Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

courtesy: silverseason.wordpress.com

Summer Read #1 Complete! Woo-hoo!  And, another Back to the Classics Challenge 2012 novel read.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez makes writing feel so damn easy!  He swept me up in romance and love, and shook me with his portrayal of aging.  Do you expect anything less from a Nobel Prize winning author?

In the beginning, the romance between Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza draws sympathy.  It is understandable why an illegitimate poor boy wouldn’t dare approach a young lady of the upper class in a time where class lines were strictly adhered to.  I felt sorry for Florentino Ariza, and though aware of the plot, a tiny part of me still hoped that they could a find a way to make their love work.  Fermina Daza comes to understand that she does not have the power to fight social norms and marries a rich, respectable doctor.  That should’ve been the end, right?  Nope.

Florentino Ariza becomes an astute stalker.  He keeps his distance, but is always aware of Fermina Daza’s life – which is not difficult since she and her husband, Dr. Juvenal Urbino, are at the forefront of their social class.  In the meantime, Florentino Ariza improves his social station and while maintaining his love for Fermina, and other women.

This guy is unbelievable!  He is so desperate for the love of one woman that he spends his life feeding off the emotions and bodies of other women. He satiates his body and claims to love the women he is with, yet lives under the illusion that his one true love is, Fermina Daza.  His goal is to outlive her husband so they can finally be together.

courtesy: thenouveaushanty.wordpress.com

**spoiler alert in next paragraph** (might wanna skip this paragraph if you want to read the novel)

Most of his exploits are ironically charming.  However, there are two occasions when I found him utterly revolting.  The first time involves the murder of one of his mistresses by her husband upon discovering her infidelity.  The second is when, in pedophile fashion, he grooms and courts his fourteen year-old relative.  He was in his sixties.  I was flabbergasted that his appetite had no limit and so disgusted.  How f*****g dare he???  And, he actually convinces himself that he loves her in order to alleviate his guilt.  Ugh.

One other thing that left me disconcerted: the reaction of Florentino Ariza’s many lovers.  Almost all of them were dying of love for him.  He had 622 sexual liaisons…and nearly none of them were left scorned.  Almost any one of them would gladly receive him back into her bed.  Even the teenager…Were they that weak?  Are we that weak, that a few romantic words will have us on our back and eradicate our common sense?  I don’t think so.  In this case I beg to differ with Garcia Marquez’s choices in his portrayal of women.

Then again, perhaps this is all a part of the use of magic realism.  Reality that is distorted…or, perhaps, reality that is real and makes us so uncomfortable that we need to label it as distorted…

The few women of strength in the novel were those that did not sleep with him: his mother, Transito Ariza; Fermina Daza (who succumbs in her seventies); and, Leona Cassiani, his assistant.  They were great characters of intelligence, fortitude and pride.  Interesting that he only preys on the weak.  Even with Fermina Daza, he wins her over when she is in mourning for the loss of her husband…

courtesy: the secondgreenrevolution.
blogspot.ca

In any case, this is a sweeping look at a country and a city during a time of great change.  I loved reading all about the geography of Colombia and talking to my mother about the places that are mentioned in the book.  The effects of the many wars suffered by the country at the hands of the Liberals and Conservatives made me think of stories of my grandfather and uncle having to leave home in the middle of the night to hide in the mountains because the Conservatives were raiding for Liberals, while my grandmother huddled in a room with her five daughters (one of them, my mother) praying for their safety.  A frightening and violent time.

Love in the Time of Cholera challenged my views on love, sexuality, aging and brought to life many moments in Colombian and world history.  It is eloquent, simple, honest and its characters are richly textured.  Definitely a worthy read.

What novels have you read that stayed with you and challenged you?

Advertisements

Summer 2012 Reads

Ah, summer.  Hot.  Hazy.  Lazy.  Lounging under the shade of the trees in my back yard.  Love it.  As spring heats up and foreshadows the seemingly endless summer sunshine, I cannot help but think about what I want to read.

