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Monday, February 16, 2015

****The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

  •  Dutch born writer, born 1960
  •  First published in England - 2002
  •  BBC produced a four-part series adaptation of this novel - 2011
  • Title: title words were taken from a Tennyson poem. 
    • purity vs. depravity
  • Setting:  1870's  Victorian London
  • Themes:  vice vs. virtue, cleanliness vs. filth, religion/faith, writing books (or a wish to do so)

Thoughts and Impressions
My first thoughts upon completing this novel adequately summarize my overall impression:

I love a good tome, one that ferries you off to a different time and place and is concluded with a moment of sweet parting sorrow. Such is the leisurely veil I bask in until… my hand falls quietly upon the pile of books waiting to be devoured, and I am off on my next adventure. 

A Few Quotes
I often tag interesting quotes as I read, but did not do so this time.  I skimmed through in order to pick out a few that illustrate the character, style and quality of Faber's writing.  They do not necessarily represent the top quotes since it is difficult to go back and find your favorites, especially in a book of this size.

  • "She slipped out of the room, like a pretty moth emerging from a husk of dried slime."
  •  "It's as if, having unlocked the chastity of shutters and doors, they can't see the point of maintaining any shred of modesty."
  • Meal time:
    • "...small morsels of time are consumed, with an indigestible eternity remaining."
    • "The next game is dinner..."
  • "What is education? Dressing the lamb before the kill." Madam Mother response to daughter she is preparing for prostitution.
  • Poverty of the soul:
    •  It's time you learned some grownup poetry. Not Wordsworth and such, for then you might get a taste for mountains and rivers, and we shan't ever live anywhere near those...
    •  "A single day spent doing things which fail to nourish the soul is a day stolen, mutilated, and discarded in the gutter of destiny."
  •  Agnes' (wealthy Lady aristocrat) thoughts, while preparing for the coming season of extravagant balls, dinners and games, etc:
    •  "Participating in Society is not a thing one can do naturally; one has to rehearse for it."
    • "Like a person contriving to pass a vicious dog by hailing it cheerily, she is able to walk into ballrooms and dining-halls that bristle with dangers, and simply sweep past them all."
  • "Isn't Heaven reward enough, without needing to see the damned punished?" 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

*Ripper by Isabel Allende

What have you done with Isabel Allende? I want her back. I miss the surreal mysticism, drama and passion that permeates each page from beginning to end. I am all for experimenting with writing style and genre, but if it does not work at the level one usually achieves, save it for future thought.

Ouch! That was harsh and I do not mean to be nasty. Yet, had I wanted a basic who-done-it novel I would have chosen a different author with a better grasp of the subject matter. Ripper is far too prosaic for Allende. The plot is interesting in very general terms, it being a mystery. But, for the most part, it simply plods along getting stuck in the mud once too often. The characters have potential, but are not developed enough to sustain my curiosity. Much of the book dragged on and on, going on tedious tangents while avoiding the main idea. There was nothing, overall, that held my attention.  

In my defense, I normally love Isabel Allende’s work, but did not look forward to my continued reading of Ripper. I had to force myself to do so each time I picked it up.  Two-thirds of the way through, I had to admit defeat and put her book down for good. No one is perfect one-hundred percent of the time. So, no, I will not give up on one of my favored authors. I will quietly wait in hope for her next great novel.

*Against the Country by Ben Metcalf Early Reviewer's Book Review

I tried several times to read and like this novel. Some lines interested me, but more did not. I read a few reviews for inspiration; one reviewer compared Metcalf to Faulkner. Loving Faulkner, I resumed reading with a positive frame of mind. After another fifty pages, I realized I had to make a decision. I was simply unmoved and uninvolved. In fact, I was thoroughly bored and felt indifferent to the emotions and experiences expressed by the author. I rarely encounter this sort of ennui when reading and realized it was time to put Metcalf’s book to rest.