Archive for March 2014

Book Review: In Chancery by John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy A continuation of the Forsyte Chronicles, I think I liked this one a little bit less than The Man of Property, but it was still enjoyable. I missed some of the characters from the previous book, but there was still plenty of drama to keep things interesting. I do wish there were more of Irene’s perspective, rather than treating her as a thing of beauty and not a whole person (which I think was one of Virginia Woolf’s criticisms of these books).

This series continues to be a bit of a guilty pleasure, as it’s a rather richly done — and engrossing — soap opera. The historical tidbits interspersed throughout make it more interesting and help make the time period more vivid.

Book Review: Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk

Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk The book started off ok, but it got tiring and rather dull pretty quickly. Lots of very long, boring conversations that didn’t feel very realistic, and I lost interest in the characters fairly early on. Perhaps I would have liked it when I was younger, but it just wasn’t very interesting to me now.

Book Review: The Man of Property by John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, only having heard of it and the rest of the series very recently. It took me a little while to get a good sense of the various family members, given there were so many to keep track of. The family tree in the edition I had certainly helped, though it also included spoilers.

Eventually, I felt like I had to keep on reading, to see how things might unfold. What would happen with the engagement? What would happen to the house? What would happen to the marriage? Perhaps the family tree egged me on, knowing what might lie ahead in this or the later books.

My only complaint was the way new or previously glanced-at characters were sometimes presented. When it happened, it felt like the narrator was putting the story on pause, to then turn to you and give you lengthy summary of the new person, before turning back to start things up again. It felt a bit jarring, and sometimes went on for too long, making me want to skip ahead and get back to the story.

That said, I did enjoy the book, even if it seems like not a great deal happened. Things were left open at the end, so I do plan on reading the next book in the series, to see where things pick up from here.

Article: How true should historical fiction be?

How true should historical fiction be?

“From Hilary Mantel to Andrew Miller to Philippa Gregory, historical fiction is enjoying a boom. But novelists are storytellers, not history teachers, argues Stephanie Merritt”

(From The Guardian Books Blog, March 19, 2014)

Personally, I think historical fiction should aim to be as accurate as is reasonable within the format, and that authors writing in this genre should do some research into the era and/or people portrayed.

Obviously, I don’t expect a perfect representation of actual historical events, like an exact transcript, and I do expect some embellishment and poetic license. But making the setting, characters, and even language true to the time period help paint the picture and keep you in the story.

Link: San Francisco: The Literary City

San Francisco: The Literary City

(From San Francisco Chronicle, March 2014)

An interactive map of San Francisco Bay Area literary references, history, and places.

I wonder if there are similar maps for other major cities, like Chicago or New York or London. Though some of them might get a bit crowded, given all the possible content.

Book Review: The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett

The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett I’m not sure why I kept reading through to the end (or very near it). It was slightly interesting at first, but then it just dragged on…and on… and on. I hoped it would pick up or do something to redeem itself later on, but it never really did. I only wish I’d stopped reading earlier on…

Article: There’s no jot of shame in leaving the books on your shelf unread

There’s no jot of shame in leaving the books on your shelf unread

“A survey has found that half of an average home’s 138 books go unread. I’m surprised it is as low as a half. Books aren’t meant to be read “

(From The Telegraph, March 6, 2014)

Article: Study: Reading Literary Fiction Can Make You Less Racist

Study: Reading Literary Fiction Can Make You Less Racist

“The benefits of reading literary fiction are many, ranging from making us more comfortable with ambiguity to honing our ability to pick up on the emotional states of others. Newly published research adds yet another positive outcome to that list: It can make us at least a little less racist.”

(From Pacific Standard, March 10, 2014)

Link: Which Country Reads the Most?

Which Country Reads the Most?

Here’s a clue, it’s in Asia…

Book Review: The Tin Drum by Günter Grass

The Tin Drum by Günter Grass I read at least part of this book in college — in the original German — but I’d forgotten just how strange and twisted of a book it is. It’s rather intense overall, especially with the style it’s written in. It’s quite detailed and rather heavy at times, but it’s well-written almost throughout. There were only a few parts, especially towards the end, where I didn’t feel as captivated, usually when there was repetition of certain events.

As for the story itself, it’s quite difficult in many ways, and quite often. Disturbing, emotional, twisted, tragic, and lots of other “fun” stuff. Not surprising given our narrator, who seems to be precocious and talented, but also wicked and a bit insane as well. The other characters are all quite intriguing in their own ways, but you end up questioning how much you can trust the narrator in all of this, especially given the things he does to the others.

I think I’m glad I read (or re-read) this book, but I don’t know that I will be re-reading this in future. It’s such an intense book, and I can appreciate it for what it is, but I think I’ve had my fill, for now at least.