Book Review: “Bonjour Tristesse” by Francoise Sagan

Aug 26, 2015 by

Book Review: "Bonjour Tristesse" by Francoise SaganIts the 1940s in France, Cecile is a seventeen year old girl spending the summer at a seaside villa with her father and his (current) girlfriend.  Her mother died when Cecile was very young, making her handsome father, Raymond, a very young widow; having a new girlfriend every few months is not unusual.  Ever since Cecile came home to him 2 years ago from the convent school – they have been partying together and having a great time.  Now away with one of his girlfriends, Raymond invites another woman to come stay with them too.  This new woman, Anne, was a friend of Cecile’s mother’s, and Cecile is quite taken with her.  Until Raymond throws over the girlfriend for Anne and Cecile begins to fret over the possibility of losing the lifestyle she shares with her father.  All of this while she is developing a relationship with the handsome guy next door – who is almost ten years older than her.

I found this novella purely by accident and was compelled to read it one Sunday afternoon.  Cecile is kind of a spoiled rich-kid brat who has almost an incestuous love for her father.  She is very young and naive, and yet is surprised to find herself attracted to the guy next door as he isn’t of her father’s age.  She is just so lonely for his attention – he doesn’t ignore her – but he does give plenty of attention to young pretty things that grab his attention for a month or two.  For such a short book, that honestly reads quite light and breezy, it really holds a surprising depth.  Now that I’ve read up a little bit about this – the author was just eighteen herself when this was published – and that really adds to the authenticity of the main character.  This was a glorious find!

Also, not that it means much, but I love this cover.  Isn’t it wonderful?

*****
Bonjour Tristesse
by Francoise Sagan
Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2008.  First Published 1955.
160 pages
Source:  Library
*****

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Audio Book Review: “Animal Farm” by George Orwell

Aug 26, 2013 by

Audio Book Review: "Animal Farm" by George OrwellMan, I love this book.  Even the first time I read it in English class years ago – I loved it.  I mean, it is pure genius.  I love this cover too…  Even though I downloaded the audio from my library and didn’t get to see it firsthand, the graphic is good enough here.  It certainly doesn’t make much question as to what the book is about, does it?

If you somehow are not familiar with the story line, Animal Farm is a tale based in the Russian Revolution, only instead of human Russians overthrowing the governing party – it is the British animals of Manor Farm.  These animals cast out the drunken leadership of Farmer Jones and his wife and assume control, renaming the property Animal Farm.  They begin to rule themselves with a very pure idea of socialism, and seven governing principles (among them “Four legs good; Two legs bad”).  But it doesn’t take long for the pigs to rise above the other animals, and for Comrade Napoleon to become the overall leader.  The pigs become increasingly more corrupt, and the uneducated masses of other animals allow it until, finally, the pigs even start to resemble the humans they replaced in the first place.

The way the characters are developed is fascinating.  To watch the pigs slowly transform themselves into “more than” the rest of the animals is something to behold.  The way they manipulate the others, and how we can see humans do the same thing even now is just genius.  I think my favorite character of all is Squealer the Pig.  He is the one who spreads the propaganda and further’s Napoleon’s cause and influence over the animals.  I love the way he just changes history and gets the others to believe him…. believing more in him than their own memories.  Is this a good (as in positive) character?  Not at all – but I admire his boldness.  Whenever the text announced Squealer’s presence in a scene, I’d smile because I knew something interesting/appalling/crazy was about to happen.  And I could picture him hopping from feet to feet while he was spinning his tales.

I’m so glad I experienced this one again…  I remembered it as being good, but I had forgotten just HOW good it really is!
*****
Animal Farm
by George Orwell
Narrated by Ralph Cosham
Blackstone Audio, 1999.  First published 1945.
Source:  Library
—–

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Book Review: “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum

Nov 26, 2012 by

“We’re off to see the Wizard…  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!”

