Friday, June 22, 2012


Another novel for the Australian Women Writers challenge: March by Geraldine Brooks. Sometimes we forget that Brooks is Australian, because she writes very broadly, and very rarely has an Australian theme. March won the 2006 Pulitzer Price for fiction, which makes Brooks even more extraordinary.

There was something very familiar about this novel. It was verging on a feeling of deja vu throughout the book. I couldn't quite predict what would happen, but I had the 'oh, yeah' moments, as if I had read it before. I haven't read it before, though. It was only published in 2005 (I thought I had started reading it in high school but given up, but it was published too recently for that!).
   This novel mirrors the classic novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I haven't read Little Women before, and I didn't want to until I had read March, so I have listed it to My Classics Club List. It is written in the first person from the perspective of the absent father, Mr March, during the American Civil War. There is only part of the book which is written in the first person from the perspective of Mrs March, whilst Mr March is too sick to narrate.
   The writing is very good, so much so that you don't notice the writing - it is just a swirl of story that evaporates from the pages as you read. It's also a unique view of the American Civil War (which I am not all that interested in), as I think I've noted before in this blog. So a good way of getting a bit of an inadvertent history lesson.
   Brooks is so unique with everything she writes, I can't pick her style. I enjoyed People of the Book more, because it was challenging and such a strange topic for me. But March was so well written, so smooth and flowing, so easy to read - maybe that's why I didn't enjoy it quite as much, because I didn't make an effort to read it. Or perhaps I enjoyed People of the Book more because the topic interested me more.
   Either way, Brooks is one of Australia's greatest writers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Madame Bovary

I finished Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert a few days ago, but I've taken my time to digest the story, instead of writing this review in a torrent of passion. This is another classic that I have read as part of the 2012 Classics Challenge in which I'm participating.
   The story wasn't was I was expecting at all. I only picked it up due to a review on the First Tuesday Book Club. I thought it would be more flippant and romantic. Instead it is harrowing and tragic.

I don't view Madame Bovary as a heroine. I tend to think of the main characters as heros and heroines when I like them. I think of them as protagonists when they antagonise me! Madame Bovary was antagonistic. She must have been mentally ill - either bi-polar disorder or antisocial personality disorder. I didn't feel anguish for her, which I know I was meant to - I was just incredibly frustrated at her emotionally immature she was!!!
   Madame Bovary is a very modern woman. She is extremely vain and materialistic. She wants to be loved, but doesn't know how to love. She reminds me of women who admire the characters in Sex and the City. Don't get me wrong - I love Sex and the City, but I know that it is not a true reflection of single life in New York. Women who admire and want the life depicted in Sex and the City are not realistic - they don't realise how hollow and lonely that life would actually be.
   Madame Bovary didn't have Sex and the City, clearly, because she lived in rural France in the 1850s. But she did have fiction, and she escaped into a fictional world. She thought that love was a contrived romantic passion. She lived her life striving for something (love) which she actually always had. On her death-bed, I'm not sure if she even realised how much her husband loved her. And those men whom she had affairs with, who apparently loved her so much, didn't even blink an eye or suffered a sleepless night when she died. She was a foolish woman - shallow and self-centred.
   This must be a good novel, to still get me riled up, even after a few days of having finished it ...
   Gustave Flaubert was brilliant for his time, and very modern himself. Very perceptive to write such a modern novel with issues that are still relevant over 150 years later.

Friday, June 8, 2012

June Prompt - A Classics Challenge

As part of the Classics Challenge, this month the prompt is to create a visual tour of a particular location in the classic. I read Lady Chatterley's Lover, and have decided to try to create a visual tour of the little lover's shack.

Lady Chatterley runs through the English woods to her anticipated liaison.

The small hut in the forest where they make love amongst blankets on the floor.

The little stove in the hut where they warm their naked bodies.

The pheasant hens and chicks that the game keeper tends near the hut.

The forget-me-not flowers that they weave in each other's pubic hair.

This was one of the most liberating novels I've ever read, and also one of the most vivid. Although the writing was sparse enough that a lot was left to my imagination, it was still vivid.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Blasphemer

Shortlisted in 2010 for the UK Costa Novel Award, over the last fortnight I have read The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale. This is the first book this year (other than non-fiction books) that I have read that is not for  a challenge. I read this one for pleasure (not that the others weren't pleasant), because my mum recommended it. Thanks mum- it was a great pick!
   It is an intelligent novel, which is described on the cover as 'unforgettable'. For most of the novel, I was wondering what was so unforgettable about it. Certainly, the characters are real, and the issues are engaging, although sometimes it felt like I was being lectured. It's the ending that ties everything together perfectly, and it truly is an unforgettable story!

This novel is about love, cowardice, trust and forgiveness. It follows the lives of Daniel and Andrew Kennedy. Andrew is Daniel's great-grandfather. Daniel is a modern-day father, atheist, greenie, scientist, and metro-sexual.
   I learnt a lot. I learnt that the UK army shot its deserters during WWI (I thought it was only the French who did that). I learnt a bit about physics, music, biology, religion, and the human spirit.
   Read it!