Ellie's (elliepotten) first time ROOTing around
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Hello there! I'm Ellie, from England - and welcome to my first ever attempt at tackling some of those pesky ROOTs that just keeeeeep on appearing around here, the stubborn little devils. Happily, as we all know, sometimes ROOTs flourish and lead to beautiful flowers, which is what I'm hoping will happen with a good number of the ones I dig up this year...
I've barely read a thing in 2017 - not since March or so, anyway - but 2018 should be a whole different story, hooray! Nevertheless, I'm going to aim for a modest 30 books. I have a tendency to go a bit mad in bookshops and the library, let's be honest - and I wouldn't want to tarnish this group's excellent record of achieving its goals! Besides, it would be nice to actually complete one of my own challenges, for a change. :)
My personal ROOT-y rules will be as follows:
1) Any book that has been on my shelves since before Christmas 2017 is fair game, whether it's been catalogued yet or not (I'll know!). If I got it for or around Christmas, that feels a bit too new for me, so those books won't count; nor will anything I buy in 2018.
2) Rereads will be allowed, if I previously read the book over a year ago. Those books are still on my shelf precisely because I want to reread them sometime, so why the heck not?
3) Books will be counted as ROOT successes if I have read them, whether I decide to keep them, or they go off to Ziffit or the charity shop afterwards. If I've read a decent chunk of a book but end up not wanting to finish it (and it goes straight into the charity bag), that will count. If I just clear a book off my shelf completely unread, as occasionally happens, that will not count. The key word here being read, right?!
I'm also taking part in the 75-Book Challenge again this year (I introduced myself properly on that thread!) and attempting to maaaaaybe topple half of the PopSugar 2018 reading challenge, so do drop by and say hi if you're skipping around over there any time!
In the meantime - let the 2018 ROOT-ing begin!
ROOTs currently on the go:
A Passion for Books edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan
Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge by Laren Stover
Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
ELLIE'S ROOTs FOR 2018
1. Night - Elie Wiesel (message 27)
2. A Good Year - Peter Mayle (message 53)
3. A Voice in the Distance - Tabitha Suzuma (message 60)
4. A Boy's Own Story - Edmund White (message 70) DNF-ed
5. Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon (message 74)
6. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov (message 77)
7. Three Men on the Bummel - Jerome K. Jerome
8. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan
Welcome! Just had a look at your 75-Book challenge thread - I think you're going to noise us ROOTers up a little ;) Good luck with your reading goals!
>3 floremolla: Haha, maybe not. I'll try to behave better around here, I promise. ;)
>4 elliepotten: Welcome to the ROOTers, Ellie! Please don't behave to much!
>5 connie53: Well, in THAT CASE! *hops up onto the table* Nah, just kidding, I'm totally in my PJs right now drinking hot chocolate... :P
Welcome aboard and have fun with your challenge! PJs and hot chocolate sound like a great plan for New Year's!
Ellie, really glad that you've joined us!
Hope you find great books that have been just waiting for you to read them!
Hi Ellie, and welcome to this wonderful group! Looks like both of us have our work cut out this year!
Hello everyone! Thank you for such a warm welcome to the group! I'm still sort of working in the Old Year here - I have a big project I need to finish before I can really have my 'New Year' and start reading again - but I'm almost there! Hopefully I'll be able to kick off the booking around by Friday or Saturday; I have a pile of books to read, a pile of movies to watch, and some delicious food to enjoy right along with them. Wish me luck! :)
>1 elliepotten: If I've read a decent chunk of a book but end up not wanting to finish it (and it goes straight into the charity bag), that will count. If I just clear a book off my shelf completely unread, as occasionally happens, that will not count.
Me too for both, and I want to clear some unreads this year. Glad you're here!
Hi Miss Ellie. It was such a pleasure to see you among those who have already posted to the January Progress Thread. I am really looking forward to your reads & comments.
>15 detailmuse: - Hello and welcome! I still haven't actually started reading this year, I'm putting it off until I'm done working and then I'm having a 'New Year 2' involving pains au chocolat, pizza and a pile of books and movies. Just a couple more days, hopefully, and I'll be out of the starting gates at last!
