanese Christians had morphed the teachings to suit their culture and daily life, sort of creating a hybrid Christian god. I would have preferred a longer and more detailed look at this aspect, personally. I was also interested by the question of whether denying God verbally, especially to save another person, really makes you an apostate. This touched on in the last chapters, but I wish it had been the bigger part of the book.

Overall, I am glad I read this and I learned a lot from it, but it had some weaknesses that lessened its appeal to me. I would be curious to know if readers with a deeper understanding of Japanese culture and the missionary tradition get a better reading experience than I did. I would suspect that they do.

Original Publication Date: 1966
Author’s nationality: Japanese
Original language: Japanese
Length: 200 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback at library sale
Why I read this: 1001 books group read and off the shelf

36japaul22
Aug 11, 2015, 5:25pm Top

#223 The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, audio book read by John Lee

This is a really funny book that was even better on audio than I imagine it would be in print. It's the self-narrated story of Balram in a series of letters written to the Chinese Premier about how he rose from the slums of India to be an entrepreneur. His observations about life as a poor man in India are irreverent and hilarious but also pretty revealing.

This book is a little out of my comfort zone, but I really enjoyed it, especially as an audiobook. Its dark humor makes some uncomfortable topics bearable but doesn't gloss over the dark side of life in India's rigid caste system.

Thanks to Nickelini for picking this book off my shelf for me to read this year when I asked!

Original Publication Date: 2008
Author’s nationality: Indian
Original language: English, I think
Length: 8h6m
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, library sale but listened to an audiobook from the library
Why I read this: part of my category challenge

37gypsysmom
Aug 11, 2015, 8:12pm Top

>32 japaul22: re classics on audio Have you listened to any Charles Dickens on audio? I find his work is perfect for listening to. That's how I got through Bleak House which other people have told me they just could not finish.

38japaul22
Aug 11, 2015, 9:01pm Top

>37 gypsysmom: I read and liked Bleak House (not on audio). I think that, for me, I'm used to reading classics in print as I've liked them from an early age. So far I like nonfiction or mysteries best on audio which doesn't really help with the list. To be fair, a lot of the classics I've listened to I've chosen simply because the audio was available at the library, not because it was a book I was really interested in reading at the moment. That can't help!

39japaul22
Aug 24, 2015, 10:06am Top

#224 What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt

This is a hard book for me to review. I read Hustvedt's brand new book, The Blazing World last year and loved it so I've been looking forward to trying more of Hustvedt's work. What I Loved has a lot in common with The Blazing World; both books revolve around the contemporary art world and show Hustvedt's vast knowledge of art and literary scholarship. But where I thought this knowledge served the story well in The Blazing World, I ended up feeling like the long art descriptions and academic discourses disrupted the plot and made me dislike the pretentious characters.

What I Loved is told from the point of view of Leo Hertzberg, an art history professor who is looking back on his adult life. He starts his story with meeting a artist named Bill Weschler. Bill is unhappily married to Lucille and Leo is just married to Erica. The four become friends and both have sons around the same time. Bill ends up leaving Lucille for Violet, a woman he has used in his paintings. Leo and Erica embrace Violet as Lucille was always hard to deal with. The first part of this book is filled with their adult relationships and academic endeavors. It is the part that I found a bit pretentious.

The second part begins with a tragedy. Leo and Erica's son, Matt, dies in a boating accident while he's away at camp. This part of the book almost did me in. The way that Hustvedt writes about and dwells in grief was too intense for me. I had to put the book aside for a few days and seriously contemplated not returning to it. I suppose the realism says something positive about her writing but it was almost too much for me. I made it through the heart of that section though, and it got easier to read from there.

The third part focuses of Bill's son, Mark. Mark is a troubled youth - lying constantly, taking drugs, and in with the wrong crowd, including an adult artist who produces highly violent and graphic art and is something of a sensation in the art world. Mark's character is never fully revealed; it remains a bit murky whether he is evil at heart or has fallen in to the wrong crowd. The relationships between Leo, Bill, Violet, and Erica really have fallen apart by the end of the book, in part due to the tragedy in part 2 and in part due to Mark's behavior. (I'm being a bit oblique here to not give away some plot elements)

As I write about this book, I realize that there is a lot to think about here and that I did appreciate the quality of the writing and the ideas Hustvedt develops. Unfortunately, I didn't really connect with this book and found some of the plot elements too sad to let me enjoy the book. I also think I didn't really ever like Leo, which doesn't help in a first person narrative.

I will read more of Hustvedt's work, but wouldn't really recommend this one as a starting point.

Original Publication Date: 2003
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 370 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: meaning to read more Hustvedt, off the shelf, 1001 books

40japaul22
Aug 29, 2015, 12:41pm Top

#225 If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino
Not quite sure what to make of this one. Calvino has crafted an amusing and clever book about reading, writing, and books. There were many passages that had me laughing and many that had me thinking, so I liked it in that respect. But part of me wondered why I needed to read to the end of the book once I figured out the pattern and form. In that sense, I found it a little repetitive and boring. It's odd to feel that a book is at once innovating and boring!

Original Publication Date: 1979
Author’s nationality: Italian
Original language: Italian
Length: 254 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: off the shelf, used book
Why I read this: picked by LittleTaiko for my category challenge

41japaul22
Oct 11, 2015, 9:26pm Top

Just realized I finished this a couple weeks ago and forgot to add it to this thread!

#226 Troubles by J.G. Farrell

Troubles is a darkly humorous look at the clash between Ireland and England in the years immediately following WWI. Major Brendan Archer travels to Kilnalough after returning from WWI (and a stay in a hospital recovering from shell shock) to meet a girl named Angela who he met and became engaged to during the war. They've only met once and he's not quite sure what he's getting in to - in fact he can barely remember her. He visits her at her family's hotel, the Majestic. The Majestic was an enormous, grand, hotel decades ago, but it is falling apart. Angela dies, but the Major is sucked in to life at the hotel. He becomes friends with Edward, Angela's father, and falls in love with a different girl in Kilnalough. Though the Major tries to leave once or twice, he can't seem to tear himself away from this decaying hotel and the old ladies who are the few remaining guests.

There is a lot of symbolism here. The decaying hotel can be seen both as a reflection of "the Troubles" in Ireland as it fights for independence and as the British Empire crumbling after WWI. The subject is grim but there is a dark humor in this book that keeps it from feeling like a serious book, even considering the serious times.

I really loved reading this and think it will be a memorable book for me.

Original Publication Date: 1970
Author’s nationality: British/Irish
Original language: English
Length: 459 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books list and group read

42japaul22
Oct 17, 2015, 8:00pm Top

#227 Howards End by E.M. Forster, audiobook read by Nadia May, 11h4m

I went into this not knowing what to expect after loving Forster's A Room with a View and detesting A Passage to India. In the end, I think this split the middle for me.

Howards End is about the Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen, and their interaction with the Wilcoxes who are wealthy and the Basts who are poor. There is a lot of social commentary and commentary on the arts threaded through the book. There is also a good story, though, with the choices of Margaret and Helen being interesting and moving the action forward nicely. I do have a complaint, though, that there were several plot occurrences that seemed to happen very abruptly, with little or no lead up. Afterwards they are explored and explained, but I found it jarring while I was listening.

This is a book that is either going to grow on me and keep me thinking or I'll have completely forgotten it in a year. Not sure yet which way it will fall.

Original Publication Date: 1910
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 11h4m
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library audiobook
Why I read this: happened upon it in my library wish list

43japaul22
Nov 19, 2015, 9:08am Top

#228 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, audiobook read by Gary Sinise, 3h11m

Ugh. What a painful story. Somehow I had never read this and I thought it was time. I had an idea of the basic story, which is about two men, George and Lennie, who travel to different ranches, following work during the Great Depression. George is looking out for Lennie, who is physically strong but intellectually weak. It's such a sad story; Lennie has no option to get the help he needs and can't control his impulses, leading to disaster.

This is a well-written book and an important look at male friendship and the hardships that itinerant workers faced during the 1930s. However, I can't say I enjoyed it. The story was just too harsh and the blaming of the only woman in the book (only referred to as "Curly's wife, never even rating her own name) was really distasteful to me.

I listened to an audiobook read by Gary Sinise and his reading was excellent.

Original Publication Date: 1937
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 3h11m
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library audiobook
Why I read this: available at library and 1001 books list

44Jan_1
Nov 19, 2015, 9:40am Top

Agree completely with your Of Mice & Men comments, just finished reading it and left me with the same feelings.

45annamorphic
Nov 19, 2015, 4:00pm Top

>43 japaul22: For some reason, American high school English teachers always assign this book in around 9th grade. I had it when I was a kid and now my children have it. I think that teachers like Steinbeck for his obvious symbolism but this is not a book that makes a 14-year-old think "hey! Great literature can be fun!"

46japaul22
Nov 19, 2015, 4:24pm Top

>45 annamorphic: Yep. You know what is even worse is that I was in Honors English where we read Grapes of Wrath instead in 11th grade. The normal track English class read Of Mice and Men I think also in 11th. I think both were pretty poor choices. Even though I was in a class of fairly adventurous readers I think only a handful of people actually read all of Grapes of Wrath. I'm all for studying the classics in high school, but I've come around on the idea that certain authors are better for later in life and that there are more accessible reading choices that can teach many of the same topics.

47ursula
Nov 19, 2015, 4:27pm Top

>46 japaul22: Grapes of Wrath was assigned in my regular English 10th grade class. It was way too much for us; pretty much everyone hated it (and I'm sure that like your experience, many didn't read the whole thing).

48japaul22
Nov 19, 2015, 4:29pm Top

>47 ursula: To be fair, I reread Grapes of Wrath a couple of years ago and still didn't really like it. I appreciate Steinbeck, but his writing just doesn't suit my taste.

49japaul22
Dec 13, 2015, 7:18am Top

#229 Cecilia by Fanny Burney

I had sort of a love/hate relationship with this book. Published in 1782, this is a novel of sensibility, following the young adulthood of Cecilia, an heiress to a large fortune who is also benevolent, honest, and good. A condition of her inheritance is that her future spouse take her last name upon marrying her which will prove to cause all sorts of trouble for the one man she desires to marry out of the many suitors vying for her attention.

Cecilia also is left by her Uncle (who had been caring for her after her parents died) with three guardians, none of whom was chosen very wisely. One is a gambler living well beyond his means who will effectively rob Cecilia of part of her fortune, one is a miserly man with no social skills, and one is affected by his excessive pride in his family name.

As a novel of sensibility, there are long scenes in this book of excessive emotion and drama with long-winded speeches where honestly I wished things would just move along already. But there are also several characters who exhibit realistic personalities, showing shades of both good and bad traits. Cecilia herself surprised me, because though she is good through and through, she does "have a spine" and I ended up really liking her and rooting for her as she matured throughout the book.

Overall, I'm very glad I read this and I enjoyed it though it will not rank among my favorites because the over-dramatic nature and wordiness just don't suit my personal taste. I much preferred Burney's Evelina which I found had a charming nature that I personally enjoyed more.

Original Publication Date: 1782
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 900 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: group read and 1001 books

50japaul22
Dec 17, 2015, 9:24am Top

#230 Transit by Anna Seghers

I loved this book set in 1940 Marseille, France as refugees attempt to flee Europe to the safety of other countries. The book is narrated by a young German man (we never learn his real name) who has escaped prison camps in Germany, by swimming across the Rhine, and France. While in Paris, he is asked by a friend to deliver a letter to a man named Weidel. He discovers that Weidel has committed suicide and discovers an unfinished manuscript and some letters to Weidel's wife. He makes his way to Marseille to find this wife and when there appropriates the name and papers of Weidel. Once in Marseille, he joins the absurd lifestyle of those waiting for their multiple papers and permissions to allow them to travel abroad, dealing with unhelpful, incompetent people and systems that rarely allow things to move along smoothly. The young man enjoys his life in Marseille and the people he meets and doesn't actually want to leave, though he's only allowed to stay if he's trying to leave. He ends up unintentionally finding Weidel's wife and his experiences entwine with hers.

There is obviously a lot of action going on here, but actually the book is just as much about the boredom, inanity, and just waiting of life in Marseille. There is much time spent in cafes, eating pizza and drinking wine, and talking about the transit visa process. People share little about their actual selves but make connections through their shared, even if not talked about, experiences. I loved the tone of this book, the absurdity of the situations, and the subtle insights into this aspect of the war experience.

Anna Seghers herself lived an interesting life. She was a German Jewish Communist who left Germany in the 1930s for France. During the war she left France through Marseille for Mexico, later returning to live in East Germany. She obviously drew on her experiences in Marseille to craft this book as she wrote it upon arriving in Mexico. I would highly recommend this book and will be keeping it to reread sometime in the future.

Original Publication Date: 1951, but completed in 1942
Author’s nationality: German
Original language: German
Length: 252 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: nyrb paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books, off the shelf

51japaul22
Dec 17, 2015, 8:22pm Top

#231 The Nose by Gogol
I read this short story while waiting for an appointment today. I knew the premise, so it wasn't all that shocking. The story is that a man wakes up one morning to find that his nose is gone. He sees it later, walking around, dressed up as a government official. Later a police officer brings it back to him but he can't get it back on. Then one morning he wakes up and all is right again.

The whole thing is pretty silly, but it's entertaining. I'm planning to read Dead Souls in 2016 and hadn't yet read this off the 1001 books to read before you die list, so I thought I'd give it a try. One thing that surprised me was that this was written in the early 1800s and that Gogol was a contemporary of Tolstoy. I was thinking that he wrote later than Tolstoy.

Original Publication Date: 1835
Author’s nationality: Russian
Original language: Russian
Length: 30? pages (read on kindle)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle book
Why I read this: curiosity, 1001 books

52Nickelini
Dec 18, 2015, 3:07am Top

I just typed a long comment on your Steinbeck conversation, but then hit who knows w0hat and deleted it. Anyway, I read it in grade 9 too -- Canada, 1978. My older daughter read it a few years ago when she was in grade 11. She didn't like the treatment and absence of women, saw the literary merit, but overall disliked it.

Speaking of high school reading, we both read To Kill a Mockingbird in grade 10, and now my younger daughter is reading it in grade 10 too.

Somethings never change.

53japaul22
Dec 18, 2015, 5:27pm Top

You know, I can't remember if I read To Kill a Mockingbird for a high school class or if I just read it on my own. I need jfetting to chime in and remind me - she has a much better memory for these things!

I think TKAM is a good choice for high school students, unlike some "classics" that get assigned (ahem, David Copperfield).

54jfetting
Dec 24, 2015, 3:09pm Top

We never read Mockingbird in high school, so it must have been an on-your-own thing.

55arukiyomi
Dec 26, 2015, 12:03am Top

you went to the same high school? Or is it that US education is really that uniform?

56japaul22
Dec 26, 2015, 6:22am Top

>55 arukiyomi: same high school and we were in all the same English/language arts classes in school. Jfetting introduced me to librarything.

57arukiyomi
Dec 26, 2015, 11:05pm Top

well fancy that.

58jfetting
Dec 28, 2015, 8:23pm Top

Same middle school too, but I can't for the life of me remember which books we read back then.

59japaul22
Dec 28, 2015, 8:45pm Top

>58 jfetting: Yep, I remember almost nothing from middle school. Probably some sort of coping mechanism. :-)

60japaul22
Jan 8, 2016, 1:55pm Top

My first book of 2016:

#232 Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
This is an interesting and readable book that opens a window to Nigerian culture. The story follows Okonkwo, a member of the Umuofia clan who has brought himself up from a poor start to be one of the successful men of his community. This book has many layers. On one hand, it's Okonkwo's story, a universal one of a man trying to make a success of himself and what he has to do to get there. Okonkwo makes some, to say the least, questionable decisions in his quest to not be his father who he viewed as weak and lazy.

In another way, this is a look at what happens to a Nigerian community when white missionaries come and interfere with their way of life. I loved finally reading a book from this point of view instead of the books written by white men. Achebe is able to "tell it like it is" without lecturing or complaining, just showing what happens. What happens is damning enough.

And then this is also a book that incorporates the traditional myths and ways of life of a people that I really know nothing about. I loved the stories that were woven in to the narrative and found myself learning a lot about the customs and ways that the community interacted through Okonkwo's experiences.

All in all, I found this a pretty fascinating look into another culture. It was a bit out of my comfort zone since I have so little background on Nigeria to fall back on, but it was a great building block to more African reading as it comes along.

Original Publication Date: 1959
Author’s nationality: Nigerian
Original language: English
Length: 209 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback at library sale
Why I read this: 1001 books list and off the shelf

61Cliff-Rhu-Rhubarb
Jan 8, 2016, 6:14pm Top

>60 japaul22: I didn't fall in love with the book, but like you I found the glimpse of another culture fascinating. In particular, I realy enjoyed the way that the villagers' reality seamlessly incorporated magical and spiritual elements. That's such a fundamentally different way of looking at the world.

62japaul22
Jan 8, 2016, 6:55pm Top

>61 Cliff-Rhu-Rhubarb: yes, the book was too far outside my knowledge base for me to love it, but I thought it was very well-crafted and memorable. You've put it very nicely.

63japaul22
Jan 30, 2016, 11:27am Top

#233 Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner
So I found another book I've already read! This year I'm using a random number generator to pick 4 of the books I've marked TBR on my spreadsheet to read this year. Absalom, Absalom came up and I got it off my shelf and remembered in the first few pages that I read it years ago. I even have notes in the margins. So, there's another one down.

