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Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

I read this book 10 years ago and decided to revisit it again. Still brilliant!

Backcover: Set in the closing months of World War II, this is the story of a bombardier named Yossarian who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. His real problem is not the enemy – it is his own army which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. If Yossarian makes any attempts to excuse himself from the perilous missions then he is caught in Catch-22: if he flies he is crazy, and doesn’t have to, but if he doesn’t want to he must be sane, and has to. That’s some catch…

If both Stephen King and Harper Lee recommends this book, then it must be good!

First published: 1961

Rating: 5/5

Image result for catch 22 book cover

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Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë

jane eyre

I far more prefer a Mr Rochester than a Prince Charming. Mind you, if he had done the same to me as he did with Jane I would have kicked his ass!

I remember the first time I read this book, I fell completely and utterly in love with Mr Rochester and I was equally as heartbroken as Jane when the truth was revealed.

A second reading was no different, though I did pity him.

Dust jacket summary: 
Brontë’s infamous gothic novel tells the story of orphan Jane, a child of unfortunate circumstances. Raised and treated badly by her aunt and cousins and eventually sent away to a cruel boarding school, it is not until Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield that she finds happiness. Meek, measured, but determined, Jane soon falls in love with her brooding and stormy master, Mr Rochester, but is not long before strange and unnerving events occur in the house and Jane is forced to leave Thornfield to pursue her future.

My favourite quotes: 

The absurd conversation Mr Rochester has with Adele about him taking Jane to go live on the moon. (p.269-270).

“I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you – especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land some broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapped; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly. As for you, – you’d forget me.”
Mr Rochester

*****

“Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal — as we are!”
Jane Eyre

*****

‘I could bend her with my finger and thumb: and what good would it do if I bent, if I uptore, if I crushed her? … Whatever I do with its cage, I cannot get at it – the savage, beautiful creature! if i tear, if i rend the slight prison, my outrage will only let the captive loose.
Mr Rochester

*****

‘It is time some one undertook to rehumanise you,’ said I, parting his thick and long uncut locks; ‘for I see you are being metamorphosed into a lion, or something of that sort… your hair reminds me of eagles’ feathers; whether your nails are grown like birds’ claws or not, i have not yet noticed.’
Jane Eyre

*****

‘His appearance, – I forget what description you gave of his appearance; – a sort of raw curate, half strangled with his white neckcloth, and stilted up on his thick-soled high-lows, eh?’
‘St John dresses well. he is a handsome man: tall, fair, with blue eyes, and a Grecian profile.’
(aside) ‘Damn him!’ – (to me) ‘Did you like him Jane?’
Mr Rochester and Jane

First published: 1847

Rating: 5/5

 

 

The Family Fang – Kevin Wilson

*Spoiler: This is not a vampire story. 

We have all had those moments. When we thought we couldn’t possibly be created by these people (mom and dad), there must be a mistake, families are the worst.

Well, you haven’t seen (or read) nothing yet. If you think your family is bad… Annie and Buster will tell you, their family takes the cake. How would you like to be known as Child A and Child B by your parents?

Dust jacket: The family Fang create art: performance art, provocations, interventions – call it what you like. And many people certainly don’t call it ‘Art’.

But as Annie and Buster grow up, like all children, they find their parents’ behaviour an embarrassment. They refuse to take up their roles in these outrageous acts. They escape: Annie becomes an actor, a star in the world of indie filmmaking, and Buster pursues gonzo journalism, constantly on the trail of a good story. But when both their lives start to fall apart, there is nowhere left to go but home.

Meanwhile Caleb and Camille have been planning their most ambitious project yet and the children have no choice: like it or not, they will participate in one final performance. The family Fang’s magnum opus will determine what is ultimately more important: their family or their art.

First published: 2011
Rating: 3/5
Reason: I’ve read this book a few years ago and decided to read it again, because for the life of me I couldn’t remember how it ended. Now, if you can’t remember how a book ended there must be something wrong with it?

King Henry VIII and Cinderella

I’ve recently finished reading “The Boleyn Inheritance” by Philippa Gregory.

boleyn inheritance

The story is told through the eyes of three women: two of King Henry VIII’s wives namely Anne of Cleves (fourth wife) and Katherine Howard (first Anne of Cleves’ maid in waiting and later the king’s mistress – fifth wive); and kinswoman Jane Boleyn, who betrayed her husband and his sister (Anne Boleyn – wife number three) and played a part in every wife of King Henry’s undoing except for the last one.