Summer is the time to do it.  I have to squeeze reading in between writing, preparing for the upcoming school year, being enchanted by the world with my three year old, and reconnecting with friends, family and my awesome husband.  It’s doable, right?

My summer 2012 reading list is modest in order to make it (hopefully) achievable:

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Goodreads summary: In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs–yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again. (image courtesy of journeysanddestinations.wordpress.com)

I love, love, love Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ works.  And cannot wait to dig into this one.  Abandoned love that lasts fifty years, nine months and four days?  I’m in.  This one will work towards the Back to the Classics Challenge 2012.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Goodreads summary:  Wide Sargasso Sea is the story of Antoinette Cosway, a Creole heiress who grew up in the West Indies on a decaying plantation. When she comes of age she is married off to an Englishman, and he takes her away from the only place she has known […].  The novel is Rhys’s answer to Jane Eyre. Charlotte Brontë’s book had long haunted her, mostly for the story it did not tell– Antoinette is Rhys’s imagining of a locked-up woman and Wide Sargasso Sea follows her voyage into the dark, both from her point of view and Rochester’s. It is a voyage charged with soul-destroying lust. (image courtesy of livethroughbooks.wordpress.com)

Caribbean heat?  A dark voyage?  Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester?  Sign me up!  This will also knock off another Back to the Classics Challenge 2012 books.

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

 Goodreads summary: Ever since the gods of Ancient Egypt were unleashed in the modern world, Carter Kane and his sister Sadie have been in trouble. As descendants of the House of Life, the Kanes have some powers at their command, but the devious gods haven’t given them much time to master their skills at Brooklyn House, which has become a training ground for young magicians.  And now their most threatening enemy yet – the chaos snake Apophis – is rising. If they don’t prevent him from breaking free in a few days’ time, the world will come to an end. In other words, it’s a typical week for the Kane family. (image courtesy of rickriordan.blogspot.ca)

I read the first installment of the Kane Chronicles, The Red Pyramid, last summer.  It was such a fun, quick paced read…I see many of my students reading the series and other Riordan books.  Of course I’m continuing this series to connect to my students…not because I’m indulging the little girl in me in fantasies of magic and power…no, not at all.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

 from Indigo:  When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young  entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful,  brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is  startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic  reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to  resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits  he wants her, too-but on his own terms.      Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana  hesitates. For all the trappings of success-his multinational  businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family-Grey is a man  tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the  couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana  discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark  desires. (image courtesy of theunexpectedtnt.com)

I have heard very mixed reviews of this best-selling trilogy.  From the very (blush) “holy shit this is like porn!”, to the very (eye-roll) “it’s so badly written, I don’t know why people are buying this.”  I want to see what all the fuss is about.  That’s the only reason I’m reading it…promise…remember I did say I  have an awesome husband (wink)…(blush)…

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Goodreads summary: A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery. The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory from the international best-selling author Kate Morton.  Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra’s life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family. (image courtesy of violetcrush.wordpress.com)

I don’t know anything about this book other than I found it in my “recommended” list on goodreads.  The summary sounds intriguing…a lot like a few other books I’ve reviewed, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and Wildflower Hill.  Looking forward to this one.

That’s it.  That’s the list.  A bit sparse I’m sure for those of you who read a book a day (I know you’re out there)…I’m trying to be realistic because there are a billion other things I want to do this summer and if I make this list too long, I won’t do it.  A book every two weeks seems to work for me, for now.  I might finish the trilogies if I like them…promise to keep you posted.

Any feedback on my list?  What will you be reading this summer?

WWW Wednesday

This is a weekly meme hosted by shouldbereading.wordpress.com.  I came across it at enchantedbybooks.wordpress.com.

To play along, answer the following three questions:

  1. What are you currently reading? I am still reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle…it’s taking me longer than expected.  I need to absorb it in small chunks.  And, I just started Fruit by Brian Francis.  I think I’ll like it, but it’s hard to relate to a twelve year-old boy.
  2. What did you recently finish reading?  Everything was Goodbye by Gurjinder Basran for the Book Marks Book Club!  I can’t wait to post my review on it tomorrow.
  3. What do you think you’ll read next? Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2012.