I don't remember every detail of the book, but I remember that like most Faulkner I found it challenging to read, but rewarding.

64ALWINN
Feb 1, 2016, 9:57am Top

what is the random number generator that you are using???

65japaul22
Feb 1, 2016, 5:27pm Top

If you just search "random number generator" lots of options come up.

66arukiyomi
Edited: Feb 2, 2016, 3:53am Top

you could always just put books out on the floor and select the first one your (insert pet here) touches/plays/sits on/chews...

67ALWINN
Feb 2, 2016, 1:40pm Top

Im probably like many I have way to many on my TBR shelf to do that because then I would have spend another day or so just putting them back.

68japaul22
Feb 15, 2016, 2:43pm Top

#234 The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf
This is Woolf's first novel and wow does it show. After being blown away by To the Lighthouse and The Waves and enjoying Mrs. Dalloway and Orlando, I was completely bored by this novel.

The Voyage Out is the story of Rachel Vinrace, a young woman taking a trip from London to somewhere in South America. The boat is her father's, but her Aunt and Uncle, Helen and Ridley, are also traveling with them and she joins them on their vacation in South America. It's sort of a coming of age story, with Rachel starting out a lonely, sheltered girl.

Unfortunately there are a few big problems with this book. First of all, there are too many characters and they don't capture the attention enough to keep them all straight. I would never have guessed that Rachel was the main character until about 2/3 of the way into the book. That's a problem. The best part of the book was the brief appearance of the Dalloways who join the ship for a part of the journey. I can see why Woolf wrote a book about Mrs. Dalloway, because she stands out as the most memorable character even though she is in the book very briefly. Another large problem is the setting. Most of the book is set in an undisclosed location in South America and it just never felt convincing. It was distractingly "off".

There are certainly seeds of the voice that Woolf would later find present in this book, but overall I found it mundane and boring.

Original Publication Date: 1915
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 445 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: group read with 1001 books and I have a plan to read all of Woolf's novels

69jfetting
Feb 16, 2016, 1:16pm Top

I agree completely. I could barely finish it.

70japaul22
Feb 16, 2016, 4:26pm Top

>69 jfetting: Yet another book we see eye to eye on!

71japaul22
Feb 16, 2016, 4:26pm Top

#235 The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith audiobook read by David Thorn, 7h14m

This mid-18th century novel was one of the most popular of its day. It started out promising for me. It's narrated by Dr. Primrose, a rather self-satisfied well-off clergyman with a lovely family. His views are sort of smug but funny at the same time. Then things start to go downhill for him and his family. It's sort of a Job story, where almost everything is taken from him - his money, his home, his daughter's virtue, etc. And then there's an improbably ending where everything turns out right.

I could see how it might have been popular when it was written. There are a lot of plot twists and Dr. Primrose stays true to his faith throughout all his trials. For me, though, a lot of it was just too silly and too allegorical.

Also, as an audiobook, I'm not sure it worked very well. I thought the main narrator, David Thorn, who was the voice of Dr. Primrose was excellent, but the other readers (it's an ensemble cast) all over-acted their parts to my taste.

Original Publication Date: 1766
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 7h14m
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library audiobook
Why I read this: 1001 books list and available at the library

72japaul22
Feb 21, 2016, 9:18pm Top

#236 Ashes and Diamonds by Jerzy Andrzejewski
This was a very interesting look at Poland in the last days of WWII. Present are people to represent many of the different factions that have emerged from the war. There are those who want an independent Poland, those who are Communist and don't fear the Russian model (and perhaps occupation), those who are young nihilists who only know terror, and those too damaged by the war to care anymore.

The book deals with the nonsensical killing that is still happening. There is an accidental murder of the wrong people, the murder of a young man by his friends when he refuses to give them money towards their terrorist causes, and the assassination of a prominent Communist. All this murder in the last days of a war that already killed so many - it's dark and horrifying. Some of the characters realize it and some just don't know any other way to live anymore. I think the group of young people who grew into young adulthood during the war are the most hopeless case. It's sad to see them not knowing how to act besides as terrorists, but I think Andrzejewski's point is that it's a side effect of growing up during a war full of atrocities. Another important character was the man who was in a concentration camp and survives by becoming an orderly and beating the other prisoners. He justifies his actions by saying that acting one way in war to survive does not mean you'll still be a bad person when circumstances are different. It's a disturbing thing to think about.

The book has a lot of characters and is somewhat chaotic, reflecting the times, but I found it a great read. It opened up a lot of thoughts about what happens in a country that has been ravaged by war in the end days of the war. There wasn't any relief or happiness here as you might expect. It was all confusion and more killing and people so damaged they don't even know how to move on and don't trust that there is anything to move on to. For all that, it isn't a relentlessly depressing book to read. Andrzejewski tells his story in a matter-of-fact way and has some beautifully phrased sentiments - I found it thoughtful and enlightening.

Original Publication Date: 1948
Author’s nationality: Polish
Original language: Polish
Length: 239 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased second hand
Why I read this: 1001 books list random pick

73japaul22
Mar 2, 2016, 6:38pm Top

#237 The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, read by Holter Graham, 15h56m

I listened to this audiobook in 3 spurts over the last 9 months. The checkout from the library kept expiring and I wouldn't feel like renewing it. But then I'd still be thinking about it and check it out again. In the end, I ended up thinking this was a really good book.

The story revolves around the baseball team at a small upper midwestern college called Westish College. Henry Skrimshander is recruited by the baseball team leader, Mike Schwarz, to play shortstop for the team. Mike sees potential in Henry and he is right. Henry ends up being a once in a lifetime find and seems destined to be a Major League shortstop of the highest caliber. Towards the end of the season, things start to go wrong. Is it the pressure? Fear of success? Fear of failure?

Baseball is the backdrop for the relationships in this book. There is the obvious team dynamic. There is also the college roommate dynamic. Also, these characters are trying to figure out what they'll do next as they near the end of their college careers. Another element is the President of Westish College, Guert Affenlight. His 20-something daughter, Pella, has recently come back from a failed marriage and they try to rebuild their father/daughter relationship. Affenlight is also experiencing a sort of second youth, having a relationship with one of the students. There is a lot going on, but Harbach manages to keep it all tied together. In addition to the baseball backdrop, there is a constant thread of Melville, who supposedly lectured at Westish College. Affenlight is a Melville scholar and there are some subtle (very subtle) references to themes in Moby Dick throughout the book.

The book relies on some sort of unlikely plot turns which made me not love it, but I think it's going to end up being a really memorable book for me, surprisingly enough. Part of this may be that I loved the audio book reader, Holter Graham. I think he really increased my enjoyment of the book. This was Chad Harbach's first book and I will be interested to read what he writes next.

Original Publication Date: 2011
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 15h56m
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: audiobook
Why I read this: available at library, 1001 books

74japaul22
Mar 11, 2016, 8:08pm Top

#238 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, audiobook read by the author, 10h11m

This was excellent. The honest, brutal, but somehow hopeful and occasionally humorous memoir of Angelou's childhood up to about age 17 is made even better by her reading. Anybody who likes memoirs or is interested in the experience of a black girl growing up in America in the 1940s should read (or listen) to this book. Angelou is great at being able to find the humor in her life, even during troubled moments, and I think hearing her read this brings that out. There isn't much levity here, but it isn't a gloomy book. I think that even non-audio book people would enjoy this on audio.

Original Publication Date: 1969
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 10h11m
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: audiobook from the library
Why I read this: 1001 books list

75Yells
Mar 11, 2016, 8:57pm Top

I was rather blow away by this one as well. And, to be honest, because she is so highly touted by Oprah, I was really prepared to hate it.

76japaul22
Mar 12, 2016, 7:47am Top

#239 Harriet Hume by Rebecca West
This was an odd book. It is subtitled "A London Fantasy" and has a weird element of the supernatural in it and I really couldn't figure out the point. Or maybe a more accurate way to say it is I didn't like the way West got to the point.

Harriet Hume is a beautiful young musician living on her own in London. Arthur Condorex is a rising star in London politics. He loves Harriet's beauty and quirky ways until Harriet takes things too far and reveals that she can read minds and knows what Condorex is thinking. They meet each other in 4 or 5 different instances over a matter of about a decade. Each time the power gradually shifts from Condorex to Harriet. Condorex is a jerk - demeaning Harriet and full of himself so it's good to see him get what's coming to him, but I never really saw Harriet come into her own the way I think I was intended to.

In the end, the fantasy element was just too odd for me to connect to this book. I'm left thinking that the wonderful Return of the Soldier is where I should have stopped in reading Rebecca West's books. I've also read her The Thinking Reed which I found pretentious.

Original Publication Date: 1929
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 288 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased Virago edition
Why I read this: 1001 books list, virago on the shelf

77japaul22
Mar 12, 2016, 7:50am Top

>75 Yells: Yes, Oprah's endorsement can be the kiss of death to a serious reader, but I think that's undeserved. She has gotten people reading some amazing books - Faulkner, Anna Karenina, Toni Morrison, Middlesex - just off the top of my head. I feel the same way as you and then have to remind myself of some of the wonderful books she's introduced to the masses.

78jfetting
Mar 12, 2016, 10:27am Top

I loved the parts where Angelou started singing the old gospel songs. Audio is definitely the way to go.

79Yells
Mar 12, 2016, 4:26pm Top

>77 japaul22: I used to read her recommendations but man, she picked some dark, depressing stuff! If I read about one more screwed up family...

One problem I did have with Oprah's book club stems from an incident I had while working in a bookstore. Someone came in looking for whatever Toni Morrison book she endorsed. We didn't have it but we did have a few other titles so I tried recommending one. The woman totally shut me down saying "if Oprah didn't recommend it, I won't read it." I encountered quite a few people with that mentality later on. Very sad... this was a book club designed to get people reading more varied things but for some, it limited their choices.

80japaul22
Apr 10, 2016, 8:11am Top

#240 Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

This was my first foray into Robertson Davies's writing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I chose the Deptford Trilogy because it happened to be sitting on my shelf but if I'd done a little more research I might have tried a different trilogy first simply because I have an aversion to magic/magicians and a large part of this book is set in a magic show. Luckily, despite my irrational aversion to books involving magic, I still thought this was a fantastic book. And actually, the magic ends up being a rather small part of the plot overall.

This is the first person account of Dunstan Ramsay and his interactions with people in his small town in Canada as they grow up and grow out of their humble beginnings. Ramsay is a small-time intellectual, at least at first, and has an interest in saints, writing several books on the topic. He also has an interest in the Dempster family that he develops as a child. He ends up caring for the mentally challenged Mrs. Dempster and happening upon her son, Paul, who ran away as a child and joined a magic show.

Ramsay is central to all of these lives, at least in his own mind. As a first person account, of course, you never really know what everyone else thinks of him.

This is the first book in a trilogy and I'm definitely looking forward to reading the next two.

Original Publication Date: 1970
Author’s nationality: Canadian
Original language: English
Length: 259 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: used paperback
Why I read this: group read in the category challenge and off the shelf

81gypsysmom
Apr 10, 2016, 5:58pm Top

>80 japaul22: Robertson Davies is possibly my favourite Canadian writer. I too am not keen on books with magic (and especially not magical realism) but Davies can pull it off. Once you read The Deptford trilogy I would recommend The Cornish trilogy which consists of Rebel Angels, What's Bred in the Bone and The Lyre of Orpheus. The third book is one of my favourites probably because it has lots of details about the theatre which was Davies' first career.

82japaul22
Apr 10, 2016, 8:10pm Top

>81 gypsysmom: Ah, interesting that his first career was in theater! It explains how well he describes the magic show. And also somehow fits with the general vibe of the book. I will definitely continue on with the Deptford Trilogy and see myself reading the Cornish trilogy as well. Great example of a list book leading me to other works.

83streamsong
Apr 11, 2016, 9:37am Top

I'm also reading The Fifth Business for the cat challenge group read. So far I'm enjoying it and also plan to go on with the other two. It sounds like this author's canon has a lot to offer. Like you, this is my first Robertson Davies.

84japaul22
Apr 14, 2016, 6:48pm Top

#241 Out of Africa by Isak Denison
Meh. This is a perfect example of a book that just wasn't what I wanted it to be. I knew that the book did not get personal as the movie does and that Denison's interesting love life was not part of this book, but I didn't expect that all of the author's personality would be stripped from this "memoir". Instead, this is Denison's musings on Africa. As such, I suppose it is interesting as a capsule of European views of Africa at the time, but I didn't like the tone that the Africans were described in (very belittling) or all the hunting and killing of the wildlife so that the Europeans could have their farms and livestock. It just put a bad taste in my mouth.

I will admit that some of the writing is beautiful and it is interesting from a historical perspective, but, overall, I was just bored and sort of annoyed. I would have just set this aside after the first chapter but I wanted to complete it since it's on the 1001 books to read before you die list.

Original Publication Date: 1937
Author’s nationality: Danish
Original language: English (she then rewrote it in Danish)
Length: 416 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: 1001 books list

85japaul22
Jun 7, 2016, 11:40am Top

#242 The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing
An exciting and interesting plot, vividly described setting, and a depth of understanding about severe culture clash without a hint of know-it-all attitude - what more could I want?

I loved this book. Lessing has written a novel that reads like a page turner but has the depth of a slow, studied book. The story of Mary Turner is revealed after we read of her murder on the first page of the book. Her childhood, her marriage, her experience of isolated farm life, and her complete ignorance of the native people of Southern Rhodesia, all combine to lead to her death in a complex and compelling way.

This book manages to be a look at marriage, a look at a white woman's available paths in Rhodesia, and a study of the interactions of the various races and socio-economic levels in Rhodesia all at the same time. And it remains readable and memorable while doing it.

I particularly loved that Lessing doesn't pretend to know more about the native Africans in her book than she actually does. Their emotions and lives are not at all described from their own point of view, only through the lens of the white people around them and a bit through their actions. I appreciated that she didn't try to enlighten those reading her book on "what Africans are like" - something that drove me crazy and seemed so demeaning to African culture in a book I read recently, Out of Africa.

I highly recommend this.

Original Publication Date: 1950
Author’s nationality: British raised in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
Original language: English
Length: 238 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: caught my eye, 1001 books

86japaul22
Jun 20, 2016, 4:56pm Top

#243 Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf

Jacob's Room is Virginia Woolf's third novel and her first experimental novel. I didn't connect to it the same way I did to her later novels, but in the end I find myself intrigued by it.

Woolf chooses Jacob as her central character, a young man who you expect from the beginning will be the perfect age to die in WWI. Instead of letting the reader into his growth from childhood to young adulthood, Woolf holds the reader at arms length in favor of showing brief exterior experiences. Characters flit in and out of the book and Jacob goes through a string of women love interests. He starts the book as a young child, goes to school, and travels, but everything is shown in brief vignettes. There isn't much interior development of Jacob's feelings.

But Woolf's beautiful writing is expressive enough to carry the book. I love how she can capture the most mundane moment and make it seem unique. This book in particular is very visual. It does however, lack the structure that her later books have that keep things moving forward.

This is definitely a book to ponder and reread. Despite not having a satisfying connection to it the whole time I was reading it, I'm interested enough to count it as an enjoyable reading experience.

Original Publication Date: 1922
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 247 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books, Virginia Woolf project

87japaul22
Jul 2, 2016, 9:32am Top

#243 The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Very satisfying thriller-type book (thriller is too dramatic but I can't think of a better word) about a young man who murders a friend and takes over his personality. I thought the writing and the story were both good and it suited my mood for a page turner. I'd like to read more by Highsmith. Not sure if I'll continue with her other Ripley books right away, but probably some day.

Original Publication Date: 1955
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 273 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: used paperback
Why I read this: fun, 1001 books

88ursula
Jul 3, 2016, 2:44am Top

>87 japaul22: I loved that one so much. It's really a testament to Highsmith that she can make a reader want Ripley to escape punishment when he's a sociopath.

89amerynth
Edited: Jul 3, 2016, 7:38pm Top

I loved The Talented Mr. Ripley and was surprised since I'd seen the movie many moons ago and didn't particularly enjoy it. I've read three out of the five books in the "Ripliad" now -- while they were good, they weren't as great as the first book.

As ursula said, I loved the way that Highsmith got you rooting for Ripley in the first book -- I've found I'm rooting for him to get caught in the others.

90Yells
Jul 3, 2016, 9:46pm Top

I hated the movie but loved the book as well.

91japaul22
Jul 22, 2016, 2:05pm Top

#244 Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
I went into this book with a little trepidation. I love some Russian novels (Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment) but have also found in some cases that I just feel so remote from the culture that I don't feel I know what is going on (Life and Fate, Dr. Zhivago). Hearing that Dead Souls is sort of a parody of different Russian classes and bureaucracy I wasn't sure I'd get it. But it ends up that Gogol's writing has a universal element to it and I felt I knew what he was getting at with his portraits of different types of Russian people. Certainly, if you've ever been to a DMV in the US this book will feel familiar to you!

Basically, we follow Chichikov who is trying to "get rich quick". He comes up with a plan to cheaply buy up all the deceased peasants he can find. Because censuses were taken so infrequently, landowners paid taxes on their muzhiks even after they had died. Chichikov offers to take them off their hands and plans to use the deeds to mortgage these deceased peasants later on. He meets a large cast of characters while trying to achieve this and a lot of the depictions and interactions are amusing. I loved the descriptions of food and over-eating and the muddled layers of bureaucracy.