Reading this book made me think of the story of Cinderella. But this is no Cinderella fairy tale. King Henry VIII was a horrible human being. He was old, sickly (he had an open leg wound that stank up the whole palace), he was obese. His Achilles’ heel was beautiful women, but he was very paranoid and insecure believing there was a constant plot to kill him.

He had his first marriage annulled and was excommunicated by the Pope. This caused the church and state to separate.

Why any woman would agree to marry him is beyond me. Although, apparently Anne of Cleves’s childhood home and life was so horrendous she would have done anything to get away from her brother and mother.

Cinderella:

There are a few things that bother me about the story of Cinderella. After she runs away when the clock strikes midnight and the prince is only left with her shoe – why doesn’t he just find out what shoe size it is? Judging from many adaptations of the story, Cinderella has freakishly small feet (like me) and by knowing that, he could have saved himself so much trouble.

Also, how do you not recognize the woman you have danced with and fallen in love with? If it were a masked ball or if the people were wearing wigs, I could understand why he didn’t immediately recognize her, but seriously? How thick is he?

And I do not for one second believe that when Cinderella marries the prince she is free. She remains a servant by becoming the prince’s wife – who says he won’t treat her as such?

Female Protagonists

I’ve recently read two books back to back with not just one, but several really strong female protagonists. It also shares the same themes.

secret life of bees

Female Protagonists: Lily, Rosaleen, August, June and May.

Backcover: Lily has grown up believing she accidentally killed her mother when she was just four years old. Now, at fourteen, she yearns for forgiveness and a mother’s love. Living on a peach farm in South Carolina with her harsh and unyielding father, she has only one friend, Rosaleen, a black servant.
When racial tension explodes one summer afternoon, and Rosaleen is arrested and beaten, Lily is compelled to act. Fugitives from justice, the pair follow a trail left by the woman who died ten years before. Finding sanctuary in the home of three beekeeping sisters, Lily starts a journey as much about her understanding of the world, as about the mystery surrounding her mother.

Thoughts: I absolutely adored this book. I love the idea of incorporating the metaphor of bees social life in the story. I also learnt a lot about bees. For example, I didn’t know most bees in the hive are female – I always assumed just the queen is female.

I also wrote a post a while back about bees committing suicide and apparently if they can’t find a new queen after the old one dies, they commit suicide.

First published: 2003
Rating: 5/5

the help

Female Protagonists: Miss Skeeter, Aibileen, Minny, Miss Hilly, Miss Elizabeth, Mae Mobley, Miss Celia, Constantine, the other maids, Mrs Stein.

Back cover: Enter a vanished world. Jackson, Mississipi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver…
There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from college, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.
Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell…

Thoughts: It’s strange how many America and South Africa has in common. Sadly, in South Africa there are still a lot of black women working as domestic help and raising white children. The help have their own separate toilet and cutlery. They don’t sit at the same table as their employers.
I remember the woman who semi-raised me: Mina. I remember how she made us home-made “slap tjips” with lots of vinegar. She worked for my parents even before I was born. She was very hardworking and loyal. When we’d go away on holiday she would do house-sitting and feed our pets. I never asked her about her family.
Kathryn Stockett also writes about her own family maid, who raised her.

First published: 2009
Rating: 5/5

 

 

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

The Circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it… It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

night circus

Dust jacket: In 1886, a mysterious travelling circus becomes an international sensation. Open only at night, constructed entirely in black and white, Le Cirque des Rêves delights all who wander its circular paths and warm themselves at its bonfire.

Although there are acrobats, fortune-tellers and contortionists, the Circus of Dreams is no conventional spectacle. Some tents contain clouds, some ice. The circus seems almost to cast a spell over its aficionadados, who call themselves the rêveurs – the dreamers. At the heart of the story is the tangled relationship between two young magicians, Celia, the enchanter’s daughter, and Marco, the sorcerer’s apprentice. At the behest of their shadowy masters, they find themselves locked in a deadly contest, forced to test the very limits of the imagination, and of their love…

I really liked the story line of Poppy and Bailey, I liked it more than the main characters’s story.

This book reminded me of The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. The circus comes to life with magic. Imagine a circus run by or for the characters of Harry Potter…

The clock maker makes me think of Gepetto in the Disney version of Pinocchio.

