By: Juan Gomez-Jurado
Okay, I admit, I picked this up on a whim. I was strolling along the bargain section of the bookstore looking for a fantastic read (picked up Lax’s The Spanish Bow for only $5.99 in hardcover in that section and Cohen’s Jane Austen in Scarsville: or Love, Death and the SATs was an enjoyable read). I saw God’s Spy and read the premise; it seemed interesting enough. Murder in Rome, crazy psychopath on the loose, intrigue in the Vatican. I thought, Why not? So I picked it up. Kinda wished I didn’t. Read More
It’s been a while since I’ve done a review…with school starting again, my reviews will becoming sporadic again with everything that’s going on but I’ll try to post whenever I can. I might also start posting reviews and random comments on manga and anime series and stuff as I’ve been reading a ton lately xD Anyways, moving along now…
By: Alessandro Baricco
I’ve been waiting forever to get my hands on this book (had to put some money aside for this book as the price was a bit of a turnoff for some time (given the length of this book)). Anyways, Alessandro Baricco is the author of Silk (which was adapted into a movie starring Michael Pitt and Keira Knightley); as that book is probably his most well-known here in North America, you think I’d pick that book up first. But nope, it was Ocean Sea that caught my attention (and not just because it has the title conjures up endless sea and the cover was rather intriguing). Its premise is an interesting one: five different individuals all end up checking into a remote hotel facing the sea as a way to solve their troubles. For me, Ocean Sea is deeply rooted in the post-modern tradition of the novel (think stream of consciousness; book II is a clear example of this) so it was a different experience for me altogether (I hardly read post-modern books from the 20th century as I’m still going through the classics ;)); you had to really read each word and look beyond the the surface to really understand the psychological implications of what’s going on. Additionally, you have to suspend your sense of reality when you read this book as there are some mysterious elements that come into the story as you read along. But the events leading up to the end of the novel makes complete sense, including some twists that I didn’t figure. The journey that each of the characters make is compelling, like they’re all a metaphor on certain aspects of life. Even after I finished the novel, I was contemplating at exactly what the sea was supposed to represent: life? heaven? freedom? Another thing I liked about the book was the prose; I’m sure some meanings were lost in the translation from Italian to English but overall, it’s absolutely beautiful, another reason why you should read every single word in this novella. Overall, it’s an interesting novel that really gets you thinking about the deeper elements in life.
Learn more about Alessandro Baricco here || Order this book from the Book Depository
Love in the Time of Cholera
By: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I bought this book back in December but never got around to reading it until February. This is the first book I’ve ever read by him (though I did hear of his other book, One Hundred Years of Solitude) and with a movie made basedon the novel, I figured to check it out. It’s a wonderul book that starts off with the main characters in their twilight years before going back and retracing the beginning of their romance and the course of their lives before returning to the moment depicted at the beginning of the novel and then its aftermath. It must have been a daunting task to retrace a half-century of the lives of Florentino Ariza, Fermina Daza and Dr. Juvenal Urbino, a task that is truly impressing. The plot itself is very simple, the case of a love triangle and the question of security, the nature of true love and steadfastness. Social issues are also mentioned in this novel, set in South America over the course of the later half of the 19th century. Marquez’s prose is wonderful, you get a sense of the environment and the times that these characters lived in. At times I found myself relatively unsympathetic towards Florentino and Fermina and their actions and behaviour and surprisingly found myself sympathetic to Urbino at times. The ending of the novel was also a bit depressing to me, a commentary on the course of life and the nature of old age. But I believe the plot was good enough to keep you going, the scope is impeccable even if the characters can be startling at times.
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Fathers and Sons
By: Ivan Turgenev
Despite of the fact that I am specializing in Russian history, I have not read a lot of Russian literature to date. So the fact that my 19c Imperial Russia professor assigned Fathers and Sons was welcoming in that sense. Of course, whenever a professor or teacher assigns a books, one gets a little wary of the book itself—after all, you have the deadline when the book has to be read by, the comments you have to make of them, the sorts of things you should be picking up as you read the book, etc, etc. Suddenly the book’s not fun anymore and you don’t get to appreciate the book as much. But Fathers and Sons falls under one of those exceptions where you find yourself completely immersed in the story and the setting and the characters. Each character in this novel represents a strand present in Russian society and yet they all have their own individual voices, they all have their own personalities that marks them as unique, as human. The story itself follows a young son, Arkady Petrovitch, who comes home from university with his nihilist mentor/friend named Bazarov, and finds himself in a totally different mindset and perspective from his father and uncle. It’s really a novel of perspectives, of how they view everyday life and how they come to terms with these realities. But the personal dynamics nad interactions were really what drew me in to the storyline. Unlike many readers who had read this book, I found myself more inclined to Arkady, his father and his family’s position and opinions moreso than Bazarov’s, who I found rather irritating with his blunt assessment of the world; he seemed to me a person without any sort of passion, who is incapable to ever reconciling with the fact that as humans we have passions and we do have emotions and that we bring meaning to the things we have. Like the movement he represents, he breaks things down, he questions everything and nothing is spared from his criticism and yet he is incapable of presenting a viable alternative to the things he just broke down. The reflections and dynamics that are represented in this novel are quite addicting to say the least; I personally couldn’t put the book down until I finished it. Easily one of my favourite Russian novels, a must-read.
Check out this website for more information about Ivan Turgenev || Order the book from the Book Depository
The Master and Margarita
By: Mikhail Bulgakov
I’ve been trying to figure out how to go about this review because this is a fairly complex novel. Why? Simply because it’s crazy, it’s insane, there’s a lot going on, at times it’s chaotic and there’s obviously a lot of social commentary underpinning the entire plot. My understanding of Soviet society during the Stalinist period (in which this novel was written) is minimal at best (I’m only studying it in-depth this coming school year) so I can’t really comment on that portion of the novel, but the fact that he was able to do it amidst such an intricate storyline is astounding. There are perhaps, from my understanding, three different plots going on throughout the novel: the first one, which becomes evident a few pages into the novel is the backdrop of Moscow and the Soviet people and their experiences with the devil lurking all over town. All these characters weave in and out that it’s hard to keep track at times but they all are affected somehow by the devil’s presence. The second plot has to do with the story of Pontius Pilate and his role in the death of a rabbi, Yeshua in the novel. This story is closely linked to the final plot that is tied to the title of the novel, the Master and Margarita, and their relationship amidst the chaos initiated by the devil’s presence and their struggle to remain together. I wondered throughout Book Two was whether or not the writer, Bulgakov, had infused some parts of his personality as a writer observing the tyranny of the Stalinist period, into their the poet, Ivan Homeless, or in the Master. The Master would make more sense, burdened by his novel that he believes brought him into his current state, wanting to burn the manuscript and all. Nonetheless, it is an interesting novel so long as you keep up…I was terribly amused by the devil’s tom cat, Behemoth. I will have to revist this novel sometime next year after I gain more understanding of the period to draw whatever criticisms or observations Bulgakov inserted into this novel.
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