This is one of my all time favorite movies.  I have always loved it – and remember fondly when it would be shown on television once a year.  My family would turn it into an event with popcorn and my brother and I were allowed to stay up late.  Technology being what it is today, I own the DVD and watch it often with my kids (or maybe by myself.  I’m not ashamed.)  I’d always wanted to read the original book, but just never got around to it.  Until now.  This is pretty much the general rule, so I was not particularly surprised.   The story is pretty much what you think it is:  a little girl and her dog get caught up in a tornado, which brings them from their mundane life in plain Kansas to a magical world.  Now in this unfamiliar land, she meets up with a Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and a Cowardly Lion with whom she travels to find the Great Wizard of Oz to have their wishes granted.  Along the way, they meet with Wicked Witches, Good Witches, Flying Monkeys, and Munchkins.

Book Review: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank BaumIn the book, they meet many other curious creatures which add to the adventure.  Other major differences?  (Here is where I’ll start mentioning spoilers)  I always kind of loved that in the movie, the Scarecrow, etc. were imagined versions of people Dorothy knew in Kansas.  Also that her whole adventure was when she was out cold unconscious after being hit in the head during the tornado.  However, in the book, this just isn’t the case.  The world of Oz is real, and real time passes while Dorothy is there – enough time for Uncle Henry to build a new farmhouse, to replace the one presumably still sitting in Munchkinland.  This really is a huge difference, and makes the entire story more of a fantasy, and not just a dream.  Does that make sense?  Also, I really liked that the book made reference to the fact that Dorothy needed to sleep and eat during her long journey on the yellow brick road.  Many people are also put off a bit that Dorothy’s shoes are silver and not ruby as in the movie.  But you have to remember that when the movie was released in 1939 – it was one of the first to be in color, and ruby slippers look way more impressive than silver.  On a much smaller note – The Flying Monkeys used to scare me in the movie, but I like them much more in the book.

I also just wanted to mention that I listened to most of this as an audio book, narrated by Anne Hathaway.  She did a great job, though some of her “voices” for characters were somewhat interesting!

*****
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
by L. Frank Baum
Originally published 1900
Narrated by Anne Hathaway
Series:  Oz #1
Kindle/Audible version
Source:  Purchased New
*****
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Book Review: “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf

Jul 26, 2012 by

Reading Mrs. Dalloway involved learning a lesson that I didn’t expect.  I went into it flippantly, even though I had been warned that Virginia Woolf was difficult.  But I have read authors that some consider difficult and made it through…  I thought I knew more than I did.  I mean, it is a small book, and I assumed it would be a quick read no matter what.  I knew some people loved Woolf, and I hoped I would find an enjoyable story in it.  After all, it was a day in the life of a woman planning a party… how difficult could it really be?

Yes.  I thought that.  Can you see me cringing with that admission?  I can’t believe that I tried to debase Woolf, not to mention women in general (and I am a woman!) to that level.  I am not even going to get into all the terrible things that I’m thinking about myself right now, for thinking so simply.  For not realizing the scope of what that initial assumption could mean in a general sense.  Like I said, I am a woman (though I’ll safely assume that this applies to men as well) and I am perfectly aware of how much and how often my mind wanders throughout any given day…. subject to subject, to the past, and curious wonderings about strangers I see on the street….  I guess I never expected that true mind stream of thought could be captured so eloquently on the page.

It takes some getting used to; and I certainly had a hard time with it at first.  Thankfully, I received some great advice which really helped me let loose my usual reading style and ride the stream of consciousness flow of thoughts and ideas.  (Read the post and comments linked HERE if you are interested in the discussion)  The two hardest concepts for me to wrap my head around were that there isn’t much plot and that not every little detail matters.  It also helped to read some passages aloud, so I could grasp where the point of view changed.  While this is a day in the life of Mrs. (Clarissa) Dalloway, we also see into the minds of different people in her life or at least touch her life and day and thoughts in some manner.  I’d say that the first quarter of the book is an exercise in adjusting to this literary writing style.

And this style is extraordinary.  It is innovative.  Simple and complex all at once.  You don’t have to like it or enjoy it to see and appreciate the importance of it.  I’d imagine that re-reading this would be almost necessary to pick up on the subconscious thoughts embedded in the stream of consciousness…  It is going to take me a bit before I will be able to do that though.  This was so far out of my comfort zone that I am going to need to be gentle to my mind for a bit and read something light (and with more plot!).  I am not put off by Woolf though, and I still have Orlando on my Classics Club list.  But I will be better prepared to give her and her writing a proper go from the start next time.  I should also add that an annotated edition might have been helpful in my case!