The book is unfinished. My edition, translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky, has the complete first volume and the incomplete second volume. Even unfinished, this is worth reading and certainly gives a complete idea. Definitely recommended for readers venturing into the world of Russian novels.

Original Publication Date: 1842
Author’s nationality: Russian
Original language: Russian
Length: 393
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: interested in Russian writing

92japaul22
Aug 18, 2016, 11:01am Top

#245 The Ambassadors by Henry James

I have a love/hate relationship with Henry James, in that I like his characters and the situations he puts them in, but his writing style can really turn me off. Way too much work to figure out all the odd syntax and dozens of commas in really long sentences. Despite this, The Ambassadors really worked for me.

The story is fairly simple. An American, Strether, travels to Europe to attempt to convince a young man, Chad Newsome, to give up his European lifestyle and return to America to run his family's business. Strether is involved with Chad's mother, probably going to marry her. When he gets to Europe he meets the wonderful Miss Gostrey who sort of takes him on as a project and tries to help him along the way. He also discovers that Chad is involved with an older woman, Madame de Vionnet, who is married. The thing is that once Strether sees Chad in Europe, he realizes that his lifestyle really suits him and sees a marked improvement in Chad's style and personality. So he's not so sure he wants to convince Chad to go back to Woollett, MA, even for all the money the business would bring. He also thinks Madame de Vionnet is pretty awesome. So he waffles. This leads Mrs. Newsome to send her formidable daughter, Sarah Pocock, to bring Chad back herself.

The whole thing is very clever and subtle. There is a lot of dialogue where the characters sort of talk around what they mean and things are left very vague, but I thought that was sort of true to life. I think often people have "conversations" where they are really just putting forward their own point of view and not necessarily listening, and certainly not being influenced by, the other person. I thought the dialogue was fantastic.

There were certainly long descriptive passages where my eyes were glazing over, but all in all, I really enjoyed this. It must have caught me at just the right time because it does take quite a bit of concentration to read Henry James. Definitely recommended to "classics-lovers".

Original Publication Date: 1903
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 495 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library paperback
Why I read this: wanted a Henry James to pair with The Master, biographical fiction about Henry James

93M1nks
Aug 18, 2016, 11:19am Top

A really good review. I too have a bit of like/dislike association with Henry James works. I'm a fan of novels from Austens time and up through into the Victorian era but I seem to prefer English over American which is something I've just recently noticed. Although they are all long and wordy the Dickens and Elliots seem to get to the point and be far more down to earth than the James and the Hawthornes. Even Edith Wharton, much though I love her work, has that highly rarefied over the top sense of propriety, where it is considered impossible for any of her characters to just bluntly state what they want and what they mean. I wonder if it might be a sense of having to 'out Jones the Joneses' and a way of trying to prove to Europe that they aren't the brutish bunch of uncultured barbarians they are afraid of being thought?

94japaul22
Aug 18, 2016, 12:24pm Top

>93 M1nks: I'm a pretty big Wharton fan, but I get what you mean. Melville, too! I think Henry James undoubtedly had a bit of that. His personal history of living more in Europe than America and even becoming a British citizen at the end of his life meshes well with your theory. I had also read somewhere that James wrote many of his novels, at least the later ones, through dictation to a secretary. I wonder if that added to the long sentences - not seeing the words crafted on a page?

95Simone2
Aug 19, 2016, 12:53am Top

>93 M1nks: >94 japaul22: Interesting observations by both of you. And your review tempts me to read The Ambassadors one day. I do feel the same about Jones as you both do, but I didn't dare trying The Ambassadors so far.

96hdcanis
Aug 19, 2016, 2:28am Top

I have heard this mentioned as one of defining traits of his books, that his early books that were actually written by him still keep the sentences somewhat in check but when he started dictating the style grew far more ornate.

97japaul22
Aug 19, 2016, 1:22pm Top

>96 hdcanis: I had heard this too, but the problem is that I didn't find The Ambassadors any more wordy or filled with commas than Portrait of a Lady and the latter was written before he used a stenographer.

98japaul22
Aug 22, 2016, 10:40am Top

#246 The Master by Colm Toibin

The Master is excellent biographical fiction about American author, Henry James, living and writing in Europe. Toibin focuses on the middle of James's career 1895-1899 including many flashbacks about his personal life and writing. During this time he settled in Rye, England, purchasing a house, and had already written Daisy Miller and The Portrait of a Lady. He was yet to write The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove, and the Golden Bowl.

Toibin seems to really capture James's personality in this book. Rather than a discovery of James through his known travels, correspondence, etc, Toibin uses these facts in the background to create a real character study. He subtly reveals James's habits of observation and how they were used to create his work. He also illuminates the personality traits of this fussy, particular, sensitive man in a way that made me feel fondness rather than annoyance, a great feat on Toibin's part as these are characteristics that drive me crazy!

Reading this book in tandem with The Ambassadors was a great experience for me. I really identified with Toibin's take on Henry James and could see how James's personality and writing style converged. This book may make me a bit more patient with James's wordiness (or not, but I hope so) and definitely will make me more appreciate the power of his characterization and observation. I do think James has a knack for creating seeming mundane situations that take on great importance in a character's life. I like that.

Toibin created excellent biographical fiction in which you can hear James's voice and witness his character all the way through the book, with no shift to an omniscient perspective or intrusion by the author. I thought it was a wise choice to present this book in third person limited. I got immersed in James without having to get too personal if it was in first person. Henry James does not seem to be the sort of person who could have given away his thoughts, even in his own head, so first person would have been too revealing.

Really excellent book.

Original Publication Date: 2004
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 338 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale, hardback
Why I read this: to pair with a Henry James novel, 1001 books

99japaul22
Dec 6, 2016, 8:33pm Top

Yikes - it's been 3 months since I read a book off the list!

#247 Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton

Another book by Wharton that I absolutely loved. This one revolves around Susy and Nick Lansing who meet in New York as the poor friends of the very wealthy. They devise a plan to marry and live off the gifts and housing offers of their friends which they think will get them comfortably through at least a year of marriage. The caveat is that they can feel free to divorce when either of them finds a more suitable, i.e. wealthy, partner.

Well, of course they find themselves falling in love when they have a fight over how low they will sink morally to keep their wealthy friends happy and generous with them. They separate and each find the potential next wealthy spouse. Will they find their way back to each other in the end?

I loved the characters and thought the moral complexities were interesting. The end is a little weak, as I'm not sure they will really be content on Nick's meager writing earnings and I wonder if Susy will be able to stop "managing" to find them more money. But I loved reading this and never wanted to put it down. Wharton is an excellent writer. Her language is formal and vocabulary is extensive, but it doesn't feel off-putting or stilted to me. I always find the moral ambiguities in her books intriguing as well.

Original Publication Date: 1922
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 298 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library hardcover
Why I read this: caught my eye and hadn't read a book off the 1001 books list in a while

100japaul22
Dec 21, 2016, 4:29pm Top

I only read 16 books off the list in 2016. Pretty sure that's a low for me. I read a few I really enjoyed. They were:

The Grass in Singing by Doris Lessing (my only 5 star book this year and that was generous)
The Ambassadors by Henry James
The Master by Colm Toibin
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton
Ashes and Diamonds by Jerzy Andrzejewski

But I also read the following which I really didn't like or was extremely bored by:
Out of Africa by Isak Denison
Harriet Hume by Rebecca West
The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf

Unfortunately that means that 25% of the list books I read this year I really didn't like. Hoping next year is better!

101Nickelini
Dec 22, 2016, 1:19pm Top

You did better than me --I only read 8, and abandoned 1 more. I find that each year as new books are published and my interests change that I am less and less interested in my 1001 books. I will probably continue at my current pace for the foreseeable future.

Of the books you read this year, I loved Out of Africa and The Grass is Singing. I liked The Master and struggled with The Voyage Out. And I own The Ambassadors but am scared to open it.

102japaul22
Dec 22, 2016, 1:37pm Top

>101 Nickelini: I'm going to try to reenergize myself with the list this year, but if it doesn't work I'll be ok with that. I went through and chose 25 titles that I really want to read, whether they had been on the list or not.

Honestly, if it weren't for this group, which I love, I'd probably abandon it altogether!

103japaul22
Dec 22, 2016, 1:43pm Top

AHHHHHH! I made a horrifying discovery today as I flipped through the 2003 Modern Library Paperback set of Proust that I purchased last year. It skips from page 524 to 557 of the final volume!!! I'm so disturbed that I might have read all six volumes, thousands of pages, only to find that the last 25 pages of the text and the beginning of the character list are missing!!

I've contacted the publisher. I'm very curious to know if this is a problem with a particular printing, a fluke, or what. There aren't many published sets of this book out there right now. I want paperbacks in the same edition so I can take notes (no ebook). Does anyone own this set and not have this issue? Or could someone recommend the English publication they read? I'm going to ask this on a few threads here on LT to get some recommendations.

I'm so disturbed!!

104M1nks
Dec 22, 2016, 2:29pm Top

If it's a fluke then hold on to that book! Such printing anomalies might make it valuable ;-)

105ELiz_M
Dec 22, 2016, 5:33pm Top

>103 japaul22: I own the paperback modern library set (ISBN: 0375753125) and it, thankfully, is not missing pages 525 to 556.

106Simone2
Dec 22, 2016, 6:08pm Top

>102 japaul22: Don't even think of abandoning the list! It is so good to have you here! I really value your opinion of the listed books!

107japaul22
Dec 22, 2016, 7:57pm Top

>104 M1nks: From what I hear, some people would be glad to be off the hook from reading any of the pages in this book!

>105 ELiz_M: I'll check that ISBN number - sounds like the same set.

>106 Simone2: I'm not going anywhere - just a little frustrated with the reading year I had off of the list. I think I just didn't pick well. I've had some excellent reading in years past. Thanks for the pep talk!

108M1nks
Dec 23, 2016, 2:57am Top

The trouble is Japaul the enjoyment of a book for one person doesn't mean that you'll similarly do so. I personally enjoyed every single book that you've tagged as a dud.

109ursula
Dec 23, 2016, 7:21am Top

I think one of the interesting things about reading from the list with this group is that it gives you a relatively contained number of books that you can get a wide range of opinions on. (I know, the number of books only seems contained in this context - when you're looking at how many you personally have to go, it seems nearly endless. ;)) It's such a different journey for everyone, but through the same books.

110japaul22
Dec 23, 2016, 8:11am Top

>108 M1nks: Absolutely and it's one of the things I love about this group. I can think of several books that I loved and others have found boring or ridiculous (like Evelina).

>109 ursula: That's a great way to look at it. I'm always surprised how few books we all read in common in the greater LT community even though we probably have much more in common than the average reader, just for having found our way here. And I love the 1001 group - thoughtful reviews and it's neat to know that every book reviewed here is one I have a good chance of reading or have already read.

Actually, all the books I didn't like this year are books that I read in the full expectation of enjoying if not loving. I guess I just had bad luck. I suppose that as I get deeper into the list and branch out of my comfort zone I will probably have more books that don't work to me but hopefully they will still stretch my reading in a positive way.

Now I'm getting excited about next year again!

111japaul22
Dec 23, 2016, 12:07pm Top

>105 ELiz_M: hmm my isbn ends in 3121 instead of 3125 like yours. I don't know much about publishing, does that mean it's from a different batch?

112hdcanis
Dec 23, 2016, 3:50pm Top

In any case, things like that, missing or duplicated pages, occur in all batches of books and not the whole batch is like that. They are reasonably rare and, yes, unfortunate and due to the way books are printed and bound.

And unfortunately collectors are generally not interested in those. It's different with notes and stamps because there the quality control is supposed to be much tighter because they serve as legal tender, with books it's "s*** happens".

(this is a topic that pops up regularly on a comics site I frequent)

113japaul22
Dec 23, 2016, 4:29pm Top

>112 hdcanis: interesting. Well, I'm hoping the publisher will replace that volume for me. I think I paid about $80 for the set and it's really no good missing the final pages. We'll see!

114hdcanis
Dec 24, 2016, 4:00am Top

Yeah, if you buy it new, all self-respecting shopsellers or publishers replace them. And since they are weeded out they came up even more rarely in used book shops where it might be trickier...(but they are not completely unknown there either).

115japaul22
Edited: Jan 19, 2017, 6:31am Top

#248 Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

I love this movie, and I was sort of hesitant to read the novella. I should have gone with my gut. The book is great but it didn't add anything for me that I didn't already get from the movie. Just watch the movie and call it a day. Audrey Hepburn is the best.

Original publication date: 1958
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 160 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle book, library
Why I read this: 1001 books

116Nickelini
Jan 18, 2017, 8:51pm Top

>115 japaul22: Audrey Hepburn is perfection. That's all.

117Henrik_Madsen
Jan 19, 2017, 3:37am Top

>115 japaul22: Not to be nitpicking, but I don't think it was published in 1839.

118japaul22
Jan 19, 2017, 6:32am Top

>117 Henrik_Madsen: whoops, thanks! I copy and paste that section from review to review and sometimes I forget to update!

119japaul22
Jan 23, 2017, 9:03pm Top

Volume 1 of In Remembrance of Things Past
Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

I've begun my journey to read all of In Remembrance of Things Past and I have to say it's off to a good start. This first volume begins with the narrator as a child visiting Combray, then shifts to Charles Swann's obsession with Odette de Crecy, and then ends with a short section where the narrator meets and begins his own obsession with Gilberte, Swann and Odette's daughter.

This isn't a real review, because this is obviously only part of the whole. As such, it sets up many themes which I'm looking forward to seeing developed. Memory is important, both how it is triggered by the senses, especially smell and taste, and how it is hard to truly recreate a moment. Love, which I gather is going to be more about obsession, begins immediately, with the narrator obsessed as a small child with receiving a kiss from his mother each night. Swann's obsession and jealousy of Odette, a woman he barely knows, is already continued in the narrator's obsession about Gilberte. One thing that bothered me, though I think it was intentional to make a point, was how little Odette is developed. She doesn't have much personality of her own, and just seems to be a reflection of Swann's obsession.

There's lots more - the set up between the aristocratic Guermantes vs. the Verdurins, the various discussions of the arts, etc. Suffice to say I'm enjoying the dreamy, reflective writing style and looking forward to starting the next volume in a month or so.

Original publication date: 1913
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 606 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books

120Simone2
Jan 24, 2017, 1:56am Top

Wow, you already finished it! And 5 stars! I am following close behind, but am reading other books in between. I feel encouraged though by your enthusiasm and so far, can agree with you on most.

121japaul22
Jan 24, 2017, 9:19am Top

>120 Simone2: I'll admit that 5 stars is generous, but I was surprised to find that this volume at least was pretty readable and the themes were so interesting. I definitely lost interest in a few places and I'm expecting the middle volumes to be very challenging so I thought I'd remind myself with the generous 5 stars how different this was to read and rewarding.

122japaul22
Jan 25, 2017, 3:37pm Top

#249 Summer by Edith Wharton

This is one of Wharton's shorter novels and is set in the NY countryside amongst the relatively poor instead of the city wealthy like most of her novels. While I loved this setting in Ethan Frome, I have to say that it didn't work for me this time. I found it predictable, dark, and fairly hopeless - not really what I was hoping for right now.

The story surrounds Charity Royall, a young woman who is adopted by the Royalls and taken away from the Mountain where a group of poor, hopeless people live, to live in a small town in the valley. When Mrs. Royall dies, Mr. Royall propositions Charity and she makes it clear that she will never have that sort of relationship with him. Then Mr. Harney comes to town. He is young and attractive and interested in Charity. They develop a relationship and then the inevitable happens she gets pregnant, he leaves, and she finds out he's already engaged to another, wealthier woman in the town. There is no fairy tale ending here.

Wharton's writing is wonderful as always, but I thought this story was predictable and so hopeless that I just couldn't get on board. This is the first book of Wharton's that I've found disappointing.

Original publication date: 1917
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 120 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: 1001 books

123aliciamay
Feb 3, 2017, 4:12pm Top

>119 japaul22: I was so tempted to try tackling Remembrance of Things Past when I saw you and Simone were doing a year long read of it, but am having problems finding the time or attention span to read any 1001 books lately. Your non-review makes me think that next year could be my year for it!

124japaul22
Feb 3, 2017, 5:05pm Top

>123 aliciamay: I'm guessing I'll still be reading it next year so we can keep each other company!

125Simone2
Feb 3, 2017, 5:15pm Top

>123 aliciamay: I surely will need two years! I am going slowly through the first book but combined with other (lighter) reads, it is do-able and yes, even enjoyable.

126japaul22
Feb 13, 2017, 1:41pm Top

#250 L'Assomoir by Emile Zola

A great book for #250!

L'Assomoir follows the hard, sad life of Gervaise from her arrival in Paris at age 18 with her partner, Lantier, and their two young boys (yes, she had her first child at 14!) through her death. I don't consider it a spoiler to say that things don't work out well for Gervaise - you can sense immediately that the world she lives in is too hard and unforgiving for her life to turn out well.

When Lantier leaves Gervaise for another woman, Gervaise buckles down and gets a job as a laundress to feed herself and her boys (one of which is Etienne, the main character in Germinal). She meets Coupeau who hounds her until she marries him. He is a good person, hard worker, and doesn't drink so she finally gives in. They have a good life until an accident at work sends Coupeau and subsequently Gervaise into a tailspin. They descend to the lowest of the low and lets just say things do not end well.

This is my second book by Zola and it was, again, an amazing reading experience. Zola creates great characters (I especially loved the despicable, leeching Lantier) and has amazing descriptive ability. He is able to characterize not only the people in his books but also the settings.

