Wednesday, 29 July 2015

the saddest book I ever read.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)

  “They all—Malcolm with his houses, Willem with his girlfriends, JB with his paints, he with his razors—sought comfort, something that was theirs alone, something to hold off the terrifying largeness, the impossibility, of the world, of the relentlessness of its minutes, its hours, its days.” 

Four young men became friends at college and then move to New York to pursuit different careers, but staying friends. While JB, Malcolm and Willem are sharing everything about their past and present lives, dreams and failures, Jude is a closed book. They know very little of Jude's childhood and inner life, the only things they know are the things they are able to witness themselves.

Jude was left in the trash as a baby, picked up by a monastery where he was punished for every little thing. And then sexually abused. Things go from bad to much worse as one of the brothers runs off with him. A couple of years later he barely survives something which he himself describes as a car accident to his friends, and his body is severely damaged after it. Once he starts college, things really improve, but yet he feels the need to punish himself almost every night.

 This book is incredibly sad. I cried, cried and cried. And despite the descriptions of all the terrible things Jude went through I couldn't put it down. Luckily, it's not all bad, it's really about the strength of friendship and love. And that's what makes it so beautiful. It is definitely the best book I have read in years, and it's a long time since I have been so involved in a book. I had to keep reminding myself that it's just fiction, and not real. I'm hoping that it will win this year's Man Booker Prize.

(So much unsaid about this book, so many emotions running wild.)

 “You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.” 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

performing Shakespeare at the end of the world.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)

 A pandemic has wiped out most of the world's population and has left the towns and cities desolate. The Traveling Symphony is a troupe of performers travelling through a vast area around the Great Lakes. Kirsten was a child actress in a production of King Lear in Toronto when the pandemic broke out, but doesn't remember much of the years before she found the Traveling Symphony. But what she does remember, is that an actor, Arthur Leander, died on stage that last night, and ever since she has been obsessed with him; and searches empty houses for magazines and other memorabilia. 

The post-apocalyptic world is a dangerous place, and the town St. Deborah by the Water has really changed since the last time they were in town. A Prophet has taken over and banished all non-believers. When they leave the town, they discover that a young girl has sneaked on board, and they find themselves in danger as the villagers are trying to get the girl back as she is to be married to the Prophet.

In addition to follow the Traveling Symphony, the book also has flashbacks to the world before the pandemic, and it especially focuses on Arthur and his wife, Miranda, but also on the man who tried to save Arthur on the night he died. I think the most interesting part is the difference between the now and the then, and how quickly everything we are used to just vanished. I had a burning question all through the book and I'm glad it was answered at the end and that it was the answer I was hoping for (and no, I won't tell you what it is as it sort of spoil things). The only person I would love to get to know better is the Prophet, what happened in between his childhood and becoming the Prophet?  It is a really interesting read, perfect for long sleepless summer nights.

Friday, 10 July 2015

silent spring.

Or 8 7 6 books behind schedule as Goodreads keeps informing me. In other words, I haven't read at all this spring/ early summer. But now I have endless time (or about 7 weeks a month) to do some serious reading. I was smart and planned ahead and used my mom's address when doing some serious book shopping. Not that this house is already full of unread books. Hopefully I'll read most of them before heading south again.

I finally got around to finish Gösta Berling's Saga by Selma Lagerlöf (1891) in the middle of May. It took months to read it, mainly because I kept it by my bed. The book is about a handful inhabitants in a small Swedish town, and mainly about a priest turned a poor drunkard turned a cavalier, Gösta Berling. It can be read as a collection of short stories, as the chapters have little to do with each other, but are all linked to the small town. It was confusing because of all the characters and although I enjoyed the prose, I never got into it. And it's a shame because I had high expectations for this book, mainly because of Haruhi's fangirling and the fact that Lagerlöf is a Nobel Prize winner. Oh well.


 I spent the beginning of the summer holidays rereading the Hobbit (1937) and the Lord of the Rings (1954-55) trilogy as I needed something familiar to get my reading started again after a long break. I used to read these books annually in my teens until the first film came out in 2001. I also reread them in 2009. I have always favoured the Hobbit, but this time I couldn't quite get involved in the story, and that was really annoying. I don't know why, but it could be that I was still stressed after the end of another school year, or that I simply have grown too old for the Hobbit.  

LOTR has definitely grown on me, I always used to find it too detailed, but this time I couldn't get enough. I swear I must have screamed Gondor! and Gandalf! in my sleep. I never wanted it to end, and I had to take a long break before I read the final chapters, although the battle of the Shire is one of my favourite parts. I still haven't decided who's my favourite character.

What's next on my reading list? I started Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel yesterday, and I love it. I'm forever reading the Crossing by Cormac McCarthy and Alamut by Vladimir Bartol, hopefully finishing them before the summer is up. I gave Villette by Charlotte Brontë the boot yesterday as too much of the important stuff is in French and je ne parle pas francois.

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