Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ten Down, Forty to Go

I've set out on this goal of reading 50 books and somehow, 20% of the way through, I think I can see this thing through. My biggest accomplishment thus far is having finished The Lord the Rings (minus the 200 page appendices). While I loved the bits with Sam and Frodo, I struggled to enjoy the journeys and fighting taken on by the book's other main characters. To be quite honest, I would probably throw this in the "Like the movie(s) better than the book" category.

My favorite book of the first ten is probably Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. This novel is a favorite among Britons, though I don't think it is widely read by Americans. In the book's foreword, it is compared to Jane Eyre. I'm not sure if I find this entirely accurate, although it's been awhile since I've read Jane. Rebecca, which is told in first-person narrative (which I love and haven't encountered for awhile), is the story of Mrs. de Winter and her strange and rather pathetic obsession with her husband's dead ex-wife, Rebecca. Following her thought process conjured up memories of my own ridiculous thoughts and ideas of love and loss (circa my dramatic and tortured middle school years). The brilliance of this novel is not only in how the author so deftly wraps the reader up in Mrs. de Winter's strange and secluded world, but also in the suspense and surprises found in the later chapters of the novel. Well done, du Maurier.

After reading Rebecca, I thought a bit about my favorite novels and why I like them. I'm curious what yours are. Please feel free to comment.  Here are mine, in no particular order:

1.) Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I've read three books by Ishiguro who won the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Remains of the Day. I found all three novels different in style and content and remember feeling surprised that they were written by the same person. Of the three, I only liked one (I was bored stiff through The Remains of the Day, perhaps because I can't appreciate the intricacies of a British butler's life). As mentioned in a previous blog, Never Let Me Go haunted me. The novel slowly lets you in on the truth of its story and once you realize what is happening you find yourself heart-broken and appalled. This novel, which I found myself comparing to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, made me think a lot about the intricate relationship between creation and science and where a line should be drawn between the two.

2.) Atonement by Ian McEwan. I've also read several books by Ian McEwan; in addition to Atonement, I  enjoyed his lesser known novel (in the States anyways) Amsterdam. Unfortunately, I read it so long ago I know longer remember why it moved me. Atonement, however, continues to stick with me. If you haven't read the book, I do think the movie provided a fairly accurate portrayal of the story. Those who have either seen the film or read the book know it portrays the devastation caused by a child's over-active imagination. I think it also teaches us a lot about reconciling the thoughts and beliefs of our childhood with the reality of the adult world.

3.) The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. I have a thing for all things Indian, particularly fiction novels that include India or Indians. I found this book sitting on a guesthouse bookshelf and picked it up.  "Man Booker Prize Winner" and it was set in India--I figured it was worth a shot. I struggled through the first few pages as the prose style is rather strange since it is mostly written from the viewpoint of a 7-year-old girl. Once I grew accustomed to it, this was one aspect of the book I truly enjoyed. Put simply, the book ends with tragedy, but in the process teaches the reader a lot about love, as well as class relations and tensions in India.

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