I didn't see myself ever reading all of the Rougon-Macquart series, but after reading just these two, I'm already considering it. I thought it was really interesting to see the early life of Etienne and how it would have influenced him. And I believe one of the books focuses on Nana, child of Gervaise and Coupeau and I'd really like to read that one after seeing her childhood in this book.

Consider me one of the many Zola fans on Librarything!

Original publication date: 1877
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French, translated by Margaret Mauldon
Length: 442 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: wanted to read more Zola, on the 1001 books list

127gypsysmom
Feb 13, 2017, 4:59pm Top

>126 japaul22: You've almost convince me to try this. As one of those coincidences that occur in reading I offer the fact that I am listening to The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan. In it one of the sisters is acting in the play of L'Assomoir and there is a lot of discussion about how scandalous it is.

128M1nks
Feb 13, 2017, 5:28pm Top

Zola is wonderful but oh so grim...

129japaul22
Feb 13, 2017, 7:49pm Top

>127 gypsysmom: I love when you get random coincidences in reading! Are you liking The Painted Girls?

>128 M1nks: Yes, grim, but also a very dark humor and such visual writing. I have to admit that I don't usually like depressing novels, but somehow I love Zola so far. Odd, but true.

130Henrik_Madsen
Feb 14, 2017, 2:04am Top

>126 japaul22: I'm planning to read Zola soon and this review is very encouraging. ☺

131japaul22
Feb 14, 2017, 12:52pm Top

>130 Henrik_Madsen: I'll be curious to hear your reaction. I read Germinal first and liked it a bit better than L'assomoir. It was a 5 star read for me.

132Simone2
Feb 14, 2017, 1:29pm Top

>126 japaul22: How strange, I can't find this Zola book on the 1001 app. Does it go by another title as well?

133amaryann21
Feb 14, 2017, 1:33pm Top

>132 Simone2: Wkikpedia says it has been translated as The Dram Shop, The Gin Palace, The Drunkard, and The Drinking Den, among others. I don't have the app, I'll look at my list when I get home. I have one alphabetical by author (because I'm a nerd).

134puckers
Feb 14, 2017, 1:35pm Top

135Simone2
Feb 14, 2017, 1:37pm Top

>133 amaryann21: >134 puckers: Thanks, now I know which one to star!

136japaul22
Feb 14, 2017, 1:39pm Top

>134 puckers: yep, it's "The Drunkard" on the list. Apparently assomoir is hard to translate into English. Sounds like it is the sort of bar where you'd go to binge drink cheap alcohol.

137arukiyomi
Feb 15, 2017, 4:30am Top

and, tellingly, only the French have a word for it...

138hdcanis
Feb 15, 2017, 2:31pm Top

Dunno, I know a couple of accurate synonyms in Finnish (but they haven't been used, apparently having a classic of French literature named "Räkälä" would be too much)

139japaul22
Feb 15, 2017, 7:48pm Top

I sort of thought of a frat house, but for adults. Or I guess a typical college bar, but those have a more carefree-fun feel and this seemed more for drinking out of despair.

140gypsysmom
Feb 15, 2017, 8:14pm Top

>129 japaul22: The Painted Girls is interesting, at least to me, because we've all seen those paintings by Degas of the ballet dancers. It's fun to learn the back story.

141japaul22
Feb 22, 2017, 1:08pm Top

#251 All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

I finally got around to reading this classic about a German soldier's experience during WWI. It was published in 1929 and of course created a storm of discussion and controversy. Remarque doesn't soften or glamorize the war, instead he gives a realistic portrayal of the horrors of death, wounds, and lack of food. He also explores the friendships and connections made on the front and the challenges of returning home during periods of leave.

I was so mad, reading this, that just a few decades later WWII happened. I'll never understand how people who lived through WWI could have allowed WWII to happen. Academically, I've heard and understand the standard answer, but I still don't really comprehend it.

I thought this was really well done and obviously an important work, but reading about war will just never be a "favorite" for me.

Original publication date: 1929
Author’s nationality: German
Original language: German
Length: 304 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: 1001 books list

142japaul22
Feb 26, 2017, 8:37am Top

#252 The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble

I went into this book sort of expecting to be bored and confused based on some other reviews I read. Maybe it was my patient attitude because of this, but I actually really liked this!

This is the story of The Crown Princess Hyegong who was a Korean princess in the 1700s. The first section of the novel tells her story in her voice - her marriage to Korean Prince Sado who goes mad and is terribly disposed of by his father, the King. She has children with him, one of whom dies, and leads a fairly traumatic, though long, life.

The next section follows current-day Babs Halliway who reads the Crown Princess's memoirs on a plane headed to Korea for a conference. She is immediately drawn to the Princess's voice and identifies with her, having also lost a child and having a husband with mental illness. She explores the Crown Princess's world as a tourist and has some meaningful life events herself while at this conference.

Interwoven in this story rather loosely is the idea that there are spirits, both of the Crown Princess and of another group of spirits that are observing and slightly coordinating events in an effort to have the Princess's story more widely known in modern day. This spirit idea is ever-present but not really explained. I imagine that bothers many readers, but I was able to just accept it. Drabble also uses an odd technique in the Crown Princess's version of events where she has the Princess narrate her life story as a spirit who has witnessed historical events since her death. So she knows about modern-day ideas about mental illness and political events that she would have had no idea about during her life. That was also odd, but I liked it. I think it worked for me because Drabble didn't get bogged down in trying to explain or rationalize it, she just used it.

I was pleasantly surprised by this and read it in just a few days.

Original publication date: 2004
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 325 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library book
Why I read this: 1001 books list

143Nickelini
Feb 26, 2017, 2:11pm Top

>142 japaul22: I too was pleasantly surprised by The Red Queen. It was my first Drabble and I thought "if everyone disses this book, then her other books must be spectacular." She's turned into a favourite of mine.

144japaul22
Mar 11, 2017, 4:47pm Top

#253 The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa

I chose to read this book because it's on the 1001 books to read before you die list and there is a group read of it. I knew it would be a little out of my comfort zone, but I ended up really appreciating it, though I can't say I enjoyed a book this brutal.

This book is about the Dominican Republic during the Trujillo era (roughly 1930s-1960s). It starts in the present day with Urania Cabral who is in her late 40s finally returning to the country that she fled from just before Trujillo's assassination. She left as a 14 year old girl after a traumatic experience that led her to break ties with her father, a high-up political figure. Her story is slowly revealed and sheds light on Trujillo's personality and her father's fall from favor.

Another story line is that of Trujillo himself in the days before his assassination. Vargas Llosa paints a fascinating portrait of the dictator, his hunger for power, and the inner insecurities of his mind.

Along with these two stories is the story of the men behind the assassination. As they wait to ambush Trujillo, flashbacks tell how they got there.

In the end, it all comes together and you witness the brutal aftermath of the assassination and find out what happens to this small country when their dictator is gone.

Mario Vargas Llosa writes with a ton of confidence. His writing is smooth and authoritative. I believed every word of his portrait of this man, which bothered me at times since this is fiction, after all. Even though this isn't my favorite sort of book, I'd highly recommend it to anyone interested in the era and topic.

Original publication date: 2000
Author’s nationality: Peruvian
Original language: Spanish, translated by Edith Grossman
Length: 404 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback library sale
Why I read this: 1001 list, group read

145japaul22
Apr 5, 2017, 1:45pm Top

#254 Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov

Pnin is a Russian immigrant in the U.S., working as a professor of Russian at a small liberal arts college. This book is a humorous portrait of his trials and tribulations trying to navigate American culture and his personal life. Really, I had no idea Nabokov could be so funny. You end up feeling amused by, sorry for, and impressed by Pnin. It's a short novel, and one that made me feel that every word was considered in the writing process. I really enjoyed it and I'm glad to have read something besides Lolita by Nabokov. I just couldn't get past the subject matter in Lolita, so it was great to get to admire Nabokov's beautiful writing with a more palatable subject.

Original publication date: 1957
Author’s nationality: Russian
Original language: English
Length: 143 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library book
Why I read this: 1001 books list

146japaul22
Apr 10, 2017, 9:22pm Top

Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust
In this second volume of In Search of Lost Time, the narrator is now a teenager and accordingly is obsessed with girls. That pretty much sums it up, but I guess I'll go into a little more detail. :-)

The first section is "Madame Swann at home". Here we see the narrator fall in and out of love with Gilberte, the daughter of Swann and Odette. Even though Gilberte is the object of the narrator's love and obsession, really he spends so much time describing Odette that she seems more to be the object of his obsession. I did think the narrator was sort of funny throughout this book because the language is very beautiful and mature and lyrical, but the ideas really are just of a typical teenage boy concerned with how others view him and thinking about the girls he meets. It was an odd mix.

In the second section, the narrator goes with his grandmother and Francoise (their servant and my favorite character) to Balbec, a seaside town, for his health. He meets and develops a friendship with Saint-Loup. He also sees a group of girls parading around the beach and falls in love with them. Among this group is Albertine, the next object of his affection. His descriptions of the girls and their interactions with each other and him are absolutely on point for the typical teenager experience. I really liked this section.

As in the first volume, there were large swaths of this that lost me, but I just keep reading and eventually something grabs me again. Overall it's been a really good reading experience for me so I'm excited to continue on in another month or two.

Original publication date: 1919
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 730 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: my current project

147japaul22
Apr 20, 2017, 1:19pm Top

#255 The House With the Blind Glass Windows by Herbjorg Wassmo

This is a novel written in 1981 by Norwegian author, Herbjorg Wassmo. I learned about this book from the 1001 books to read before you die list, and I'm so glad I did. It is a tough subject matter, centering around a young girl who is being sexually abused by her stepfather, but Wassmo manages to make the book about so much more without negating the trauma of abuse.

Tora lives in a small Norwegian fishing village with her mother, Ingrid, who is a social outcast after having an affair with a German soldier during WWII. Tora is the outcome of that relationship. Ingrid later marries Henrik, a man who is an alcoholic and is sexually abusing Tora while her mother works the night shift at the local plant. The book centers around Tora, Ingrid, and Ingrid's sister Rachel. Rachel has a happy marriage to Simon. They are well off financially though have the sadness of not being able to conceive children.

The book is beautifully written and subtly but thoroughly explores several themes, many centering on women's interactions and relationships with each other, the good and the bad. Apparently this is the first of a trilogy, but I'm having trouble finding the other books in English translation. If anyone has any leads on that I'd be very interested. I bought this book used as I think even this first volume may be out of print in English.

Definitely recommended.

Original publication date: 1981
Author’s nationality: Norwegian
Original language: Norwegian
Length: 223 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: used paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books list

148japaul22
May 4, 2017, 11:24am Top

#256 The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin

I'm not sure if the problem with this book is that I'm just not into science fiction or with the book itself. Not having read much science fiction, I'm not sure I can write a great review for this, but here are my thoughts.

I was hoping to be engaged and transported to a different world. Instead, I felt bogged down by first having to learn about this different world and then felt preached at about different forms of government and their pros and cons. The characters felt secondary to the world-building and political thought. I was bored.

I think that pretty much sums up my reading experience. I apologize to the many LTers who love Ursula K. LeGuin!

Original publication date: 1974
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 400 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle book
Why I read this: 1001 books

149Simone2
May 6, 2017, 2:52am Top

>148 japaul22: I am not an SF fan either but I had hoped I would somehow like this book, as so many others do. However, your review makes me doubt I will.
I had a similar experience with Neuromancer by the way, have you read that one yet?

150japaul22
May 6, 2017, 9:33pm Top

>149 Simone2: I have not read that and I think I'll put it off. I know a lot of people really like The Dispossessed, so maybe you'll like it more than me!

151japaul22
May 6, 2017, 9:34pm Top

#257 Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf

This was Virginia Woolf's last book and was published posthumously, not fully revised by her. I found it had moments of brilliance but was pretty uneven.

It takes place on a summer day with the inhabitants of a small village putting on and watching a play. The interesting part is the interactions that take place between the locals around the play. The play itself (almost all of it is described and scripted in the book) was really boring and I must have missed the point. It's sort of a retelling of English history and it seemed totally inane. The observers in the book seemed to think so too, so I wasn't alone, but Woolf must have put it in for a reason, right?

Anyway, the relationship between the husband and wife pair, Giles and Isa, is the most interesting. It's subtly told, but both are attracted to other people, at least superficially, but in the end they wind up as always, with only each other to talk to once the guests all leave.

This is good for Virginia Woolf completists, but otherwise I'd recommend her more well-known books as the place to start.

Original publication date: 1941
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 219 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books, reading all of Woolf's novels

152jfetting
Edited: May 7, 2017, 9:34pm Top

>148 japaul22: We have such similar opinions on so many books that it always shocks me when we have such different opinions on a particular book. I absolutely loved The Dispossessed (boring?!?! really?!?), but then again I do love science fiction. And Shevek. I loved Shevek.

153japaul22
May 8, 2017, 9:19am Top

>152 jfetting: I know you loved this which is one of the reasons I wanted to read it. I think it's a science fiction issue - I just get sick of having to learn about a new world. I felt like Shevek was more of a way to talk about the moral/political lessons in the book than an actual character/person so I couldn't connect to him.

Oh well. Have you read Eline Vere yet? I've only read the first 100 pages but I'm LOVING it.

154jfetting
May 8, 2017, 9:25pm Top

>153 japaul22: Not yet - adding it to the list.

155japaul22
May 14, 2017, 1:10pm Top

#258 Eline Vere by Louis Couperus

A Dutch 19th century psychological character study of a woman and the society she tries to fit in to? Yes, please! I was so happy to discover this Dutch classic through the 1001 books to read before you die group. It fit right in with some of my favorites: Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Middlemarch, and Age of Innocence.

This book is the story of Eline Vere, a well-to-do but mentally unstable young woman living in The Hague. Her manic-depressive tendencies make her various relationships volatile and unfulfilling. Eline and her relationships with her sister, brother-in-law, and various love interests are central to the over-arching flow of the book, but there are plenty of other characters to follow as well.

I loved this book and definitely recommend it to others who love this time period of writing. I think it is "under-known" in English. In fact, the only print copy of it I could find easily in English translation is an Archipelago publication from 2013. It was my first Archipelago book and, as a side note, I love the book quality - very nice cover, binding, paper, etc.

Original publication date: 1889
Author’s nationality: Dutch
Original language: Dutch
Length: 507 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books

156ELiz_M
May 14, 2017, 3:32pm Top

>155 japaul22: I am glad you enjoyed this book!

157Simone2
May 17, 2017, 3:37am Top

>155 japaul22: I am really happy you enjoyed this book as much as I did. I recommend it to everyone but I hear so few people who actually read it. Let's protect this book from falling into oblivion :-)

158japaul22
May 17, 2017, 6:38am Top

>157 Simone2: Agreed! I thought it was beautifully written and constructed. I loved the "happy scene" in the country that came in the middle of the book. You knew from what came before that Eline couldn't sustain that happiness and there was drama to come. I also found it interesting that she didn't seem to have real love/passion for any of the men she becomes entwined with. The book was really more about her mental health than about her infatuations with men. I liked that - it was a subtly different spin than you find in Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary.

159Simone2
Edited: May 17, 2017, 10:02am Top

>158 japaul22: Yes this is really her story. All people wishing her the best couldn't help her being unhappy. I felt for her in another way than I did for Anna Karenina or Emma Bovary (who I also loved), as if they could have influenced what happened and Eline's fate was inevitable.

160japaul22
Jun 5, 2017, 2:01pm Top

#259 Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor

In the middle of two long, dense books, I felt the need to finish something, so I chose this short story from The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor that is on the 1001 books to read before you die list. It was my first foray into O'Connor and I love her writing, though the short story medium is not my favorite.

In this story, a mother and her adult son, Julian, take the bus in the desegregated South to the mother's weight loss group. On the short bus ride, they are confronted with an array of racial prejudices. Julian is embarrassed by his mother's racist views and her interaction with a black woman and her small child.

The writing is excellent, but as with most short stories, I'm left wanting more. I can imagine a whole novel around these characters, but it's already over. Luckily, O'Connor wrote two novels that I will definitely be reading.

Original publication date: 1964
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 16 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, library book sale
Why I read this: 1001 books list

161Simone2
Jun 5, 2017, 3:14pm Top

>160 japaul22: Is it just 16 pages? The app says 250. Always good to have some shorties among all the long reads!

162hdcanis
Jun 5, 2017, 3:22pm Top

App probably lists the short story collection where that particular short story is found. A great story, a great collection (and personally I think she is at her best on short stories but the novels are good too. And essays. I have a collection of her letters too but haven't got around to it yet).

163japaul22
Edited: Jun 5, 2017, 3:40pm Top

>162 hdcanis: Hmmm. After doing some research, I think you're right that this might be a short story collection that uses this short story's name as the title? I own The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor and Everything that Rises Must Converge is just one story in it so I assumed that was the list intention but maybe I should read the complete collection.

164amerynth
Jun 7, 2017, 11:11pm Top

There is indeed a short story collection with the same title --- it had about a 15 to 20 short stories in it, if I'm remembering correctly.

165japaul22
Jun 9, 2017, 3:34pm Top

>164 amerynth: Thanks! I looked up the stories included in Everything that Rises Must Converge and I'll read them from my Complete stories of Flannery O'Connor. They are all included there, as the title suggests!