*****
Mrs. Dalloway
by Virginia Woolf
Harcourt, 1998.  Originally published 1925
194 pages
Source:  Purchased Used
*****
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Book Review: “The Shining” by Stephen King

Jun 26, 2012 by

Winter is coming to the Rocky Mountains.  The Outlook Hotel, a luxurious resort will soon be cut off from the rest of the world by the heavy snowfall.  Jack Torrance has been hired as caretaker of the hotel and will live there through the winter with his wife Wendy and their 5 year old son Danny.  Jack is going through a rough patch – he was fired from his teaching job, has given up drinking, and is trying to salvage his marriage after it was nearly destroyed due to his alcoholism.  Wendy is trying to make things work with Jack, trying to support his new sobriety but is constantly suspicious of her husband’s activities.  She is also very concerned about Danny, who goes into trances and just seems to know things… like what she is thinking or when his father is in trouble.

At first, moving into the hotel seems to have been the right move for the Torrance family.  They are spending quality time together and Jack is writing again.  But Danny’s nightmares worsen.  He is seeing horrible things within the hotel.  Jack starts to see them too, but refuses to admit it.  Then they all start to hear voices…. and the ghosts.  Danny’s nightmares are starting to come to life…..

movie versionI had seen the 1980 film by Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson a few times, but I’ll admit that while it was scary…  I didn’t really like it.  I mostly remember it as being really long, but I thought I would have given me a basic outline of what to expect when reading the book.  Sure, I guess it did on some level, but not really even a little bit.  This is so SO much better!  The creepy scary levels are off the charts in this book.  I literally had to pause between chapters toward the end, just to catch my breath.  My heart felt squeezed with terror.

Stephen King is just the master of suspense and horror.  I’ve read him before, and loved it all, but I was still somehow caught off guard with how precisely he builds and creates his frightful tales.  The way he showcases Jack’s loosening grip on reality really keeps the reader on edge.  The violence is gruesome.  Within the dreams, he uses such vulgar and repulsive images and language to keep the feeling of disgust always present.  He just doesn’t miss a trick.

I can’t tell you how glad I am to have read this book.  Yes, I will be reliving key parts for weeks to come in my dreams, but I will gladly endure it.  This book was written in 1977, and superfluous details may feel dated to the reader, but the sheer horror and creepiness of the tale is timeless.

******
The Shining
by Stephen King
Signet, 1978.  First Published 1977.
464 pages
Source:  Purchased Used
*****
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“The Awakening” by Kate Chopin

Dec 26, 2011 by

The Awakening indeed!  Twenty-eight year old Edna Pontellier finds herself stuck leading a life of illusion.  There is very little that she would consider “real”, and has therefore lost her passion for living.  She slowly realizes that her marriage is not exactly perfect, nor filled with love.  Her husband is selfish and is basically only concerned with appearances.  This realization blossoms into a fierce desire to be independent and a craving for passion in her life.  She questions everything, and begins searching within herself and starts to paint again… and then she starts searching within the arms of men who are not her husband.

In this fashion, she proceeds to dismantle her life.  Upon seeing that she is unable to truly have what she really wants, she makes the final decision which honestly surprised me.  Seriously.  I didn’t realize that was the end of the story.  Once I regained my composure, I sat back; happy.

This book was quite scandalous in its time.  To think, a woman choosing against a well-established husband and family?  Following her own desires, and not the habits set forth by acceptable society?  Yes, this was sure to wreak havoc on the impressionable female readers.

I really enjoyed how Edna started to question the “norms” of her life, and how she started to assert her individuality.  The scene in which she attempts to stay up later than her husband made me laugh with his ridiculous stubbornness.  Then, for her to progressively challenge her husband’s “authority” as the book continues just becomes easier as she gains self-confidence.  This is a great read, and one that I wish I had read a long time ago.

*****
The Awakening
by Kate Chopin
Bantam Classic Reissue 2003; first published 1899
157 pages
Source:  Traded for a Used Copy
*****
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