>16 MissWatson: - I'll drink to that! It's only hot milk, but still... *holds mug aloft*
>17 rainpebble: - BELVA! I was wondering if you were floating around somewhere, how I've missed you over these last few years! I've been a terrible forum-er of late, but I'll do better this year I promise! :)
NEW YEAR 2 IS ON ITS WAY! I finished my editing project today, finally, so I'm overdue a reading break (by about eight months, haha). Tomorrow, I buy reading snacks and start something new. AT LAAAAAST!
BUT WHERE DO I START?! I've got that supermarket trip this morning (in which treats and possibly even a celebratory book will be bought), but before that I think I'm going to spend an hour just rearranging my DVD shelves and browsing my bookshelves, picking out what I want to enjoy first now I've got my time back. I feel like I've got to pick really well; it's my first book of 2018 AND my first read in months full stop. Gotta make it a good one! :D
So I'm starting off my 2018, and my ROOT challenge (finally!), with Night by Elie Wiesel.
I rearranged my shelves a year or two ago, separating off my read books (shelved by genre/topic then alphabetically) then organising the rest chronologically by when I bought them. More or less, anyway. The last few are a muddle, and the earliest ones all run together because I added everything in my collection to LT at once when I first joined!
Aaaaaanyway, Night was shelved riiiiiight near the very beginning of my unread books, so it's probably been on my shelves ten years or more. Between that and its incredibly respected status in the literary and historical world, I thought it would be an excellent start. Brutal, but excellent. I'll report back when I'm done!
1. Night, by Elie Wiesel (4*) - non-fiction
In LibraryThing catalogue since May 2014, and I think I had an older edition before that too.
Well, this was a horrifying choice for my first read of the year. I knew it would be, of course, but it really got under my skin. Wiesel's writing is beautiful and visual and profound, and I wasn't prepared for just how much disbelief, anger and very personal soul-searching I was going to be hit with in the space of so few pages. I had to keep stopping to close the book, take some deep breaths, wipe my tears away and carry on. I wished I didn't have to carry on. Then I felt guilty and disrespectful, because he DID have to carry on, so who the hell was I to want to walk away from his book when he'd survived, and been brave enough to share those terrible memories, and to dedicate his life to making sure we never forget how easily the darkest side of humanity can rise up and try to make terrible things 'acceptable'?
Three things that particularly stuck with me:
- The way Wiesel repeatedly became so used to the daily life of the concentration camps, so set in their routines, that he started to become almost complacent, and therefore the reader gets lulled into a false sense of security too. "We get soup, we get sleep, the work isn't so bad..." And then, each time, something HAPPENS. Something that is so terrible, so devoid of humanity, that it shakes both prisoner and reader to their core all over again.
- The very modern sensibility of the prisoners. We tend to think of the Holocaust as historical, as a long time ago, in a different age, with different sensibilities - but Wiesel's thoughts were exactly what ours would be. It WASN'T a long time ago. How, in a modern era, could someone get so close to actually wiping an entire minority off the face of the planet? There are photographs, and news reports, and global superpowers fighting - how can no one know? And if they do know, how can they be okay with the atrocities taking place behind that barbed wire? Or even ignore it?
- The attitudes of other people who came into contact with the prisoners. They made me feel sick. The giggling girls flirting with the officers and ignoring the starving men marching alongside them. The curious people throwing scraps through the train bars and watching desperate people kill each other over a crust of bread. All of those people who laughed, watched, exploited and ignored... IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.
I couldn't give this book five stars, because I hated every minute of it, and also some of the more religious themes were a bit lost on me (I'm not familiar enough with Jewish culture) - but as a piece of literature it was almost perfect, and I will forever be glad that I read it. I will never forget that I read it, and those moments of almost inconceivable cruelty will be etched into my brain for a lifetime.
- (Towards the end of their seemingly-endless run through the snow between Buna and Buchenwald) "We were the masters of nature, the masters of the world. We had transcended everything - death, fatigue, our natural needs. We were stronger than cold and hunger, stronger than the guns and the desire to die, doomed and rootless, nothing but numbers, we were the only men on earth."
- (From Wiesel's Nobel acceptance speech) "I explain to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the centre of the universe." Still as relevant today as ever...
This book also counts for:
- 75-Book Challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 8 (a book with a time of day in the title)
>27 elliepotten: great visceral review, Ellie. Having read Primo Levi's If This Is a Man I can relate to all of your reactions - scenes, descriptions and the feelings they prompt can stay with you for the rest of your life. You have to be in the right frame of mind to tackle something like that - and it can take a while to move on to something lighter. Well done on completing a challenging first ROOT.