166annamorphic
Jun 10, 2017, 4:55pm Top

>165 japaul22: The stories in this collection are wonderful taken as a whole. I came away with a strong sense that the mark slavery's abolition left on white southerners was a desperate desire to once again be superior to somebody, anybody. Which I found a generally useful insight.

Also glad that you & others liked Eline Vere, also a favorite for me. Emma Bovary is a good comparison, although I don't think that Emma either could have changed her fate -- she was so convinced that she would have a certain kind of life and when it didn't happen, she couldn't adjust. Eline is odder. It's as if she is incapable of believing in her own happiness. Both are fascinating characters. They make me wish I taught literature instead of art history.

167japaul22
Jun 12, 2017, 9:07pm Top

>166 annamorphic: I've read a few more of the Flannery O'Connor stories and they really are good - very dramatic endings!

168japaul22
Jun 12, 2017, 9:07pm Top

The Guermantes Way by Marcel Proust

In volume 3 of In Search of Lost Time, the narrator goes back to Paris where he finds a new woman to obsess over, the Duchesse of Guermantes. The narrator follows her on her morning walks, hoping to be noticed and invited to a dinner at her home. He does have a connection with her; his friend Robert Saint Loup is her nephew. Saint Loup is stationed at Doncieres with the army and the narrator goes down to meet up with him. There is a great section with the narrator interacting with the soldiers.

Back in Paris, there are two long set pieces at parties that sort of build on and contrast with each other. The first is at Mme Villeparisis's house and the second is at the Duchesse of Guermantes (finally!!). In the middle there is a long section on the death of the narrator's grandmother. The dinner party at Mme Villeparisis's is pretty entertaining to read - lots of familiar characters and a few new, talk of the Dreyfus affair, and an appearance by the highly intriguing Baron de Charlus at the end. The section at the Duchess's home was pretty boring, but it occurred to me that that was sort of the point - the fascinating-from-afar Duchesse of Guermantes is in reality quite boring and predictable (though still striking in her presence). I like how Proust chooses ordinary objects to create a thread through the novel. Some of these recur through all of the volumes (so far), like the hawthorn bush, and some are present in one section only (like the hats at the parties or the Elstir works of art). Some seem to have some deep significance and I think that some really are just memory triggers. It's a neat effect.

I'm really enjoying this book. This volume was very character-driven which was a little easier to read than some of the dreamier diversions in the previous two volumes and it was a nice change. I'm still very much seeing the work as a whole and not as separate volumes. I kind of want to go right on to the next volume, but as I have some other reading plans in July, I think I'll stick with my schedule and wait til August.

Original publication date: 1920
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 819 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, purchased
Why I read this: my current project

169japaul22
Jun 15, 2017, 3:32pm Top

#260 Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

I read this book because there is a group read in the 1001 books group. It sounded interesting, a first person narrative of the Roman Emperor Hadrian who was emperor in the 2nd century. There were aspects I really enjoyed in the book, but there were also some elements lacking for me.

I know very little about Roman history and I was hoping this would enlighten me a bit, but I felt the history mainly provided a backdrop for the man. There wasn't much in depth exploration of culture or even historical events. I should say this wasn't present in an obvious enough manner to work for me. For those who have a strong background in the era, I think they would find that Yourcenar weaves these elements in to her portrait and probably really appreciate the details. There were a couple things that jumped out at me - one was how the next ruler was picked not through genealogical heredity, but through the preference of the current ruler who then "adopted" this next ruler. I also thought the discussion of the fighting in Palestine with the Jews there seemed to have many of the same issues present today, almost 2000 years later.

Most people should approach this book as the self-portrait of a leader at the end of his life, preoccupied with death and legacy. His thoughts on death are poignant and relevant and his preoccupation with the legacy he'll leave behind is also interesting and well thought out. Actually, though, possibly my favorite part of the book was the end section where the author lays out the personal journey that led her to completing this book.

This was certainly ambitious and thoroughly researched, but it was not without its issues for me and I ended the book glad to be done with it.

Original publication date: 1951
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 347 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books

170japaul22
Jul 11, 2017, 2:57pm Top

#261 The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

This was terrible. I tried to read the whole thing because I LOVED Middlesex by the same author and this is on the 1001 books to read before you die list. But it was just awful. Horribly pretentious, self-involved, messed up characters, and a boring and predictable plot/character interactions.

I skimmed the last 50 pages and it just got more ridiculous.

Isn't it surprising when an author can write one book you love and one you think is awful?

Original publication date: 2011
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 406 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library book sale
Why I read this: 1001 books list, liked another book by this author

171arukiyomi
Jul 12, 2017, 4:48am Top

ha! Totally with you on this and Middlesex. BTW, Virgin Suicides is up there just below Middlesex for me.

172japaul22
Jul 12, 2017, 12:36pm Top

>171 arukiyomi: That's reassuring. It's on my shelves so I'll probably read it in the next year or so.

173japaul22
Jul 22, 2017, 3:42pm Top

#262 He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope
After reading both the Barsetshire and Palliser series, this was my first foray into one of Trollope's standalone novels. It left me a little unsatisfied, I think because of the main topic, marriage.

The main storyline here involves the marriage of Louis and Emily Trevelyan who have been happily married for about 5 years and have a young son. Trevelyan becomes jealous of Emily's relationship with a friend of her father's, Colonel Osbourne and forbids her to see him anymore. She believes he is overreacting (which he is) but also can't see that Col Osborne is certainly flirting with her and sort of enjoying making the situation worse. At first I felt they were equally at fault, but then Trevelyan descends farther and farther into obsession and madness to the extent of banishing Emily from his house and hiring a private detective to watch her.

Contrasted with this portrait of marriage is Emily's sister's love for Hugh Stanbury. Stanbury works as a journalist for his income and here is another theme. Should a woman tie herself to a husband who doesn't have inherited income and has to work for a living - and not just work, but work in journalism instead of something like the clergy, a doctor, or a lawyer? And then there are a host of other women who treat marriage and love in different ways, but always the question is what is more important, love or financial security or independence. It doesn't seem possible to achieve all three of these things. In fact, Trollope seems intent on saying that women really need to worship their husbands (a troubling word and concept to me) for a marriage to be happy. Certainly this has come up before in his work, but I found it more pervasive here and harder to gloss over or accept.

Then again, I really loved some of the characters, particularly Miss Stanbury, and thought there were some really funny moments (especially the running "chignon" joke). I enjoyed this, but it wasn't my favorite of his novels.

Original publication date: 1869
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 806 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: group/tutored read

174M1nks
Edited: Jul 22, 2017, 4:46pm Top

I'm reading Trollope right now - one of the Goodreads Groups is currently finishing up The Last Chronicle of Barset and then we'll be moving on to the Pallisters. After reading so many of his books I'm entirely of the opinion that Trollope was a sexist, well not pig, because that implies that he is an unpleasant man who dislikes women, which doesn't come through at all. What does come through is the message that you have said - a 'good' woman worships and loves her husband and is endlessly forgiving and submissive. If she doesn't have a husband quite yet then she must love her father or male guardian with the same intensity until suitably married. She has no other purpose, not in his books anyway.

175japaul22
Jul 23, 2017, 1:13pm Top

>174 M1nks: I can see where you're coming from on that, but I admit that I never would have agreed until reading He Knew He Was Right. I've read all of the Barchester and Palliser novels and I love many of the women characters - Glencora, Alice Vavasor, Mrs. Proudie, Mary Thorne, Madame Max, etc. I've felt that there has been a good variety of strong women, opinionated women, women who hold out for what they want, and, yes, submissive women. But it has felt fairly balanced to me, taking the time period into account. But then I read this book and I'm not so sure - it makes me question my take on some of these other novels! Although even in He Knew He Was Right there are women characters, like Priscilla and Miss Stanbury, who eschew marriage altogether and come off as strong, sensible women. But yes, the other female characters who marry in what seems like it will be a successful manner all "worship" their husbands. And that is troublesome to me. Now I'm afraid I'll be looking for it in all subsequent Trollope novels that I read.

176M1nks
Edited: Jul 23, 2017, 4:03pm Top

Our reading group is very much split after reading the Barsetshire series to those who think that Trollope writes good, strong, independant women and those who think that Trollope writes very stereotypical women who are strong only in ways which he thinks suitable for the sex.

I am very much in the 2nd camp :-)

Oh and there are also a fair number of 'bad' women who aren't properly submissive and gentle - they are universally unpleasant and troublesome because they aren't 'proper' women.

177M1nks
Jul 23, 2017, 4:08pm Top

Now I'm afraid I'll be looking for it in all subsequent Trollope novels that I read.

One of the readers had a moment that like - like you she started out thinking that Trollope wrote really strong and independent women and then her views changed. I don't know if it was my comments or what but she suddenly looked back at the earlier books and realised that her opinion of all of the women shown in them had changed and that she now thought that Trollope was just reinforcing the same old patriarchal system and that the women weren't as strong as she thought they were.

178japaul22
Jul 23, 2017, 4:19pm Top

>176 M1nks: I would say I've seen Trollope less as trying to write women as strong vs. submissive and more as trying to explore women's limited options in upper society. Some of his women have strong personalities and some are swooning and submissive but all have to navigate the world of Victorian marriage. Many things come into this. Staying single and independent is only possible with income and a home. In marrying you lose your autonomy and legal rights but can gain a certain amount of freedom of movement and thought with the right husband. But how do you pick the right husband when there is very little room for courtship if you want to maintain a modest reputation? Some women chose a husband who they think they can work through or over - sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Some marry for money, some choose love, and some end up with both. Some reject a more profitable marriage for love and some do the opposite (often being influenced by family).

I like to think that Trollope wrote both/many versions of the women as you describe in an effort to explore womanhood and marriage in the time. So he was not trying to get to one "best woman", just writing many different stories and situations.

But then, in reading He Knew He Was Right, I did feel that he was saying something different. That women should submit to their husbands in God-like fashion to have a happy marriage. And that is intolerable. This book was written pretty much in the middle of his writing career, so luckily it is not as though it's a final thought on marriage or womanhood.

I can guarantee that in all subsequent Trollope reading I do, this will be on my mind.

179arukiyomi
Jul 30, 2017, 5:05am Top

Are you following my reading plan? I just reviewed this yesterday!

180japaul22
Aug 26, 2017, 8:24pm Top

#263 Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

This was what I expect from Hardy: excellent writing, brutal social commentary, and utterly depressing. This novel has a narrower set of characters than I remember from other Hardy novels I've read. Basically, there is Jude and his first wife, Arabella, and Jude's cousin, Sue, and her first husband, Phillotson. Both Jude and Sue end up separating from their first marriages and live together, loving each other but choosing not to marry. Well, Sue chooses not to marry. There is a lot in this novel about marriage and sex and whether these two things really must coexist. Is marriage without sex a true marriage? Is a deep relationship and love without sex enough? Can you cheat on a spouse without actually having intercourse? I was surprised at how explicit Hardy is in this novel about making clear that Sue was revolted at the idea of sleeping with her first husband and that she holds off with Jude for a long time too. And once she starts sleeping with Jude, things go down hill fast.

There's also an exploration here of whether the legal act of marriage is necessary to a couple for them to have a meaningful relationship. And of course how society judges those who live together and don't marry. Interesting that this is still an issue today in America. Obviously, it's much more socially acceptable now for couples to live together before they marry and a small percentage choose to continue to live together and never marry, but it's tough legally.

There is also the inevitable Hardy theme that upward mobility is all but impossible for the poor. Jude starts out a hard-working, ambitious young man. He makes mistakes, but most of his bad luck is imposed on him by society and culture of the time.

Certainly not a pleasant read, but I'll keep coming back to Hardy every few years.

Original publication date: 1895
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 230 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: free kindle classic
Why I read this: 1001 books

181M1nks
Edited: Aug 27, 2017, 2:22am Top

This was what I expect from Hardy: excellent writing, brutal social commentary, and utterly depressing.

Hah! :-)

Play Bingo, it helps.

As for the sexually explicit nature of the book, was that the one that he got so heavily criticised for that he stopped writing novels?

182japaul22
Aug 27, 2017, 6:54am Top

>181 M1nks: I did a quick wikipedia search and I think that's true. It looks like it was his last novel.

183japaul22
Sep 1, 2017, 2:21pm Top

Sodom and Gomorrah, volume 4 of In Remembrance of Time Past by Marcel Proust

I've been reading this for about a month and have definitely decided it's not the best way for me to approach Proust. The other volumes I made my primary reading and loved them. This one I was distracted by travel and other books and read it slowly in chunks. I did not connect to it as well.

That being said, there is still a lot that happens in this volume that is interesting. The narrator finally gets to a party hosted by the Guermantes family, the apex of noble society in Paris. What he finds isn't really very exciting. There is more discussion of the Dreyfus case, especially surprising that the Price de Guermantes has changed his mind and is now a Dreyfus supporter. This party is contrasted with a later party in Balbec with our old favorites, the Verdurins. Here the vibe is "lower class", but the conversation is more interesting and artistic. Well, at least by a few characters.

In this volume, the narrator's eyes are opened to homosexuality and he starts seeing it all around him. He suspects his love interest, Albertine, of harboring desire for her friend Andree and starts watching her closely, always looking for signs. His other focus is the Baron de Charlus, who he realizes is gay and then starts noticing all of his interactions with men, especially with a violinist named Morel. Some of this is pretty humorous and also rather dark.

Also running through this volume is a lot of discussion about word origins and language. This didn't work very well for me, probably because of the translation, but some of it was really brilliant - especially the Balbec hotel attendant who always uses incorrect words or pronunciations. The translation here was excellent and very amusing.

So overall, this is a good continuation of the book and ends on quite a cliff hanger, but I didn't connect with it as deeply as I have previous volumes. I've learned my lesson and will wait for the next volume until I'm ready to make it my main book.

This was the last volume that Proust oversaw in publication before his death, so I'm interested to see if I notice a difference in subsequent volumes.

Original publication date: 1922
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: English
Length: 724 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: my project this year

184japaul22
Sep 2, 2017, 6:57am Top

#264 To the North by Elizabeth Bowen

I quite liked this book, my first novel by Elizabeth Bowen. Bowen's writing style is a little odd and took me a while to get used to. There's something about the way she crafts sentences that does feel a bit stilted - I think she puts clauses and descriptors in unexpected places which makes for a different reading flow than I'm used to.

After I gave into her writing style, I really liked the story she set up. This book contrasts two young women, Cecilia and Emmeline, who end up living together after Cecilia's young husband, Henry, dies unexpectedly. Emmeline is Henry's younger sister. At first it seems that Cecilia is the lost and slightly flighty one. She is considering remarriage but can't make up her mind and seems a little distracted and unreliable all the time. Emmeline is reserved and responsible, with a job in a travel agency, beautiful and remote. But then she meets a man named Mark Linkwater and she gets into a secret relationship with him that is way over her head to manage. Everything unravels to a dramatic conclusion.

I feel like I've heard mixed reviews of this book, so I went into it with some reservations, but I really ended up liking it and am looking forward to Bowen's other books that are on my shelf.

Original publication date: 1932
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 307 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books

185Yells
Sep 2, 2017, 9:03am Top

I have quite a few of Bowen's books on the shelf but will admit, let the mixed reviews prevent me from picking one up. You've helped bump them up the list a bit.

186japaul22
Sep 2, 2017, 11:04am Top

>185 Yells: I think she's well worth a try. Just be patient with the sentence crafting until you get used to it.

187annamorphic
Sep 3, 2017, 4:25am Top

I like Bowen a lot. Her eliptical writing style reminds me of other non-1001 writers from the same period, particularly Rumer Godden, whose work (and writing style) I just love. It does take a bit of adjustment, though. I too liked To the North and think I gave it 4 stars as well.

188japaul22
Sep 4, 2017, 4:17pm Top

>187 annamorphic: I've never tried Rumer Godden, but she's on my mental TBR list.

189japaul22
Sep 4, 2017, 4:18pm Top

#265 The Collector by John Fowles

This was creepy! A young man becomes obsessed with a girl and kidnaps her, stowing her away in the cellar of a country house. First the events are told through his voice and then hers through a diary she keeps.

I loved the kidnapper's section. I thought it was really creepy and fun to read. I was less impressed with the section from the girl's point of view. I found her sort of annoying and pretentious, which is weird because I should have been rooting for her. I liked how Fowles ends things, well, liked isn't the right word.

Definitely a good book for the upcoming Halloween season.

Original publication date: 1963
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 320 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle library
Why I read this: 1001 books

190arukiyomi
Sep 6, 2017, 5:32am Top

she's weird for just that reason. You find yourself siding unexpectedly with the guy who you should be thinking is weird... great writing. Fowles never fails to entrance me...

191japaul22
Sep 12, 2017, 2:44pm Top

#266 Eugenie Grandet by Balzac

Meh. I was not particularly drawn into this story of the young, wealthy heiress, Eugenie Grandet. Though Eugenie will inherit wealth from her father, the family lives in a miserly way until a visit from a young, attractive city cousin, Charles, changes things. Charles brings a letter from his father for Grandet in which he makes it clear that he is bankrupt and about to kill himself. He leaves it to Grandet to break this to Charles. Eugenie of course falls in love with Charles but he leaves for the Indies to try to remake his fortune. Grandet, instead of hoarding his money as he always has, is led into investing his money and learns the glories of compounding interest. Grandet is obsessed with money and Eugenie is obsessed with her love and I suppose the results of these obsessions is the point of the book.

To me, it all felt more like a fable than like real characters. I had a hard time connecting to any of the characters and felt the whole premise was overblown and overdramatic. I picked up Balzac on a whim since he's referenced so much in Proust and I'd never read any. I won't be rushing back!

