1001 Books September Round-Up
Who are the winners and losers this month….
The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes BOTM #1- what the 1001 editors say “The intricate structural marquetry of the novel, its stylistic exuberance, and its historic and psychological density are unusual for its time. It makes demands that teach the reader to read in a different way, as is the case with any truly avant-garde work.” Is it demanding? Yes. Did it teach me to read in a new way? Nope still reading left to right and front to back.
Artemio Cruz is an unlikeable character for most of the book and I don’t feel that his early life redeems this. By the time of his actual death I was bored with the narrative and rushing to finish the last few pages. If I could have sped up his death I would have.
Personally I feel I am the wrong reader for this book. I think I may have got more from it had I read the 1001 entry before reading the book as it explained the significance of the switch in narrators which would have made it easier to keep track of things. For a book about the Mexican revolution I don’t feel I have learnt anything specific about that period in history. My take-away from this book is all men are bastards; and money and power corrupt everyone in the end.
3 Stars – this wasn’t the book for me but it could be the book for you. Bonus it is relatively short.
Born in Exile by George Gissing BOTM #2 – What they say “It deals with the themes of class, religion, love and marriage. The premise of the novel is drawn from Gissing’s own early life — an intellectually superior man born into a socially inferior milieu, though the story arc diverges significantly from the actuality” Yes it does deal with these themes and personally I am glad it is significantly different from actuality because if it didn’t Gissing would be a highly unlikeable sad and lonely man.
This seems to be a month for unlikeable characters. Godwin Peak is an unsympathetic man while he claims to have been “born in exile” it seems to me that he went out of his way to alienate anyone who cared for him and heaven help you if you are related to him because you won’t see him for dust.
With the exception of the statements about women and education this book feels more modern than it actually is. I enjoyed the debates about religion and morality; politics and radicalism; art and artists; not so much the social commentary about marriage and love.
Personally I feel this could have lost a 100 pages and not really had an impact on the story.
3 Stars – If you need help dropping off at night you could do worse. I will add the disclaimer if you are upset by the sexist attitude to women of the 1800s this might increase your blood pressure and therefore prevent you getting to sleep. You have been warned.
Possession by A S Byatt – TBR Takedown – What Goodreads Say – Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and triumphant love story. Romance – Check, Intellectual mystery – Check, Triumphant love story – Dubious, Exhilarating – Very Dubious.
This is a really difficult book for me to rate when I started reading it I was caught up in the magic of Byatt’s writing and I was sure it was going to be a 5 star read and then we hit the middle and everything got bogged down in detail and become a slog to read.
Once we moved away from the “love letters” the booked picked up again and I became intrigued with where it was going. The outcome of the mystery tied things up a little too neatly for my liking but I really appreciated the last few pages of the book which put a new spin on things.
I think this would be a great book for discussion and one of the questions I would love to discuss is the meaning of the title as seen in the story.
Some of my favourite quotes:
“That was eleven fifteen. The clock ticked, motes of dust danced in the sunlight, Roland meditated on the tiresome and bewitching endlessness of the quest for knowledge.”
“Letters, Roland discovered, are a form of narrative that envisages no outcome, no closure. His time was a time of the dominance of narrative theories. Letters tell no story, because they do not know, from line to line, where they are going.”
“a grey hound poured along the ground like smoke”
“Nothing endures for certain, but good art endures for a time, and I have wanted to be understood by those not yet born.”
“At the time I write this I know I am absurd. And when I write that, I know that I am not.”
“We are defined by the lines we choose to cross or to be confined by.”
3 Stars – I have had to balance the magic of the beginning and end of the book with the dull slog that was the middle and 3 stars is the outcome. The book makes you work for it but it is worth reading.