>28 floremolla: YES! This. All of this. I think its time was 'right' - you know, when you look at a book on your shelf and get that feeling - but I'll be delighted to move on to something less brutal while my feelings about it start to settle!
>27 elliepotten: Great review. That's a book I've never dared pick up, yet. Coward that I am. I will at some point, but really need to brace myself first.
>27 elliepotten: probably one of my top 5 books. I teach a course on the Holocaust and this is required reading. I have also met the now deceased Elie Wiesel and he was a very humble man. My favorite quote from this book is something to the effect: "as I saw the children burning in the ditch, my faith (God) went up in flames."
>30 Jackie_K: - Yes, it's definitely one where you need to choose your timing carefully. For your own sake.
>31 tess_schoolmarm: - What an honour! And yes, that was one of the 'branded in my brain' moments. Along with
>32 elliepotten: Actually, Ellie, I was privileged to spend a week with over one dozen Holocaust survivors in Washington DC in 2013. The Holocaust Museum closed for 1/2 a day and a survivor personally escorted me through the museum (as well as 11 other teachers). It was a very emotional week as we heard story after story of loss and depravity. It changed my life as I went home and wrote a curriculum for a Holocaust course and submitted it to my local university and I teach it now at 3 different universities. The sad thing is that most students come to me not really knowing anything about the Holocaust; it is losing a place in history because it does not fit the political correct agenda.
>33 tess_schoolmarm: What an incredible opportunity - and great that you're using it in such a powerful way to 'pass it on' and teach others in turn. :)
Wow, what a review, Ellie! It's still unread on my shelves too (it's my Grandmother's copy, so it's been around probably for my whole life), and I'm sort of saving it for that just right feeling you mentioned. I think it'll be this year, somehow.
I hope you're on to a lighter book, m'dear!
>36 LauraBrook: Hey sweetpea! I am, yes. Two ROOTs on the go - a book of essays about reading (A Passion for Books), and one slightly tongue-in-cheek one about bohemian living (Bohemian Manifesto) - and a non-ROOT scientific autobiography by one of the biospherians who took part in the original 'mission' in Arizona (The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2). Slower going, reading three at once, but I'm loving every page! And it's my 10-year Thingaversary tomorrow, so I'm planning to spend the whooooole of Sunday reading and snacking and generally having a bookish wonderful day. :D
>37 elliepotten: Happy early Thingaversary! That sounds like a wonderful celebration.
Happy Thingaversary to meeeeeee! I started off my day with coffee and an essay from A Passion for Books (appropriate), then I started reading A Good Year by Peter Mayle (my first fiction book of the year and a long-time ROOT), and then later I think it's going to be chicken goujons and ketchup, tinned pears and chocolate, and Matilda. Possibly a few BookTube videos as reading breaks, I love watching readathon vlogs for bookish inspiration and I found a couple of new channels recently so I have lots to explore. POSSIBLY I may have a little look through my bookish wishlist and order a book (or adaptation) or two. Ooooooooh, this is going to be such a nice Sunday! :)
Thank you so much to everyone who's been around here with me for the last ten years, sharing books and cake pictures and good times and rubbish times and everything else that makes LT life so rich; this is the only 'social media' type place where I've actually felt safe and happy enough to stick around and keep contributing and making friends, and I love it. Here's to another few years yet! :D
A Year in Provence is on offer via bookbub today - 99p in the kobo store, and presumably similar in kindle. I've decided that I'm going to leave it till February and get it if it's still on offer then (so it goes in my February rather than January stats). If it's back to full price I'll look for it in the library.
Happy Thingaversary! TODAY, you can see who shares a Thingaversary with you -- go to your Home page, along the left column click on Folly, then scroll down to the Selected Thingaversaries module.
>45 Jackie_K: >46 floremolla: Thank youuuu! :)
>47 Lisa805: Y'know, I had A Year in Provence for the longest time - I wonder where it went? Maybe I lost it when we moved house. I'm enjoying this one so far, anyway, and I've already seen the movie a bunch of times so that'll be ripe for a rewatch when I'm done!
>49 majkia: >51 MissWatson: It was lovely! I read a bunch, watched my movie, and added so many books and movie adaptations to my Amazon basket as 'potential Thingaversary treats' that I now need to reduce it by a good £220 before I can check out, oops. I'll probably end up getting overwhelmed and just buying nothing for now, haha, that's usually how it goes!