Original publication date: 1833
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 225 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: 1001 books

192japaul22
Sep 15, 2017, 8:13am Top

#267 The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

On the surface, this is the story of the life of a typical woman who lived from 1905- 199*. Daisy Goodwill Flett doesn't do much that is remarkable. She is orphaned at a young age but adopted by a neighbor. Marries twice, is a housewife and mother, finds a job after her husband's death as a gardening columnist, suffers from depression when she loses her job, finds her way back into a comfortable old age, and dies.

At first as a reader, I sort of wondered, what is the point? But there is a lot to ponder here. Lots about how society views women, how women's lives changed over the century, and what sort of voice a woman has. The book is titled The Stone Diaries which led me to believe this would be a first person account of a woman's life with lots of personal reflection. But actually, almost everyone gets to comment on Daisy except for Daisy herself. Her friends, children, neighbors all voice observations about Daisy and her life, but only at a few points is Daisy herself allowed a voice about her own life.

Another matter for pondering is the genre of historical fiction itself. This book is set up to make you believe that it is a fictionalized account of real people. There are pictures included of the family, letters that could easily be real, a family tree, etc. So I wondered if Shields was commenting on the genre. She made me think about what is important in historical fiction? How much needs to be true vs. the importance of depicting life in an era whether it's "true" or not. Is Daisy's fictional life any less true than an account of a "real" woman who lived over this era would be?

What I loved about this book is that it can be read on many different levels, one of the marks of a great book for me.

Original publication date: 1993
Author’s nationality: American/Canadian (born in U.S. became a Canadian citizen in 1957)
Original language: English
Length: 361
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, library sale
Why I read this: 1001 books

193gypsysmom
Sep 15, 2017, 12:24pm Top

I just re-read this book after a gap of at least 20 years. I can confirm what you say about it being read on many different levels since I picked up on many different things as a 60 something than I did as a 40 something. I think I would like to read it in another 20 years to see if that holds true for an octogenarian.

194japaul22
Sep 15, 2017, 8:03pm Top

>193 gypsysmom: interesting! It definitely deserves a reread down the road.

195japaul22
Sep 17, 2017, 8:04pm Top

#268 The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark

Muriel Spark packs a lot in to her short novels. I'm amazed at how many characters are developed over the 140 pages of this novel. The setting is a home for "girls of slender means", i.e. poor, where many young (and a few old) women live - sharing and bartering soap, food, and even clothes. In the opening of the book, we find out that an acquaintance of the house, Nicholas Farringdon, has been killed while living in Haiti. This leads to a series of flashbacks that make up most of the book, taking place in 1945. A tragedy is slowly revealed, and the book ends up sadly for several of the characters.

Spark writes women's relationships with a lot of depth, insight, and a brutal honesty about how women can be both the biggest support and the harshest critics of each other. I really love her writing.

Original publication date: 1963
Author’s nationality: Scottish
Original language: English
Length: 140
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased, everyman edition
Why I read this: 1001 books

196japaul22
Dec 14, 2017, 8:11am Top

#269 Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
This was really fun to read. It's sort of a Mexican folk tale that uses the relationship between cooking and emotions to tell the story of Tita. Tita is the youngest daughter of Mama Elena and is destined to take care of her mother for her whole life instead of marrying. When she falls in love with Pedro, Mama Elena prevents the marriage and Pedro marries Tita's sister, Rosaura instead. Each chapter has a different recipe and Tita's strong emotions influence her cooking and those who eat it.

I thought the whole thing was really entertaining to read: Mexican culture, recipes, passion, humor, and a bit of magic.

Original publication date: 1989
Author’s nationality: Mexican
Original language: English?
Length: 246 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale
Why I read this: 1001 books, off the shelf

197japaul22
Dec 14, 2017, 5:15pm Top

#270 The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark

This, as I expect from Muriel Spark, was a quirky little novella. I don't want to give anything away and it's short so there isn't a ton to say. Just know that it doesn't end where you expect it to.

Original publication date: 1970
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 112 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased in a set of novellas
Why I read this: 1001 books, love Muriel Spark

198japaul22
Dec 18, 2017, 6:52pm Top

#271 Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is Fitzgerald's last novel and is supposed to be heavily influenced by his marriage to Zelda. This book witnesses the descent of Dick and Nicole Divers' marriage, due in part to her schizophrenia and his drinking. Nicole starts at one of Dick's patients and he ends up marrying her. He has an affair with a young actress, there's murder, and more affairs.

I really didn't like this. Maybe the topic was just too dark for this time of year, but it was one of those books where I didn't like any of the characters and the writing didn't make up for it.

Original publication date: 1934
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 320 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books

199japaul22
Dec 28, 2017, 8:55pm Top

The Captive by Marcel Proust
I returned to volume 5 (of 7) of In search of Lost Time after a 3.5 month hiatus and found that it took me a while to get back into this, but then I ended up getting sucked back in. This volume begins the sections that were published posthumously and suffer a bit from lack of Proust's final edits. For instance, there are several characters who are discussed as dead and then very much alive later. It's definitely a completed work, though, just not as perfect as some of the early volumes.

This volume is the narrator (he sort of names himself as Marcel in this volume) at his absolute creepiest. He has convinced Albertine to come and live with him without a promise of marriage. She is the "captive" not allowed to come and go as she pleases, but supplied with beautiful clothes and amenities. Of course, there are also sexual favors involved - most disturbingly when the narrator chooses to enter Albertine's room as she sleeps. Yuck. Luckily, in the end Albertine leaves the narrator and I suppose she is The Fugitive in volume six.

There's an excellent set piece back in the Verdurin drawing room with the Baron de Charlus in top form and his relationship with Morel explored more deeply (troubling as well).

All in all, I enjoyed this volume, even though parts were pretty disturbing. Proust, or at least his narrator, has such an immature view of love. It's all based on possession, desire, and power. It makes me sad to think he died so young and may have never discovered a deep, quiet, trusting love.

I think I'll carry on with The Fugitive.

Original publication date: 1923
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 563 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback set
Why I read this: Proust project

200ALWINN
Dec 29, 2017, 11:00am Top

I just love you reviews.

201japaul22
Dec 29, 2017, 11:13am Top

>200 ALWINN: Thank you! I love knowing that someone is reading them!

202japaul22
Jan 8, 8:32am Top

Time Regained by Marcel Proust
Well, I did it. This is the final volume of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. This is a review of the final volume; I will do a summary of the entire experience later.

In Time Regained, Proust finds his way back to his initial brilliance after the weaker volumes 5 and 6. Time Regained is a beautiful summing up of this 4000 page book. The beginning of this volume takes place during WWI, though the narrator spends much of it at a sanatarium trying to recover his health. After the war, the narrator returns to Paris and attends a reception at the home of the Princesse de Guermantes. The surprise to the reader is that the title is not held by the Princesse we remember, but now by Mme Verdurin who has finally ascended to the Faubourg St. Germain set. Many of our old favorites are at this reception or remembered in detail by the narrator (even if dead or not present) at it: the Duchesse de Guermantes, Gilberte, Odette, Charlus, Robert Saint-Loup, Rachel, Albertine, grandmother, Francoise, all the artists, etc. At the reception, the narrator comes to the conclusion that he has a special talent for making connections and memory and seeing the whole picture of life and concludes that he must write a book describing it. Of course, death hangs over him and he worries that he won't have time to complete his work.

This volume was an extremely satisfying and poignant conclusion to an unforgettable reading experience. I look forward to thumbing through all of the volumes to look at my notes and highlighted passages before writing and overall conclusion of this reading experience.

Original publication date: 1927
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 532 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback set
Why I read this: Proust project

203Yells
Jan 8, 11:37am Top

Congrats!!!

204paruline
Jan 8, 12:04pm Top

That's quite the accomplishment! Congratulations!

205puckers
Jan 8, 1:28pm Top

Congratulations- looking forward to seeing your review of the overall novel.

206japaul22
Edited: Feb 13, 1:53pm Top

#272 In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

For the past year I’ve been reading Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. When I began, I expected that I would finish because I’m good at following through when I make this sort of goal for myself, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting to enjoy it. Though I can’t say I enjoyed every page and must admit to my eyes glazing over for long passages, I will say that this has been a unique reading experience for me and it’s been pretty unforgettable.

What ended up working for me regarding the logistics of reading this was to read one volume at a time, but to make it my main book. I found that if I tried to only read a little of it at a time I couldn’t immerse myself in it and immersion was what I needed to give in to the prose style. I did, however, need breaks between the volumes, even though they really do run together as one long work. They aren’t as distinct as I imagined they would be. I read with pencil in hand and made copious notes in the margins tracking themes, symbols, and character development and highlighting favorite passages.

Proust’s writing is hard for me to describe. I expected it to be stream-of-consciousness and I suppose it was kind of, but I would describe it more with words like interior, obsessive, and sensual (leaning more - but not exclusively - towards the literal meaning of involving the senses). If you give in to the writing style, letting it wash over you, I don’t think there is any way to avoid experiencing life as the narrator describes it. There is some plot in the book, but very little, and most plot serves to explore the characters (there are over 2000 characters that appear throughout the book) rather than the more common other way around. The characters here are memorable and feel real, but the characters seem designed to serve the themes that remain primary. Memorable characters abound though: Swann, Odette, Francoise, Robert Saint-Loup, the Duchesse de Guermantes, mother, grandmother, Bergotte, Elstir, Cottard, Mme Verdurin, Mme Villeparisis, Albertine, Gilberte . . . I could literally go on and on. Even more than the characters, the various settings are described so evocatively that they are also unforgettable. The opening scenes in Combray, the beach in Balbec, the Paris drawing rooms. It’s interesting that Proust is able to explore setting without necessarily describing how the landscape looks – when I picture these settings it’s more complete than that.

The themes are often revealed through writing about the senses – using taste, smell, and sound to spur memory. Memory and the passage of time and how the two are related are really what this is all about. It’s explored so effectively that the theme really is the book and everything seems to spin around you as read so that you can’t tell what the whole point is of these long diversions and repetitive passages until you step back at the end and realize that all those tedious passages have added up to something really special. There were so many times I was reading and wondering when something was going to happen but now that I’m done I don’t think I’d change the pace at all, even taking into account the frustration along the way. In fact, if anything I wish Proust had been able to completely finish his edits and revisions before dying. I am positive that the final 3 volumes would have been longer and more detailed and, in the end, a bit more complete.

Though I’m happy and satisfied to have finished, I know I will miss reading this and will be thinking about it for years to come. And I might even be crazy enough to reread all 4347 pages in the future. I’m going to include my thoughts of each volume here, but these have all been posted before so there’s nothing new if you’ve followed my thread in the past year.

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

I've begun my journey to read all of In Remembrance of Things Past and I have to say it's off to a good start. This first volume begins with the narrator as a child visiting Combray, then shifts to Charles Swann's obsession with Odette de Crecy, and then ends with a short section where the narrator meets and begins his own obsession with Gilberte, Swann and Odette's daughter.

This isn't a real review, because this is obviously only part of the whole. As such, it sets up many themes which I'm looking forward to seeing developed. Memory is important, both how it is triggered by the senses, especially smell and taste, and how it is hard to truly recreate a moment. Love, which I gather is going to be more about obsession, begins immediately, with the narrator obsessed as a small child with receiving a kiss from his mother each night. Swann's obsession and jealousy of Odette, a woman he barely knows, is already continued in the narrator's obsession about Gilberte. One thing that bothered me, though I think it was intentional to make a point, was how little Odette is developed. She doesn't have much personality of her own, and just seems to be a reflection of Swann's obsession.

There's lots more - the set up between the aristocratic Guermantes vs. the Verdurins, the various discussions of the arts, etc. Suffice to say I'm enjoying the dreamy, reflective writing style and looking forward to starting the next volume in a month or so.

Original publication date: 1913
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 606 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books

Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust
In this second volume of In Search of Lost Time, the narrator is now a teenager and accordingly is obsessed with girls. That pretty much sums it up, but I guess I'll go into a little more detail. :-)

The first section is "Madame Swann at home". Here we see the narrator fall in and out of love with Gilberte, the daughter of Swann and Odette. Even though Gilberte is the object of the narrator's love and obsession, really he spends so much time describing Odette that she seems more to be the object of his obsession. I did think the narrator was sort of funny throughout this book because the language is very beautiful and mature and lyrical, but the ideas really are just of a typical teenage boy concerned with how others view him and thinking about the girls he meets. It was an odd mix.

In the second section, the narrator goes with his grandmother and Francoise (their servant and my favorite character) to Balbec, a seaside town, for his health. He meets and develops a friendship with Saint-Loup. He also sees a group of girls parading around the beach and falls in love with them. Among this group is Albertine, the next object of his affection. His descriptions of the girls and their interactions with each other and him are absolutely on point for the typical teenager experience. I really liked this section.

As in the first volume, there were large swaths of this that lost me, but I just keep reading and eventually something grabs me again. Overall it's been a really good reading experience for me so I'm excited to continue on in another month or two.

Original publication date: 1919
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 730 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: my current project

The Guermantes Way by Marcel Proust

In volume 3 of In Search of Lost Time, the narrator goes back to Paris where he finds a new woman to obsess over, the Duchesse of Guermantes. The narrator follows her on her morning walks, hoping to be noticed and invited to a dinner at her home. He does have a connection with her; his friend Robert Saint Loup is her nephew. Saint Loup is stationed at Doncieres with the army and the narrator goes down to meet up with him. There is a great section with the narrator interacting with the soldiers.

Back in Paris, there are two long set pieces at parties that sort of build on and contrast with each other. The first is at Mme Villeparisis's house and the second is at the Duchesse of Guermantes (finally!!). In the middle there is a long section on the death of the narrator's grandmother. The dinner party at Mme Villeparisis's is pretty entertaining to read - lots of familiar characters and a few new, talk of the Dreyfus affair, and an appearance by the highly intriguing Baron de Charlus at the end. The section at the Duchess's home was pretty boring, but it occurred to me that that was sort of the point - the fascinating-from-afar Duchesse of Guermantes is in reality quite boring and predictable (though still striking in her presence). I like how Proust chooses ordinary objects to create a thread through the novel. Some of these recur through all of the volumes (so far), like the hawthorn bush, and some are present in one section only (like the hats at the parties or the Elstir works of art). Some seem to have some deep significance and I think that some really are just memory triggers. It's a neat effect.

I'm really enjoying this book. This volume was very character-driven which was a little easier to read than some of the dreamier diversions in the previous two volumes and it was a nice change. I'm still very much seeing the work as a whole and not as separate volumes. I kind of want to go right on to the next volume, but as I have some other reading plans in July, I think I'll stick with my schedule and wait til August.

Original publication date: 1920
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 819 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, purchased
Why I read this: my current project

Sodom and Gomorrah, volume 4 of In Remembrance of Time Past by Marcel Proust

I've been reading this for about a month and have definitely decided it's not the best way for me to approach Proust. The other volumes I made my primary reading and loved them. This one I was distracted by travel and other books and read it slowly in chunks. I did not connect to it as well.

That being said, there is still a lot that happens in this volume that is interesting. The narrator finally gets to a party hosted by the Guermantes family, the apex of noble society in Paris. What he finds isn't really very exciting. There is more discussion of the Dreyfus case, especially surprising that the Prince de Guermantes has changed his mind and is now a Dreyfus supporter. This party is contrasted with a later party in Balbec with our old favorites, the Verdurins. Here the vibe is "lower class", but the conversation is more interesting and artistic. Well, at least by a few characters.

In this volume, the narrator's eyes are opened to homosexuality and he starts seeing it all around him. He suspects his love interest, Albertine, of harboring desire for her friend Andree and starts watching her closely, always looking for signs. His other focus is the Baron de Charlus, who he realizes is gay and then starts noticing all of his interactions with men, especially with a violinist named Morel. Some of this is pretty humorous and also rather dark.

Also running through this volume is a lot of discussion about word origins and language. This didn't work very well for me, probably because of the translation, but some of it was really brilliant - especially the Balbec hotel attendant who always uses incorrect words or pronunciations. The translation here was excellent and very amusing.

So overall, this is a good continuation of the book and ends on quite a cliff hanger, but I didn't connect with it as deeply as I have previous volumes. I've learned my lesson and will wait for the next volume until I'm ready to make it my main book.

This was the last volume that Proust oversaw in publication before his death, so I'm interested to see if I notice a difference in subsequent volumes.

Original publication date: 1922
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: English
Length: 724 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: my project this year

The Captive by Marcel Proust
I returned to volume 5 (of 7) of In search of Lost Time after a 3.5 month hiatus and found that it took me a while to get back into this, but then I ended up getting sucked back in. This volume begins the sections that were published posthumously and suffer a bit from lack of Proust's final edits. For instance, there are several characters who are discussed as dead and then very much alive later. It's definitely a completed work, though, just not as perfect as some of the early volumes.

This volume is the narrator (he sort of names himself as Marcel in this volume) at his absolute creepiest. He has convinced Albertine to come and live with him without a promise of marriage. She is the "captive" not allowed to come and go as she pleases, but supplied with beautiful clothes and amenities. Of course, there are also sexual favors involved - most disturbingly when the narrator chooses to enter Albertine's room as she sleeps. Yuck. Luckily, in the end Albertine leaves the narrator and I suppose she is The Fugitive in volume six.

