Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Book Review: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

The only way to read during a blizzard :)
     Beautiful writing and intensity of feeling were the major traits of this novel.  It is set in an abandoned Italian villa after World War II.  The villa is inhabited by a Canadian nurse, Hana, and a war patient whose entire body has been burned black.  Hana has chosen to nurse him alone rather than return home.  The patient is erudite and appears to be English.  Two other men, an Italian thief and a Sikh sapper, stumble upon and move in with them eventually.
     These five characters slowly reveal the traumas of their lives to one another.  But the most captivating story of all is that of the English patient, who narrates in bits and pieces his life in the desert and the love affair that changed it.  The speaking style of the patient is tense, intimate, and precise.  For example, while at the edge of a great loss, he "feels that everything is missing from his body, feels he contains smoke.  All that is alive is the knowledge of future desire and want" (157). This description of his pre-grief floored me.  Lots of other passages floored me as well. I admire Ondaatje's use of commas (which is a weird thing to admire, haha).  He separates images with commas so that his sentences pour into you like waterfalls.
     This book moves slowly, but I didn't mind because it took me on such a beautiful journey.  And by its end, you are rewarded for your patience with lots of plot twists.  Read The English Patient if you want a romance novel/historical thriller with good writing.
   
     - Carly

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Book Review: The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore

    
  
     You're reading my first review of a graphic novel!  Yay!  This will be the first of many because a) I want to read more graphic novels and b) sometimes I don't have time to read and review a novel every week.
   
     Anyway, I'm a fan of the Walking Dead TV show (despite being woefully behind this season) so I thought I should try reading the comic book series on which it's based.  I picked up the first volume at the library and read it in an hour.  It was so, so good.  The premise of the book is that while the protagonist, a sheriff named Rick, was in a gunshot-induced coma, some kinda zombie epidemic broke out and he must now find his wife and son.
     However, the story is less about the shock value of a zombie apocalypse and more about the impact of life-threatening circumstances on human behavior and civilization.  The book got me thinking about issues like private property, gun control, and women's rights.  Specifically, it challenged my absolute beliefs on these issues.  For example, does it make sense for people in danger of zombie attacks to carry firearms?  Probably.  Does it make sense for little kids to carry them?  I don't know, but I like how these questions are explored over the course of this book.
     I also enjoyed some of the very tender scenes depicted by the illustrator, such as the one shown above.  Judging from this image, the institution of family is likely to survive anarchy, disease, and even zombies.

     - Carly

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Best Reading from my First Semester

   
     Ok, my only excuse for this long-ass hiatus is that I started college, and what with exams, essays, friends, newfound independence, and minor dramas, I nearly forgot I had a blog until this week.
But I'm back now, and here to tell you about the best books and stories I read during my last semester.

Novels
1. Citizen: An American Epic by Claudia Ward - A multi-media masterpiece about modern racism, with a particular focus on microaggressions.
2. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward - The story of a young girl coming of age in an impoverished area of Mississippi, on the brink of one of the great natural disasters of the last decade.
3. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison - A classic allegory of the racial justice movement in America.
4. Beloved by Toni Morrison - Possibly my favorite book ever, Beloved is based on the story of Margaret Garner, a woman who escaped slavery with her children and, when recapture seemed inevitable, killed her children to their being returned to slavery.
Short Stories
1. "A Temporary Matter" by Jhumpa Lahiri - So, so beautiful.  A kid in my class said that after reading this story, he had to take a walk to calm down.
2. "How to date a whitegirl, blackgirl, browngirl, or halfie" by Junot Diaz - Diaz's depictions of women are controversial, but I think that he writes in a way that is nuanced but also true to his experience and the worldviews of his narrators.
3. "How to Become a Writer" by Lorrie Moore - A good story to read if you're a writer experiencing an identity crisis, because it reminded me that all writers are perpetually in crisis, which was reassuring somehow.
4. "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" by Ernest Hemingway - Isn't that a nice title?  The whole story is written like that.  Oh Hemingway, I don't want to love you, but I come back anyway.

     - Carly