>50 detailmuse: Awwwww, I missed it! I've never spotted that Folly page before, I'll have to check out the LT roulette feature and remember the Thingaversary thing for NEXT year! Thanks for that, I love finding new little corners of LT I didn't even know about! :D
2. A Good Year, by Peter Mayle (3.5*) - fiction
On shelf probably since the late Noughties, a couple of years after the film came out?
Awwww, this was a nice way to kick off my fiction reading for the year. I'd actually been considering watching the movie again, for the first time in years, then suddenly remembered that I used to have a copy of the book lying around. Lo and behold, I found it, sitting forlornly in the office, consigned to my 'to sell off' box. I rescued it, read it, and here we are!
It's about Max Skinner, a young Englishman who loses his job in London and inherits his uncle's shabby-chic old house in France, all in the same week. He sets out to see the place, somewhere he adored and spent a lot of time as a child, and ends up falling in love all over again - with the house, the vineyard, the lifestyle, and a voluptuous local restaurant owner. Throw in a whopping dollop of good humour, an unexpected visitor (a storyline I liked), a little casual wine fraud (a storyline I could have done without), and a whole cast of wonderful characters (I especially loved Madame Passepartout, Max's housekeeper), and this was a really charming little read.
After all, what better way to spend a week of our English winter than dreaming of a Provençal summer? Mayle's book (as you might expect) perfectly evokes the feeling of sunshine on skin, the golden light warming the vines, the murmur of a village cafe, and the simple delights of good food, good wine and good company. I had to go out today and buy a crusty loaf of fresh bread, slices of ham, vine tomatoes and a bag of choc chip madeleines, just to get me through tonight (when I'll hopefully watch the movie over dinner). *sighs happily* I'm really glad I took a chance and read this one instead of sending it straight off to Ziffit for a few measly pennies!
This book also counts for:
- 75-Book Challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 1 (a book made into a movie I've already seen)
>55 MissWatson: I think it is a sign, I picked it up for 99p last week as it was on offer in the kobo store after he died. I'm feeling an LT Provence meet up coming on (oh I wish!!!).
Oops, sorry about the book bullet pinging off the walls in here!
>58 lilisin: I've been subscribed to Roya at RGsDevilship for a while, and Katie at Chapterstackss, and SuddenlyLorna. Then recently (since I've come back to reading after nine months of NOT reading) I've subbed to Helene Jeppesen, AnaisReads, Drinking By My Shelf and I think Book Roast? I'm trying out a bunch of new channels, anyway, skipping around my recommended videos over breakfast each day, seeing which ones I might like enough to stick around!
3. A Voice in the Distance, by Tabitha Suzuma (3.5*) - fiction
On shelf since August 2011
Hoo, boy, this was an emotive one. It's the second and last book in the Flynn Laukonen series, the sequel to A Note of Madness (my review of that one's on the book's page if anyone's interested). Flynn is a student at the Royal College of Music in London, a near-genius-level pianist and composer - and he is also bipolar. A Note of Madness has him living with his best friend Harry, veering between manic productivity and crippling depression until he is finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder and gets the help he needs.
This book picks up a couple of years later. Flynn now lives with his long-term girlfriend (and even longer-term friend) Jennah, and his carefully monitored daily dose of lithium seems to be keeping his life stable and happy... until it stops working. The cycle of mania and depression begins again, both reaching terrifying new proportions as Flynn veers wildly up and down, taking everyone around him along for the ride. It touches on several massive elements of the 'mental health experience', including suicidal intent, hospitalisation, blindness to one's own mental state, and medication non-compliance (a huge issue amongst people with manic depression who want to hold on to their hypomanic motivation, inspiration and general good feeling). And good grief, it was hard to read. For several reasons.
A bit of background here - I was previously diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. Now, around seventeen years down the line, as an adult, that diagnosis has been reconsidered and replaced with Asperger's, severe recurring depression and anxiety. My 'happy' hypomania, as it turns out, was actually just a propensity for unusual exuberance during good times, and extreme motivation and joy when it comes to the things I love and am most interested in. My 'mixed' hypomanic episodes can be attributed to meltdowns and anxiety, culminating in shame spirals and subsequent crashes into dangerous levels of depression. In short, my symptoms and signs were - and in many ways continue to be - remarkably similar to a bipolar patient; we were just looking at them through the wrong lens.