There's an excellent set piece back in the Verdurin drawing room with the Baron de Charlus in top form and his relationship with Morel explored more deeply (troubling as well).

All in all, I enjoyed this volume, even though parts were pretty disturbing. Proust, or at least his narrator, has such an immature view of love. It's all based on possession, desire, and power. It makes me sad to think he died so young and may have never discovered a deep, quiet, trusting love.

I think I'll carry on with The Fugitive.

Original publication date: 1923
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 563 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback set
Why I read this: Proust project

The Fugitive by Marcel Proust
If you followed my 2017 reading, you know that I've been reading Proust's In Remembrance of Lost Time since January of 2017. This is volume 6 of 7 and is the shortest and most action-packed (relatively . . . it is still Proust) of the volumes.

In this volume the narrator mourns the loss of Albertine and takes a long-awaited trip to Venice with his mother. On their way back they receive letters giving them news of two marriages - Robert Saint-Loup with Gilberte Swann and Jupien's daughter with the Cambremer's son. Both of these marriages have huge class/societal implications that Proust has built up to throughout the preceding volumes.

At this point, the end is in sight. The final volume only has about 500 pages, which after 4000 or so doesn't seem like that big a deal. I will continue on until I finish.

Original publication date: 1925
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 374 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback set
Why I read this: Proust project

Time Regained by Marcel Proust
Well, I did it. This is the final volume of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. This is a review of the final volume; I will do a summary of the entire experience later.

In Time Regained, Proust finds his way back to his initial brilliance after the weaker volumes 5 and 6. Time Regained is a beautiful summing up of this 4000 page book. The beginning of this volume takes place during WWI, though the narrator spends much of it at a sanatarium trying to recover his health. After the war, the narrator returns to Paris and attends a reception at the home of the Princesse de Guermantes. The surprise to the reader is that the title is not held by the Princesse we remember, but now by Mme Verdurin who has finally ascended to the Faubourg St. Germain set. Many of our old favorites are at this reception or remembered in detail by the narrator (even if dead or not present) at it: the Duchesse de Guermantes, Gilberte, Odette, Charlus, Robert Saint-Loup, Rachel, Albertine, grandmother, Francoise, all the artists, etc. At the reception, the narrator comes to the conclusion that he has a special talent for making connections and memory and seeing the whole picture of life and concludes that he must write a book describing it. Of course, death hangs over him and he worries that he won't have time to complete his work.

This volume was an extremely satisfying and poignant conclusion to an unforgettable reading experience. I look forward to thumbing through all of the volumes to look at my notes and highlighted passages before writing and overall conclusion of this reading experience.

Original publication date: 1927
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 532 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback set
Why I read this: Proust project

207BekkaJo
Jan 8, 2:30pm Top

Well done you!

I started with the group last year (year before?) and only got about 100 pages through the first one. Wrong time, wrong book. I'll get back to it eventually I guess :)

208japaul22
Jan 8, 5:18pm Top

>203 Yells:, >204 paruline:, >205 puckers:, >207 BekkaJo: Thanks everyone! It really helped to know others here had made it through and I had a few companions in a group read over in the category challenge and that helped as well. Plus, I ended up actually enjoying it!

>207 BekkaJo: I think there is definitely a "right time" for this. I thought about reading it for a long time before I actually committed to it.

209ELiz_M
Jan 8, 8:15pm Top

>206 japaul22: Congratulations! I am so glad you saw your way through the end; the last volume is exquisite.

210kac522
Jan 8, 8:58pm Top

Well done, Jennifer, and so glad it was a rewarding experience, considering the enormous time and effort you put into it. That is the best kind of reading, I think.

211arukiyomi
Jan 9, 4:23am Top

excellent... now you're free to pick up The Thousand and One Nights!

212japaul22
Jan 9, 8:04am Top

>209 ELiz_M: Yes, volume 7 was so rewarding. It really clarified what he was trying to do throughout the entire work. It's amazing how he was able to keep the whole 4000 pages so tightly bound.

>210 kac522: Thank you! I'm sure this will remain a reading highlight for me.

>211 arukiyomi: Noooo! No more big projects for a while!

213arukiyomi
Feb 11, 4:23am Top

OK... try Silk :-D

214japaul22
Feb 13, 1:53pm Top

#273 The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell
This is the second book in Farrell's trio of novels exploring the crumbling British Empire. The first was Troubles set in 1916 Ireland and I LOVED it. This book, however, didn't work for me for some reason. It is set in India during an uprising of the locals that traps many British. I liked the set up and ideas in the book but I could not connect to any of the characters and I was generally sort of bored. In fact, I dropped the bookmark out of the book about 2/3 through and could not for the life of me figure out where I had been reading.

I suspect this will upset a lot of people because I feel like I remember seeing many glowing reviews of this book, so don't give up on reading this if you were interested. It was probably just the wrong book for my crazy life right now.

Original publication date: 1973
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 376 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased NYRB edition
Why I read this: 1001 books

215japaul22
Feb 24, 1:49pm Top

#274 Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre
So this was fun and I really liked the writing, but I'll admit to being a little confused through most of it. It's the first book I've read by le Carre, and I felt like I was dumped in the middle of something and had no idea what was going on. This is my fault since it isn't his first book centered around the character George Smiley, but I had researched that this is the first in a trilogy that pits Smiley against the Russian agent, Karla, and could be read without reading the others. I think that's true - I did "get it" by the middle - but it was a slow starter for me because of my lack of knowledge of the back story and world le Carre had already created. I'll probably read the other two in this trilogy this year, so hopefully each one I'll be deeper in the story and not feel lost.

Really great writing though, for a spy novel.

Original publication date: 1974
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 381 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books, for fun

216Nickelini
Mar 3, 3:53pm Top

>215 japaul22:
I have both those books in my TBR. Which should I read first?

I tried to watch TTSS film, but just couldn't handle it. Even with Colin Firth in it.

217japaul22
Mar 5, 3:39pm Top

>216 Nickelini: Between The Siege of Krishnapur by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy? They are really different, but I definitely enjoyed the Le Carre more. Knowing your reading, I'm not totally convinced you'll like either of them, though!

218Nickelini
Mar 5, 3:41pm Top

>217 japaul22: - Sorry I was confusing -- I meant which goes first between Smileys People and Tinker Tailor?

219japaul22
Mar 5, 3:59pm Top

Oh, sorry! There’s a trilogy within the Smiley books that is Tinker, Tailor, then Honorable Schoolboy (not on the list) then Smiley’s People.

220Nickelini
Mar 5, 4:37pm Top

>219 japaul22: Thanks. Not sure when I'll get to these, but I do own them

221arukiyomi
Mar 11, 4:55am Top

best le carre to start with is the Spy Who Came in from the Cold... that will introduce you to some of the characters and is much, much more readable than the others.

Unfortunately, I did it the other way round ;-(

222japaul22
Mar 21, 8:42am Top

#275 What Maisie Knew by Henry James
Meh. I didn't like this very much. The story revolves around a young child whose wealthy parents get a divorce and, after using her as a bargaining chip in their divorce, basically abandon her to their respective new spouses and then again abandon Maisie to those stepparents.

The problem for me is that the entire novel revolved around these events with little attempt at side stories or character development. Maisie, a small child, is seen only in relation to her reactions to these adult events. I'm sure for its time, this was controversial and shocking, but it seemed, sadly, sort of old news at this point.

I've really loved some of James's other novels, but this one didn't work for me.

Original publication date: 1897
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 352 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: 1001 books

223amaryann21
Mar 21, 11:14am Top

>222 japaul22: I'm glad to hear you say you liked other of James' novels, because this one left me feeling pretty bleak about finishing the others!

224japaul22
Apr 7, 12:24pm Top

#276 The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth
Joseph Roth was an Austrian writer in the 1900s and The Radetzky March is his best-known novel. The novel follows 3 generations of the newly ennobled Trotta family. As a young man, the grandfather saves Emperor Franz Joseph in a battle and in gratitude, the Kaiser makes him a Baron and he becomes known as "the Hero of Solferino" (the site of the battle). The novel follows his son and his grandchild and their lives parallel the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire. At the end of the novel, the characters learn of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the nephew and potential heir of Franz Joseph. This assassination will set off the events of WWI.

Overall I really enjoyed this novel. I've not read much German/Austrian literature so it did feel a little unfamiliar, but I thought the writing was interesting and the characters well-drawn and explored. I will say that the lack of absolutely any important female characters was a major drawback for me. I did like the historical setting and use of a real person (Emperor Franz Joseph) as a character in the novel. I think this is well worth reading, but won't end up a personal favorite.

Original publication date: 1932
Author’s nationality: Austrian
Original language: German
Length: 331 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale, paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books

225Simone2
Apr 9, 10:12am Top

>206 japaul22: Sorry for my absence of LT, I just read through your thread and wow, you finished Proust! How very good! I am stuck in Sodom and Gomorra but still reading, bit by bit. In the end, I will finish too but you did it really fast and your review (I haven't read the ones about the books I haven't read yet) is great! Congratulations!

226japaul22
Apr 18, 8:13pm Top

>225 Simone2: Thanks!! I really enjoyed it. I think it's going to remain one of my most memorable reading experiences. I hope you continue on and end up enjoying it.

227japaul22
Apr 18, 8:13pm Top

#277 Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie's epic novel follows the lives of two twin sisters, Olanna and Kainene, as they navigate both "normal life" of sisterhood, love, and growing into adults and a complicated and violent civil war. The setting is in 1960s Nigeria when the Igbo people attempt to break away from Nigeria into a separate country of Biafra. Commentary on the way colonialism has affected the region runs through the book, but though the politics are present and important, Adichie manages to keep this book about the characters. The sisters and those they love are beautifully created and developed. There is also a strong element of feminism present in the book that is subtly but powerfully drawn. I think my attention was probably drawn to it because of reading Rebecca Solnit's essays concurrently.

I really enjoyed this novel. Sometimes a very unfamiliar setting, as this book certainly had for me, leaves me a little confused or distanced from the book, but Adichie has written a book that pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me a little about Nigeria while grounding her book with characters that have a universal feel. I'd love to read more by her.

Original publication date: 2007
Author’s nationality: Nigerian
Original language: English
Length: 543 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle library
Why I read this: 1001 books

228BekkaJo
Apr 19, 3:22am Top

>227 japaul22: Thoroughly agree - I loved this one too.

229japaul22
Apr 22, 2:30pm Top

#278 The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen

Hmm. I really liked Bowen's To the North, but this book I just couldn't connect with. It's set in Ireland during the 1920s conflicts and the political climate influences the life of the main character, Lois, who is coming into adulthood among the societal changes. The book sets up a conflict between an older generation's opinions of how life should work and the younger generations ideas of love, marriage, and adventure.

The premise was good, but I didn't connect to any of the characters to the point where I could barely care to take the time to keep them straight in my mind.

I wouldn't start here if you're interested in reading Bowen's works.

Original publication date: 1929
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 303 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books, liked a previous book by the author

230hdcanis
Apr 22, 2:39pm Top

Well, that was my first Bowen :)

But indeed it is kind of hard to keep track of the characters but I took it as intentional, it's a grand house with lots of people coming and going, so the social confusion of Lois is shared by the reader...

231japaul22
Apr 22, 3:34pm Top

>230 hdcanis: For me, it wasn't that there were too many characters, I just didn't feel like they were written in a manner to make them distinct from each other or interesting to me.

Did you like it as your first Bowen? I really enjoyed To the North so I will still give some of her other books a try. I think this may have been one of her earlier novels.

232kac522
Apr 23, 1:10am Top

My first Bowen was Eva Trout (20 years ago) and I can't remember anything about it. Then last year I read The Last September which I found confusing and like you, didn't relate to the characters.

Then I watched a movie version of The Last September, which at least made the Irish-English conflict more understandable in terms of how it impacts the characters.

Or maybe the references in the book to the conflict were missed by me, not being from that place and era, and the movie made them clearer. Not sure, but I have several more Bowens on the shelf... I'm sure I'll try at least one more.

233hdcanis
Apr 23, 12:50pm Top

Yeah, a large group of characters can be written distinctively but Bowen seemed to intentionally write them as hard to distinguish. As well as Irish-English conflict, the young character in insular world is largely unaware of it outside vague references (I guess the movie version couldn't afford to be as coy about it).

I enjoyed the ironic description of society and indeed the way the confusion of the young character was shown well enough to continue with Bowen, but I admit I liked A World of Love and To the North more.

I liked Eva Trout but it is weird and also intentionally vague and hard to grasp, that's not a book I'd recommend as the first Bowen.

234Simone2
Apr 23, 4:25pm Top

>229 japaul22: There are so many Bowens on the list and Ai have the feeling many of us have a bit of a love/hate relationship with her. I only read A World of Love, which I had a hard time finishing. I somehow don’t feel encouraged to pick up another one by her.

235japaul22
May 3, 12:31pm Top

#279 Night and Day by Virginia Woolf
Night and Day is Woolf's second novel and is her most conventional in subject, form, and style. This is a love "pentagon" involving the wealthy Katharine Hilbery and her decision on whether to marry William Rodney or Ralph Denham. William would be the more traditional (wealthy) choice, but Denham also has a respectable job in the law. Then there is Mary Datchet, the independent woman who works for women's suffrage and has feelings for Denham. Katharine and Rodney get engaged and both immediately regret it - Katharine feeling claustrophobic and Rodney falling in love with Cassandra, who is much more enamored of him.

Being Woolf, there is more to this traditional marriage novel; there is definitely an exploration of what a woman gives up when she decides to marry and thoughts about where (if anywhere) a woman's power lies. Also, Katharine's rather untraditional interest in mathematics and disinterest in the arts makes for a slightly untraditional heroine. But in the end, this is a pretty conventional novel in the Victorian tradition.

As a musician, I was often taught early on in my studies that if I wanted to play something rubato (varying the tempo) or make a musical decision contrary to what was written on the page, I needed to first be able to perform the piece "correctly" as written, only then earning the right to branch out. I kept thinking about that with this novel. This struck me as Woolf proving that she could write a good novel in the tradition of other British novelists before she struck out with her highly experimental subsequent novels.

I liked this but didn't find it as interesting as her later works.

Original publication date: 1919
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 433 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books, reading all of Woolf's novels

236arukiyomi
May 6, 5:28am Top

that would also explain why her first novel is a very straightforward read... by far the easiest to digest of the many I've read of hers

237japaul22
May 29, 8:37pm Top

>236 arukiyomi: I think Night and Day may be even more straightforward and traditional than The Voyage Out, which I agree was straightforward itself.

238japaul22
May 29, 8:37pm Top

#280 Death in Venice by Thomas Mann.

The two words that came to mind most often as I read this brief novella were "overwrought" and "self-indulgent". OK, I guess it wasn't that bad, but pretty close.

Aschenbach, an aging writer, travels to Venice, sees a beautiful young boy who he becomes obsessed with (though never really interacts with, this is an internal obsession), and then dies.

I struggled to see the point. I loved Mann's first novel, Buddenbrooks, that he wrote in his youth, but this just seemed like it was trying to hard. I will read The Magic Mountain someday, and I hope I like it more than this.

Original publication date: 1912
Author’s nationality: German
Original language: German
Length: 80 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: 1001 books

239arukiyomi
May 30, 12:57pm Top

I hope you do too... it’s a heck of a lot longer than this one!

240japaul22
Jun 2, 4:17pm Top

#281 July's People by Nadine Gordimer

July's People takes place in South Africa during the battles to end Apartheid in the 1980s. The white Smales family flees the city with their servant, July, escaping the violence to the relative safely of July's home village. There, the contrast between their former life as privileged whites and the life of July's family is explored. For a while, July acts the same role as in the city - the subservient servant making life comfortable for his employers. But as time goes on, the line shifts. His expertise at living in these very different conditions gives him power, as does his standing in his community. He starts using the Smales's car as though it is his own and controlling them in other ways as well. It's subtle, though. No one knows what will happen next. Certainly if they end up back in the city with things as they were, July will want his job to continue as it was and knows his status will revert so he doesn't make a big shift in attitude. At the same time the Smales's life changes and their eyes are opened to how others in their country live, but more they seem to realize the benefits of their way of life and miss some of the simple things they took for granted. Again, though, Gordimer approaches this with a subtle touch - it isn't just that they miss certain comforts, but sometimes more the ideas or meanings behind those comforts. There is also the constant unknown - should they flee South Africa, wait for things to stabilize and return home, or what? Their children, however, assimilate quickly to the way of life in the village. There are constant references to how they begin to behave like black children in how they play, eat, and speak.

This book is beautifully written and tastefully done. Unlike some other African novels that I've read by white authors, there isn't a pervasive racist tone. There is certainly comparison but it didn't feel judgmental to me. This is particularly impressive to me considering that the book was written in 1981 as the battle to end Apartheid was still occurring.

Definitely recommended for those interested in African literature.

Original publication date: 1981
Author’s nationality: South African
Original language: English
Length: 161 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale paperback
Why I read this:1001 books

241japaul22
Jun 6, 8:41pm Top

#282 The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O'Connor
This was intense. Sad, troubled people and religious fervor as a type of insanity. It was relentless. O'Connor is a good writer, that's for sure, but I couldn't stomach the topic of this book. Maybe her writing, usually described as Southern Gothic, just isn't for me.

