Saturday, September 27, 2008

One could not count the moons...

I've just finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, and before that The Kite Runner. They are two very splendid books.

Khaled Hosseini is a wonderful storyteller. He's not the best writer, but I couldn't tell you what I don't like in his writing style because the story and the characters are so overwhelming. I think that's probably what defines most of the really popular books these days--J.K. Rowling, for example, is not that great a writer (some writers of fanfic are better at romance than she is), but she's a great storyteller, and is therefore loved.

One has the sense, in both these books, that the author knows exactly who his characters are. He knows who they are and what they want and what all their faults are. That last is especially true of Amir, in The Kite Runner, and Baba too.

The Kite Runner is more satisfying in terms of a well crafted plot coming together. A Thousand Splendid Suns is more satisfying in terms of the characters and their interweaving lives. The Kite Runner is simply so perfectly circular. Everything has its consequence, and the consequences are often played out in ways that are really very ironic. It has a good sense of poetic justice. That was what impressed me most about this book. The thing I spent the whole book wondering was how much of it was autobiographical. I'd be interested to learn a bit more about Khaled Hosseini's own life.

I didn't much like the structure of A Thousand Splendid Suns. It was too broken up--first the entire long section about Mariam, then the long section about Laila, and there weren't enough hints that their stories were going to come together. (That's something I've noticed generally about this author--I never expect what's coming.) That said, I loved these characters. Mariam not so much until she was older, but Laila always. I'm a hopeless romantic, so I was always rooting for Laila and Tariq. All the characters go through so much, the entire goal of the book has to be to make things come out more or less all right, and that's what keeps you reading.

Reading these books has made me much more aware of the fact that all the cultures of the Middle East are really very fascinating, and I was especially interested in all the hints of the languages.

Anyway, I'm glad to have read them. Next I'm reading Mansfield Park. Now for something completely different.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Letters to love of books

I got up this morning, started reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society before breakfast, through breakfast, and onward, and finished it at two o'clock, at which time I realized I'd forgotten all about the concept of lunch. It is totally fabulous. I know everyone else in the book blogging world has already said so, but I definitely feel the need to say it again.

I sort of have to remind myself that it's not real, because it's so much grounded in history and so completely real. I can't think of any other book I've ever read, though I'm sure they exist, that has struck me as being so totally true to life. All the characters are believable and understandable, without being boring, the way they interact very realistic, and their quirks also very real, since few people have none. Even the stranger occurrences, like locking Billee Bee and the parrot in the smokehouse, seem completely possible.

It's written in letters, which I always love (and which I'm planning to do my NaNo this year in), and they do a good job of telling the whole story and not leaving anything out. Plus, I can never resist a book full of so much book love.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

An Update

School's started, so I've been a bit distracted from doing much blogging. I have been reading, though.

I read my first Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies, an utterly bizarre and rather circular little thing. It was quite enjoyable, really, though something one only wants one of at a time.

I also finished Three Men in a Boat, which I've been working on from DailyLit for ages. That was lots of fun.

I'm working on The Kite Runner and Don Quixote, both for classes, and just this evening I started The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer). I already love that one. It reminds me a lot of 84, Charing Cross Road, only wonderfully fatter! I can already tell I'm going to positively guzzle it down. If it's sunny tomorrow I'll sit outside, and probably read the whole thing at once.

The Kite Runner is interesting. While I do like it, I'm not entirely sure what all the fuss is about. It does have some very pretty moments, and some very sad ones, but I remain solid in my opinion that a good first person novel is extremely difficult to pull off, discounting ones in diary or letter form. I rarely truly like them. And I do like this one, but the fact that it's written in first person is a huge drawback, which keeps me from loving it. Anyway, I don't really see why it's such a big deal, apart from the topic.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Polly and Fanny

It's the last day of summer, so I've been enjoying it as best I can. I finished reading Love in a Cold Climate this morning, and found it very interesting. My initial comparison between it and The Pursuit of Love held true--I don't like it as well. I was bothered that I couldn't quite tell whether Polly or Fanny was the main character, and Polly was completely incomprehensible to me. The trouble with characters in books whose chief interest is there beauty is that you can't see that, so her only interest was that she made no sense. I very much liked getting a closer idea of Fanny, though, who despite being the narrator of The Pursuit of Love is really not a big main character. But it was a bit like there wasn't enough plot about Polly to take up the space, so Fanny's life crept in further. I liked hearing more about Alfred and her life in Oxford, and Jassy and Victoria were fun to see more of. Also more of Aunt Emily and Davey.

Fanny kind of reminds me of me. She's got my distinctly romantic sensibilities, and is a bit shy, but overall she's really very sensible and plain. This particular combination makes her very likeable. One doesn't have to be frustrated by her being stupid about things (if she were really the main character that wouldn't be possible--she would be boring), because she never quite is, but she's still got her views on things and she's still silly about things.

I watched the recent miniseries a while ago, but didn't find it terribly memorable, so I'm going to watch it again now I've read the books.


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