Book Review: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

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Blurb:

Her grand attempt to tell what she felt was the story of Jane Eyre’s ‘madwoman in the attic’, Bertha Rochester, Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea is edited with an introduction and notes by Angela Smith in Penguin Classics. Born into the oppressive, colonialist society of 1930s Jamaica, white Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent beauty and sensuality. After their marriage, however, disturbing rumors begin to circulate which poison her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is inexorably driven towards madness and her husband into the arms of another novel’s heroine. This classic study of betrayal, a seminal work of postcolonial literature, is Jean Rhys’s brief, beautiful masterpiece.

Rating: 3 stars

My Review:

The sky was blue through the dark green mango leaves, and I thought, ‘This is my place and this is where I belong and this is where I wish to stay.’ – Jean Rhys

These lines from Rhys’s famous Wide Sargasso Sea pretty much sums up how the protagonist, Antoinette feels about her origin and her openness to leaving her place for maybe a better and different life. She is Rhys’s character that brings to the forth the idea of female sexuality in an unabashed and unprecedented manner, colored with the hues of violence. She is the answer to your question about the appalling mad woman from Jane Eyre.

Rhys attempts to break through the norms by writing about this woman who is suppressed by the then male-dominated society. In her ode to feminism, Rhys explains the tumultuous relationship between Antoinette and Rochester the reason for her madness and inherent desire to have a will of her own.

In a book about the themes of sexual and emotional oppression, Antoinette struggles perennially on the inside, almost succeeding in making the reader empathize with her. But that’s where the book and the character failed to click with me – while I do understand the world that was, I hate it if the female characters are in the mode of being victimised and don’t attempt to break out of it. Unfortunately, Jean Rhys – albeit being a feminist in her own accord fails to tug the strings of my heart primarily because of this.

However, I am sure there are many takers for her writing for all the poetic and dream-like narration that she offers! I recommend you read it for maybe, you may like it!

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Book Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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Blurb:

Bronte’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 it is not long before strange and unnerving events occur in the house and Jane is forced to leave Thornfield to pursue her future.

Rating: 5 stars

My Review:

“I am no bird, and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.”

Jane Eyre is a memorable character – she is honest, she is independent and more important, she is a great woman! Such were my thoughts about Jane after I read this epic classic by Charlotte Bronte. In times when women were submissive and couldn’t or rather didn’t have to think for themselves, Jane was like a breath of fresh air. Reading this book made me think how on earth could Bronte go on to write this about a good 160 years ago and not face any bashing for it?

This question led me to do some research and guess what I found – Charlotte Bronte got Jane Eyre published under the pen name – Currer Bell. It is easy to guess why she would have done that. Coming back to Jane, she was an epitome of endurance of character and unfading strength. Jane led a difficult childhood living with her relatives and then at a boarding school, where she did go on to become a teacher as well. As lackluster as her life seems to the reader, we can’t help but wonder if there would be an end to the hardships she goes through.

Jane then moves on to work as a governess for a little French girl. This is where she meets Mr. Rochester whom she gradually falls heads over heels in love with. Both he and she are shown to be witty and smart and provide some of the most interesting banter in the book. Complicated yet alluring – that is how I would describe him. “Reader, I married him” summarizes the end for you – our admirable Jane marries Mr. Rochester. But hold on! The most interesting part is the way these two part ways and still end up together. I am inclined to say they were star-crossed lovers destined to be together.

I absolutely adored the writing in this book. Its eloquent to the point – not more, not less. Its complex yet offers a seamless flow which makes it unputdownable. I am going to have to say it – this is the best read that you can treat yourself too if you want a dash of romance, gothic literature and naturalism in life.

Book Review: Femme Fatale by Guy De Maupassant

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Blurb:

A selection of Maupassant’s brilliant, glittering stories set in the Parisian beau monde and Normandy countryside. Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin’s 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions. Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893).

Rating: 4 stars

My Review:

One can always trust Maupassant to take the most basic of human emotions and spin stories of awe and interest. Femme Fatale is no different in this aspect. It’s a compilation of 4 stories all revolving around love and lust sprinkled with a heavy dose of amorality.