Basically, in the oldest generation we meet, a man is insane and his point of focus is the Bible, God's wrath, and baptizing. All the women in his family are whores, according to him, and he kidnaps his nephew when he's seven to "save him". The parents get him back, but a generation later he kidnaps his great-nephew in infanthood and raises him until age 14. He dies and the 14-year-old, Tarwater, goes to find his uncle, the man his great-uncle kidnapped at age 7. At this point, though, Tarwater has been raised in isolation being inundated with all of the religious ideas of an insane man and he finds a streak of insanity in himself.

It's not really giving anything away to say there is no happy ending here. Though I think Flannery O'Connor is an important author, I'm not sure many will really enjoy this book.

Original publication date: 1960
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 241 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this:1001 books

242japaul22
Jun 16, 8:12pm Top

#283 Smiley's People by John Le Carre
This is the third book I've read by Le Carre and they get more satisfying the more I read. I think that I'm getting used to his pacing and the spy jargon he uses. Smiley's People is the third in a trilogy of books centered around George Smiley, the anti-Bond spy, and his Russian nemesis, "Karla".

Original publication date: 1979
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 398 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books

243japaul22
Jul 12, 4:10pm Top

#284 Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

I never know what to make of Iris Murdoch's books. This is the third of her novels that I've read and I'm always left a little perplexed about whether I loved it or hated it.

This heads in a more predictable direction than the other novels I've read by her, maybe because it's her first. It follows Jake Donaghue, a young-ish man with no money who lives very comfortably by borrowing from friends as he tries (sort of) to be a writer. All sorts of unusual and unrealistic things happen to him and he never takes the conventional path out of a situation. This leads to random drinking, swimming in rivers, stealing dogs, breaking into apartments, and running across rooftops. All sort of in the pursuit of love with a woman it seems he can't make up his mind about, and a man whose intellect he's obsessed with.

So I don't know. Something about the craft of Murdoch's writing keeps bringing me back but I'm still not convinced.

Original publication date: 1954
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 253 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, library sale
Why I read this: 1001 books

244japaul22
Aug 2, 8:36am Top

#285 The Years by Virginia Woolf

And with that I've completed all of Virginia Woolf's novels. My next Woolf project will be to read the massive Hermione Lee biography and reread all or most of the novels. I also want to delve into some of her essays and short stories. I've only read A Room of One's Own of those.

So what about The Years? Well, I recognized Woolf's impeccable writing style and her introspective character writing, but I didn't love this one. The Years follows two branches of the Pargiter family, beginning in 1880. The first part of the book is a series of vignettes from 1880-1918 where one or two characters are developed (almost as in a short story). Then the final section is in the "present day" (probably some point in the 1930s) where many of the family members come together at a party.

The book is smart and sophisticated and has a couple of memorable characters, but I didn't find the connection that I have had with some of Woolf's novels and didn't find the message as dramatic as I hope for in her writing.

Original publication date: 1939
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 436 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books, Woolf completionist

245japaul22
Aug 4, 2:54pm Top

#286 The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

I finally read this book because it just won the Golden Booker and it's been on my shelf for a long time. To be honest, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. I thought this book was well-written and interesting, but not all that memorable.

Most of you probably know the premise from already having read the book or seeing the movie. The "English patient" is a man who has been horribly burned in a plane crash and ends up in Italy in a small hospital. As WWII ends, the hospital is disbanded and the English patient remains with a young nurse, Hana, who has been traumatized by the war, an older man named Caravaggio who knows Hana through her father, and Kip, an Indian man who defuses bombs. The English patient doesn't remember who he is and by telling his story under the influence of morphine he discloses enough details that Caravaggio thinks he knows who he is. There are many layers to the book and the characters end up fitting together in different ways than you might expect.

I enjoyed this but I wasn't impressed enough to run out and read more by this author.

Original publication date: 1993
Author’s nationality: Sri Lanka and Canada
Original language: English
Length: 305 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale, paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books, Golden Booker winner, off the shelf

246Nickelini
Edited: Aug 4, 4:04pm Top

>245 japaul22:
Interesting comments on The English Patient. I didn't love the book either; I liked the movie a bit more, especially the love affair between the nurse & the sapper (Hana & Kit). Don't let this stop you from reading more Ondaatje though -- I loved Anil's Ghost--it's one of my top 10 books-- and The Cat's Table is entertaining and readable.

The thing I remember most about The English Patient was my annoyance on how the author insisted on using pronouns all the time instead of people's names. You know, there's nothing wrong with occasionally says "Lisa," or "Tom" instead of the repeated "he" and "she." Just stop.

247japaul22
Aug 6, 6:56am Top

>246 Nickelini: I think Hilary Mantel inured me to overuse of pronouns as I didn't even notice that in the English Patient! I will keep Anil's Ghost on my TBR list - thanks!

248japaul22
Aug 6, 6:57am Top

#287 Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth

I read this brief novel by Irish author Maria Edgeworth because it was on the 1001 books to read before you die list and I'm always interested in female authors on the list. This book was published in 1800 and seems to have been written about a "typical" Irish gentry family for the English public. She certainly didn't give Ireland the best representation! This book is narrated by Thady, a servant for the Rackrent family, who witnesses three generations squander away their money and land through poor management, gambling, drink, and unwise marriages. Their land ends up in the hands of Thady's son.

This book is important historically because the English ate it up and took it as a real insight into the rise of the middle class in Ireland and the bad habits of the Irish landed gentry. But the writing, plot development, and character development are basically non-existent. Thady's voice gives some character and there are a few funny moments, but this is basically a long run-on sentence in 90 pages. Any book published in the early 1800s will be compared by me to Jane Austen and there is zero comparison here. I'm always impressed with Austen's tight plot and character development and coherence when compared to her contemporaries.

This was interesting from a historical perspective, but not really a pleasurable reading experience.

Original publication date: 1800
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 89 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: 1001 books

249japaul22
Aug 9, 9:20am Top

#288 An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

I really love Ishiguro's writing. He writes simply but beautifully and there are always multiple layers and interpretations of his work. This book is no different. Ono, the very unreliable first-person narrator, is musing on his life in the aftermath of WWII Japan. He slowly reveals some of his actions during the war and seems to not be able to admit to his mistakes and also not be able to understand if he or those around him should/do judge his actions harshly.

There is a ton to discuss regarding the book and luckily this was for a group read in the 1001 books group. I'm looking forward to hearing others comments.

Some may not like the ambiguity that the reader is left with, but I thought the open-ended nature made me consider the book and the time period more intensely than I would if everything had been answered.

Original publication date: 1986
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 206 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books group read

250japaul22
Aug 30, 8:27am Top

#289 A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul

This book is hard for me to review as I had wildly different reactions as I read the 278 pages. It starts out when a young man of Indian descent living on the East coast of Africa buys a shop in an isolated village at "the bend in the river" of a newly forming African country. The beginning was so interesting and beautifully written. I loved the descriptions of the growing town and its inhabitants, especially the various cultures all trying to navigate life. But then, as the town grows and the politics of this newly formed country get messy, the book sort of lost me. The characters didn't feel real anymore as they did in the beginning. They all felt like simple representations of various points of view. So I started to lose interest. And then the token woman and violent/passionate love affair happens. I absolutely despise books where an author tries to portray a passionate relationship as needing violence to show how deep the emotions are. So then I wanted to just quit reading.

I persevered to the end, but I never got back to enjoying the book as I did at the beginning. So for me, it just wasn't a great reading experience.

Original publication date: 1978
Author’s nationality: British/Trinidad
Original language: English
Length: 278 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, library book sale
Why I read this: 1001 books, Nobel prize author

251amerynth
Aug 31, 8:11am Top

I just finished A Bend in the River as well, so I particularly enjoyed reading your comments on it. I mostly agreed with you -- I thought the book excelled in giving a sense of place in that particular time, but I didn't particularly enjoy the characters, their interactions or Naipal's (apparent) view of African people. Totally agree that it was a rate book to rate!

252japaul22
Edited: Sep 20, 2:21pm Top

ETA: Well, shoot, I really thought this was on the list but when I went to check it off the app I found it was not there. Oh well.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

This is the story of a 1950s marriage. Both parties want to be different, but reality is they live in the suburbs, have two kids, and the husband has a boring job. Their relationship seems to be built on not much at all and they are basically coexisting. Most of the book is told from Frank's point of view, with his typical 1950s views of marriage, family, and maleness.

What I liked about this novel: well-written as in the construction was good, the dialogue was good, definitely has a good sense of time period. When I think about how Yates crafted the book, I'm impressed. He starts with a community theater scene that the wife acts in which sets up the book for the acting out of life that the Wheelers are doing. And you see April's disappointment in life and yearning for something more that she repeatedly squashes down.

What I didn't like: it's unfortunate to be stuck inside the point of view of someone you find repulsive for an entire book. Frank just drove me crazy - crafting his reactions to everyday events to make himself look good even though the reader could tell people around him weren't buying it. And the time period, with its blatant sexism, just isn't one I want to be immersed in.

Original publication date: 1961
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 355 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback library sale
Why I read this: 1001 books, off the shelf

253japaul22
Sep 19, 2:28pm Top

#291 Shirley by Charlotte Brontë

Oh, this book. How did the same author who wrote my beloved Jane Eyre also write this and Villette?

Unfortunately, I felt much the same way as I did about Villette when reading Shirley - boring, pretentious, and practically intolerable. I wanted so badly to like this but I just couldn't connect to the story or characters. Bronte throws some social commentary (owner vs. worker) in your face but doesn't make it feel integral to the story. And we get the typical woman who is disappointed in love and takes to her death bed only to recover when she finds her long lost mother has been right in front of her the whole book. I'm not sure how a book can be over-dramatic and boring at the same time.

I feel guilty not liking this, but there it is.

Original publication date: 1849
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 496 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: 1001 books

254Nickelini
Sep 19, 7:50pm Top

>253 japaul22: I'm not sure how a book can be over-dramatic and boring at the same time.

Lol. That's wonderful.

I have no plans to read this and no guilt about skipping it. Life is too short. I know the editors try to keep some balance with including lots of older books, but so many of them just haven't stood the test of time (says this English Lit major). I slogged through Villette, which I thought had some good parts, but it was just too long. Also, I found it very judgy. Everyone was watching everyone else and judging them constantly. Exhausting! I can't imagine living like that (although I know some people who still do).

255japaul22
Oct 7, 12:32pm Top

#292 Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner

I had varying reactions to this book. It's about Sophia Willoughby and takes place in the mid-1800s. When we first meet her, she seems to be in a typical wealthy woman, married and raising her children. But early on, you find that she's separated from her husband and he's living in Paris with his mistress, Minna. Then her children die and she decides she wants another child and will use her husband for this purpose. She goes to Paris where she drops this idea but meets and becomes enamored with Minna, who introduces her to various revolutionaries and a whole new way of thinking. They find themselves living together and participating in the 1848 revolution in Paris.

Overall, I liked this but I also had stretches that I found pretty boring and lost the story a bit. I also didn't like the focus on Minna's Jewishness and the stereotypes that were continually referenced about her.

This was ok, but won't be for everyone.

Original publication date: 1936
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 352 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: nyrb book
Why I read this: 1001 books, nyrb off the shelf

256japaul22
Oct 18, 10:24am Top

#293 Invisible by Paul Auster

I picked this up because it's on the 1001 books list and on my shelf from a library sale. While I appreciate Auster's concise, self-exploratory tone, I just don't really care for his books. I've found both that I've now read very male-centered and sort of gross. This one has a large scene about an incestuous relationship.

There is a certain tone he gets that I can't quite describe but that I do respect even while finding it a bit off-putting. It's hard to describe but his characters are self-reflective (lots of first person), yet self-centered, sort of pretentious and introspective, and engaged in the world in a very narrow way.

The story sort of meanders in and out of various plots and ended with a character's voice that didn't wrap things up for me sufficiently. This book was not a good fit for me, but others may like it.

Original publication date: 2009
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 309 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library book sale, hardback
Why I read this: 1001 books, group challenge

257annamorphic
Oct 20, 2:28pm Top

Reading your review of July's People from back in the summer, which I also read at around that time, made me ponder how that rather good book compared to the current group read, Wild Harbour. They make an interesting pair in their exploration of how fleeing "civilized" violence puts strains on people -- the weird absence of all that was normal, the struggle to recreate something that feels familiar, the way that a sense of self becomes unmoored.

Anyway, enjoyed catching up with your reviews!

258japaul22
Oct 20, 2:58pm Top

>257 annamorphic: interesting! I hadn't thought to connect the two. I'll ponder it as I finish up Wild Harbour.

259japaul22
Oct 21, 11:42am Top

#294 Wild Harbour by Ian MacPherson

This is an interesting book written in 1936. The action is set inn 1944 and revolves around one couple's reaction to an impending war. MacPherson predicts this timing pretty accurately. This couple, Terry and Hugh, find a cave in the Scottish wilderness and decide to leave their home to camp out here while the war happens. They feel a sense of deserting their fellow man, but feel more strongly that they don't want to participate again in a world war after experiencing WWI. They spend a few months learning to survive in the wilderness but then find themselves in the middle of the war anyway and death and violence encroaches on their attempt at isolation.

I found this book conceptually interesting, but highly annoying to read. The format is as a diary written by Hugh. The dialogue is atrocious and hyperbolic. Not really for me, but I was interested to know the book exists and at least it was short.

Original publication date: 1936
Author’s nationality: Scottish
Original language: English
Length: 178 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: 1001 books group read

260japaul22
Nov 3, 9:38am Top

#295 The Diaries of Jane Somers by Doris Lessing

The Diary of a Good Neighbor by Doris Lessing

This is the first of two books collected into one volume, The Diaries of Jane Somers. Though they are now usually published together, the second being If the Old Could, they were originally published separately. After finishing the first, I'm very much viewing it as a complete work. So I'll review it now, and add a review of the next later, still counting it as one book.

In this book, Janna Somers, a successful magazine editor in her 50s, meets an elderly woman, Maudie, and begins to care for her. This is out of the norm for Janna, who takes beautiful care of her appearance and has always held herself at a bit of a remove from others, even from her family and recently passed husband. But something about Maudie keeps drawing her back. Maudie lives in squalor and can barely care for herself and we, through Janna, experience all the indignities of old age, and especially old age lived in poverty. It's interesting to read this through a diary - you can see Janna's writing first centered all around herself and gradually shifting to being all about Maudie.

I really liked this and thought it was very well-written. It isn't easy to read, though, because of the topic, and is a bit depressing at times. But important themes about aging and death. Also brings up thoughts of what our responsibilities to the elderly are and how best to support them.

I'm interested to read the next book in this pair.

And now I've finished the second of this set, If the Old Could. I also really liked this, though not as much as the first. This one takes place after Maudie has died and Jane meets a man who she falls in love with on first sight and he with her. Unfortunately, they both have so much baggage that they have trouble getting past their initial attraction. I got a little tired of this relationship. In the first book, Janna's relationship with Maudie ends up revealing a lot about herself, but I didn't feel like this relationship did that as successfully. I sort of wish I'd only read the first of the pair of books and left it at that. Excellent writing, though, as I have come to expect from Lessing.

Original publication date: 1983 and 1984
Author’s nationality: British-Zimbabwean
Original language: English
Length: 500 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: ebay
Why I read this: 1001 books

261japaul22
Nov 4, 7:34am Top

#296 A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride
I'm calling it a day and admitting to a lot of skimming to get through this one. This is a highly experimental novel in terms of language. It's written in the thoughts of a young woman from age 2 through her late teens. The language is very fragmented all the way through - incomplete sentences, odd word choice (even made up words), and lots of disjointed thoughts. There are books with interior language style that I love, like Faulkner's works or Woolf for example, but I had a really hard time following the plot. And also didn't find the beauty of language that I look for, even in an unconventional format.

And combine that with an excessively dark plot and I just didn't want to read this. The girl's brother has brain cancer, her father has run out on them, her uncle sexually abuses her which leads to a string of sexually abusive encounters and then her own promiscuity. It was just all so dark.

This is an ambitious try for a debut novel, but it just didn't work for me.

Original publication date: 2013
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 230 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: 1001 books

262Simone2
Nov 4, 3:28pm Top

>261 japaul22: I just finished it too. What a depressing read. I had a hard time finishing it and now feel literally sick and dirty.

263annamorphic
Nov 7, 1:49pm Top

>261 japaul22: >262 Simone2: Everybody in the group seems suddenly to be reading this book. It sounds awful! I intend never to read it.

264japaul22
Nov 7, 3:12pm Top

>263 annamorphic: I think several of us chose it for the November challenge, one of the new books added to the recent list update.

I can imagine someone appreciating it or admiring the craft, but it's hard to imagine anyone "enjoying" it.

265japaul22
Nov 10, 4:09pm Top

#297 A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

This was a very readable, plot driven novel about a married couple who is known for their solid marriage and respectable life in the country. But then the wife, Brenda, gets bored. Out of sheer boredom she starts an affair with a young man. At first she (and all her friends) obvious feel that this is just a diversion for Brenda and no big deal. But things start to spiral and about half way through the book the plot takes a big turn that leads to pretty radical life changes for both Brenda and Tony (the husband).

I liked the book. It was readable and kept me entertained. It mainly consists of dialogue so it reads quickly. As always with Waugh, it has lots of slang from the time period which is always kind of funny. I'm not sure it's very memorable, but I enjoyed it.

Original publication date: 1934
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 307 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books

266arukiyomi
Nov 11, 4:17am Top

"pretty radical life changes" - er yeah... you could say that :-D

267japaul22
Nov 11, 7:13am Top

>266 arukiyomi: I know! Hard to not give away the plot in a review of this one. And it's such a plot-driven novel.

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