Because of that, reading this book felt very personal, often painful and even deeply shameful. I felt horribly vulnerable as I turned the pages. Unlike the first book, this one is written from two perspectives - Flynn's and Jennah's - which meant I was having to read both sides of some very familiar situations. Suzuma writes depression so perfectly that I couldn't help reliving some of my own experiences through Flynn's. When it came to Jennah's thought processes, I was seeing how things out of my control impacted the people around me in horrible and hurtful ways. When Jennah's mother found out about Flynn's illness and started asking difficult questions (can Jennah cope, is he dangerous, what sacrifices will be involved in being with a mentally ill person), I couldn't help reflecting that back against my life now - because people say the exact same things about autistic people. When her mother asked "Is it worth it?" all I could think was, "Someday someone's mum/dad/friend might be asking them the exact same thing about me." And that made me so very sad.
Sooooo, this isn't really a review in the end, more an explosion of personal vulnerability and neuroses and thoughts about what is, was and might one day be. The book was really well done, once again - particularly the mental health elements - but where A Note of Madness had hope (boy in bad situation, gets help), this one veered the other way (boy in good situation, devolves into an absolute living nightmare, everything falls apart), and that felt so draining and emotional to read that I couldn't give it the maybe four stars it objectively deserves. It lost a star anyway for occasional 'was that the right word?' moments (eg. a 'slither' of something, rather than 'sliver'), calling St Pancras station 'St Pancreas', and for the absolutely impenetrable music jargon early on that lost me completely. Needless to say, it just veered a little too close to the bone for me, so I definitely wouldn't ever choose to read it again!
- "I hate myself more than they could ever hate me. I am so, so sick of it. This is the overriding feeling. They say depression is an incredible sadness, an unbearable mental pain. No, it doesn't have to be so dramatic. Sometimes it is nothing more than feeling tired. Tired of life." - Flynn
- "The words 'mental illness' suddenly take on a whole new dimension. What kind of illness makes life want to bring about its end? It goes against every natural instinct!" - Jennah
- "... when you feel that bad, that low, you stop caring. About everything and everyone. You can only think of yourself... The pain is so... big, it takes up all the space in your body, in your mind, and there isn't room for anything else. All you can think about is your own suffering, and how to stop it - you'd do anything to stop it. Anything. I really mean anything... Often it's your body too, and every part of you hurts. But you don't really care about your body, it's your mind. Every thought hurts like hell. Everything you see is awful, twisted, pointless. And the worst - the worst of it is yourself. You realize you are the most ghastly person in the world, the most hideous, inside and out. And you just want to escape, you just want to get rid of yourself, of your suffering, of the pain inside your head... A-and death is the only option left because you've been through this time and time again, thought and thought about trying to change yourself, the way you think, the way you behave, the way you live. Yet it always comes back to this - the fact that you just d-don't want to be alive-" - Flynn, trying to explain his depression to Jennah
This book also counts for:
- 75-Book Challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 16 (a book about mental health)
gosh, having read your post I feel as if I know nothing about mental health and autism conditions! It's great that you have the insight - helped by a more appropriate diagnosis - to view yourself so clearly and communicate about it so frankly. We need more of that. I think I'll give that particular book a miss though ;)
>61 floremolla: To be fair, I didn't know much about mental health conditions until I got hit with my first one - then I kind of made it my mission to learn as much as I could. The same with the autism spectrum all these years down the line. It's how I claw back some semblance of control over things and learn how to help myself when 'official' resources are scarce: I read, watch and generally devour anything I can get my hands on!
And thank you, sincerely. I've had a good seventeen or eighteen years to get comfortable with things, develop a kind of mental health/emotional self-awareness, and it does come in handy sometimes! I've been really helped over the years by other people talking honestly about their experiences - especially the things you don't find in official criteria lists and textbooks - so I try to do the same if I can. You never know if it'll strike a chord with someone or give them a helpful idea they'd never considered before. These days I always try to be upfront, answer questions, chat, whatever - sometimes people think they're intruding but I don't mind in the slightest! :D
>63 detailmuse: I literally have that one right next to me here! I bought it for myself as a Christmas present - it sounded like some of her experiences might be quite close to mine, and I love the fact that it's by a woman, it's British, AND it's bang up to date. I'm hoping to read it sometime in the next few weeks! :)
I really think you are doing a wonderful thing in sharing your story, Ellie. Respect!