In this one, he dives into stories of prostitution, infidelity, lesbian love to name a few. And how! He is so sublime with the way he brings these emotions to us. There is an undeniable authenticity in the way he speaks through his characters. There is a bit of bourgeois of Paris as well and if you know me, that definitely hit it off with me.

Maupassant’s writing is usually dark and scandalous exposing the cynicism he carried throughout his life. This not only makes him superb to read but also relevant to quite a large degree in today’s world. All in all, definitely worth reading.

Book Review: Pulp by Charles Bukowski

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Blurb:

Opening with the exotic Lady Death entering the gumshoe-writer’s seedy office in pursuit of a writer named Celine, this novel demonstrates Bukowski’s own brand of humor and realism, opening up a landscape of seamy Los Angeles.

Rating: 2.5 stars

My Review:

Pulp is probably my least liked book by Charles Bukowski and why? I am guessing because it lacks his typical Chinakski charm of tragedy. Yes, Pulp is his proper attempt at fiction which of course, isn’t a bad book but certainly not the one you should start with if you want to read some of his best works.

Pulp is the story of Belane who is a detective who has for once, taken up more than he can handle. A case of a once dead artist, an alien and a cheating wife fails to strike as subplots that hook. It fails because it doesn’t offer much throughout and also the end may seem a little lackluster. Bukowski starts off with these but fails to sustain the reader’s interest to the hilt and more so, fails right at the end. For me, the crossing of paths of Lady Death, Red Sparrow and Celine with Belane befuddles me in the overall perspective.

This is Bukowski’s attempt at pulp fiction which doesn’t quite work out in his favor. I do enjoy pulp fiction once in a while but this book, unfortunately, howsoever enjoyable it was when reading (primarily because of Bukowski’s style of writing) is hampered by the failure to make a mark and stick with me.

Recommended only if you are if an ardent Bukowski fan!

Book Review: Marina by Carlos Luis Zafon

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Blurb:

‘Fifteen years on, the remembrance of that day has returned to me. I have seen that boy wandering through the mist of the railway station, and the name of Marina has flared up again like a fresh wound. We all have a secret buried under lock and key in the attic of our soul. This is mine…’

In May 1980, 15-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in the old quarter of Barcelona. For seven days and nights, no one knows his whereabouts…

His story begins in the heart of old Barcelona when he meets Marina and her father German Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes ?scar to a cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the fourth Sunday of each month. At 10 a.m. precisely a coach pulled by black horses appears. From it descends a woman dressed in black, her face shrouded, wearing gloves, holding a single rose. She walks over to a gravestone that bears no name, only the mysterious emblem of a black butterfly with open wings.

When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her they begin a journey that will take them to the heights of a forgotten, post-war Barcelona, a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons; and a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets

Rating: 4 stars

My Review:

Marina is a great young-adult gothic and historical fiction. It is an intriguing and interesting piece of literature. And the best thing about it is Zafon’s writing. The plot of the book is bittersweet and hauntingly beautiful making it a very engaging read that needs you to consume it in one go. IMO, it is the perfect book one should read to get out of a reading slump.

The story is narrated by a 15-year-old boy named Oscar Drai who has pretty much the same set of issues that any teenage boy would. Kind of Catcher in the Rye sort of a situation but way less depressing. So the plot kicks off when he comes across an almost dilapidated house in the outskirts of Barcelona. He ventures inside out of sheer curiosity to find that it belongs to an aged painter named German Blau and his daughter, Marina. With time, the three of them develop a strong bond that transcends normal friendship norms. As expected, Oscar falls in love with Marina and her enigma within no time. Together, they explore the hidden nooks and crannies of the city and in the process, get embroiled in a story of gargantuan risk and proportions.

Marina is an out and out suspense filled book that can definitely scare the reader in bits and pieces. This is a fantastic tale of magic realism in which the author weaves magic, reality and science fiction to narrate a compelling story in which Barcelona is shown in all its beauty and ominousness. The book is filled with twists and turns making it a multi-layered plot in which each chapter reveals something new. The manner in which the author has sketched the characters is beautiful, especially because as a reader, you can empathize with them oh so much! It is in my opinion, a literary masterpiece that is an example of the best of prose ever written. I can very well imagine Marina being considered as a modern classic. It is not a surprise that I am all set to pick up the next one by Zafon.