What I found lacking about the book is that no explanation is given for the wager between the enchanter and sorcerer. Why are they doing this? What do they stand to gain?

The ending was a bit flat though.

First published: 2011

Rating: 4/5

 

Die Ompad Huis Toe – Vanessa del Fabbro

This is the second book John lent me to read. John is the security guard at my work, guarding the gate. He is learning the Afrikaans language at the moment. I think he lent me this book, because he can’t yet.

ompad huis toe

I couldn’t find the Afrikaans cover.

Boekomslag opsomming: Die kind wat altyd oorleef, het dit weer gedoen… Hoekom het ék oorleef, maar nie die vorige twee slagoffers van motorkapings wat in hierdie hospitaal was nie? As my eie broer nie kon…? Ek huiwer om die gedagtes een in my kop te laat vorm aanneem. Is daar ‘n hoër doel waarom my lewe gespaar moes word?

Die Suid-Afrikaanse joernalis Monica Brunetti het alles in die lewe – ‘n belowende loopbaan, ‘n liefdevolle gesin, ‘n mansvriend wat aan trou dink – wanneer sy die kwaad van aangesig tot aangesig ontmoet en in ‘n hospitaalbed beland langs die spontane Ella Nkhoma met die magiese persoonlikheid, wie se humorsin en warm hart Monica se uitkyk op die wêreld op sy kop keer. Hul besonderse vriendskap neem Monica ver anderkant die omheinde wit woonbuurte, na ‘n afdraaipad wat albei vroue se lewe in ‘n heel ander koers stuur…

This book is a translation of The Road to Home, first published in 2005.

This book is an accurate description of the relationships between the different races in South Africa. It also shows that no matter what, life doesn’t always end up the way you planned.

Rating: 5/5

Bare Bones – Kathy Reichs

Finally, a new series I can get my teeth or eyes into.

bare bones

Dust jacket summary: It’s a summer of record-breaking heat in Charlotte and Dr Temperance Brennan is looking forward to her first vacation in years. She’s almost out the door when the bones start appearing. First there’s the little skeleton of a newborn found in a wood stove. Who put her there? The mother, hardly more than a child herself, has disappeared.

Next, a Cessna plane flies into a rock face on a sunny afternoon. Both pilot and passenger are burned beyond recognition, their bodies covered with a strange black substance. What could it be? There’s evidence that they may have had criminal purposes for the flight.

Most puzzling, though, is a cache of bones found in a remote corner of the country. Some animal, some human, the bones are enough the keep Tempe busy for a long time to come. All the pieces of the mystery seem to lead back to an isolated farm. But what happened there and who will be the next victim? The answers lie hidden deep within the bones – if only Tempe can decipher them in time…

First published: 2003

Rating: 5/5

The Book of Joy

book of joy

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu with Douglas Adams

Dust jacket description:
Two spiritual giants. Seven days. One timeless question.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships – or, as they would say, because of them – they are two of the most joyful people on the planet.

In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu travelled to the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate His Holiness’s eightieth birthday and to create this book as a gift for others. They looked back on their long lives to answer a single burning question: how do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering?

They traded intimate stories, teased each other continually, and shared their spiritual practices. By the end of the week filled with laughter and punctuated with tears, these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our times, and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy.

First published: 2016

Rating: 5/5

One, two, buckle my shoe

one two buckle my shoe

Hercule Poirot is dreading a visit to the dentist… While there, he encounters a bunch of people. Later, he is informed that the dentist has been murdered.

Using the nursery rhyme “One, two, buckle my shoe” the detective must solve this mystery.

What I liked about the story: Just like with Crooked House, Agatha Christie takes a rhyme and bases a story on it. Each line from the poem brings us closer to the answer.

One, two,
Buckle my shoe;
Three, four,
Knock at the door;
Five, six,
Pick up sticks;
Seven, eight,
Lay them straight:
Nine, ten,
A big fat hen;
Eleven, twelve,
Dig and delve;
Thirteen, fourteen,
Maids a-courting;
Fifteen, sixteen,
Maids in the kitchen;
Seventeen, eighteen,
Maids a-waiting
Nineteen, twenty,
My plate’s empty

I also liked the fact that Hercule Poirot also hates going to the dentist. I can relate to that.

First published: 1941

Rating: 5/5