>65 connie53: Thank you! Not gonna lie, I was a tiny bit nervous about posting that review, but it was one of those books where my personal history/situation coloured my reaction to the novel so very much that I couldn't really not talk about the two side by side, if that makes sense? Not that I'm bothered about sharing and all that, just that there's always a tiny element of risk that someone's going to take it badly in some way - even in a usually safe space like LT. So far so good, haha. :D
>60 elliepotten: Ellie, thank you for your thoughtful and open review. ❤️
>64 elliepotten: oh very cool!! I've recommended it to a good friend who's had lifelong anxiety and (in her 50s) came to realize there's also likely Asperger. Hope it's a good read for you, and looking forward to your comments!
4. A Boy's Own Story, by Edmund White (DNF) - fiction
On shelf since maybe late 2012 or early 2013?
I ended up DNF-ing this one at around the 60-page mark. I know it's kind of a seminal work of early gay fiction, and it's very stylistically written - lots of attention to detail and the gentle ebb and flow of life - but around fifty pages in, I'd just had enough. Nothing was really happening, the slightly odd flights of description were starting to feel a bit much, and I was getting a tad creeped out by White's apparent insistence (both in character and in his author introduction) that men should all want to sleep with their father and that he was desperate to seduce his own. I flicked ahead, to see if I was missing anything, and... nope. Not really.
There's definitely a lot to enjoy and appreciate here, for the right reader - but it just wasn't for me, and I couldn't bring myself to plough through another 150 pages of it. Oh well. My first DNF-ed ROOT (as per my rule #3)!
- "My father regarded guests as nuisances who had to be entertained over and over again." Saaaaame!
>70 elliepotten: I'm embracing the DNF this year - it hasn't come naturally at all, but I have two already this year. I think I'm finally old enough to fully appreciate that life's too short if you're not enjoying a book! 60 pages is entirely fair enough, I think - I would totally count it!
>60 elliepotten: A Voice in the Distance sounds interesting. It was very courageous of you to share your own diagnosis and reaction to the book from that point of view. While it sounds like the novel was good in that the author knew the realities of depression and how to explain them through her prose, sometimes being that true to life is uncomfortable for the reader. It doesn't sound like a book that I would be comfortable with so I guess I will have to find something else for the PopSugar challenge.
>71 Jackie_K: It IS liberating! I like to give a book a fair trial, but if I'm starting to feel like doing anything but reading, I know it's time to move on...
>72 Familyhistorian: Plenty of 'em out there! It wasn't going to be my first choice either, to be honest - I just happened to lay eyes on it as I passed my bookshelf last week, realised that I was at risk of entirely forgetting the characters from A Note of Madness if I didn't read the sequel soon, and that was that. :P
5. Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon (4*) - fiction
On shelf since September 2016
Well, this was a nice surprise. It's a YA novel about Madeline, an eighteen year-old girl with SCID: she is essentially allergic to almost everything. She lives in a sterile, lonely home where air filters and disinfectant rule, and the only people allowed inside are her mother and Carla, her nurse. She's content enough with her books, her mum-and-daughter evenings and her internet life... until a new family moves in next door and she strikes up a friendship with the teenage son, Olly. Suddenly the glass between her and the world starts to feel more like a prison than a haven - she begins to discern the difference between existing and living - and everything starts to change, twist and fall apart.
I really enjoyed this. I flew through it during the readathon, helped enormously by the collage-y feel of the novel. There are 'normal' prose sections, yes, but there are also one-line book reviews, drawings, emails, IM conversations, lists and other little bits and pieces, which slotted in nicely and made it a breeze to read. I guessed the surprise change of direction of the novel literally from the very first clues near the beginning -
What really got to me, personally, was the similarity between some of Madeline's experiences, thoughts and regrets (being stuck in her house with SCID) and some of my own (being stuck in her house with agoraphobia). Her longing for certain things, her frustrations, her loneliness, the way she tried not to dream or think too hard about what 'could' be because it would only make her miserable - all of that was very familiar. I marked so many pages with little comments and quotes that made me pause for thought, and I didn't expect that to happen! I ended the book smiling and inspired, and I have a feeling I'll be rereading it in the future.
- "You can find the meaning of life in a book."
