October 20, 2014

Recent Reads

144. Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre is a name that I've known for as long as I can remember, and yet I do not recall ever reading this book, so I was glad to have it moved to the top of my To Be Read pile by The Fiction of Relationship class I'm taking with Coursera.

First published in 1847, this book has many themes that are still relevant in our times, and while some of the events seem a little contrived, there is much to admire about the author's talent and skill. 

While Jane Eyre is no Elizabeth Bennet - but then who could be? - I quite enjoyed this bildungsroman. I loved how the story started - well, I felt bad for Jane - but her character built in those earlier years helps her in later ones. I assert again that girls become way less interesting once their hormones kick in, and yes Dear Reader I heartily endorse romantic ties, but I would suggest that while they are fun for the couple, it can be rather tedious for outside observers. As for Mr. Rochester, I did not like him one bit. Not one bit. Still it is said that love is blind, and based on events at Thornfield Hall that Jane seems not to bat an eye at, she was blind indeed! 

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that Classics are books that should be read to me. I imagine (rather nostalgically) sitting in a drawing room with my knitting, while someone standing by the single lit candle reads the book aloud to me. Yes Dear Reader, I know that I conveniently have left out the smoke in my eyes, the chilblains on my feet, and the fact that I would have died young in those times, but please allow me my conceit. This audiobook is superbly narrated by Juliet Stevenson, and I have decided that she should narrate all classic works I will listen to hereafter. 

I was thoroughly engrossed in the story throughout and was often to be found walking and muttering aloud, "Run Jane. Run." I found it to be quite a fun feminist text, albeit there were attic issues. Still, a book I would recommend listening to if you have yet to read it. Rating: 4 stars.

145. Americanah
Even though this is the first book I've read by the author, I am quite a fangirl of Chimmamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is wonderfully articulate on a variety of topics and I was delighted to discover that her writing skills do not disappoint. 

I can not summarize the book better than the Guardian review (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013...) did, so I'll quote them here: It is ostensibly a love story – the tale of childhood sweethearts at school in Nigeria whose lives take different paths when they seek their fortunes in America and England – but it is also a brilliant dissection of modern attitudes to race, spanning three continents and touching on issues of identity, loss and loneliness.

Immigration stories are similar in many ways, but can be quite different in their particulars. An an immigrant from Africa to the US, I was alternately delighted and sobered to read how many of Ifemelu's first contact experiences were similar to mine; the author could have picked those stories out of my own journals!

I was not as enamored with the love story portion of this book, as I was with the exploration of race and skin color. The honest, unflinching manner in which the author explored these themes was quite refreshing. The plot is interspersed with blog posts, and while I enjoyed them, I did feel that many of the characters introduced in the book (that appear once and are never heard from again) were means to simply get in additional speechifying on specific topics, and that detracted from the flow of the story.

This was my book club selection for the month, and I think it was a great choice for all the discussion topics that it raised.  Rating: 4 stars.

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