Frankenstein Finally Finished!

courtesy of longstreet.typepad.com

“I’m f**ing done this sh*t!” I hollered happily when I read the last sentence of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

I struggled through every word of this novel just so I could knock off another classic on my Back to the Classics Challenge 2012 reading list.

The good parts:  there is much about Mary Shelley’s classic that is wonderful.  Shelley begins the story with letters from a brother, Walton, to his sister.  He seeks adventure, triumph, honour, comradeship as he ventures on an expedition towards the North Pole.  He finds Victor Frankenstein and we hear the story of his upbringing in Switzerland, his intense study in Germany and finally his obsession with creating life, which ends with the creation of a monster.  Shelley moves the plot seamlessly between Walton’s letters to Victor’s narrative and finally, to the monster’s narrative of his experiences after he escapes Victor’s home in Germany.  Each story leads to another a story, to another story – every so often, the spell is broken with Victor’s present admonitions towards his monster, but Shelley adeptly dives back into the tale.

courtesy of welloflostplots.files.wordpress.com

She expertly creates a sense of foreboding, mystery and anxiety.  Tension runs through the narrative – a must for any horror piece.  Her characters are typical of the time, at times a little too perfect, and of course so very innocent which makes the monster more evil.  The birth of a man – from innocent, to a learned individual is chronicled.  As he learns about humanity, Shelley sharply criticizes civilized society.  Prejudice deters true understanding of those around us, and at times, she elicits compassion for the monster, for he did not ask to be created.

The not-so-good:  this novel is too long for its plot, far too descriptive and overly dramatized.  It reflects the writing style of the time, but if felt unnecessarily emotional.  Too many passages that went off on tangents, though relevant in the creation of atmosphere, were completely unnecessary.

I need to connect to characters in some way in order to truly love a book.  I did not connect to one character in this novel – I didn’t care about Frankenstein, his family, or the monster and I found Walton rather whimpy.  The conclusion of the novel left much to be desired too.  At no point did any feeling other than annoyance rise out of me towards any character.

Ultimately, if you like horror fiction, and don’t mind long-winded (beautifully written) passages that do not progress the plot – but give great insight into humanity – and, don’t need to connect to the characters, then you’ll probably enjoy this novel a lot more than I did.  I’m interested in hearing from those who just love this book…my only question is, why?

Why Did I Pick Frankenstein?

courtesy mylifeasseenthroughbooks.blogspot.ca

As part of the Back to the Classics Challenge 2012, I am to read a classic mystery/horror/crime fiction piece.  I automatically thought of Edgar Allan Poe – but I’ve read so many of his stories that it wouldn’t count.  Then a teacher I highly respect told me she was going to start teaching Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to her grade 12 classes next year – it’s a classic and a great read.  Perfect, I thought, another beautifully written work of literature that’ll captivate me. 

Boy, was I wrong – not about the beautifully written part – it has yet to captivate me.

I’m about five chapters in and the thought of having to read more makes me cringe, wanna cry, my belly ache, my head ache, and it is the perfect time to organize all those drawers I’ve been avoiding for over a year.  How on earth am I going to get through this one?

If there is one thing reading Frankenstein has proven is my love for the succinct.  Shelley was a beautiful writer.  She captured the voice of her narrators so eloquently – but I’m wondering if she too was paid by the word like Charles Dickens because there are just one too many passages describing Victor Frankenstein’s (the scientist) love of chemistry and natural sciences.  I get it already, he loves science….he worked day and night creating his monster…he ignored his family and friends….get on with the story, I’m BORED!

As I read I can’t help wondering how on earth my friend will teach this to seventeen year-olds in the fall.  Today’s generation barely has the attention span to sit through a fast-paced action packed commercial – never mind reading passage upon passage about some guy’s love for science.  I’m obviously judging this classic prematurely and I’m sure there are many out there who would defend this novel passionately.  I was hoping it would have hooked me by now.  Sadly, all I can think of is I can’t wait for this to be done so I can move on to my next classic.