- "I shift my body again for no reason, pulling my legs into my chest and wrapping my arms around them. Our bodies are having their own conversation separate and apart from us. Is this the difference between friendship and something else? This awareness that I have of him?"
- "Life is a gift. Don't forget to live it."
- "I almost wish I hadn't met him. How am I supposed to go back to my old life, my days stretching out before me with unending and brutal sameness? How am I supposed to go back to being The Girl Who Reads? Not that I begrudge my life in books. All I know about the world I've learned from them. But a description of a tree is not a tree, and a thousand paper kisses will never equal the feel of Olly's lips against mine."
This book also counts for:
- 75-book challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 14 (a book an author of a different ethnicity to you - Nicola Yoon is Jamaican American)
>74 elliepotten: Good work with the ROOTing Ellie and great review as usual - nice to find a book you can connect with in a positive way. I don't expect I'll read it so I sneaked a look at the spoiler - clever little twist! ;)
>75 floremolla: Ooooh, look at you, sneakin' a peek! It WAS quite smart - and quite sad. The movie was good too! :)
6. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov (4*) - fiction
On shelf since August 2011
"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul... Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita."
Lordy, where do I start?! Maybe with the fact that the 'quality literature' buzz around this novel turned out to be absolutely correct; it's one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read, I think. It was incredibly dense, yes, and occasionally difficult - but it was worth the persistence and the effort of reading it. Likewise, it occasionally slowed almost to a standstill, or veered off into an odd flight of literary allusion that I didn't always understand - but each time it kick-started itself, its flow returned and I was glad I'd pushed through the tough patch. As a study of character, of a broken person breaking someone else in turn, and how the ripples of that breaking spread outwards to the people around them and inwards into their own beings, it was almost flawless. As a study of place, it worked almost as well - all motels, trees, lakes, suburban neighbourhoods, shabby towns, and the relentless rising dust behind an old car. And yet, despite its brilliant execution, I can't say I loved the book. Respected, yes. Enjoyed, yes. Loved, no.
There was more humour in the book than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise - exactly the kind of dark, sardonic and dry humour I find amusing. There was also an almost overwhelming amount of sadness, tragedy and obsession. It was definitely a novel of contrasts: humour and despair, innocence and corruption, honesty and deception, love and hate, old and young, past and future. I'm still not sure what to make of Humbert Humbert (beyond the obvious 'child molester' stamp). He demonstrates such startling self-awareness at times, and such confusion at others. I also still don't know quite where the balance of worldly and innocent was in Lo herself: which encounters (if any) were perhaps precipitated by a young girl in the first flush of sexuality getting in way over her head, which were out-and-out assaults merely framed that way by Humbert's rose-tinted memories, and at what point the prematurely-jaded Lo began to exploit Humbert's pathetic attraction for money and favours. He's an unreliable narrator, sure, but HOW unreliable?
In short, this is one of those rare books that might take months to process and actually work out my feelings about it, about the story and the characters and exactly what happened on that rollercoaster ride of a read. In the meantime, I highly recommend Adrian and Dalton at Stripped Cover Lit's discussion about it. They get a couple of things wrong where they just missed little details along the way - Dolores's fate, for example, which requires returning to the very beginning of the book with fresh eyes - but they also have some interesting insights to share. I really enjoyed their video!
- "I knew I had fallen in love with Lolita forever; but I also knew she would not be forever Lolita."
- "This, to use an American term, in which discovery, retribution, torture, death, eternity appear in the shape of a singularly repulsive nutshell, was it."
- "I have often noticed that we are inclined to endow our friends with the stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader's mind... Whatever evolution this or that popular character has gone through between the book covers, his fate is fixed in our minds, and, similarly, we expect our friends to follow this or that logical and conventional pattern we have fixed for them. Thus X will never compose the immortal music that would clash with the second-rate symphonies he has accustomed us to. Y will never commit murder. Under no circumstances can Z ever betray us. We have it all arranged in our minds, and the less often we see a particular person the more satisfying it is to check how obediently he conforms to our notion of him every time we hear of him. Any deviation in the fates we have ordained would strike us as not only anomalous but unethical. We would prefer not to have know at all our neighbor, the retired hot-dog stand operator, if it turns out he has just produced the greatest book of poetry his age has ever seen."
This book also counts for:
- 75-Book Challenge
- PopSugar challenge, prompt 9 (a book about a villain or antihero)
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